Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Identity and Obligation panel, BlogHer Day Two

[Liveblog cleaned up a bit, with links. Please correct me if I got something wrong.]

Maria Niles: We want to hear everyone's input. Intros. Then hear from audience.

Dawn Rouse: I'm Doing the Best I Can, True Wife Confessions, and my Club Mom blog, Gimlet Eye. I am the wife of a black man with a PhD from Detroit. *audience: woo! go black man!* I'm starting my Phd at McGill. We just moved to Canada July 1st. I blog about just about everything in my family. I talk about racial issues, gender issues, my depression, finding my way as a woman, feeling angry sometimes. What I don't do is I don't represent black America. My role is to be a white ally. And to testify to the things I have seen as. As the wife of a black man in America. Driving across the border... My husband was stopped. And I photodocumented it. The cop was sure my husband was a Guyanese smuggler. I have to be aware. I have to educate my daughter. I need to find her black women, women of color mentors who can help her understand things that I as a white woman never knew. When I walked with my husband into a restaurant for the first time and everyone looked at us... "Oh."

Karen Walrond - Chookooloonks. Wow. I started writing it about 2 and a half years ago, when me and my husband were matched with the person who was going to become my daughter's birth mother. It was to keep family members up to date with the adoption process. Prospective adoptive families have a voracious appetite for information about adoption. So it's become this big blog. My daughter is now with us and it's less of an adoption blog and more of a mommyblog now. I then got an opportunity to work in my homeland of Trinidad and Tobago. We all packed up and moved south. It's very text intensive but I also do a lot of photography of our lives on the site. I do talk about the adoption. We are in contact with my daughter's birth mother but I don't feel it's my right to tell her story. She can tell that story if she wants to, or my daughter can, that's her story. What don't talk about is, I don't talk about race. I am in an interracial marriage. I'm Trini, my husband is white and British. So an intercultural marriage too. The photos are there, the stories are there. It's up to other people to make their own reading. (Karen jokes about her nondescript north-america accent and then bilingually goes into her Trini accent.)

Maria: My name is Maria and I am a caffeine addict. It's not malt liquor. *audience laughter* I'm here to represent the people who feel that you have no obligation to represent, individually. Collectively, we should support those who do call out and represent! That's why I support BlogHer. The community is important. But I will point out the fabulous women who represent. I have 2 blogs, I use my real name. I have no picture of myself on there. My sense is my obligation is to the readers to talk about marketing to consumers and that's it. My other blog, I use a pseudonym. The name is Wag, so it has no gender. I have no pictures. I talk about my dogs, funny stories, cute little chihuahuas. Every once in a while, I talk about race. I am an undercover black woman. I'm a 44 year old black woman. Yes, that is my story. If I told you I was a 44 year old black woman, you would think of Oprah. I am not Oprah. I wouldn't mind her money... *audience laughter* I don't want to set those preconceptions. Again, I think it's incredibly important to respect black women who are out there on the blogophere. Yes both my parents are black. My dad is from the islands. My mom is descended from slaves, we know our family history, it's a famous story. So I'm not only black, I'm militant black. People think I'm white, so they feel the need to share their feelings about people of color to me and their racist thoughts.

Carmen Van Kerchove. My friend and partner Jen Chao. Blog is Mixed Media The name has become meaningless, we're going to rename it. It started as a watchdog organization to see how media covers mixed race and interracial marriages and start letter writing campaigns. Now it's kind of lost the watchdog part. Things have gotten better. Today it's more about the intersection of race and pop culture. We talk aobut Barbara Walters who keeps reaching out to pet black women's hair... Angelina Jolie and her baby collecting... anythin and everything to do with race and pop culture. Podcast is called Addicted to Race. Jen and I discussing recent news stories. This is the awesome thing about doing a podcast - you get to connect with people you really admire. Academics, writers, Octavia Butler... We had an interview with her. Jen and I are both women of mixed white and asian parentage. We are very open about that. We don't necessarily talk a lot about our personal lives. We definitely are very open about who we are. Our racial identity and how people react to us. We used to have a section on the podcast called Racial Spy. Things people say when they don't know you're in that ethnic group. No fake stupid celebration of "diversity" ... *audience laughter* And be critical but constructive.

