Friday, September 08, 2006

Connecting the Blog to the Axe


Gloria Steinem has the sort of voice you recognize, even if you have never heard it before. It is deep and poignant and focused. Just hearing it makes me feel proud to be a woman and want to sit up a little taller in my chair. Her voice evokes the strength and the wisdom of a woman that has changed history and changed herself over the past ten decades. Her voice once rallied thousands of women to make the changes that have given me the choices I have today. Today, Ms. Steinem’s voice is rallying the key boards of nine women bloggers making waves in the blogsphere.

I have been invited to participate in a conference call with the talented writers of Her Bad Mother, Motherhood Uncensored, Mommy Needs Coffee, Mom 101, Leah Peah, Escape from Cubicle Nation, Que Sera Sera, Escape from Cubicle Nation, Brazen Careerist and Almost Literary. We have each been told we can ask Ms. Steinem a question about anything we so desire. While we wait for the call to begin, I can hear them all breathing heavily into their receivers, hoping the sound of their nervous pounding hearts won't be transmitted over the telephone.

Ms. Steinem begins the call by thanking each of us for giving her the platform to talk about Green Stone Media. Green Stone Media is a privately funded “for-profit company dedicated to meeting the unserved need on radio for innovative, topical, relevant and entertaining programming of particular interest to women.” The company creates female-inspired radio programming and is currently attempting a launch in new markets.

Her introduction coincides with remarks made from Conclave on July 16, 2006.

"It seems to me that commercial talk radio has become less about community and more about conflict. Less about information and more about repetition. Less about improving ourselves and more about being angry at the world. At the same time, new technology -- from the Ipod to Satellite -- has challenged mainstream radio as a delivery system for music, and music was the refuge of many women from the yelling and lecturing of talk radio."

She goes on to say that while audiences in general are leaving radio, even fewer women are listening to the radio. Amongst many reasons for this decline she claims hostility on the airwaves is one factor. And what she and the other board members of Greenstone Media (Including Jane Fonda and Wallis Annenberg) hope to do is lighten programming and give women less confrontational radio programs.

This instantly piques my curiosity.

But I only get to ask one question. And I'm not going to waste it on pointing out the hypocrisy of asking a group of women bloggers to embrace conflict-less dialogue with their community. Or how even the idea of 'light programming' juxtaposes the kind of media assault that once made feminism possible.

So what do you ask a woman that has already been asked everything. A quick Google search brings up full transcripts of her most famous speeches and interviews. If you want to know her feelings on marriage you can find lively debate amongst some of my favorite journalists and women’s advocates. Indeed it was pretty difficult finding a question to ask Ms. Steinem that hadn’t already been asked, documented and heavily debated in the past. So I turned to my readers.

"Ms. Steinem, I have followed your journalism career and read many of your addresses and essays written during the early women's movement. You and the work and writings of your colleagues have truly inspired me and my generation. So my question for you is what do you expect from us, this new generation of women writers with a new platform for approaching and influencing other women? What can we do to continue to carry on some of the work of you and your colleagues began forty years ago?”

Crickets.

“My job is to support you in what you are doing. Because you are living a unique personal experience and a different historical experience. And as long as we keep on supporting each other in what we are doing, I think we will be okay.”

Great. That's it? She has nothing else to tell me. My question is a dud and I’m a complete idiot.

"But wait, just to follow up on that, this 'softer, gentler' non-hostile type of communication you are promoting on your radio programming, how is this about action? How can we do this on our blogs?"

"Look..."

And from the sternness that has invaded her voice I am afraid that she has found us bloggers out. Everyone on this call knows that the hostile radio environment to which Ms. Steinem refers is the proverbial voice to our blogger rants. Bloggers bitch and whine and complain. We do in writing what Howard Stern does on the radio. That is what we bloggers do best.

"If I had any cautionary words it would just be to always connect the blog to the axe. To make sure that we don’t blog or talk or find community instead of action, but as support for action. We have five sense and we are supposed to use them all. We can get frustrated and bitter if we use words but aren’t acting on them.”

"We need to make sure we don't think we have acted because we have passed around emails, written, blogged, but have not yet demonstrated, voted refused to buy whatever is offensive. We need to make sure we don’t cocoon."

"I'm too old to get involved with any project that is not about action."

She says this graciously. Everyone laughs. She takes a few more questions from the other bloggers. She tells us all we should keep in touch. And the call ends.

I'm left thinking about how many axes I've raised in the last few years. Not nearly as many as blogs I've written.

When Gloria Steinem addressed millions of women struggling for equality in the late sixties and early seventies, she called for action. When Gloria Steinem speaks to me and nine other 'bloghers' this cool September evening, she asks us to put action behind our angst.


Hear the call for yourself here.

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posted by Pop Culture Casualty @ 9/08/2006 09:08:00 PM |

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