Page 15Feminist Collections (v.27, nos.2
3, Winter
Spring 2006)
 A
SSIGNMENT
: “W
HAT
 
IS
 
 A
F
EMINIST
(B
LOG
)?”
by Mary Thompson
In the spring semester of 2006, I introduced for the first time an assignment that asks “Introductionto Womens Studies” students to cross-examine several self-identified feminist blogs in order to produce a definition of contemporary feminism. I acknowledged immediately that, given the exclusivity of theInternet, this exercise would only produce a limited definition of feminism not reflective of feminists who cannot or do not access the Web.Students followed three blogs for four to five weeks before organizing their observations into a four-page paper. Although students could obtain permission to work with blogs of their selecting, theassignment suggested a list of blogs from which they could choose, including many sites listed in VickiTobias’s recent
Feminist Collections 
article.
1
In preparation for writing the assignment, the class discussed the suppression and dismissal of  womens writing.
2
We looked at zines such as
Bitch
,
BUST 
,
HUES 
, and
Hip Mama 
as contemporary strategies for overcoming the silencing of feminist voices, and watched Kara Herold’s film
Grrly Show 
3
for its discussion of zine culture and the “do-it-yourself” ethic. The class applied these concepts to thecontext in which blogs are produced and speculated on the positive democratic potential of the Internetas well as the relative absence of women in computer science and technology as a potentially negativefactor.In their essays, students reported being impressed by the amount of research/reading that most blog authors put into their posts. Most students wrote about the recurrent themes of reproductive rights,gender equality, sexuality, and popular culture. Some students observed the feminist practice of authorsintertwining their political observations and their personal lives (particularly concerning motherhood).Students also remarked on the way in which many blogs were intertextual, and they compared andcontrasted the feminist strategies of collaborative blogs and personal blogs. As a class we discussed theissue of anonymity and the authors’ motivations (harassment, jeopardizing of jobs) for remaining unnamed. In addition to observing the content, students also noted such stylistic elements as the design,the use of graphics, the tone of the posts, the in/formality of the language, and the use of humor.Generally students believed the use of wit was engaging and a positive counteractive to media representations of feminists as humorless.
R
OUND
-U
P
: B
LOGGING
W
OMEN
S
S
TUDIES
Last year,
Feminist Collections 
published “Blog This! An Introduction to Blogs, Blogging, andthe Feminist Blogosphere,” by Vicki Tobias (v.26, nos.2–3, Winter–Spring 2005). That article isonline at
http://www.library.wisc.edu/libraries/WomensStudies/fc/fcblogs1.htm
.Now we offer a follow-up piece that looks more pointedly at incorporating blogging andother new “e-formats” into the classroom — particularly the women’s studies classroom — with a round-up of ideas from instructors who are actually doing it. We invite instructors who have used blogs, wikis, or social networking software in othercreative ways to contact us about contributing to future round-ups.
 
Feminist Collections (v.27, nos.2
3, Winter
Spring 2006)
Page 16
 While their definitions of feminism differed, students consistently described blogs as platforms from which feminist voices can raise awareness and speak against the absent and/or negative representations of  women and feminists in other media. In the future I plan to revise the premise of this assignment torequire students to reflect more on the feminist voices they did not seem to hear: non-U.S. women; women of color; working-class women; and non-heterosexual women.Notes1. Vicki Tobias, “Blog This! An Introduction to Blogs, Blogging, and the Feminist Blogosphere,
Feminist Collections 
v.26 nos.2–3 (Winter–Spring 2005), pp.11–17; online at
http:// www.library.wisc.edu/libraries/WomensStudies/fc/fcblogs1.htm
2. See Joanna Russ,
How to Suppress Women’s Writing 
(Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983); andSandra Gilbert & Susan Gubar,
The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the NineteenthCentury Literary Imagination
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984).3.
Grrlyshow 
: 18 mins. color. 2000. Filmmaker: Kara Herold. Distr.: Women Make Movies, 462Broadway, New York, NY 10013; phone: (212) 925-0606; fax: (212) 925-2052; email:
info@wmm.com
; website:
http://www.wmm.com
.[
 Mary Thompson is an assistant professor of American and women’s literature in the English Department at  James Madison University, where she also teaches women’s studies courses 
.]
T
O
J
OIN
 
THE
F
EMINIST
B
LOGOSPHERE
, C
LICK
H
ERE
!
by Natalie Jolly 
Blogging in the women’s studies classroom opens up new pedagogical possibilities and offersunconventional ways of teaching and learning about feminism. I have infused my women’s studiesclasses with a variety of blogs, message boards, and other web technologies in innovative ways. Moving all or part of the class discussion to an online format allows students the luxury of considering theirresponses before engaging in the conversation. In my classes, this has resulted in a richer, more nuanceddiscussion that is — surprisingly — often more respectful and responsive than the face-to-faceexchanges. In particular, online dialogues have helped defuse the tensions that can often attend“controversial” topics such as abortion and welfare, and students are much more able to value thedifferences of opinion that can occasionally derail an in-class conversation.Encouraging students to participate in a class blog also allows quiet students who dread mandatedface-to-face participation to contribute in a more comfortable environment. After weeks of silence,students often surprise both their peers and me with their insight and eloquence on the web. Inaddition, blogs make evaluating course participation more transparent — students can be assessed basedon the contributions they make to the conversation, the ways in which they support their positions, andtheir ability to make connections to other course material. As we all continue to search for ways to openour courses to a variety of different learners, blogs seem to offer a format that truly supports thisdiversity.
Blogging Round-Up
 
