Before reading Andi Schwartz’s article, “Critical Blogging – Constructing Femmescapes Online,” I had no idea what a “femmescape” was. But after reading the article, I was reminded of the site known as Tumblr and how it plays a different role for every user, one of which happens to be a safe haven for people struggling with their gender identity.
When I first got my Tumblr account years ago, I used it to look at pictures from musicians and movies I liked, and usually re-posted things when I thought they were interesting or funny. But after further inspection of the site, I quickly realized that Tumblr allows people to feel like they can express themselves in a much different way than they can in real life, and in a way that I had no considered expressing myself online.
Schartz’s definition of femmescapes, which is “a network of public spaces through which queer identity is enacted, celebrated, and politicized,” pushed me to start thinking about what people who have been struggling with their gender identities did before Tumblr. If we understand Femme Tumblrs as what Schartz considers to be counterpublics, which is “a parallel discursive arenas where members of subordinated social groups invent and circulate counterdiscourses, which in turn permit them to formulate oppositional interpretations of their identities, interests, and needs,” then has it been applied before, and if so, how?
Back before the Internet, who were the femme bloggers? Because struggles with gender identity were a hushed topic and not to be broadcasted within towns or families, I wonder how these people “escaped” their societies back then. Did they write things down and pass notes? Hold quiet support groups? Ignore it all together?
Although we’ve come a long way and still have a long ways to go, I think it’s important to recognize how far we’ve come that these topics can be discussed freely online. I’m sure there have been and still are online bullies targeting these groups, but at least there’s a place to talk about these tough issues people are struggling with. It’s incredible that Schwartz can even pinpoint what a femmescape is and use scholarly sources to back up her claims. Because people are open to talking about their inner struggles online, it could help pave the way for more open, public discussions as well.