Everyone and their cat has a feminist community on Facebook these days! I find a new one, or several in fact, pretty much every day. I think this is great and I’m definitely an advocate for more online feminist groups. It can only be a good thing right? Well, that is as long as the groups are committed to intersectionality and I find that actually a lot of them are. If I join a supervised group and realise it is not really intersectional I leave quickly. Arguably these groups do have potential to cause a lot of harm and that’s exactly why I steer clear of them.
I’ve been writing a feminist blog and being the admin for a feminist community on Facebook for about 4 months now but even in that short space of time I have already learned a lot from the experience. I’m not going to try and capture literally everything I’ve learned here as that would be impossible, but I decided to put together a list of some of the key things that have struck me along the way. The list is a little view into my world and it may help/ interest others who are starting their own feminist communities or already have one. Some of these things will also be experienced by those who are active members in a feminist community. Let me know what you think on that.
Lesson no.1 – I Love Feminism. I mean I REALLY love it.
This probably sounds stupid. Of course I love feminism, that’s why I set up my community to begin with. It’s true though that running the page has re-affirmed my love of feminism in a massive way. I really enjoy how the community helps me to live and breathe feminism, keeping it continually in mind and this definitely has had a huge impact on my day-to-day life. I’m much more likely to notice injustices and stand up for my rights, and the rights of others. I’m also much more likely to get out of situations and relationships that aren’t right for me. This is all also down to my training and work as a counsellor. Sometimes I don’t even recognise myself these days and that can be uncomfortable and scary, but I’m just taking that as a sign that I’m changing and becoming a stronger woman who is more aware of her boundaries.
Lesson no.2 – Having your own feminist group can be very healing
Learning and talking about feminist issues in a safe space has helped me to do a lot of healing work, especially when it comes to sexist ex-partners and my experiences in general as a mixed race woman, because I think lacking understanding and empathy is a real issue for mixed race people in our society. Knowing other people understand and have had similar experiences is important and can be really powerful. Sometimes I do wonder if I am being re-traumatised on some issues by continuously being exposed to them and writing about them, but if I feel this way I take it as an indicator to take a step back and practice self-care. I hope other group members do the same.
Lesson no. 3 – It can also be hard work
I put a lot of time and thought into my blog and feminist community. It’s unpaid work but I do feel like there is often gratitude and I get a lot of personal benefits too. Did I under-estimate the amount of work that goes into being an admin and blogger in intersectional feminism? Yes! I didn’t know it would feel like a ‘job’ and it does. It’s better than a paid job though because I can do it how I want and it has a fantastic cause. The way I look at it, if I made at least one person think a little bit differently on a feminist issue and especially if I have raised awareness on mixed race identity, then it’s been a good day.
Lesson no. 4 – Strong self-care is required
I definitely have higher levels of frustration and anger since I started my feminist blog and community. It’s impossible to read and write constantly about social justice issues without experiencing some tough emotions and these emotions need a safe outlet. I also feel my awareness in social situations is much more heightened which can make me feel a bit anti-social at times. Being anti-social can be an act of self-care but it can also show a lack of this, and knowing when to withdraw and be social is something I need to manage better.
Self-care is clearly really important in any activism work and I’ll be honest I haven’t really completely figured out the self-care side of things yet. As an example writing a feminist blog can feel like self-care and stress both at the same time. The two things can’t always easily be separated in my eyes. Also if I feel passionate about something I can find it hard to take a break from it. I’m still figuring out what helps me to totally relax and disconnect as these things change for me over time. I’m also trying to give myself a good balance between work and play which I know I don’t always achieve.
Lesson no. 5 – I’m much more well-informed than I used to be about political issues
I find it much easier to hold my own in political conversations now because I’m constantly reading about what is going on in the world. I’m also better at weighing up arguments and analysing things from a feminist perspective.
Lesson no. 6 – There will always be people that don’t like what you do, and that’s just fine
I love getting constructive feedback on how to improve my feminist community and actually I fish for that quite a lot! I want to be intersectional AF. I do get people contacting me though to tell me my page would be better if I basically just toned down my views and made the truth a little more palatable for them. This is usually white men and sometimes mixed race people who don’t feel I represent them personally. All I can say to these people is, there are a lot of feminist pages out there, so go find one that works for you instead of badgering me about changing mine. If you can’t find the appropriate feminist groups for you maybe that’s because you’re a) too problematic, or b) you need to start your own page where you can follow your own values and principles. In either case scenario this is not my problem and none of my business.
Lesson no. 7 – I’ve had to face my own –isms and gaps in awareness
When I say in my community we’ve all got work to do in facing our own prejudices, fears and gaps in awareness that obviously includes me. I’ve got a lot more to learn about all areas of social justice but have particularly noticed I have extra work to do in the areas of mental health, disability and LGBTQ issues. I’m continuously working to build up my awareness on these issues and how they affect different groups. The activism work I do helps me to constantly reflect on what is difficult for me, why and where I have blocks to empathy and understanding.
I’ve realised I’m willing to help educate those in privileged groups about social justice issues that don’t affect them personally, but only if they are respectful and show some genuine interest and willingness to learn. Otherwise it is not my personal responsibility to transform them into enlightened human beings and I’m happy to say goodbye to them. It’s ok for me to say no and not include some people if they are threatening the safety of the group.
I plan to do a review after one year and see how much I, and my life, have changed whilst managing a feminist community and being a social justice blogger. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next 8 months, especially as this community grows and changes all the time. I just want to say thank you to my group members for joining me on my journey so far. I hope you are getting some good things out of it too!