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Making Your Holiday Donations Count for Women

December 8, 2007

Following up on this post at Tiny Cat Pants, I’ve been browsing around a lot of blogs by women of color to try to understand what I may be blind to in my own feminism, and what I may be missing when I talk about women’s health from my middle class professional white woman perspective. These three posts by brownfemipower at the Women of Color blog particularly stuck with me, and reminded me that there is a lot of work to be done that I haven’t been fully aware of. I also read a lot of the critiques of Jessica Valenti of Feministing’s book, Full Frontal Feminism, of both the cover and the content, and I agree with a lot of the points made, so maybe I’m just in a particularly anti-Feministing mood at the moment.

The thing that is bothering me, that has been bothering me for a couple of days but the critiques mentioned above inspired me to finally write about, is the ongoing call for donations to Feministing so they can upgrade their website. They’re trying to raise $5,000, and at last count, they had almost $4,000. That’s $4,000 raised in just 4 days. Look, I understand that websites cost money, and people want to get paid for their work. Also, people are obviously free to spend their disposable income, if they’re privileged enough to have disposable income, however they see fit. However, I can’t shake this nagging feeling that a lot more real good could be done for women by directing donations to organizations doing real work on the ground to improve women’s lives rather than funding a website upgrade.

The solicitation is kind of insidious, making the need all about inclusion – many of the critiques of Feministing I’ve been reading have essentially said, “We don’t care about being ‘included’ or some throwaway link to our sites, we want you to actually understand and care about what we’re talking about, and not as those we’re some ‘them’ you can occasionally mention. We want you to understand that when you’re speaking to heads of state, you’re not currently actually speaking for many of us that you claim to be including in your speech.” If I understand it correctly, that is.

We’re really excited about this, because it means that we’ll be community-building, not just blogging. Now, anyone can sign up to create their own diary–but as part of our ongoing effort to bridge online and “real life” activism, we’re also going to be inviting certain women’s organizations to start diaries that we’ll highlight on Feministing. We’re hoping that this will not only help to shine a light on the important work that women are doing across the country, but that it will also get these organizations more involved in online work. But most importantly, we want to do this upgrade so that we can open up Feministing to everyone who wants to get involved. Whether it’s writing a blog, advocating for an organization, or just reading–we want Feministing to be a one-stop online activism shop.

So the commenters jump on that with their questions about their usernames and how they can participate and how very excited they are to be included. Nobody, so far, has said, “You know, if I had the power to summon $4,000 at will, I’d be directing it to other causes left and right.” I feel like the setup is, “Hey, if you pay us, we might let you have a little bit of what we have,” what they have being recognition/traffic. And here is the part where I have to admit that, while I don’t always appreciate the tone of the site, I’m glad that being listed on the blogroll occasionally drives someone my way – I get to have a small piece of that recognition/traffic. But wouldn’t advocacy for the “important work” of existing organizations be better served by channeling some funds their way, rather than just giving them a place to speak which they could have just as well done on their own?

I recognize that donating to help Feministing and donating to worthy organizations don’t have to be mutually exclusive – if you have disposable income, you can split it among things however you want. It just sort of floors me that a blog (even a well known one) can put out a call for a website upgrade and rack up $4,000 in just a few days. Maybe it’s that they are well known, and so they have this power to raise funds, and I wish the funds were going to be used for something more concrete, more productive, more real to the women they claim to want to help/talk about. How much good could $5,000 do for a community organization? Wouldn’t “real life” activism be better served by channeling money to it instead of to a website? What if you could put out one donation call a month to help women, and raise that kind of money every single time? I just fail to see how reworking the website, even if there are additional forums and posters and the like, can bring attention to these causes in a way that just highlighting them on a highly visited blog (which they can already do) couldn’t.

I don’t know, maybe I don’t have to make it such an either/or issue, and I know that I get irritated when anti-feminist folks trot out the “feminists suck because they should be doing more” lines, but it’s irking me and I wanted to express it.

I’d like to build a list of organizations doing important work that I’m sure would be happy to accept your donations. I know for a fact that I’ve omitted several important orgs, especially local ones, through my simply not being aware of them/not having found them yet. Likewise, there may be issues with how some organizations go about their work that I am simply not informed about yet – your insight is wanted. Please do not take this list as an endorsement of any of these organizations – do your homework, because I’m only just encountering some of these groups. Please do leave your suggestions in the comments, and I will update the list (items with an * are reader suggestions). Some initial suggestions:

Amnesty International
Asian Immigrant Women Advocates
Center for Health, Environment and Justice
Center for Health and Gender Equity
Center for Reproductive Rights
Communities Against Rape and Abuse
Critical Resistance
The Fistula Foundation*
Global Fund for Women
Human Rights Campaign
Human Rights Watch
INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence
Indigenous Environmental Network
International Women’s Health Coalition
Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Health Network
Maternal Infant Health Outreach Worker Program [I’m biased because I’m on their board]
Medical Students for Choice*
Modest Needs*
National Advocates for Pregnant Women
National Domestic Violence Hotline
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
National Women’s Health Network
Our Bodies Ourselves [I’m biased b/c I write for their blog]
Planned Parenthood
Pretty Bird Woman House
Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network
United Nations Population Fund
Women’s Health and Environment Network

14 Comments leave one →
  1. December 8, 2007 2:17 pm

    I’d like to suggest the YWCA.

