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Reader Kelly has been working on a uni project about blogging around the world and freedom of speech. Flatteringly enough, she asked me a few questions on why I started my blog and how important I think it is for people to be able to blog freely and express opinions, as well as how important I think freedom of speech is, particularly for women. I thought some of you might be interested, so here is a fair chunk, and a slightly edited version, of what I said:

I started my blog because I very much wanted to be a part of the vibrant communities of women and feminism I found on the Internet. I was just coming into feminism when I found the blogosphere; I didn’t have a lot of support or knowledge sources offline, so I went to see what the Internet would turn up. And I wasn’t disappointed. I’d been reading for about six months by the time I started my blog and found there was so much to say, bouncing off the ideas of all these fabulous writers (both bloggers and commenters, groups which of course frequently overlap). On the Internet, there aren’t a limited number of column inches and neither is there the pressure of writing formally/”well” enough for something tangible in print. This means that everyone’s side thoughts, extra bits that wouldn’t see the light of day in another medium, can be expressed. And it’s those seemingly insignificant perspectives that I find are so good for starting a spark in my head, getting me thinking, changing my mind. I think this plays into social justice work beautifully: we’re always trying to bring sidelined perspectives to the fore. Why not the same inside our own heads? So a big part of blogging for me is learning not to dismiss my ideas as silly, but respecting what my thought processes turn up, working at them, and then having the means of putting them out into the universe. A lot of good work gets done that way. Blogging and social activism are perfect bedfellows, I find. How could I not want to join in?

As for the importance of free speech, particularly for women – I’ve taken the fact that I have it largely for granted, so you’ll have to excuse me if my thoughts on the subject are a little nebulous. Free speech is particularly important for any marginalised group: we’re always being silenced, whether that silencing is legal or cultural, and we need to be heard in order to stop being marginalised. Not to mention the need to be able to seek out ideas and voices as well as share our own. In particular, women are so often taught, explicitly or no, to “sit down and shut up”, that our opinions don’t matter, and this has huge ramifications. So as important as I feel it is to ensure that everyone has free speech, ensuring it for women is a twicefold means of weakening the hold of misogynistic oppression. And the more voices in the world, the better communication we can have with each other and the harder it is to relate to people as the Other. There’s also a lot to be said about how free speech isn’t actually a guaranteed right in Australia as it is in the American Bill of Rights, and the recent movements towards setting
something like the Bill up here. Even where freedom of speech exists, though, there are factors influencing who gets to exercise it and how, particularly money and time.

So I suppose that leads in to how important I think blogging is in all of this. I think blogging is a great means of individual expression. Too often the information and opinions we have access to are filtered through the government or media, sources of obvious merit which are nevertheless insufficient on the level of the individual. Blogging can be a simple, cheap (assuming you have access to the Internet!) and effective way of spreading information, garnering donations/signatures/other forms of support. It’s also a great outlet that can provide an international like-minded community and constant challenges to one’s way of thinking. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s an integral part of a lot of people’s activism and expression.

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