Our 4th Blogiversary!

CaptureBy Jarrah Hodge

Well, it’s official: Gender Focus is now four years old! The blogiversary post is now sort of a tradition, a chance to look back at highlights and lessons learned from the previous year. And of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank the amazing volunteer contributors for helping out building a space for safe, diverse, entertaining, and fun feminist conversations!

We published morethan 300 posts just in the past year and it took me a while to go through them, but it also made me really proud of what we’ve accomplished and grateful for what others have helped to put in.

  • July 20, 2012. BAMF-tasticness. Just after our last blogiversary, Comediva came out with their webseries BAMF Girls Club, based on the premise that all our toughest modern geeky heroines (Buffy, Lisbeth Salander, Hermione, Katniss, etc.) are living together in one house. I’ve shared a few of the episodes as Friday Feminist Funny Film posts and they’ve been a personal and audience favourite. New episodes are coming soon, too, so I’m pretty excited.
  • September 14, 2012. I released the 2nd edition of the super-popular Twitter Guide for Feminists post, revised and updated.
  • September 19, 2012. New contributor Tash Wolfe has her first post, on WAVAW’s Vancouver Fashion Week campaign against violence against women.
  • October 9, 2012. Gender Focus welcomed new contributor Tracy Bealer, with her review of the show Revolution.
  • October 2012. I had the amazing opportunity to meet – along with the rest of the City of Vancouver Women’s Advisory Committee – with the Nobel Women’s Intitiative’s “Breaking Ground” delegation on women, oil and climate change.
  • December 10, 2012. New contributor Librarian Karen is first published here talking about the messages in Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls)” music video.
  • January 2013. Gender Focus wins first place in the Best Feminist Blog category in the Canadian Weblog Awards, for the second year in a row!
  • January 16, 2013. Jonathan Alexandratos publishes his first Gender Focus post, about gender representations in action figures.
  • January 24, 2013. Gender Focus launches the “My Reality” series. The brainchild of regular contributor Alicia Costa, the series encourages regular and guest contributors to share their stories: both those that are common but not necessarily widely discussed, and those that are highly unique. Since then, people have shared funny and serious stories on topics from tattoos to dating to experiencing rape and child abuse.
  • March 8, 2013. I spoke and gave a presentation on intergenerational feminism at the Vancouver District Labour Council’s International Women’s Day dinner.
  • May 2, 2013. New contributor Emily Yakashiro writes her first post, for the “My Reality” series, on intergenerational racism in academia.
  • May 25, 2013. I wrote about and got actively involved (along with other contributors on their own time) with Women, Action, Media’s #FBrape campaign to end gender-based hate speech on Facebook.
  • July 12, 2013. Gender Focus hits its 1,000th post!
  • More Feminism F.A.Q.s. I released a few new episodes of my YouTube series Feminism F.A.Q.s, including this most-popular episode on the history of things women have been told they can’t do.
  • Media Time! I did quite a bit of media commentating in the past year related to my work at Gender Focus, including a CBC interview on the death of Helen Gurley Brown, two CBC interviews on the death of Amanda Todd, a CTV News Channel interview on the David Petraeus scandal and another on Steubenville and rape culture, and a CKNW Bill Good Show interview on school dress codes banning leggings.


Key Lessons:
  • I’m going to repeat a lesson from last year that I’m still working on, which is that it takes work to make a multi-author blog more diverse and inclusive. It’s work that absolutely needs to be done and I for sure need to be more pro-active making sure there’s safe space for marginalized voices as authors and commenters.
  • Writing a story for Gender Focus can be a great way to help community organizations get the message out about their campaigns and events. I tried to be more pro-active in the past year contacting community groups and asking if there was anything I could help them promote or raise awareness of. The result were posts on U of A’s “No Homophobes” project, Battered Women’s Support Services campaign against youth dating violence, the push to raise awareness of the gender pay gap in Ontario, YWCA’s work to end women’s homelessness, and innovative apps from METRAC and EVA BC – to name just a sampling. That said, I need your help to connect with more groups. Let me know if you’re working with anyone on a feminist campaign or event in Canada and I’ll try my best to promote it via the blog and/or social media.


Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism 1 Comment

The 3rd Blogiversary Post

by Jarrah Hodge

I started Gender Focus in July of 2009 so this is the 3rd blogiversary week! Granted, if you’ve been following since the beginning you’ll know it wasn’t called Gender Focus at first. I originally started blogging because I was in a career planning class that I thought had some serious issues. The first title of this blog was Nice Work If You Can Get It. But inevitably the class ended. I still wanted to blog so I drew on my Women’s Studies and feminist activist background and changed the name to West Coast Feminist. In January 2010 I changed the name again to Gender Focus to be shorter and as a gesture that the blog’s subject matter would also include LGBTQ issues.

But I digress. As is now blogiversary tradition, in addition to the annual giveaway it’s time for me to recap the year’s highlights and share some key lessons.

September 2011 – Gender Focus welcomes two new fabulous regular contributors: Jessica Critcher and Alicia Costa. Jessica’s first post was on an Edmonton radio station’s contest to “win a Russian bride” and Alicia’s looked at plus-size women in pop culture.

October 2011 – Gender Focus welcomes new contributor Sarah Jensen, whose first post is on the first Occupy Canada events.

October 2011 – “The Halloween Post” challenging racist Halloween costumes got quoted on a CBC article, resulting in some kudos and some weird troll-y comments, including this response from a Jakarta blogger who calls me a “pinko looness” who he wouldn’t “take to a party”. I am naturally crushed (sarcasm).

January 2012 – Jasmine Peterson joined the Gender Focus team with her post on the FBI’s redefinition of rape. Read more

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Your Message, Your Voice: Blogging to Fill the Need for Independent Critical Analysis

by Joanna Chiu, in her continuing series of posts for Vancouver’s Battered Women’s Support Services on media representations of violence against women in recognition of Prevention of Violence Against Women Week. Read the whole series at the BWSS Ending Violence blog.

It is no coincidence that BWSS is using a blog campaign this week to generate dialogue about how media critique can help end violence against women and girls.

The purpose of a blog is to not just to be read but to be part of a conversation. For media activists, blogs carve out spaces to participate in critical analysis of mainstream media and culture when mainstream media outlets typically push out critical voices.

In the U.S. 6 corporations control the vast majority of media outlets, and in Canada, 7 companies control the vast majority of media outlets. ranked Canada No. 16 and the U.S. No. 17 for levels of press freedom, making North America far from being leading champions for democratic values in the press. Read more

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Feminism F.A.Q.s: What is Feminism?

Feminism FAQs Title Screen

by Jarrah Hodge

Following up on my first Feminism F.A.Q.s video “Why Do We Still Need Feminism?”, here is another instalment. This time the question I’m looking at is “What is Feminism?” (re-recorded May 18, 2012).

Turns out it’s not some big scary thing.

The Sarah Bunting quote is from an essay entitled “Yes, You Are” and I encourage you to read the whole thing here.


Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism 1 Comment

Gender Focus 2nd Blogiversary!

Today’s marks the 2nd anniversaryof my first post here at Gender Focus, and I’m celebrating at least as much as these chinchillas. And congratulations to Cara – winner of the 2nd blogiversary giveaway. Cara will get to choose whether she wants a year’s subscription to Bitch Magazine or Bust Magazine.

Last year I blogged about some lessons I’d learned in the first year of blogging and a review of the year and I thought I’d do a similar thing this year.

First, some blog milestones:

November 2010 – Kaitlin became a regular contributor. Her first article deconstructed the idea that gropings are “non-violent” sexual assaults.

December 2010 – I migrated the blog over from to a platform, enabling greater ability to customize the design and content of the site.

December 2010 – Gender Focus was nominated in the 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards, where we placed 2nd in the categories Best Feminist Blog and Best LGBTQ blog. See my post-award interview here.

