Feminista PhD

Tales from a 38yo married mom attempting to earn a PhD

6 notes

Making diversity an asset in online feminism

Years ago I asked Amy Richards how to create a diverse organization. She replied with, “You start with diversity.”

Unfortunately too many organizations have not started that way and seek out ways to change.

Suzy D’Enbeau presents a case study of AWID and how they not only addressed criticism of being “too white” and “too North,” but used online tools to do it. It seems simple to create a diverse organization online. I mean we have web searches, right? Alas, almost 20 years of organizing online has taught me that entering “Latina feminist” does not always help you find the person you are seeking.

D’Enbeau outlines three things that plague feminist organizing, on and off-line:

  1. Tensions between solidarity and diversity: Here we have all the intersectionality creating tension as individuals are wary of speaking for others, but want to address a diverse set of issues.
  2. Transparency: This is where feminists, especially those seeking outside funds, must walk a thin line between pleasing funders and staying true to their community. Anyone who has taken outside funding knows that sooner or later you find that spot where you may have to decide between “the cause” and “the check.” How you make those decisions should be transparent to your members.
  3. Participatory processes: In other words, whose voice is heard and valued in the day-to-day running of the organization?

OK, so AWID is aware that others see them as “too white” and for an international women’s organization, “too global north.”

They set out to rectify this image by doing three things:

  1. They used diversity as a strength. Imagine that! Not only did they say they wanted a diverse membership, but they made it easier for women of very low-income to become members by waiving the fee. They also created language that welcomed feminists of all types…In other words, you had to adhere to feminist ideals, but did not have to claim the label. They do regulate this diversity by not having chapters or offices. Rather it appears everyone works under one umbrella. I’m still sorting this regulation part out.
  2. AWID posts financials on their website. I went to their website and the latest annual report I could find is from 2011, but it does seem thorough in what they do and how they spend their money. AWID is also transparent with its mission to be diverse and the occasional struggles in achieving that goal.
  3. AWID allows for members to drive the identity of the organization. I did not get the sense that D’Enbeau thinks the members run the organization, but AWID uses their online forums as a way to engage with their membership, for their voices to be heard and valued.

Overall, AWID has been proactive in using diversity as a strength in not only shaping its image, but also in addressing the needs of the women they serve.

Of course, this is an interpretation of a paper written about AWID. If this paper is not reflective of AWID’s actual practices, I’d love to hear feedback. I’m also happy to hear feedback on my interpretation. Email * Twitter


Transnational Feminist Advocacy Online: Identity (Re)Creation Through Diversity, Transparency, and Co-Construction
Suzy D’Enbeau 
Women’s Studies in Communication 
Vol. 34, Iss. 1, 2011. [link]

Filed under feminist theory online organizing femfuture

2 notes

We must maintain our history…and that includes websites

I’m in the midst of my policy agenda setting paper framed around online feminism. So I want to reference the “Not Under the Bus” movement around the Stupak amendment. Alas, the Women’s Media Center hasn’t maintained that site! The best I can find is the WMC’s blog with a great overview of the “Not Under the Bus” campaign.

As an academic, this won’t do! As a historian, this can’t do! We need archival material in order to do our work.

If there’s a new campaign, ok, but the short domain name. But point it to your legacy organizational site. That way the information is there for us after it ends. As my mentor, Peg Stobel says, “Don’t Throw it Away!” [PDF]

For online feminism, we need “Don’t Delete it Away!”

OK, back to my paper.

Filed under phdlife femfuture online organizing

1 note

The Feminist Agenda

Part of my research question for my paper is if online feminism, without a grand leader, sets an agenda in order to obtain things, let’s call them gifts for now, from the government. Specifically, I am pondering how online feminism continues to fight for a contraceptive coverage, how online feminism spurred “Slut Walk,” and when we fail to take collective action (I’ll take your suggestions for best example). In order to theorize about this, the next paper I’ll comment on is about agenda setting in legislative settings. A quick reminder that I’m a student, so alternative interpretations are appreciated.

Barry Pump reviews the literature that suggests that policy agendas are fairly stable unless a shock throws things off. A shock can be like a natural disaster or terrorist attack. It is almost like a reset button that can clear the legislative agenda or recenter the issue. A common example is how immigration reform was tossed aside after the 2001 terrorist attacks in favor of “strengthening” the USA’s borders. A shock can also disrupt usual partnerships between legislators and interest groups. The Boston Marathon bombing will challenge the partnerships between privacy advocates and US Senators — Do we need increased monitoring of electronic communications to thwart the next bombing?

The challenges that feminist organizing faces in getting on the legislative agenda include breaking through the ocean of information our Congresspeople swim in each day. Add to this the concept of “subsystems,” which could be thought of as mini-interest groups. Is online feminism overcoming this usual subsystem mechanism and instead of competing for attention, are working together?

"Policy entrepreneurs" emerge to take advantage of subsystems and breaks within the communication system. They will try to tie subsystems together in order to fit their own agenda.

Another area that Pump focuses on is the shift to taking into consideration bureaucrats as experts. In the past, theory has seen information only flow to bureaucrats, not from them to policymakers. I am unsure how this relates to my paper, but wanted to note it for future reference. Hey, I’m not doing this just for y’all. This is my form of note taking! :)

One concept that is ready to be fully researched is the effectiveness of coalition-building versus adversarial politics. We may need to wait for a period of coalition building to fully research that concept or move out of DC and head to a state or city where that is happening.

