Filling the Gaps

In my world, the way I learned activism, if you see a gap you don’t stand around pointing at the gap and complaining that no one else has filled it for you yet. You FILL THE FUCKING GAP.
-Florence.

This month, I will have been at Feministe for six years. I was writing for a different feminist blog for about two years before that. I was writing about feminism and engaging in feminist activism for years before that. This post is my 4,234th on this website. When I started blogging, way back sometime in 2003, I had never read or even heard of a feminist blog. “Blogging” was a new, super-nerdy thing. (I am old). I started a blogspot blog, and wrote to no one but myself.

Then people showed up. And then a few more. And then I discovered Feministing, which had also just launched. Then, over the next year or two or three, Mouse Words and Feministe and Rox Populi and Amptoons and a handful of others. By 2005 I was here, and it was a Big Blog in the online feminist world, but still a blog — still outside of the mainstream, still nerdy, and still totally uncharted territory. Feministe was little in the then-small world of blogging — big in the feminist corner, tiny everywhere else (which, it’s worth noting, is still true). I wrote under my real name because I had only written for student newspapers and other publications, and hadn’t considered that writing on the internet could be a liability; I hadn’t considered that a pseudonym was even an option.

Blogs are no longer the fringe oddity that they were a decade ago, and the feminist blogosphere is no longer a tiny corner of the internet. There are hundreds of feminist blogs out there. There are major media companies that traffic only in websites; Gawker Media has a somewhat feminist-minded lady-blog; lefty blogs use the term “feminist” regularly and without derision. There have been blow-ups and call-outs and fuck-ups and flounces and come-backs. There have been threats and stalkers and various attempts to get folks (including me) fired from their day jobs. There have been opportunities to write for newspapers and magazines and other websites and anthologies; there have been book deals and op/ed columns and TV appearances.

The feminist blogosphere today doesn’t look at all like it did way back when.

In a lot of ways, that’s a good thing — there are more of us, and as Lindsay Beyerstein has pointed out, if you’re reading any left-leaning website on the internet you’re never more than two clicks away from feminism. As the blogosphere has grown, so necessarily has its diversity — feminists of all backgrounds have been online since the beginning, but with so many more blogs out there it’s easier to find a space that caters to a particular brand of feminism, or a particular identity, or a particular writing style.

But in other ways, online feminism is worse for wear. Part of that is what Florence is talking about above — blogs, and especially the “big blogs,” are perceived as institutions rather than collectives of people writing about something they’re interested in when they have time, in order to facilitate a conversation among like-minded people. With the perception of institutionalization comes expectations — that a blog will not only cover about what you think it should cover, but will also cover it in the way you think is most appropriate, using the words you think are the best. Which isn’t totally unfair, but which segues from potentially productive into poisonous when the method of conveying those expectations is Calling Out.

I’m as guilty as anyone else when it comes to partaking in feminist Call-Out Culture. Calling Out, I think, is part of any activist’s growing pains. We all want to do right. We all feel like we’re doing more right than some other people who we perceive as having more power (or influence or airtime) than we have. We all want to be a good _____: feminist, ally, woman, activist. Part of that, if you love an idea (and I think most of us do love the idea of feminism, even if we don’t always love how it plays out in real life), is saying something when you see someone else Doing It Wrong. There should be space for that. We should keep each other in check; we should all want to be better.

But in the feminist blogosphere, “calling out” has increasingly turned into cannibalism. It’s increasingly turned into a stand-in for actual activism. We have increasingly focused on shutting down voices rather than raising each other up. Pointing at the gap has replaced doing the hard, often thankless work of filling it.

I’m hesitant to point to where I see examples of this, because there are a million of them and because I do think that most of it comes from a good place. And this post has been swirling in my head for months now. But I’m finally writing it partially in response to this post over at Shameless Magazine — although these are ideas I’ve been talking about with a whole lot of people. The Shameless post is what made me pull the trigger here, but it’s not at all the sole inspiration; and I want to be clear that I think Shameless is a great publication and the author of the piece I’m pointing to is also great, and this isn’t meant as an attack or an invite to pile on. I just think it’s important when discussing issues to have concrete examples to point to, and I think it’s important to be honest about what finally kicked me into putting these long-mulled-upon thoughts to paper (or to keyboard).

I am admittedly not the most comprehensive consumer of feminist media; there are only so many hours in the day, and since I have a very demanding job and also feel quite a bit of pressure to keep Feministe stocked with regular content, I tend to go to reporting-focused media outlets (like the New York Times) to look at mainstream content and then filter it here through a feminist lens. I do read other feminist websites, but not regularly — I assume if you’re reading Feministe, you’re probably reading other feminist websites and you don’t need to see the same stuff written about in the same way on site after site. So I didn’t see the Shameless Magazine piece until I ran a search for “feministe” on Twitter, and saw that someone had written “Hey @feministe, you’re being called out” with a link.

Great.

We — Feministe, the institution, which at this point is three people, of which I am the only one who has any inclination to write regularly because of a whole host of reasons (not least of which, I think, is our comment section) — are being “called out” for not promoting a book written by the very smart feminist activist Jessica Yee. It sounds like a really awesome book, and this post isn’t meant to cast it (or Jessica, or any of the other contributors) in a negative light. But the post on Shameless illustrates the activist problems with call-out culture — it’s too often not about actually making things better, or taking action that furthers your cause. It’s about making yourself look like The Best Feminist, or The Best Activist, or The Best Ally, or The Best _________. The post reads:

I know in my heart of hearts that I’m not the only white person dealing with knowing that current discourse around race as it intersects with patriarchal/hegemonic modes of theory and action (such as the above-mentioned Capital F Feminism) is just not happening. But when faced with calling out Feminism on not being able to DEAL with race like so many that have come before, I have felt kind of alone, and if only because most recently I’ve started to get it more and more.

Despite all the Feminist broohah surrounding International Women’s Day and the incredible launch for Feminism FOR REAL in Toronto, and the incessant tweeting going on, the big Feminist blogs have yet to comment on the text. Feministing. Bitch. Bust. The F Bomb. Feministe. Zip. Nadda. I’m not here to speculate about why they haven’t yet tackled Feminism FOR REAL, just wanted to say that I’m disappointed that there wasn’t any representation or recognition from the presumed-heavyweights on this text. These blogs should have been on it (new, feminist “theory” text in a sea of mainstream texts = GOLDMINE for nerdy Feminists) and maybe could have given FFR some room to exist as a book about Feminism (because that’s what it is) instead of being “just” a book about race and all the otherness in the shadow of Capital “F” Feminism (even though that is also what it’s about).

The post is by a woman named Diandra Jurkic-Walls, and I am 100% sure that her heart is in absolutely the right place here. I think she really does want feminism, as a movement, to be better. I think she believes in this book and wants it more widely publicized. I think she believes this book is important and good and an invaluable contribution.

But I don’t think “calling out” the “big feminist blogs,” or casting feminist blogs as Capital “F” Feminism, is a particularly effective way to convey those beliefs (and I honestly think it’s a little laughable that Feministe is somehow Capital-F Feminist Establishment when, really, it’s one person’s hobby. But we’ll put that aside for now). If the goal is to get more people to read Feminism FOR REAL, or to write about it, or to want to engage with feminism as an idea, then this is a remarkably ineffective way to do that.

The internet is a big place, and even those of us who run “Capital F Feminism” feminist blogs don’t actually have the ability to read the entire thing. Putting things on your blog and on Twitter is great, but that isn’t a guarantee that the folks you want to target will actually see it, if those folks are outside of your regular readership. When I read Diandra’s post, I searched my inbox for any emails or information about the book. I found one press release from the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives that I apparently received on Feb. 14th, of which I have no recollection. The email says that pre-orders for the book have started. As far as I can tell, I didn’t get any other information about it. I receive at minimum two emails every day urging me to buy a particular book that a publicist wants to hawk to Feministe readers; I receive somewhere in the universe of 100-200 emails every day urging me to write about something or cover this topic or promote a product or or or or. I have a heavily-used “delete” key.

Which isn’t to say that the proprietors of widely-read feminist websites don’t have a responsibility to seek out new information and educate ourselves — those of us with large platforms especially do have that responsibility. Ideally, I would have time to read a dozen feminist websites a day, and I would keep this space stocked with a diversity of information and coverage.

In reality, I get up in the morning and schedule a quick post before I go to work for anywhere from 9 to 17 hours at a stretch. During the day, I take breaks to moderate comments (and inevitably get yelled at for not moderating comments fast enough or effectively enough) or put up another quick post (and inevitably get yelled at for doing that wrong, too). Twice a week, I go to the doctor for treatment of a stress injury to my back and neck, which involves getting injections of muscle relaxants and knocks me out for the rest of the evening. Two other nights a week I box, and two more I go to the gym or to yoga, in large part for necessary stress relief; then I either go home and work until I fall asleep, or drink wine until I fall asleep, or in not-busy-at-work times meet up with friends I’ve neglected or go on dates or do whatever else constitutes having a real life. I don’t write about my personal life in this space ever, really, beyond “here is a picture of my cat” — and I don’t write about my own life in large part because of the cannibalistic nature of the feminist blogosphere, which demands that you flay yourself open in order to establish your right to discuss any given topic, and if you aren’t damaged enough will eat you alive — but suffice it to say that I’ve also had a series of sad events happen over the past year or two which have left me a little bit battered and, today, particularly exhausted. Sometimes, all I have to give is a picture of a fucking hat.

And when I open my laptop, there are dozens of comments to approve, and folks angry that their words weren’t published immediately, and other folks angry that I’m not writing about exactly what they wanted in exactly the way they wanted it. And I am tired. And I know I’m not the only one who feels like this, and who recognizes that this model of “activism” is not good and is not sustainable.

Which all sounds very “oh poor me.” I don’t mean it like that, and this post isn’t a sympathy pull. What it is, though, is an attempt to recognize that we all have shit going on in our real lives, away from the internet, that we shouldn’t have to throw out there in order to be accorded a little bit of patience and kindness. Effective activism has to recognize that we’re all dealing with real-life stuff, and we are not all 100% engaged in these online communities at all times, and that we have different priorities and perspectives and real-time demands. So going back to the post at Shameless (which again is only one illustrative example that I’m using so I have something concrete to reference, and is hardly the first, last or only representation of this phenomenon): If the end goal is to promote Feminism For Real, then promote it. Email and offer to send a review copy. Offer to write a guest post. Send a link to a post you’ve written. Send an excerpt and see if the site will publish it.

At the very least, recognize the difference between affirmative bad acts on the part of people who should be on your side — Naomi Wolf-style victim-blaming, etc — and sins of omission from people who probably do support the same or similar goals as you, but for some reason aren’t covering the issues in the same way.

