#p2 and prioritizing diversity and empowerment (DRAFT)

DRAFT! Work in progress! Feedback welcome!

Twitter is an opportunity to engage with communities currently marginalized by the “progressive blogosphere”

— Tracy Viselli and Jon Pincus, The #p2 Hashtag and Strategies for Progressives on Twitter on The Exception

#p2’s wiki, Twitter profile, and tagal.us entry all describe it  as ” a resource for progressives who prioritize diversity and empowerment” .  But because #p2 is the closest thing to a broad communication mechanism for progressives on Twitter so far, a lot of people have forgotten (or maybe never even knew) that the primary focus is on diversity.  So as discussions kick off on how progressives can organize more effectively on Twitter, I wanted to start by talking about what this means to me.

Let’s start with a couple of examples.  A few weeks ago, a large corporation with an unhealthy amount of market dominance silenced the voices of LGBTQs, feminists, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups.  You’d think that progressives would be all over it.  Yeah, everybody’s busy … but most of the action for #amazonfail was on Twitter and blogs, so it took almost no time to help out.  How many progressives who weren’t members of the affected groups got involved, or even paid attention?

Or consider Join the Impact.  In just ten days, they got a couple hundred thousand people in the streets in ten days for a cause — marriage equality — which most progressives support.  Since then, they’ve built on this along with the rest of the Stonewall 2.0 movement and lo and behold, the tide has turned and more and more states are supporting marriage equality.  You’d think progressives might want to learn from this.  But JTI was virtually ignored at the time by the “progressive blogosphere” and I’ve seen very little discussion since.  What’s with that?

And while I happened to pick two LGBTQ-related examples, the same dynamics occur in a lot of other dimensions: class, race, gender, age, geography, language … the list goes on.  How often do most progressives think about — let alone do anything about — accessibility or bilingual issues?  Access to knowledge and technology?

One of the things about Twitter is it becomes abundantly clear who’s paying attention to discussion on hashtags like #fem2, #woc, #blck, #lgbt and retweeting interesting items … and who isn’t.  Many progressives do (as do many people across the political spectrum).  Most don’t.

So one thing I mean by “prioritizing diversity” is quite straightforward: put time and energy into diversity.  Act like you care about it.

Another aspect of prioritizing diversity relates specifically to online communications.  As Susan Herring describes in Gender and power in online communications, flaming, trolling, and sexist speech marginalize women.  Enviroments like Daily Kos where the alpha male’s attitude is “you have to have a tough skin online, deal with it” normalize and legitimize harassment and threats against women in general, not just Kathy Sierra and alegre.  And once again there are similar dynamics in other dimensions of oppression.

So don’t act like that.  When others do, challenge them (if it’s safe).   When you see people speaking up, support them.  And going beyond that …

Another thing that I mean by prioritizing diversity is to create safe space, and encourage people who are new to the online world or scarred from other experiences to get involved in the conversation — and when possible give them tools to help.   #p2’s Twitter overview page is fairly minimal, but people repeatedly tell me it’s useful — including its mention of Accessible Twitter.  How many progressive organizations or people who are blogging about Twitter have anything along these lines?

There’s much more to say about the issue but the post is already over 600 words and needs a snappy ending.  Hey, it’s a draft.  Feedback welcome.  What to remove?  What to emphasize in the closing?  What else should be here?  Please discuss!