This post is part of a series discussing the 2013 Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA) 8th International Conference of Feminism and Orthodoxy.
For the last session of the day, I spoke on the panel Blogging for Change. My co-panelists were Sonia Isard, the Associate Editor of Lilith magazine, and Sarah Seltzer, a blogger for the Forward’s Sisterhood blog and a journalist, essayist, and fiction writer. The panel was moderated by Gabrielle Birkner, the founder and editor of the Sisterhood.
This was my debut as a panelist, and I have to admit that I was a little nervous about it. I’ve never been afraid of public speaking, but I had never presented on a panel before. I had certainly never spoken while sitting next to three women whose work I follow and respect enormously. Although I did worry about the panel in the days leading up to it, I sort of forgot to worry once I was at the conference itself. Once I sat down and we began to speak, any nerves I had suffered from flew out the window. I felt comfortable, like I was in my element. I ended up really enjoying the experience.
I was honored that so many people came to hear this panel and listen to our thoughts on the intersection of blogging and activism. I had expected all of the attendees to be 30 and under, since that tends to be the demographic that’s most involved in the blogosphere and Internet activity in general, so I was happily surprised when I saw the age range went from high school students to grandparents. The audience was really receptive; everyone was really engaged, asking a lot of questions and prodding us to think twice about our answers. We easily could have sat there answering questions for another half hour or more.
One of the questions that Birkner asked was how often we seek out women’s spaces for our work. I suppose it’s not a far-fetched question, especially since Birkner founded and runs the Sisterhood, but I thought it was interesting. Personally, I don’t usually purposely seek out gender-specific spaces for pieces I’ve written, and said as much at the panel. I consider my blog a gender-neutral space that belongs to men as equally as it belongs to women. However, I do think it’s important that women-only spaces exist, since it’s important for women to have a forum where they can express themselves without being subjected to direct patriarchal influence.
Amram Altzman, a fellow 36 Under 36er and conference presenter who blogs for New Voices, said that he found it interesting that Isard, Seltzer, and I all came to blogging in different ways. I feel like blogging is one of those professions that nobody grows up saying they want to do, and that most bloggers sort of fall into it and just enjoy the ride. Although I always knew writing was going to be a key part of my life, I certainly never thought that it would take the form of blogging, if only because such a thing didn’t exist when I was growing up.
Avigayil Halpern, a fabulous feminist blogger and tefillin wearer, told me that she enjoyed the discussion of issues-based journalism, and how all three of us made our investment in the activist side of blogging clear. The panel was titled Blogging for Change for a reason; we all consider advocacy work extremely important facets of our lives, and that comes out in our writing. I know that whenever I write a blog post, I try to add something that will translate into real world change, whether it’s encouraging readers to sign a petition or to just look at life in a different way.
Overall, I really enjoyed my panel, and am so happy that JOFA organized a panel on this subject and thought of me to participate in it. I’ve been running Star of Davida for nearly four years, and it’s validating to know that people read and appreciate my thoughts. So thank you, JOFA, for having confidence in me. Thank you, readers, for sticking with me.