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What do YOU think about global feminism? Live chat transcript here #globalfemchat

August 6, 2010

Last night the GAB editorial board got together and talked about global feminism; what it meant to us, in respect to social media, and what it meant to us as a blog. We had some of you (readers) join us and participate in the discussion! Look below for the transcript. We hope you can join us for our next chat!

7:58
Emily H.: Hello and welcome to the Gender Across Borders live chat on global feminism! We will be starting in just a moment.

8:00
Emily H.: Hi everyone! I want to welcome you to the first Gender Across Borders’ live chat! Today’s topic will be “global feminism” as we just finished up our series on global feminism this past Friday. The goal of this talk is to discuss what “global feminism” means (after all, Gender Across Borders is “a global feminist blog”). As I mentioned in the introduction to this series, we want to be true to our tag line and do not want to misrepresent ourselves to you as most of us are white, able-bodied and privileged. At the end of this discussion, we hope to get a better understanding of global feminism, not only what it means to us GAB editors, but also to you as readers.

8:01
Emily H.: Without further ado, we will briefly introduce ourselves.

8:02
Emily H.: I’ll first start with myself: Hi, my name is Emily Heroy, I’m from Chicago, Illinois, and I am the Executive Editor of Gender Across Borders. Having many experiences traveling and living around the world while working with underprivileged women and children, I identify as a global feminist because I believe in equal rights for men and women everywhere. I am currently going to school to get a master of education and am interested in equity in education. I also acknowledge my role as a white, privileged American woman living in the U.S. and hope to help and provide space for the voices of underprivileged women and men.

8:03
Emily H.: Next, we will have the GAB editorial board introduce themselves in this order: Amy, Kyle, Carrie, Colleen, and Maria Guzman, who is our moderator this live chat and newly appointed Senior Editor of Gender Across Borders.

8:04
Amy Littlefield: Hi! I’m Amy Littlefield, from Providence, RI, I identify as a global feminist because I believe in the struggles of women and all people against sexism, racism, imperialism, capitalism, and all forms of global oppression. I became radicalized as a feminist through my work with survivors of sexual assault and my research into Mexican women’s movements. I also think being conscious of my privilege as a white, middle-class woman is central to my role as a global feminist, and my goal is to support and stand in solidarity with marginalized women everywhere.

8:04
Kyle: My name is Kyle Bachan from Toronto, Canada. I identify as a global feminist because of my work with Amnesty International and how it taught me to seek change and justice from a worldwide perspective. The problems we face are not just specific to the Western World and often when reading North American newspapers and media, I can forget about my biased point of view. I’m in this chat to gain a better understanding of feminism on the global stage and to see what we can do to maintain it or raise it to that scale.

8:05
Carrie P: Hello! My name is Carrie Polansky, and I am one of the Founding Editors of GAB. I grew up in Massachusetts and currently live in NYC. As a bisexual-identified woman, I am particularly interested in the intersection of feminism and LGBTQ rights, in the United States and abroad. I identify as a global feminist because I believe in the global, fluid nature of gender and I am interested in learning more about how genders are perceived in places outside of the U.S.

8:05
Colleen: My name is Colleen Hodgetts and I live in New York City (with fellow editors Carrie and Jessica!) I enjoy working with feminists from around the world through GAB and work I have done, including helping immigrant survivors of domestic violence. I am interested in providing a vehicle for those who cannot often voice their opinions or thoughts about feminism. I am interested in education and literacy, the first step in helping women, and men find their voices!

8:06
mariaguzman: I’m Maria Guzman, from Topeka, Kansas. I identify as a feminist because I am have grown up in a matriarchal family environment, and it has informed my understanding of the many facets of womens’ experiences. My own position as a Latina and child of an immigrant has served as a foundation for understanding my (thankfully) growing communities, and feminism has served a great source for reflecting upon them. I am a part of this because I admire GAB’s willingness to examine multicultural topics by fostering democratic approaches to feminism, such as our global chat.