None of which, again, is to say that you should just turn your head if an important topic isn’t being addressed, or if something isn’t being addressed adequately, or if someone fucks up. It is to say that we should all keep the end goal in mind, and communicate accordingly. And none of this is about the Shameless post in particular — it’s about the entirety of this corner of the internet, and how we treat each other, and how there’s this weird sense that we’re all in competition for the Best Feminist prize and that we win by cutting each other down and calling each other out and denouncing anyone who gets more attention than we do.

It’s also to say that we need to grow, as a community and as individuals, beyond a feminist analysis that begins and ends with call-outs and Owning Privilege (or telling other people to Own Their Privilege). Privilege analysis is crucial to feminist activism, but it isn’t activism in and of itself. If the analysis is self-flagellation in order to prove that you’re A Good _____ rather than introspection in order to actually be a better ______, it’s not even really helpful. If privilege analysis is a weapon that you wield in order to either establish yourself as superior to those who aren’t as “open” about their privilege, or that you use to beat down the perspectives and comments of a person who you believe is either not oppressed enough to deserve to engage in the conversation or isn’t letting enough blood to prove themselves worthy of engagement, it’s actively harmful. Courtney Martin wrote a particularly compelling piece on this a few weeks ago for the Prospect, saying:

But part of why McIntosh’s article is still being taught so widely, I fear, is because we haven’t made much progress in this discussion in the last couple of decades. Today, white kids from Williamsburg to Berkeley are still trying to grasp the vast implications of being born white, wealthy, able-bodied, etc. This will always be a critical practice, but we have to also push beyond this stage. After we see through the fog of privilege, what do we do with that new vision?

Unfortunately, too many people whom I encounter — particularly on college campuses — get sort of stuck in a muck of guilt. They become invested in testifying to their own lack of ignorance in public spaces (read: “I’m one of the good ones”) but then don’t constructively reimagine what those spaces might look like in a more just world, and enact the necessary changes. As I traveled from Seattle to Richmond speaking on panels for Women’s History Month, I heard many a well-intentioned student stand up at a Q&A session, requesting more inclusion without offering systemic analysis, real stories, or actionable recommendations. The impulse to do some of the intellectual and emotional labor of calling out unchecked privilege, as a person benefiting from some version of it, is a valuable one, but it can’t end there.

As educators Dena Simmons and Chrissy Etienne wrote in a presentation they prepared for schoolteachers: “To acknowledge one’s privilege is not a moral condemnation. Rather, it is a call to action that requires collective work in order to evenly distribute access to power and to resources so that human agency can be reclaimed and claimed by all. Our intention is not to inspire guilt but to inspire action.”

In feminist blog comments from here to Jezebel, “own your privilege!” is a regular refrain, and “How I am privileged” is a pretty common post topic (particularly among white people who want to be one of the good ones). Which isn’t a bad starting place, but is definitely a bad end point. And it’s part of a really poisonous online feminist culture that focuses on denouncing anyone who doesn’t write about exactly what we want them to, exactly the way we want them to — especially when, for all of the privilege-owning and calling out, there are still assumptions that the writers on the “big” blogs are white and American and heterosexual and etc etc etc, and writers are routinely disrespected and treated poorly if they’re not.

There isn’t a singular Feminist Blog Community. We don’t have a list of goals that we all share. Our individual goals, as feminist thinkers and writers, overlap in some places and diverge in others. I understand the particular frustration with seeing someone who ostensibly shares your ideology doing something that you feel isn’t representing the ideology the way you would like it represented — and again, I think there’s a big difference between doing something affirmatively wrong and harmful, and doing something that you think just isn’t quite right. I think there has to be a place to express that frustration. But if the goal is to actually make things better, then let’s act in ways that are calculated to achieve that goal.

We’d be a whole lot better off if we remembered that none of us are winning the Best Feminist award any time soon, and that we have different priorities and experiences, and that’s part of what makes this movement rich and interesting and dynamic. Most of these websites are hobbies, not paid enterprises; they’re blogs, not institutions. As Natalia has said many times in the comments here and elsewhere, you have a right to be respected in feminist spaces, but you do not have the right to constant and full validation. It is not the job of any blogger to cater fully and comprehensively to your particular interests and perspectives. It is not their job to represent Feminism exactly as you want it represented; it is not their job to do Feminism exactly as you want it done.

That, actually, is your job, and you should do it the best you can — which will inevitably mean you do it imperfectly, because we are people and imperfect is how we do.

It’s certainly how I do. And after almost a decade of doing this online feminist stuff, I’m learning how to cut myself some slack. I’m learning how to cut other folks slack, too — especially when our goals are more or less in line and I know they are not the enemy. That part is always harder — criticizing is easier than doing. But the emphasis on what we’re all doing wrong is killing important feminist voices; it’s driving bright women and men away from engaging in these communities. It is a simplistic and often immature way of interacting; it offers a sense of superiority without the risk of actually doing something. It means that online feminism is dominated by the people who can afford to be regularly derided (people like me who don’t depend on writing to pay my bills and who could easily walk away if I wanted to and who cope largely by not taking intellectual or professional risks and who eventually develop a nearly-impenetrable skin that necessarily leads to a large degree of arrogance and assholishness); people who traffic only in Outrage; and people who eventually find their way to the kinder lands of book deals and speaking engagements and out of sheer necessity and self-preservation simply stop interacting in any real way with the internet machine. The folks in the vast middle, who do want to engage but don’t want to sign up for a very public flogging if they make a misstep, seem to hang out on smaller sites or in blog comments for some period of time before finally getting sick of it all, if they bother engaging at all (it’s worth noting here that the vast majority of feminist blog readers just read the posts and not the comments, and likely have no clue what I’m even talking about right now).

This is not particularly effective activism. I’m not suggesting that we don’t hold each other accountable, or that we never critique other feminists. But I do think it’s high past time we stopped thinking of call-outs and privilege-owning as the best way to do activism online. That enables lots of individual back-patting, which is fine, but it’s also a recipe for a totally useless and ultimately self-defeating movement.

Instead, commit to doing the hard stuff. If there’s a gap, don’t stand there pointing at it. Fill it.

Author: has written 5267 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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511 Responses

  1. debbie
    debbie May 2, 2011 at 9:36 am |

    I think this is a great post, and a sadly needed reminder that you are an actual human being with a job and a life and friends and things that you may need or want to do other than deal with this blog.

    One of the things that I have found fascinating about the recent nastiness in the comments is the failure to consider the issue of labour – specifically, Jill’s labour – that goes in to producing Feministe. I wonder does this happen to men who write lefty-type blogs? I don’t spend a lot of time on more general lefty blogs written by men, so it’s an honest question, but the dynamic seems very gendered to me.

  2. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil May 2, 2011 at 9:37 am |

    Applause. Lots and lots of applause.

  3. Kathy
    Kathy May 2, 2011 at 9:48 am |

    Privilege analysis is crucial to feminist activism, but it isn’t activism in and of itself.

    This is a really important point. Also, with a large readership at different stages of awareness, people are going to make mistakes. I think we need allow people to make mistakes. This doesn’t absolve someone from accountability, but personally, I don’t comment unless I am 100% sure of what I’m saying, and even then I always don’t. I don’t have an academic background in feminism, and sort of had the concepts down before the vocabulary, which I mostly learned online. (Words like cisgender I learned solely from reading SJ blogs.) If for that reason alone, online activism has tremendous value.

  4. Bushfire
    Bushfire May 2, 2011 at 9:51 am |

    I receive at minimum two emails every day urging me to buy a particular book that a publicist wants to hawk to Feministe readers; I receive somewhere in the universe of 100-200 emails every day urging me to write about something or cover this topic or promote a product or or or or.

    Wow, Jill! That’s definitely a sign of success. I’ve loved coming here for feminist news and conversation for years, but I’ve never expected you to cover every single thing in the world every day. That’s why there’s more than one website on the internet.

    Keep it up!

  5. Atrios
    Atrios May 2, 2011 at 9:52 am |

    I think anyone who runs a blog regularly (as in posts at least daily) and has an active community/comments section senses that many readers have little sense of how much time is involved and how much attention is required to keep it running and to try to minimally keep up with all internet traditions while occasionally have something interesting to say.

  6. Hannah
    Hannah May 2, 2011 at 9:59 am |

    This is the best post I’ve read for a while! All of it is so true and so relevant. I suppose I am the sort of person who doesn’t want to sign up for a public flogging if they make a misstep, I’ve seen it happen to my friends and I’ve seen bloggers I love quit writing over it. I’ve seen the obsession with call-outs and privilege cause the death of some online feminist communities which had great potential and it makes me sick and tired of the focus on it above all else as far as some people/sites are concerned. And you’re right, people need to cut bloggers some slack sometimes.

  7. Linnaeus
    Linnaeus May 2, 2011 at 10:00 am |

    I’ll also add that I think this is a really good posts and articulates some of the things I’ve been thinking much more comprehensively than I’ve been able to do.

    The dynamics of calling out on feminist (and other) blogs can get pretty complicated. It’s a necessary thing sometimes, as you point out, but I can recall particular events and particular blogs where calling out got really ugly – there was a mixture of honest and sincere criticism along with piling on and it just seemed to spiral downward, particularly if the callee continued to engage in the discussion and try to (not always successfully) explain him- or herself.

  8. Laura C
    Laura C May 2, 2011 at 10:01 am |

    Standing ovation.

    I’ve been grappling with how it is that my lifelong, uncomplicated relationship with feminism has become more conflicted the more I engage with feminism as it so often manifests online. Or maybe what I mean is, with the people who identify most vocally as feminists and often seem to wield that identity as a weapon. I’ve definitely found myself thinking “my feminism hasn’t changed but damn, I hate ‘feminists’” and knowing I didn’t really mean it in any broad sense but still having that constant frustration to grapple with.

    This post really puts a finger on some of the things that most bother me, crystallizing some nagging discomforts. Thank you.

  9. Mandy
    Mandy May 2, 2011 at 10:03 am |

    I wonder if increased transparency regarding the processes of running a blog/online publication (for ex: your admissions about which pubs you read, how many emails get deleted, and your required daily tasks) along with more collaboration among blogs that focus on a variety of “feminist” issues would help to decrease “calling out culture.” I think (hope?) if readers had a better sense of what all goes into running a high-content blog and felt that there was a significant effort being put forth to cover issues that don’t get mainstream attention then there would be less inclination to criticize and more inclination to get involved in some way.

  10. Lori
    Lori May 2, 2011 at 10:04 am |

    Granted, I have no read even 1/2 of your posts, Jill, but this one is, my humble opinion, the best one I’ve ever read. The best one.
    I discovered this site at the ripe old age of 39 and have been reading it more than once daily for more than 6 months. It’s been fascinating to read other perspectives and mostly younger women’s perspectives on issues related to feminism (a cause I have felt passionately about since the 1980′s when my high school classmates thought I was crazy to worry about “women’s issues”). However, on occasion, I’ve left the site bewildered at the level of anger coming from the comments section. More than once I’ve said to myself: “wait, aren’t we all on the same side, here basically?” This post is an important one, even to an older person who reads this site and reads it less regularly than many of the other regulars.

