Power to women**

after the Community Keynote
A whole ballroomful of women giving one another love, following the Community Keynote at the BlogHer conference in San Francisco, July 18-20, 2008.

If I thought I’d have to stuff all my observations (and raves, and epiphanies) about this past weekend’s BlogHer conference into one post, I’d never be able to actually write it.  As it is, I’ve had the durndest time even getting this far.  There was just so dadgum much to take in, so much to digest.

And I am mindful, too, that blogging about blogging and bloggers talking about blogging can be a bit, oh, tail-chasey. Even for bloggers themselves, or blog readers with a high tolerance for blogular self-referentiality.  I could cue those who aren’t so interested to nod off, and promise you I’ll wake you up at the appropriate moment.  Which is NOW!

Because geez, if ever I doubted the power women can wield using the internet, and are wielding right this very instant, I surely was convinced of it this weekend in San Francisco.  I think the impact of this is just building up below the radar, simply because the whole phenomenon of online community and its translation “offline” or in the Real World is still only beginning to become widely legible.  Yet this event (this year just the fourth annual) makes it impossible not to see.  On the subway ride back home, after the conference ended, I found myself just mind-boggled.

Rather than try to weave all the thoughts and feelings into a coherent essay, I will at least try to stuff some thoughts into bullet-points, just to start getting them out.  So:

• There is enough “bandwidth” for everyone.  I think. Which makes civil disagreement (as our moderator Lindsay strove for, in the MommyBlogging as Radical Act panel) a whole hell of a lot easier to engage in.

• Unvarnished honesty can never be overrated. Anyone doing that nearby will always inspire others to do the same.  At least I hope some of Maria’s rubs off on me.

• Regardless of the commercialism that may be fast approaching (/overtaking/distracting from the original motivation for) many women’s online conversations, it is not going to overwhelm the powerful impact of women’s sharing their lives with one another.  I’m just really thinking that nothing ever will. Regardless.

• This medium — weblogs, specifically — is unprecedented, in that using it, one can, with access to a computer (and computer literacy) and little else, essentially smuggle one’s thoughts (and fears and hopes and so on) into anyone else’s head. What we do there is up to us, but heavens that’s a big deal.  Especially when one gets the opportunity to see about a thousand of those “anyones” in person.  And then one multiplies that by a factor of however many of us are all doing this to/for one another. In and out of the limelight.

• In particular (inspired by the readings at the Community Keynote the first night): Women sharing stories, on this scale, with this degree of public intimacy, feels utterly unprecedented.  What we all go through in this life.  Some of us live to tell the tale, and have the courage to tell it.  And in the telling, essentially, perform mouth-to-ear resuscitation to more people than we will ever know.  I was stunned at what Mr. Lady and Casey did for a thousand women, over the course of a combined ten minutes, tops.  It’s hard for me to even put into words, but I needn’t, I suppose, since they already did. What they and so many of these readers did (like Yvonne). All of which, I know, is replicated all over the place.

• This medium makes our shared humanity really very hard to overlook.  We can open up and listen online in a way that’s just unique.  We wander over and sit down next to people we might never approach in the physical world.  That can be bracing in an icky way (as I mention here at the conclusion of the 2006 Weblog Awards voting melee), but it can also be bracing in an exciting way.  If we stay listening long enough, inevitably we all of us will become aware of some point of commonality.  And when we wrap ourselves around that connection, and let it soften and open us — all of us — in unexpected directions, we take the first steps toward what we’re all supposed to be here to do, if you ask me.

• Over and over again, back around it came finally to: you — yes: you who are just now reading these words — you are not alone.  And while we’re at it, you are deserving of love.  Now think what we’re all going to be able to go and do, armed with that knowledge.

At one point in the two days of BlogHer I found myself trying to convey to someone an anecdote a friend told me a long time ago.  Her parents were divorcing, and once, when her father was pulling out of the driveway, her mother darted down after him, planted her feet, brandished her fist, and called out “Power to women!”  Just because.

Well. I hereby invoke my friend’s mother, plant my feet, brandish my fist, and renew the battle cry.  You doubt the power that umpteen million women have?  Just c’mon over here and listen through the door, and find out for yourselves.

* [added a bit later in the day]

For eloquent corroboration, please sip some of Mr. Lady’s fine whisky.