I will also be the moderator for our live chat! As Emily said before, we’d like to welcome everyone to the global feminism chat. We would like to encourage all readers to contribute to the discussion, whether through asking questions or making comments on the righthand side panel on Coveritlive, or tweeting your thoughts using hashtag #globalfemchat.

8:06
mariaguzman: We will first start off with some questions that GAB editors wanted to discuss about global feminism. We also want to hear your questions and thoughts- but please remember that this chat is moderated (which is why I’m here) so we ask you to be patient if your questions or comments are not immediately posted to the discussion. Thanks again for joining us, and now we will begin the discussion with the first question.

Let’s begin with a few topics that the editors would like to consider-please feel free to add your thoughts. Then, we will move onto readers’ questions-for the sake of organization, we will be adding your questions one-by-one so that we can address them thoroughly. Please be patient, as it can take a few seconds for each one to show up.

8:08
mariaguzman: Our first question concerns definitions: How have our own cultural upbringings and socialization complicated/shaped our feminism(s)?

8:11
Carrie P: I was raised in a pretty insular upper-middle class Jewish community. In some ways, my religious education gave me some negative ideas about women — particularly in terms of female body image — but in a lot of ways it was a very positive way to start to develop my feminist identity. I grew up around many strong, wonderful women who believed that women have a place in all institutions, including religious ones.

8:12
Carrie P: I didn’t start to think consciously about feminism until I was older, and in a more secular community, but I was certainly developing feminist ideas even living in a more conventionally conservative environment.

8:13
mariaguzman: i like that you mentioned the somewhat negative perception of the female body-this seems to be a tough concept to get over but does imply that women are “capable” of quite a bit 🙂

8:13
Colleen: I had a very different experience with religion and feminism

8:14
Emily H.: Neither did I; I was not exposed to feminism through my family, but more of through college (gender studies was my major)….however because my family traveled a lot, I did recognize more of a “global” feminism from experiencing/witnessing other cultures

8:14
Colleen: I was raised surrounded by women who identified as both, so it was a rude awakening when I realized that most who identify as Catholic, as in my family, do not identify as feminist as well

8:15
Amy Littlefield: That’s really interesting — the different impacts religion can have.

8:15
Amy Littlefield: My family was neither religious nor feminist…

8:15
Emily H.: Amy, so how did you become “feminist”?

8:16
Amy Littlefield: Well, I believed strongly in women’s rights when I was in high school, and I remember people started calling me a feminist before I identified as one

8:16
Amy Littlefield: Then, when I got to college, I was thrilled to meet other feminists!

8:17
Emily H.: what was your experience like, Maria?

8:18
mariaguzman: there was a lot of superstition involved in my upbringing, when definitely paralleled what I suspect more religious upbringings would instill….for instance, we were overstimulated yet quite repressed about the topic of sexuality or propriety….

8:18
[Reader Comment From Nadia ]
Hi everyone! I am a little late to the chat but wanted to go ahead an introduce myself anyway. I read over all your entries above so far and am very intrigued by all your stories and backgrounds

8:19
mariaguzman: Hi Nadia!

8:19
Amy Littlefield: Welcome, Nadia!

8:20
Emily H.: Nadia, do you want to tell us about your background and how it’s shaped you as a feminist?

8:21
[Reader Comment From Nadia ]
Thank you. Happy that this chat is happening at last 🙂

8:22
Emily H.: I think that it’s fascinating that we all come from different backgrounds. It shows that feminism can appeal to different kinds of people. Which is why we like the term “global feminism.”

8:23
Emily H.: BTW if there are other people reading the chat, you can chime in too! We love comments/questions/topics of discussion.

8:23
[Reader Comment From Nadia ]
Sure. Well I come from a line of women on my mother’s side who were, are very strong and somewhat unconventional for their time. Having been exposed to strong womanhood from an early age, and being partially raised by a single mother only added to my belief that women are awesome but that they face incredible obstacles. Once in college I discovered gender studies and must say that it changed my life. It was revolutionary to find a whole area of study that revolved around my passion

8:25
mariaguzman: The next question is about a topic that we have referenced-religion: What role does/should religion play, if any, in understanding global feminism?