Marisa Treviño. I'm a racial spy. From my appearance people don't know. The latina voice is very underrepresented in the mainstream press. When blogs started I thought, my god, this is my chance to get those stories out into the world. I started my blog, Latina Lista. Lista means smart, ready, intelligent, triple-meanings. I started Latina Lista with stories about Latina women. As the immigration debate has heated up, my boundaries I set for myself had to be broadened. and now a lot of Latinas are reading me and commenting. And I speak from the Latina perspective, from the female perspective. I'm more of a journalist on my site. I'm infusing my opinion into currentt events, but not blogging about my personal life. I don't post pictures. There are some crazy people out there. With the exception of one person commenting in a negative way, it's positive on there. Stories don't get national press. I do talk about race all the time. I do talk about my gender.

Maria: I want to comment on what you just said about negative perpectives, trolls. Particularly with some black women in the blogosphere I know they have backed off blogging because of the incredible negative pressure that comes with blogging. Tiffany Brown has stopped blogging at [Hmmm - I just looked, and there's a post August 1.] Nubian of Blackademic has said she will stop blogging because of this... Tiffany is raising her hand. When we had the post on Blogher, Lisa Stone talked about difficult . . . [I missed this part]

[Ooooo. I see that Nubian also has linked up to the Black Weblog Awards! Everyone go nominate their faves! - Liz]

Tiffany: When you said you were gonna "call me out" last night I didn't know you meant putting a mic in my face. *audience laughter* I'm really open, maybe too open. People misconstrue what I am because of what I write. I'm college educated, uipper middle class, etc. Issues in context of larger society. I"m okay with that. People seem to project their own beliefs about who I am or who I should be on to what I write and it's kind of disturbing at times.

Karen Walrond: I was speaking with [Fizzle] earlier today. It's been interesting to meet people I know through their blogs. I'm not a very open blogger. There are people far more open about their lives than I am. But what you see in front of you is pretty much what you get. I don't have a different voice online as I do in real life. But some of the people are very different from what I expected from their writing. One person who's very out there on her blog. An "in your face person" online. And in person is very soft spoken. And the reverse is also true, reserved people online who are then like, "HI!!!". *audience laughter* I'm trying to steer away from the word "honest." How much you use your blog to represent what you don't in your "real life" persona.

Laurie Toby Edison: I'm still on the first question. I've been out about this identity, queer, etc. but now it's age that makes me uncomfortable. I make a point of saying it. I'm 64. People's faces just change. They shut down. I'm uncomfortable. Because of the way I operate in the world, I try to be really clear about it, on my blog Body Impolitic. But personally I'm very private. But the blog's been there for about a year and I'm finding myself talking more personally than I expected.

Maria: I want to also throw back in this question, "Are you obligated?" If you're a particular race, gender, faith, to represent, so that the other people out there know that there's not just one face.

Lauren - I'm in college, and my parents read my blog. As a Southern woman, well, ask a Southern woman about her mother and wait 3 hours because that's how long it will take. My mom doesn't call me. She'll read it and call my dad and I'll get a call from him. I get reallly irritated I have to censor myself for my family. And for people in my hometown and who then construe from there what I'm doin. And as a Christian it's difficult for me to lead an authentic life and then stay accountable. I'll get really boring. What I usually do, sitting around eating Sunchips and watching TV with my cat. But I run into situations where I have to be accountable to people. It's the nature of the beast with my age.

Karen Walrond: I think you really hit on something there. My parents read my blog. I find I'm very careful of, ... "Why am I doing this, it's my blog, it's my space..." but on the other hand thinking of the people who read and visit me. But about adoption. It's an incredible emotional rollercoaster. It's not fun. It's very draining, soul-searching. Especially in open adotpion. You have this person [the genetic/birth mother] who's always going to be part of your life.

Maria Niles: Obligation? Marisa?

Marisa: I'm really getting the sense at Blogher there are different kinds of blogs. Sometimes the only way to get a conversation going is to challenge the assumptions people make. I do that every day on my blog.

Carmen: I don't feel an obligation but I choose to do it. I hate it, pet peeve is hearing parents of mixed-race children saying how their child will be a bridge between cultures. that's kind of horrendous to put that on your kid. ... Feedback from a person who listens to the show. I'm assuming a he. "You guys talk a lot on your podcast about negative stereotypes of asian men. But do either of you actuallyk date asian men?" And we ended up on a big rant. People read a lot into your own family, your relationships, the race of your partner becomes a political thing, people assume it's where your politics lie. I just wanted to bring up the whole "race of your partner" thing.

Christy Keith . Hi my name's Christy Keith and I dunno, am I the only lesbian in this room?

