A Moment of Silence

Two fair-skinned little girls.  One is flipping off the camera with a huge frown, and the other is laughing at the other's gumption.  Both look fabulously naughty.

Two fair-skinned little girls. One is flipping off the camera with a huge frown, and the other is laughing at the other's gumption. Both look fabulously naughty.

It’s official, one of the oldest, crankiest feminist blogs is closing its doors, and it’s a shame too. It was a great place for conversation about the place for children, motherhood, and work in feminist movements. Also, how to find a good bra. Also, why to avoid academia unless you really fucking want it. Also, the benefits of pseudonymity. Also, practical approaches to open relationships.* A tip of my latte to Bitch, PhD, who taught me how to be a student and a mom at the same time. But let’s face it: hobby blogging is drying up for us old-timers. Most of the big blogs have business models and steady revenue, and those of us that don’t are, um, struggling. I love blogs, but blogging is hard** and many of us who blog as a hobby are burning out. And as the medium itself changes, the bloggers evolve as well:

Not that we don’t/won’t continue to have things to say on the blog’s topics–feminism, politics, society, recipes, even academia–but we, the various Bitches, have each reached a kind of closure of the parts of our lives that the blog served. Sybil has a job she’s happy with, but it’s not blog-friendly. Ding has switched jobs and found a man, for god’s sake. LeBlanc got MARRIED. Taddy claims he hasn’t changed, but he got cancer, recovered, is returning to his real life and (most importantly of all) has realized, I think, that he is a damn good writer. I’m a housewife, and Pseudonymous Kid is old enough now (10 next week!) that he has started to censor what I write about him, the little shit.

We may not all be living happily ever after, but I think we’re all at transitional stages and ready to move to something new.

Ayup. I’ve been ruminating on this question myself.*** You can reference a past life but you must narrate the new one. After enough time with the adopted persona, and the natural evolutions of living, you must change the venue or the conversation.

__________
* All conversations I’d like to preserve if B will let me.
** Unless you are Jill and have sold your soul for the ability to time travel and thus conjure five extra hours out of the day.
*** What do you (I) have to say after ten years of living aloud? How do you (I) address an audience that knows you (me) as a young single mother, when today you (I) are (am) actually married, middle class, and on the eve of your thirtieth birthday? Hi.


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54 comments for “A Moment of Silence

  1. October 15, 2010 at 9:20 am

    NO! =( I’ve just discovered it.

    Now I must speed read through as much as I can before it’s taken down.

  2. October 15, 2010 at 10:10 am

    The only thing constant is change. Alas, Bitch PhD will be missed. As a former college administrator, no other place so closely related to my voice before. Best wishes.

  3. October 15, 2010 at 10:39 am

    I’ve been feeling this in my gut lately, too. Not that I’m quitting blogging, but that there’s been some shift and what I used to get out of blogging and what I get out of it now are really different. I do feel like hobby blogging is drying up. And I still like it, but…

    I don’t want this to turn into a “back in my day” rant, but I also want to try to get at something (which is my way of saying that this may get a little “back in my day” which should probably be mocked, a little). Back in the heyday of Bitch PhD, most commenters were also bloggers. Our blogs might not have been as big, but most everyone was trying it out.

    Now days, most of the commenters I get on my blog, for instance, don’t have their own blogs.

    On the one hand, I know this is because people are off on Facebook or Twitter or they don’t think they have enough to say to say something regularly.

    But what concerns me is that, we used to have a model where the line between readers and writers was very fuzzy, at best, and now, it seems like, as blogging as a form matures, we’re settling back into the same old roles–where a few people with some expertise (whatever we decide is expertise) have the stage and everyone else is critiquing from the audience.

    I don’t want to oversimplify it, but we fight about replicating hierarchies from the “real” world here in the “virtual” world while we let that particular core hierarchy–you, special person, are the producer and I, regular person, am the consumer–slip back in.

    There’s a huge difference between “we do this for each other” and the obligations that creates and “you do this for me” and the obligations that creates. One can be really sustaining. The other can be very draining.

  4. October 15, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Aunt B.: But what concerns me is that, we used to have a model where the line between readers and writers was very fuzzy, at best, and now, it seems like, as blogging as a form matures, we’re settling back into the same old roles–where a few people with some expertise (whatever we decide is expertise) have the stage and everyone else is critiquing from the audience…

    …There’s a huge difference between “we do this for each other” and the obligations that creates and “you do this for me” and the obligations that creates. One can be really sustaining. The other can be very draining.

    Word. At some point the game changed, probably when blogging moved to a commodity model and out of general geekdom. I feel like the model has moved from creation to consumption, where instead of creating a forum in which to foster more creation, readers are looking for bloggers to *be* us, to *represent* us, and when bloggers do so imperfectly there is discontent and unrest. In ye olden days, somebody would do what they could to fill that gap, to *grow* the internet. Maybe the blogging movement grew too fast? Got co-opted?

    Now I’m getting all back-in-the-day about it too. Regardless. Here, we are pulling the same traffic as blogs who employ full-time writers on living wages. That’s not our “business” model, we don’t want to be a business. But it should be fun or at least relatively fulfilling, but stakes are higher and it’s… weird.

  5. October 15, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Even though I was an irregular reader, I am sorry to see Bitch, PHD go. Still, it goes with the territory – people get tired of blogging or reach a different stage where it doesn’t make sense any longer.

    Aunt B. and Lauren, I find your comments interesting, and definitely think there is something to what you say. However, I would point out that many commenters back then (myself included) were not bloggers, but instead regulars commenting at the same few blogs – many of these evolved into bloggers over time, but it took years (e.g. Digby who was a highly valued commenter at many blogs, winning Koufax awards, long before she created her own blog). I think that this community feeling has disappeared many places, especially at the professional blogs, and that the blogsphere is poorer for it.

