I want my blog to be successful. Pretending otherwise would be a lie - though I love writing for it, and I would continue to do so even if nobody read what I wrote, I do want an audience who responds and engages with me. Though it would be egotistic to pretend that I've 'made it', I've grown a little and earned regular commenters and followers who aren't just friends and family. I also love reading other blogs and interacting and supporting them - this community aspect is one of the reasons I stay blogging.
Increasingly I've found, however, that I'm uncomfortable with the lack of variety in most successful blogs. Though the alternative fashion community is significantly more balanced, most of the successful bloggers look the same, come from similar backgrounds and blog about the same lifestyles. Both Cora Harrington in her discussion of the 'documentary' The American Blogger and Nicolette Mason on how mainstream values impacts bloggers have described this, and it's making me increasingly uncomfortable. We are skinny, white and blogging.
To describe these types of bloggers (including myself) as a problem is to denounce their voices, and ignore that it's a problem within blogging itself. Blogging itself - above all, fashion blogging - promotes conventionally pretty, able women who present an appearance of affluence, a safe bet for advertisers and already an ideal image to readers - and whilst there's nothing wrong with those bloggers, this system disadvantages the poor, the disabled, the queer and the different. That's not to say that readers deliberately pick which blogs to follow according to mainstream ideals, but we are not supporting blogs which are outside of these (and they do exist!), and it shows in follower counts, in brand partnerships, and in money.
It's uncomfortable for me realising that my privileges off of the internet extend to my work, but even more upsetting to realize that there are other blogs out there who are not receiving the attention they deserve because they are run by bloggers who do not have those same privileges. It's all very well promising not to photoshop my images, but I already line up evenly enough with the media consensus on what's pretty. I also control my lighting, my poses, hide my eczema - so what's being shown on my blog isn't even accurate to life.
One of the aspects I love about alternative culture is how open it is to all identities, and its conscious rejection of mainstream values - but although we are already miles ahead of everyone else, we still have problems. When is the last time you saw a goth model of colour? When was the last time you saw a goth model of colour on the front cover of a goth magazine? There are more complex reasons why people of colour don't identify as goth (discussed in this coilhouse article), similar to plus sized goths and even queer or poor goths - we are middle class subculture, after all - but the least we can do is include them in the blogging community.
I can't make myself more representative for the wider community, because that isn't me - and though skinny white girls are already drowning out everyone else, I have a voice too. My identity is as valid as everyone else's, and though I may be indirectly part of the problem, I have the right to blog and exist without being made to feel uncomfortable for my clothes size (I'm looking at you, strangers who regularly remind me that I am an eight and I should go eat a sandwich).
So what do I do? One of the most powerful feminist quotes I've read, by NUS UK Women's Officer Kelley Temple discusses how male feminists fit within feminism, and hits the nail on the head regarding supporting representation and being an ally -
“Men who want to be feminists do not need to be given a space in feminism. They need to take the space they have in society & make it feminist.”
—Kelley Temple, National Union of Students UK Women’s Officer
Though I can't just make everyone outside of my niche a successful blogger, I can strive to promote and support those who don't have a voice. I know some people dislike the concept of specifically featuring marginalised groups as they think it just makes the problem more obvious and that they should just work harder, but these bloggers are working hard, and they're not getting any spotlight. For my own blogging, I will avoid the temptation of copying what makes other bloggers successful, and try and focus on what is unique about me and my writing. Alternative culture supports and thrives on differences, and we should do the same online. Let's show the rest how to do it.
How do you feel privilege affects blogging? What's your opinion on editing images (for more on what is currently influencing my feelings, read Molly Crabapple's article in Vice here)? Do you know any bloggers who deserve more attention?
N.B. I do realise that making a post about this as a skinny white blogger is in some ways an example of the privilege to which I'm referring; I haven't found any articles more specifically looking at dark and alternative culture, but Cora Harrington's blog The Lingerie Addict features some exceptional articles on how fashion affects marginalised groups, and her article on IFB (linked to above) hits the nail on the head about this and blogging.