An Exclusive Interview With 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards Winner Jarrah Hodge Of Gender Focus

Jarrah Hodge authors the 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards winner Gender Focus, which placed 2nd in Feminist and 2nd in LGBTQ.

Why blogging? Why did you start blogging, and what drives you now?

I started blogging in 2009 when I was in a career planning class. There were a lot of lessons that bothered me as a feminist and I realized I had all these tools from taking Women's Studies to analyze these things that were bothering me.

There's a Gillian Welch song that has a lyric that goes "If there's something you wanna hear, you can sing it yourself." I had all this stuff to say, and I knew no one else was going to say it for me.

At first I blogged very specifically about the class I was taking, but eventually it finished. Now I'm driven to keep blogging by the issues I see in the news and in pop culture every day. Sexist advertising, homophobic bullying, discrimination against trans people, the feminization of poverty: these are all issues that we need to keep talking about.



What led you to feminist blogging in particular?

I decided to turn my blog into a feminist-themed blog because I was reading a lot of American feminist blogs like Feministing, Jezebel, and Salon's Broadsheet, and there just didn't seem to be a Canadian equivalent: a blog about feminist/gender issues that covered a range of issues from politics to pop culture from contributors from different backgrounds.

How has blogging affected or changed your feminism and vice versa?

I wouldn't say blogging has changed my overall feminist philosophy but reading other feminist blogs and getting feedback from commenters helps keep me aware that there are many different feminisms and feminist issues. I try not to assume that my pet issues are the ones that are the most interesting or most important to other people interested in feminism.

It's also made me look at everyday things from a different perspective. Blogging — because I'm always looking for inspiration — makes me keep feminist and gender analysis at the top of my mind when I'm at the mall, reading the newspaper, and interacting with friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Where do you find ideas for your content? If you are feeling less than motivated, where do you look for inspiration?

I get inspiration for posts from everywhere - books I'm reading, other feminist blogs (there are 25 I follow daily), ads on the Skytrain, suggestions from friends. Some of the best articles I read when I was getting interested in feminism were about putting a gender lens on everyday activities that we take for granted. The other place that's great is the Women's Media Center's weekly Twitter #sheparty, where feminist Twitter users get together and discuss issues going on in the feminist blogosphere that week.

Are you open about being a blogger? How do people offline react to your online writing?

I'm open about being a blogger and most people I know are pretty supportive, even if they don't read my blog or consider themselves feminists. My friends are always suggesting great topics for me to write about and my family is especially supportive. My dad emails links to my blog around to his friends and he recently contributed a book review to the blog. And my mom is a very enthusiastic Facebook fan.



Which weblogs are your current favourites? Which weblogs have been most influential in the shaping of your own blogging?

The blogs that most influenced my blogging were Feministing, Bitch Blogs, Girl w/ Pen, and Fair and Feminist.

My current favourite weblogs are Sociological Images, Racialicious, the Ms. Magazine blog, and Feminist Fatale.



What advice do you have for new bloggers?

My advice for new bloggers is to just have fun by writing as much as possible and see what works. I changed my blog title and design three times before I settled on the Gender Focus name and look. I'm also still surprised by what topics attract the most feedback. Of course you want to be writing things that are valuable to your readers, but when you're just starting out you might not know what that is. Use a stats program like Google Analytics or PostRank to figure out what's attracting readers and how you can keep them coming back.

The other really important piece of advice is to make sure you're reading other related blogs that already have an established reputation. This will help you develop an accessible blog writing style, give you ideas for posts, and let you know if the topic you were planning on writing about has already been covered to death by other bloggers.

CHEAT SHEET

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Name:
Location:
Weblog:
Twitter:
2010 CWA Winner:

Jarrah Hodge
New Westminster, British Columbia
Gender Focus
@jarrahpenguin
2nd in Feminist and
2nd in LGBTQ
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Elan Morgan

Elan Morgan is a writer and web designer who blogs from elanmorgan.com and works from elan.works, spreads gratitude through the graceinsmallthings.com social network, and speaks all over. They have been seen in the Globe & Mail, Best Health and Woman's Day magazines, TEDxRegina, and on CBC News and Radio. They believe in and work to grow both personal and professional quality, genuine community, and meaningful content online.