  6. Alexandra
    October 15, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    I won’t miss her. I can’t forget the ugly “man Coulter” incident. Talk about taking yr cis privilege and running with it… So gross.

    http://www.questioningtransphobia.com/?p=1273

    http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2009/05/22/lady-looks-like-a-dude/

  7. October 15, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Kristjan, I think you raise a fair point. I know I have commenters, even now, who’ve never been bloggers, but I can’t wait for them to comment because I know they are really engaged. But I do think the feeling is the difference between “we are all participating” and “some of us are the audience.”

    It just feels like the expectations of a lot of commenters have shifted, and I worry that it functions to reestablish some hierarchies that have never really been very good for us.

    • October 15, 2010 at 2:48 pm

      It just feels like the expectations of a lot of commenters have shifted, and I worry that it functions to reestablish some hierarchies that have never really been very good for us.

      Yes. Blogging has shifted into a service of sorts — commenters expect regular content, and the point of comment threads seems to be to Take Issue with something rather than to actually engage or discuss. Like, you as a blogger are obligated to provide this service, and you’re obligated to only put forward views that The Community has agreed are Our Views, and you can only use language and terms that we all agree on, and if you don’t them we will pillory you. Forget putting out anything actually challenging. Oh and also you have to lay out all of your personal shit so that The Community can decide if you are actually qualified to have an opinion on whatever issue you are writing about (answer: you are not). But then, at the same time, you the blogger are an Authority on things now, and people (in very large numbers) come by just to read what you write and never even look at the comments, which then means that The Community kind of has a point when they tell you to walk the line, because you are representative of… something.

      Not that I’m bitter.

  8. October 15, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Alexandra: That’s a fair opinion and I won’t begrudge you for it. I will point out that there are six years worth of writing there, some of which was really groundbreaking and important to a large swath of people. It’s unfortunate in my opinion to completely write off an enormous body of work because you take (completely understandable) umbrage with one part of it. As a consumer of blogs, I prefer to read with the understanding that my bloggers are imperfect, and also malleable, human beings, and are most often open to solid rhetoric. Blogging is a process, it’s not about spouting off perfectly formed opinions always.

    As a reader I take some and leave the rest. If I wrote off every blog that had ever taken a stance I knew was wrong, I couldn’t look at the internet anymore.

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  10. BeccaTheCyborg
    October 15, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    It’s really not “unfortunate” to be offended by a writer doing something seriously bigoted and fucked up. It’s very easy to “take some and leave the rest” when it doesn’t have any actual bearing on you.

  11. Alexandra
    October 15, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Lauren: I see where you’re coming from, and don’t think I really disagree. But! BPHD did not seem malleable to solid rhetoric here. Quite the opposite.

    For me, it’s very hard to regain trust in a person when I learn that they harbor ugly views or hostility toward people like myself, and what’s more, seem to revel in it. Yes, it is a very specific trigger, and I don’t feel like I have the ability to ignore it. Nor the desire, to be honest. Once bitten, forever shy, unless there’s good reason to reconsider.

    That shouldn’t overshadow the rest of her contributions, no, but there are plenty of replies here about those. My admittedly off-the-cuff remark was meant to bring up something that’d been left unsaid.

    I mean, it also bothered me when all the blog tributes to Mary Daly were going around (not to imply that Bitch PhD’s record of transphobia was on the same level), and I felt something needed to be said then, too, Daly’s legitimate contributions to feminism notwithstanding. When I didn’t see (presumably) cis voices speaking up about it I felt the need to interject with a trans perspective, lest everyone forget her transgressions in their celebratory haze. Inappropriate? I dunno. I felt strongly enough to delurk and speak up though, that’s for sure.

  12. October 15, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    Alexandra, actually, I think this is really good stuff for getting at the part of this that I can’t quite figure out for myself. Mary Daly was a bigot AND she was a prominent “Voice of Feminism.” It seems right to say that her legacy to feminism today is one that is full of its share of ugliness and object when people try to gloss over that.

    But isn’t the dynamic different with Bitch PhD? She wasn’t, I don’t think, taking on the role of “prominent voice of feminism.” She was just another blogger, who was really wrong on some occasions and right on others.

    I’m not saying I also don’t feel this about bloggers, I do. I’m just trying to understand it. But why do we trust her? Why do we feel like, when she does something that should cause us to either argue with her or stop reading her, that she has betrayed our trust?

    We don’t know each other, for the most part. Why can’t people who fuck up so royally just be fought with or dismissed?

    What’s with the feeling of betrayal?

    What would make us think we’re owed something?

    And, like I said, I feel it too. I just don’t understand it and I think it’s a really problematic dynamic when a very large, very diverse group of people are interacting.

  13. Jennifer
    October 15, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    “How do you (I) address an audience that knows you (me) as a young single mother, when today you (I) are (am) actually married, middle class, and on the eve of your thirtieth birthday? Hi.”

    Uh… you adjust and the readers adjust. Just saying.

    I am sad to see blogs go in favor of Twitter and Facebook updates. People are really losing the ability to write a nice long argument for or against something. Sigh.

    I don’t blog personally as much as I used to, but mostly because my life is terminally boring :P

  14. October 15, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    I will point out that there are six years worth of writing there, some of which was really groundbreaking and important to a large swath of people. It’s unfortunate in my opinion to completely write off an enormous body of work because you take (completely understandable) umbrage with one part of it.

    The problem is that BitchPhD’s revealed transphobia (I exchanged some private e-mails with her at the time, and they were even worse than the public blog post) cast into doubt anything else she’d ever purported to write about gender. As she thought it was okay not just to repeat her boyfriend’s transphobic joke, but to insult and dismiss the trans people who were reading her blog and who were offended by it, well: I have to reinterpret a lot of what she wrote about gender that I’d previously been able to see in a good light.

    (She also got plenty pissy with those of us who had been regular commenters and who were unable to just “forgive and forget” her unapologetic bigotry.)