    (As an aside, I’m a lawyer who used to put in 2700 hours/year at her big New York law firm, so I’ve long wondered how the heck you are doing this so well and so regularly. Because I can tell you that when I was working my 9-17 hour days, I was coming home, sleeping, and if I was lucky, going for a run the next morning and catching a few of the New York Times headlines. So keep up the good work here, as often as you can find the time to do it, but I also think you should find more time for rest!)

  11. Riverdaughter
    Riverdaughter May 2, 2011 at 10:05 am |

    Whew! That was long.
    I stopped trying to please my audience a long time ago. Sometimes, feminists were the worst complainers. If you’re a feminist, why are you not promoting women of color? If you’re a feminist, how come you don’t think all men are rapists? How come women aren’t all victims of the patriarchy? Makeup and high heels are baaaaaadddd. Abortion is the ONLY thing worth fighting for.
    Pish-tosh.
    Feminism to me is all about putting personhood in front of gender. I’d like to tell a lot of feminists, “you’re doing it wrong” but whatever. Sometimes, I wonder if there aren’t operatives patrolling the blogs, making sure we fight each other over trivialities and preventing a united front from coalescing. That could partially explain how we got stuck with Obama. (no, I am most certainly NOT a Republican or racist). What I am is distressed that women took a giant leap backwards when they failed to recognize the qualifications of one of their own. But that’s water under the bridge. We will never allow ourselves to be hoodwinked again, right?
    Right??
    Nevermind.
    {{sigh}}

  12. Glo
    Glo May 2, 2011 at 10:09 am |

    I just came across this excellent intelligent piece.

    Yes heaps of applause and I too am old but happier for finding my thoughts are shared by other women.

    Thanks Jill x

  13. Latoya Peterson
    Latoya Peterson May 2, 2011 at 10:11 am |

    Interesting. I’ll share three things, and leave it you, Jill (and other readers) to decide what you want to take from it.

    1. It is really interesting that critique came from Shameless – a few years ago, Thea Lim and Jessica Yee came to Racialicious because they had a lot of problems with the environment there w/r/t race and feminism.

    2. We intentionally blogged about Feminism for Real on international women’s day, to see who else would pick up that trend (also used twitter hash tags.) Nada. Jess said she made sure the promoters reached out to every major feminist blog, especially those who had linked to or referenced her work in the past. I will let her know what you said about getting the email Feb. 14th.

    3. We have a lot of conversations about where we fit into online feminism over at Racialicious. Jess was really disappointed with the lack of reaction, as were the rest of us. (I have an essay, as does Andrea Plaid also in FFR). But then again, we weren’t really surprised – ultimately, as you outlined in your post, there is a lot of focus on the policing of privilege and a lot less focus on the elevation of actual voices in this space. It is a strange dynamic and I agree with you – it is harmful. It’s almost becoming another form of appropriation. But since we are outsiders in most spaces (race kids at the gender party; defiantly pan-racial in increasingly segmented racial spaces; neither radical nor mainstream) at this point, we’re used to it.

    There’s definitely a shortage of golden rainbows around the broader feminist space. To paraphrase Louis Esme Cruz, we shouldn’t be surprised that we can’t relax.

  14. Michelle
    Michelle May 2, 2011 at 10:11 am |

    I will be FASCINATED to see how this discussion plays out. This is a critical issue for online activism. Some might also say it’s part of the dues you pay for online success, but I agree that, beyond a certain point, it is destructive.

  15. Eric Jaffa
    Eric Jaffa May 2, 2011 at 10:12 am |

    Lindsay Beyerstein blogs at bigthink.com not bigthink.org.

    http://bigthink.com/blogs/focal-point

  16. gretel
    gretel May 2, 2011 at 10:13 am |

    Thanks for this, Jill. I hope some people are inspired to fill the gap and stop haranguing you and others in the comments for not posting about X, Y, or Z. People: Start your own blogs! You’re online already and obviously have something to say, so sign up for one of the free blog sites! Then you can fill the gap.

  17. Alison
    Alison May 2, 2011 at 10:14 am |

    Fucking hell yes to this. So much of this resonated so loudly with me, and while I know it must have been difficult to write and to go ahead and click publish, I’m very thankful you did.

    And I really hope this comment thread doesn’t become Exhibit A…

  18. S.T. Moon
    S.T. Moon May 2, 2011 at 10:15 am |

    Jill,

    I have been reading this blog off and on for two years but never felt fully compelled to comment due to a wish to avoid the standard tongue lashing that comment sections evoke if I said something not quite “right”. Anyway, I want to comment now and say THANK YOU for this post. Often I have enormous guilt over my lack of reading online due to my life outside of the internet. It’s nice to know that a person I admire is not superhuman and has the same issues. Also, I appreciate the reminder that activism involves constant forward motion and coalitions. Your words and thoughts are appreciated, again–Thank you.

  19. Nobody
    Nobody May 2, 2011 at 10:16 am |

    Jill,

    Good on you for speaking up about this. For a while now I’ve stuck to reading only the posts here (which are still as witty and insightful as ever) and avoiding the comments section entirely because it’s become so poisonous.

    I for one don’t feel that you or any of the other bloggers here “owe” me anything, but appreciate the effort you put in. Like Lori above, I can’t imagine how you find the time/energy to post as often as you do.

  20. renska
    renska May 2, 2011 at 10:16 am |

    Mandy:
    I wonder if increased transparency regarding the processes of running a blog/online publication (for ex: your admissions about which pubs you read, how many emails get deleted, and your required daily tasks) along with more collaboration among blogs that focus on a variety of “feminist” issues would help to decrease “calling out culture.” I think (hope?) if readers had a better sense of what all goes into running a high-content blog and felt that there was a significant effort being put forth to cover issues that don’t get mainstream attention then there would be less inclination to criticize and more inclination to get involved in some way.

    Eh… Some people will never get it. I mean, it’s not as if you have to build/maintain the software, right? It’s just… a few words, here and there. IOW, it looks easy (to those who haven’t done it) so how hard could it be…?

    And if you document the time it takes, I think it probably sets you up to be portraying yourself as a martyr.

    Or maybe not. You’d have to create a “a day in the life of” post just dealing with the back-end stuff, and see…

  21. annajcook
    annajcook May 2, 2011 at 10:18 am |

    Thank you for this, Jill. I’m making it required reading everywhere I have a voice in the feminist blogosphere.

    I’ve had a personal blog since 2007 and been participating in a group blog (The Pursuit of Harpyness) since January of this year. Neither place has nearly the amount of traffic or visibility that Feministe has. But still, I’ve had a handful of encounters on my personal blog where people a) make assumptions about my own personal life they have no basis for making, and/or b) make assumptions about how that personal life influences what I write about, and/or c) are very angry with the way my personal life shapes my interests and perspectives … even when I make it clear that my opinions are only my own.

    To which I’ve often pointed out: Go start a blog! The beauty of the internet is that there are free or nearly-free ways of getting your voice out into the virtual world. If you’re commenting on a blog, that means you’ve got access to the ‘net either from home, from work, or from your local public library. So you can make your own space and say your own thing, rather than depending on others to say it for you.

    No one blog can be All Things To All People, just like no one feminist activist or feminist print publication can be truly representive of All Feminisms. Because feminist activism is just that fucking diverse. Plenty of mainstream feminist publications/voices don’t fully represent my beliefs about gender, sexuality, or politics. Why do you think I started my own blog? But the conversation among folks who don’t wholly agree is one of the best ways to grow … as long as it doesn’t turn into cannibalism! (Which, if nothing else, exposes you to a whole host of nasty diseases ;)!)

  22. Hugo
    Hugo May 2, 2011 at 10:29 am |

    Jill, I’ve been reading here since 2005, and part of the feminist blogosphere since relatively early days. I’m immensely grateful both for your continued commitment to this site as your career and life unfold and change, and for your willingness to endure the sniping that seems ever more frequent and intense.

    Thanks for this.

  23. ks
    ks May 2, 2011 at 10:30 am |

    I have to chime in with the love for this post.

    Feministe was my very first feminist blog, way, way back I don’t even remember how many years ago when it was mainly just Lauren. I was sad that Lauren left and happy to see Jill and Piny and Zuzu brought on, and then sad when Piny and Zuzu left (particularly Piny–I learned a lot from reading Piny). I haven’t always been a regular reader, but this place pointed me toward all my favorite feminist blogs that I still read daily and some that I gave up on a long time ago for just the reasons Jill gives here (hello Shakesville, I’m looking at you). Those reasons are also why I haven’t always kept Feministe on my daily list of must reads for all the years that I’ve been in and out here. Sometimes the pile-ons and the calling out and the “this blog must be all things to all feminists everywhere” sentiments from the community just get to be too much, and I’m not even a regular commenter (and never have been–like Kathy @ 3, I rarely comment anywhere unless I have something relevant to say and I’m damn sure I know what I’m talking about).

    With all that, though, I’m surprised and glad that you’re staying, Jill. I certainly don’t think I’d have the stamina for it, but I’m really glad that you do.

  24. andrea
    andrea May 2, 2011 at 10:30 am |

    I thought this was an excellent post, Jill. One of things I’ve enjoyed about reading Feministe is the contrast of the serious posts and the irreverent.

    The issues that you outline are one of the reasons I avoid labelling my blog a feminist blog, rather than a personal blog. I’m a proud feminist, but as soon as I slap that label on my writing, I worry that I’ll no longer be able to write about my day, or about my kids, or about the latest musician I’m stalking without being held to the standards and ideals that ‘feminist bloggers’ are held to.

  25. Social Worker
    Social Worker May 2, 2011 at 10:49 am |

    No, Debbie, it happens everywhere. This concept happens in all blog-themes where there are multiple writers/thinkers talking about the same topic, whether women, men, leftists, rightists, socialists, fascists, _____. Doesn’t matter if the topic is of huge societal importance or about how to best paint your garage (no slight meant to the garage-painting community; it’s just a random example).
    It’s a human thing, for better and worse, not a feminist thing. Our individual beliefs as to what’s important sometimes becomes confusion or anger at others not seeing what we see, on the big level (feminism in society) or the tiniest (MY version of feminism in society).

  26. zuzu
    zuzu May 2, 2011 at 10:52 am |

    Great post, Jill.

    Not going to change anything, probably, but you wrote a great post.

  27. Mandolin
    Mandolin May 2, 2011 at 10:52 am |

    I don’t know how to handle this stuff, though?

    I mean, where’s the line? To me, the hat thing was weird; not because it wouldn’t have been fine to discuss the broader implications of royalty, but because the implication was that there was something wrong w/ you for not starting that discussion when actually someone could have extended Jill some good faith and said “Ha! Lovecraft hat! Although I always have trouble looking at picture of royalty because…”

    & I think not extending good faith is a big problem? Esp with folks who you mostly ally with?