8:27
[Reader Comment From Sam ]
I suppose I’ll enter/encroach upon this conversation too. (Are there others here?) I’m a Malaysian feminist, returned from the United States where I did my degree a couple years ago. I’d been involved in the local women’s movement before, but coming back and realising that so little has changed, and that in so many ways women are worse off… Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t get the sense that American women had it all figured out. In some ways, they could be more confused, because the typical ways they encountered oppression didn’t really seem that oppressive (you know, beauty standards and hypocrisy over sex, bla bla).

8:28
Emily H.: Welcome to the chat, Sam!

8:29
Emily H.: I guess I want to say something about religion and feminism: I think that religion can play an important role in feminism. But when it makes men and women unequal, that’s when it’s starts not being okay.

8:30
Emily H.: I lived in Morocco for a while, and experience sexism firsthand–and I think that the role of Islam there played a huge part of it. I’m now going to let Sam speak about religion…

8:30
[Reader Comment From Sam ]
About the religion question, I was raised Catholic and I’ll say, I first learned about the concept of human rights from the church catechism. But that was a limited conception of rights. It was through the struggle of questioning beliefs and practices that had years of hold on me that I first felt the need for much much more reading/learning (and I was fortunate to have stumbled upon the feminist movement around that time)…

8:31
[Reader Comment From Zoë ]
Hi, I just joined the chat and I’m very interested in the intersection of feminism and religion. I’m Jewish, so I’m privileged to know of many Jewish feminists. We need to remember to fight inequities within religious communities as well, and not just the secular world. Just because these inequities are not against the law does not mean we should not fight against them.

8:33
Emily H.: Good point Zoe. I think that religion can be very helpful in fighting inequities, which is why they should be our ally.

8:34
mariaguzman: Yeah! In addition, it is a reminder that whether we call it legislation, policy, or doctrine…it adds up to the fact that people join together and address a lack or injustices.

8:34
[Reader Comment From Sam ]
Well, Emily, I know what you’re saying, BUT I have one huge problem with religion as it’s typically deployed/practised. Religious truth is supposedly beyond questioning. I think that’s the one thing all religions seem to share: the bulk of their followers just follow. And treat their religion like it’s static, not historical; like its laws were good then and equally good now. And so instead of being a force for progressive change, religion plays to the status quo. I see how ironic that is, given some religions (Christianity, Islam for instance) were radical challenges to the status quo when they came about.

8:34
[ Reader Comment From Nadia ]
I agree with Emily. Although religion is tricky because so many people have such a personal relationship with it. I am Polish and like most Polish people, raised Catholic. Today I am not practicing and question religion in general but see how many women in Poland struggle with a church which has asserted itself a lot more since communism fell. The re-assertion of the church has made Poland actually regress in terms of women’s rights and many people are uncomfortable with the intersection of religious tradition and feminism, all of its implications

8:35
Emily H.: But I feel like there are tons of hindrances that avoid of from doing that. 1) Catholic church=in that it doesn’t let women have higher positions in the church and that many passages of the Bible are sexist and 2) Islam = the Quran in and of itself is not “sexist”; it is the Muslim scholars who, for example, wanted women to wear veils

8:35
[Reader Comment From Zoë ]
Sam makes a very good point about how religion seems to be something that can’t be questioned. What do we do when religion isn’t our ally? How do we take on gender inequality within religious traditions without it coming across as bigoted, anti-theism?

8:37
mariaguzman: Zoe, I think that your question is a great phrase to consider in feminist readings of religion: how do we know when religion is not our ally?

8:38
[Reader Comment From Natalie ]
Hi everyone! Historically, women have had important roles in religious worship, primarily in the home. I do not want to belittle the important contributions these women have made, especially in the shaping of their children. I think the goal is to teaching from practice, which can differ greatly, and open doors that are closed to women so that they and their communities can benefit from their full participation. Religion was used to oppress slaves, but was later adopted to “free” them – spiritually and literally.