    I hope Taddy sets up his own blog: I liked him and would follow any blog he wrote. But BitchPhD I just kinda hope disappears.

  15. Kristen J.
    October 15, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Jill: But then, at the same time, you the blogger are an Authority on things now, and people (in very large numbers) come by just to read what you write and never even look at the comments, which then means that The Community kind of has a point when they tell you to walk the line, because you are representative of… something.

    Hmmm….I think this observation puts a lot of things in perspective. I seem to be having that same objectivity conversation in real life and on line a lot lately, but it bears repeating…no person is an authority on anything beyond on hir experience. But we (humans) seem to need these voices of authority and so we create them even where the speaker never intended to be such.

    Still, while I absolutely respect the voices of every person here, I hate the idea of establishing Authority in any social justice movement. One of the things I love about this blog in particular is the summer bloggers which break up the solitary voices/community vision phenomenon. Of course the consequence is that the visiting bloggers get tremendous push back (to put it mildly) for challenging that community vision.

    I wish there was an easier way to have a discussion without giving one voice (the blogger’s voice here) the place of authority (except to the extent the blogger is discussing hir own experience). Not sure how to make that work…

  16. October 16, 2010 at 12:41 am

    Aunt B.: We don’t know each other, for the most part. Why can’t people who fuck up so royally just be fought with or dismissed?

    What’s with the feeling of betrayal?

    What would make us think we’re owed something?

    Oh, FSM. This. This. It is so fucking draining being on the receiving end of this when you’re doing all this on your own time, and at some risk of fucking up your job or the rest of your life if your internet world crosses into your real-life world.

    I’m just some joker typing away on the internet, but somehow my words were invested with some kind of import, and people got so fucking bent out of shape. And not always if I’d actually fucked up. Even just not meeting a reader’s arbitrary expectations was a trigger for accusations of betrayal.

    When I felt like I had to keep censoring myself because I didn’t want to deal with the inevitable fallout, or simply when those who demanded that I cater to their sensitivities didn’t extend the same courtesy to me, it was over.

  17. QLH
    October 16, 2010 at 9:32 am

    As she thought it was okay not just to repeat her boyfriend’s transphobic joke, but to insult and dismiss the trans people who were reading her blog and who were offended by it […] She also got plenty pissy with those of us who had been regular commenters and who were unable to just “forgive and forget” her unapologetic bigotry.

    That was when I walked away for the last time. I’d had private concerns for a while, but after that, I didn’t look back.

  18. S.H.
    October 16, 2010 at 10:51 am

    “I am sad to see blogs go in favor of Twitter and Facebook updates. People are really losing the ability to write a nice long argument for or against something. Sigh.”

    I think this is really worth reiterating, because I think if every feminist blogger I read suddenly switched to writing about gardening, I’d still visit regularly. Because at the end of the day, the writing is just that fucking good. But at the same time I feel a sense of guilt in constantly absorbing this phenomenal writing without contributing in some way in order to lessen the burden of the writers. On the one hand, I don’t want to write a comment that just says “wow! that was really good”, but I’m concerned that constant negative feedback and very little in the way of a cheering section has to naturally take it’s toll. Feminist blogs have made me a better feminist, and a better writer, but I’ve yet to find a way to translate my appreciation without adding pressure to the bloggers themselves.

    I’ve also noticed the phenomenon that feminist bloggers are often at their best when the shit’s hitting the fan. For instance, during the children in restaurants debate, I must have checked back to Feministe multiple times a day, and looking back on that thread, there’s some seriously awesome writing to be had there. But I also saw the absolute exhaustion on the part of the mods and contributors desperately trying to appease everyone while maintaining some semblance of order when the situation deteriorated. That’s an incredible burden, and it’s just one example of many.

    I stumbled upon Pandagon almost five years ago now, and have avidly read various feminist blogs over the years. Regardless of which blog I’m reading, I almost always witness the incredible toll these discussions take on individuals, and that’s not even including the daily grind of running and writing a blog. So despite my selfish wish that everything will stay exactly as it is now, I don’t feel that any feminist blogger/writer has a responsibility to keep on in their role if they no longer wish to, because I feel like I’m stepping over the line from supporting feminist work into demanding it from specific individuals. So long comment short, you guys rock, but no pressure!

  19. protocoach
    October 17, 2010 at 1:06 am

    I admit, I’m impressed at anyone who has the mental resilience to blog regularly. I’m fairly political and open to debating, but I get burned out with regularity from political fights in my personal life, and those are with people who don’t have the blog commenter’s luxury of calling the author an asshole and cruising away.

  20. piny
    October 17, 2010 at 8:14 am

    My response to this was basically, I’m not touching this.

    Since we’re apparently talking about Feministe, too:

    I don’t think you can blame the Bustification of Feministe on the commenters. It’s true that a lot of the comments have become more shallow, and that a lot of the commenters are no longer loyal readers.

    But there’s an intermediate step there.

    At some point, Feministe stopped being a blog and made the conscious decision to be a big blog. The blog did become all about providing content to an ever-increasing number of readers. More bloggers! More ideas! More different stuff! If we put it, they will come. And they will stay. And they will behave themselves.

    A lot of that content got farmed out and specialized; co-bloggers came and largely went. You may not have put this together, but one of the parts of content that got farmed out was those incredibly moving, deeply personal, truth-to-ignorance posts that tend to say to the anonymous internet, “Chum overboard!” You made the decision to make those subsidiary.

    Jill, think back over the past year or so–longer than that. It’s been the guest bloggers and the new bloggers and certain commenters who have been the target of the most abuse. That’s not because everyone takes hits at the guest bloggers. That’s not because Feministe is a big target. That’s because the guest bloggers and new bloggers are not like you. They’re outsiders, interlopers, unFeministe.