SCREAMS from audience: NOOOOOOO!!!!! *wild waving hands*

Christy Keith of I got into some painful stuff around the time of the election at DailyKos and other boy blogs, the abstract discussion of marriage as if it's some kind of abstract trading card. do not talk about my life and my civil rights as if they don't exist... that drove me off those forums. People don't understand to have people look you in the eye and say to you to shut up, stop pushing stop talking shut up, stop being so fucking uppity because it... I got so angry. So angry and inarticulate. It upsets me too much. That has been one of the most consistent identity issues for me. People assuming heterosexuality unless informed otherwise drives me insane. People assuming it's a political abstracton when it's your heart and life. People assuming... My friend whose lover died of AIDS in Italy b/c they couldn't marry and he couldnt move back home and get the medical care. There is no way to make this a legal issue. It's a moral issue. That has been my big identity issue. I come out on my blog every week practically. * general laughter* I also write on a music blog. "We don't write about dance music." I asked why? i could not get them to say it but it was because dance music is GAY. I sneak some pet shop boys into it... *audience laughter*

*general applause for Christy*

Dawn Rouse: One of the things I write about is invisibility. When you're white and middle class you don't even realize you have this privilege. So i say who i am. I need to say. Every day.

Maria: What community do you get out of representing? How has it changed your world?

Dawn: I wanted other white people to know it wasn't okay to be sneaky racists with me. I want to make it known I am an ally.

Marisa: By putting "Latina" in the title of my blog, I attract readers who aren't necessarily Latina or Latino but who believe in the cause of giving a voice...

Carmen: Mixed race black man talking to us... this post went up... a professor at Rutgers came across us, and I teach this course on Africana literature. Maybe he would be interested in signing up for this class. That's a very small example.

Amanda - I'm a researcher and study blogs and also blog pseudonymously on the side. We don't have just have one identity, we have multiple identities. The audience makes assumptions, we still have to present ourselves one way, we might present differently to our moms, our bosses, our best friends, to people we don't know. That's what we're all butting up against when we feel we can't say something and yet it's important to say it.

[*I cheer loudly for the multiple blog identities!!!* And I'm thinking of a response Iria Puyosa made recently to a post of mine... ]

Karen Walrond: The blog allows us to choose to represent in one way. I sort of disagree with this. When Elisa was writing this up for BlogHer she said I don't feel an obligation to represent. I represent all the time just by being who I am. I do represent the fact that I'm black even though I don't write about it. (Story of new york blogger writing to her.) We do represent just by being online. I don't write about race and my interracial marriage on purpose. If you're a racist and you're against "miscegenation" then you're going to click away anyway.

Tish Grier: I blog at Love, Hope, Sex, and Dreams, Corante, The Constant Observer. I'm extremely militant about being 45 and a short little Italian woman and not wanting to go on Botox. *audience laughter* As I got older I found "myself" represented more and more as a pathetic stereotype. It's important to bring thse parts out in any way we can. Whether it's by keeping multiple blogs - because men don't link to my personal blog. But as I got higher profile I had to stop writing about personal things and my sex life. Because its "unprofessional" and I had to stop being me, to a degree. And it's interesting not doing that. But the best community are the people who read the personal blog. What they say and how they relate. Especially around weight. It's important. Pop culture is very limited. Skinny, white, under 34. How many of us in this room is this?

Kety Esquivel: I"m with I'm a progressive Christian. As a Christian with that identity I have an obligation. It has repercussions throughout the world. It's the rightist extremists doing significant damage. I'm an activist to reclaim the faith. As a Latina, as a Christian, as a woman. These three identities, if you look at the progressive faith movement, they're men and theiy're white and they really don't want women of color who are young to be involved. It's a very personal choice whether or not we're going to represent. Just because we were born... we don't have to, and yet I think it's very powerful when we choose to. As a Latina we're not seeing that many Latina/o voices. At Yearly Kos a lot of white people stepped up to say "Where are you. We want to hear from you" to people of color. That was good.

Woman in back whose name I didn't hear: We can't be married to only one identity. That's what makes wars happen, to say I am only Indian, or I am only Muslim. I write about whatever I want to write about. It's been an interesting journey... You are you and say "I want to be a business person, etc." and are interested in being married to that identity but then it's unhappy. And you find you have to be more than that. So the multiple identities are very important. There are more English speakers in India than there are in the U.S.... What writing does is it makes you honest about yourself. I use my blog to be comfortable with my multiple identities, comfortable with my self. The most interesting travel is in yourself. That journey, using this writing as a tool. You can do whatever you want in there. I like things that are all over the map. You can be just a mother, wife, daughter, they are roles that play. The book is called Identity and Violence, by Amartya Sen, a nobel laureate economomist.

