For more than five years, Gina McCauley has inspired us by lifting her voice in defense of Black women and girls. Her blog, What About Our Daughters, illuminates news and causes overlooked by mainstream media.
Championing Black women won't win you any popularity contests as Gina will attest, but she's never backed down from a fight. That, is of course, why the trailblazing founder of the Blogging While Brown conference is called "the Blogmother."
This is a serious question. Who was blogging about the interests of Black women and girls before you?
The IR dating and marriage bloggers were out there before I started blogging. I remember stumbling across blogs like Evia's and thinking how revolutionary they were. They were saying things that here heresy in the Black community and they weren't apologizing for it either. Although I have some fundamental disagreements with that corner of the blogosphere, I won't deny that their unapologetic expression of their beliefs was liberating for me. Of course there were feminist bloggers out there and womanist bloggers out there before me, but I think what made my blog different was I wasn't passive- I actually used my blog to change things in the real world- like costing networks millions in advertising and getting offensive content pulled. I also write in a way that is assessable to people from every educational background. Yes, I have an advanced degree, but I'm also from relatively humble beginnings. It's not an academic blog. I'm not concerned with the lexicon. I'm more of a street corner preacher than a college professor. I'm not always serious and in fact I'm often downright snarky. I know I'm flawed - so do my readers- it brings us closer. I think my readers are smarter than I am.
Would you describe yourself as a provocateur?
No. I'm just a woman doing God's will. I'm not out there looking for a fight, but I also won't run from one either. What's provocative about saying "What about our daughters?"
Are blogs the new black press?
Maybe. Maybe not. It depends on the blog. They certainly have the potential to be. I think the idea of press is completely different in the age of iphones and youtube and twitter. DO blogs present information that traditional Black media publications ignore- absolutely, but have bloggers professionalized in the ways they probably should have? Probably not. But it's still early.
What do you mean when you say blogs haven't professionalized they way they should have?
For Black bloggers who indicated that they want to blog full time or that think their blogs are going to grow into media empires, they have not figured out a sustainability model in the ways that many of their White counterparts have. You can keep up with a hobby for a while, but if you want to blog as a business, you need to invest the time in figuring out the business of social media and digital media content creation. Far too many bloggers are still stuck on thinking that ads running in their sidebars and product give a ways are going to be a sustainable model - it aint.
You've been a power player in the Black blogosphere for years, but you haven't seen the same acknowledgement we see given to other bloggers. Why do you think that is?
Because I don't want it. I'd rather be influential than popular. There are a large number of bloggers that I've handed TV, radio and news/magazine opportunities to. Trust me. I routinely turn down TV appearances. I don't live in NYC, I don't have a publicist and I've always had a love-hate relationship with my notoriety. It's good because I can give a platform to issues I care about. It's bad because everyone wants a piece of you. I'm not in competition with other bloggers- there isn't anything to fight over.If one of us succeeds, we all succeed. I don't need acknowledgment. What I give, I give freely because it is what I have been called to do. If I could fade completely into the background today and still have the same impact, I'd do it. I'm actively working towards that point where I can work behind the scenes and still get things done. being a "brand" sucks- it get's old. I am a person, not a brand. I think I have more than enough "acknowledgments." I can't wait to retire.
Have black bloggers sold out?
That's an odd question. You can't judge all Black bloggers en mass. Even I, knowing as many bloggers as I do, can't account for even a tiny portion of the Black blogsphere and what exactly is "selling out?" to whom? for what? Everyone blogs for a different reason. I blog as an activist, if someone else blogs to make money- fine. . Every blogger has to find their own way and make their own choices. There is no rule book on how to handle being a web celebrity.Have we squandered a technological revolution? WHo knows? social media is still young. I think the blogosphere has given birth to a bunch of new Black voices we otherwise would not have known about . I don't judge why people blog. Blogging is personal. Also, you don't know what's going on in a blogger's life. Maybe you think they sold out, but maybe they did what they needed to do in order to keep blogging and keep a roof over their heads. There is no High Commissioner of Blogging who dictates what is and is not acceptable blogging behavior. Nobody is getting rich offa blogging - even the one who think they are aren't. Call me when AOL buys a Black blog for $350 million dollars and then we can talk about selling out.
How has your background in law affected the way you approach blogging?
That's hard to say. I organized a successful boycott of my elementary school cafeteria in the 5th grade so even if I'd been an architect or a doctor, I'd probably blog exactly the same way. But clearly, I'm not afraid to argue with people in public. Even with my ubiquitous typos, I'm supremely confident with making my point, in public, in front of an audience. I probably have more research skills than the average internet user so my online searches are a lot more powerful. I'm acutely aware of my constitutional freedoms so I probably blog with less fear. I'm not impressed by titles. And I'm used to asking for what I want in the right way to the right people. My blog isn't just a platform to express my opinion, it's a tool to get what I want. So if I see something I don't like, I don't just sit back and throw my hands up in the air whining about it. If I can change it, I change it. If I can't, I learn to live with it.
What's the biggest mistake you've made in your blogging career?
Heck too many mistakes to count. I'm probably making a mistake right now. Giving administrative control of a blog I created to a "fan" and having them kick me off my own blog. I can laugh about it now, but at the time, it was catastrophic. I went on to do bigger and better things.
Letting a shady preacher convince me to fight a very public fight while he fed me inside information and then turned around and tried to broker a peace accord between me and his fellow clergy--- mind you he started the whole thing. Not recognizing that I was "famous" and that people weren't drawn to me, but to what I could do. Ignoring my family for all of the early hype that came my way. best thing that ever happened to me was the early drama associated with the blog- I learned that I am not my blog. I learned the difference between a friend a fan a foe and family. The thing about 15 minutes of fame is that you don't figure it out until minute number 19. Luckily I hung on long enough to be able to apply my lessons.
When will you know it's time to retire?
When I launch the next phase of my advocacy using digital media. I think once our first feature length film is in theaters, that I just won't have the time to blog on MWF. Plus I think people use the blog as a crutch to think they've done something by reading it. I don't want to make people feel good- I want to change the world for future generations of Black women and girls. We haven't even scratched the surface of the what the power of the internet could do to transform the lives of Black women. When it is time. It will be time and I've given up on choosing a date. The Universe got me into this thing, it will get me out. But Every blogger should take an assessment and have goals- the internet is a dangerous drug - you'll sit down to write your first post or status update and the next thing you know, it's ten years later.
What would you like WAOD to be in 5 years?
I don't know. A fond memory? It isn't about what WAOD will be in 5 years, its about where the community of women and men who make up the WAOD community will be in 5 years. The blog is just a tool-it's a platform. The value in the blog is that it has drawn a community of likeminded people together. And the question is NOW WHAT? I grapple with whether I should let the blog be an archive of information, or bring on contributors and take an editor role. What I do know if that I want to spend my time working with other women who want to do something other than read. reading is great- but movements require that you move. If I keep blogging, we'll be in the same exact place five years from now as we are today. I started the blog to combat negative portrayals of African American women in pop culture - We should be using digital technology to produce our own portrayals. We should stop leaving our destinies in the hands of other people who have clearly demonstrated that they don't like us very much.