My NCA Statement on Feminism and Communications

Due to lack of travel funds I am unable to attend NCA (National Communication Association) Conference 2012 this year. Below is my official statement that will be presented on my behalf during Saturday morning’s roundtable session entitled “Critical Perspectives on Feminism and Activism in the Third Wave”.

I’ve spent the last few years grappling with feminist identity. Despite over the years having performed so-called “feminist duties” as an academic and as a political activist, (i.e. earning a MA in Women’s Studies, caucusing for Hillary Clinton in 2008, and volunteering as a hotline operator for a women’s shelter), I realize that my feminism has less to do with declaring a feminist identity and more to do with how my feminism emerges through work and scholarship, both of which almost always reflect a feminist ethic grounded in an inquiry stance. That is, I’m always questioning my-self in relation to Other; always replaying Trinh T. Minh-ha’s mystifying question in my head, “If you can’t locate the other, how are you to locate your-self?”

I worry, however, that feminism as a discipline, as a politic, as a form of activism, and as an idea(l) has become institutionalized within a western moral, ethic, and capitalistic framework that looks more and more like hierarchy, chronology, and characterized by waves (eg. generations). I also wonder about feminism as a capital enterprise. The notion of “professional feminism” troubles me. I realize folks have to make a living off of their work, but the label “professional feminist” conjures up awkward emotions. And no, I’m not referring to the welcomed contradictions of personhood that Gloria Anzaldúa brilliantly theorizes in Borderlands La Frontera, but rather I’m talking about the idea of professional feminism that exist in conflict with how I understand feminist consciousness; that is, something as sacred. Something that cannot be bought or sold. Untouched.

That said, however, I’m happy to see and feel feminist ideas spread throughout our home lives, our governments, our schools, and disseminated by way communication technologies.

To see feminist activism travel throughout time and space has been incredible to witness. With technology we are able recognize the multivalent nature of our potential of doing feminism, and by extension being feminist. Feminists have been able to spread our advocacy projects across time and space, and organize our bodies to protests in cities and neighborhoods across the globe. We have brought together domestic and international partners as we strive for justice and relief. We have called out others and at times we have had to confront ourselves. We have moved our advocacy beyond stationary online and offline spaces.

As we move throughout these spaces and places, I hope we can approach third space consciousness where we fight as much for the preservation of our selves as we fight for the preservation of others.  This movement toward consciousness—born of techno advocacy practices that span across computer mediated and non-computer mediated contexts, is a threshold space of place where we can (I hope!) see ourselves through the eyes of others and by way of panoramic views.

This kind of feminism spreads like sun rays and warms me up everytime I think about it.

Feminist theory and ethnography is peppered throughout the discipline of communications. I know of researchers at my institution who look towards feminist theory and ethnography to inform their work in communications and education, and of course, I have peers who see no use for feminist theory and ethnography. In fact, they may have never heard of feminist theory and feminist ethnography throughout their academic careers. The beauty of academia and research is that we can take multiple approaches to understanding the worlds around us. As a researcher and scholar of both education and communications, I carry with me an understanding of feminist theories and methodologies that I apply to my research on media, Internet/web 2.0, and youth culture. Feminist theory and ethnography are just a few of my lenses, and I don’t expect anyone else to wear them as I do when approaching research. I do, however, expect that the discipline of communications will continue to embrace interdisciplinary approaches. I expect communication scholars to acknowledge and embrace transdisciplinary analyses informed by theoretical approaches that take into account experiences and storytelling at the intersection of gender, class, sex, sexuality, ‘race’, dis/ability, religion, tribe, and ecology.

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