    When the horrible commenters say, “How dare you say these things on Feministe,” they’re not insulting Feministe. I know it’s hard to see, since these people are like a sort of Tea Party blog constituency, but they’re fighting for their idea of you. They are fighting for you. They prefer you and J Crew to six paragraphs on being a single mother of color any day. And they came to Feministe because they believe that Feministe content has nothing to do with being a single mother of color.

    That’s not because they can’t read. That’s not because you’ve spent the past several years making a name for yourself as a blogger who writes deeply personal, incredibly moving, truth-to-ignorance posts. You didn’t do that. Other people did it on this blog. There’s a huge difference.

    Now most of the content provided by the Big Feministe Bloggers is what you could find on Jezebel or Broadsheet. In fact, a lot of it is what you do find on Jezebel or Broadsheet. And now Feministe continually performs this little dance of tension between its anxiety over a clear pattern of identification with other Big Feminist Bloggers, a belief that it must get more different stuff in order to stay relevant, and an obvious inability to protect the people who provide incisive writing and protect the community that supports them.

    You’ve been triangulating, and nobody is ever satisfied with that.

    • October 17, 2010 at 10:04 am

      Piny, that’s fair, and I agree with mostly everything you’ve pointed out. I certainly recognize that Feministe as an entity (and me, personally) had roles in creating the kind of tension that exists right now. But (and we’ve all had this conversation before) I’m not sure what the other options are, blog-wise. Yes, a lot of the content that I put up is not personal, and it’s not soul-searching, and it’s not long. There are a variety of reasons why that’s true, but chief among them are (a) I have a very demanding full-time job and simply don’t have time to put up long, super-thoughtful posts, and (b) I don’t have the energy to have my personal life flayed on the internet, and would rather not lose my job over this blog. That’s not particularly brave and I’m sure it’s an unsatisfying answer, but that’s my reality. So yes, I cover political issues more than personal ones (although I think it’s unfair to suggest that I write mostly about things like J Crew). I write shorter posts that aren’t all that deep or incisive. That is all I have to give right now, and I’m exhausted as is.

      But I’m not this whole blog, and we as a blogging team have had many, many conversations publicly and privately about how to do this thing the right way. And so yes, we try to take on more co-bloggers who have different backgrounds and interests; we invite guest bloggers who will write about things other than what the rest of us usually write about; we institute comment moderation policies and try to reign in bad behavior. And yes, it makes me angry when commenters are total jerks to the people we invite on. And maybe that is my fault for not writing about my own life, or for covering largely political issues rather than personal/political ones. Sure, it’s triangulating – I don’t want Feministe to be the same as Jezebel or Broadsheet, but I also have personal constraints on my time and my abilities to maintain this space, so I try really hard not to be the whole space myself. And it is very clear that no one is satisfied with that. I’m deeply unsatisfied with it. But I’m honestly not sure what steps to take now.

  21. October 17, 2010 at 8:51 am

    All that we can hope for is more new blogs to take it’s place, well, Bitch Ph.D is irreplaceable, but there are new feminist blogs popping up, hopefully more than we can bargin for.

  22. October 17, 2010 at 9:00 am

    Thanks for the heads up about the closing…It raises a nice reflection for me and blogging vs. real-life and writing.

    I think just like everything else, blogging is what you make of it. I worried for a long time how a blog – or any piece of internet writing that allows the public to “know” you – can handle the natural evolution of personality and life circumstance.

    When I started My Ecdysis, I intentionally created it to hold all the unpredictable and predictable elements of life, especially change; the shedding of skin when new colors are coming in. When I think of the differences between readers for content vs. readers for life, I think it’s the latter who embrace the different phases. At least, I hope they do.

    I applaud folks who step into a new phase and have the insight to end something that is no longer sustainable.

  23. October 17, 2010 at 9:38 am

    We don’t know each other, for the most part. Why can’t people who fuck up so royally just be fought with or dismissed?

    What’s with the feeling of betrayal?

    What would make us think we’re owed something?

    Because the elephant in the room is that ideas are valued to the degree of who is voicing those ideas. I remember back on this blog, when Lauren cited the motherhood post from BitchPhD, and folks stopped to consider….gee, I never thought about it that way….

    When the plain fact is, I could have said the same thing, and the greater response from the feminist blogosphere would have been something along the lines of “but honey, that’s why we fought so hard for the right to abortion…so the swarthy masses of women like you would have them, and not fuck up the planet with your breeding.”

    The idea got heard because of whose mouth it came from—that of a well-to-do, highly educated, married white woman. And understand…I’m not implying that any of those identifiers are “bad”. I’m just saying that it’s worth illuminating that there are hierarchies that remain well unchallenged. It’s worth remembering that her station in life gave her voice a power outside of herself.

    If you want to know where the sense of betrayal is coming from, it’s because of an (over?)reliance on allies to insure that one’s perspective is heard. Because it is still fucking painful to know one’s own voice won’t be heard—even from most of one’s supposed allies.

    (Personally, I never felt that way about BitchPhD. That was the one good post she had. I don’t feel betrayed, or anything else now that the blog is gone.)

  24. Sheelzebub
    October 17, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Jill, I agree that commenters have been jerks to guest bloggers. But I think that sometimes, guest bloggers have said some really ignorant shit and they (and the mods) dismissed the reactions of the people who reacted negatively and treated us all to a tone lecture. In that sense, yes, a sense of betrayal was profound.

    I mean, look–I thought people were shitty to maia, even though I strongly disagreed with a lot of her post. They were shitty to the point where I didn’t even want to wade in with my opinion–it was too much of a clusterfuck. But, say, the obesity post that sparked a shitstorm? That parroted rhetoric that fat people deal with every day, and instead of listening and trying to understand, she dismissed the commenters. And then they were treated to fucking tone lectures and accusations of denialism. I’ll admit to my shock because up until then, I thought that folks here would at least understand why people got angry.

