Over the recent years, blogging has become a tool for marginalized individuals who wish to connect and identify with those similar, as well as utilize the blogosphere as a space to promote advocacy and change. The speed with which the internet can reach individuals and gather information is unlike any tool we have worked with in the past. But has the internet been able to democratize and promote advocacy in the public sphere? Are we collectively moving as fast as the internet and recognizing cyberspace as a legitimate space for advocacy and change?
In her work The Reality of Virtual Reality: The Internet and Gender Equality Advocacy in Latin America, author Elisabeth Jay Friedman examines ways in which the internet can democratize gender equality advocacy in Latin America. Friedman explores the lived experiences of those individuals utilizing the internet to promote social change and illustrates the importance of both boundaries and structure to determine the effects the internet has on advocacy communities. “The term boundaries refers to questions of inclusion and autonomy in civil society. Structure means the ways advocacy gets done: the forms of organization along with the strategies employed in them” (Friedman, 4).
The internet can enhance the way gender advocates work because it promotes a nonhierarchical form of interaction. Queer and trans groups within the LGBTQ community have employed such strategies to advocate for inclusion and advocacy. As Friedman notes, a lesbian feminist group in Mexico City (Lesbians in Collective) distributes information to 150 contacts via a free account. With little to no mainstream media outlets, these groups which Friedman points out are free to advance goals for gender equality and transformation.
But what of the groups who fall into an even smaller marginalized group? If larger demographics, like feminist organizations, struggle to gain equality what does that say for groups consisting of intersex and trans individuals? And how are they using the internet to advocate for change? In her work The Five Sexes: Why Male and Female Are Not Enough, Anne Fausto-Sterling explores the complications encountered within Intersex groups. Fausto-Sterling, upon exploring the concept and the history of Intersex individuals, simultaneously imparts knowledge and awareness concerning this issue.
Fausto-Sterling shares stories of advocacy passed on through individuals who have tried to radicalize the medical industry by speaking out against the concept of a two-sex society, shedding light on both the psychological and physical, surgical effects of a two-gendered system. Fausto-Sterling writes: if the state and the legal system have an interest in maintaining a two-party sexual system, they are in defiance of nature.
Another individual who has sought to radicalize the gender system is Kate Bornstein, a transsexual person who underwent a male-to-female sex change in 1986. Kate dedicates herself to educating others about what she feels is the inherent oppression of a binary gender system which forces individuals to conform to one of only two gender options. As an trans advocate in the blogosphere, Kate uses her blog to impart knowledge, promote her lesbian feminist writings, and connect with a demographic of marginalized individuals.
It is important here to acknowledge the intersections of both the social and medical worlds when advocacting for change amongst marginalized groups. For to gain medical advances (especially for trans and intersex individuals) we must first recognize these individuals within the social sphere. Through blogging and the use of the internet in general strides are being made in the battle for equality. But no matter how fast the cyber world moves, time is needed to counteract generations spent in social oppression.