8:39
mariaguzman: Nuns are very politically active, as we tend to read about/see in terms of many civil wars in Central and South America….

8:39
[Reader Comment From Sam ]
First step is to get to know the enemy! I think it really helps to be well-versed in the religion/religious tradition you’re taking issue with. But, at the same time, what I like about secularism is the promise behind it of finding values that appeal to a universal reason. I’m not so willing to give that promise up. It’s too easy to say secularism is racist, Western-centric, la la la. It’s not even true! There are strong, age-old secularist traditions in many, surely all, cultures.

8:40
Carrie P: I don’t think there’s any one way to “know.” Sometimes, certainly, it’s obvious — some religions are extremely progressive, and women are included in all facets of community and leadership, and some religions really discriminate against women (particularly in terms of reproductive rights). But what’s challenging is, most of the time, I think it’s a very gray area.

8:40
[Reader Comment From Nadia ]
So while religion is a force for change often (it was a part of the battle to take down communism in Eastern Europe), it can still be a major obstacle on the road to progress. Mainly when the very structure of the church or religion is sexist. I think these issues also alienate a lot of religious women who agree with many feminist ideas but feel so connected to their religious traditions. Perhaps that is where women come in and work to re-define religion, although not without a ton of grief and opposition from traditionalists, elders and so on. And to address Maria’s question, religion fails to be an ally when it fails to see its own oppressive qualities

8:40
[Reader Comment From Sam ]
Haha, Nadia, actually I think religion was first used to free the slaves, and then later to shackle them!

8:41
mariaguzman: Sam, can you explain secularism as you understand it?

8:42
[Reader Comment From Sam ]
Yes, Maria, so many nuns are such heroes of mine. But then what do you see the church do? The Vatican decides to investigate American nuns!

8:42
mariaguzman: tell me about it! over abortion…surprise, surprise!

8:43
mariaguzman: in keeping with our spirited and diverse company, here’s a question that may lead into activism in the 21st century: How has social networking shaped the definition of global feminism? (i.e., global feminism vs global village)

8:43
Colleen: Nadia- do you think any women can identify as both?

8:44
[Reader Comment From Nadia ]
There is no doubt that at least the Catholic church likes women as long as they do not get to powerful or get too many ideas of their own about doctrine.

8:45
[Reader Comment From Sam ]
Happily, Maria. Secularism as I am referring to it is a standard of truth/knowledge that insists on the “debate-ability” of every proposition. Nothing is sacred. Nothing must be slavishly followed/accepted.

8:45
[Reader Comment From Nadia ]
I do because I have friends, not many, as most of my progressive friends (who are also not very religious) refuse to call themselves feminists. But the friends I have who are both, work to redefine religion and make it about humanity not male vs. female

8:46
Kyle: I think the Internet age has definitely helped to reinvent the way feminists communicate and share new information with each other–I think it’s at least helped to pull the mask off of the word ‘feminist’ and show what people are doing to support the women’s movement through highly accessible medias.

8:46
mariaguzman: What I like about the global online community is this-if I can’t find it at “home,” I can go online and form a community that may realistically impact me at home (and more)…it’s also helped me to hone my language and actions in feminist pursuits

8:47
Emily H.: in response to Maria’s question re: social networking and activism: I think there’s something to be said about on-the-ground activism: it’s very important to not forget, when talking about social media. It’s activism that is more important than our feminist blogging and twittering. However, let us not forget the wonderfulness of Twitter. I, myself, have connected with so many feminist over Twitter, more than I ever would’ve just in having a blog or Facebook.

8:48
Carrie P: The Internet has also made it possible for people who can’t identify as feminist in their real lives to have an outlet to connect with others who share their beliefs. They may not be able to talk about feminism in daily life due to family pressures, social stigma, etc., so the anonymity of the Internet and social networks and blogs is incredibly liberating.

