As this is the final post of the semester, I figured it would be fun to take it back to the inception of ShoutOut! JMU. I am lucky enough to know and work under one of the original members who founded ShoutOut! JMU. Kim Johnson, graduated from James Madison University with her undergraduate degree in 2012, and is graduating next week with her masters. I asked Kim if her and I could do a short interview about her reasons behind the inception of ShoutOut and she answered my questions below.
Kim: Let me start off by noting that, as Shannon can testify, my memory is kind of abysmal. So if I’ve forgotten any of the original bloggers or credited someone with something they didn’t do, I apologize in advance. Anyway, I’m super flattered that Shannon wanted to interview me for this, and I’m incredibly proud to have had a hand in the creation of something that means so much to so many people here.
Shannon: How did you come up with the idea to start Shoutout?
Kim: Well, ShoutOut started as JMU Women’s Student Caucus, which is why the URL used to be ridiculous – I’m glad y’all were able to change it! The blog was running for a year with two senior women writing and under the guidance of the wonderful Dr. Melissa Aleman, but it wasn’t widely read or well known. When the two seniors graduated, Dr. Aleman approached her student and my friend Mitch (aliasmitch) to see if he’d be interested in getting a crew together to revise the blog and serve as writers. So in Fall of 2010 he and I, along with our other good friends, Katie (Katie O.), Lauren (lauranium), Lauren (somethingbeany), and Faith (Killer Tofu) sat down with Dr. Aleman and looked over the blog as it stood then to come up with ideas for making it better. Later, we all met in the apartment the Laurens and I shared and started brainstorming. We wanted a new name and a new look for the blog, and after a lot of back and forth we landed on ShoutOut.
The names were:
1. Title: Feminism for U (U as in University)
Tagline: Creating Dialogue with a Blog
Tagline: Your Source for Feminist Discourse
3. Your Daily Dose of Feminism
Tagline: Based on a 2010 Calorie Diet(clever because spring it can be a 2011 calorie diet)
4.Title: That’s What She Said
5.Title: Hey Lady!
Once the name was decided we got to work redesigning the blog. Katie had some graphic design know-how and developed the banner, and when someone suggested having a woman’s face shouting as part of the banner, Mitch yelled “JESSICA (Katie’s roommate and our neighbor) HAS THE PERFECT PROFILE FOR THAT” so he ran out, got her to agree to have her picture taken, and her face became the face of ShoutOut.
Shannon: What fueled your desire to start ShoutOut?
Kim: When Mitch and Dr. Aleman approached me about writing a feminist blog for the University, I was absolutely on board; there wasn’t really a space for feminist dialogue on campus at that time. When I was a freshman back in 2007, there had been a JMU chapter of the National Organization for Women, but the meetings were sparsely populated and unstructured so the chapter dissolved before the year was over. But by that time I was fortunate enough to have found a community of feminist-minded students, and I think that having that sense of community was crucial to fueling our activist work. I wanted to be a part of the founding team of ShoutOut so that we’d not only have a space to voice our opinions, but to start fostering a vocal, visible feminist community on campus. I think that coming to college as a young feminist can sometimes be a very isolating experience, and realizing that you’re not alone in your opinions can be incredibly validating.
Shannon: What was/is your favorite part about Shoutout?
Kim: I honestly think that writing for ShoutOut made me a more courageous writer and person. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, but knowing that what you’re writing might be viewed by thousands of people can be a daunting; even more daunting is knowing that anonymity gives people license to say terrible things that they’d never have the courage to say to your face. But once you get past the initial fear of how people might react to what you say and start building an argument that supports your point of view, challenges to your opinion become a kind of welcome. I also loved the feeling of being fired up about something, writing passionately about it, and getting overwhelmingly positive feedback and affirmation from readers.
Shannon: Do you still read ShoutOut today? Do you have any criticisms?
Kim: Ahhh, I’m a little embarrassed to admit I don’t read ShoutOut regularly anymore! I’m sorry! I left the blog before I graduated and kept up with it for a little bit, but after graduating and working a couple jobs and then starting grad school I fell behind. I still read posts on occasion, but because I don’t read regularly I don’t really feel qualified to give any critical feedback on what you all are doing now. I am however impressed with the visibility of feminism on campus now, between the Feminist Collective and ShoutOut and Sister Speak the recent Dukes for Feminism. Just always remember (and this is a general sentiment, not one directed towards anyone or anything in particular) that feminist ideals need to be intersectional and constantly evolving. Always seek out new information and theories to inform your manner of thinking about these issues. Take classes that challenge your perspective and force you to learn about groups you don’t hold membership in. Even for me, as I was responding to these questions I couldn’t help but look up some of my old posts, and while I’m still proud of a lot of the things I wrote, certain others are slut-shaming (written before I was familiar with the concept) or just kind of ignorant in other ways. Instead of being embarrassed by some of the things I used to think (although, let’s be honest, it’s still a little embarrassing), I’d prefer to think of them as a testament to the idea that feminist thought needs to be constantly evolving. I know that I’ll never be done learning and that there will always be new issues and schools of thought to engage with, but isn’t that part of the appeal?
Shannon: If you could write a blog post today, what would be your topic or focus?
Kim: Hmm…can I evade this question for a minute by telling a story? A few weeks ago I was out with some friends and ran into a feminist professor from JMU. We were talking and she asked if I was going to write anything before leaving – like a manifesto, or a list of suggestions for JMU administrators or something. I was taken aback because I don’t tend to think of myself as someone who has the clout to make demands or write a manifesto, but ever since she mentioned it I’ve been playing around with ideas on what I would say. I guess if I were to write another post for ShoutOut it would be that – a reflection of my time at JMU, what I’ve learned, both in the classroom and through working with higher level administrators, and what I think the campus community can do to help foster a more equitable campus for all of its students.
A HUGE shoutout ( get it) goes to Kim for answering these and making ShoutOut! JMU. Without her I doubt that any of us would be the same!