**[and then the next day]

And for yet more, please check this review sheet on Mom-101.


19 Responses to Power to women**

  1. inadvertentgardener July 21, 2008 at #

    I’m raising my fist right along with you. As if I needed the hammer-over-head that the conference provided, but I think it had not occurred to me not only the breadth of diversity (which I think was demonstrated to me this year in a way it wasn’t, even, at last year’s conference) in women blogging, but the breadth of diversity in everyone’s goals. Around every corner, there was someone else saying, “I’m here. I have an unexpected message. I am important.” I was so excited to open Bloglines this morning I could hardly stand it.

  2. rreagler July 21, 2008 at #

    Thanks for sharing your BlogHer experiences. Someday I will attend the conference too, with a fist ready for shaking. Thanks for another great post.

  3. zaneymama July 21, 2008 at #

    It really was something.

    I had a blast hanging out with you in real time.
    You were fantastic at the Keynote.

    Hope to see before the next conference. We’ll do Tilden.

  4. wyliekat July 21, 2008 at #

    I really do hope there’s enough bandwidth for all of us, and that we do have the room to continue to be a community, regardless of the oncoming commercialization freight train.

    I guess I worry because this thing about women being “for” each other is pretty damned new (or really, really old, depending on how you look at it, and what version of history you subscribe to). This leads me to believe/fear that it’s fragile. Fragile enough to shatter if something comes along for us to fight over.

  5. mamato3girls July 21, 2008 at #

    Well, when you have women who can get an entire ballroom to hear the feathery whisper of a wounded wing on fresh snow, or feel the exquisitely excruciating blend of hope and fear in little lines, and you have others that are able to raise the collective conscience to understanding pain and sorrow so debilitating as to suffocate the will to live, well then you have voices that cannot not be heard.

    I’ll raise a fist and keep always open to these voices my ears and heart.

  6. Lesbian Dad July 21, 2008 at #

    Tilden (Park): always there to be done upon. Likewise back at you, zm. And thank you.

    Robin, your voice has to be heard at one of these things. I am bound & determined to figure out how to hook up some kinda panel with you on it. Start putting two or three dollars a day in some pillowcase somewhere. By next year we might could afford it. Since next year I would have to pay both transportation and registration (ouch!).

    Inadvertentgardener: reminds me of the old Queer Nation rallying cry (“We’re here. We’re queer. And we’re not going shopping.”). The irony of that one is that plenty of queer folk have few aspirations other than to go shopping, or rather to be “pitched” to directly by big name advertisers. Even if that was the goal of many a BlogHer, somehow it bummed me out a little less than I might have expected. Since the concerns ran such a wide gamut. Like, “We’re here. We’re women. And while a bunch of us are going shopping, a good smattering are using Freecycle and spending most of our thoughts on how to make a better world.” I think I can live with that.

    [added in after I see youse other gals' notes]

    You know, sister wyliekat, I know you’re more a vet in online women’s community than I am. But I am going to keep hope alive. I think we’ve been for each other since Ruth said “Whither thou goest, I will go, your people shall be as my people” or what have you. And I think alls we need to do is have more of us KNOW that (all caps, in the venerable tradition of bloggish writerly convention). Leastwise this is what I’m thinking right now.

    A big smile and a deep bow back to you, mamato3girls.

  7. wyliekat July 21, 2008 at #

    I really don’t think I can be called a vet. More a mental confettiest. I’ve been thinking about this whole sisterhood thing for a long, long time. It is, I’ve discovered, one of my fundamental passions. This is especially so when it revolves around women and “Web 2.0″ Or Web Eleventy.Billion, or whatever we’re at now.

    I care, is all. And I can’t claim to be a pioneer about that. Just another person carrying the flag.

    I have hope. I just have a bit of despair to go with it.

    ;-}

  8. Lesbian Dad July 22, 2008 at #

    The sweetness of the caramel comes out better with a touch of salt, anyway. So the gourmands say, and I tend to agree.

  9. kyla July 22, 2008 at #

    Your piece was amazing. Absolutely gorgeous.

  10. Lesbian Dad July 22, 2008 at #

    If I weren’t burning my kids’ dinner right now I’d say more than thank you. But I’m tempted to. We’re all working to listen and mirror back, as best we can. And I’m honored to have heard something.

