by Jarrah Hodge
When I first started Gender Focus, almost four years ago now, I couldn’t find a lot of Canadian feminist blogs. There were a couple that were going strong, some that had long been abandoned, and no convenient way to find others.
So last year, Women, Action, & the Media (WAM!) Vancouver decided that it would be valuable to catalogue and map the Canadian feminist blogosphere. Between January and April of 2012, Wammer and SFU student Candace Coulson started her research, under the direction of the Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG).
The result is a report, released earlier this year, that contains analysis of 108 Canadian blogs that are either explicitly feminist or identified as “of feminist interest”. Coulson looked at what topics bloggers addressed, the level of engagement from commenters, how many blogs were run and authored by one person as opposed to multi-author blogs, and whether the bloggers explicitly identified as feminist.
Some key stats that came out of the report:
38% of Canadian blogs that covered feminist issues did not claim the feminist label, while 55% identified explicitly as feminist
Blogs authored by multiple contributors are significantly more likely to remain active than blogs managed by one person (42% vs. 18%)
Blogs authored by writers who do not identify as feminist are more likely to remain active than blogs authored by self-identified feminists (73% vs. 43%)
The most popular year for the launch of feminist-interest blogs was 2010
I did a quick email interview with Candace Coulson about her experience doing this research.
Me: What were you most surprised by doing this research?
Candace: As someone who has not studied feminism, but has always been interested in learning more, as a lot of my beliefs align with feminist discourse, I was surprised by the various interpretations of feminism depicted on the blogs. It seems to me as though the feminist community varies drastically in what they believe in, and I feel this is somewhat problematic in terms of advocating for a clear and coherent message. I also found some of the language and terms used in the feminist culture to be off-putting to the lay person, and in some cases exclusive to feminist scholars or versed feminists. Even though some blogs attempted to define what specific words meant to them, I was surprised by the discord between feminist identified blogs.
Me: What was a challenge you encountered?
Candace: One of the biggest challenges I encountered is how to classify the blogs. For instance, I would find blogs that discussed feminist issues, but the authors may not label themselves as feminists or use the word feminism in their blogs. In some cases the blog authors clearly cared about feminist issues, but then spoke out against feminism, which was perplexing to me, but not all that surprising considering the social stigma with the F word, and the perceived historical discrimination that some groups hold. This was difficult for me because I was mandated to explore the Canadian feminist blogosphere, and found it hard to label them. This is why we shifted the focus of the report to document Canadian blogs of feminist interest in the end.
Also, finding Canadian blogs of feminist interest was a bit of a hassle. Sometimes I had to dig deep to find out if the blog authors were Canadian. Some identified as Canadian, but then primarily blogged about other country’s issues. The question of who to include was paramount throughout the compiling of the list of Canadian blogs of feminist interest. I think it would be great if there was a simpler way to search for a comprehensive list of blogs on the worldwide web, specific to people’s interests.
Me: What do you hope comes out of it?
Candace: I’m not really sure. At first my aim was to compile a comprehensive catalogue of the current Canadian feminist blogs for the Canadian feminista. Although, the more blogs I found with conflicted identity issues and trolling problems, the more I began to wish for a more friendly and open dialogue surrounding feminist issues. Also, I wish that alternative forms of media such as blogging would be more accessible and easier to find, so that they can one day they can become the norm and add depth to the current popular mainstream media culture, by providing various perspectives on important social issues.
Even though the blogosphere changes rapidly and not all the blogs catalogued are still active, the report is a great starting point for people looking to discover new Canadian feminist blogs. For more thoughts on the report and the Canadian feminist blogosphere in general I recommend checking out this Ms. Magazine piece interviewing four Canadian feminist bloggers.
If you’re interested in feminism and women’s representation in media, I also recommend learning more about WAM! There are chapters in Ottawa and Vancouver and if there’s not one near you, you can look at starting your own. I really enjoy working with our Vancouver WAM! group, which is diverse, inclusive and (fun) action-oriented.