Closing Keynote: The Intersection of Race, Gender, Feminism and the Internet. Plus, the 10X10 Project


Closing Keynote, and the 10X10 Project

Stacey Ferguson: Co-Founder of Blogalicious

Think about where you were 10 years ago. In 2004, I was newly married with a one-year-old. I was a junior attorney trying to find my way through an industry that was dominated by white males. I knew it wasn't my life's calling but with a house mortgage, I just kept going at it until I could figure out what I could do. I started writing a blog with two friends about work life balance and juggling motherhood. Blogging was fun and laid back back then. The way that we built community was through comments and story telling.

There was no twitter, hashtags, FB was in its baby stages so really the way we found one another and connected was through comments, blog carnivals, and if you were lucky enough, to come to an event like BlogHer. You didn't always hear the terms monetization and branding back then. There was no pressure to post beautiful images. No one really had an iPhone. DSLR was a term reserved for a few elite. You didn't have to stress about SEO, Analytics, or pinnable images. The women were all over it. Male bloggers were definitely seen as the owners of the blogosphere. BlogHer was the one who asked where were the women bloggers. We knew of the token rockstars, Jennifer James, Renee Ross, The Blog Rollers. They became the token women of color bloggers. We knew that as blogging would mature, money and opportunities would be handed out and we wanted to have a seat at the table. So we started Blogalicious.

The mission was to grow a community that celebrates digital diversity and to serve as a supportive platform for our members to develop their social media presence...

We really believed that if we built it, they would come, and they did. To kick off our event, we had the creator of Clever Girl's Collective read the post about a conversation she had with a PR firm representative who said they don't pitch to women of color because they just don't know what to do with them. Then we were mentioned in Southern Living Magazine, in Mashable, and huge brands started noticing. For me, the most important part of that was mentorships and partnerships that came out of the movement. The BlogHer women really walk that walk of giving back. We called Elisa for an hour, and she walked us through all the ins and outs, what to do and what not to do, and I've never forgotten that. Then BlogHer invited us out to throw a party at BlogHer. They have been a sponsor every year, more than money, it's been support. I am eternally grateful to them (founders of BlogHer) and I hope I can be that kind of mentor to someone else.

Over the past 10 years, blogging has drastically changed my life, personally and professionally. I was juggling 3 kids, practicing law, and I went from mom blogging to food blogging, to lifestyle blogging. I got to be a brand ambassador for a ton of different brands. It did provide me with a unique skill set for my law career. Showing them how to use these new technologies and how to explain to bloggers and brands. 2 years ago, I turned in my bar card to do this full time and I haven't looked back.

From 2009-2012, everything was a blur. W did events, meetups all over the country. We launched a marketing network (BeLink). In 2012-2013, I had a panicked feeling that maybe we're done. When I saw Patrice collaborate with Mac Cosmetics on her own line of lipstick, when Karen Walrond turned The Beauty of Different into a NY Times best seller photography book, When I saw Ana Flores launch her own agency to connect Latina Bloggers, or Lamar and Rhonnnie of Black and Married with Kids on HLN with a regular parenting segment, and Melanie Edwards invited to sit down with the first lady, we are on our way.

I want to acknowledge some amazing other communities:

Digital Sisterhood - a digital safe space to say what we want to say.
Latina Bloggers Connect by Ana Flores
Blogging While Brown by Gina McCauley

And there are really tons more from Latism, to Nummi Accelerator, I could go on.I have come to realize that sisterhood is priceless and there's always a place for it. I acknowledge that we have a lot more work to do. I have my sites set on chipping away the barriers when it comes to multi cultural marketing budgets. It would be okay if the
pots were equal but they are not. We are fighting amongst ourselves for smaller pots of dollars. I realize we are not obsolete, Blogalicious is here to stay. We want to continue building great things with Elisa, Jory, and Lisa, and all of you. Thank you so much.

Katherine Stone: Postpartum Progress

12 years ago, I had a baby. His name is Jack. After having said, awesome baby. I experienced a devastating illness that took away my sense of confidence and self esteem. It made me think I was a horrible human being and unworthy of being a mother. That illness is called postpartum OCD, after I had it, I was really angry. I was furious that
no one told me, I had no idea. No one told me that 1 in 7 women would get paranatal mood disorders. I wrote about my story and out of fear, I hid it in a drawer.

Finally I sent it to Newsweek.