    I have particular fondness for the YWCA of Metropolitan Dallas.

  2. December 8, 2007 5:55 pm

    I just want to comment to support your stance here.

  3. December 8, 2007 6:41 pm

    Medical Students for Choice – Medical Students for Choice stands up in the face of opposition, working to destigmatize abortion provision among medical students and residents, and to persuade medical schools and residency programs to include abortion as a part of the reproductive health services curriculum.

  4. Tanya permalink
    December 8, 2007 7:56 pm

    The Fistula Foundation ( does amazing work with childbirth injuries in Africa. Kristof has written about them in the New York Times.

  5. December 8, 2007 10:06 pm

    I can dig sending your donation dollars to Human Rights Watch instead of Feministing, but I don’t really understand why they need to be ashamed for asking for money to expand their blog. Feministing serves as a pretty good centralized space where feminist blog readers and blog writers congregate, and opening it up to be more community-directed seems like an excellent way to help make the feminist blogosphere more meritocratic. I mean, the change in feministing would allow you to take this post from your blog and put it up there – doesn’t that solve the problem? Question the actual utility of blogging-as-activism all you want, but if that’s your problem, what’s with all the blogging?

  6. Robot Overlord permalink
    December 9, 2007 1:25 am

    I mean, the change in feministing would allow you to take this post from your blog and put it up there – doesn’t that solve the problem?


  7. December 9, 2007 9:09 am

    Sara, I think talking about things is important, and that’s why I talk and blog about them – as a way to bring information to people. I didn’t say they should be ashamed, but if I personally had the power to call up that kind of money, I would direct it to people who are doing hands-on work, not talkers like me. It’s a matter of my personal priorities. People can spend their money however they want, it’s just not how I would spend it. I want people to think about what does the most good, if they have limited funds they’re thinking about donating.

    Unruly Duckling, M and Tanya – thanks for those great suggestions. Robot Overlord and Tanglethis, thanks for your comments as well. I love seeing new “faces” around here.

  8. December 9, 2007 3:31 pm

    What a really thought-inspiring post. It’s a new world in digital media and I have a couple of thoughts about it:
    First of all, I whole-heartedly agree about putting money towards hands-on organizations.
    But, and this is the businessy girl coming out in me, if they are wanting to make this more of a business model and commercialized which is fine I think, I also understand that as well, but I think they need to be more clear about that as their objective. I have no problem with folks doing start ups and they do have a wanted “product” that ultimately they are trying to market, although I didn’t really see that said in the post. I would think if they say they are going to go toward more of an interactive model that needs cash, then I have no problem with it as long as they are clear about it. It would almost be like start-up capital for a new magazine, just to cite an example.

    Great post Rachel. Looking forward to seeing you soon. 🙂

  9. Katie permalink
    December 10, 2007 11:08 am

    Why not put out a call like that then? On here? While maybe this blog won’t bring in the dinero that Feministing brought in, I feel (and hey – maybe I’m wrong) that a reasonably-read, reasonably-linked blog could bring in a reasonable holiday donation for whatever hands-on cause.

    This summer I was looking to raise money for Amnesty International, so I sent out email appeals to different people at my college (ranging from professors, deans and department heads to students). In the span of about 2 weeks, that brought in $2,000. Yes, it’s a little different and yes, it was based at a university, so there’s probably more money floating around than an average community. But my point is that that was just me asking for money for 2 weeks. A blog reaches more people than an email, so…why not try?

    Just a hope, maybe.

  10. December 10, 2007 11:18 am

    Katie, that’s a good idea, and maybe something I’ll start doing, perhaps highlighting one org per month. I’ll have to figure out the logistics, but it couldn’t hurt to try, right? Also, I’m very impressed that you brought in that much through emails – good work!

  11. April 15, 2008 6:59 pm

    Ok first of all I want to state that I have nothing against feminism. I can agree with you, it would be better to have the money donated to bigger and better real life causes, but you do also say “How much can 5,000 dollars really do for a community organization?”, yes it would be nice to channel money to it rather than the website, but you have to look at it from the other standpoint, the people who own the website may actually need the money to progress their website on more of a global scale so they can notify more people of their issues. In most cases there is alot of money that is donated to the real life causes, so I dont think it would be too bad to throw a little bit of money to the little guy in this situation.


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