In 1 Week, Hundreds of Women Stood Up to Change the News. You Can, Too.

3 years ago

I wasn't sure what to expect, one week ago, when Public Radio International and SheKnows, BlogHer's parent company, together launched the #womenslives news incubator.

How strongly would women leading blogs and social conversations from Pinterest to Facebook react to the fact that only about 24% of all news subjects talk about women in any way, and only six percent of news stories highlight gender (in)equality? The answer is:

Very strongly, no matter how different the expert's voice and motivation.

"As a Prius-driving, career mama who is clawing her way out of poverty and into the middle class, this is right up my alley … I'm ready to put my voice and the little bit of reach I have to use on all of the things that affect women because here's the thing: Issues that affect women affect everyone." —Carlene, Carlene Can Cook

Hundreds of members of the BlogHer community accepted an invitation to join #womenslives as expert contributors. In the past week, these voices have generated at over 75 blog posts, plus hundreds of social media conversations about quality journalism about women. Today, I am gleefully flexing my typing fingers, which ache from trying to keep up.

References to Theodore Roosevelt and empowered voices aside, many #womenslives contributors opened by sharing their frustration. I lost track of how many writers blogged passionately about being fed up with news coverage of women today—as journalists, and/or as consumers, as citizens, as mothers AND as daughters who feel it's our responsibility to demand better than we are getting.

"I consider this a privilege, because not only am I now able to voice my opinion on issues that touch my heart, I am also able to reach women who would otherwise believe they are walking that thing alone … Stay tuned, because I'm stepping up on the platform in stilettos and a big stick!" —Trease, Transparency

Inspired by PRI and other bloggers, women responded to news that a Super Bowl domestic violence ad was real, that a congresswoman is introducing a revenge porn bill, that heart health is a women's issue, and that Britain is moving forward with a life-saving "three parent baby" regulation—among many other news stories.

And a few #womenslives writers surprised me by being surprised by their invitation to help change the ratio for news about women. Read on for a wrap-up of week one of this incredible initiative.

Who's blogging #womenslives, and why

Who—me? YES, me! "Um, WHAT?!?! I'm just a working mom sitting at my desk tucked away in my master bedroom," blogged Jen on Running for My Life.

Jen's was one of many responses BlogHer received from contributors who were surprised to be asked to join the initiative, because they don't blog hard news every day—like Sarah of The Pink Lady Chronicles and Mandy of Barbie, Bieber and Beyond.

For the record: The people we've invited to help lead #womenslives do write according to BlogHer's community editorial guidelines for excellence, disclosure and civil disagreement—and they have demonstrated an interest in and talent for hard-news journalism and commentary.

Which is why Jen's own, immediate answer to her question made so much sense to those of us who read her blog. Hannah of Eat, Drink, Save Money put it perfectly, too: "But then again, I AM a woman, and I DO have a life, and I do have a heart for women around the world who are marginalized and don't have a voice."

#Womenslives as a gift for a daughter (or son)—and to a "warrior" mom

As the posts began flowing, I saw many #womenslives voices committing to be the change they want to see in the world for their daughters.

"I struggle every day to make sure that my girls realize that they have a voice, that they can stand up for themselves and that they can always dream bigger," wrote L of HelmigHaus, whose blog is primarily about her hobby, crochet.

"My greatest fear for you and for every young black girl today, is that you will lose yourself by allowing the media to define what it means to be a black woman," wrote Afro-Chic Mompreneur in "An Open Letter to My Three Brown Girls":

"One thing I have learned about the power of being black is that we are mentally resilient ... Your mind is the greatest weapon that you will ever wield as a black woman, not the curves of your body, nor the quickness of your tongue. It is your mind that will open the doors that society will attempt to shut before you."

Cynthia of Life By Cynthia dedicated her writing to her mother, whom she called "a saint and a warrior." Angie of SmithShack71, joined #womenslives for both her daughter and her son: "I'm raising a badass rock star right now. I'm also raising a son that is aware of and appreciates the rock stars in his life and in the world. … And that's what this is all about. Awareness and solution."

On domestic violence: mine, my friend's, my mother's …

The #womenslives initiative kicked off with a prompt from @BlogHer Executive Editor Julie Ross Godar. With the news that the domestic violence public service announcement aired during the Super Bowl came from a real 911 call, Godar suggested, "it seemed appropriate to re-share this incredible post by another real woman talking about her experience."

She shared a story by ElfLadyChronicles on BlogHer, who wrote about breaking the cycle of violence for her young son: "For my son's innocence and well-being, I called the police and had his dad arrested."

Rita Arens, on Surrender Dorothy, beautifully summarized the response of the #womenslives community:

"That there are so many posts about surviving and witnessing domestic violence is heartbreaking, such as this one from Beauty School Scarlet, this one from Brown Girl From Boston, this one from Living Off Love and Coffee, this one from Loving Ryan (her mother's boyfriend starting their acquaintance by killing her kitten), this one from The Heart of Michelle, this one from Not a Stepford Life, and this one from Transparency."

(Don't miss HapaMama's reporting on what to learn and know about domestic violence in the Asian-American community.)

On revenge porn, temptation and trolls

Two riveting and very different stories of revenge were elicited by PRI's report that Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Ca) will introduce a bill to criminalize "revenge porn".

Tabatha of So Tabulous, writes of the agony of betrayal, of finding pornographic images on her husband's phone, and her temptation to strike out, in pain, at both her spouse and the women who sent the images:

"And I'm not above admitting that I seriously considered, in my hurt and anger and betrayal, taking those clandestine photos and making them public to shame the participants for their actions (because trust, it was never just photos, in either case). I wanted to extract revenge upon those who hurt me so badly, and the easiest was I could see to do that was to make public the (awful, truly) compromising photos and email exchanges between the person I thought I loved most in the world, and the women he decided were more worthy of his attention and desires than me. … And I was horrified at myself, for almost perpetrating that cycle of violation."

Over on The Feminist Feline, Corinne shared her interview of writer Robin Marty, whose first pregnancy ultrasound image was stolen and photoshopped by a troll—and what she did to stop him:

"At Netroots Nation this past July in Detroit, Marty shared a very personal story about a tussle she had with conservative blogger in 2007. At the time Marty was expecting her first child and filled with excitement, posted a picture of her first ultrasound on her blog. She received mostly congratulatory comments from readers, but after a few days she realized that a conservative blogger whom she had clashed with in the past had taken the image without permission and posted it on his own site and photoshopped a small helmet on the baby's head..."

What a week! If you're interested in joining this movement, we invite you to join: feel free to hashtag any post or image about women's lives that you share or create with the hashtag #womenslives. And if you're interested in becoming a partner, please let us know in the comments. Thank you!

Lisa Stone

SheKnows Media Chief Community Officer and BlogHer Co-founder

BlogHer is non-partisan, but our bloggers aren't! Follow our coverage of News and Politics.

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