Feministing at 10: The media has become our feminist playground, so let’s play (to win)

Ed. note: In celebration of Feministing’s 10-year anniversary, current and former members of the Feministing crew will be offering their reflections on the changes of the last decade. Next up is Feministing co-founder Vanessa Valenti on online media-making. Read the whole series here. And consider giving us a birthday donation to ensure we’re around for another 10 years!

envelope and pen

How we contacted the media before the Internet.

When it comes to the media, we’re at an unprecedented time in history.

While we’re all so busy tweeting, posting, and consuming tons of information every day, it’s easy to forget just how much media has changed over the last decade. Ten years ago, blogs had just started to garner attention, but for the most part, the mainstream media was your news source. The relationship between readers and the media was very top-down; the media disseminated the news, and the public consumed it. And naturally, in result, whatever the media said largely shaped public opinion. (Problematic much?)

But over the course of the following years, the rise of blogs changed the meaning of media in a significant way. That top-down relationship became lateral. Readers became writers. News publications incorporated comments sections into their websites. The Internet essentially democratized the media, creating a massive dialogue between millions of individuals, sharing their thoughts on the world, and how it ought to be.

Feministing was lucky enough to be a part of this shift. One of the first moments that we began to recognize our influence was in 2007, when we posted a tip from a reader from North Carolina who found underwear being sold in the Junior’s Department of Wal-Mart that said, “Who needs credit cards…” on the front. After calling on our readers to contact their corporate offices, Fox News (out of all places) ran the story, and the underwear was pulled from Wal-Mart’s shelves.

Soon thereafter, more and more of these wins began happening, and major news stations began requesting media appearances from us. It was overwhelming, to say the least. We realized we weren’t just creating community, but were capable of mobilizing thousands of people to make real change in the world.

Obviously, Feministing was just one entity amid the countless feminists online utilizing this new power to create awareness in the media around the multitude of issues that they cared about. Yet over time, what also became evident was that most of this action-taking is pretty ad hoc and reactive. We get an offensive billboard removed, or an apology from a media stakeholder, or offensive underwear removed from store shelves – all effective and exciting wins that allows us to feel a momentary sense of victory and change – but soon enough are back in the trenches, fighting the next battle. But if ad hoc campaigns can spark the media to create national awareness around an issue, think about what more pro-active, organized efforts could achieve.

I think we have more power than we can even imagine. Who would have thunk a decade ago that major media networks would be getting their news from a 140-character messaging platform? But while none of us knows what our new, rapidly changing media will bring in the next 10 years, I’d love to see feminists enter the next phase of online media-making and activism with long-term impact as the goal. How can we take these big media moments to not just spark national awareness, but change legislation? How do we create real systemic change? I can’t wait to see what Feministing has in store around this. We’ve got the media’s attention now. It’s time to go all in.

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