Growing up in the suburban Northeast, I didn’t fit in. At my large, mostly-white, upper-middle-class high school, I wasn’t the funniest, the smartest, the most charming, or the prettiest: therefore, I didn’t really exist. Other kids cared about their Abercrombie & Fitch polos, what went down at the last Dave Matthews Band concert, and the Jettas they would pick out on their 16th birthday. That wasn’t me at all. I had tons of books on my shelves, a stud in my tongue, and every single Ani Di Franco album in existence. For three whole years, I mostly just rattled around in my own head.
Then, in the year 2000, when I was 16 and in junior year, my dad put the computer in our family room on the Internet. (This was back in the the Dark Ages when a family usually had one computer, it was shared by everyone, and it was usually a desktop.) I don’t know how I found my way there, exactly, but I soon discovered gURL.com, “a teen site and community for teen girls.” On gURL.com I could read about dating and sex and birth control (not that I had use for much of that information just yet) and talk with other teen girls in the site’s chat rooms. And through links on gURL.com, I found my way to other websites that interested me. Pretty soon, my budding-feminist-self read all about things they didn’t discuss in school — abortion rights and the Taliban — on Salon.com and websites for the Feminist Majority Foundation and Ms. Magazine.
As far as I knew, I was the only girl — hell, the only person — in my high school who cared about that stuff. (I tried to start a feminist club at school, but it devolved into a “women’s support group” at the hands of the school guidance counselor.) Even my close girl friends saw my interest in women’s issues as just a “thing” to be into, like Britney Spears or skiiing. I may as well have gone around calling myself a Wiccan rather than a feminist because I don’t think the other kids and most of the teachers knew exactly what it meant.
That was then — and it feels like a different world now. Today, I am a professional blogger for a hugely successful women’s site (“a ladyblog”). We work our asses off, we love what we do, and we have hundreds of thousands of pageviews every single day. (It’s really mind-boggling when you look at the numbers, I swear.) Multiple times every day, I receive emails from our readers: a few men, but mostly women, sometimes angry at me, but usually alerting me to a news story about women’s issues that they’ve just heard about or thanking me for writing an essay about something that was going on in my personal life. I get emails that break my heart, emails that glue it back together again; I get emails that make me feel less alone in the world and I try to write back every single person who writes me so she (or he) feels a little less alone, as well. It’s no secret that blog commenters sometimes aren’t always the nicest; but nine times out of 10 a reader email spawns a real, deep reader connection that most of us who get into this writing business crave.
It’s exciting that TheFrisky.com exists for our readers as this news outlet/community/way-to-pass-time. But what’s really, really, really exciting to me? Now, in November 2011, there are so many ladyblogs out there for women and men (and everything in between) in every stripe.
I have been repeatedly told by others during the three years that I’ve worked at The Frisky that we are like the Cosmopolitan magazine of ladyblog sites, which I will take as a compliment. For the women’s issues-related policy wonks, there are sites like Feministe, Tiger Beatdown, and Feministing. For feminists who love pop culture, there is Jezebel and Bitch Magazine’s blogs. For people who want to read about issues facing women of color, there is Crunk Feminist Collective. For sexy stuff, there is The Chicktionary. For newsier stuff, there is Ms. Magazine‘s website and Slate’s XX Factor. If reading about the FBI’s re-definition of “sexual assault” on Feministing feels too heavy, you can go read a feminist analysis of horror films on Bitch Magazine’s blog. If reading about Kanye West’s “Monster” video on Crunk Feminist Collective depresses you, you can go watch a video of a baby dancing to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” on Jezebel. All of these other ladyblogs feel like my competition in various different ways; but at the end of the day, I feel like they are my people.
There’s an article in New York magazine this week by Emily Nussbaum about ladyblogs — well, some of them (AHEM) — and the recent SlutWalk protests which have been sweeping the world. It’s a tidy little piece about how Third Save/Fourth Wave feminism blooms first and foremost online and the article touches briefly on various issues current feminists face, like maintaining a truly diverse movement.
Honestly, because I write for a ladyblog, and reading other ladyblogs is basically what I spend all my time doing, I could find a lot of things not to like about the New York magazine article. To be sure, some aspects of the piece really upset me. And I thought briefly about writing that blog post today, the one where I use the word “problematic” a lot and hope for XYZ to be different next article. However, I’ve given it more thought, talked about it with my best girl friends (one of whom is a ladyblogger), and I’ve come to appreciate it for what it is: an article acknowledging that ladyblogs are a “thing,” that they’re an important thing, and somebody other than our moms are reading our writing.
Most importantly, though, this kind of media recognition exposes all of us — the ones mentioned in the article, as well as the ones linked to by the ones mentioned — to more and more readers. It might mean more and more page views. It might mean more and more blog post comments like “u r fat go on a diet piggie.” It might mean more criticism from our peers. But I think — hope? — it will mean more connections for all of us — including myself — from those 16-year-old girls in the suburbs in the Northeast who don’t have to rattle around in their own heads anymore.
Contact the author of this post at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter at @JessicaWakeman.