Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tiger Beatdown: Apologia, or: Why I Spend All My Time on the Damn Internet

[So. Not so long ago, I had a discussion with someone in which he asked me to answer some tough questions, most of which had to do with this blog. They were questions like: why have you chosen to write what you write? What change do you think you can affect by writing those things? If you think what you have to say is valuable, why don't you Do Something With It, rather than scribbling it out on your lunch break or whatever and shooting it out into an essentially uncaring void? And: why are you so mean to Aaron P. Taylor? That conversation got under my skin, not because I think he was wrong, but because they were good, solid points that called the existence of this blog - and the amount that I care about it, which is: A Whole Lot - into question. Then, about forty-eight hours later, someone asked me if I would potentially be interested in helping with a conference presentation about the role feminist blogs - and specifically individual, non-professional feminist blogs - played in the movement. Which was some weird-assed timing! And I did not know what to say! Because I had been kind of thinking that I was wasting my whole entire life at that specific moment! So instead of coping with those questions and doubts directly, I kind of spent the next week or so writing shitty, mean, poorly composed posts that were essentially continuations of an argument that I was having with myself about whether this blog should exist. On the blog itself, I unsurprisingly took the "pro" side, because Tiger Beatdown, which at this point in my life has become an entity unto itself, was like, DAAAVE, I CAN'T LET YOU DO THAT, DAAAAVE, every time I thought about shutting it down. What I thought privately was often dramatically at odds with what I posted. However, in the interest of not being a boring, incoherent asshole any longer, I will share with you the e-mail I wrote back to the nice lady, which is long and crazy - and edited lightly, here! - and probably my most complete and coherent answer, and which goes like this.] 

I think that, when we're talking about blogs, it's important to realize the role that small presses and self-created media have always had in the feminist movement, or have had at least since the second wave. Small feminist presses, newsletters, magazines (Ms. was a big deal, but it was also only the biggest and shiniest product of a large and diverse movement to create feminist print media - Bust and Bitch are kind of in the same position now) and feminist bookstores have always been crucial to the conversation, as were zines later on. Blogs are the rational next step: people can create their own media for less money than ever, and can get it out to a wider audience. [EXCISED FOR EXTRA TANGENTIAL CRAZY.] The accessibility and global reach of the Internet have really been embraced, especially by feminists who are isolated due to location or other factors. 

There's another way that blogs tie into feminist history, and I feel I would be remiss to ignore it. Since blogs can get pretty personal, and since they have comment sections, they can also be seen as an extension of consciousness-raising groups, in which women spoke to one another about their lives in the hopes of finding common experiences and interpreting those in a political context, so as to get some sense of how sexism actually worked. Some comment threads on Jezebel are actually perfect examples of this. They start with "me too," then get to "I wonder why," and then get to larger conclusions. "Personal is political," as a slogan, has a lot of flaws; however, I do feel that, due to the pervasive nature of sexism and the extent to which we have all internalized it, the ability to analyze and discuss your own experience in a political context - and to reach that "me, too" moment - is pretty vital to developing your feminism. 

Paolo Freire wrote that most education was based on "banking" - the students are presumed to know nothing, and the educator, who knows everything, just dumps knowledge into their heads. Freire saw that as a paternalistic model that was based on structures of oppression. He thought this was especially true when students were marginalized. He believed in a non-hierarchical form of education, in which the classroom would be composed of student/teachers - everyone teaching each other, everyone learning from each other - who discussed the subject at hand in the context of their own lived experience, and thereby not only empowered themselves by coming to understand that they were, in fact, "experts" when it came to their own experience, but actually worked together to develop a theory of their own oppression, which would hopefully help them to fight it. This sounds touchy-feely but I think it is true: nobody knows more than you do about your own experience, and what you say may help someone to understand a portion of their own life that has been confusing or weird. When we blog our feminisms, and seek out the work of others, we are engaged in that basic Freirian task of student/teaching. 

Moving that one step forward, I see blogs as representative of pluralism and diversity, which is so vastly important, not only to feminism (specifically Third Wave feminism, which is all about that) but to any kind of progressive movement. I have a Google alert set up for the word "feminism," and most of the newspaper articles I get through that alert are op-eds which contain statements like "feminism means X" or "feminists believe Y," which is of course totally screwed up, and is usually followed immediately by a statement like "you'll never guess what I'm about to say, but: it turns out I totally disagree!" Of course, feminism was always a diverse movement, but during the reign of Old Media it was more possible to view it (or promote a view of it) as an oppressive, monolithic movement that brooked no sass or backtalk. 

