So many powerful pieces to cover in the wake of the horrifying shootings in Santa Barbara on Friday night–to me, the most critical issue here is not to call this event a lone-gunman kind of tragedy, but rather the shocking result of a blend of cultures that glorify both violence and a horrendous version of American masculinity that is impossible for men and people on the masculine spectrum to uphold. They are breaking apart–not because feminism is pulling them down, but because our collective cultural response to a feminist worldview that celebrates all genders is to blame things like this on the “feminizing” of our culture.
I ache, deeply, for a world where men, boys and masculine folk are released from the cultural constructs that are tearing them up, as much as I wish the same for women, girls, feminine and androgynous folk. Elevating the status of women is not a zero-sum game: everyone does better, when everyone does better, as Jim Hightower’s dad has said.
Now, your required reading: Read more →
There’s a lot of talk about the extreme polarization of public, and specifically, political discourse as we ramp up into the final, could-not-be-over-soon-enough months of the US presidential race. I’m always skeptical when there are claims that we are more polarized than ever, but I have certainly noticed a ramp-up in ideological spewing on social networks that has even lifelong-activist me wondering, “Can’t we all just get along?”
That’s right! Me, who never wins anything! Planned Parenthood awards all kinds of designations each year, and for my work on Planned Parenthood Saved Me, they’ve given me their first-ever 2012 Social Media award. I’m honored!
Here are the remarks I shared at the award luncheon today:
First, thank you Planned Parenthood, not only for your health care and advocacy, but for championing women without fail, with what seems like without compromise. That’s rare in our political climate. Planned Parenthood has successfully negotiated that emotional connection we all feel to the work they do, whether that’s through their clinics or their advocacy, and turned it into a relationship. They’ve embraced social media, both their own properties and the wider world’s conversations.
But also, I’m sharing this award with all the women who shared their stories on Planned Parenthood Saved Me. It’s a crying shame that we live in a world where this is an act of bravery, but that’s what it was. The women that said, “I would have bled to death if it weren’t Planned Parenthood,” or “Planned Parenthood’s staff were the only people who understood me after I was assaulted,” or “Planned Parenthood found my cancer.” That’s what you do. That is your work, and we thank you.
Which is the last thing I want to share– I really want people to understand that PP Saved Me blew up not because Rachel Maddow read from it on her show, or that it was in the Washington Post and a dozen other major major outlets. More than half the traffic to the site came before any major media mention, and that traffic came from Facebook, Twitter & Tumblr.
Women sharing their stories with one another made the difference her. Our stories matter, more than ever.
If you want to learn more about how the Planned Parenthood Saved me campaign worked, check out this 10-minute talk I gave at Personal Democracy Forum: “Don’t Mess with Our Boobs: Ad-Hoc Networks and Online Power.“
You would think that social media as a journalistic and political tool would have gotten far enough into mainstream, regular use that we would collectively be avoiding glaring mistakes at this juncture. But no, all it takes is a major national event that all kinds of people would be paying attention to–like, say, the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare, combined with our culture’s obsession with “first!“, and the power of Internet tools to capture the moment.
There is no such thing as a pure meritocracy.
Every few months, it seems like, when the Internet gets its big knickers on and does something righteous, invariably, someone somewhere gets up on a stage and declares that anyone, if the idea is good enough, can be successful on the Internet. Whether that’s a business plan, a political campaign or a cultural meme: you, too, can make it big. It’s our American rugged individualism, intertwined with what looks like an open digital frontier, all packaged up into an utopian bliss for the new century.
What’s true is that more people than ever have access to information, tools and networks that make things happen. And while the news often covers the darker sides of connective technologies like the Internet and mobile devices becoming mainstream, there’s plenty of good to celebrate. Look at just this past week in Internet do-gooding: A video showing a school bus monitor being gut-wrenchingly harassed by 13-year-old boys until she cried sparked a fundraising campaign for her, one that’s now reached over $650,000.
Where things go awry in the analysis of these kinds of situations is two-fold: one, that there is a secret to making something “go viral” (short answer: there isn’t), and two, anyone can create explosive story at any time if the story has merit. If you’re good enough and smart enough, doggone it, people will like you. And you will win the Internet.
The back story: Long ago, when Rick Santorum was campaigning and working on several extremely socially conservative agendas in Pennsylvania, advice columnist Dan Savage launched a (pretty fun) campaign to change the search results for Santorum’s name. Go over to Spreading Santorum for the full story, but for a long time, that was the #1 result when you searched for Santorum.
Now that Santorum is a candidate, the site has gotten more attention again, but it’s fallen in the ranking of search results. Already people are claiming that Santorum successfully pressured Google to change its results and drop the Spreading site. I doubt this is true for a variety of reasons.
1. Google may cave to political pressure in other countries (albeit with some transparency about why, how and how it can be tracked), but I do have a really hard time believing that they’d do something like this for a US candidate for president. It would be a PR nightmare, and they know it.
2. There’s a lot more linkage to Santorum’s own candidacy site, his Wikipedia page and other more official sites than ever before. This is going to affect everyone’s search results to some degree, in part because of the timing. I’m sure a lot of the links to Spreading Santorum are older, and the links to the official pages are newer. This changes search results to reflect the current state of the web as it grows/evolves.
3. Finally, there’s the issue that all of our search results are individualized, based on our prior search history, our social connections in places like Google+, and much more. If I google “Deanna,” I’m the 3rd most popular Deanna in the world. If someone else who doesn’t know me, who doesn’t have a connection to me, googles “Deanna,” they might not see me. (Before personalized search results, I was at least in the top ten, haha.) So in this case, when I google “Santorum,” it’s still result #4 for me. That might not be true for others.
Just another day clarifying before we totally run down the rabbit hole of technology conspiracies. :-)
There are a lot of ways to cover the Komen/PP firestorm–too many, in fact. For the purposes of my work here, I’m going to focus on what made this brouhaha different than any other concerning Planned Parenthood, the lessons learned if you’re on the defensive, and the lessons learned if you’re on the offensive.