  25. October 17, 2010 at 11:17 am

    My issue with Bitch, PHD and the cissexist post in question is not so much that she flubbed in a major way when posting the article. We all f*k up now and then. We all harbor prejudices that are invisible to us and unwittingly express them from time to time. My problem is that she circled her wagons and refused to accept responsibility for the prejudice expressed in her words. That indicates an unwillingness to learn from one’s mistakes, change one’s approach to the issue at hand, and move on.

    I am left wondering how to treat the body of work penned by someone with such blind spots. I want to be fair about the matter, but as a trans woman, a part of me wants to storm the gates and burn the village, ya know?

    Feminism has had many, many voices from the second wave onward that have formed the foundations of feminist thought that we now take for granted, and yet, those voices have also harbored quite a bit of prejudice against trans people and many other minorities. How do we separate the wheat from the chaff? I suspect that one of the starting points is a simple and direct honesty about the flaws of the voice in question. Caveats need to stated so that the author’s words may be understood within the context of those boundaries.

    I’m not suggesting this out of a need to exact a pound of flesh where an ounce is due. I believe that this process, as uncomfortable as it may be, is necessary in order to avoid the continuation of unexamined privilege and prejudice within feminism. This is part of the process of growth of an ongoing collective body of knowledge.

  26. piny
    October 17, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    Jill, you’re not all of Feministe. But you’re a lot of Feministe, and you’re representative. We haven’t had several discussions. We’ve had this discussion several times. I have heard exactly this response to exactly this argument. I would like the blog to be better; it’s really big and complicated; I have a job and other interests; there’s only a certain amount of time and energy I’m willing to devote to this blog.

    That’s not a problem, exactly. That’s the end of the discussion. To paraphrase another feminist blogger who’s working this out too, you don’t have problems. You have a set of excuses you aren’t very proud of.

    There it is: you’ve done as much as you are willing to do, given other pressing concerns. And so this blog is a whole lot like Broadsheet, and it’s hostile space for many good people and utterly thankless space for many more. There is no way to do what you’re doing and get a better outcome. Big Feminist Blogs with conflicting loyalties kind of suck as a model. The end.

    And as far as that goes, that’s okay.

    The problem is, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that you don’t have time to make the blog better and complain that people don’t care about your blog. The internet is going to think of you as somewhat better than Feministing and thankfully better than Pandagon. Then they’re going to split up and find other spaces to hang out in–get the guest bloggers directly from the tap, say–and you will be left with a shallower, nastier, duller crowd and they will really mess everything up hardcore. That’s just how it goes. Between all the people who never got anything out of this place, all the people who very quickly stopped getting anything out of this place, and all the people who are thriving in divergent spaces…what do you want? What credit are you looking for?

    • October 17, 2010 at 5:29 pm

      Jill, you’re not all of Feministe. But you’re a lot of Feministe, and you’re representative. We haven’t had several discussions. We’ve had this discussion several times. I have heard exactly this response to exactly this argument. I would like the blog to be better; it’s really big and complicated; I have a job and other interests; there’s only a certain amount of time and energy I’m willing to devote to this blog.

      That’s not a problem, exactly. That’s the end of the discussion. To paraphrase another feminist blogger who’s working this out too, you don’t have problems. You have a set of excuses you aren’t very proud of.

      Well no, it’s not the end of the discussion. It’s saying, “Here are my limitations. Given these limitations, what can be done better?” I’m not saying “This is how Feministe is and that’s it.” I am saying, I am one person who is part of this thing that is bigger than just me, but I happen to be the person who is doing a large part of the work to maintain this space right now. And I feel like we’ve tried a lot of different things to counteract the limitations at hand, and some of them have worked and some of them haven’t. And since this is a work in progress, and people whose opinions we value and whose readership we would like to retain are dissatisfied, and since it feels like all of the bloggers here are dissatisfied too, what else can we do? I’m listing my “excuses” not to say that I can’t change anything, but simply to explain that no, I don’t have 80 hours a week to dedicate to this, and my job has been threatened several times now because of this work, and my day-to-day actually helping people activism does often take precedence over this website. So given that there are only so many hours in the day, and given that this is a constraint faced by all of the Feministe bloggers, how can we best utilize those hours? During guest-blogger time I use those hours to set up all the blog accounts and keep everything humming along, and I don’t write really at all; during non-guest times, I try to write more; when the other bloggers are busy with other things, I try to keep fresh content up so that everyone else doesn’t feel pressured to contribute when they don’t have it in them. But if that’s not an ideal allocation of time, I’m happy to hear ideas about what would be better, and what model would make people happier. Pretend we have all the time in the world — what would an ideal space look like?

      So, again, what do you want here? What do you want people to say? Because you talk about how it’s so hard to do this stuff–which it is–but then complain when people simply don’t care much about the easy version. You complain when they make the same calculations about their own emotional risk, and seek out better contact.

      I don’t think anyone is complaining that people go to their own spaces. I am totally good with people going to spaces that they feel comfortable in. I would like Feministe to be a space where more people feel safe, and that’s an ongoing goal. Threads like this one don’t seem to help. It does really bother me when people whose contributions and opinions I value don’t feel safe here, but I certainly don’t begrudge them going elsewhere. My point, though, is that I don’t really care if people don’t care much about the easier version. If people don’t want to read Feministe, that is their prerogative. I care about doing harm, and I know that there have been many instances where what has gone on Feministe has hurt people, and that is a problem to me. But that’s a different problem than “people just aren’t interested in what we’re writing about.” If people aren’t interested, and they want more detailed or personal or long-form content, then it doesn’t really bother me if they are not reading Feministe.