If you thought that Ms. was the ONLY feminist magazine (and you might well think that - it was the only one available at most newsstands) then any statement made by a Ms. contributor would appear to be The Feminist Perspective. If mainstream feminism excluded working-class POVs, or POVs from women of color, or from queer women (as with Friedan and "the lavender menace") then people whose only exposure to feminism came through the mainstream would get the impression that feminism was irrelevant or even hostile to people with those perspectives. [A lot of smart people actually do object to feminism due to the fact that they perceive it as a monolithic, white, middle-class movement - I added this in later, as you can see!] Nowadays, it's far less possible to believe in The One True Feminism, or The Feminist Perspective. You can't say that Feministing is "the feminist blog." Nor can you say that about Feministe or Shakesville or Jezebel. [Lots of young women get their education about feminism, not primarily from print media or even from women's studies classes, but from these sites; their plurality, the fact that they don't always agree with each other, and the fact that most of them routinely link out to other, smaller blogs as a form of community-building is a large part of what makes them valuable and engaging. This, also, was added in later!] The essentially random and response-based nature of blogging - the way one can go from talking about Barack Obama to douchebloggers to movies to vibrators within a week - also helps to maintain diversity of viewpoints, in that we are analyzing the culture one piece at a time, casting a wide net, and determining on an individual basis what is important enough to write about. 


On a purely personal level, I started my blog because I was writing on a site for young women, and sometimes I would want to say something that is not entirely in line with what that site was about. I posted about a date rape case, for example, and in the comments there was a discussion about whether the girl in question was "really" raped or whether she had "deserved" it. I didn't feel that site was the right place for me to get into an argument or to give Feminism 101 lessons, for a variety of reasons, but I knew that I needed a place where I could say whatever I wanted, mostly for my own sake. [EXCISED FOR DEFENSIVE, MORE OR LESS IRRELEVANT CRAZY.] I wanted a blog of my own where I didn't have to worry about appealing to anyone but myself. Now that some people [but not a lot!] are actually reading it, I get kind of freaked out, wondering if I am always being "responsible" or giving the "correct perspective" on the issue at hand. Then I figure: there is a comment section! Also, it is the blogoworld! If I am stupid, someone will correct me, or just make fun of me via the Internet, and if they are smart and funny, and not the sort of person who argues that one can get a "deserved raping," I will welcome that. 

Ultimately, I am a tiny, tiny drop in a vast ocean. I will never be the only or the most important voice in the room. What I have to say only matters to the people who choose to read it, or maybe just to me [BECAUSE I AM AN EGO MONSTER IN LOVE WITH THE SOUND OF MY OWN VOICE - FULL DISCLOSURE CRAZY]. And, at least as far as Tiger Beatdown goes, that's what I want. 


  1. I just want to say I am really really bad at remembering to visit all the blogs I've liked, so I was very happy to find another link from you in the blogaround! I love your stuff!

    This post is really wonderful and I'd just like to give a rousing "Oh, now that you mention it, me too!" ^_^

  2. So, I know this post is way old now and everything, but I stumbled across your blog a few days ago and I've been reading into the backlog.

    For me, blogs are a hugely important, useful tool/forum for discussing and learning about feminism. I'm relatively new to identifying as a feminist, and honestly? Apart from a few books I've picked up, almost everything I've learned about the various feminist perspectives and issues has come from blogs. I LOVE that there's this multitude of smart, funny, well-spoken (and out-spoken!) women out there discussing and dissecting ALL of these issues, for their own sake and for the sake of anyone who stumbles across their webspace. It's been so incredibly valuable to me in trying to parse through all these issues and what I think about them and how I think about them and what that means...

    in summary, this is a thank you :) and encouragement! because your blog, all of these blogs, are reaching people, reaching young women like me, and teaching them and helping them.

  3. I would just like to warmly second Liz's comment. When I started to look into feminism, it was blogs and internet articles that first persuaded and enlightened me; only later did I turn to the books (and only one book, really). This blog has become my favorite b/c it's funny and relatable, and it never apologizes or pulls its punches for the sake of the male ago (which is a relief, b/c that's definitely something I still feel I have to do in real life!). Blogs like this provide a safe place, where women can express their opinions, where they are allowed to be angry, w/o having to constantly be on the defensive.
    I just wanted to say, thank you for giving us this. :)