    Thank you so much.

  11. immoralmatriarch July 22, 2008 at #

    *sigh*
    I miss you already. We didn’t have enough time to talk. We talked a lot I know, but it wasn’t nearly as much as I would have liked.

    Next year!

  12. hatched by two chicks July 22, 2008 at #

    I am thrilled, thrilled, to see/hear that you were part of the community keynote. When I first heard that it was in the works, I was so wanting there to be a lesbian voice in the mix. And it was you! And what a voice it was. I read your post and felt proud to be in your virtual company. (An aside: I also have a bird and baby story. It will post on August 11, my first daughter’s 4th birthday. I’ll send you the link.)

    All this is to say, Wow. You are really moving our ball up the field and I am so grateful.

  13. Kimmylyn July 22, 2008 at #

    I attended the conference this past weekend and wanted to stop by and tell you how much I enjoyed your views on the panel for radical blogging. But what really stood out for me was your keynote performance. It was a beautiful piece you shared with all of us. I look forward to getting to know your blog!!!!

  14. zan July 22, 2008 at #

    It was great to meet you and discover your writing. Your piece reminded me that at the end of the day we’re writers – the medium, no matter how great and far-reaching and new, is always beside the point. Our strength is in our words. Sharing our thoughts and dreams is exactly what this is all about, and you have the talent for getting people to listen. Quietly. With bated breath.

    And you did it. 1000 people… and you did it.

  15. Crunchy July 23, 2008 at #

    I didn’t get to meet you, but was at the Mommyblogging session and between that and your amazing keynote reading….

    wow….

    Your writing stirs my soul…..thank you for being able to do that…..

    And yes…despite my shyness and awkwardness…I totally loved meeting and seeing such a great swath of women from all walks of life.

  16. wigglerooms July 23, 2008 at #

    found you via playgroups are no place for children, who was really impressed with you at blogher and whose opinions i generally agree with. :) anyway: she was right on. beautiful writing here (not to mention beautiful kids). every once in a while i need this kind of reinforcement for continuing to blog. “mouth to ear resuscitation” – exactly. thanks for today’s resuscitation. i’ll come back when i need more air – which is more often than i like to admit.

  17. Her Bad Mother July 23, 2008 at #

    Yes. YES (*pumping fist in air*)

    Where else could we all be together, listening, speaking (even, in my case, as we nurse our babies), loving, disagreeing, cheering each other on?

    It all just rocks. Hard.

  18. Lesbian Dad July 23, 2008 at #

    Okey dokey, I’ll start this group hug/ group thanks with the caveat that, per usual, a shortness of time (never a shortness of breath!) will make this terser than I’d prefer. More time, hopefully, will be around when I try to do up the Part Deux reflection on this weekend’s BlogHer happening. WoodHer. Blogstock. Whichever.

    Immoralmatriarch, sister, I’m gonna bet there’ll never be enough time. Even next year (if I can find a pillowcase to start stuffing the dollar bills into, daily, to afford it). But I’m hoping there’ll be enough bandwidth at least. Thank you for being as fabulous as you are, AS YOUNG AS YOU ARE (People do you even know how many years she’s been on the planet collecting all this rockin’ power? “How long? Not long!” says brother M.L. King.)

    Hatched, I was so surprised to get picked, let me tell you. And am extremely thrilled by what you say (ball & field-wise). That image has stayed in my head for days. And I dearly hope it’s true, too. We all win when we foster mutual knowledge and compassion, and I gained a lot this past weekend, too. About which more one day soon I hope.

    Kimmylyn and zan and Crunchy and wigglerooms and Her Bad Mother: it was a real honor to be up there, let me tell you. Towering company. It could have been so many of us, and I’m just very grateful I got to be there. The previous few blogging years I’ve had my head down, either changing diapers or working for an honest buck or getting to know other lesbian parent bloggers. This weekend I met, either actually or virtually, an amazing number of amazing people, most of whom outside my sphere of identity, but none of whom out of my immediate sphere of intent. I totally agree with all you sisters that together we can do a powerful lot of good, and not just for one another. And we should. Damn the torpedoes, etc., is what I says.

  19. Don Mills Diva July 23, 2008 at #

    It was an incredible experience and I enjoyed chatting with you – I just posted on the ideas I took away from your panel – thanks for making us all think…

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