      What’s frustrating is that I feel like no matter what we do here, people are unhappy and they’re unhappy because their perception of what Feministe is doesn’t play out exactly how they want. And look, there are good and bad ways that this happens — what commenters above mentioned, about Fat Fails and Cis Fails and TAB-Fails, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m not saying excuse us every time something terrible goes up on this site. I am saying: Let’s have an end goal here. If someone values this space and wants it to be better and has ideas and criticisms and suggestions for how to do that, then please, criticize away! There’s been a lot of that on this thread, and it’s welcome. But what I find exhausting is the constant criticism and complaining without any sort of goal or point other than the satisfaction of getting to complain about how feminism is the worst and Feministe is the worst and we’re all so terrible because we’re not giving you X thing that you want today. Good lord I am fine with someone not caring about Feministe. And I am fine with someone caring about it and criticizing it to make it better. What I’m exhausted by is feeling like a convenient punching bag, because Feministe is a “big feminist blog” (which, it’s worth noting, is not really much in terms of big blogs generally) and, in this one tiny corner of the internet which not all that many people are even a part of (the feminist blogosphere that actually reads and engages in the comments is not huge), that translates into being an Evil Sell-Out Career Feminist (even though none of us are). I don’t need credit. I don’t need people to love this space. I don’t need people to stay if we’re not giving them what they want. I’m just saying, if you’re interested in this space or engaged in it, then help with the work of building it. Or if you hate this space, then build somewhere else. But create something. Do something. Build something. Don’t expend so much energy trying to tear down what other people pour their blood, sweat and tears trying to build and improve.

      That’s what I’m asking for. Not pats on the back, but a helping hand, and constructive criticism. Just no more punches in the gut, and no more demands without any willingness to put in anything yourself.

  27. October 17, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    I wish that when posts like these were made that the epic fails would be acknowledged, and that people who bring them up wouldn’t get such pushback.

    I mean, okay, I am not exactly proud of my part in instigating any kind of blogswarm against Bitch, Ph.D. but at the same time this doesn’t mean that what she said wasn’t extremely busted, and she defended it to the end because I guess calling everyone oversensitive was easier to do than acknowledging a mistake.

    What is unfortunate here is that mistake is still swept under the carpet. The comparison to Mary Daly is apt, as the majority of posts about her death completely elided all of her problematic influence over second wave feminism, and it seems when talking about cis white able feminists, that this will be the norm.

    Thanks for the memo. I know it’s been sent a hundred times before, but a reminder is always helpful.

  28. October 17, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    Now most of the content provided by the Big Feministe Bloggers is what you could find on Jezebel or Broadsheet. In fact, a lot of it is what you do find on Jezebel or Broadsheet. And now Feministe continually performs this little dance of tension between its anxiety over a clear pattern of identification with other Big Feminist Bloggers, a belief that it must get more different stuff in order to stay relevant, and an obvious inability to protect the people who provide incisive writing and protect the community that supports them.

    I can’t tell whether you’re being shitty here or not, so I’m going to assume we’re all good and take it at face value. Personally I think the dance is partially *because* many of us are in different phases of our lives, primarily in that we are dependent on these day jobs for our well-being, and some of us in rather conservative fields. Full-time, non-journalist work is non-conducive to blogging. It’s easy to chalk that up to waxing poetic about the good ol’ days of blogging, but it’s more an observation about the shitty side of growing up online. As a student, or as someone independently wealthy, or as a single person, or as someone with pseudonymity, the threshold for risk with blogging is in a different place than, say, someone who depends on a full-time job, or whose income depends on a professional appearance, or whose online habits make them a target for malicious people. I’ve been dragged to court over shit I wrote about myself online. I know more than a handful of women whose blogging has made them a target for random strangers who believe they should be forever unemployable because they, oh, advocate for fair abortion access or said something mean to someone during a flame war. To paraphrase another blogger, nobody pays attention unless there’s blood on the table, and that’s a huge wage to pay as a participant in this online community.

    Did Feministe position itself as one of the big feminist blogs? I don’t think so. We grew as the internet grew. As the internet grew the readership grew. We’ve tried to respond to the needs of the readership, and in doing so, have made some political and procedural mistakes that have led to this tension — we have also had the privilege of being a part of a historical movement and hosting a great many wonderful people and conversations in this space. Piny, I think you’re pretty flip about these decisions and our good faith attempts to do the right thing at certain points in this blog’s life. To be clear: the guest blogging summers have always been about two things, 1) paying it forward [and in particular this came out of the years long interblog conversation about how to redistribute traffic fairly among bloggers we loved, and whether this should be done by blogroll, linking, or what, and was never about asking feminists-only to blog for us] and 2) providing new content over our slowest time of year.

    In short, there is a certain kind of person who can do this and do it well, and it’s someone with the time to do it in. Professional bloggers can do it sustainably, but there’s a lifespan on the rest of us. And like I said, it’s time to change the venue or the conversation. Anyone coming here with pat expectations for the quality of content is kidding herself. We are literally a group of people writing the same as the folks reading this. We try our best with the resources we have. Commitment and ability to take on personal emotional risk waxes and wanes.

  29. Medea
    October 17, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    piny: It’s been the guest bloggers and the new bloggers and certain commenters who have been the target of the most abuse.That’s not because everyone takes hits at the guest bloggers.That’s not because Feministe is a big target.That’s because the guest bloggers and new bloggers are not like you.They’re outsiders, interlopers, unFeministe.When the horrible commenters say, “How dare you say these things on Feministe,” they’re not insulting Feministe.I know it’s hard to see, since these people are like a sort of Tea Party blog constituency, but they’re fighting for their idea of you.They are fighting for you.They prefer you and J Crew to six paragraphs on being a single mother of color any day.And they came to Feministe because they believe that Feministe content has nothing to do with being a single mother of color.  

    I remember when Jill had more time, and she and Holly and Zuzu and others were writing long, sensitive, really well thought out posts. The commenters got angry at guest bloggers then because their writing wasn’t as careful, not just because it was different. There is a resistance to things that don’t fit the Feministe brand, but it’s not about a preference for J Crew over paragraphs on being a single mother of colour–I don’t think. And there was always anger. At Jill for being “Fun Feminist,” at Maia for saying that no one has a right to a child-free space.

