Feministe now has a Mission Statement

We’ve resisted the idea of having a mission statement for many years, but we’ve finally decided that we do need one.

PREAMBLE

Firstly, we never thought we would ever need a mission statement. It seemed rather self-aggrandizing for what has always been just a multi-author personal blog which prioritises women’s voices, where the bloggers express opinions on whatever is currently engaging their interest. We thought that our seat-of-the-pants attitude was obvious enough that we didn’t need to make it explicit that there was no mission other than being openly opinionated women. The freedom to be openly opinionated in a space of one’s own was an uplifting experience, and that was enough for us.  We thought it would be mission enough for our readers too.

However, over the years since Feministe started in 2001, as our readership and commentariat has grown, there have been many assumptions made by newer readers that this large audience is what Feministe always wanted and planned and strove to achieve via a distinct or clearly articulated editorial/managerial policy. This could not be farther from the truth. What was initially simply a gratifying level of attention to our initial co-bloggers’ opinions in the first few years of the 21st century became a juggernaut with which the Feministe collective has had to scramble to keep pace, not just in terms of managing the many comments (and learning the art of moderating threads) and finding ways to cover the costs of keeping the server ticking over, but especially in terms of living up to the varied and often conflicting expectations which our readership has projected onto Feministe.

Secondly, there have been several calls over the years for us to make our mission clear, so some thoughts on what Feministe is, and what Feministe is not, follow below. The points describing what Feministe is are deliberately broad, because limiting ourselves to any one view or goal seems unacceptably confining. The points describing what Feministe is not are more specific, because some reader expectations are becoming a burden, and we are standing up for ourselves by asserting which parts of that burden are unacceptably heavy.

The mission statement consists of an overview statement and a number of subsequent specific statements describing corollaries/clarifications of the overview in terms of what we the Feministe collective want for ourselves as bloggers and what we aim to provide for you as readers:


UPDATE:

In response to detailed and robust constructive criticism of our original draft for the mission statement in comments below, the Mission Statement has been updated and simplified to summarise our positive aspirations without the distractions of “Not” statements. The current overview statement now reads:

Our mission is to foster a dynamic, robust, progressive, and inclusive feminist community.

and is followed by a list of ways and means to further this goal.

The original draft is now appended below for the purposes of transparency in order that criticisms in comments to this post have context.


Overview

Feministe is a blogging collective which prioritises women’s voices. This blog is where we share our opinions on anything and everything, as the mood takes us. Each of us speaks only for our individual selves unless otherwise specified.


Some Specifics

The Feministe collective shares a broad social justice worldview: the personal is political because personal interactions and prejudices perpetuate systemic injustices in varied interdependent and intersecting ways. We aim to highlight oppression and to be effective allies for marginalized voices, especially supporting our co-authors and contributors sharing perspectives from their own lived experiences of marginalization. We know that sometimes we will get it wrong. When that happens, we pledge to listen and reflect so that we can do better in future.

The Feministe collective appreciates the value of trivial diversions that brighten our days. Without occasional bouts of silliness/squee/geeking-out/cathartic-snark etc, blogging gets all grim and discouraging and the will to blog dims.

The Feministe collective is committed to sharing our space with diverse guest bloggers who share a broad social justice worldview. Guest bloggers are welcome to be serious or trivial as best suits them.

The Feministe collective aims to provide a space where readers feel comments are productive and not bigoted nor erasing of non-normative points of view. We recognise that it is impossible to be a safe space according to every person’s definition. We will strive to balance everyone’s safety as best we can, and we encourage the Feministe commentariat to play their part by sending moderator alerts regarding unacceptable content in comments.

Feministe is not a journal of record – there are many topical news items which no member of the collective will have either the available time or the specific expertise to address substantively. The Feministe collective encourages the commentariat to discuss issues/incidents which we have not blogged about on the Open or Spillover threads as appropriate, or to submit a Guest Post of their own to prompt focussed discussion.

Feministe authors are determined to resist pressures (both external and internalized) pushing us to be either Magic Mommas or Trembling Sisters. As noted above, we speak only for ourselves unless otherwise specified.

This Mission Statement will remain a work in progress.