January 2011 – My friend Taylor became the first feminist guy to blog at Gender Focus, with his post on the last days of Keith Olbermann’s Countdown on MSNBC.

February 2011 – Published the year’s most popular non-giveaway post (both in terms of shares and comments): The Twitter Guide for Feminists.

February 2011 – My dad Gerald Hodge, a former Queens University prof, began writing posts for Gender Focus, becoming our first contributor who’s a senior.

April 2011 - Wrote an attempt at an April Fool’s Day post joking that I was shutting down Gender Focus in order to pursue my dream of developing Hornby Island Bingo as a board game. A surprising number of people bought it.

May 2011 – Farah Ghuznavi became our first international contributor with her posts on women living in Bangladesh.

May 2011 – I started a 24-part series of guest blogs for Bitch Magazine Blogs called Revenge of the Feminerd, which focused on gender and nerd culture.

June 2011 – I presented a course on feminism and the labour movement at the BC Federation of Labour’s youth retreat, Camp Jubilee.

June 2011 – I became a feminist blogger for Huffington Post Canada and Huffington Post Women.

June 2011 – We surpassed 1,000 fans on the Gender Focus Facebook page.

And a key lesson:

Not everything requires extensive commentary. I used to think there was no point posting something that was happening in the news or an example of a sexist ad or interesting event unless I had time to write a short essay explaining its importance. But in last year’s reflections I wrote about the importance of trusting your readers and this year I realized that sometimes providing a short sentence and some key information and/or pictures can be valuable too. Some things, like the sexist Tennis Canada Rogers Cup ad, speak for themselves. And it certainly beats not covering something at all for lack of time.

So thanks to everyone who’s been reading for the past year or two, and welcome to readers who joined us recently. I look forward to interacting with you over the next year too!



Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism 2 Comments

Lessons from a Year of Blogging

As I mentioned in my last post this blog celebrates its 1 year anniversary on Saturday. Here are some of the things I’ve learned over the past year. The lessons range from the personal to things that are probably obvious to most bloggers.

