As many of you know, a group of disability rights activists organized to call us out on our lack of coverage on disability issues and ongoing problem with ableist language at Feministing (sometimes on the part of editors, but mostly popping up in the comments sections). Some ableist language that I used in this post was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. I apologized, pointing out that I really don’t know enough about the field of disability rights and activism and want to learn more. And Miriam jumped on board to serve as another representative of Feministing who was interested in forwarding the dialogue about this intersection and it’s presence or lack there of on our site and in feminism at large.
We moved forward by scheduling an online chat between these activists, who meanwhile started their own blog (their abelist word profiles are really enlightening, as are their regular recommended readings, and fantastic general content), Miriam, and myself. It was a productive and affirming experience for me personally. This group of activists and bloggers communicated their suggestions with incredible clarity and coordination, and as it turns out, most of their ideas were things that Miriam and I were either already discussing or open to implementing. The summary of the suggestions appear after the jump.
One of our problems, related to this issue and others, is capacity. We continue to maintain Feministing without enough time or money to realize our full vision of what it should be. Nevertheless, it was empowering, for lack of a less overused word, to go through this process of being called out on my own ignorance, widening the frame to the larger issue of the intersection between feminism and disability rights activism, dialoguing with a bunch of awesome activists, and now I’m excited to implement and learn more.
The crew is following up with some suggested resources (readings and the like), so I’ll definitely communicate about that to the larger Feministing community. Meanwhile, we’re excited to have a model of how to deal with criticism that makes us a better blog, makes each of us individually better thinkers/activists, and moves the movement forward. Thanks so much to the crew of folks from all over the world who are engaging with us in this process. You, in a word, rock.
In terms of addressing the capacity issues that this (and other situations in the past) have brought up, we’re working hard at finding new solutions to deal with the volume and vibrancy of the Feministing community. A big part of this is comment moderation, which we’ll be talking more about new ways to strengthen our ability to do this. We implemented a new policy this summer, in direct response to similar feedback about comment sections, and we’re still evolving that policy. We’ll make sure to keep folks updated as changes happen, but you should expect to see more posts with pre-approved comments as one way for us to better moderate.
The other main thing that this particular engagement brought up is our ability to be a truly intersectional feminist website. It’s something we’ve struggled with before as we all bring different identities and expertise to the table. One way we open this up is the community blog, but we realize that’s not enough. We’re committed to continuing these dialogues to develop how all sorts of important issues that intersect with feminism are represented at Feministing.
The full summary of the suggestions from the group we engaged with appear after the jump. You can also see the transcript of our chat here.
And here’s a quick recap of our substantive suggestions:
* A concrete statement of the site’s commitment to intersectionality issues, to address what seems to be a popular feeling among commenters that the site is “Feministing, not SocialJusticeing.” Whether a joint post for site authors or another mechanism turns out to be the best way to make this statement was undecided during the chat.
* Guest posts from people with disabilities focusing on a wide range of disability issues. Talks with Patty Berne had begun before these issues were raised and she may do more guest posts or potentially contribute to the site. We clarified our desire to see a wider range of issues addressed than have been in the past 2 years or so, when the only explicit focus on people with disabilities has been about performance art groups. Other potential areas to cover include political issues, health issues, employment issues, etc.
* Increased accessibility of the site itself. Miriam mentioned a current site redesign is in process, so it would be an excellent time to incorporate some increased accessibility. We suggested using this site to identify accessibility barriers and suggestions for fixes: http://wave.webaim.org/
* A clear and reliable mechanism for user flagging abusive comments and getting a response – currently it’s unclear where those go, what criteria is used to determine whether it stays or not, with no feedback on criteria. We have noticed that the “report abuse” button now seems to direct emails to the author of the original post, rather than a general email. Miriam also mentioned plans to focus more on comment moderation, including creating a community editor/moderator position and incorporating community members in comment moderation.
* Current and updated contact information for all authors.
We also agreed that getting back together in about 3 months to discuss the interim progress would be a good idea.