Feminist Camp Day 1: What is Feminist Media?

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Dipeeka is a 2010 LEADer who recently participated in Feminist Camp. Feminist Camp includes five immersive days of meetings and workshops across New York City highlighting diverse forms of feminism in action. Each day centers around a theme. Her blog posts about her time there originally appeared on the Soapbox Blog.

After yesterday’s wonderful and energizing welcome workshop with Kelly Tsai all of us were excited for the first day of the Feminist Camp. We began our day with an Orientation Breakfast at Amy’s house. Over bagels, fruits and croissants, we talked about yesterday’s session with Kelly when we had to write to a person (real or abstract), who we were in conflict with, first from our perspective then theirs. After the discussion, Amy and Jennifer talked more about themselves, their journey as feminists, and briefly went over our schedule for the week. All of us then shared our personal entry points or aha! moments into feminism. It was inspiring to hear everyone’s journey into feminism. We then headed to the Feminist Press for our afternoon sessions on media.

The first speaker was Wagatwe Wanjuki, Feminist Camp alum, an activist and writer who uses new media primarily to reform sexual assault policy. It was interesting to hear how she uses websites and social media sites like Facebook and Tumbler as tools to advocate for sexual assault policy reforms and other feminist issues. She said her experience in Tufts made her create and use website as a platform to share her survivor story, and encourage other students to share their stories of sexual assault. Through protests in front of Department of Education and online petitions, Wanjuki played a pivotal role in the creation of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. Using this as an instance, she told us the importance of linking Internet activism with on-field efforts, and that online activisms alone mostly lose value without an offline initiative to support it. She talked about power dynamics in the mainstream media, and how voices of marginalized groups whether it be in terms of race, gender or immigration status are often unrepresented. She contrasted the mainstream media with feminist media by saying that feminist media does not present information as black or white, but takes into account the different shades of gray. When asked what skill sets were necessary to succeed as a feminist journalist, she mentioned reading, willingness to learn, accept criticism and negotiating your worth (often financially).

Jennifer, along with the staff and interns of the Feminist Press (FP), explained to us in detail about FP’s goals and activities. As a business major, it was interesting to hear about their non profit financial model; whereby they fund one half of their operations through sales of the books, and the other half through fundraising initiatives. Jennifer also talked about the transition Feminist Press was going through from its Second Wave beginnings to better adapt to the world today, where almost every media house publishes feminist books. It was also interesting to know that the Feminist Press did not limit its publications to a specific genre.

Our third speaker was Jodi Kantor, the Washington correspondent for the New York Times. One of the most prominent things she said was that today gender issues and dynamics need less rhetoric and more reporting. She explained to us the difference between opinions and facts while reporting in new media. She emphasized the importance of approaching an issue with a multifaceted approach, by taking the complexity of factors involved into account. Prior to her session, we were asked to read five of her articles from the Times. We then discussed the articles and she shed light into behind the scene aspects of the articles. The articles we read focused on gender gap in pay, class and its affect on breastfeeding, the Obama marriage, changing gender dynamics in Harvard Business School and Mormon churches. She seemed like a reporter who would be most proud when her articles were initiating discussions among the readers, and inspiring them towards solutions.  When asked if she was a feminist journalist or journalist who prioritizes gender issues, she said the latter. She said she does not let her identity as a ‘feminist’- a word with different meaning and connotations throughout various groups- hinder her work of listening and reporting untold stories of various groups. It was inspiring to see her humility and warmth in spite of being so successful.

After the thought provoking sessions, we headed to Tai Thai for dinner before going to the Sadie Nash Annual Garden Party with Janet Mock. Sadie Nash is a leadership project that promotes leadership and activism among young women. After welcome reception and presentation of the Petticoat Award, two young women interviewed Janet Mock. A bestselling author and activist, Janet Mock talked about the importance of sisterhood, and being supporters instead of competitors to women in our lives. After the beautiful garden party, we headed out for some shopping time at SoHo.

Overall, the sessions on media helped us understand the use of social media as feminist tools, the power of addressing nuances in reporting and supporting our fellow feminists. After today’s session, I am inspired to get involved with the newsletter at my university, and use it as a platform to report issues that need to be heard and discussed.

 

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