You can read the updated Mission Statement in full on the Mission Statement page.

Author: has written 28 posts for this blog.

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43 Responses

  1. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan September 8, 2013 at 8:48 pm |

    Good on you guys for doing some self-care and drawing some boundaries. People (including female people) can put outrageous demands on bloggers despite “blogger” being neither a particularly lucrative nor, often, at all professional role. The moderators don’t deserve to burn themselves out in their spare time doing all the heavy lifting of an entire half the population.

  2. Echo Zen
    Echo Zen September 8, 2013 at 9:01 pm |

    What a relief, that a loose constructionist interpretation of the second article of the Feministe Mission Statement allows an activist approach to advancement of..

    …cat GIFs.

    1. Chataya
      Chataya September 9, 2013 at 7:34 am |

      But this is a hat blog, why would they post cat gifs?

      1. DouglasG
        DouglasG September 9, 2013 at 1:31 pm |

        Double points for Cats in Hats?

    2. DannyChameleon
      DannyChameleon September 9, 2013 at 8:45 pm |

      I was under the impression that all blogs were, ultimately, about cats.

  3. Donna L
    Donna L September 9, 2013 at 2:25 am |

    I found the “Magic Mommas and Trembling Sisters” piece quite interesting. I’d never read it before.

    Here’s a trigger warning, though, regarding the feminist-reprise.org website, since I’d never heard of it: don’t click on the “booklist” link at the top of the page, unless you want to see a list of recommended books on “Transsexuality/Transgender/Queer Politics” that includes titles like The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male,, and Men in Ewes’ Clothing: The Stealth Politics of the Transgender Movement, among others. What a lovely surprise!

    Other than that, I liked the mission statement.

    1. tigtog
      tigtog September 9, 2013 at 2:27 am | *

      Hell Donna, I’m sorry we missed that. I’ll look for another source for the Russ essay.

      1. tigtog
        tigtog September 9, 2013 at 3:17 am | *

        Donna, I’ve mirrored the Russ essay over at Finally, a Feminism 101 Blog and edited the post Mission Statement to link there instead.

        1. Donna L
          Donna L September 9, 2013 at 2:25 pm |

          Thank you, tigtog.

    2. Karak
      Karak September 9, 2013 at 3:24 pm |

      Donna sometimes I think we need to put goddamn sparkles on every post you make, with a big banner that says, How To Point Out Bullshit In A Way That Is Engaged And Constructive.

      Seriously you’re like my favorite ever, don’t leave us.

      1. catfood
        catfood September 15, 2013 at 4:52 pm |

        Word up. Thank you, Donna.

  4. Helen Huntingdon
    Helen Huntingdon September 9, 2013 at 8:33 am |

    “Feministe is a blogging collective…Each of us speaks only for our individual selves unless otherwise specified.”

    You’re going to continue to have problems asserting that, because you simply don’t have your blog set up to look like a blogging collective. It looks like a blog, singular. http://scienceblogs.com/ is one example of what a blogging collective typically looks like.

    Right now, you give the impression of trying to have it both ways — you’re a single entity when that benefits the people on the stage, but they’re suddenly unrelated individuals with no knowledge or responsibility of the others when it suits them. It comes across as extremely dishonest and self-serving.

    That should be easy to clear up, though, with the mission statement being a very tiny but inadequate first step. If you want to be taken for a blogging collective, make your site look like a blogging collective. That means the most prominent, unmissable, most important piece of information on any post has to be author information, and it has to be set up visually to give the message that this is a collective, not a blog.

    1. tigtog
      tigtog September 9, 2013 at 9:16 am | *

      Helen, scienceblogs.com is a blogging network, not a blogging collective. There were many blogging collectives long before newer webtech made blogging networks possible, and Feministe is one such collective. Any collective is merely multiple people sharing resources in a shared space. In a blogging network, each blogger is allocated a zone of their own which other bloggers cannot access at all. In a blogging collective, we can all see the shared database, and on the several blogging collectives to which I belong, there’s an honour system of not monitoring or interfering with each other’s posts, and only offering feedback on a draft post if the author requests it. Feministe is hardly unique in this.