Sarah Dopp: I'm also from New Hampshire... Yeah. You know, I dated the only black man in New Hampshire too. *audience laughter* I'm a web developer and it's great to just fit in, I'm confident, I'm professional! And then I've got a livejournal which is locked up. On there I'm female, I'm bisexual, I have sex. I consider myself overprivileged, I'm flailing around, I'm frustrated, it's cool to have both. It's a very guarded identity. My clients don't see it.

... : I started blogging in 2002. I was active in BBS and usenet groups. I actively hid my race. You could tell my gender from my name. There was one time when I was writing a post, and was about to slip into some black vernacular english. If I say this, everyone's going to know I'm black. Online, did I want to go that route? And to be authentic, to speak in my own voice, I went down that road. I'm interested in finding out, from the Latinas in the room, do you ever write in Spanglish? Do you write bilingually and interlingually with your other tongue.

*murmur of "yes we do" from audience*

Marisa: I do. I write in Spanglish, or complete posting in Spanish. If I get contributions from Mexico, etc. I do translate, but a lot of U.S. Latinas don't speak Spanish, they don't read it.

Melissa Gira:, I blog as a sex worker.. and at live journal... My question thinking about these things — who will people think I am if I don't say? Even if there's a photo, will people assume I'm white? Queer and bisexual, how much sex do I get to talk about? How much can you talk about it before you become a sex blogger? Genre-ization hurts the relationships between bloggers and readers. What identity am I leading with. How many closets do I have to keep coming out of, all the time?

SJ Alexander: I'm really glad the issues of multiple identities are coming up. I appreciated what Maria said. I intentionally gave my blog a name to warn people there was going to be profanity. My blog is called I, Asshole. I was writing about being a mom and also previous sexual relationships so it's like I'm this big-ass tramp. I'm a student, I'm a worker, I'm a wife, and let make people make of me what they will. Screw all y'all, you can assume what you want. People started emailing me and saying, "Thank you for being a big ho". And then thank you for being a super slutty mommyblogger with two different baby daddys. And then other people saying "Hey why don't you write more about librarianship?" So, keep the emails coming, of who do you think I am. It's awesome.

[Note: SJ's writeup of BlogHer, Snakes on a Motherfucking Blogher, is my favorite so far.]

Roo of Roo the Day: Well known study in college, where white students did not identify themselves as white. And I'm a white woman and I don't think about my race. And if I am do I have a choice about representing and what does it mean - Do you have an obligation to self-identify as white.

Maria: Can you represent being white and not be perceived as a racist?

*General MMMMMMM from room*

Roo: But I have an obligation to represent for/to people who are not part of the power structure. What's my responsibility as a white woman to the greater world.

[Me, I try to point to, but not represent or speak for. Not always successful in this but it's a try. - Liz]

Karen Walrond: We all got together to talk about this beforehand online. Blogging Baby... my post on transracial adoption. My family is like the poster family for transracial adoption. Most people think of it as a white couple adopting a non-white child. Mixed-race identity. Commenter who . . . [I missed this]

Maria: [. . .]

Karen: Sister in the U.S. whose daughter looks mixed asian-white, people think she's the nanny. Her response is, "10 hours of labor says I'm not!

*audience laughter*

Farah ( of Farah's Sowaleef : I'm a Saudi girl, from Saudi Arabia? People who want me to write about Saudi Arabia all the time! Well I'm a practicing Muslim. And people expect me to be a liberal. And people are like "Wait a minute, aren't you a liberal? You can't think that!"

[I think there was more to the panel but I missed it. Plus, my fingers started to hurt! My brain was fried! It was a GREAT panel with a lot of food for thought, and a lot of people speaking up. I thought Maria Niles' moderation of this panel was exceptional.]

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Wag said...

I am so in awe of your live blogging skills, Ms. Henry. This is amazing. Seriously, just when I think I can't be more impressed with you and that you can't blow my mind anymore, you do.

So off to update all my posts and point everyone to you. If you haven't already, please add your link to Amy Gahran's Wiki.


Donna said...

I'm so sorry I missed this session. Your live blog is a wonderful substitute - thanks, Liz!