 
Page 17Feminist Collections (v.27, nos.2
3, Winter
Spring 2006)
Most importantly, I believe that by using blogs, message boards, or any other Web-basedcomponent in our courses, we are teaching our students that feminism (as a movement, a theory, and a practice) is thriving in the digital age. Gaining familiarity with new technologies is an imperative forstudents, and in many ways their connection to feminism depends on our ability to integrate it intotheir (increasingly) virtual realities. In one assignment, my students contact local pharmacies to see whether prescriptions for the morning-after pill can be filled there, and then blog their findings on ourclass website. Our local chapter of Planned Parenthood is now using the data that students havecollected to make recommendations to their clients — one small way that Web technologies can be usedto connect individual action with the larger project of feminist activism and teach all of us about thepower of grassroots (or “netroots”) mobilization.The possibilities for marrying feminist pedagogical strategies with the Web are limited only by our willingness to embark upon the sometimes daunting task of navigating new technologies. Theboundaries continue to recede as more classes move beyond their brick-and-mortar walls and entercyberspace. The next generation of feminists will undoubtedly be virtual — let’s give them the tools they need to make the next wave of feminism digital.[
Natalie Jolly is 
 
a doctoral candidate at the Pennsylvania State University in the Departments of Women’s Studies and Rural Sociology. She has recently developed an entirely blog-centric women’s studies course using open-source software and is teaching it with wild abandon.
]
T
HE
P
ERSONAL
C
 AN
B
E
F
EMINIST
: B
LOGS
 
IN
 
 A
W
RITING
C
OURSE
by Caroline J. Smith
In the themed, first-year writing course that I teach at George Washington University, peer review isoften a requirement for each writing assignment. I frequently pair the students in one section with thestudents in another section in the hope that being unfamiliar with the writer of a paper will foster moreobjective and, ideally, more constructive feedback. Frequently, when I make these assignments, I hearstudents whisper to one another, “Do you know so-and-so from her morning section?” And, even morefrequently, the reply is, “No. Why don’t you look them up on Facebook?”Students’ preoccupation with sites such as Facebook and MySpace, which encourage users tobecome what Emily Nussbaum in her article “My So-Called Blog” deemed “compulsive self-chroniclers,” provide an easy entryway into the not-so-far-removed world of blogging.
1
Though many students do not keep individual blogs, they immediately connect with blogging since they themselvesoften update their Facebook or MySpace profiles, photos, and comments on a daily basis. Although blogs can provide students with examples of (in)effective argumentation in the writing classroom, they can be an even more useful teaching tool in the feminist classroom. Examining personalblogs written by women opens up discussion about the genre of personal writing — a form that haslong been associated with women writers. Blogs, then, can become an effective way to contextualize thestruggles of women writers, prompting an examination of how personal writing has been consistently devalued and exposing the challenge that many women writers face in having their voices heard.
Blogging Round-Up
 
Feminist Collections (v.27, nos.2
3, Winter
Spring 2006)
Page 18
This semester, I began using blogs in my composition class to teach the personal narrative, my final writing assignment of the semester. I had students construct their own blogs under pseudonyms, using such sites as Blogger, LiveJournal, and Xanga. They then responded to a series of writing prompts,recording their own personal observations and commenting on the work of their classmates. The blogsbecame the raw material from which they produced a polished, finite personal narrative. Currently, I amadapting this assignment for a course I will be teaching next spring, entitled “‘I Am Me’: Writing about Womens Autobiographies.” In this course, we will interrogate the term
autobiography 
, looking at moretraditional autobiographies alongside diaries, confessional poetry, songs, documentaries, and blogs. Inaddition to reading blogs kept by fictional autobiographers like Jennifer Weiner and Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, students will track the personal blog of their choice, using Vicki Tobias’s article, “Blog This! An Introduction to Blogs, Blogging, and the Feminist Blogosphere,” to familiarize themselves with suchpersonal blogs as
Brutal Women
and
Gender Geek 
.
2
As with my other course, students will create theirown blogs, recording their observations about class readings.Blogs, then, in this context, will not only teach students about the genre of autobiography, but will alsoserve as models for their own writing, showing how personal writing can be an effective means of public— and often feminist — communication.Notes1. Emily Nussbaum, “My So-Called Blog,”
New York Times Magazine 
, Jan. 11, 2004, 6.1, p.33.2. Vicki Tobias, “Blog This! An Introduction to Blogs, Blogging, and the Feminist Blogosphere,
Feminist Collections 
v.26 nos.2–3 (Winter–Spring 2005), pp.11–17; online at
http:// www.library.wisc.edu/libraries/WomensStudies/fc/fcblogs1.htm
[
Caroline J. Smith is an assistant professor of writing at George Washington University 
.]
T
HE
S
TUDY
-A
BROAD
C
LASS
B
LOG
: C
HRONICLING
S
TUDENTS
E
XPERIENCES
 
 AND
I
NDIAN
F
EMINISTS
’ E
FFORTS
by Carolyn Bitzer 
During Winter Session 2006, ten female University of Delaware students chronicled their daily study-abroad activities in India through a course blog. Their blog posts, from the first University of Delaware’s Women’s Studies program to South Asia, revealed the students’ personal and collectivetransformations and also crystallized numerous Indian feminists’ perspectives on diverse womens issues.Blogging helped capture the students’ experiences, observations, and emotions, which might remainotherwise private, lost, or unexplored. Three students wrote the following excerpts in the class blog:I also began to see that women who were completely covered in their burqas were standing nextto men in western clothes. Or even more interesting, women in burqas who were wearing stilettos.
Blogging Round-Up
of 7