      As to making authorship clear? Each post on Feministe has an author byline showing directly beneath the post title on both index-page and single-post views. On single-post view there is also an author profile box at the foot of each post. Anybody who isn’t sure who has written a post has worked hard to avoid absorbing the information.

      1. Helen Huntingdon
        Helen Huntingdon September 9, 2013 at 9:26 am |

        Okay, so if you want to differentiate that Sciblogs is a network, not a collective which is what you’re trying to be, fine, I’ll go with that.

        But the crucial point that Feministe is made to look like a blog, NOT a collective, stands. Trying to have it both ways looks dishonest.

        “As to making authorship clear?”

        Nice goalpost-shifting! That isn’t even the question. The question is: Are you making it visually clear everywhere that it’s a collective of disparate bloggers, not a unified blog? And that answer to that is NO.

        Really easy way to improve that: Put the author name inside every title at the front — “AUTHORNAME: Title of My Post”. Right now the authorname is tiny, lighter-colored, lesser-weight-fonted than the title or even the text of the post.

        That sends a very loud message that what one needs to know about a post is first, the big Feminste banner, second, the post title, and third, the content. Oh, yeah, the authorname is there for record-keeping, but it’s visually made to look as though it’s not really even relevant.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune September 9, 2013 at 2:57 pm |

          Oh my fucking god. If you can’t be arsed to read the second line in any post, what the fuck are you even doing on the internet? Newspapers routinely provide bylines and author profiles in exactly the same way Feministe does. No newspaper I read includes (AUTHORNAME: headline) on their articles, and yet I magically manage to arrive at the conclusion that it’s not one person producing fifty pages of content a week. Clearly I have sold my soul to an anti-deity of some sort in order to accomplish this arcane feat.

          At this point, you’re coming off as a snotty nitpicker. For fuck’s sake, knock it off.

        2. EG
          EG September 9, 2013 at 3:26 pm |

          But the crucial point that Feministe is made to look like a blog, NOT a collective, stands.

          How? Tigtog’s point is that it is a blogging collective, one blog run by a collective of individuals. You seem to be arguing that those things are mutually exclusive, in which case you and Tigtog are starting from such different premises that of course you’re going to disagree.

        3. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll September 9, 2013 at 4:26 pm |

          Jesus Christ Helen, we’re not fucking stupid. We are actually capable of finding the author’s name. Get off it already. Shut the fuck up for half a minute and let other people be heard.

      2. Athenia
        Athenia September 9, 2013 at 4:46 pm |

        I’m not sure if I associate Feministe as a collective, per se. Like, I feel like a collective needs to have more than two people posting regularly.

      3. Echo Zen
        Echo Zen September 9, 2013 at 5:34 pm |

        Hey, I’m trying to contribute more, but most of us student bloggers have to work for food too. :-p

        1. Athenia
          Athenia September 10, 2013 at 10:32 am |

          I hear ya! :)

    2. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune September 9, 2013 at 9:33 am |

      You’re going to continue to have problems asserting that, because you simply don’t have your blog set up to look like a blogging collective.

      Bzuh? There’s author bylines and individual profiles, and the “about” section has multiple profiles listed on it. There’s no functional difference between Feministe and other collectives I read. I genuinely don’t see how anyone giving the site more than a cursory look is going to be under the impression it’s not a collective, unless your definition of “blogging collective” is different from mine (a group of people using the same blogging space for similar ends).

      1. Donna L
        Donna L September 9, 2013 at 3:54 pm |

        Yes. It’s really not at all difficult to see the difference between this place and a place like Shakesville, which is clearly Melissa’s blog, with overall policies set by Melissa, even though there are other moderators who post occasionally.

      2. Helen Huntingdon
        Helen Huntingdon September 9, 2013 at 4:28 pm |

        “Bzuh? There’s author bylines and individual profiles, and the “about” section has multiple profiles listed on it. There’s no functional difference between Feministe and other collectives I read. I genuinely don’t see how anyone giving the site more than a cursory look is going to be under the impression it’s not a collective, unless your definition of “blogging collective” is different from mine (a group of people using the same blogging space for similar ends).”

        Fair enough. That does in fact sound quite reasonable.