    But for me, I come up against a hard line with, e.g., the thing last summer w/ the post about fat shaming. I can’t speak for all the commenters who spoke up there, but that wasn’t about calling out privilege for the sake of calling shit out, at least not for me. It was painful. I know people are going to say “you must be a fragile flower if the internet is painful for you” (while omitting the following sometimes) but, hey, we aren’t all identical in our emotional reactions, and sometimes, yeah, the stuff at the crux of oppressions is sore, especially when the pain at the pressure point is coming from people you think of as mostly allies. It reminds you of the system that’s in place that’s keeping you in your place. It reminds you that the system is going to be so hard to get rid of, because it’s weighing the shoulders of even good, well-intentioned feminists.

    I think it’s probably usually a good idea to come at allies w/ an assumption of good intentions… usually… the transphobia at some radfem blogs comes across as something where my desire to come at allies the assumption of good intentions takes a horrible belly flop.

    I know this post isn’t denying the ambiguities at these places.

    It’s just, I don’t know, fraught for me. And the assumption of good intentions really should go both ways… this post does that, but sometimes people angry at how comment threads are going really don’t, and instead they, you know, make fun of people for having panic attacks. Which is not awesome.

    I apologize if this comes off as critical; it’s not meant to be. Just sort of, meditative, and a bit… muddled.

  28. Verity Khat
    Verity Khat May 2, 2011 at 10:56 am |

    Damn straight, Jill. Lately I’ve been noticing that my reaction to the comments here is more and more, “Yes, excellent discussion! I’ll just…shit, a handful of commenters just descended into cannibalism. So much for that thread. For shame.”

    If we eat each other alive for not strictly adhering to each other’s various (and frankly arbitrary) standards, how can we accomplish anything?!

    Much love for all the bloggers that put themselves and their words out there to facilitate discussion and action in the community. (Especially you, Jill. ^_^)

  29. Archie
    Archie May 2, 2011 at 11:04 am |

    Thank you Jill for providing this forum.

  30. kate-christine miller
    kate-christine miller May 2, 2011 at 11:05 am |

    I have to completely disagree with a lot of what has been said here. Having time to read major news outlets and none to read your fellow feminist blogs to ensure that you’re seeing what’s happening in the gaps/fringes/margins of feminist culture doesn’t make sense.

    Being able to post as much as you can is not nearly as valuable as making sure that what you are posting is in line with concerns of other feminists.

    This is an incredibly important publication, and it not being covered on these blogs is a sign of a larger problem within feminist media as Diandra Jurkic-Walls is pointing out.

    We need action AND critique!

  31. Cha-Cha
    Cha-Cha May 2, 2011 at 11:18 am |

    yes Yes YES.

    Thank you.

  32. preying mantis
    preying mantis May 2, 2011 at 11:29 am |

    *sigh*

    In the comments over on the Shameless post, there’s a web editor from Bitch saying “Actually, we’re going to be promoting the book, we’re just waiting for the books–it should all be go in a few days” and someone complaining because fine, but there’s not anything up right now about it, so Not Good Enough. There’s a particularly disheartening morality play in that somewhere, I think.

  33. The Tragically Flip
    The Tragically Flip May 2, 2011 at 11:30 am |

    Chiming in with Atrios to say that this ailment is common to progressive blogs in general. Back when I used to read the comments at Greenwald’s place often it was regularly full of “you aren’t writing about issue X you must not care about it!” type complaints. It’s pretty annoying but I think this is just a peril of being an A-list blogger. Readers irrationally expect you to write about the things they’re currently most concerned about, and if you don’t some of them conclude that you are purposely not writing about it for some usually nefarious reason.

  34. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date May 2, 2011 at 11:30 am |

    Jill, people who complain that you don’t say what they want you to say should go start their own damn blog, where they can say what they want to say all day long.

    I contribute posts to somebody else’s blog occasionally, and it takes me at least a whole day — sometimes a whole week — to write one blog post. So I understand the effort it takes to keep your blog going. And I appreciate it, too, even when (rarely) you don’t say what I want you to say :-).

  35. kate-christine miller
    kate-christine miller May 2, 2011 at 11:37 am |

    Jill: I didn’t say that I read “none” of my fellow feminist blogs. I do read some of them. But again, there are only so many hours in the day, and I want to dedicate some of my time to knowing what is going on the world broadly, not just in feminist blogs.

    I’m not sure what you’re trying to say here, exactly, but part of my point is that no, the purpose of a feminist blog should not be to make sure that what you are posting is “in line with concerns of other feminists.” Why do we all have to line up and write about the same things?

    But if you want something covered, you have to advertise it. Seriously. If the book needs to be covered, offer review copies. Email bloggers about it. Send personalized messages. Etc etc. Don’t just publish a book and expect that people are going to seek out something they don’t know exists.

    As has been noted elsewhere, including on the shameless blog, this book was promoted. Seriously promoted, North-American wide launches etc. Racialicious posted about it on March 8th. Almost 2 months ago. I don’t have anything to do with the book so I don’t know exactly how many emails they sent out, but after one glance at the racialicious post, i think it’s clear that this book is unique and valuable. Diandra wasn’t “calling out” only Feministe, but a group of popular blogs who likely did see this post on racialicious but didn’t think to blog about it.

  36. zuzu
    zuzu May 2, 2011 at 11:37 am |

    kate-christine miller:
    I have to completely disagree with a lot of what has been said here. Having time to read major news outlets and none to read your fellow feminist blogs to ensure that you’re seeing what’s happening in the gaps/fringes/margins of feminist culture doesn’t make sense.

    Being able to post as much as you can is not nearly as valuable as making sure that what you are posting is in line with concerns of other feminists.

    This is an incredibly important publication, and it not being covered on these blogs is a sign of a larger problem within feminist media as Diandra Jurkic-Walls is pointing out.

    We need action AND critique!

    “Would you look at that gap! What are you going to do to fill it, Jill?”

  37. Athenia
    Athenia May 2, 2011 at 11:42 am |

    Whenever someone is doing some “calling out”–a few things come to my mind.

    #1 Yeah, you’re right. I would love to hear Famous Feminist Blogger’s thoughts on that topic. That would be awesome.

    #2 Famous Feminist Blogger is blogging. About whatever the hell they want. It’s their blog. You have your own blog. Hello.

    #3 There are 289,030,930,094 (made up number) blog posts in the blogosphere every day, every week. One can only talk about a blog as whole, I feel, you can’t just talk one post.

    I love commenting and I try to be on my best behavior, but sometimes I fail. And sometimes not commenting at all is the best way to go. Heck, I’ve been visiting more race-focused blogs recently and I’ve found I just don’t comment on those blogs that much. Sometimes if someone has a radically different experience or opinion than myself, there’s nothing I can add. I don’t see this as a bad thing.

  38. samanthab
    samanthab May 2, 2011 at 11:47 am |

    Thanks, Jill. I take empathy to be a crucial component of my progressivism, and it saddens me when we can’t allow for each other’s fallibility. And I would just question (amicably!) the idea mentioned upthread that anyone’s ever 100% right; there’s always a different lens that casts a different hue. We’re all fuck ups at times; we’re all people that miss something or another. As part and parcel of that, we’re all people that need to cling to whatever threads of serenity we can find in this world. So if anyone wants to glean that from a nutty hat, they’re goddamned entitled to. I always think that one of the big attractions of Feministe is the ability of its authors to look at difficult subjects with a certain optimism. I know from my own life how massive an achievement that is. The world needs it. Bless you, lady!

  39. Lu
    Lu May 2, 2011 at 11:52 am |

    A really excellent post, and one that voices some of the discomfort I’ve had over the last year or so with the comments in some well-established feminist blogs. I would not recommend the solutions I have seen one or more of them adopt (I am being intentionally vague here about which one[s] I mean)–e.g., talking about how much work it is to write for and maintain a blog so that people will think twice about complaining to the blog host (which comes off as martyr-ish), and/or declaratively pre-policing comments (“this post is not about N, so blah-blah-blah is off-topic in the comments”) to preemptively direct the discussion into acceptable channels. I don’t like being pushed around as a reader and commenter. On the other hand, I think it’s important to say what you’ve said here and to direct commenters’ attention to these unhelpful dynamics. This article/essay stands as a good guidepost. You can always link back to it as a reminder to people to assume good faith, understand that we’re all human and all have different experiences, and use Right Speech (Buddhist concept) to help the discussion evolve helpfully rather than get derailed by accusations.

    I really like the work you do here. I like the majority of blogposts I read here on Feministe, and when I come across posts by authors whose perspective annoys me or I disagree with, I either skip them or read them with an analytic eye on my reactions so I don’t end up jumping all over the writer reactively.

  40. Juliet Blalack
    Juliet Blalack May 2, 2011 at 11:55 am |

    Thank you for articulating what has long been bothering me about our community– both online and off.

  41. Natalia
    Natalia May 2, 2011 at 11:57 am |

    I’m American with an Eastern European background, and I live in Russia. The American blogs I read don’t really cover Russia. And lots of issues that are relevant to say, Russian-Americans or just people from the former USSR don’t come up much either. But I offer to do guest-posts, when I can. I think that’s really important, a guest-post is a big issue when it comes to trust. Feministe authors, for example, have trusted me with their space, and I have trusted them to be welcoming and engaging. And trust, I find, is built on engaging in good faith.

    I haven’t seen a whole lot of good-faith engagement around here lately, incidentally.

    …and I don’t write about my own life in large part because of the cannibalistic nature of the feminist blogosphere, which demands that you flay yourself open in order to establish your right to discuss any given topic, and if you aren’t damaged enough will eat you alive

    This is very important, and a big problem. I used to think it was normal, but I no longer do. There’s something toxic and exploitative and *creep-tastic* about it.

  42. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 2, 2011 at 12:04 pm |

    Good grief…has it really been that long. There have been more than a few culture shifts around here. This isn’t one of my favorites. There was a time (perhaps it was brief) when “calling out” was about educating…as in hey, look…you’re ignoring this perspective over here which is relevant. As opposed to: you bad feminist…how dare you not know, understand, and comprehensively discuss everything. I still think the former is useful, the later is harmful.

    It does seem to be a competition recently…who is more oppressed…who is more harmed by the kyriarchy. Or maybe it was always like that and I’m oblivious. It *feels* to me that people are more interested in battling each other than understanding and helping each other.

    Meh…exhausting in any event. You are either the most stubborn or the most dedicated woman, possibly both.

  43. Laura C
    Laura C May 2, 2011 at 12:04 pm |

    My previous comment was more on the “what this made me think about my relationship to online feminists” front, but I want to reiterate what Jill and Atrios have said about the pressures of being at the level of blogging where you get a lot of promotional emails and expectations that you’ll cover certain things.