The take-home message of this paper is that today’s legislative environment requires a flexible strategy. We are overwhelmed with issues to tackle and being able to communicate with another organization to propose solutions is a necessity.

This post is part of my project documenting a literature search on online feminism for a research paper. 


Pump, Barry. “Beyond Metaphors: New Research on Agendas in the Policy Process.”Policy Studies Journal. Special Issue: Public Policy Yearbook 2011. Volume 39, Issue Supplement s1, pages 1–12, April 2011 [link]

Filed under networks femfuture

5 notes

Feminist Networks

This next paper is about feminist activists, but not about online feminism.

Janet K. Boles uses Milwaukee, Wisconsin as a case study in how a network of feminist activists (try to) get things done. Network theory can be used on or off-line, thus its importance to my paper and inclusion in this project.

One question that I will carry away from this paper is the idea of untrained social reformers. Boles notes that the professionalization of feminist activism through the establishment of rape crisis centers, women’s shelters and other feminist victories shifted expertise from grassroots folks to professionally trained individuals such as lawyers. Does the shift to online organizing mean we are shifting back to untrained activists leading the movement? How many feminist bloggers have experience or training in feminist social services? Does this matter?

Boles finds that neither insider nor outsider strategies are more effective. Rather she finds that a combination of both strategies are the most effective. “Diverse networks increase the power, access, and tactical advantages of the groups while decreasing the financial and political risks for any of the individual groups (pg 173).” In other words, feminist good-cop, bad-cop works.

This post is part of my project documenting a literature search on online feminism for a research paper.


Boles, Janet K.”Local feminist policy networks in the contemporary American interest group system.” Policy Sciences 1994, Volume 27, Issue 2-3, pp 161-178. [link]

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What Occupy Tells Us About Social Protests Today

This paper is not focused on online feminism, rather on how online tools such as social media assists in organizing and what it says about today’s protest or social change community.

The take home message, for this specific paper, is that online tools connect us, but far too often it is as individuals, not as groups. Thus the image of the Occupy tent is a perfect symbol - only the tent is permanent, the people move in and out. Some people are full-timers, but many are part-timers doing what they can or desire.

According to the authors, part of why protests have moved in this direction is that we have made joining easy, especially compared to churches and trade unions. They are also easy to leave.

I would find connections to the various protests that online feminism has spurred from SlutWalk to the ongoing battle over contraceptive coverage. Are we taking action as individuals and not as members of an organization?

This post is part of my project documenting a literature search on online feminism for a research paper.


van Stekelenburg, Jacquelien . “The Occupy Movement: Product of this time.” Development (2012) 55(2), 224–231. [link]

Filed under online organizing femfuture

3 notes

What is the future of feminism online?

Scholars have been contemplating this for some time. In “Surfing Feminism’s Online Wave,” Stephanie RIcker Schulte reviews three books released in 2009 and 2010, two of which are directly about feminism’s future online. What I took from this review includes:

  • A great review of the origins of cyberfeminism, which pre-dates the internet, but flourished on the internet. The early view divided the digital and physical world. It inserted feminist theory into early studies of online activity and use. “The contemporary cyberfeminist scholarship detailed here offers complex and multifaceted gendered analysis of how the internet operates, the politics that shape its structure and its uses, and the potential it holds for social justice and feminist activism (pg 728).”
  • Shared case study of Mexican activists who would print online information to share with the women who could not access the internet. Talk about closing the digital divide!
  • One critique of Webbing Cyberfeminist Practice is that the essays are so diverse that it is hard to view the book as one voice. Which I believe is then perfectly reflective of online feminism!
  • Early online feminists ran trainings in order to close the digital divide. They taught women how to use computers and access the internet.
  • Reminds us that access is still an issue and still something that cyberfeminists or online feminists should be concerned with and acting on.
  • Warns, in the words of Susan Douglas, that this generation of internet users are too self-focused and thus using the internet as a microscope and not a telescope to see the bigger picture. I read that as internet generations, not strictly age generations.
  • Another warning was to remember that the current internet may not be what we need for real change. It reminded me of a conversation Anne Elizabeth Moore had with Robert McChesney . If all our online tools are corporate, how are we really going to change things?

Great reviews should give you a good sense of the books reviewed. They also make you head over to your fave book seller site to see how to get a used copy.

This post is part of my project documenting a literature search on online feminism for a research paper.


Schulte, Stephanie Ricker. “Surfing Feminism’s Online Wave: The Internet and the Future of Feminism.” Feminist Studies;Fall2011, Vol. 37 Issue 3, p727 [link]

Filed under feminist theory online organizing femfuture

0 notes


I have already responded to the #FemFuture document, but what I would like to do here is document my research on online feminism for a paper I writing for class. I’m running into some great research and thought this would be a great way to share what I am learning as I am discovering it.

I hope this is enjoyable and perhaps educational.

Also, as I am a PhD student and some of these papers I will be tested on in the fall, if you have comments or thoughts, please post them.

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here, so I went through and deleted some posts that I didn’t like anymore. And yes, this is take three on this Tumblr.

Thanks for coming back!

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