The blog as a public site
Recently a comment was posted on our blog from someone outside of this class. This comment is an excellent reminder to us all that our blog is public. By public blog I mean that anyone who has access to the internet can read our blog posts and comment on them. It is important to remember this fact as you make your posts (both comments and entries). For me, the fact that this blog is public is a very good thing because it enables us to connect with people/communities outside of this classroom and it extends our classroom beyond the physical class space and even the University. Additionally, knowing that this blog is a public one, encourages us to be accountable for the claims that we make in our posts as we write our blog entries to known audiences (all of us in the class) and unknown audiences (anyone who stumbles across our blog on the interwebz).
In most cases (at least that has been my experience developing and participating in over 15 different blogs), the public aspect of this blog can lead to productive engagements with other bloggers, students, scholars, community members. Blogging can lead to building coalitions with others who have similar goals. It can also help us to gain a critical awareness of a wide range of issues related to feminism or fighting inequality and social injustice. For more on these possibilities, check out this special issue on feminist blogging from the Feminist and Scholar Online.
Sometimes the public aspect of a blog can generate comments that are unproductive and disrespectful. Instead of providing an invitation for critical engagement they make us angry and attempt to shut down our curiosity about an issue. These types of comments do not fit the spirit of our blog or of the course. For me, the point of the "this is a feminist issue because..." entries and comments is to inspire us to be curious about what feminisms are and how a wide range of feminists might respond to a variety of issues. At their best, these posts and the comments that follow them, invite us to wonder and to question and to learn more about the world (and not from any one ideological position).So, what should we do when we come across comments that bother or anger us? That we feel are disrespectful or unproductive? That encourage misinformation and that discourage us from talking with each other and learning from each other about our very different perspectives? And that don't enable us to develop any mutual strategies for negotiating our conflicts or our contested issues?
While this might not work all of the time, one thing we can do is to be curious and ask lots (and lots) of questions about:
- how to engage in debate in ways that open up conversation instead of shutting it down
- what perspectives get ignored when we frame our debate in narrow ways
- what questions we could ask and what comments we could make that encourage all of us to wonder (about the world, our own positions) and inspire us to want to learn more about others' perspectives and experiences.
- how our online engagments (and/or the engagements of others) practice or fail to practice feminist debate, as outlined in my what is feminist debate? handout