        However, I think the authors of the Mission Statement thought very hard about what they needed to say and didn’t add anything they thought unnecessary.

        That means the authors of the Mission Statement really feel like the message is somehow not getting out that this is a collective of disparate voices, not a unified blog.

        I’m not sure why some of you are so certain this is a non-issue, when it’s important enough to the bloggers here that they put it first thing in the Mission Statement. I for one would prefer to respect what they’re saying enough to believe them when they say this is a problem they’re having.

        I still really think the visual emphasis problems I described are part of the problem. No one is required to agree. I think my last comment sounded more argumentative than that, however.

        1. EG
          EG September 9, 2013 at 4:37 pm |

          I’m not sure why some of you are so certain this is a non-issue, when it’s important enough to the bloggers here that they put it first thing in the Mission Statement. I for one would prefer to respect what they’re saying enough to believe them when they say this is a problem they’re having.

          And they clearly feel that they’ve addressed that issue in the mission statement without futzing with typeface size. I for one will respect what they’re saying enough to accept that.

    3. BBBShrewHarpy
      BBBShrewHarpy September 9, 2013 at 9:47 am |

      I’m finding your accusations of dishonesty pretty wearing, Helen. Perhaps Feministe isn’t the blog for you as a reader. In fact, the time you have spent criticizing Tigtog over the last couple of days may suggest that you feel so strongly about what a feminist blog should look like that you might be itching to start your own.

      1. Donna L
        Donna L September 9, 2013 at 3:52 pm |

        Same here. You clearly dislike this place, and are making tigtog the target for all the issues you have with it, dating back years — both on your own behalf and on behalf of all the other people you’ve decided to speak for. We get it.

        Plus, your claim not to know whether it’s true that HS had never written posts for this place, and that he was never associated with it in the way that he was with Jezebel, comes across as being incredibly disingenuous. I don’t know how you expect Tigtog to prove a negative, but I am quite sure that if those statements were untrue, and HS had ever written a blog post here, somebody would have found it some time ago.

        1. Helen Huntingdon
          Helen Huntingdon September 9, 2013 at 4:40 pm |

          Donna L, I’m unable to parse quite what you’re getting at.

          For example: “Plus, your claim not to know whether it’s true that HS had never written posts for this place, and that he was never associated with it in the way that he was with Jezebel, comes across as being incredibly disingenuous.”

          I can’t recall making any remark about HS and Jezebel here — can you tell me where that was?

          And I’m really baffled about how the part I did say is disingenuous, when it’s just basic fact. Are you asking me to lie? tigtog asked me whether I knew of any factual problems on her three rebuttals, and I said I didn’t know anything one way or the other on the first two. The one I knew about was the third, so that is the one I addressed.

          Are you trying to say I didn’t complain *enough*? I’m really not following.

          “I don’t know how you expect Tigtog to prove a negative,” — can you show me where I asked her to prove a negative? I really don’t understand what you’re trying to say.

      2. Helen Huntingdon
        Helen Huntingdon September 9, 2013 at 4:31 pm |

        “I’m finding your accusations of dishonesty pretty wearing, Helen.”

        Um, meaning what, really? That you want me to feel bad somehow for pointing out the enormous discrepancies in some narratives that have been posted versus what really went down? Somehow I’m not feeling bad about that.

        1. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll September 9, 2013 at 5:02 pm |

          Meaning get off it already. I don’t even care if you have a point anymore, I’m sick of seeing your name. Don’t feel to bad about that, myself.

        2. debbie
          debbie September 9, 2013 at 11:00 pm |

          Meaning, no one understands the crusade you’re on, and your comments are boring and derailing.

  5. La Lubu
    La Lubu September 9, 2013 at 9:03 am |

    Since I openly critiqued Feministe’s lack of a mission statement almost a couple of years ago, I think it’s only fair of me to respond with some constructive criticism.