    I write at Daily Kos, and even though I have a low profile for someone who writes on the front page and is on the masthead there, it translates into just a staggering amount of email and things I “should” be covering. I’m lucky that my day job is political so I spend working hours staying on top of one set of issues I frequently blog about, but even so, I can’t remotely keep up. The volume of email to my DK address is such that I’ve missed little things like a personal email from a friend’s husband who had terminal cancer.

    And book reviews? That’s talking about adding an entire book to my already-tight reading schedule, then writing about it. Not to mention that honestly, books coming from within a community I value are always a fraught issue because what if I don’t like it? You don’t want to give a bad review to allies, but if you don’t cover it you get a lot of ‘why aren’t you writing about this important book from within your community?’ Unless you absolutely know you’re going to love the book, it’s a no-win situation.

    Though in this case that seems to have been irrelevant because Jill didn’t get serious outreach on this book. And the importance of that can’t be underestimated. If you’re publishing a book and you want it reviewed by bloggers, you need to do targeted outreach and offer review copies, not just send out a press release and figure that’s done it.

  44. Esti
    Esti May 2, 2011 at 12:11 pm |

    Thanks for this post, Jill. I’ve gotten pretty discouraged by the progressive blogosphere over the past half-year or so, primarily because of the degeneration that happens in the majority of comment threads. I think I’ve questioned by commitment to feminism (or more accurately, parts of feminism) by commenters on feminist blogs more than any other thing I’ve encountered in my life.

    That being said, I understand why this is a tricky question on any given subject. The problem is that there isn’t a bright line: we (rightfully, I think) encourage people to call out blatantly transphobic or fatphobic or racist or ableist or etc. comments/assumptions/erasures because the problem is not that someone isn’t writing exactly what you want, it’s that the most visible voices are damaging or ignoring minority groups. But then there are the less clear cases (a category in which I would place, from just the past few days, the wedding post and the bin Laden post). In my mind, the commenters reacting angrily to those discussions had gone past the necessary recognition of prejudice and into the unhelpful calling out area. The problem, of course, is that the posters didn’t see it that way — to them, a post about the wedding that didn’t call out the monarchy required a response, just as a transphobic post would require a response (note: I am NOT equating the seriousness of the two, these issues are obviously on a continuum of perceived harm).

    So there aren’t any easy answers. But there are two things I try to keep in mind when reading and (occasionally) commenting. First, as Jill pointed out, I assume a certain amount of good faith on the part of people who warrant it — i.e. bloggers who have consistently been good allies, and commenters who have not done something bad in the past. Second,in all but the most egregious cases I try not to confuse “x issue is important” with “people who aren’t discussing x issue are wrong and/or harmful.” If/when comments on a post about race ignore the issues persons of colour face, that’s something we should definitely call people out for; when comments on a post about the royal wedding don’t discuss colonialism, that’s something people should feel free to discuss in the comments or suggest to the poster as a follow-up topic, but which should not lead to accusations that anyone NOT discussing the subject has somehow screwed up.

  45. Florence
    Florence May 2, 2011 at 12:11 pm |

    Hey, thanks for quoting me! I feel all important.

    First, I think it would be cool to get a Feministe review of Jessica Yee’s book. Is anything in the works now?

    Second, the group dynamic of the feminist blogosphere should be one of sharing resources, direction, links, thoughts, words, instead of demanding perfect representation. As a group, we have a lot of experiential and informational power to help one another on an activist AND a personal level. We are going to fuck up and hurt one another and generally be human, but there has to be room for good faith, respect and understanding, ALONG WITH the reasonable expectation that we will not agree all the time.

    Thirdly, like you said in the post, I think it’s weird that a collective of people who start an online hobby are suddenly treated like a brick and mortar for-pay institution, a la the New York Times or even Salon or Gawker. These things are not equal and shouldn’t be treated as such. I think there’s a perception that Feministe is a “professional” blog because it’s been around forever and was once (now?) considered A-list, but if you aren’t 100% full time content generators who do nothing else but supply content to and solicit advertising for said blog, that needs to be at the forefront of the blog’s message somehow so that people will fuckin’ get that Feministe’s content is supplied the same way Jane Blow’s Tumblr content is supplied.

  46. Tawny
    Tawny May 2, 2011 at 12:22 pm |

    As someone who DOES spend too much time reading feminist blogs large and small, and who follows yet more feminists and intersectionality et al writers on twitter and reads every single tweet in my feed, I STILL had not heard of this book ’til this post.

    So, I think it’s pretty fair that Jill hadn’t either. O.o

  47. annajcook
    annajcook May 2, 2011 at 12:24 pm |

    I am suggesting, though, that it’s not sustainable to require that not-for-profit blogs represent feminism perfectly and comprehensively, and that the best way to get a blog to cover particular issues is to “call them out” when you feel that they aren’t doing their job right. This should be a more collaborative process, and one where we realize that this whole thing is being done by individuals with real lives, who may be stretched very thin.

    Since I was one of the folks commenting along the “get your own damn blog” line, I just wanted to say I like the way you put this better, Jill! I think there is a place to talk about the responsibilities of being high-profile (whether by accident or design), and what that means vis a vis suddenly being representative of a whole hodge-podge of people when it comes to outsiders-looking-in.

    I think it’s weird that a collective of people who start an online hobby are suddenly treated like a brick and mortar for-pay institution, a la the New York Times or even Salon or Gawker. These things are not equal and shouldn’t be treated as such.

    Agreed, Florence! I think there’s still this sense (even though so many of us are content generators ourselves!) that online content is the same as print content … and not in the self-published zine sense, but in the “book published by Random House” sense. The beauty of the internet is that it flattens the hierarchy and allows tons more people to voice their opinion in places where others can access those ideas. But this also requires a revision of our “common sense” assumptions about authority and clout and where it comes from or how it manifests itself.

    Being a blogger (even on a high-traffic blog!) doesn’t automatically make someone a big-wig in the world.

  48. Cynthia Smith
    Cynthia Smith May 2, 2011 at 12:29 pm |

    Hi Jill – for all this talk about Feminism For Real have you at least taken the time to read the summary of the book? Especially the part where Jessica Yee says that Western notions of “polite discourse” aren’t the same for all of us? I think you may need to re-read that – meaning that for some of us – our anger is what has kept us alive.

    Also meaning that ultimately despite what you and others have said here about how it’s not your fault you didn’t know about this – Indigenous people like Jessica Yee will have to keep on being your educators and won’t get any accountability from y’all saying that you fucked up here. Again. So why aren’t you following her work? Too many Indigenous people here or something? Who started this big thing called “feminism”?

  49. Donald D
    Donald D May 2, 2011 at 12:31 pm |

    Why do the oppressed have to keep being your educators Jill?

  50. Elvie
    Elvie May 2, 2011 at 12:34 pm |

    Absolutely awesome post.

    Thank you so much for writing this.

  51. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 2, 2011 at 12:39 pm |

    Can we please take a moment to distinguish between this post and a “tone” argument or a call for someone else to educate? Seriously.

  52. Flippy
    Flippy May 2, 2011 at 12:39 pm |

    The Tragically Flip:
    Chiming in with Atrios to say that this ailment is common to progressive blogs in general.

    Agreed. Sometimes it seems like progressives/the left are very reactionary in general, while the right creates the narrative. It’s a rather significant political disadvantage — look at the healthcare debate, the fight over the budget, the birther bs — progressives need to learn to be constructive and contemplative at the same time.

  53. Donald D
    Donald D May 2, 2011 at 12:40 pm |

    Jill: Where did I say that “the oppressed” have to be my educators? What I am saying is that it’s impossible to know about everything at all times.

    You are saying that you basically needed to be told several times – and that’s the same racist trope white people have been saying forever – it’s not their fault that they don’t know. Consider who and what Feminism FOR REAL is about. There’s your answer.

  54. annajcook
    annajcook May 2, 2011 at 12:45 pm |

    further thoughts specifically on book reviewing on one’s blog … since my blog is the feminist librarian (and I like to read!) I do try to review books on my blog regularly. but sometimes, I don’t have a chance to review them immediately upon release. I have a “to read” list of some 150+ titles on my GoodReads list as of this morning. I have a limited budget. My reviewing is determined in large portion by a) what books I get free (library; advance review) or very cheap (often used, meaning not recently-released) and b) how much time in my life I have to read the books, and c) whether — even if said books are amazing! — I feel I have anything cogent to say about them. Reading a book and writing a review, when you’re not getting paid to do so for a living, eats a chunk out of one’s personal life. Even if it’s something I genuinely enjoy, it ain’t always going to happen — certainly not around the time of a book launch.

    Yee’s book, thanks to Racialicious’s post (which I linked to via Tumblr, but didn’t otherwise blog about), is on that reading list and I’m hoping to get to it in the fullness of time. But I think sometimes “the internet” has an attention span that doesn’t correlate with analog reading/writing very well. I mean … in academic journals I subscribe to, books that have been out for SEVERAL YEARS are regularly reviewed. I realize in terms of sales, it’s optimal to have something reviewed upon release. But that doesn’t always line up with how people ultimately interact with the text, and what effect it has down the road.

  55. Cara
    Cara May 2, 2011 at 12:46 pm |

    It’s tricky – I think anger and calling out definitely have a place. I would say that if a person is feeling calm and strong in herself, with some thought she can turn her angry criticism into constructive, friendly feedback, just by adding a compliment in with the criticism (“I really liked this post. There’s one thing that I would like to add though…”) and changing the tone a bit.

    On the other hand a person who is angry and hurt, who isn’t feeling calm or powerful, might not be able to do this. It’s important to invite genuine expressions of rage, while at the same time recognizing that anger can be destructive as well as helpful, and asking everyone who can re-phrase things in a more constructive way, to do so.

  56. Vanessa
    Vanessa May 2, 2011 at 12:49 pm |

    There’s obviously a lot to respond to here (great post, Jill), but I just want to chime in and say that at least 5 of our 8 regular bloggers (still waiting to hear back from the others) from Feministing did not receive any emails or promo material about the book, which we would have loved to cover (and are now seeking a review copy) as we’ve been big fans of Jessica Yee’s work for some time now.

  57. so_treu
    so_treu May 2, 2011 at 12:51 pm |

    Jill. Of course if someone writes a book about *music* and someone doesn’t review it in the *feminist* blogosphere, it’s understandable. music may or may not intersect with feminsim. But Jessica Yee’s book was about. *feminism.* that thing that this blog is named after.

    i really have no desire to engage with you or anyone else on this subject beyond this point as this space has shown time and again that white, cis, middle-class women’s issues are what take up most of the space on this blog. but that was an annoyingly apples to corvettes argument to make.

  58. shaunga
    shaunga May 2, 2011 at 12:53 pm |

    i mostly just wanted to commented on this idea of ‘the gap’…

    Some of us live our lives in ‘the gap.’ This ‘gap’ is where we were born, how we were displaced from our homes or removed from our histories. The gap is where we were forced to forget our languages, our traditions and our cultures. In this gap we love and express ourselves in ways that don’t fit into neat categories, but instead shake the grip that rigid boundaries have upon our world and our lives. Look at this gap—acknowledge it, notice it, VALUE it— and you’ll see the complex and varied ways in which we fight, challenge, survive, celebrate and love fiercely, even while enveloped in a system that enforces our separation from our spirits and selves.

