What Would Gloria Steinem Think?

Nancy Lackey Shaffer

 Four years ago, Misty Harris declared in the Ottawa Citizen that the prevalence of “community-based women’s websites” was heralding in an “online estrogen revolution.” Some might consider 2008 a little late coming to that particular party—Feministing and Shakespeare’s Sister had both been around since 2004, and the first BlogHer conference focusing on women and blogging was in 2005.


But when Gawker Media’s Jezebel debuted in 2007, its mix of pop culture and feminist snark garnered some 10 million monthly page views, stealing thunder (and traffic) from its parent site, Gawker.com. At the same time, statistics showed that women were surpassing men in terms of Internet usage. Women were going online in unprecedented amounts, and the public was starting to notice.


Women continue to use the Internet as a tool for organizing and discourse, largely through blogs social media sites.  We’re not just talking about the so-called Millennial Generation. It’s true that Jessica Valenti, one of the pioneers in online feminism, started Feministing to provide a space for young feminists who felt dismissed by the old guard. Nevertheless, seeing blogs as being for and by the young is a major misconception.


For starters, nearly half of all Americans over the age of 65 are online, according to a June 2012 report from the Pew Research Center. In 2010, Pew also found that 20-29 percent of adults over the age of 46 read blogs. That’s less than the 40-49 percent of their 18-33 year old cohorts, but still a large chunk of the blog-reading community.


On any number of feminist sites, you’ll find topics ranging from sex, sexuality, politics, education, science, relationships, parenting, careers, aging and more—from contributors in their teen years to senior citizens. There’s a place for everyone on the Internet apparently, and while you  can’t escape criticism, you can’t be silenced. Lisa Brown didn’t find the same to be true in the Michigan House of Representatives, when in June she was barred from speaking on the floor during a debate about abortion legislation for uttering the word “vagina.”


The debacle in Michigan is just one of the developments this past year that have cast a dark cloud over the march towards progress on women’s rights.


Fetal “personhood” legislation in a number of states is a clear attempt to abolish abortion rights. Conservative efforts to block the Violence Against Women Act were surprising in their callousness. And the complaints of religious groups over the contraception provision in the recently upheld Affordable Health Care Act seem positively medieval, considering that the vast majority of women—even religious women—in the United States use some type of birth control.


Despite Republican protests to the contrary, there is still antagonism toward certain women’s rights issues, which has received a high profile in this election year.


But whether you’re an old-school feminist (who actually dislikes the label “feminist”) or a more progressive activist, the blogs listed below are worth a read.


Formerly known as Shakespeare’s Sister, this award-winning blog was started in 2004 by Melissa McEwan, a freelance writer and journalist who has also written for The Guardian and AlterNet. She and her many contributors leave no privilege unexamined, and no generalization about women unchallenged. McEwan’s fearless denunciation of misogyny in pop culture has made her the target of some of the most hate-filled diatribes on the Internet.


One of the best spaces on the Internet for young feminist voices. Feministing takes a broad-minded approach, with blogs for campus and community topics, networking and activism. Their use of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are second to none, and many of the contributors have worked as speakers, organizers and consultants for progressive groups. Jessica Valenti, who co-founded the blog in 2004, was named one of The Guardian’s top 100 women in 2011 for “bringing the feminist movement online and into the 21st century.”




Crunk Feminist Collective
The term crunk originally came from a contraction of “crazy” or “chronic” with “drunk”—and for the Collective, “a crunk feminist mode of resistance will help you get your mind right.” Created by and for “hip hop generation feminists of color, queer and straight,” the Crunk Feminist Collective does not lack for in-depth political analysis of the latest issues of the day. But they also carefully dissect the problematic ideas and imagery in culture, music, media and art. Yes, the site springs from hip hop culture, but that’s just a starting point for the academics, activists and artists who make up the blog’s contributors.



Founded by Jesse Taylor in 2001 and host to the musings of Pam Spaulding, Amanda Marcotte and others, Pandagon is fresh, irreverent and always tapped in. From pop culture to politics, this team leaves no issue unexplored—and with a sass that matches their knowledge, it’s always a fun read. Pandagon readers are a spirited and debate-ready bunch: the comments are as thought-provoking as the posts, and the contributors readily jump into the fray. [Note: Pandagon recently moved to The Raw Story. Their old link at www.pandagon.net will redirect you to the new one, but the link cited above reflects this change.]



Geek Feminism
If someone on the European Commission had read this blog, perhaps the “Science: It’s a Girl Thing!” YouTube video debacle could have been avoided. Founded by Australian open source developer “Skud,” this group of engineers, software developers, gamers and techies of all stripes places under the microscope the many ways our Brave New World tries to leave women in the Dark Ages. Topics covered include science education, the tech industry, gaming and science fiction culture.



Angry Black Bitch
Online home of the indomitable Shark-Fu (aka Pamela Merritt), who also contributes to Shakesville, Feministing, and RH Reality Check (surprise, surprise). The voices of women of color are frequently ignored in the realm of feminism (as in many other progressive causes) and Angry Black Bitch won’t have any of it. Insightful, hilarious and extraordinarily well-informed commentary on feminism, race, and politics.



Not an exclusively feminist blog, but possibly the most diverse, featuring writing by black, Latina, Asian and Native American women. The award-winning blog was founded by Jen Chau and Carmen Van Kerckhove, and is now run by Latoya Peterson and Arturo R. Garcia.



Author Bio:

Nancy Lackey Shaffer is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.


Photos: Gloria Steinem (HBO); Jezebel.com (Gawker Media).

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