Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Internet Is My Generation's Consciousness Raising Group.

Consciousness raising groups were a big deal in feminism back before I was born, but I had never heard of one until my feminist jurisprudence course in law school.  When I first read about them, I couldn't really see a purpose for them in the modern era, but after discussing them in class, I really wanted to take part in one-- I can see something of value in discussing our problems, successes, and concerns with other women, including women who aren't our friends, and in seeing similarities in many different ways of living.  It's a connection to the "personal is political" world of thought, which, while still an important part of feminism, is less focused on now that feminists tend to make more choices that would be questionable to the feminists of yore-- things like dressing to appeal to the male gaze of a partner, or the resurgence in interest in being a stay at home parent, and a focus on cooking and crafting.  Some women  are re-embracing some stereotypically feminine things that were once does as a necessity and getting joy out of it, which understandably might feel a little like a slap to women who fought for their right to not do those things.

But end digression.

My class attempted to form a concsiousness raising group... but we were all too busy to make it work.  Which is something of a terrible excuse, since most of us were on the law school campus at some time during most days of the week anyway, but still.  We couldn't get more than three or four of us together at a time, and without having some consistency to things, it felt difficult-- to me, anyway-- to open up about concerns and worries.

And so, I envied women who had been able to be a part of a consciousness-raising experience, and then I thought about what my generation is doing instead and I realized... plenty of us ARE involved in some sort of consciousness-raising group, except we don't call them that, and we don't meet with others in person.  Instead, women of my generation seem to be turning to the internet, to anonymous message boards like reddit's Two X Chromosomes community, or fandom livejournal and tumblr communities, or comment sections on popular blog sites, like Shakesville, feministing, and feministe... and back in the day, before the changed their comment system and alienated a lot of their user base, Jezebel.

I see, in these places, women discussing all the issues of their lives and getting feedback from other women.  And finding out that some personal things are more common than one might think.  Just look at these places-- people talk about their work experiences, their relationships with family and partners, the ways others interact with them in public, and how it changes when they dress differently.  Just... all sorts of things.  Whatever you have a question about, you can find someone to talk with, without even having to reveal who you are.  I mean, you find a lot of posts comparing the best kind of menstrual cup, or asking where to buy affordable, professional work clothing so that you don't have to drop mad cash or show your boobs, but still.  Serious issues get discussed, and people connect, and get more insight into their own lives when they reflect on them and reflect on the lives of others.  So while I still think that real, in person consciousness raising groups do have a lot of value, I see a lot of value in the internet's ability to educate, enlighten, and just get us talking to people who want to talk about the same things.

1 comment:

Bushfire said...

I totally agree. I've been politicised almostly exclusively by feminist blogs over the last few years and they've definitely been my consciousness raising group. Aren't they great?