#FemFuture, launched Monday by feminist writers Courtney Martin and Vanessa Valenti, is a report and ongoing project aimed at creating a sustainable online feminism for the future by relieving the burdens that place feminists at a disadvantage to opposing forces — lack of resources, lack of time, lack of emotional support, lack of specific needed skills, and lack of funds that lead bloggers and activists to stop being active as everyday life and/or burnout encroach on activity. It focuses on creating “more radical, intentional, and transformative relationships between all the stakeholders in the feminist movement.”
It’s a solid concept and jumping-off point. I certainly recommend reading the entire thing if you have time; for the high points, Jessica Luther live-tweeted her reading of the paper via Storify.
It almost feels petty to start criticizing while Valenti and Martin are still, and deservedly so, burping bubbles from their celebratory champagne. But it isn’t petty. There’s room for “Hey, good stuff!” and “… with some seriously problematic implications” in the same conversation. So: Congratulations, Vanessa, Courtney, and all the women (including our own Jill) who worked hard to contribute to the #FemFuture project. It was a hefty endeavor, and it’s good stuff. With some problematic implications. That people are pointing out.
There is nothing inherently antifeminist about constructively criticizing #FemFuture.
Not that you need my permission to criticize it. You also don’t need the permission of any of the people characterizing criticism as “hating,” or of any individual whom we don’t link here who identified honest critique as “sniping” and questioned critics’ right to criticize at all.
BitchMedia highlights a good number of reasoned critiques in “How Do We Define Online Feminism? #FemFuture Ignites Debate.” Others have jumped out at me. I post them not to invite some sort of pile-on of #FemFuture and its components and contributors but to bring attention to opportunities for further discussion.
Flavia at Red Light Politics on the U.S.-centric approach to the project. “US Centrism and Inhabiting a Non Space in #FemFuture“:
To call what is going on in an Anglo centric environment “online feminism” is to case me (and millions like me) away from the umbrella. We live elsewhere. We communicate in English but we are not part of the culture that is being discussed. We are the outsiders that have issues that are alien to this “online feminism”. … I might get lumped into the term because I communicate in English but my reality is rather different: I live in Amsterdam.
And here’s what happens when you inhabit these cracks: you pretty much don’t exist.
Melissa at Shakesville on the convening of a conference of New Yorkers in New York to address the challenges facing feminists worldwide. “#femfuture“:
[T]rickle-down feminism [H/T Tressie] doesn’t work, for precisely the reason that external presumptions about a universal feminism, even among privileged members of the group, don’t work. Because other shit matters, too, like whether you live in Brooklyn or next to an endless soybean field.
It’s not just that I’m not connected in the same way: I have an entirely different perception of online (and offline) feminist activism.
… I’m just trying to convey that this isn’t exclusively an issue of failing to speak to people marginalized within movement feminism. I am regarded as a Big White Feminist, and I have many of the privileges of Big White Feminism. And it failed to speak to me, too.
And commenter Ana Mardoll on that post noted her likely inability, as a disabled feminist living in the southern U.S., to attend a week-long “feminist bootcamp” on the other side of the country. I’d imagine that would be a challenge for a lot of the feminists currently dealing with many of the problems #FemFuture is trying to fix — that they’re already short on time and resources.
Illegal Plum Pudding on the implications of linking feminist work to corporate funding:
how do we understand thousands and millions of people spreading out the tremendous fucking unbelievable work of creating a movement so that one person does an hour or two of work a day/week — being reworked so that a few “experts” get paid by foundations to do that same work?
why is becoming beholden to the agenda of unaccountable foundations considered a RADICAL approach to creating a movement?
On Twitter, Heather Corinna objects to the characterization of foundational online feminism as “accidental,” as if young feminists stumbled bass-ackwards into it from a primordial soup of Web sites and blogs that popped up with no intentionality.
I so want to let this go, but SERIOUSLY: enough w/calling some of our very intentional, hard work accidental. Please. forbes.com/sites/tomwatso…
— Heather Corinna (@heathercorinna) April 11, 2013
And Jessica Marie Johnson’s lengthy and comprehensive “#FemFuture, History & Loving Each Other Harder” at Diaspora Hypertext, the Blog, simply defies blockquoting.
I think one of the most promising aspects of the #FemFuture project right now is Martin’s and Valenti’s openness to and willingness to address criticism — actually answering questions on Twitter and pursuing venues of dialogue instead of falling back on “Well, this is just a jumping-off point for conversations.” I hope that that will continue, and I hope that ongoing critiques really will be taken into consideration.
From Blackamazon: “It is not a good #femfuture.”
It’s not good.
What it is, is acceptable. The omissions, the questions, the historical narrative being rewritten is acceptable to our belief of what feminism is and should be.
When we say things like #femfuture is an acceptable starting point, that it is a good, that is what we mean.
That what makes a good study of women’s use of technology online is a focus on what we “need” rather than what we have generated, we make a calculus of what we feel represents success.
That is what we mean by good.