By Daniela Meza
My space, the “I Am a Feminist” group on the site ExperienceProject.com, is not a feminist of color space because of select individuals who inhabit the space in order to disrupt conversations and purposely offend female participants. Although the site is set up with the intention to create community between feminists, their continual disruption of the community makes it difficult for other members to participate without fear of being attacked and dismissed as “man-hating” feminists. There is then a lack of activity from other members on most posts, especially once the offenders have commented on them. Because of lack of rules of control and engagement, it is difficult to rectify these situations that create unsafe spaces. As users, we cannot eliminate other users from the group no matter how offensive they are to the community as long as they do not threaten our livelihood. Because of this, the numerous reports users have sent in have gone ignored by EP because the disrupters behavior does not technically violate EP’s rules of engagement.
As an active member of Tumblr, Zoey’s study on Tumblr interested me because of my own experience and in comparison to my site. I am interested in thinking about Tumblr’s ability to foster diverse types of communities. It makes sense to me that, as Zoey said, it is a microcosm that can represent a variety of positions and subjectivities, political or apolitical, because of the diverse community of Tumblr participants and its abstract nature. You don’t see every participants’ contributions to the site once you enter, instead you selectively consume its content according to your interests. This enables you to select the community you want to be a part of, a key difference from the space I inhabit on the Experience Project. Because it is as easy as clicking “unfollow,” Tumblr participants do not have to endure the antagonism of members who manifest their disagreement in offensive and aggressive way, like EP’s members do. Therefore, the ability to filter, include and exclude content ant members from your participation on a site becomes a part of the construction of a unified, safe community. While the ability to filter is not a requirement to create a safe feminist of color online space, it definitely helps weed out unproductive/hostile users whose purpose is to disrupt, and consequently, destroy a community.
I can express these ideas on my site because I do not fear the feedback I get. My site enables me to post whatever I want without getting removed. However, my ability to post/share my thoughts does not lead to a productive contribution to the community because of the lack of activity and fear/frustration from the users. While people may read my post, most will not comment/participate in conversation because of the disrupters who inhabit the space.
For my ethnography, should I choose to continue on EP, I would ask my participants what components of EP make it difficult to participate as a feminist and what/how they would change about EP in order to make it a site of productive engagement between its members. Is it even possible to create any sort of coherent, safe space on EP as it is? Have they experienced any satisfying community building on any of EP’s groups? Which experiences are the most memorable/common?