During this past month, millions of my sisters womaned the barricades, wrote articles, carried protest signs, tweeted, posted to Facebook, and otherwise expressed their outrage over the latest attempt to beat back women: the campaign to deny women birth control. Yikes. Just writing those words, “deny birth control,” makes me crazy, which is probably why I couldn’t even begin to write anything cogent. (I, whose very first student internship was at Planned Parenthood.)
But, when I read Tuesday’s Forbes piece about “the new networked feminism, it “touched my last nerve.” Touched it so forcefully I about jumped out of my chair. Consequently, dear readers, here I am, right back at you, squarely between the eyes, I hope.
Yes, Tom Watson’s, the Forbes’ writer’s basic point is a good one: Social media has enabled those of us wont to be politically active to be even more so, seemingly more frequently because social media is faster, cheaper, gets around the block without leaving the comfort of the couch, and, yes, because it’s less hierarchical. And, yes, when each one of us owns her own printing press, and the “printing costs” are negligible, that sure does create an important opportunity to spread one’s views and encourage action supporting them. (Marx was right: Owning the means of production is mighty sweet.)
But when I read this quote in the Forbes piece, by one Allison Fine: “(Today) women aren’t waiting to be told what to do or which petition to sign, they’re just doing what we do best: talking and connecting,” I went crazy all over again. I don’t have a clue who Allison Fine is when it comes to political organizing, or politics, or public policy. What her bio says is that she is an expert on social media. Fine. But this fine isn’t nearly fine enough, at least when it comes to the topic of women’s political organizing. In fact, this fine is very un-fine: “Talking and connecting (without being told what petition to sign)” is what’s been happening this last month? Not hardly. Wrong on the facts. Wrong on the message. Wrong on the goal. Wrong, if what you want to do is support your sisters.
In fact, if one looks at the volume of activity, and what actually transpired during this last month, say, signing this petition to get Rush Limbaugh off of Armed Forces radio, as well as at the success in getting major corporate sponsors to drop Rush Limbaugh, not to mention the success in changing the conversation about women’s rights, I’d say that what millions of American women—from all regions, of all ages, and of every political persuasion— have been doing this last month is way not chitting and chatting, (which is what the Fine image conjures-up to me, in the process demeaning those of us who did pass petitions instrumental to advancing women’s rights), but really smart and tough-minded political organizing.
[…]And this is exactly why the new networked feminism is just like the old networked feminism. Back-in the-day, we were fighting to cripple anti-women hate-mongerers, too. We, too, called-them-out, pressed their sponsors to disaffiliate, spread our message to like-minded sisters (and brothers). It’s just that we did it with telephones and copiers and fax machines, not social media. But the impetus to action—by both generations of women activists—is exactly the same: Beat back and organize against injustice, inequality, and sexism, not to mention against just plain haters. And that’s what’s really important as we look back at February 2012, and look forward during this, 2012’s women’s history month.
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