Energize! Organize! 2012 National NOW Conference, June 29-July 1

I’m excited to share the news that I and three of my feminist colleagues will present a skills-building workshop on Twitter at the 2012 National NOW Conference in Baltimore this Friday, June 29! Our workshop, “Activists of the Same Feather, Tweet Together!” is one of three skills building workshops scheduled simultaneously from 5:15-6:30p.m. in the same room at the Hilton Baltimore BWI Airport hotel.

Activists of the Same Feather, Tweet Together! How to Use Twitter and Unite Generations to Stop the War on Women
Stopping the War on Women requires that feminist activists use every tool available, including social media. With the ever-increasing influence of Twitter as an online organizing tool, it is imperative that feminists across the spectrum utilize the micro-blogging platform to make our diverse voices heard. NOW Chapters can use Twitter to engage with decision-makers and like-minded or adversarial organizations, create and support more effective campaigns, increase membership and make a bigger impact at local, state and national levels.

Rachel Piazza – Moderator, Katherine Mullen, Jeffrey Lunnen, Ruken

This will be my first time presenting at a NOW conference and if the line-up of workshops is any indication, it promises to be an engaging, energizing and diverse conference. Workshop topics range from reproductive justice to creating queer and trans-friendly feminist spaces, working on elections, fighting hate crimes, feminism and faith, war and labor. Eve Ensler, Sandra Fluke, Krystal Ball and Heidi Hartmann are some of the many speakers. Oh, and there will be feminist films and dance parties after the workshops. Who says feminists don’t have fun?

Online registration is closed, but you can still register in person. The conference agenda is posted here.

See you in Baltimore!  

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An excellent, must-read post on white woman privilege and AZ Gov. Jan Brewer’s disrespectful finger-wagging photo with President Obama, from The Crunk Feminist Collective.

The Crunk Feminist Collective

What is wrong with this picture?

1.)   He is the President. She is being disrespectful. As hell.  Period. Point Blank. End of Discussion.

2.)   White privilege conditions white people not to see white rage. However, it makes them hyper-aware of Black threat.   Newt Gingrich is white rage personified. And for it, he gets loads of applause.  So is Jan Brewer, but usually we think of white rage in masculine terms. Gender stereotypes condition us not to see white women as being capable of this kind of dangerous emotional output. We reserve our notions of female anger for Black women. Such hidden race-gender logics allow Brewer to assert that she “felt threatened,” even though she was trying to handle the situation “with grace.”  Now look back at the picture: who is threatening whom? Couple white rage with white women’s access to the protections that have been afforded to their gender, and…

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Social Media Pregnancies – Where to Draw the Line?

If you’re like me, chances are by the age of 28 that you’ve had a few female friends announce on Facebook that they’re pregnant by posting early sonograms, a progression of baby bump photos and enthusiastic updates for nine months. And let’s not forget about the eery 3-D sonograms showing a nearly full-term baby weeks away from being born.

It’s been almost a year since three fuzzy-looking sonograms from three different female friends appeared unsolicited on my Facebook NewsFeed within a week, generating a strong response from me that was somewhere between sincere congratulations and “This is too much to share on Facebook” and “I really don’t want to see her unborn fetus and into her uterus.” I hadn’t seen or spoken to two of these Facebook friends since college and the third woman I run into on occasion. So, if they were my closest friends posting pregnancy related updates, I know I would have a different reaction and be more accommodating and understanding.

But being a Women’s and Gender Studies graduate student, I couldn’t let it go and I turned the topic into an academic research paper months later. I still haven’t come across a lot of scholars, journalists or bloggers writing about how women are uniquely using Facebook and other social media technology (Twitter, Flickr, YouTube) to document and share their pregnancies and the implications this has for perceiving women’s bodies and fetal personhood. So, I was surprised to find this story buried in The Washington Post Style section on June 10.

The news article’s focus is mainly how more women feel comfortable documenting their pregnancies through social media as a way to share with extended family and friends and swap advice with other moms and moms-to-be. According to a 2010 study by software maker AVG, more than 30 percent of American mothers have posted their sonograms online. By the time they are age 2, 92 percent of American babies will have an online presence.

The Washington Post’s news article is an interesting trend piece but no one in the story talked about how using social media in this way reinforces fetal personhood in a very visible and public manner. Nor did anyone discuss how social media sites like Facebook can be seen as a technology through which we view women’s pregnant bodies, in a way that is similar to ultrasound technology, although different since it is social and not medical.

In our highly medicalized, American system of childbirth, we view women’s pregnant bodies and fetuses through ultrasounds, sonograms and fetal heart monitors without giving it a second thought. In the history of women’s childbearing, ultrasound technology and sonograms are a very recent medical and social development. A trained medical professional in a position of authority and power views the pregnant woman through ultrasound technology, interprets the ultrasound image and confers meaning on it regarding the fetus’ size, health and sex. The couple then shares the image with family and friends in a social ritual that allows them to reinforce the fetus’ individuality and personhood. The woman simply becomes a vessel for carrying and delivering a healthy fetus to term.

Add Facebook and other social media outlets, and the ritual is magnified. Not only are we viewing our pregnant Facebook friends’ bodies through their sonograms but also through their profiles, which are carefully maintained with certain information and photos. Lines of privacy are blurred since there isn’t a way to control who sees and who doesn’t see the sonogram. Endless opportunities exist for friends and family to comment on how the fetus or woman looks, to compare it with their own experiences or our cultural expectations of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood. Not to mention the opportunities our online networks have to assign gender to the unborn child.

I don’t judge any woman who decides to document their pregnancy in this way. Ultimately, we individually choose how much or how little to share about ourselves online. Pregnancy is just a temporary state reflected in the constant flow of information on online social media. The presence and staying power of social media like Facebook and Twitter and its potential to add meaning to and change women’s daily, lived experiences is something that feminists need to be critical of and watchful.