    First: thank you. You need this, even if you’re not sure about it, or not sure why you need it. However,

    Mission statements are declarative. They take sides. They are definitive, even as they evolve. Explanations aren’t given in mission statements; they’re given elsewhere. Policies and procedures aren’t delineated in mission statements; those are also given elsewhere. I’m most familiar with those in the labor movement, so I’ll offer you these examples from my own union, the IBEW: the general IBEW mission statement as written in 1891; the mission statement of the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus; and IBEW Local 26’s organizing mission statement. I’d especially advise taking a look at that last one. Personally, I’d edit it to include the word “electrical” in front of “worker” for the first two bullet points, but note: brief, bold, declarative, and wow the sky’s the limit on goals! They set the bar pretty high, because there’s no sense in busting one’s ass for mediocrity, no?

    With respect, here’s some questions I still don’t have the answer to in terms of Feministe’s mission statement:

    Who is the Feministe collective? Jill, Caperton, tigtog, who else? Or are all Feministe emeritus writers still considered as members of the collective?

    What, specifically, is it that you do? Provide information? Provide education? Provide a forum for discussion? I like this sentence: “We aim to highlight oppression and to be effective allies for marginalized voices, especially supporting our co-authors and contributors sharing perspectives from their own lived experiences of marginalization.” That’s declarative. It takes sides. It’s easy to understand. It would be nice to include a simple, declarative statement on what the Feministe collective’s general outlook on the purpose and direction of feminism is. Is it individualistic or collectivist, or both? What should feminism accomplish? In other words, why does Feministe support feminism? Then you can get to the how, as the EWMC mission statement does—the whole mission statement itself is primarily “how” (promoting membership, organizing, leadership, political and community activism, membership/leadership in other labor and allied organizations, and assisting with discrimination complaints).

    (or not; the organizing mission statement of Local 26 doesn’t include the “how”. The how is implied by anyone familiar with union organizing).

    If you want, you can drill down to long-term vs. short term goals.

    What do you bring to the table? If the answer is “a forum where feminist women can take a load off and shoot the shit with one another about politics and pop culture”, that’s fine. State that. That’s valuable. If it’s that, plus education, plus organizing political action (voting, signing petitions, attending demonstrations, etc.), state that.

    What is the role of the commentariat? Because let’s face it—that’s why people come here. This is a centralized location where, whatever else may be true, words are read/heard here. There’s an audience. So—what is the specific role that the commentariat has here? If the answer is “none; they can come or go as they please,” that’s worth stating. If the answer is “they are a sounding board” or “they are co-creators and frequently, guest-bloggers”, that’s worth stating. If the answer is, “that’s who we’re here for”, that’s worth stating. In other words:

    What is the role of leadership, and what is the role of the rank-and-file? Here is a good place to be really declarative. The IBEW is frank about being the voice for all electrical workers: we are working for you, even if you’re not a member. Become a member, and we are working with you.

    It’s a mission statement. There are no right or wrong answers here. You’re defining yourselves. No need to hedge your bets in the mission statement. Mission statements aren’t where you mention future inevitable fuckups or how to handle them. General Motors doesn’t say, “we build vehicles, yet some of them are likely to break down before they should” in their mission statement. Don’t shoot for mediocrity. Aim high.

    Policies and procedures should be clearly delineated, but the mission statement isn’t the place.

    I loathe the “Magic Mommas” essay; it sucked when it was written back in the mid-eighties (when I first read it) and it still sucks now. There really are power differentials between women. There really are feminist women who leverage those power differentials at the expense of other women, in direct conflict with their stated feminist beliefs or goals, but hey—power corrupts when there are no countervailing forces and no accountability. It is what it is; it’s one of the laws of power—it needs direction. Trust has no place in the equation.

    I do find it….curious isn’t the word, but let’s go with it anyway, that that particular essay is held up as an example when one of the examples Russ uses is that authors have no say over book covers. That immediately brought to my mind the support Feministe gave for a couple of book covers that were complete intersectional fails—and that’s the most generous phrasing I can give. I’d pick another example essay if I were you; that one scrapes the same raw wounds that still exist (mostly, because they’re in a constant state of scrape by the feminist movement in general).

    1. tigtog
      tigtog September 9, 2013 at 4:27 pm | *

      La Lubu, thank you for taking the time to provide such comprehensive feedback. That is very chewy food for thought.