    Not being very clear, so I guess what I’m saying is:

    1. Your analysis of the desires of a large proportion of Feministe commenters doesn’t quite fit what I’ve seen.

    2. People are always taking hits at Jill, and other regular bloggers. They are always vehemently disagreeing with her. Attacks are not reserved for guest bloggers.

  30. October 17, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    timberwraith: I am left wondering how to treat the body of work penned by someone with such blind spots. I want to be fair about the matter, but as a trans woman, a part of me wants to storm the gates and burn the village, ya know?

    As a cis woman – ditto. On Joy, Jokes, Transphobic Jokes, & Apologies.

    Lisa: What is unfortunate here is that mistake is still swept under the carpet. The comparison to Mary Daly is apt, as the majority of posts about her death completely elided all of her problematic influence over second wave feminism, and it seems when talking about cis white able feminists, that this will be the norm.

    Word.

  31. piny
    October 17, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    If you can’t tell whether or not I’m “being shitty,” fuck you.

    You are talking to someone who no longer really blogs at all, remember? Let alone in this place. I walked away. I quit, I dropped out, I gave up. I did it several times, even. That’s because I don’t have the strength to deal with this shit. Any of it. The good faith, the bad faith, the people who love you but for the wrong reasons, the people who hate you forever, the people who just don’t get it, the people who never shut up, the trolls, the people who honestly believe that they are not trolls, the bullies, the jackasses, the internet-created monsters, the cult of personality, the cult of daily fame, the book deals, being stalked or outed, nasty insults, backchannel drama, backchannel drama drama, you know what I’m talking about, remember when this happened, whatever. I didn’t even have the strength to openly quit.

    The problem is not giving up. The problem is not saying that this project isn’t working, or that you need to make some big change, or that you need to leave or rest.

    The problem is wanting it both ways. Look at what you’ve said about “positioning ourselves” as a big blog. What does this mean, exactly? How do you position yourself as a big blog? You are a big blog, or you are not a big blog. You have a certain level of prominence in the blogosphere, or you don’t. Feministe does. It just does. It is, as other comments on this thread have admitted, a big blog. It is a prominent blog with a whole lot of traffic and internet airplay. It is one of the most famous blogs in the feminist blogosphere. That’s why you can talk about stuff like paying it forward.

    And it is run part time basically for free; those are the resources available. And because of that, there are a lot of problems. So people leave. And then they say less-than-flattering things about Feministe. They see that it has turned into a depersonalized group blog with erratic content and erratic moderation, and they see that its attempts to fix things fail for those reasons, and they say so. Then they go to their own private spaces and have conversations there–just like you have. And then they get replaced by the easy version of themselves, the people who don’t care about you or your life.

    So, again, what do you want here? What do you want people to say? Because you talk about how it’s so hard to do this stuff–which it is–but then complain when people simply don’t care much about the easy version. You complain when they make the same calculations about their own emotional risk, and seek out better contact.

  32. October 17, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    Look at what you’ve said about “positioning ourselves” as a big blog. What does this mean, exactly?

    It means that we don’t have the luxury of Gawker or some major publishing house backing us. It means that we aren’t floating this venture on the backs of book deals. The real world prestige assigned to this space is empty, is what I’m saying.

  33. October 17, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Let me get this straight. Feministe had long posts and less traffic, and then shorter posts and more traffic, and this means they have committed the horrible crime of POSITIONING? And TRIANGULATING? Is Feministe navigating by the stars or with a sextant? When was the momentous moment when they “stopped being a blog and made the conscious decision to be a big blog,” exactly? Was that when Jill tore up her contract where she promised to adhere to the One True Feminism, Big, But Not Too Big Blog and cackled evilly?

    And then! To commit the crime of having a job! And not wanting to share one’s personal life! And to have more co-bloggers because one cannot do all the posting, and also one cannot pay and also because other people burn out and because if you stick with just the few people over and over then you are ignoring all kinds of other people on the various margins and spectrums.

    This reminds me of when people freaked out because we had an ad from a major label in our zine. TWENTY YEARS AGO.

  34. October 17, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Also I should say I have never read Bitch phD but I support those who want her transphobia to be on record.

  35. ilyka
    October 17, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    That’s what I’m asking for. Not pats on the back, but a helping hand, and constructive criticism. Just no more punches in the gut, and no more demands without any willingness to put in anything yourself.

    She put plenty in. She had a hundreds-comments thread hosted in this space on her very body. She put in about as much as a human being COULD put in. You have no monopoly on feeling gut-punched, but it looks like only some blood on the table is worth mention here.

    Which is exactly what some people here were complaining about in the first place. For that, they got told to quit having expectations.

    And, okay! Fine. Understood. I’m not here because I have any expectations. I don’t think you’ll retract or apologize for the above, I don’t think Feministe will change, I don’t think it wants to, I don’t care anymore whether it does. I’m only commenting in support of a friend. And maybe also to kick myself a little for thinking you’d at least treat one of your former colleagues better than you’ve treated so many others in the past. Apparently not.

    • October 17, 2010 at 6:40 pm

      I wasn’t talking about what I want from piny personally, and I don’t think she was asking me about I want from her personally. I know she put plenty in. She put tons in! Even though I know she really strongly disagrees with me on this issue, I think (or I hope) that she also knows that I respect her work and her opinions, and I’m engaging them here because I take her viewpoints really seriously. I put her comments in the category of constructive criticism. I was speaking generally when I said that I don’t want demands without a willingness to help build, because I thought she was asking me, generally, what I want from this community, not from her personally.

  36. October 17, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    All, it’s clear I have made some missteps here. I apologize for snuffing out trans concerns, as that was not my intent. Clearly the game has changed and I’m not a player any longer, thus I fold.

