Personalizing and de-centering

Isn't our new website pretty?  I'm really excited about it. Except that when I clicked on the blog page, I freaked out when I saw all of our staff/founder images, with little bits of information about us. In fact I freaked out so much that I called our web design team and begged them to take it down; it felt so exposing and self-important!  They suggested I write a blog post instead and ask some questions to y'all, so here's a stab... 


I often think about how to build community around the work we're doing without replicating (among other things) the cult of celebrity. That's a tall order in our culture, where even in progressive and radical communities, we often see the same few talking heads saying the same things. But if we're committed to real systemic change, I believe we have to reckon with this.

Here at Bitch, we've always tried to keep our individual profiles low. We're in this work because we're committed to real social change, not because we're seeking fame. 

At the same time, we obviously feel like we have important things to say and we want people to listen. We often have different perspectives and opinions on things. And we realize that for many people, putting faces to an organization sometimes makes them care more. That alone aids in building community. 

So we've responded to requests that we put ourselves out there a little more, talk about ourselves and what we encounter in our work and in our lives, give our opinions on various matters.

But sometimes it feels creepy and wrong. Instead of personalizing our work, sometimes I feel like we should be an anonymous Bitch brigade, faceless and nameless.  Because getting back to the root of what I see as our work, the idea of collective liberation, where does a concept like "fame," or even individual accomplishment fit?

Maybe it's internet culture that freaks me out. Maybe it's seeing my own name. Maybe I need a nap?  



by Debbie Rasmussen
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11 Comments Have Been Posted

Can it be all three?

<p>These are huge issues, so I think needing a nap doesn't mean that the questions you're raising aren't valid or important. I wrestle with this all the time, wanting recognition for my work while at the same time knowing that my desire for that it, at bottom, (mostly) petty—or at least it feels that way sometimes. But ambition—which is in part the drive to be recognized—also fuels important work. I'm not saying ambition always is or ever should be focused on fame or fame-like things. But sometimes the desire to make change and the desire to be known for the good work you've done are intertwined. Plus, when I think about my feelings about my intellctual, political, and artistic heroines, I am really gratified by the way they get recognized by the culture at large. So does recognition have to be self-aggrandizing? Can it be community-building as well?</p><p>Anyway, just some thoughts. </p>


I don't know. I think about ambition a lot in recent years, partly because it comes up a lot in yoga and meditation, two things I find very healing but also a total mindfuck at times. Partly because it comes up a lot in my work -- I meet a lot of people who, frankly, seem interested primarily in self-promotion and not the bigger picture. (That's not to say that I don't meet plenty of awesome and inspiring and humble and amazing folks, too, 'cause I do).

So maybe I'm unclear as to what exactly ambition is, but in my mind it just seems like one of those things to be unlearned, challenged...

behind the curtain

Hi Debbie,

Interesting ideas - I have never considered including personal information on a blog to be a play for fame. One of the things I love about blogging is the way that it has opened up opportunities for women (galadarling comes to mind as an example) to claim expert status through nothing other than the quality of their content. To me, this is similar to parts of feminist theory that validate women's experiences by saying "This is true because I feel it is true," and have that feeling/experience/idea count . I think there is also a huge connection for many women around the idea of story-telling. Through blogging, millions of women are telling their stories and reading other women's stories. Part of this reciprocity is built around a willingness to be transparent, to claim your identity and build relationships online.

My choice to blog ( came from a passion for a topic (fashion PR) and a desire for more information, to have questions answered. In doing so, I somewhat inadvertently became an "expert" in the field. In the beginning, I often wondered if I knew enough for assume this label. Instead, I wanted the blog to somehow exist apart from a lot of personal information from me. However, I realized that this came from a fear to stand behind my ideas and to say "this is me, this is what i think" and that was just unnacceptable! In addition, people who read and enjoyed the blog want to know about me - where I come from, what I believe in, what my dreams and goals are. And it makes sense, I have those same interests in fashion bloggers, fashion PR practitioners and the hundreds of blogs I read and follow daily.

My day job is as a web publicist, overseeing social media strategy for clients. I commend your web department for encouraging you to communicate your discomfort through the blogging medium as blogging and all social media efforts are about creating and participating in conversations. To me, including personal information has nothing to do with wanting to be famous or being self-important. Instead it is laying claim to your opinions and allowing your readers access into who you are. Everyone has a different level of comfort around how much they reveal about themselves online and being conservative (in this case!) is fine. I would just urge you to think about discussing the your blogging strategy with your web/pr/editorial team. Maybe it makes sense to have individual micro-blogs, maybe it doesn't. Maybe you have a weekly/monthly personal post around a certain subject, maybe you don't. However, developing a blog strategy might help you to be clearer about what is expected and what the plan is. I would also encourage you to come up with ideas to support bloggers who may have a greater comfort level than you - in this way you may be able to incorporate some video or images - everyone wants to know what it's really like to work at a mag like bitch!