    2. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune September 9, 2013 at 5:32 pm |

      Your feedback is awesome. Especially the bit about defining commentariat roles and the book covers (I’m so glad I wasn’t the only one who thought of that debacle when I saw that bit!).

    3. Disorder
      Disorder September 9, 2013 at 11:31 pm |

      Mostly a lurker here, but I Have to agree:

      “I loathe the “Magic Mommas” essay; it sucked when it was written back in the mid-eighties (when I first read it) and it still sucks now.”

      I really didn’t like the TS part of this article either. Women who have been abused or hurt in other ways can feel truly needy, and while sometime these needs, or feelings of inadequacy are far too much for anyone person to single handedly resolve, having a place where women can express these feelings is critical. There’s really no way to build up inner strength unless you have someplace to talk about the pain that prevent you from getting there.

    4. Safiya Outlines
      Safiya Outlines September 10, 2013 at 7:15 pm |

      I miss you, La Lubu.

      I really wish you would come back on comment more often.

  6. Athenia
    Athenia September 9, 2013 at 10:11 am |

    I think a mission statement is a great idea. :) However, I feel like I should mention the following cuz I know someone else will–I know you guys what to be broad and not “miss” anything, but I have this little voice in my head saying that “being broad means you are going to screw over the little guy.”

    So I do think it’s important to actually be specific if only to signal to readers/commenters that certain shit will NOT be tolerated. I don’t think the list needs to outline every little point, but obviously, there are articles that will not be posted on Feministe which other “feminist” websites will post.

    1. Donna L
      Donna L September 9, 2013 at 4:13 pm |

      It does occur to me that it might be worthwhile to be at least a little more specific than:


      We aim to highlight oppression and to be effective allies for marginalized voices,

      There are all sorts of words that could be used to signal what you mean by that, since, for example, there are quite a few self-identified feminists who see themselves as oppressed and marginalized by trans women.

      I’m thinking of words like “progressive” and “intersectionality,” and words that make clear (especially given the recent solidarityisforwhitewomen threads) that racism is an issue in the world and you view yourselves as, or at least have as a goal, being anti-racist. Maybe all of that should be self-evident, but I’m not sure it is. And there are also words that make clear that certain things are unacceptable — see the Shakesville FAQ, emphasizing that “racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, ageist, sizeist, or otherwise overtly objectionable commentary” is prohibited.

      So, that, for example, a trans person who comes across Feministe and reads the mission statement will be able to tell right away that this place now at least tries not to be like the innumerable feminist websites that do, in fact, tolerate transphobic comments, even if they claim to be trans-friendly.

      Just a thought.

  7. pheenobarbidoll
    pheenobarbidoll September 9, 2013 at 5:04 pm |

    I do think something along the lines of ” racist, sexist, anti trans, etc will not be tolerated” needs to be included.

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune September 9, 2013 at 5:30 pm |

      YES. PLEASE. Also, somewhere, a link to resources on racist and transphobic derailing (since those are the axes that get fucked over most often on this blog).

    2. Ally S
      Ally S September 9, 2013 at 8:48 pm |

      Thirding this.

    3. catfood
      catfood September 15, 2013 at 5:38 pm |

      Yup. Really good point.

  8. tigtog
    tigtog September 9, 2013 at 9:10 pm | *

    Now that the blog is live again, I can post this comment I was working on when it decided to take a little lie down for a while.

    Further to several comments above recommending more specifics on the unnaceptability of racist, sexist, anti-trans, etc, the comments policy (which is also a work in progress in response to commentariat feedback, and which is linked above the Reply box at the foot of every post) explicitly states that comments expressing such bigotry are unacceptable.

    That doesn’t mean that the Mission statement shouldn’t also make it crystal-clear, but given La Lubu’s feedback about how Mission Statements really need to be about positive claims, we’re rethinking how we want to describe ourselves in terms of “we do/will/want” statements rather than “we don’t/won’t/refuse” statements, because while setting those boundaries is crucial to us, it muddies what a mission statement is supposed to be about.

    Donna’s suggested phrasing above, where we include words that make it clearer that this is an intersectional and progressive space, seem to be along the right lines, and because the Mission Statement is a hypertext document we can and will link to other information pages that lay out specific details.

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