  37. piny
    October 17, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    Oh, horseshit, Jill. Maybe you even believe it, but horseshit. You’re not getting comments here from random trolls who are never satisfied. (You’ll probably start getting comments from random trolls who love your work in 4…3…2…OH WAIT) Just go scroll upthread–I see some people I don’t know too well, but there are at least a few people who have written their hearts out for a lot less internet applause and credibility than you, people who are at least as vulnerable as you. And I am one of them, and I am not interested in being constructive about this place anymore, not after this. And just so we’re clear: it’s not just so I can talk about the strange private stuff I only share with my friends. It’s because this is a waste of my damn time, even by the standards I usually employ.

  38. wembley
    October 17, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    What I’m getting from piny’s comment (#32) is that… no one should blog and we should burn down the internet.

  39. PrettyAmiable
    October 17, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    wtf?

    why is it an expectation that ANYONE share personal details about themselves on the internet?

  40. October 17, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    Lauren: I apologize for snuffing out trans concerns, as that was not my intent. Clearly the game has changed and I’m not a player any longer, thus I fold.

    You could always make an amendment to your post, you know. Rather than just folding, I mean.

  41. Kristen J.
    October 17, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    Two points:

    1) Under the heading of constructive criticism, I would ask whether its possible to create a registration system or tighten the moderation…I know it would slow the pace of the conversations…but perhaps that wouldn’t be such a bad thing? I know you guys have probably hashed this to death…so feel free to ignore if its simply not feasible. Also you might consider adding additional mods instead of bloggers. I don’t think its something that this blog has done before, and you may have trouble finding people you trust…but please give it some thought.

    2) Under the heading of WTF? Okay, so yeah, Feministe is a voice of Authority. I don’t know whether the bloggers decided they want to be a voice or not. But they are. But what should the consequences of Authority be?

    **It can’t be that we silence their voice…because they do have valuable and important things to say.

    **It can’t be that we sit and yell at them constantly for failing to meet out expectations of perspective…because no person can do that.

    **It can’t be that we are permitted to demand that they give us more than they have to give…because we’re all humans and entitled to engage or not engage as we see fit

    –It can be that we challenge them when they fuck something up.

    –It can be that we challenge them to moderate more closely to prevent commentors from fucking up all over other people so that people feel safer here (acknowledging that there cannot be one space in which all people feel safe).

    –It can be that we challenge OURSELVES to be me thoughtful and less reactionary when someone says something difficult (challenging our privilege) or hateful [ahem…okay, so I often fail at this one].

    The internet seems to create this over-investment without the interpersonal connection. Which is fine if you’re Angelina Jolie and you can hide behind body guards and moral superiority. But these bloggers are just people. They’re people we “talk” to regular basis. If we met them at a coffee shop every day and chatted about…Paladino or True Blood…then when they said something fucked up our reaction would be to talk to them, to reason with them. But because we don’t share these stories over a cup of coffee or a sandwich or a watercooler…we forget we’re talking to real live human beings who we know are *trying* and just need help once in a while.

  42. October 17, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    I know I’m always saying this, and call me Pollyanna if you want, but can we all just take a deep fucking breath and have a juicebox or something and take the time to remember what we respect about each other? Can we make a little room to remember that everyone in this conversation is doing the best they know how to?
    That doesn’t mean everyone’s right. That doesn’t mean nobody should be accountable for everything. But I think, over and over, that what we’ve lost as a blogging community is the ability to remember that we are all trying to do the best we know how to. Sometimes that knowledge and that effort falls short of what it ought to be. Yes. But I would really like, on Feministe and elsewhere, for as many of us as possible to step back and give people room to work things out.

    This is not a comment on the original post’s content or subject. I don’t really have the energy for that. Just–deep breath. Please.

  43. October 18, 2010 at 8:38 am

    I second little light’s sentiments.

  44. Medea
    October 18, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    I agree with what I think Pretty Amiable said. I’m getting the impression from your comments, Piny, that only pouring-your-heart out posts are worthwhile, which just isn’t true. No one is obligated to expose herself. Cold academic posts, or short ones, can be informative.

    And if moderation is erratic, that’s not good, but neither is it the end of the world, or the end of a blog.

  45. kactus
    October 19, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    As somebody who gave up blogging or even following many bloggers a few years ago, I keep coming back to this post and this conversation in my mind.

    Some of you might remember my old blog, Superbabymama, most of you probably don’t. I can only come at this from my perspective, so it will ring true with some people and not others, obviously.

    I’m pretty sure one of the reasons I needed to quit blogging was because among liberal white feminists I was reading an increasing sense of, “oh we know the language now, can we take a break from the hard work of it? We know about privilege, we all know how to unpack our privilege backpack, we know the keywords that we can’t use and the ones we must use in any situation, now can we call ourselves enlightened?”

    And along with this a sense that anybody who didn’t know/repeat the rhetoric, even if they’d only done the most cursory examination of it, was obviously not in the enlightened club and could therefore be dismissed.

    Honestly? I got to the point where if I heard another white woman talk about her privilege backpack I ‘thought I might vomit. Because it’s a lot easier to talk publicly about things than privately work on them. It’s easier to be in a place of privilege and decry your privilege than to be in a place where all that matters is survival, and the lessons you learn from that suck and glorify you at the same time.

    When I saw that feminist blogging was becoming increasingly a place of finger-pointing instead of dialogue, of cliches instead of truths, of smug “I saw the light ain’t I smart” instead of “damn I’m pretty ignorant but I’m working on it”, then I knew I didn’t want to do it anymore. And I walked away, and took as much of myself with me as I could, and valued what I learned, even though some of what I learned was bullshit. I’ve spent the last few years trying to figure out the difference.

  46. October 19, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Oh look. A troll slipped through moderation.

  47. October 20, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Oh how disturbing :S. The comment is deleted and the commenter banned now, timberwraith.

  48. October 20, 2010 at 12:05 am

    By the way, my last comment was in response to a now deleted transphobic comment.

  49. October 20, 2010 at 12:07 am

    Thanks, Chally.

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