A few weeks after it was posted, Carol Blocker wrote in. Carol was the mother of a woman named Melanie, who had died by jumping off the roof of a building because she was suffering so mightily and she didn't feel like she had any way out. So I knew I had to keep writing. I started a blogger called Postpartum Progress. The very first commenter I got was Walter Blocker, Melanie's father. He shared his favorite African proverb with me, that it takes a village and his encouragement for me. I wanted to focus on women and make sure that pregnant and new mothers don't feel ashamed and alone. I jumped in but it was the waves of the women of the internet who helped me along. To Walter Blocker, I would say he was right, it definitely takes a village. Postpartum Progress is now the most widely read blog int he world on paranatal mood anxiety disorders. We launched a new event that has become the world's largest event for paranatal mood anxiety disorders. This year alone, moms raised $165K to support the work of postpartum progress. Next year, we are having the first ever patient centered conference to focus on women who have paranatal mood anxiety disorders. Everything here is 100% volunteers, no one is paid, even me.

I think everyone who has made this possible. One added bonus from the last 10 yrs is that I was a question on Jeopardy.

While we've done this, you've created beautiful things too. You've helped parents become better parents, you've made peope laugh, given people tips on how to live their lives better. You have helped even just give basic information to help people get through the day. I love what you've created because I use it myself. You've made beautiful things and you are my internet.

In the last 10 yrs, I learned a few tings I hope to share with you. First, you do not have to be an expert or anyone special to make a difference in someone's life or change someone's life, all you have to do is give a crap. Second, you don't need permission. So what if no one has invited you into the arena, so what if someone else is talking about what you care about. You are you and you have a unique perspective to bring to the table, just get out there and do it because you don't need permission. Third, you don't have to be fearless. You don't know how much I'm sweating up here. I suffer from a serious anxiety and I'm the last person on this planet who is fearless but if I can do it, you can do it too.

The reason I can get past the fear is because I care about the moms more than the fear. So my next point is have a purpose. Never forget the network. The internet is the network, embrace it, don't forget about it. If I hadn't embraced other people, I would still be hiding in my introvert closet and postpartum depression would never be where it is today.
I found out who I really wanted to be and what I wanted to do with my life thanks to blogging and social media. Thanks to so many of you whose faces I see sitting out there right now,

I look at how many of you in this audience have built beautiful things with a fist full of dollars. To the people who say negative things about blogging, I say look at my internet, this is my internet and I'm so very proud.

(BlogHer gifts Katherine with a video of support from the internet community and her family who have benefited from her work. Video will be available on

Keynote Panel:
Feminista Jones
Kelly Wickham
Natalia Noguerra
Cheryl Contee
Grace Hwang Lynch
Kristen Howerton
Patrice Lee

Cheryl: Did you intend to become an activist or was activism thrust upon you?

FJ: I think I was born an activist because I was born a black woman. I've been able to use my persona and social media for activism. I didn't anticipate this, I just wanted to talk about sex. When I realized people were listening, I decided to use my voice for more.

Kelly: I think it organically happened for me. When I realized the power of my voice, I started trying to use it and be responsible. My activism was mostly in education. I just decided to take anything important to me an talk about it.

Natalia: As an LGBT latina, I have a lot of issues. When I go to a tech start up, it gets very draining. For all of you who call out, please continue to do so because it could be helpful for some people in the room. I used to think there are so many people who are apathetic, but I just think not all of us realize we have a voice.

Cheryl: Why don't some women speak out? Are there safe spaces or do we need to create them?

Grace: People like safety, especially for women. There is a fear that what you do online can translate into real life. We like to make sure our personal lives are safe.

Cheryl: Kristen, what advice do you have for women in terms of being out there and making a difference?

Kristen: I think we need to stop being afraid of talking about difficult issues. I think a lot of people are scared of talking about race. They are not acknowledging it in general in real life and they certainly don't want to talk about it online. I just want to get people comfortable to talk about difficult issues.

Cheryl: Patrice, you are a rare black conservative, are you finding it difficult?

Patrice: As a conservative black female, I get everything from people not knowing we exist. It's important to create a space where even if you don't agree with me, it's important to listen to what I have to say before you just shut me down.

Cheryl: Traditionally outspoken black people get shot at. So as a political black blogger, we used pseudonyms. How are you all, have you been attacked online?

FJ: I do use the name Feminista Jones so I can try to protect my identity. Some people have found my real name and have sent threats to me every day. It is beyond trolling, it is abuse. As a black woman, you would get the woman related threats, and the race related threats. It's going to come from all different types of people. I've gotten serious threats just because I feel like speaking up for women and people of color.

Kelly: I do not get the same level of abuse as FJ. I get more of the passive aggressive thing.

Cheryl: Natalia, as an entrepreneur, does it make a difference being speaking out?

Natalia: One thing about being an entrepreneur is that we are our own boss, I don't have to worry about my boss firing me for coming out. I am much more aware of being out. Generally during panels when I am bookended by two straight white guys, I try to speak out more.

Cheryl: I'm an entrepreneur myself. My ability to come out as a blogger lead to my being an entrepreneur. I also realize that I have privilege to be that independent. Is it possible to experience privlege, and still be an effective advocate?