Getting involved in social media can be a bit like walking around in your skivvies, especially with google indexing your every move. However, I believe that soocial media is breaking down the hard lines between work and play. For example, most employers recognize that you have a linkedin profileas on for social networking, and a Facebook page for friends and family. People are not expected to be as one-dimensional as they were before. We are all trying to work a balance between what we do and who we are.

By blogging with a stronger personal angle, you have the opportunity to directly engage in a much more meaningful way than through anonymity. I don't think that anyone would assume that by discussing the personal, you were in any way making it more important than all of the great work bitch does for social change.

To clarify, some of what I'm

To clarify, some of what I'm trying to get at is more abstract (yikes, how's that for a lead-off sentence trying to explain myself?).

A lot of my thoughts right now are also informed by what I've seen and been a part of in conversations in various communities I've traveled to lately, including communities that were "feminist" and/or "media justice" oriented. Unfortunately I have come across many instances in which it seems like an individual's ambition ultimately overshadowed what was originally being fought for -- assuming that was once a genuine part of it. In order for Bitch to be sustainable, in order for us to really build movement, this work has to be separate from the people driving it.

I definitely see what you're saying about standing behind one's opinions, but I just think we all need to be mindful. Digital culture, where many people spend a lot of time, often has strong threads of narcissism and self-centeredness.

The whole picture

I also think that including profiles helps to add to the 'whole picture' of a writer/artist etc. It gives context. It doesn't need to be a life story or a place to expose every last detail of your life (à la <a href=" Gould</a>), but when I learn a little bit about the other interests of an artist I like, the politics they care about and maybe a little about their upbringing--it often gives such a richer experience when I listen/read/watch.

A collective is not a monolith

I completely hear you on this one. But ultimately, I think that putting some aspects of your biography out there and speaking from personal experience is central to collective liberation. Collective efforts are not monoliths -- they are a group of individuals with different experiences and opinions working toward one goal (or series of goals). From a media perspective, I tend to think that both opinions and stories are more powerful when you understand <em>who</em> they're coming from. Putting your name and personality and background to something you've written is not necessarily a plea for fame or recognition (though, as Lisa says, aspects of that can creep in). More often, I think, it imbues your writing (and, I'd argue, your activism) with nuance and meaning. Is it scarier (and less private, thus potentially creepier) than being part of a nameless, faceless collective? Yeah. Absolutely. But I'd argue it can also be more powerful. When done in the right spirit, I think sharing how your biography informs your activism can actually encourage others to do the same, and can strengthen the collective whole.

Oh, and yes, the new site is very pretty! Congrats.

Thanks for these important

Thanks for these important reminders. I know part of my frustration lately is wondering what the hell our one goal -- or series of goals -- is, or should be. As I've mentioned in other posts, wondering where the conversations about class, poverty, and capitalism are taking place, or rather, why they're not taking place in more spaces. Wondering what language we should be using to carry out our work, what language we should leave behind. How we can be inclusive but still radical.

radical inclusivity?

"how we can be inclusive but still radical."

although perhaps this doesn't have a lot to do with the original post, i feel like it is a comment that really resonated with me. it is something that i have been thinking a lot about recently in my daily life/work and other recent blog posts (especially the one about marriage). where do we draw the line (if it was ever simple enough to just draw one clear line, that is)? how can we negotiate a movement that truly values the voices, experiences and self-determination of everyone, but which also challenges us to be actively addressing societal oppression in a way that is radical and safe? i don't know the answers to these questions, but i tend to believe that answers lie somewhere in community/collective accountability. in actively creating a safe space for people to share their stories, but also trusting that the community (however community is defined) will take responsibility for maintaining that safety. in a real and tangible way, where and in what ways does the "change" come in to social change work?

being radical and inclusive

Thanks, Emily, for beautifully articulating some of my own questions. And actually, it is related to my original post. It's all connected to individuals, their (multiple) communities, and the need for us to talk about what exactly we're doing in our political organizing work. The process as well as what's we're aiming for. Whose voices we're including.

It's difficult work when lines do, ultimately, need to be drawn and everyone has a different idea of where to draw them.

If i had known then....

Hi ! * brings over bottle of e wine and bottle of e sparkling cider*

Congrats on new digs.Shiny!

One of the things that I find out now that always trips me out, and I apologize to everyone when I jump at it

is when people call me famous

I almost always and hope I always do

Flip out.

The flipping out I hope , will keep me grounded

For me having my identity was about what it meant to be speaking with this identity.

I tended to mean in the term of intersectional identity and not ( as I introduced myself)

" Hi I'm BA! i set internet on fire . Ginger cookie?"

Identifying ourselves individually when speaking of social change isn't the problem I feel, that often is part of our strength individuals , making choices to band together.

I think the problem comes in is when we do it the otehr way around where our personal choices become something we think needs to be supported defacto to validate teh communities we claim.

cookies and cider

sometimes, too, i forget to laugh. the e sparkling cider and ginger cookie made me laugh, as did the image of a flaming internet. i mean lol, tho those 3 letters are part of what scares me about internet culture.

sometimes it seems like the personal is political has been turned upside down, inside out.

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