Thursday, August 11, 2011

My feminism and the internet

Over on the "Wednesday Weigh-In" asks:

What role does staying connected play in your feminism? What could better internet access mean for your political activity and viewpoints?

Since I'm not yet ready to post anything researched or well-thought-out, but I DO like to talk at length about myself, I figured why not?

This is a timely question anyway, what with the role that social media has played and is playing in movements around the world, from "Arab Spring" to the riots in the UK, to helping people mobilize right here at home. I'm not the most tech-savvy person, so my internet activities are pretty much limitted to reading blogs and Facebook (maybe google+ one day? Maybe?). I've not gotten into twitter (in my role as curmudgeon I can grumpily say "I don't understand it and I don't want to."), and my phone may not be old-school, but my use of it really is.

Still, I remember back in the '90s, when I was in high school and university and the internet was nowhere near as all-powerful as it is today. Back then I got my doses of feminism from friends, from the gay youth group I was a part of, and from the alternative free weekly paper in Halifax where I grew up. I can't even imagine how I came to be the person I am with those paltry sources of information and encouragement. Today, I easily am exposed to half a dozen or more articles, blogs, papers, rants, and stories about feminism or social justice or whatnot. When I want to be, I'm far more connected to what's going on around me and in the world at large.

Probably the biggest way that the internet helps me is that it puts me in touch with women. By and large I socialize mostly with men. The few places where I do encounter women regularly are places like at work, where it's considered bad form to spontaniously begin a conversation about sexism or feminism. There are places and times, and I have a few close colleagues that I spend my lunch hours with to talk about the state of the world, but those moments are rare and special. As a gay man, it's very easy to slip into a state where I don't need to interract with women in any meaningful way at all.

I think that we do better at recognising inequality and fighting against it when we're exposed to the victims of inequality. It's not necessary...I'm -never going to know what it's like to be black, or the plight of those starving in the Horn of Africa right now, but that doesn't mean I can't try to help, but it's been shown that the more distanced someone is from an issue, the easier it is to ignore and misunderstand it. To be a feminist, I think I need to have women in my life, so that I can hear their stories and be corrected when I'm off-base. The internet helps me to do this, by giving me access to women that I don't see every day: friends and acquaintances, strangers and colleagues. I think I would be a worse feminist without access to those resources.

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