BY BEX VANKOOT
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on our old site.
The best feminist Facebook groups are secret. And the most notorious are the most difficult to maintain. But there is an incredible value in the emotional labour of moderating online feminist spaces, so long as there are enough of us to keep up the work.
I help moderate a fairly large (4000+ member) group dedicated to questioning standard beauty norms in a safer space. With media attention in the past, our members are diverse, globally situated, and not all fluent in feminism. We consider the group a “feminist 101” style space and spend a lot of time educating, questioning, and managing our membership. It can be exhausting some days, explaining the same social justice concepts over and over again, trying to be heard.
But it is oh so worth it. For these reasons and so many more.
1. We Commiserate
In a space of acceptance, we try to celebrate our own victories, small and large, and share them with others who can understand. For some of us, there isn’t anyone else in our lives who can relate to what we’re going through.
When someone cat calls you on the street or stares you down on the bus, when your sister is giving you hell about your armpittens (yes, like kittens in your armpits, soft and fluffy), or your mom is asking, again, for the millionth time, when she’s going to get grandkids…You have somewhere to turn.
2. We Celebrate
And equally, when you walk out your front door wearing whatever the fuck you want, judgment be damned, or when you feel absolutely amazing and just want someone to share in that awesomeness, we are there for that too.
Want to post a selfie you’re too scared to put up on your own wall? Or had a really great day standing up to The Man and need someone to hear about it? Your fellow feminists can be there for that too.
3. We Educate
Sometimes safe(r) spaces make unfamiliar folks uncomfortable. It can be scary, knowing that something you might say to someone on the other side of the world can have a real negative impact on them. Some people avoid online feminist spaces because they don’t want to feel the pain of having hurt someone else.
But where better to make mistakes and learn from them than in a group of likeminded individuals who accept you and are willing to help you understand how to look at things from a different perspective?
For those really open to learning, online feminist spaces can be a safe and low-pressure environment in which to ask questions, find resources and see the world from a new point of view.
4. We Advise (but only when it’s wanted)
When people come to my feminist groups for support, I want to make sure they get what it is they’re seeking. So not only do we try to create a space where people can ask really personal questions and seek advice to their most private problems, we also want to make sure that when someone just wants to be heard, they aren’t overwhelmed with a million suggestions and bits of advice they don’t want or need.
Being part of a large group means there are lots of different perspectives that any situation can be seen from and it warms my heart when people learn the difference between saying, “This is how I relate to your story and how it went for me…” and, “You really should do this thing. Because I assume you already haven’t.”
5. We Learn
Moderating a feminist group is as much a learning process as joining one. There are always new perspectives to understand and tough issues to discuss. So each day as we head back to our little passion project, as we battle through introducing challenging new concepts to well-intended individuals, we are reminded that everyone is still learning something.
And not only does feminist space give me a place to learn more about the experiences and understandings of others…It has allowed me to gain a better grasp of the challenges that all online feminist spaces face.
The more dedicated we are to maintaining safe space above all else, the greater challenges we face. So many of my favorite groups have disappeared, falling under the weight of too much work for too few mods, or the threat of an abuser manipulating members.
But this is what makes it such an important job so worthwhile. The fate of these powerful attempts to create something that goes against everything dominant culture teaches is proof of the need we have for them, to keep trying, to keep fighting as long as we can. To continue commiserating, celebrating, educating, advising, and learning to stand up against oppression wherever we see it.