Speaking of Women's Rights...: Personal, political, social.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Personal, political, social.

I blog for Legal Voice. I help maintain our Facebook page, our Flickr account, and our website. And I use social networking sites on my personal time, too. It gets confusing – personal and professional interests tend to overlap, but it still feels like there should be boundaries in between.

I guess, as part of a movement that’s always told me the personal is political, I shouldn’t expect to draw clear lines between all the ideas and modes of communication that compete for my attention. But I’m curious – how are people handling the ways that social networking sites are dividing and multiplying the conversation about women’s rights?

Example I came across this week: a post on the New York Times’ Motherlode blog where a young, pregnant woman asks for advice and the blogger turns her question over to the readers.

I see three things going on here:

1. Open conversation on hot-button social issues. The first page of comments touches on unintended pregnancy, abortion, single parenting, adoption, education…

2. New twist on traditional advice columns. The young woman wrote her very personal question to an “expert on the issues,” who shared the request with a large public audience. We could loosely apply a neologism for this phenomenon of harnessing the skills & knowledge of the masses: crowdsourcing.

3. Blog comments as public forum. The internet, to put it mildly, facilitates group discussions – there were over 25 pages of replies. But “young, single and pregnant – what now?” is a question women have grappled with for as long as we’ve had choices about when, whether and how to have kids. This is another iteration of a debate that’s been going on for decades – amplified by new technology.

What do you see going on here? Is social networking helping us break new ground in the women’s movement, or are we talking in circles?