“Social Media, YEEHAW”: A Cowgirl’s Take on the Final Frontier

This cowgirl and "Sarah Palin". It's a long story.

This cowgirl and “Sarah Palin”. It’s a long story.

I say “God, I love social media” at least once a day.  Even after all these years there is still something mysterious and intriguing about the net, and that just downright tickles this little lady.  My partner says I am “abnormally curious”.

I consider myself a social media “newbie”, although that’s not really accurate.  I joined Facebook in 2005, was on MySpace for like a day (omg is my profile still out there??), have been blogging in various different forms since 2003, and if we include AIM, MSN, ICQ, and all those chat do-hickeys, yes, I have been social media-ing for over 10 years.  I now know just enough to get myself in real trouble in just about all of the ways you can social network.  But, it just sounds better to say “newbie” than “has over 10 years of experience but still has only a vague idea of what she’s doing”.  It’s hard to admit, right?  With the appearance of the term Social Media Guru, it makes it sound like there are actually people out there that have reached social media enlightenment, whereas I contend that the Social Media/Online Community Managers/Digital Specialists/etc. out there are more often people like me – students of the practice.  I am humbled frequently by all that I have yet to learn.

For this seeker of the avant-garde/amusée of the unknown/innovation aficionado, it’s enough to get me hot and bothered – and this past week has been practically orgasmic!

Rush Limbaugh vs. Sandra Fluke

In what is purported by his own website to be “the most listened to radio talk show in America”, Rush Limbaugh described “Susan” Fluke (her actual name is Sandra) as a “slut”, “prostitute”, “whore”.  Who is Sandra Fluke?  A 3rd-year student at Georgetown Law School, Ms. Fluke testified at the House of Representatives hearing on women’s health and contraceptives in favour of insured coverage for contraception.

10 years ago, what would have happened?  Heck, even 5 years ago.  The outrage would have been the same, but the response, very different.  Perhaps we would have written letters or taken out an ad in a paper like this one:

"Traditional" media still has an impact. Ad seen in the New York Times (March 4, 2012).

“Traditional” media still has an impact. Ad seen in the New York Times (March 4, 2012).

I am not saying that this doesn’t have an impact, what I am saying is that its impact is compounded by it getting immediately posted on Facebook and Twitter, and then going viral.  Even the fact that I can link to the original footage at the heart of the controversy thanks to YouTube is pretty amazing.

But the real magic in all of this is as small as a click.  Numbers.

We can now measure outrage in hits, views, retweets and shares – for all the world to see.  When you start adding  everything up, you start to have a real impact.  Rush Limbaugh, despite his apology-that-is-hardly-an-apology, lost TWELVE advertisers and two broadcasters!  There are economic consequences to blatant sexism and degradation in the age of social media!  At last!  And what’s even better, we can now THANK those businesses that chose to part ways with Limbaugh to confirm that their interpretation of those numbers are correct.  This is indeed what the people want.

Kony 2012

Do you know who Joseph Kony is?  If you don’t, you obviously haven’t been connected to the internet in the past 72 hours!  The rise of Kony and the fall of Invisible Children were swift and global.

I checked my email early Monday morning to find this video (Kony 2012, 29:52, by Invisible Children), which I promptly watched.  Then checking my FB and Twitter, holy crap it was everywhere filling up my newsfeeds.  The hashtags #StopKony, #MakeKonyFamous, #Kony2012 were trending GLOBALLY on Twitter.  Within 2 hours, events were organized to take to the streets on April 20th (as the video instructs).  Within 3 hours, harsh critiques started cropping up, giving the whole thing the allure of a scam.

Now, the content may not have all been published in that short of a time span, but that is how the virality was hitting my online communities.  Bing, bang, boom!  Wildfire on the prairies!  YEEHAW!

International Women’s Day

March 8th rocked my socks this year.  There were a ton of really inspired events taking place, and I wish I could have attended all of them!  A quick shout-out to the social media mistresses that organized the Tweet-up Féministe, when I am awesomer (and wealthier) and have a phone that can handle social medias (gasp, yes, I admit it, I have an antique Blackberry that does email, that’s it that’s all) I will be a very enthusiastic live-tweeter.  Which I could turn into a conversation about social media and privilege, socio-economic status, etc, but let’s stay focused here.

