Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Interview with Jenn

My blog focuses mainly on Asian Americana and feminism, usually with an intersection of both identities. -Jenn

Jenn from Reappropriate.com shared her thought-provoking perspective about the feminist blogosphere with me recently. Thanks, Jenn!

Interview

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? Whether or not you identify as a feminist, what does “feminism” mean to you?

Jenn: I do identify as a feminist, although this occurred more recently in my adult life. For a long time, I thought feminism consisted of the stereotypical “femi-nazi” perspective, and I couldn’t reconcile my childhood appreciation for chivalry and romance with an outlook that I felt was about female empowerment and the discarding of the male gender.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize that feminism is an expansive term that refers primarily to gender equality. As I’ve grown apart from the Walt Disney Co. ideals of romance and my understanding of feminism shifted, I realized that I do consider myself a feminist. Specifically, I feel that the Asian American feminist perspective is particularly critical to my self-identity since the Asian American politic is still very male-centric and ignores issues of gender and gender iniquity. I believe that Asian American feminism is necessary to insist that the nascent Asian American politic continues to consider a feminist perspective in its discussion of its history and direction.

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?

Jenn: I have kept an online diary for over four years. Only the last two and a half years has the diary really become a more traditional blog.

When I’m online, I spend a little time reading blogs, but usually real life gets in the way. The blogs I read regularly are kept by my real life friends and/or are linked to my blogroll. I usually check up on Angry Asian Man (http://www.angryasianman.com/) and Racialicious (http://www.racialicious.com) for any news that might be relevant to my blog audience.

A Blog Without a Bicyle: Tell me about your blog(s). How long have you been keeping a blog?

Jenn: Reappropriate.com has been around for four years as my online diary, but transitioned into a full blog in December 2004.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: What made you want to start a blog? What was your inspiration?

Jenn: Originally, I kept a diary because I felt it helped me better express how I was feeling about my life. However, I soon found that what I most enjoyed about my diary was my commentary on current events and news. As my Asian American feminist identity evolved, I turned to my blog as a way of expressing my political perspective and encouraging other Asian American women to do the same (… wow, that sounds so narcisstic – however, when I first started Reappropriate, I created the “Asian American” tag on Technorati and Google didn’t pull up any hits for “Asian American feminism and blog”.)

My inspiration was my perception that there was a lack of any grassroots discussion of Asian American identity issues as it relates to feminism. I was further motivated by online discussions that I participated in. In these discussions, Asian American male views predominated, and these men frequently bullied Asian American women with their viewpoints. I was disgusted by how frequently a feminist perspective was interpreted as race hatred.

I was heavily inspired by Angry Asian Man (http://www.angryasianman.com), which was (and still is) the foremost Asian American political blog on the Internet.

So, I started Reappropriate as a true blog with the intention of expressing my views and in hopes that it would help to develop the Asian American feminist identity in cyberspace. Because I moderated the space, I also hoped to give the feminist perspective equal time compared to the more male-dominated perspectives that were, at the time, controlling Asian American political outlets on the Internet.

On a more personal note, I always considered myself to be a pretty terrible writer, so I hoped that starting a blog would help me practice my writing skills.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: How would you describe your blog?

Jenn: I consider Reappropriate to be part personal and part a political, current events blog. I do a little blogging on my personal life, but mostly I stick to “analysis” of current events that relate to my blog’s themes.

I believe blogs should be a free exchange of ideas. As a blogger, I believe I can learn a great deal from my readers and am always looking for a dissenting opinion to help me challenge my views. So, part of how I view my blog necessarily includes the discussion and debate of my comments.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Does your blog have a theme or does it focus on a particular issue?

Jenn: My blog focuses mainly on Asian Americana and feminism, usually with an intersection of both identities. Most of my readers seem to enjoy having a space where they can discuss issues of Asian American feminism, even if they disagree heavily with it. I also like to delve into American politics, overall race issues, and live-blogging of reality television (primarily as a context for discussion race in media). Also, I infrequently discuss comic books. As you can tell, my blog basically spans my own real world interests.

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

Jenn: A blog is an online space moderated by a small group of people (i.e. “bloggers”) and populated by blogger-centric/blogger-created content as a means of disseminating individualized perspectives and opinions regardless of the numerical majority or minority that the perspective is a part of. However, it is also a meeting point for vastly differing perspectives all aimed at dissecting and debating the content, in hopes that a communal development of a particular politic or perspective can occur.

