“Inappropriate and unacceptable began their modern careers in the 1980s as part of the jargon of political correctness. They have more or less replaced a number of older, more exact terms: coarse, tactless, vulgar, lewd. They encompass most of what would formerly have been called “improper” or “indecent.” An affair between a teacher and a pupil that was once improper is now inappropriate; a once indecent joke is now unacceptable. This linguistic shift is revealing. Improper and indecent express moral judgements, whereas inappropriate and unacceptable suggest breaches of some purely social or professional convention. Such “non-judgemental” forms of speech are tailored to a society wary of explicit moral language…. What was once an offence against decency must be recast as something akin to a faux pas.”—Words that think for us « Prospect Magazine (via literarypiano)
But I also think it’s more helpful to think of it less as “writing about feminism” and more “speaking about the issues that matter to the people reading and applying critical frameworks to them”. And probably not calling them “critical frameworks” in your pitch, because that just alienates people.
Jessica Valenti asked the same question on her blog this morning, and thankfully came to the same answer. She writes:
Yes, it’s likely that the mainstream media will always screw feminists over. If we’re older we’ll be called stodgy; if we’re younger we’ll be called do-me feminists or be otherwise sexified. Our messages will be edited out, or mocked. Only some of us will get called on to give quotes or do interviews because we’re perceived as more “mainstream friendly.” It will continue to be an unfair system. But we should participate in it anyway.
Valenti’s Feministing stablemate, Courtney Martin, is currently in the running to be the Next Great American Pundit, with a column at the Washington Post up for grabs. On the blog and elsewhere, she’s been promoted on the basis that “we need more feminist voices in the media”.
But I think this misses the point. I’d like Courtney Martin to have a Washington Post column not because she subscribes to a particular philosophical framework, but because she’s an exceptionally good writer and analyst, who thinks about issues in a way that most others don’t, presents her arguments in a nuanced way, and is able to capture visceral emotional truths.
Pop feminist commentary is everywhere, at least in Australia (and my impression is in large smathes of America as well) - good analysis and original thinking, not so much.
Good feminist writing in the mainstream media - and good writing of any persuasion - isn’t about pushing a particular philosophical barrow. It’s about communicating with an audience about the issues that matter in their lives in a voice they can relate to (hence the not using words like “discourse” or “framework” in one’s pitches), and applying frameworks (here we go again!) that help to illuminate their experience and understanding of the world.
ETA my response to Jessica’s post:
I’m glad the answer you came to on this one is “yes”.
While I can appreciate the frustration some feminists feel when it comes to MSM, I can’t imagine *not* engaging with it. You just need to pick your medium/s (personally, I prefer to converse with the convertible than battle it out with the completely opposed) and modulate your message so it speaks to the intended audience.
I also think it helps to think of it less as “writing about feminism” and more “applying feminist – and other personal-is-political – frameworks to issues that matter to the people you’re talking to, in a voice and language they can relate to. This is exactly what I do for women’s mags, and I’m getting plenty of work.
“Edward Cullen may come in a different, darker package, but he still represents your typical teenage Tiger Beat dream boat: he wants only you, girl, he’ll always be true, girl, he’ll totally wait till you’re married, girl, there’s nobody else in the world for him, girl, he may be bad, but he’ll be good to you, girl, etc. He’s the guy you can dream about making out with, because you know you’ll never make out with him. He represents the kind of love that never comes with rejection, because you know he’s not real and you could never have him anyway. He’s a safe means of falling in love for those who desperately want to know what it feels like”—
So, I haven’t been posting much lately. There are a number of reasons for this - thesis stress, home stress, freelancing commitments, perfectionism, the sense that even though I’ve often prioritised blogging over the aforementioned, I really probably shouldn’t - but I’ll own up to what is: Bad Blogging Practice.
If I’m honest, boredom and fatigue have also played a big role in my absence. When I first started this blog, two years ago, it was a tentative toe in the waters of blogging as “myself” (whatever that means), under my real name.
In that time, I’ve connected with some amazing people around Australia and the world, and learned a lot about what works for me and what doesn’t. In the latter category: lifecasting or reblogging other people’s stuff without adding original comment (however effective that is elsewhere Tumblr); in the former, original writing and a kind of philosophical analysis, if hits, ‘likes’ and reblogs are any indication (prove me wrong by filling out my survey). You guys also seem to like advice and other meditations related to the writing process.
The trouble is that I’ve learned so much from this process that now, when I look at this blog, all I see is what’s wrong with it. Making the focus Me and My Writing, for one. Who would choose to subscribe to this blog when they could read one that’s about a clear topic, I ask myself? Not putting as much effort into these posts as I do into my paid work when - as I say all the time lately - the internet is “the ultimate free market”, and theoretically, that means we choose to read the best content available. Then again, perfectionism has been a major block to my writing here lately - my dashboard is full of drafts.
So, for a few weeks now I’ve seriously considered throwing this blog in, in favour of something newer, shinier and more exciting - something that capitalises on everythng I’ve learned over the past two years. And I will be launching a site focusing on my thesis research (or, more sensationally, talking about sex) in the next couple of weeks, followed hopefully not long after by a revamped portfolio website.
But in thinking and talking about this with other people, I realised something: whatever its weaknesses, people like this blog. It may not be perfect, but it has an audience - and an audience I’m rather fond of.
What direction it should go in is a question I’m yet to answer. My sense is that treating it as a kind of supplement to my other work is the way to go - reflections, inspirations and discussions around articles I’m working on and the like. The kinds of posts that are in my ‘best of' section. I'm also considering a full revamp of the layout and possibly even the title.
But as I make those moves, I’m keen to know what you think. I’ve created a survey (yep, I’m linking to it again) asking what you like about this blog, what you’d like to see more of and what you’d like to see changed. I’ve tried to make it as quick and painless as possible - it won’t take more than ten minutes, and if you’re really speedy, I reckon you could knock it over in 90 seconds. I’d really appreciate it if you filled it out. You can also leave a comment below, if you’d prefer, or drop me an email.