  1. “If there’s something you want to hear, you can sing it yourself.” This pretty much sums up why I started the blog. I couldn’t find anyone talking about career planning and how it related to gender and race. When I decided to broaden the blog’s subject matter I realized it’d give me a chance to talk about more of the issues I cared about. I used to see an item in the news or pop culture and wish that someone else will write something about it, but I couldn’t count on that happening.
  2. Self-doubt is my #1 enemy. This ties in with the first lesson. Every once in a while there’s this nagging voice inside me saying there’s no point to me doing this, that no one who reads the blog likes it, that it’s not getting me anywhere, that no one would care if I stopped. Luckily the point wasn’t to become a world-famous writer or make money. The point was to express myself and spark discussion, and while I’d always like more feedback than I get, I think I continue to succeed on that front. When I think back on the last year I’m proud of myself for standing up and saying I’m a feminist and I’m not ashamed of it.
  3. It’s really hard to predict what posts will get more hits than others. E. Cain’s post on American Apparel has far and away the most hits on the site. The day it was posted it got over 5,000 hits, beating the blog’s best day by almost 5 times. I think it’s a great post but I honestly wasn’t expecting it. Given that there’s been a lot written about American Apparel’s sexist advertising on other feminist blogs, I thought we’d get a response more in line with our average hits per post.
  4. Blogging can affect your friendships. Most of my friends know I’m a feminist because I took Women’s Studies in University and was heavily involved in the Women’s Rights Committee of the BC NDP, so I wasn’t expecting much to change now that I was writing more publicly about my opinions. I was mostly right: the majority of my friends who disagreed with me on feminist issues in the past just steered clear of the blog or were supportive of me expressing myself, even if they didn’t agree with the ideas. Unfortunately I did have one friend for whom me writing the blog seemed to exacerbate long-standing political disagreements that I thought we had both let slide. Her point was that me putting my opinions out in public meant that I had to be more willing to defend them to her. I can see that my writing the blog made her feel more confronted with my views, but it was also difficult for me to accept that my best friend had become my biggest critic.
  5.  Trust your readers. This is something Linda Solomon, Editor of the Vancouver Observer, told me when I was upset about some racist comments I’d received on a column I’d written about the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre. Linda said I could take them down, but she believed it was better to trust that the majority of your readers are able to read your piece and the comments and realize on their own that the comments are offensive. The aforementioned American Apparel post also received some offensive comments, including referring to the author as an “uptight prude” and telling “you feminists” to “shut up and get back in the kitchen.” At first I was worried, but it was great to see how a bunch of readers we’d never seen or heard from before took on the trolls and their sexist language.
  6. Quantity is as important as quality. This is one of the things that’s both good and bad about blogging. Of course it’d be nicer for us writers if people just expected one amazing piece every once in a while, but the truth is no one’s going to keep checking your blog if you only post once a month. So since this January I’ve tried very hard to post 2-3 times a week minimum, with the help of some awesome contributors.
  7. Contributors are a blessing and a challenge. The challenge to me is knowing what types of edits I should offer. Luckily no one has submitted anything containing sexist or racist language, because I make it clear in the submission guidelines that oppressive content is not acceptable.  I brought on contributors to help keep up with the new posts I felt were required on a regular basis, and to meet a feminist commitment to ensuring diverse perspectives were represented. For that reason and because I think they’re awesome, I make it a rule not to make changes to contributions except to grammar, spelling, and tone. Sometimes I will point out what I think are some questions they’re leaving unanswered. But overall I find it challenging to decide if I should give more feedback, since I’m the editor and could be seen as endorsing everything my contributors say. Right now I hope readers will understand that publishing someone else’s piece says that I think their perspective is valid and arguable, and that I like their writing style. It doesn’t necessarily mean I have the exact same opinion. Feminism isn’t monolithic so I think having a range of opinions is a positive thing.
  8. Write down any ideas you have for posts, even if you aren’t going to post them right away. It’ll help you through the dry spells when you can’t think of anything new.

I’m sure I’ll think of more over the next year and in the meantime I’d love to hear from readers about what you liked and didn’t like, and what you’d like to see more of.

“Still and all, why bother? Here’s my answer. Many people need desperately to receive this message: ‘I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.’” – Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake.



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The Year in Review

This Saturday is the 1 year anniversary of my blog, which by my estimates means it has exceeded the average lifespan of a blog by about 6 months. It remains to be seen whether I can exceed the average lifespan of a good blog (33.8 months), but I’m optimistic. Here’s a short timeline of the past 12 months.

July 15, 2009: I launched my blog, originally called “Nice Work if You Can Get it” about my experience being laid off and doing career planning. NWIYCGI (yeah, it was a terrible acronym) looked at employment and career planning from an anti-racist feminist perspective. My favourite post from that time was about Jack Canfield and the “think-yourself-happy-happy gurus”, although in retrospect I’d have made the language more conversational.

August 2009: I get a job! Yay! Find it more difficult to stick to the intended theme of the blog and to keep up with posting frequently.

August 7, 2009: Through my blog I was invited to start writing a column on gender issues for the Vancouver Observer. My first post, “What Gender is Your Recession?” can be found here.

August 24, 2009: I get my first comments actually posted to the blog (not on Facebook or by email)

September 21, 2009: I start guest-blogging for About-Face, change name of NWIYCGI to West Coast Feminist.

October, 2009: I get another new job and my posting regularity drops substantially.

January 22, 2010: I change the name and look again, this time to Gender Focus in order to broaden the subject matter of the blog.

February 16, 2010: First post by a contributing blogger: E. Cain’s “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead”.

March 2010: I attend the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Young Feminist Leadership Conference in Washington, DC.

May 31, 2010: I open Gender Focus up to public submissions.

May 6, 2010: Gender Focus has its highest number of hits in a single day: 5,801.

July 2010: 1 year and we’re still around!


Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism 2 Comments