    When feminists ‘call-out’ other feminists for their racism, transphobia, homophobia, sexism, ableism, ageism, classism, or any kind of exclusion, when a solid anthology is put together making clear the ways in which Feminism (capital ‘F’) has Progressed (capital ‘P’) through maintaining the oppression it supposedly wants to dismantle (and through the unrecognized labour, effort and heart of the people it oppresses), when numerous people contribute to this anthology and read this anthology with the aim of steering feminism to a more helpful and empowering place, when someone posts a blog recognizing that the book itself has been ignored in many feminist spaces (for WHATEVER reasons it might be ignored for): these ‘call-outs’ are not just people ‘complaining without taking action.’ They are not ‘pointing to a gap and refusing to fill it.’ They are pointing to real lives, real histories and experiences, real beating hearts and REAL feminism that deserve to be acknowledged and refuse to be silenced. We ARE the gap and we’re not just an empty space waiting to be filled. We’re full to the brim, and spilling over.

    The book that Diandra refers to actually spells out what I’m saying in much greater detail. It might be more useful for feminism to engage with it rather than thinking up all the reasons we don’t have time to read it.

  59. Latoya Peterson
    Latoya Peterson May 2, 2011 at 1:00 pm |

    Jill, no one is mad at you personally for failing to cover one thing in the tidal wave of media that is out.

    But there was a marketing campaign done and a lot of tours, including a stop in NYC. Annouced this week, once location is finalized.

    Trouble isn’t that you didn’t cover it – its that almost no one did. We don’t count – Jess writes for us. But its interesting that so many folks who love her and read her still had no idea. I can talk to Jess’ press people, but its still a bit strange.

  60. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil May 2, 2011 at 1:08 pm |

    But Jessica Yee’s book was about. *feminism.* that thing that this blog is named after.

    Hmmm, my (not-updated-very-frequently-personal)blog references puns and grammar in its title and I haven’t even written a post about Strunk and White, let alone CONSIDERED any of the 288,355 books published in 2009. Bad language nerd!

  61. Toni
    Toni May 2, 2011 at 1:14 pm |

    De-lurking just to say, re: comment #39 above:

    “As has been noted elsewhere, including on the shameless blog, this book was promoted. Seriously promoted, North-American wide launches etc. Racialicious posted about it on March 8th. Almost 2 months ago. I don’t have anything to do with the book so I don’t know exactly how many emails they sent out, but after one glance at the racialicious post, i think it’s clear that this book is unique and valuable.”

    I work in marketing for a pretty big publishing company, and I have to ask what “Seriously promoted, North-American wide launches etc.” means. It’s very difficult to do something like that even with serious financial clout behind you and a big PR team.

    Even if you don’t want to go to the extent of buying mailing lists or funding SEM or SEO, it takes a lot of time and effort to track down appropriate reviewers, find their contact information, proactively reach out to them and send them free review copies (or an online/PDF edition of the book, if mailing an actual hard copy is beyond your means.)

    Yet this is what you have to do. And even when you email people, you need to hit them multiple times with the same email, even if it’s subject matter that’s really, really, really important to them. Mailbox volume, spam filters, compromised mental real estate (in that there is literally only so much the human brain can process at any one time) all play a part in this. This is key: “so I don’t know exactly how many emails they sent out” – if it was just one or two, and they were completely impersonal – well, I’m not surprised at the low response rate.

    It sucks, but if you want someone to hear your message via email, you have to send personalized messages and you have to do it multiple times. And in the case of books, increase it the closer you get to publication. This book no doubt is really unique and valuable, and there are definitely social dynamics in play that would cause willful ignorance among the media. But at a glance, it looks like there was not a strong enough push to begin with. Frankly, I’m astonished that Jill caught the single email about it. It takes about 2 – 3 emails for something to really register with me, even if I’m powerfully compelled by it due to my grasping, base nature (Lululemon pants, I’m looking at you.)

    I could be wrong about all of this! The email campaign could have been proactive, extensive and varied, and Vanessa and Jill could have just deleted all the messages, forgotten about them, drunkenly nuked their gmail boxes, etc. But based on the information presented and taking Vanessa and Jill on good faith, it doesn’t look like that’s what happened. And if the marketing was poor, you can’t blame the audience. On the plus side, this entry and comment thread will probably push the book like awesomesauce by making it part of a larger controversial discourse, which is great news!

  62. RedRightAnkle
    RedRightAnkle May 2, 2011 at 1:14 pm |

    While I can sympathize with how hard it must be to run a blog that receives the kind of traffic Feministe does, and the pain, frustration and stress that must come with people constantly picking apart your work, especially when it’s an unpaid labor of love like a blog. I have to say that this post leaves me feeling a bit cold.

    I mean obviously some news stories, new books, etc are going to fall through the cracks. The problem is that there is usually a pattern to what kinds of stories are being lost. It’s the stories of further marginalized people. And people are filling gaps. I read some great press and promotion for FFR, it just all happened to be by POC on more race-centric blogs.

    And I know you said that this post is about more than just the book, and the article at Shameless, but the reaction to the lack of a “capital F feminism” response is about more than just the book as well. It’s to a continued pattern of marginalization. And yes, no one meant it, and people have lives, and emails get lost, and you’re stressed, even physically hurting. This is not meant to invalidate that. It’s not even really about you. It’s about how even though you didn’t mean it, it still reinforces the dominant paradigm of a woc falling through the cracks where a white woman probably would have been lifted up.

    It’s not like these blogs don’t know who Jessica Yee is either. She wrote regularly for Bitch, Feministing did a profile on her and she was covered during their CLPP live-blogging, she’s had her work cross-posted, if I remember correctly she once guest posted on this very blog, and she’s been writing over at Racialicious for a while now. But aside from Racialicious, I didn’t see any promotion of her work on the “big” blogs. And with all the promotion that I did see else where, I’m sorry but it kind of makes me scratch my head when ya’ll say you never got the memo and have no idea what’s going on.

    I don’t know, with all that’s gone down over the years re: book deals in the feminist blogosphere, I feel like this is all happening within a very particular context that is largely being ignored here.

  63. CL
    CL May 2, 2011 at 1:16 pm |

    Fantastic, important post. I agree that you cannot possibly be expected to cover every awesome new book or article in the feminist universe — first, because you don’t know about every new book or article, and second because it’s not your responsibility to provide a comprehensive guide to everything related to feminism. The book sounds great, but it’s not the only book that just came out, and it’s unfair to read anything into a blog not promoting it other than what you explained — that you’re very busy, get hundreds of requests to cover things, and can’t be expected to notice and promote everything worthy of promotion.

    The problem of activism starting and ending with privilege call-outs is another important issue. Some bloggers and commenters seem to get a rush from scolding other people through the lens of privilege analysis — once they “get it” they see privilege everywhere (because it is everywhere), and they seem to spend all their time responding to ignorant comments on blogs, or writing posts that call out other people, fighting for hours with someone who doesn’t get it. I think there is a high from feeling superior to those who don’t get it, and that analyzing and scolding provide an easy outlet for our resentments. I’ve been there, and I know it can be energizing. But at some point we have to ask ourselves, if we’re spending all of our energy on this, what does it say about us?

    Maybe it says that we’re only participating in an easy way that makes us feels good. Calling out privilege makes us feel better and smarter than other people, and we can do it from the comfort of our couches. And you can spend 10 hours a day on it if you want — there’s an infinite number of people not owning their privilege, saying things that only apply to them but not others. Persuading other people to see privilege and oppression is important, but something is wrong if that’s all you ever do, if scolding is the beginning and end of your participation.

  64. Lu
    Lu May 2, 2011 at 1:22 pm |

    The recent trend in the comments now is to make the lack of action on this book an example of how Jill is failing, and how suspicious that looks in the context of WOC falling through the cracks and not getting proportionate attention. Yes, that is a problem. But let’s remember: 9-to-17-hour workdays. Health problem. Not blogging as a profession. And Jill has alluded to a lot of stuff we don’t know about her personal life. Could we move away from that example and just take the post’s topic for what it was?

  65. Mandolin
    Mandolin May 2, 2011 at 1:25 pm |

    I think it’s hard to balance calling out trends and calling out individuals? It seems to me that a lot of flame wars end up revolving around that. “Race isn’t taken seriously in science fiction, and you can tell because of what this person and this person said” / “Why are you picking on them?” / “It was just illustrative!” … but then eventually, a lot of the conversation *does* become about *that* person, and *that* act, instead of the systemic dynamic. Which isn’t a condemnation of the criticizers or the defenders per se so much as it is an observation of how conversational dynamics tend to push away from abstractions, if only because it’s so much harder to do that kind of analysis.

    This has been coming up in the fiction circles I travel a lot where I’m hearing from some POC that they find the “calling out” process of racism in workshops really upsetting and non-productive, especially when the calling out is being done by well-intentioned white people who are more naive than they think they are… and on the other hand, I’ve been in workshops where POC were basically told to shut up when they tried to point out race issues, too…

    On the one hand, how do you keep critique positive? Should you? For whose benefit is it? And on the other hand, how do we make people less afraid to fail so that being called out isn’t a huge tragedy? To continue using writing as a metaphor, I sympathize with the urge to say, “I am afraid that I will come across as racist/sexist/etc so I just won’t deal with others’ povs in my books and stories,” but I want to figure out a way to convincingly counter that with, “Yeah, maybe you will come across as racist/sexist/etc, but isn’t it better to risk that and be actually trying to take a productive step toward _not_ being, instead of staying silent and avoiding criticism but also just being an invisible part of the problem?”

    It sounds like the gap here may be that people are trying to say “I find it disturbing that mainstream feminist blogs are so disconnected from the indigenous feminist community that what’s a big deal in the latter doesn’t even register for the former, and this especially sucks because there shouldn’t even be a division between those communities if we accept the premise that feminism is really about the radical notion that ALL women are people” and it’s getting tangled up with “in the mainstream feminist community, these specific people are to blame?”

  66. Athenia
    Athenia May 2, 2011 at 1:28 pm |

    You know, I searched for this book/editor on amazon and amazon.ca and I couldn’t find it.

    Who published this book?

  67. Calling Out, Dialogue, and Progressive Movement-Building « Student Activism

    [...] ways in which progressives have been arguing this week, and Jill Filipovic of Feministe just put up a much longer, more thoughtful post that started from a similar place. A common thread running through both of those essays is an [...]

  68. zuzu
    zuzu May 2, 2011 at 1:30 pm |

    Latoya Peterson:
    Jill, no one is mad at you personally for failing to cover one thing in the tidal wave of media that is out.

    But there was a marketing campaign done and a lot of tours, including a stop in NYC.Annouced this week, once location is finalized.