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

Jenn: In my opinion, a “feminist blog” is one that is maintained by a self-identified feminist and that periodically considers issues of feminism and gender equality. I’m not of the opinion that a feminist blog need be pro-feminist (although, obviously, it’s unlikely that a self-identified feminist would blog anti-feminist material), need be blogged by predominantly female bloggers, or that a feminist blog be a safe space for the feminist mindset. Although other blogs fit into these considerations, I don’t personally feel them to be necessary.

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

Jenn: Yes, I participated in the Carnival of Feminists nearly a year ago.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Why did you want to participate in a carnival?

Jenn: I noticed that the Carnival of Feminists was circulating and I had taken some time to follow it over the months prior. I had noticed that very few of the editions of the Carnival had written about or cent[e]red around the Feminist of Colour’s perspective. I asked if I might host the Carnival so that I might draw attention to the unique perspectives of Women of Colour in a feminist context.

I also hosted an edition of the Radical Women of Colour Carnival, which I found out about through the Carnival’s founder. I participated in that carnival because it was just getting off the ground and needed some support.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: How did you find out about the blog carnival you participated in?

Jenn: I think I first found out about the Carnival of Feminists via FeministBlogs.org.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Now that you have participated in a carnival, what do you think about them?

Jenn: I think carnivals are a useful tool for filtering blog content and helping to raise awareness towards good material within a particular group of like-minded bloggers. I think they help to foster a sense of community and are frequently where I find my favourite blogs.

However, carnivals are also biased by the blogger who creates them, and it must be kept in mind that each edition represents a blogger’s opinion of that month’s best posts – not a definitive statement about the quality of posts.

Hosting an edition of a carnival is also a lot of work – more work than one would imagine from the other end.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: What do you think is the best/worst aspect of blog carnivals?

Jenn: I think the best aspect of carnivals is the community-fostering element. You can read through a carnival edition and get a good sense of what’s going on in a particular blog community, and frequently you can find some great new blogs to blogroll.

However, sometimes I’m concerned that carnivals are too much all at once. The comments of carnival editions rarely stimulate a holistic discussion of the edition’s theme; rather, they seem to be a spot for linked blogs to thank the host and for readers to comment about which posts were their favourite (with no particular reason given one way or another). I think I would prefer that carnivals stimulate some sort of larger discussion considering all the linked posts as a whole.

Also, I think carnivals can be the source of unnecessary online drama. There’s a potential for taking each edition too seriously, and to be offended if one post (but not another) is linked. Again, I think carnivals are a useful tool for community-building, but there are still some flaws surrounding the process that I think need to be worked out.

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

I consider myself to be part of the feminist blogging community and the Asian American blogging community. I’m not sure that I could define these communities with strict boundaries except that there are certain notable blogs within each community that most people visit – and I aspire to be like them.

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

Jenn: Yes, I do think activism can be carried out online – with the caveat that it must be done in conjunction with real life activism. Many of the Asian American’s recent victories were initiated as online movements, that later transitioned into letter-writing, press statements and street protests. Classically, in 2001, Asian American activists successfully obtained an apology and a recall of offensive T-shirts by Abercrombie and Fitch following a series of simultaneous protests nationwide that was organized over AOL Instant Messenger. But, even in this example, although the Internet was used as an organizational and awareness-raising tool, the actual protests were carried out on the streets, where I think protests would be more effective.

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

Jenn: Hmm… although I think feminist activism is being conducted online, I can’t think of too many really good examples. I think a good example would be the internet-based movement amongst female comic book fans to raise awareness regarding the unfair treatment of female comic book characters (http://www.girl-wonder.org). This movement centers around the sexism of DC Comics – Batman keeps a glass class in the Batcave containing a Robin suit as a tribute to Jason Todd, the second Robin who was murdered by the Joker. In a recent story arc, however, Stephanie Brown briefly became the new Robin and, afterwards, was killed by Black Mask. However, until recently, Batman never kept a glass case memorializing her death.

Although it’s not clear to me whether this was as a result of G-W.org’s efforts or not, a recent issue of Teen Titans shows that the third Robin, Tim Drake, has a similar cave in which he has a glass case containing a female Robin suit.


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