The future of feminist activism

In addition to some of the stuff Jess linked to earlier this week, I’ve been slowly making my way through the many, many posts from Blog for Choice Day. The list is impressively huge.
I often find myself feeling like the antis are so much more together than we are as a movement. But one thing I realized at the Blogs4Life conference on Monday, especially after returning from it and seeing how many people Blogged for Choice, is that blogging is one thing pro-choicers do WAY better.
I mean, their event included a speaker who had to explain, “A blog, or ‘Web log‘ is an online journal or diary…” Thing is, this wasn’t billed as a training seminar. It was touted as a conference for anti-choicers already in-the-know and blogging. And only one speaker made more than a passing reference to ” Web logs” themselves. There was little to no strategizing on how to use blogs as a political tool. I heard them say over and over that theirs is a movement of young people. But if that were really true, where were the hundreds of entries against choice on the Roe anniversary? I certainly saw less than half as many. And yes, I was looking.
Pro-choicers’ internet activism got me thinking about something noted feminist journalist Katha Pollitt recently wrote on a listserv for women in media:

Actually, it’s really hard to get women out on a demo of more than a few people. The march for women’s lives took a solid year of planning (and achieved???). Back in the day, women picketed the media to protest coverage, took over offices of women’s magazines. There’s nothing like that going on now.

Ah, but there is. Most of us can’t afford an annual trip to Washington to counter-protest and celebrate the anniversary of the Roe decision. So we make our collective presence known on the internet. See: Blog for Choice Day.
As for mainstream women’s magazines, it’s true that I’ve never been motivated to protest outside their offices. I see them as more of a tool than an enemy. This is not to say I’m happy with the fact that they peddle insecurity and reinforce stereotypical gender roles and on and on… I just don’t think in-person protests are the best way to change their content. The women’s mags are a great way to reach young women who don’t identify as feminists, and it would be counterproductive to treat them as an opponent in the same way the religious right is. A few lines of positive coverage (like when Marie Claire directed its readers to visit this very blog, or when Glamour wrote about TRAP laws) can do more good for our cause than a handful of street protesters can. And thoughtful online critiques of what’s wrong with mainstream women’s magazines and their coverage of specific issues can be as effective as an in-person protest.
Katha also wrote,

Our most grassroots picket is counter-demonstrating against anti-choice abortion-clinic protesters. i often wonder why pro-choicers don’t demonstrate at those “crisis pregnancy centers” that masquerade as abortion clinics, hand out sex-ed fact sheets in front of high schools, picket drugsstores that won’t sell EC and so on.

Well, some groups have protested outside crisis-pregnancy centers. Street protests always felt more important when I lived in Missouri, where much more of the population was anti-choice. Having lived in progressive big cities since then, I’ve felt that the best way for me to protest pharmacist refusals and crisis-pregnancy centers was to write about them.
I also think, and this is harder to admit, that there’s a stigma surrounding demonstrations. It often feels hard to move feminism forward, to convince other young women that feminism is modern and relevant, while using time-honored tactics. The feminists who do organize street protests sometimes seem to be of a different generation than I am (no matter what their actual age). For example, a friend and I wanted to help the organizers of a rally for expanding EC access. But then we got the invitation to the planning meeting, and saw men were excluded (from the meeting, not the rally). And we were both struck with the feeling that these were women who had a different idea of feminism than we did. We still supported them and attended the rally, but never got involved with the group.
Which is not to say that I don’t think Katha has some great ideas for real-life activism. I especially like the thought of handing out sex-ed info to high schoolers.
Anyway, as long as we’re talking about Blog for Choice Day, I want to link to some of our commenters’ posts: Alon Levy, FEMily!, jrav, RevDeb, Tom Head, katie, Alannah, Zoe Ann Nicholson, sylviasrevenge, petitpoussin, alannaknightess, arse poetica, furiousfemale, debbie, lara, Chari, Thorn and fellow-ette. (If I forgot someone, it wasn’t intentional. Leave your link in the comments section.)

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