8:48
Kyle: I mean, Obama’s administration seems way more transparent than the previous one because of the use of Twitter and Youtube etc. So I think when young feminists are able to connect with people like themselves around the globe (rather than academics in text books), something really resonates.

8:49
[Reader Comment From Zoë ]
I also think that learning about activism so immediately that is directly outside my local space is incredibly valuable. It keeps things in perspective while helping me be energized and focused.

8:49
[Reader Comment From Nadia ]
Exactly, Maria and Kyle….for me the internet has been wonderful in terms of my passions and interests in feminism and women’s issues. Internet allows for women all over the world to connect and not feel that their struggle is solitary in their own nation, city whatever. But as Emily says on the ground work is imperative. I view this as an issue of the personal is the political, do as you preach everyday, not just when blogging with other feminists

8:50
Colleen: I agree with Nadia. I feel that we can help the personal become political by using the internet to gain attention and support for local actions

8:51
Emily H.: There was a discussion between Sady Doyle of Tiger Beat Down and the woman who started Iamdrtiller.com about online activism and its importance

8:51
[Reader Comment From Sam ]
But perhaps Kyle, Twitter is taking young feminists away from these academic texts. And Twitter cannot possibly provide the depth…

8:52
Emily H.: Yeah it’s 140 character limit is not (unfortunately) enough. But does provide many pros.

8:52
Amy Littlefield: That’s a good point, Sam. I also think the anonymity of the internet can be a downside…when people aren’t up front about who they are and where they’re coming from, there seems to be more room for disrespect, hate and more superficial comments.

8:53
Carrie P: But, Sam, what about those who are just becoming acquainted with feminism? I love academic feminism, but academia can also be extremely limiting and can turn people off. It’s not as accessible as it needs to be.

8:53
[Reader Comment From Zoë ]
I agree! Feminist theory is intertwined with feminist writing online, but there is definitely still something valuable about reading the canon texts! Women’s studies is so important for this reason.

8:53
mariaguzman: has anyone heard of AAARGH?

8:54
Kyle: That’s possible but the reverse can also said to be true, that they’re helping to introduce them to these texts–or at least the ideas within them. I mean mass communications has a habit of lowering attention spans for each generation, feminism needs to adapt to technology as well. Though I agree, I wouldn’t primarily use twitter to learn about feminism…

8:54
Emily H.: haha what’s AAARGH?

8:54
mariaguzman: it’s a great underground site that contains much of the scholarly texts that used to be limited to academic circles…it’s GREAT!

8:54
[Reader Comment From Sam ]
A friend of mine was arrested while protesting one of our stupid draconian laws (once praised by ole Georgey Bush). He tweeted about it, a Huff Post blogger saw it, and wrote an article about it!

8:55
[Reader Comment From Natalie ]
I feel blessed to have an incredible mentor in my gender studies professor (I have taken 4 courses with her), but the internet allows so many women to find that kind of vocal feminist leadership that may not exist in their local communities. Twitter has its limits, but public libraries, and online bookstores can fill in the gaps.

8:55
[Reader Comment From Sam ]
Yes, Carrie, agreed. But I’m afraid that people can read articles, Twitter, and think that’s enough. I have pals from college, smart women and men, who think that’s enough!

8:55
[Reader Comment From Sam ]
Maria: WOW!

8:55
mariaguzman: Sam, or anyone who’s interested, go to AAARGH.org-it will change your life 🙂

8:55
[Reader Comment From Nadia ]
thanks for sharing AAARGH. As for the basis of feminism the texts are crucial. Without an background most would-be feminists misunderstand a lot about feminism and buy into the superficial forms of “feminism” sold to us by the media

8:56
Emily H.: Wow, I’m going to have to check it out

8:56
Amy Littlefield: I think that’s a good point, Nadia. Twitter also doesn’t sub for good old-fashioned analytical conversation and debate!

8:56
mariaguzman: Nadia, this brings up a great ques: what was an introductory text for you? That made it easy to start conceptualizing feminism?

