Their Bad Mother

A few years ago, I had the amazing opportunity to chat with Gloria Steinem. Yes, that Gloria Steinem. We – she and I and some other bloggers – talked about the Internet and blogging and whether social media could change the world. It was a pivotal moment for me, because although I had been writing about feminism and social justice and the like from time to time – and although I had, once upon a time, actually written a thesis on the power of new media to effect change – I’d never given the question of whether what I was doing – little ol’ me, blogging – could make a difference. She convinced me. And so I have, since then, devoted a considerable chunk of my blogging energies to social purpose.

I’m in Chicago this morning, speaking on this very subject. I’ll be focusing my discussion, in part, on this ongoing project, but this is only one in a series of efforts that began with that chat with Gloria and the inspiration that spiraled out from there, so I thought that I might revisit – and continue to revisit, here – that journey. You know, to keep that inspiration going.

Here’s where it started…

I’m not easy to impress.

That sounds pissy and arrogant, I know. But it’s true. Celebrities
don’t impress me (which is not to say that I wouldn’t shriek a little
bit if I brushed sleeves with Josh Holloway, but that would be more
because of his lickability than his impressive acting ability). I’ve
encountered enough of them to know that they are usually shorter and
uglier and far less pleasant in person than they appear onscreen. And
in any case, the ability to stand in front of a camera and look
surprised/scared/vague has never struck me as particularly impressive.

Sure, there are many talented and accomplished actors out there, as
there are talented and accomplished musicians and athletes and
comedians (um, Jon Stewart? Dave Chapelle?) and astrophysicists.
Indeed, there are talented men and women in every field imaginable. But
they are, still, just ordinary men and women and I’d need a bit more
information about them before I could count myself well and truly
impressed. Are they thoughtful? Intelligent? Passionate? Do they care
about things other than themselves? Do they try to make a meaningful,
considered difference in the world? (And no, driving a Prius doesn’t
count here.) Are they good people, in the most nuanced and
comprehensive sense of that word?

(I should note that I make special exceptions for people who
make extraordinary contributions to their field or to world history.
Picasso was an ass, Hemingway killed things and Mother
Teresa tended to excessive dogmatism – but to say that these
individuals were merely impressive would be gross understatement.)

My sense is that the stock of impressiveness of most of the more
famous people in the world wouldn’t hold up under such interrogation.
But (and I assure you that this is not shameless ass-kissing) many of
you ­- my virtual peers and friends – would. Which is one of the reasons why I’ve
become so committed to our little corner of the blogosphere: it’s a
space full of intelligent, literate people who love their children
deeply and who are passionately committed to doing the best possible
job raising those children and to doing what they can to make the world
a better place for those children.

It’s revolutionary, as some have already said. And it’s impressive. You are impressive. Really impressive.

And you know what? Gloria Steinem thinks so, too.

She said so. On the telephone.

As part of an effort to promote a new media project (Greenstone Media: radio for women by women) that she is involved with, I was invited to participate in a conference call with Ms. Steinem and a handful of other bloggers.
She said a number of amazing, insightful, and inspirational things (as
one would expect from one of the founders of the contemporary feminist
movement) – some of which I’ll try to address in posts over the coming
week or two – and she totally knocked my socks off and made me want to
be a better feminist.

And by far the coolest thing that she said was this:
that she saw the women (and many of the men) of the blogosphere as
being at the forefront of a new kind of revolutionary movement. A
movement wherein we really talk to one another, and listen to one
another. A movement wherein the highest premium is placed on telling
the truth, and deriving inspiration and power from the truth. A
movement that we further with every post that we write, with every
supportive comment that we leave, with every empowering conversation
that we spark and fuel and fan to a blaze. Our movement.

But she also said this: never forget that such a movement, based as
it is on dialogue and debate, can only ever be a support for action. It
cannot replace action. Don’t cocoon in your blogosphere, she said.
Don’t mistake speaking or writing for acting. Don’t just talk: do.

So with that in mind, I have an assignment for
you: write a post about a cause that you are
passionate about. Provide links and information and guidance for people
to actually follow up on your post and take some sort of action: where
can they make a donation? Sign a petition? Volunteer? How can they help
promote your cause? Use this post as a catalyst for action – make it
your mission to show, in whatever small way, how the blogosphere can
support real action in support of real causes. It doesn’t have to be
big – you don’t have a start a fundraising drive from your blog
(although that would be cool), you just need to make a stab at showing
how writing/speaking/blogging can support action. If you have already
promoted a cause through your blog, or do so on an ongoing basis (as I
know may of you do), simply provide me with some relevant links and a
description of what you’ve been up to in the comments. Ditto if you
know of someone else with a cause: do a post or post a comment with
links and info. Then, as always, I’ll compile the posts, etc. etc. and
we shall be a beacon of light, a chorus of voices – cue choir – and we
will have Done Something and will be Doing Something in addition to All This Talk. And we’ll be even more impressive.

And Gloria will be proud.

The result of this rah-rah Just DO Something rally? This wonderful avalanche of posts. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about how the Steinem-inspired Call To Action led to more wonderful projects, and how this all coalesced into ‘Giving Good Blog.’

PS: that ‘Just Do/Write Something’ blogging assignment was a few years ago, but if you’re inspired by it, feel free to take it on. If you do, send me the link – I’d love to read it, and add you to my list of bloggers who ‘give good blog.’

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