I have been neglectful of this my most favorite platform: my blog. My Dean pulled me for an impromptu and very quick trip to London, my two online classes finished and needed to be graded, and I have a deadline I set for myself to finish my book proposal. This coming weekend I am presenting a paper in Orlando and have a set of papers to grade for my face-to-face class. And yes, I have thrown up my hands and said this is enough.
Enough means that I will keep some consulting projects that are near and dear to my heart, like my child welfare project, but it means I will not be teaching anymore after next semester. Or perhaps teaching as I have known it as the onerous workload it has become. I will always be a teacher but I will be a teacher in the real world, the world where people are living and working. I will be involved in co-creating knowledge, not imposing it and finding creative ways to engage in conversations about the issues of our time in ways that are not divisive. This is the single most important work that we must strive for as people who have public platforms. As you know although we enter our conversations here through the lens of fashion, quite often they reflect and relate to the larger issues of our society.
In an very small way I was able to achieve this when I started to pay attention to my Facebook as its numbers began to grow. I must admit to not liking Facebook because people seem to feel rather free to be nasty and judgemental and I saw some of that happening on my page. Many people choose to not respond to negative comments at all, but that leaves them unaddressed. So I chose to “teach”. I presented research about the positive and negative effects of social media on women’s perceptions of their bodies and their levels of depression and anxiety. I also presented the positive effects of building community and feelings of connection and support. I set a limit that my platform would not be used to make women feel bad about themselves and I would delete all negative comments. A manifesto (which has been widely shared) was written with rules of engagement. I try to pose questions that ask women to talk about themselves and how they feel rather than comment on what I might be wearing. When someone jumped on a woman for having a certain kind of opinion I helped others to see why she might have thought that way. There are ways to respectfully disagree and listen to all sides of an issue. So now there are lovely and supportive conversations, inspiration from each other and many more ideas about what to wear than if people only looked at me. I can only imagine what more could happen if I had the time to be more thoughtful and engage every day. If it can be done on one very small Facebook page with leadership could it not be done on many more?
So I guess what I am saying is that I probably will never stop being a professor but i will do it in ways that give me freedom, pleasure and that supports critical thinking and responses based on careful thought and not on blind emotion. I have come to the realization that in the now, social media has an important role to play in democracy.
What are your thoughts about how to use social media to support all women and as a platform for civil discourse?