Saturday, December 4, 2010

Scraps: On Keeping a Tumblelog

The title of my Tumblr is Scraps. I kicked around a few other ones, renamed it more than once, and returned to scraps because that's exactly what it is: scraps of thought, links, quotes and things to be fleshed out later, here, on my "real" blog. It's almost a perfect mirror of pen-and-paper note taking, minus the scratch-outs and smudges. I know there's a community of feminist tumblrs -- not immune to criticism, I should add -- but mine's too scattered, too much of an amorphous blob. I started a nicheless blogger, and I'll go out as one, I guess. It seems the true spirit of Tumblr, anyway.

Tumblr is way too easy for noncommittal bloggers like myself. Link dumps are part and parcel of microblogging; quotes and pictures are easy to favorite or reblog. In a post for The American Prospect earlier this year, Marisa Meltzer calls Tumblr's users web "curators" and likens it to zinemaking:
"At its best, Tumblr is a sort of modern-day zinemaking. Zines, self-published do-it-yourself magazines (often featuring photos and text cut from other magazines and photocopied) with limited distribution, have always been a part of underground culture, both as a product and as a galvanizing part of the community. As in the zine world, activists and weirdos alike thrive in their Tumblr microcommunities, posting photos of signs that read "Feminism Is for Lovers" or collages of child stars. Blogs have been accused of killing off zines (though they are still being produced), and tumblelogs seem to channel the spirit of zines more so than any long-form blog."
The sense of community is much larger than traditional blogging, and the immediate feedback is a huge ego boost (who doesn't like having a post "liked" by a dozen or more strangers in fewer than twenty-four hours?), but it's not like I didn't have some reservations. Full disclosure: I've started, deleted, and then resurrected my Tumblr blog three different times. As much as I love the drop and run nature of Tumblr, it's messy, careless and, let's face it, when you're average post is fewer than fifty words, it lacks depth. (And I say this as a mere music blogger.) Not that I think everyone should be using Tumblr to write 1000 word manifestos (though you could), but it's too easy to post a link or a quote without any critical thought.

I'm hesitant to link to this post, because I don't know this blogger, although we share a mutual contact. But it's what spurred all this. Although I haven't quoted or linked to any transphobic feminists, I did uncritically post a quote from sometimes controversial, white anti-racist activist, and I felt shitty about that. I have done a bit more research into this guy's background and the very valid criticisms of him .

I've found it easier to eschew the quote function altogether and instead start a text post with the quote. This way lets me to comment on what I'm quoting. My Tumblr is first and foremost a linklog, and I try to do the same with links, but more often than not, I don't. I'm a painfully slow writer, so any "Big Serious Post" takes two or three days for me to write. This makes me ill-equipped for blogging, just in general, but a perfect fit for Tumblr; however, I'm lazy and having a conventional blog forces me to write everyday. Scraps is just the after party.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post, Kathy. I'm also a feminist blogger ( who just started a tumblr (, because I wanted somewhere to dump funny pictures and links without the pressure of writing a full blog post.

    There is certainly a lot of activist and feminist tumblrs, and I agree with you that it feels more like a community in some ways. But it also feels more haphazard to me and I don't find that there is a great way to discuss. People will post tons of stuff a day, and trying to get their attention back to an old one to create a dialogue about it is difficult.

    I recently had the experience of seeing something really transphobic in my dashboard (since removed). I didn't know how to address it, so I just sent them a message telling them I was unfollowing them because I was offended by the transphobia. The blogger chose to publish my message and just say "bye topdresserdrawer", with one of those silly gifs. I felt like nothing was really accomplished, except I no longer had to see her posts.

    I still enjoy tumbling, but I also question whether it has the same power as blogging in terms of activism.