One of the events I did end up attending was a screening of Miss Representation followed by a powerhouse panel of amazing women.  One of the panelists remarked that there is a lack of girl news in the media.  Which got me thinking – that’s another noteworthy impact that social media has had on us – we now get to choose our news…to a highly refined extent.  When she made that comment, I couldn’t help but thinking that I see girl news everywhere, all the time.  But then I remembered that I live in Vagina Land, that magical wonderful place in which I am surrounded by like-minded individuals (or at least ones that don’t shock and offend me), girl news is omnipresent and positive messaging abounds.

When I leave Vagina Land, like watching television for example, my husband and I play games like “point it out when a commercial does NOT offend you”.  It’s hard leaving Vagina Land.  I worry sometimes that in my social media bubble where I alone choose who I follow, like or subscribe to, I am missing out on a more objective view of the whole.  Where do my values stand in relationship to the rest of society?  Is Vagina Land just as isolationist and extreme as Tea Party Land?

Another panelist noted a fact that I deem essential in navigating the social media jungle.  While yes, clicking, viewing, retweeting and sharing does have an impact, sometimes you need to get off your computer and speak to real people and take action as well.

The cowgirl’s take: Social media this International Women’s Week was about rompin’ and stompin’ the bad guys.  What are you posting?


MissRep Review: An Unanticipated Reaction

The documentary Miss Representation, by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, and aired on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. The film explores how the media’s misrepresentations of women have led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence.

Ok, let’s be honest, this is not actually a review.  Rather, it’s an anecdote of this girl’s response to watching the documentary for the first time – one that took me wholeheartedly by surprise.

I have the best husband there ever was, that ever will be.  It’s Saturday night, I’ve been working all day (yes, on a Saturday), and I come home about 2 hours later than originally planned.  The woodsy odor of toasted almonds greets me as I open the door – Sole amandine, my favourite.  He tells me that we’re having a movie night.  Perfect.  What’s on the schedule?  First up, Miss Representation.  I melt.  I have managed to marry the most feminist man on the planet.  (Second up is Dédé à travers les brumes, another great choice, btw).

One of the reasons I was so psyched to be seeing MissRep right then was because I am planning on attending a screening and panel discussion on the documentary for International Women’s Day (March 8th).  I thought it would behoove me to see it for myself first, reflect, and then have intelligent things to say or questions to ask. I’m not that good on the spot.

Plus, I’ve been dying to see it since watching the trailer.  The trailer was sent to me by a fellow Girl Guide back in October.  Her commentary was short and sweet: This is why girls need Guides.  Watching it back then was like getting punched in the stomach.  Alone in my office, eyes wide, it made me feel sick, physically nauseated.  Powerful.

So, my husband and I sat down with our dinner and away we go.  What was I expecting?  I thought I would be shocked, outraged, called to arms, indignant.  Yes, I felt that.  What I didn’t expect was guilt, affliction, grief.  3 minutes into the film I burst into tears, and they continued to flow for the duration.

I cried my heart out for the entire 90 minutes of Miss Representation.  I cried for myself, I cried for every woman I had met and those I hadn’t, I cried for men, for children, for America.  I even cried for Sarah Palin.

In my drama and despair, I told my partner that I could not bear the risk of bringing a child into this world.  I realized that the world that I believe in and dream of is generations away from reality, that my children will be victims the way that we are victims, without any way of knowing if it will get better.  I told him I felt like I was wasting my time with non-profits empowering women and girls – that my passion would be better utilized in the corporate world or in politics.

He stopped the film.  He’s not used to seeing me feeling hopeless, and I can see that I’ve got him worried.  He knows that I want to have children with all of my heart.  He knows that I believe that the struggle is not just necessary, it is essential to work to improve the lives of future generations.  He knows it.  I know it.  But for 90 intense minutes, the dark side caught up with me.

It is important to look at the dark side.  But it is also important to bring as much light with you as possible!

The light that you bring with you when you examine and explore the most painful parts of humanity is the love that you have for humanity.  You bring your friends, you bring your partner, you bring your family and even that jerk that cut you off on your way in to work.  You bring every ounce of forgiveness you can muster.

Saturday night I held on to my darling husband and counted my lucky stars.  I will keep up the fight and generating light.  Roland Barthes asks: Is it better to last or to burn?  I say you gotta do both – you need to just keep adding fuel.


Miss Representation Trailer: It’s 8 minutes and 52 seconds that are worth your time.  Watch it.