AL 893B: TBINAA Content Intern

This WordPress.com site is the cat’s pajamas

Month: June, 2013

Privilege

On Wednesday, I met with Sonya and two of my fellow interns (Rachel C. and Sally) via Google Hangout to talk about our progress thus far, learn how to use TBINAA’s Tumblr, and divvy up the next round of content weeks.

According to Sonya, TBINAA’s Tumblr has regularly added four or five followers per day with spikes around an article of Rachel C.’s (The Curiously Oppressive Power of Positive Thinking) and an article of mine (The Body Positivity Paradox: Shaming the Thin Body). Apparently my article demonstrated that there was a place for people who hadn’t known whether they were welcome at TBINAA’s table or not, which I feel really good about. Our mission is to be radically inclusive, so actually showing people that they’re included is pretty awesome.

Then we were given a quick tutorial on how to publish stuff on TBINAA’s Tumblr. My main takeaways from that were login information and tagging strategies. The login stuff is pretty basic, but the tagging strategies are slightly more complex. The first tag should always be “the body is not an apology” but then basically Sonya wants us to think outside the box when we’re tagging our posts and try to pull in as big an audience as possible. For example, a post may focus on weight, but we know that weight issues disproportionately affect women, so we could tag “women,” things like that.

My next content week will begin July 8. Because we’ll now be posting articles, links, and videos on our own now, I made sure to ask Sonya whether she still wants us to run our content by her first. She does, and she requested that we give her two days’ lead time so she’ll have enough time to carefully consider our material—so my Monday post should be to her by next Saturday.

Speaking of, I’ve done a bunch of reading since the last time I posted and have decided to go with privilege as the theme of my next week of content. I landed on this theme in part because I read a really engaging article, The Distress of the Privileged, that sensitively addresses how the privileged (read, usually straight-white-Christian, often men) might react to what they see as threats to their lifestyles. This accounts for things like Men’s Rights Activists and Christian pushback regarding marriage equality. The note that the article ends on—“Ultimately, the privileged need to be won over. Their sense of justice needs to be engaged rather than beaten down. The ones who still want to be good people need to be offered hope that such an outcome is possible in this new world”—struck me as incredibly important to our movement.

Additionally, I’ve read a few things about Christian privilege and able privilege recently that pointed out things I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. (I’ve experienced my fair share of Christian privilege, though I’ve never thought of it as particularly harmful; I realized that a lot of words I regularly use are ableist [crazy, bipolar, lame]). Since my audience should be interested in being as inclusive and sensitive as possible, I hope that they’ll react similarly to these ideas and see that they’re taking things for granted that other people experience differently.

I also ran the theme by Sonya, who said that she “really like[s] the idea of exploring privilege. It is a great dialogue to begin unpacking intersectional identities and how we might hold one privilege and be under privileged in a different area.” My next step is to do a lot more research and get busy formulating what my week is going to look like, particularly because Sonya wants our weeks to build coherent narratives.

Radical Inclusiveness

I haven’t run this past Sonya yet, but I think that I want my next content week to revolve around radical inclusiveness. TBINAA already addresses a few intersectionalities, but I think that we could address a lot more—there’s rarely, if ever, anything specifically for trans* people or indigenous people; we don’t generally talk about things men might experience differently; there’s not much acknowledgment of the vast variety of people that the acronym “POC” encompasses. In short, we’re not nearly inclusive enough.

I’m a little bit wary of taking this topic on because I know that there’s a lot I don’t know. My embodiment, of course, affects how I perceive and talk about particular issues, so, although I want to cover things like experiences that indigenous people might have, I don’t feel qualified to do so. And I don’t want to be offensive.

One of the ways I’m thinking about trying to acknowledge and circumvent that issue is to conceive of my position as one of opening a conversation rather than one of providing information. So I might find a few Tumblrs that provide opposing viewpoints on an issue and ask my audience to engage with me on the topic: What do you think about this issue? Are your thoughts molded by the identities you claim? If so, how?

This is where I’m really seeing that being a professional writer is important. Rhetorical analysis is difficult because I can surmise things about my audience based on their reactions to past posts (both my own and others’), but I can’t know all the identities that my audience members may claim. And I don’t know if saying particular things or asking for feedback on particular topics will alienate them.

For example, I’d like to write an article about marginalized groups reclaiming or appropriating slurs that they’ve been called as a way of taking back or enforcing their agency. (In said article, I’d talk about things like women reclaiming slut in things like Slut Walks, gays reclaiming queer and using it to self-identify, people with disabilities reclaiming cripple to talk about themselves, and fat people reclaiming fat in place of euphemisms like chubby or full-figured. Of course, not all people in each of these groups uses those words that way—I wouldn’t be making blanket statements but rather pointing out instances.) Because, despite the old adage, words have a lot of power, and I think that reclaiming or appropriating words that used to have so much negative power can be really, well, empowering.

My worry is that, since I’m not part of some of these groups, my opinions of these reclamations might be acceptable in academic or theoretical contexts but still harmful on the ground. So if, after I run this by Sonya, she approves, I’ll have to be really careful about the assumptions I make and how I go about defining the terms I’m planning to define. Outside of that, I need to find engaging outside sources—spoken word poetry on YouTube, memes, stuff like that—relating to the theme. Should be doable.

Reflect

Unfortunately, my boss didn’t actually end up posting my last article—I was kind of expecting that, but it was still frustrating, particularly because I thought that what I wrote was really relevant and had the potential to elicit a lot of engagement. I’m not sure I’ll be able to reuse the article either, so that content may just disappear, though I’m considering asking Sonya if I can post it on my personal blog since she didn’t use it for TBINAA. (I’m actually not sure where ownership lies as far as what I write for TBINAA but doesn’t get used. Definitely something to look into.