Grace: Talking about race and being of color is not just for women. You may not have the experience but everyone has the ability to listen and participate in conversations and to elevate those conversations. We all have our own circles of influence. Especially for people who don't fall into the same categories, but they may have access to other people and amplify the message. You can post and share on twitter and facebook. The power of the internet is the everyone has the power to influence their circle.

Cheryl: Kristen, how can people approach these tough topics? Anyone can amplify someone else's voice or find their own voice but it's challenge. How can people in this room address these tough topics?

Kristen: Step number 1,2,3 is listening. Particularly if you are outside a group and you want to be an ally to the group. Then maybe you can weight in with your own opinions. Addressing privilege, I think we should use our privilege and power to help the voices that can't be heard , to be heard.

Cheryl: Patrice, how do you approach addressing the impact of race and gender in your digital presence?

Patrice: I'd like to think that i take the blinders off and I'm not just the black girl in the group. I like to think that my colleagues and associates don't just see me for my exterior. It's not just that I'm the voice for all black conservatives. My point is to share my philosophies with people who think similarly, it doesn't matter what you look like. There's nothing wrong with our celebrating our individuality.

Cheryl: Are we holding mainstream media and pop culture accountable enough? What does the future hold?

Natalia: When you think about how change can be effected through TV. It's powerful. How many of your watch The Fosters or Switched at Birth. ABC is doing some interesting stuff. They have a Latina family and one of the characters is deaf. In addition to listening, it's also important to open the door for us to be here.

FJ: I think we can use our social media presence to do more of that direct calling out. I tweeted to HuffPost parents that they only feature funny white parents. These things continue to happen because we do not speak up when something is not right. I think that this conversation is just a little scratch off. we're barely getting to where we need to with this. Each of you here has a space online. You have a space, you need to use it. Every single one of us has a responsibility to amplify voices.

Cheryl: There are 2 ways to be supportive, You can call out something or you can support something. Scandal wouldn't have become such a huge show without the support on twitter of it's audience.

Audience: I had felt unsafe writing something about the Trayvon Martin case and that's crazy. I was put to shame by Kelly Wickham's post about "where are you my sisters" in regards to the Trayvon Martin case. I just want to do better and I want to know how.

Kelly: What I was saying in that piece was I was just asking us to all be humans. At what point did we draw a line that we would discuss this but not discuss that? I was struck by sometimes a lack of response. There are plenty of things online that I am just shutting up and listening to because I am not an expert on it but I will retweet it and share it.

Natalia: Feminism and activism is a practice because it's each day. we have to push back, even at BlogHer. I know some women who left yesterday, and by leaving yesterday, they missed out on all our women of color speakers today. It's about us continuing to support each other and call each other out. It is about being a call out culture,and a work in progress, and creating that safe space to call each other out.

Cheryl: I would say if you are able to approach the topic with a sense of humility. Be able to say maybe I got it wrong.

Audience: I want to bring income inequality to this conversation. I had written a post about using food stamps and the comments in that post are full of men

FJ: I make over $100K a year and I still get people calling me a hood rat. If you don't know about Talk Poverty, please check it out. The assumption for women of color is that you are broke, you don't have a man, but when you respond that you make more money than someone, then you become some kind of haughty bitch, that you took someone's spot in college.

Patrice: A lot of conservatives want to move it beyond race to income. FJ is right, race and income is viewed as closely linked. I do think that there is a strain of men who feel like they are not getting ahead and others are. They have some issues with affirmative action.

Kelly: It's a systemic problem and we won't get anywhere without a systemic solution.

Audience: I'm a white woman, and I have a white son, and I have a black friend. At what point should I simmer down when talking to my black friends about race? I want to talk about it because I don't want to mess up. I want to raise my son right in this world.

Kristen: I think it's important to recognize that our black friends are not here to educate us. If you have a black or asian, or etc friend who is willing to talk to you, that's great. But it's important not to barrage them. We need to figure out the resources to put that burden on our friends of color. There are so many ways to find information online.

Grace: I sometimes find myself being the token Asian friend. People have different levels of interest in talking about race. I feel comfortable talking about race but sometimes even for people who do want to talk about race, it becomes a drain on you emotionally. Sometimes I send links to articles and blogs to talk about later. That might be a way to approach it. I wouldn't ask people things that you can find out in pop culture. I would ask questions about how the person feels about specific things and terminology. I wouldn't ask "tell me all about your culture."

Natalia: I invite you to step up to the plate and continue this conversation on twitter. Sometimes we have great energetic panels and then it's as if nothing happened the next day.

Cheryl: Feel free to continue the conversation with us or with each other. I hope to send out a tweet or retweet with an article you think is important. Especially if we have that dialogue with respect and honesty. I want to thank our panelists.