    Trouble isn’t that you didn’t cover it – its that almost no one did.We don’t count – Jess writes for us.But its interesting that so many folks who love her and read her still had no idea.I can talk to Jess’ press people, but its still a bit strange.

    If no one did cover it, then it could just be that the press people fell down. It’s also hard to review a book if you don’t have it in hand.

    In comments to the post Jill linked, someone from Bitch said they had plans to review the book, but hadn’t yet received their review copy. It sounds like the only email Jill got was information on how to purchase the book, not “please give us an address where we can send a review copy.” Same with the Feministing crew, as Vanessa noted; if they received anything at all.

    It seems a little unfair to get mad at Jill (or Bitch, or Feministing, or…) for not reviewing the book when it appears that the PR people haven’t gotten review copies into their hands.

  69. xenu01
    xenu01 May 2, 2011 at 1:37 pm |

    Thank you for what you do! I know this is a labor of love.

  70. Mandolin
    Mandolin May 2, 2011 at 1:39 pm |

    Looks like the publisher is the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives?

    http://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/ourschools-ourselves/feminism-real

    If I might suggest this in a friendly fashion to whoever is publicizing the book, it might be a good idea to get more and clearer links to the product itself. It showed up for me as the third google link, but it wasn’t immediately apparent from the link title that the page linked to the product itself. Also, the pop-up is off-putting. I get ginger about ordering things online when I haven’t bought from that place before, and little things can startle me off; I imagine I’m not the only one.

  71. Lu
    Lu May 2, 2011 at 1:44 pm |

    Mandolin @1:25, those strike me as really productive thoughts and questions. Thank you.

  72. renska
    renska May 2, 2011 at 1:56 pm |

    RedRightAnkle:
    It’s not like these blogs don’t know who Jessica Yee is either.She wrote regularly for Bitch, Feministing did a profile on her and she was covered during their CLPP live-blogging, she’s had her work cross-posted, if I remember correctly she once guest posted on this very blog,and she’s been writing over at Racialicious for a while now.But aside from Racialicious, I didn’t see any promotion of her work on the “big” blogs.And with all the promotion that I did see else where, I’m sorry but it kind of makes me scratch my head when ya’ll say you never got the memo and have no idea what’s going on.

    But this to me speaks of marketing fail, not Feministe fail. If Jill and/or her fellow bloggers didn’t get a press release announcing the book date back a few months ago, and then an email with a couple of quotes from reviewers and wouldn’t you like an advance review copy, and/or another email stating that the book was available in a bookstore near you, then the publishing house’s publicity/marketing dept is not doing its job in terms of outreach to blogs likely to take an interest in the material.

    The publicist should have asked Jennifer Yee: Where have you blogged? What feminist blogs do you like/respect? Which ones would take an interest in this material? That list should have generated at least 50 email contacts and, no, one contact is not enough.

    And, seriously, trying to get a review copy into the hands of someone at a blog where an author has guest-blogged is a no-brainer.

    In fact, sending out galleys well before publication to try and get quotes is also standard. That’s another way for the publisher to drum up interest and potentially get some pre-press.

    Thousands of books are published each year. This one book NOT being reviewed is the fault of the people who didn’t know the book existed doesn’t seem to me to be a systemic issue with feminist blogs but, at least in part, a lack of a coordinated, comprehensive plan on the part of the publisher.

  73. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh May 2, 2011 at 1:58 pm |

    It’s ironic and sad that some people are reacting to Jill’s great post in exactly the way that is so detrimental.

    I can be counted among the people who have lurked on feminist blogs for years but never really commented because it looks as though you will get your head bitten off if you say the wrong thing. I am a working-class bisexual multiethnic WOC with a disability, but I am privileged in some other areas, so until recently I’ve just prefered to to lurk while I continue to learn new things. The only education in Women’s Studies I have at this time is from reading the blogs, and I am so grateful to everyone who blogs on these topics.

    I want to thank Jill for this great post for doing what she does, it’s so valuable and I’ve learned a lot from reading Feministe. I just hope that I will continue to feel comfortable engaging with other readers and that people will quit being as hostile to Jill and Feministe bloggers as some of them are. I can understand why people quit blogging with that kind of treatment.

  74. Athenia
    Athenia May 2, 2011 at 2:01 pm |

    Mandolin:
    Looks like the publisher is the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives?

    http://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/ourschools-ourselves/feminism-real

    If I might suggest this in a friendly fashion to whoever is publicizing the book, it might be a good idea to get more and clearer links to the product itself. It showed up for me as the third google link, but it wasn’t immediately apparent from the link title that the page linked to the product itself. Also, the pop-up is off-putting. I get ginger about ordering things online when I haven’t bought from that place before, and little things can startle me off; I imagine I’m not the only one.

    I work in the book publishing industry and if you do not have a listing on Amazon.com, your book might as well not exist. You may think I’m joking, but I am not.

    I feel like this might be a good example of how systematic barriers work.

  75. Bushfire
    Bushfire May 2, 2011 at 2:03 pm |

    I can’t believe what this comment thread has turned into. This blog isn’t a Feminist Book Review Blog. It’s just Jill’s blog, and I can’t remember the last time she reviewed any book.

    If it’s really important to you that a book be reviewed, then review the book. Jill allows guest posts here very frequently. Maybe she’d even post your review?

    Also, is it even a good idea for white people with privilege to write about race? It sounds like whitesplaining.

  76. Vigée
    Vigée May 2, 2011 at 2:03 pm |

    I write a very small cooking blog, and occasionally am asked if I’d like to review a cookbook. First, an email asking me if I’m interested in an advance copy, with attachments to images and probably a sample recipe. Then the actual book arrives, then follow-up emails asking if I need anything else for the review. If publishers can go through all of that for my teeny blog (which is not even in the same league as Feministe), then it seems like Jill should have received more than a single email. Also? Publishers don’t start getting pissed off if I haven’t reviewed the book within a few weeks of it being published, because they know that I have to actually use/cook from the damn thing before I recommend it. And that takes time.

  77. Required Reading: Jill @ Feministe on “Call-Out Culture” - The Pursuit of Harpyness

    [...] sending y’all on over to Feministe to read a post that Jill published this morning on the dynamics of “calling out” the “big feminist blogs” for being [...]

  78. Aunt B.
    Aunt B. May 2, 2011 at 2:14 pm |

    I don’t find the book listed in Books in Print, which suggests it doesn’t have an ISBN. Couple that with its absence from Amazon and Amazon.ca, it strongly suggests that not only has the marketing campaign for this book been strangely ill-conceived, but that the whole publishing strategy for this book is, to put it as neutrally as possible, detrimental to the health of the book.

    If Yee’s supporters want to be mad at anyone, they should start with the folks who decided to keep this out of the standard distribution chain.

    Yikes.

  79. Sheila
    Sheila May 2, 2011 at 2:18 pm |

    Latoya Peterson:
    Interesting.I’ll share three things, and leave it you, Jill (and other readers) to decide what you want to take from it.

    1. It is really interesting that critique came from Shameless – a few years ago, Thea Lim and Jessica Yee came to Racialicious because they had a lot of problems with the environment there w/r/t race and feminism.

    Shameless has changed a LOT since Jessica and Thea left. I have been a part of Shameless for the past five years, am friends with both of these women and was close to leaving for the same reasons, too. I decided to stick around and do what I can to challenge and build on what we have. We’ve since done a whole bunch of restructuring, a new mandate, etc. It IS interesting that this critique comes from Shameless because it comes after calling ourselves out on some of the very same stuff. Many times over.

    Feminist politics are a work-in-progress. You move forwarding by challenging yourself, challenging others, questioning yourself, and questioning others. We (shameless) has a long way to go, just like you (feministe) does, too. But we can only move forward from that if we listen to feedback from our communities and respond with reflection, and not defensiveness. Nobody said it was easy, either: we also work entirely unpaid, on top of our full-time jobs or studies. The fact that we all have a lot on our plate doesn’t really negate the fact that we all have a lot to learn.

    I appreciate this post and hear your frustration, Jill, but am confused by the implication that Shameless doesn’t work to fill the gaps that we see. Since the time that Latoya mentions above, we’ve worked really hard to re-staff in an inclusive way, reach out to marginalized communities and challenge our own points of privilege, by, for example, taking an anti-oppression training and continuing that those conversations internally. Despite all of the positive changes I feel that we’ve made, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that we have a long way to go. There are opportunities for learning everywhere and that’s personally one of the reasons I continue with Shameless.

    The culture of calling-out isn’t about shaming. It’s important, as feminist activists to challenge ourselves and to continue to challenge others within the movement, to have open dialogue and to push our politics forward collectively. I personally appreciate the tireless work that you and the rest of the team at feministe do, but just because it’s tough doesn’t mean that it should go unchallenged. That’s one of the amazing thing about the feminist blogosphere — there is so much opportunity for dialogue and learning. If you choose to hear it.

    As far as the piece about the “endgame” (in the comments above) — I agree with what you’re saying here. I believe it’s important that we think strategically when we act politically. I can’t speak to Diandra’s personal motivation by the post, but I do stand by it. Shameless has done all we can to promote the book: running an ad in our print mag, attending, covering and live-tweeting the launch, and it’ll be reviewed in our next print issue, too. Given that we’ve done what we can internally to “fill these gaps” it seems to make sense to challenge others to do the same?

    I hear your comments about not hearing about the book, about receiving a lot of email from a lot of different people, and only one promoting this book. I’m in a similar position myself (I’m editorial director of Shameless). Maybe this is an opportunity to help fuel the work that you are doing, to make it more inclusive? Have you thought about why this book wasn’t brought to your attention? Or ways in which you can reach out to Indigenous and racialized communities to make sure that the voices on your blog are representative? I’ll be the first to say that this kind of work isn’t easy. But usually the stuff that’s hardest is also the most important.

    In solidarity,
    sheila

  80. shannon
    shannon May 2, 2011 at 2:19 pm |

    I’m in the gap too, and even though I am disengaged now, I used to be very angry over being overlooked. Even though it’s not meant unkindly, it still hurts.

  81. Bex
    Bex May 2, 2011 at 2:36 pm |

    Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see what’s so hellishly difficult about sending Jill an email or two saying “Hey, I’ve noticed you haven’t posted about [topic x] in [a few days/weeks/ever], and I think it’s an important topic for Feministe to cover because [reason a/b/c]. Since I know you’re busy/have RL things going on/might not feel 100% qualified to adress topic x without time/education to get up to speed, would you be cool with me submitting a guest post on the subject?” and maybe even including a draft of your proposed post in the email, before getting all shirty about it in comments. Or, even more outlandishly, posting a link on an open or related thread to one’s own blog post on the subject, thereby exposing Feministe’s readership to topic x without foisting the comment-modding duties onto Jill as well. I mean, if she shoots back a message saying “Never! Your topic is unbelievably pedestrian and beneath my Super-Special Feminist notice!”, I can see you’ve got a grievance, but I’m not really holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

  82. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar May 2, 2011 at 2:55 pm |

    I’ve been around here since it was Lauren’s solo blog, and since it became a group blog, Jill has tried and tried and tried again to get bloggers with perspectives different from hers to blog here. Some of them have been really great. You know what happens? The commentariat here burns them out.

