Thursday, April 05, 2007

Interview with HippieChyck

"What I find interesting about this is the way that the web has facilitated the private sector’s ability to appropriate the tactics of community activists in order to mobilize supporters for political and public relations campaigns." -HippieChyck

HippieChyck and I exchanged emails about blogging, social media, private sector applications of blogging, and other great topics. Thanks, HippieChyck!


A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you identify as a “feminist”? How important, if at all, is being/not being a feminist to your identity?

HippieChyck: I definitely identify as a feminist, and it is a key part of my personal identity. Reading feminist theory and engaging in community and journalistic activism as an undergraduate student were central to my “coming of age” experience.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Whether or not you identify as a feminist, what does “feminism” mean to you?

HippieChyck: For me, feminism is a movement that seeks to both promote equality between men and women, and also to reduce assigned gender roles.

So as important as it is to elect more women to the boards of corporations and to the ranks of senior management in the private sector in western countries, it is also important to encourage these societies to accept men playing a larger role in domestic life.

In developing countries, my feminist lens is tuned to issues like economic empowerment for women, marriage rights, sexual freedom (so that women who are raped are not considered ruined and so that women can negotiate condom use by their husbands/partners), access to birth control and planning information, and education rights.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you or have you ever kept a blog or blogs? When you spend time online, do you read blogs? Are there any blogs you read regularly?

HippieChyck: My blog is an experiment in defining/refining and sharing my voice. I use it to explore personal, political, and theoretical issues, but also to share information about my daily life with friends and family who live far away.

I am still developing a “favourites” list of bloggers at the moment, but so far I tend to read blogs about communications (which is my profession), politics (which is my passion), and diary-type blogs by other women of colour and by men.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Tell me about your blog(s).

HippieChyck: I have been blogging for one month. I started after returning from an overseas posting with an international NGO to resume working in the private sector after three years away from the business community. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the shift, and the blog was a way to explore my reactions. (I’m loving it, by the way). At the same time, because I’ve moved around quite a bit in the last 15 years (seven cities, four countries), my closest friends and family live far away. They can’t be a part of my daily life, so the blog is a way of including them in it.

The flip side to this, of course, is that the new friends I make in this city don’t know me very well. In theory, the blog could offer them a short hand insight into who I am. In reality, I haven’t shared the link with that many people who live in my city, and I’m finding that I feel most comfortable with either close friends or complete strangers reading the posts.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: How do you define a “blog”?

HippieChyck: A blog is an online magazine of articles, opinion pieces, links, and graphics by one or more authors, I’d say.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: What qualifies as a “feminist blog”?

HippieChyck: Interesting. Since stumbling upon your blog (by Googling and Technorati-ing for feminist blogs), I’d say there are two types. One provides a forum to look at issues in an academic or theory-like tone. The other is the blog that provides narrative on the author’s life, revealing the political in the issues the author faces in her daily life.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Have you ever participated in a blog carnival? If so, tell me about that experience.

HippieChyck: I hadn’t ever participated in a blog carnival and was a little fuzzy on the concept before taking part in this interview.

But I think the idea of a linkfest, or means of having readers/bloggers share links to information on a specific topic is a tactic that has been used intuitively in the communications business …even if we don’t use the cool name.

What I find interesting about this is the way that the web has facilitated the private sector’s ability to appropriate the tactics of community activists in order to mobilize supporters for political and public relations campaigns.

Communications firms were engaging in mobilisation tactics in the past, of course, but now the Internet allows firms to identify and reach out to potential supporters of an issue or company much faster than before.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you belong to or consider yourself a member of any online community? How do you define these communities?

HippieChyck: I’m not sure I’m quite a member of a specific community yet. There’s still time.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you think that activism can be carried out online? What are the possibilities of such activism?

HippieChyck: Absolutely. The quick rallying of supporters to protest George W. Bush’s war in Iraq is one example – the web allows for quick sharing of information, including backgrounders, fact sheets, media clippings and supporting documents, if necessary.

On Facebook, I’ve joined a group of women who self-identify as “backroom bitches” – ie women who have worked in the back rooms of political campaigns. Facebook allows me to interact with a targeted group of women who I know share my political party affiliation, know some of the same people I know, but whom I would not have met so quickly without the online group.

For activism that is not tied to partisan politics, I look again to the lobby industry. As a professional lobbyist, I can see that the tactics we use at our firm are easily applied to other groups interested in policy issues. We use the Internet to:
Share information about a policy or issue we/our clients think needs to be changed
Develop an independent platform through which those who are interested in the issue can share what they know
Bring supporters together across geographic regions
Operate in a completely transparent way – our opponents can follow our campaign as closely as supporters
Provide decision makers (politicians, CEOs, whoever the target of the campaign might be) with access to our client’s point of view, and to give them access to the opinions of all those who comment on the site; and
Provide the media with a simple way to track the issue as well

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you think that feminist activism is being conducted online? If so, can you think of any examples?

HippieChyck: Well, after finding your site, I’ve continued searching for others. One unfortunate example I found was that of who seems to have sparked so much controversy and reader feedback with her blog (formerly that she’s decided not to post anymore.

Even though this is a negative example, I think it shows clearly that social media has power to affect off-line life.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you have any questions for me based on our conversation?

HippieChyck: I hope this has been useful – let me know how your thesis goes, and keep reading my site!

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