All told, during my first week of content: 3 out of the 4 articles I submitted were posted; 0 out of 2 pictures were posted; 0 out of 1 item was reblogged; 0 out of 2 links to a video and a project were posted. It’s frustrating because, especially compared to the exposure and enthusiasm that other interns have merited, I feel like I’m the odd one out. To be fair, I know that Sonya was traveling during my content week, so maybe what feels to me like neglect was actually just her being busy. Still, though, it’s difficult not to be frustrated because she’s the gatekeeper to how much exposure I can get.

I did email Sonya at the end of my week asking if she might be available to talk sometime soon to touch base on how my first week of content went, but she hasn’t gotten back with me yet. Not surprising, but, again, off-putting.

My next task, now that my first content week is over, is to figure out what theme my next content week will revolve around and start researching what I’ll write about, link to, and try to promote. Honestly, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about body positivity, feminism, dis/ability, and so on, but I’m not sure what I’ll actually settle on. The topic I feel most able to write about it definitely fat-related stuff, but I worry that others in our demographic will feel left out. (Which is part of the reason I wrote about shaming thin bodies during my first content week.) I want to be inclusive, but I’m not confident I’ll be able to write about identities other than my own.

For example, I think it would be interesting to write about/explore issues surrounding indigenous peoples, minorities, trans*, and other nonnormative (and largely ignored, even in body positivity movements) bodies. I’m afraid, though, that I’ll get it wrong and just end up alienating the audience members who might claim those identities while also tarnishing TBINAA’s image. Beyond that, I’m not sure I could sustain that topic for a week, given that I’m not anywhere near an expert, I’m not familiar with resources, etc. This is a place where I’ll probably contact Sonya—I’m only slightly apprehensive about emailing her too much—and see what she thinks.

Content: Week 1

First week of content almost complete! So far, three of my articles have been posted on TBINAA’s Tumblr and cross-posted to Facebook and Twitter. (It looks like I’ll have one more article posted tomorrow and that’ll be that.) Here’s a breakdown of engagement by post:

Posted 5/27
“Valuing the Body as Subject: Empowering Embodiment”
Tumblr notes: 33
Facebook likes: 28
Facebook comments: 5
Facebook shares: 12

Update 7/10
Tumblr notes: 35
Facebook likes: 28
Facebook comments: 5
Facebook shares: 12

Posted 5/29
“XOJane’s Fabulous ‘How Not To Be A Dick’ Series: Seeing Others as Subject”
Tumblr notes: 8
Facebook likes: 8
Facebook comments: 3
Facebook shares: 1

Update 7/10
Tumblr notes: 15
Facebook likes: 8
Facebook comments: 3
Facebook shares: 1

Posted 5/31
“The Body Positivity Paradox: Shaming the Thin Body”
Tumblr notes: 50
Facebook likes: 127
Facebook comments: 20
Facebook shares: 48

Update 7/10
Tumblr notes: 63
Facebook likes: 131
Facebook comments: 20
Facebook shares: 50

(The first post, “Valuing the Body as Subject,” was intended to be my big contribution this week, but obviously “The Body Positivity Paradox” trumped it as far as reach goes.)

This week has taught me a lot that I wasn’t exactly expecting. First, the internship looks different on the ground than it does on paper. Though I sent my boss a total of 5 blog posts’ worth of content, 2 photos to be used on Facebook, 1 link to a video, and 1 link to a project TBINAA followers would be interested in, only 3 of the blog posts have actually been used. (The rest, to be fair, will probably show up sometime in the future.) It’s not necessarily that I have a problem with my material being edited or omitted, I just hadn’t fully realized that that would happen.

Second, the spacing of those three posts has been different than I’d thought it would be. My boss received four days of content by Tuesday, but the articles were posted Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Which, again, is fine—my boss is incredibly busy, she was traveling this week, etc. But I realized that, since she controls what’s posted, I’m dependent on her to disseminate my work. It’s humbling to have my exposure in someone else’s hands.

Third, the varying engagement with my content surprised me. My first post was based in no small part on ideas born out of my final project in 841, so it was more academic than the others; I wasn’t expecting an explosion of love about it, but it was really really heartening to see comments like, “This is written/worded so perfectly” and “Brilliant writing and so true.”

My second post was basically a redirect to a great series that illustrates the embodiments of lots of different kinds of people. As is clear from the stats above, there wasn’t too much engagement with that post; one comment on it asked, perhaps a bit pointedly, why “an organisation who maintains they support self love and body empowerment [is] encouraging the use of the word ‘dick’ as a negative and stigmatised term?” and went on to say that doing so “[s]eems like a double standard…” I was kind of floored by this response because, well, that thought hadn’t crossed my mind but also because a woman wrote the comment. Who knows.

So then, after the rather lackluster reception of the second post, the third post’s relative popularity was pretty awesome. Commenters said things like, “I have waited for an article like this for so long…Thank you, My Body is not an Apology, for sharing this. It means so much to me on my own journey to self love” and “thank the fucking lord for this article! people need to read this and TAKE IT IN!” Which was great for me to see.

My boss will hopefully post the last article, “What’s Beauty Got To Do With It?”, tomorrow. In it, I talk about how “beauty” as the go-to for body empowerment language doesn’t go far enough because it still objectifies. (When beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there always has to be a beholder.) Let’s see how that goes over!