Saturday, March 19, 2005

Feminism, Visibility, and Peace

As Dave Letterman used to say, I am tired, but it is a good kind of tired...

feminism is not a dirty word Just finished up today's activities at the Center for New Words' 2005 Women and Media conference. And what a day! I served as a presenter fof two panel discussions, attended an extremely well-done seminar, and met a number of women who read AF&O-- thank you so much for coming!!! -- or whose own blogs are faves of mine. This was one superb day.

First up was my first session -- fiddling around with a crashed computer and an ultimately useless (for now) Powerpoint presentation forced me to miss the morning keynote. But the panel more than made up for it: In "Women Seizing the Online Space," the focus of the discussion was expanding and amplifying the voices of women in cyberspace. As Elayne Riggs anticipated in one of her terrific Estrogen Month posts, we did indeed talk a bit about supposedly invisible women bloggers (and Kevin Drum probably felt his ears grow a bit warm this morning). Joining me on the panel were AlterNet senior editor Lakshmi Chaudry, Women's ENews founder and editor-in-chief Rita Hensley Jensen (my hotel roomie), and Rosalyn Lemieux, who is an online organizer for MoveOn.org; the moderator was Tara Tidwell Cullen, who is managing editor of Cultural Survival Quarterly. All of these women had thoughtful things to say about increasing the presence and power of women online. Ultimately, it comes down to one thing: Getting women on the 'Net, giving them the confidence to express themselves openly -- among other women and in mainstream settings -- and using the power of the Internet to organize and find community.

When this session ended, I headed to "Start Your Own Blog in 90 Minutes," in which Christine Cupiaolo of Ms. Musings led a group of women through starting their own weblogs. In 90 minutes. I love truth in advertising. Now, I've been at this website/blogging thing for nearly a decade, so I didn't need to start one -- I just wanted the opportunity to meet my cybercolleague Christine face to face. The mission was accomplished most satisfactorily: Not did I get to connect with Christine, who did an awesome job, but I also learned about podcasting. And the goddess behind Echidne of the Snakes was there too -- what an honor that she came up and introduced herself to me. I am such a huge fan of her work.

What's so wrong with the F word? The next session was simply inspirational. The topic was "Out of Vogue: The Future of Feminist Publishing." Sitting on the panel with me were Jean Casella, former publisher and director of the legendary Feminist Press; Carol Anne Douglas, part of the editorial collective of the equally legendary radical-feminist newsjournal off our backs, Deepa Fernandes of Pacifica Radio (this young woman is so impressive, as is her commitment to the cause), and Amy Hoffman, an author and editor of the recently-closed Women's Review of Books. (We may see WRB return, goddess willing...) The discussion, moderated by Bitch magazine's Andi Zeisler, centered on how to revitalize publishing for, by, and about women (which, for our purposes, includes books, newspapers and magazines, the Web, and broadcasting). It was fascinating, running the gamut from debating the wisdom of collective vs. capitalist business models, to pondering the ways to meld old-school and third-wave girlie-feminist philosophies, to considering the voices of women in other parts of the world, and to other compelling topics -- including what future the "F" word may or may not have. More questions were raised than answers were found, but one thing is clear: As the decline in women's bookstores and publishing houses continues, the need for feminist publishing rises. Our assignment is obvious -- we must do whatever we must to keep women's words and issues in the public eye. And given the enthusiasm of the women in the room and the empowerment that came from the gathering, I have no doubt we will succeed.

After some lovely chats with Jaclyn and Gilda from the godsend that is the Center for New Words, writer EJ Graff offered a brief and moving tribute to Wanda Alston, the brilliant Washington, DC, activist and GLBT community liaison brutally slain earlier this week -- oh, how she will be missed. Fatigue then hit me like a falling anvil: Back to the hotel and to an awaiting computer.

Which brings me to now. I am soooo tired: My recent bout with pneumonia has left me absolutely depleted. But, as I said, this is a good kind of tired. I may be exhausted, but I feel energized as well. After a good nap, I feel as if I should be able to change the world for the better through the power of the pen. I pray a whole lot of women feel that way too.

get up stand up Tomorrow, WAM will present a caucus on turning our newfound inspiration into action (which means next week I will have lots of information for you, gentle reader, and much work for you to do). Afterward, I will hit Boston Common to take part in the Global Day of Action. Lots of folks took to the streets today to mark the second anniversary of the US's foul invasion of Iraq, but Beantown is among the cities taking action tomorrow. I feel privileged to be able to take part in the worldwide call for peace; marching in Boston rather than in my usual stomping grounds (NYC, DC, Baltimore) will be so cool. The peaceniks are coming! The peaceniks are coming!

Are you in the Boston area? Come out for peace. Are you elsewhere? Be sure to retaliate with world peace in your city of town. Whatever you do, DO SOMETHING.

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