8:59
[Reader Comment From Nadia ]
I actually came to the texts in a feminist theory class in college. We started with good ol’ simone from france, then moved into feminists here in america like bell hooks, gloria steinem etc…it was mix of the old fashioned stuff and more recent writings…by gloria anzaldua and so on. I have a hard time pinpointing “the one” but I certainly got the classics first….even reading about gender and its concepts by foucoult

8:59
mariaguzman: wow, we have already reached an hour! Let’s conclude with a final question to consider as a group. For all editors and readers: do you think it is possible to have an informative news blog, such as Gender Across Borders, that can speak in a wide variety of issues that may not necessarily reflect the editors’ feminist backgrounds? I.e. is it possible for a white woman from the West to speak about African women farmers in Ghana?

9:01
[Reader Comment From Sam ]
As long as it’s a well-researched and well thought out piece they write, I don’t see why not.

9:02
Amy Littlefield: I just think it’s so important to be transparent about the perspective – i.e. if I’m a white girl in Providence, RI, then I’m not trying to write authoritatively about the experiences of women in other situations. That’s why I like that GAB editors and writers post our pics and bios.

9:02
[Reader Comment From Sam ]
What I hate is people turning to A Ghanaian woman about this and assuming she’s some expert, even though she might be a Paris-based bourgeois. Ridiculous much?

9:03
Emily H.: Agreed with Sam. I think we need to acknowledge our backgrounds, and while highlighitng other people’s experiences or [lack of] rights, we also need to not speak for them.

9:03
Carrie P: Right, Sam — it should never turn into a situation of tokenism, either.

9:03
mariaguzman: As a first-generation American, the label itself is tricky…I think that bicultural knowledge (or tricultural, etc.) is the matter really.

9:03
[Reader Comment From Nadia ]
Yes and no, Maria. As a woman yes, because there is something universal there. However on the actual life and experiences a Westerner will always have her own lens. If a woman from the West has been to Ghana, worked with those women or done extensive research then again yes, she can write about it.

9:03
[Reader Comment From Natalie ]
Yes. A “decolonized feminist perspective” that eschews ethnocentrism, respects diversity, and fights for women’s rights as human rights is not only possible for GAB, but necessary.

9:04
Amy Littlefield: well said

9:04
mariaguzman: I agree, Natalie. Essentialism doesn’t work even when intentions are good

9:05
Colleen: Awesome comment Natalie!! That is definitely what we try to achieve at GAB

9:05
[Reader Comment From Sam ]
On the topic of what kills me: When someone assumes that the empowered/feminist/rational thing to do is X, and that since these women/this woman in these communities/this community doesn’t do that, they/she is irrational/unfeminist/disempowered.

9:07
[Reader Comment From Sam ]
Rather than, you know, actually trying to learn more of what’s going on, what complicates the picture. I find it so much more helpful to think everyone behaves in an empowered and rational manner, but they’re just choosing among a wider plate of incentives and disincentives to act in whatever way. It forces me to try and understand a bit more.

9:07
mariaguzman: Sam, you had mentioned the term “secularism” and stated something that applies to our current discussion-here it is:

9:07
mariaguzman: I am referring to it is a standard of truth/knowle[…]dge that insists on the “debate-ability” of every proposition.

9:09
mariaguzman: Thank you for your thoughts, tonight! We are going to conclude on this note, and Emily would like to add some thoughts, too 🙂

9:10
Emily H.: I just want to thank everyone, GAB editors and readers, for joining us for our chat tonight. As we have shown, there is a vast array of global feminism in this world, and we appreciate that you shared your opinions about this.

You all had wonderful ideas and topics to discuss about, and we hope to discuss these topics in the near future. All of you readers who participated in our chat today are more than welcome to write for us. For more info about our call for writers, go to: http://genderacrossborders.com/want-to-write-for-us/ and if you ever have comments/questions about GAB, please email info@genderacrossborders.com. Thanks again, and good night!

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