Monday, August 29, 2011

Blogging women and money


'My Hard-Earned Winnings' photo (c) 2008, locusolus - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Feministing has a post up entitled: The feminine mistake of blogging unsustainably by Courtney.
When I described some of our successes and challenges, there was a palpable sense of relief in the room. Imagine fighting for the feminist movement for decades and truly not realizing that there was a whole new generation coming up behind you, innovating new ways to take on old issues, and identifying new issues to take on borrowing old strategies. I was waxing poetic about our work and then one woman asked, “So what’s your economic model?”


Um…well…um…

It’s not the first time I’ve thought about the fact that what we do here is essentially unsustainable. All of us have either full time work formally, or the equivalence of it in freelance terms. All of us struggle to make a living to various degrees. All of us stretch ourselves pretty thin to keep this blog populated, radical, and running. And I know we’re not alone in this lack of sustainability. We’ve had lots of ideas about how to attempt to solve this, but mostly we’re too busy keeping the blog going to actually step back and make a plan (I’m not convinced we could actually succeed with any for-profit model anyway.)
This really struck a chord with me, because I imagine that this is a topic that many of the bloggers that I interact with, think about regularly.  Sometimes I think that I simply chose the wrong niche in which to invest my time and energy, from simply a profit making perspective.  The truth is, spaces that raise awareness or are dedicated to social justice do not make money, and yet they require patience, passion and strength of will to maintain.

This weekend, womanist musings had its highest hit day ever 223,240.  A post I wrote in April entitled Disability as a Game was put on reddit and a few other forums.  I could not celebrate this as a milestone for a space that I have worked three and a half years to build, because with it came the most terrible commentary I have had on the blog in a longtime.  Eventually I had to close down comments on that thread, only to have them swarm my email and send me messages on twitter.  People who came to read this post, didn't do so because they wanted to engage with social inequality, but to defend Pokemon of all things.  If that were not enough, I was well aware that with everything I put up with, it would not lead to a great profit for me.

There is constantly talk in the social justice sphere about making sure that the comment section is a safe space, but that does not mean that it is a safe space for bloggers who do all the writing, moderating and editing. There really is no one to save you from the hate and the aggravation that arises when people feel challenged.  This means that not only are social justice bloggers not making any money for what we do, we also pay a personal cost from having to negotiate all of the hate on a daily basis.

Courtney is right when she says that this is not sustainable.  Think about all of the blogs that you used to read everyday that are no longer in existence. If you happen to negotiate an ism like race, ageism, sexism, disability, heterosexism, or cissexism, the chances that your work will be profitable declines exponentially.  Bloggers who are making a living, are those that most closely fit the normative standards (read: White, male, straight, able bodied)

Reading through the comment section, what I saw were various suggestions that the feministing bloggers do more, like hold conferences etc,. This is an unrealistic suggestion, because just running a blog is a full-time job.  To even be taken seriously, a blog must have between 3-4 posts a day and that is a lot of content to churn out.  If that were not enough, these 3-4 posts must be substantive.  Where are bloggers to come up with extra hours to create side projects?

If that were not enough, the bloggers were asked to consider if they were bloggers or a business.  This question really bothered me, because it stems from the fact that the labour of marginalized people is undervalued. I read a lot of blogs because they entertain me and they educate me, and I know that there is value in this.  To me the question really comes down to whether readers actually value what we do.  I know that the internet is based upon this idea of open access, but this same access serves to further oppress people who are already marginalized.

There are bloggers who must go to the public library to post, because they cannot afford the internet, or they don't own a PC.  There are disabled bloggers for whom sitting down at the computer and pecking out a post is torturous.  There are mothers who work full-time while raising a family, who stay up late at night to put something on their blog (note: these women are already working a double day) To suggest that bloggers do more, when so many barriers already exist, is to fail to take into account how this may demand more than we are able to give. 

Blogging to me is about community.  I love the online friendships that have come with creating Womanist Musings.  From the ever fabulous Monica of Transgriot, who owes me cornbread, to Sparky who is always wrong and has zero taste in music, and Gus, aka Allison McCarthy, my muse and queen of Sunday shame, I have learned, shared, cried with, and grown as a human being.  There is value in this.  Even when I fail publicly, and the comment section turns into a nightmare for me -- I learn -- and I know that in my failures, no matter how much they hurt, others learn as well.  I think the real question isn't why are bloggers not doing more, but why our communities don't support us?

No donation is too small and for those that can't afford it, just a shout out to say thanks would mean so much.  The social justice blogosphere is imperative, if we are ever going to achieve any kind of equality. Christian fascists, and conservatives have no problems supporting hierarchy and every single ism and therefore, we must at the very least match their effort, if we even hope to fight back.  Bloggers are already giving everything we have to give; I think it's the community that needs to do more than passively reading, agreeing or disagreeing.  Invest in justice, invest in us, as we have invested in you.