Since the launch of #femfuture, a wide range of people have offered their thoughts and ideas, and we appreciate the impassioned feedback. This working FAQ serves as a space to answer some of the questions and critiques that people have brought up.
Why did you decide to write this paper?
When Courtney stopped blogging for Feministing.com on a regular basis, she decided that she would dedicate an equivalent time for one year to addressing the issue of sustainability in the online feminist movement. Online organizations and blogs are making an impact in the world, but working on inadequate budgets and with little infrastructure and support. This is something both Vanessa and Courtney experienced personally, as we were rarely able to pay ourselves for the work we did at Feministing.
What was the strategy behind it?
Though our own personal experience of this lack of sustainability was through Feministing.com, we were committed to casting a wider net for this work, recognizing that we are part of an ecosystem of critical voices and actors and wanted to contribute to an on-going conversation about solutions that might have a broader impact than a focus on just one blog.
After an initial information gathering stage, including the authoring of this Nation piece on the subject, we decided to pursue a partnership with the Barnard Center for Research on Women—an entity that has a long history of bridging the activist, academic divide and hosting important conversations—and financial support from leaders in the women’s funding movement who have expressed prior interest in online feminism.
We then convened a group of online activists in the field who were available to come to a meeting in New York City when we didn’t have the budget to support travel—some of whom we knew personally, some of whom we have read and learned from online but never met in person—to discuss their needs, ideas, solutions, wisdom etc. We documented the convening and offered each of them a modest stipend of $100 for their time and expense reimbursement.
In the months that followed, we poured over the transcripts, while also delving into additional research on specific points of collective interest, in order to write the paper and create the infographics. We then went through multiple drafts of edits and revision with the team at the Barnard Center for Research on Women. Following that, we sent the draft paper to everyone who participated in the convening and invited feedback. We also solicited feedback from our foundational funder, Jacki Zehner.
We then attempted to integrate this feedback into what the paper is today—a final, though no doubt, flawed document designed to be a part of a much longer and larger on-going conversation about building sustainability in the online feminist movement.
Who were the people at the convening?
We invited an amazing crew of online organizers, bloggers, fundraisers and educators coming from a range of experiences and identities. Our convening participants were Lori Adelman of Feministing, Brittney Cooper from the Crunk Feminist Collective, Dana Edell from SPARK Movement, Jill Filipovic from Feministe, Victoria Fitzgerald from Hollaback!, Emily Jacobi from Digital Democracy, Ileana Jiménez from Feminist Teacher, Shelby Knox from Change.org, Jensine Larsen from World Pulse, Samhita Mukhopadhyay from Feministing, Katie Orenstein from The Op-Ed Project, Miriam Zoila Pérez of Radical Doula, Andrea Plaid of Racialicious, Jennifer Pozner of Women In Media & News, Marianne Schnall of Feminist.com, feminist educator & activist Dena Simmons, feminist media activist Jamia Wilson, feminist activist & fundraiser Irene Xanthoudakis, and Julie Zeilinger from F-Bomb.
How did you choose the participants at the convening?
We chose people whose work we knew about and respected who represented a diverse range of perspectives and kinds of work. Our hope was to see if in-person conversation and convening could add something to the conversation that already existed online. One particular regret was, we weren’t able to bring much geographic diversity to the convening—which we wanted to be in person and intimate. While so many of us originally come from different areas of the country (and world), and have built online communities of readers, followers and colleagues worldwide, the majority of the convening attendees currently live on the east coast. This was a gap we acknowledge and hope will be filled in follow up conversations—either online or in person—and welcome ideas.
Who is your audience for the paper?
This is a toughie. We want this paper to spread far and wide, so it was an incredibly difficult to try to communicate to so many different audiences. We want to reach online activists who are invested in social justice work, so they can build off the paper with their own ideas and dialogue and feel recognized for their incredible work. We want to reach feminist organizations, grassroots and institutional, to engage with us about how we can better collaborate and support each other in meaningful ways. We want to reach philanthropists and foundations that might be interested in funding online feminist work. And we want to reach the public, which largely doesn’t know this work is actually happening, and that important feminist conversations and impact are being made online.
Who are you speaking for?
The information in the paper was drawn largely from the ideas and feedback of our convening participants, as well as the stories of impact and conversations we researched (and personally experienced) online. Our intent was to draw from these specific experiences to bring focused attention to a concern of many online activists: that their work is undervalued and unpaid. We fully acknowledge that the paper will not speak to everyone. A few individuals also responded to the report have given feedback about feeling misrepresented in it, and we made corrections to better represent their work.
What are your goals for the paper?
We want to contribute to a conversation, and spark some real, strategic action. We are hoping that this paper will serve as a jumping off point for online activists to engage with each other on their needs, create their own convenings and papers that speak to their issues, have honest and open dialogue about how we can build bridges between the many worlds of off and online feminism, and validate the importance of online activist work to the world for a more sustainable, more feminist future.
We also hope the paper will further conversations and result in new initiatives and funding streams to support online activists across the country and world. We’ve been excited to have heard from several individuals and institutions whom want to support and develop some of our recommendations in the paper. For one, the Omega Institute has committed to holding an annual retreat for online feminists to rejuvenate, reflect and practice self-care.
To be clear, #femfuture is not an organization. We don’t expect to (or want to) organize all initiatives to come out of #femfuture, as we’re hoping the ideas be incorporated into already existing institutions and organizations, or developed by other online feminists. But we are hoping (and will encourage) that these initiatives have more geographical diversity, and expand the breadth of people involved in creating sustainability.
You can read more about some of the feedback from #femfuture and a response piece authored by us here. Conversation about the report is continuing, as are our learnings, as we push this work forward.