"Doing Digital Feminisms: Media Making and Political Action" Panel Discussion with Jessalynn Keller and Jessa Lingel
Contemporary feminisms are largely understood as something people do using digital media inside the infrastructures of digital media platforms. Today, making media and getting connected online powerfully define notions of “the political.” Drawing from feminist media scholar Alison Piepmeier’s ask of feminist scholars to “come with different expectations of what political work and activism look like,” this panel considers what digital feminisms do and how they transform the meanings, practices, and experiences of doing political work. Connected by their research interests in feminist coalitional thought and practice, panelists Jessa Lingel (University of Pennsylvania) and Jessalyn Keller (University of Calgary) will present short talks to prompt discussion of what digital feminisms make happen, and how they define social change and movement organizing around feminist media making. Panelist Carrie Rentschler (McGill University) will moderate a discussion of these topics with the panelists and facilitate a question-and-answer period with the audience.
Jessa Lingel, “Feminist Coalition Building and Digital Technologies”
Coalition work is central to activist organizing (Ciccia & Roggeband, 2021), and it is also a hallmark of intersectional feminism (Cole, 2008), which recognizes that structural inequalities operate along multiple axes of subjectivity (Taylor, 2017). For activists, coalitions can contribute to ideological and community diversity, but they can also be read as reflecting the scarcity of organizing resources (Chavez, 2013; Joseph, 2002). While digital technologies can facilitate some components of coalition building, they also run the risk of making these links seem or feel too thin to bear the weight of substantive activist work. As part of thinking through the feminist praxis of digital technologies, I want to ask, what does coalition work look like within activist groups, and also as they reach out to other collectives? Put another way, what are the intra- and inter-collaborations that take shape in activist coalition work? How do digital technologies make collaboration both more feasible and more difficult?
Jessa Lingel is an Associate Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and core faculty in the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her PhD in communication and information from Rutgers University. She has an MLIS from Pratt Institute and an MA in gender studies from New York University. Her research interests include digital inequalities and technological distributions of power. Using qualitative methods, Lingel studies how marginalized and countercultural groups use and reshape digital media. She is author of An Internet for the People: The Politics and Promise of craigslist (Princeton University Press 2020) and The Gentrification of the Internet: How to Reclaim Our Digital Freedom (University of California Press 2021).
Jessalynn Keller, “Feminist Internet Coalitions: Rethinking Aughts Feminist Blogging”
Popularized throughout the first decade of the 21st century, feminist blogging is often remembered as producing feminist writers and tastemakers well-known for their best-selling books, highly-circulated articles, and extensive public commentary. These (primarily) white women, the narrative goes, were central in making feminism popular and accessible into the 2010s. However, in this short talk I suggest a re-framing of aughts feminist blogging as a practice of coalitional politics that prioritized making lives out of feminist blogging, rather than making careers out of the practice. Drawing on interviews with aughts feminist bloggers I re-center the oft-overlooked contributions of women of colour bloggers who I argue intentionally built a fleeting feminist Internet in the 2000s that prioritized not only coalition, but safety, patience, and support.
Jessalyn Keller is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication, Media and Film at the University of Calgary, Canada. She is the author of Girls’ Feminist Blogging in a Postfeminist Age (Routledge 2015), co-editor of Emergent Feminisms: Complicating a Postfeminist Media Culture (Routledge 2018) and co-author of Digital Feminist Activism (Oxford University Press 2019). As the Muriel Gold Visiting Professor at McGill University in Fall 2023, Dr. Keller has been working on a new SSHRC-funded book project tracing cultural histories of the aughts feminist blogosphere.