    Here’s the truth about us, folks: we’re a nasty bunch, and we burn out everyone, and the folks who have the least privilege and the least-often-centered points of view burn out the fastest.

    The problem of the feminist blogosphere reflecting the experiences of the most privileged can only be fixed by giving more people the opportunity to speak. If we the commenters are impossible to them when they do, they’ll always leave.

    I’m not saying that because I miss Chally. I’m saying that because I miss Chally and every one of her predecessors. And I’m blaming all of us. This is a structural problem, and it’s not Jill’s bag of crap to hold. It’s all of ours. The gaps exist because they define what we as a community are and are not willing to be a sympathetic audience for.

  83. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 2, 2011 at 3:06 pm |

    Thomas MacAulay Millar: I’m not saying that because I miss Chally. I’m saying that because I miss Chally and every one of her predecessors. And I’m blaming all of us. This is a structural problem, and it’s not Jill’s bag of crap to hold. It’s all of ours. The gaps exist because they define what we as a community are and are not willing to be a sympathetic audience for.

    There is too much truth in this statement.

  84. Scyntillating
    Scyntillating May 2, 2011 at 3:10 pm |

    That’s a really inspirational call to action, Jill, even if it stems from frustration. I agree that a lot of times, people seem to be stuck in the rut of calling out/complaining instead of actually going out and doing something about it. There’s regular derailing and in-fighting that distracts everyone from realizing that we are all searching for the same main goal, albeit in different ways.

  85. bartkid
    bartkid May 2, 2011 at 3:14 pm |

    Bex, comment #93 sed:
    > Since I know you’re busy/have RL things going on/might not feel 100% qualified to adress topic x without time/education to get up to speed, would you be cool with me submitting a guest post on the subject?”

    Word. My first thoughts. Above in the comments, Jill noted she has, since pounding out the original post, emailed requesting a review copy.

    Folks just need to realize that there are too many good books, good albums, and good films to read/hear/watch, let alone note, let alone review, even if on-topic for a dedicated blog’s genre.

    Warren Ellis used to note the Internet is made of people; I maintain it is made of people, arguing.

    Jill, please imagine hearing whatever the best words of encouragement are to you, because that is what I want to convey.
    Thank you.

  86. Latoya Peterson
    Latoya Peterson May 2, 2011 at 3:14 pm |

    @zuzu

    Like I said way back at 13, no one was blaming Jill specifically. I added three points, for clarity, one of which is that Jess did make an effort to promote the book. Jill said she didn’t receive the email until 3/14 which means at the very least, folks fucked up on the launch date (which was Women’s Day.)

    I sent that info to Jess – she is in a territory without consistent phone/email access, she will take care of it when she’s back in range of a tower.

    However, Jess has been tweeting about the books, speeches, events and meet ups for the last few months. People do read her feed. And

    remember, I didn’t say Jess was angry about the book reception – she said disappointed, which I can see. I don’t want this convo to slide away from Jill’s bigger point, but I also don’t want people saying that the book isn’t

  87. felixbc
    felixbc May 2, 2011 at 3:24 pm |

    The book sounds great. From the blurb:
    “Against a backdrop exposing a 500+ year legacy of colonization and oppression, Feminism FOR REAL explores what has led us to the existence of “feminism”, who gets to decide what it is, and why. With stories that make the walls of academia come tumbling down, it deals head-on with the conflicts of what feminism means in theory as opposed to real life, the frustrations of trying to relate to definitions of feminism that never fit no matter how much you try to change yourself to fit them, and the anger of changing a system while being in the system yourself.”

    That said, the web page that offers the book makes it look unapproachable, starting with the glaring error of a pop up for subscribing to a newsletter. Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives? And the subtitle: Deconstructing the academic industrial complex of feminism? Both make my eyes glaze over–and I’m a Canadian with a degree in Women’s Studies.

    Seriously, work on the marketing. I’m pretty darn sure “shaming people into talking about it” wasn’t in Marketing 101, either.

    FelixBC

  88. felixbc
    felixbc May 2, 2011 at 3:46 pm |

    This quote from Cynthia Smith @55:

    “Hi Jill – for all this talk about Feminism For Real have you at least taken the time to read the summary of the book? Especially the part where Jessica Yee says that Western notions of “polite discourse” aren’t the same for all of us? I think you may need to re-read that – meaning that for some of us – our anger is what has kept us alive.

    Also meaning that ultimately despite what you and others have said here about how it’s not your fault you didn’t know about this – Indigenous people like Jessica Yee will have to keep on being your educators and won’t get any accountability from y’all saying that you fucked up here. Again. So why aren’t you following her work? Too many Indigenous people here or something? Who started this big thing called “feminism”?”

    This is why reading at Feministe is like watching your friends eat each other alive.

    I came here a few weeks ago when David Futrelle did a guest post. “Cool,” I thought, “a blog to add to my daily reading list.” But the resulting comments war was disheartening, and made this reader resolve not to come back. Good to see Jill addressing the question: “Seriously, what’s up with Feministe?” that I saw on a number of other blogs (where the commenters have teeth, but don’t use them in quite the same vicious, silencing way).

  89. nathan
    nathan May 2, 2011 at 3:51 pm |

    Co-sign Thomas’ statement above. I have stopped commenting here for the most part because it’s just too exhausting and frustrating. And it’s been quite sad to watch some excellent guest bloggers get driven out of here because they’re posts contained a few sloppy wordings or because they’re viewpoints weren’t what most people here are used to considering.

    And in terms of running a blog, I totally get it. My little blog only has a few hundred readers a day, but if a topic I choose to cover hits a nerve, there’s plenty of comments and e-mails to deal with. And no one pays me a cent to do any of this.

    So, I can totally imagine the amount of time and energy put into a place like Feministe. And clearly it’s true that being a well-known blog brings with it responsibilities, including doing your best to cover topics and features a diverse range of voices that fall under your blog’s header. However, it’s also the case that much of the most important work being done on blogs is being done by people freely offering their time, energy, knowledge, and skills. And given this, perhaps people might pause and consider the gift being made, and balance awareness of that gift with any challenging and criticism, however correct that criticism might be.

  90. Natalia
    Natalia May 2, 2011 at 3:52 pm |

    It’s not like these blogs don’t know who Jessica Yee is either. She wrote regularly for Bitch, Feministing did a profile on her and she was covered during their CLPP live-blogging, she’s had her work cross-posted, if I remember correctly she once guest posted on this very blog, and she’s been writing over at Racialicious for a while now. But aside from Racialicious, I didn’t see any promotion of her work on the “big” blogs. And with all the promotion that I did see else where, I’m sorry but it kind of makes me scratch my head when ya’ll say you never got the memo and have no idea what’s going on.

    I’m not a big blogger – but I am a feminist, a writer, a journalist, a fairly frequent guest-blogger here, and an on-again off-again reviewer of books. I’m also fond of Jessica Yee’s work – though having been out of N. America for a while, my attention has obviously shifted somewhat (and I see now that Yee is not even on my Twitter feed, for example).

    And I was really fucking surprised to hear about this book! I read a lot of blogs – I frequently read Racialicious, for example, and I even missed the coverage there. Obviously, there’s stuff going on in my life that has reduced my attention span a whole lot, but it *does* strike me as odd that I have heard absolutely nothing.

    Or maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. Good books get buried all the time. Anyway, if anyone would like to send me a review copy to Moscow, ya’ll know where to find me.

  91. Natalia
    Natalia May 2, 2011 at 3:53 pm |

    Here’s the truth about us, folks: we’re a nasty bunch, and we burn out everyone, and the folks who have the least privilege and the least-often-centered points of view burn out the fastest.

    Yes.

  92. Joe Sonka
    Joe Sonka May 2, 2011 at 4:21 pm |

    Wonderful wonderful wonderful post, Jill. And amen.

    Thanks for all that you do.

  93. melissa
    melissa May 2, 2011 at 4:38 pm |

    When I first read the shameless blog I posted a comment there asking if they had sent the book out to any of the blogs they mentioned. It immediately seemed like something that needed to be done to get the kind of attention wanted.

    I agree with so much of what has been said in this post and I totally get why it’s impossible to read ever book and feminist blog.

    However I really think Red Right Ankle makes some great points. It’s not just about one book. The article at Shameless was also not just about a few blogs that didn’t review the book. It was about a trend the author noticed of feminist books about race not getting the attention that others do.

    RedRightAnkle:
    I mean obviously some news stories, new books, etc are going to fall through the cracks.The problem is that there is usually a pattern to what kinds of stories are being lost.It’s the stories of further marginalized people.And people are filling gaps.I read some great press and promotion for FFR, it just all happened to be by POC on more race-centric blogs.

  94. Medea
    Medea May 2, 2011 at 4:52 pm |

    Sheila: Or ways in which you can reach out to Indigenous and racialized communities to make sure that the voices on your blog are representative?

    The problem with that is that posters keep leaving (Thomas MacAulay Millar mentions one of the reasons) and so we keep coming back to Jill. Holly, Jack, Chally, Superbabymama, Cara, Piny, Zuzu, Lauren–all used to write great posts, all had different perspectives coloured by their own experiences, all gone.

    Latoya Peterson: Jill, no one is mad at you personally for failing to cover one thing in the tidal wave of media that is out.

    And the problem with this is that it’s not true–a lot of blogosphere discussions and calling-outs are based on being angry at individuals. When Amanda Marcotte was accused of appropriating the work of bfp, and went on the defensive, she was told “It’s not all about you! Don’t make it all about you!” But it was in large part about her–and if someone says that Feministe is wrong not to cover something, that’s a criticism of the people who write for it.

    I don’t object to being angry at individuals–I object to blurring the line between individual and collective. Jill has stated why she, personally, hasn’t written about Yee’s book. And here’s a response:

    shaunga: It might be more useful for feminism to engage with it rather than thinking up all the reasons we don’t have time to read it.

    Feminism? What does that mean? Since when is Jill feminism? How many self-identified feminists have to ignore a book before feminism is ignoring it?

  95. LoriA
    LoriA May 2, 2011 at 4:55 pm |

    I got about halfway through this before I gave up. Look, I think you’re right that it’s ridiculous to be called out for not reviewing a book when you’re only doing ten or so posts a week. You could have just said that, and you should have said *just* that. Because it’s also ridiculous to write an essay-length post about how hard it is for you to own your privilege. In fact, it makes it look like maybe you *could* have reviewed that book but decided not to for whatever subconscious racist reasons. The fact that Chally is now gone- for whatever reason- really does not help your case.

    Label this a call-out if you will. I’m labeling this a deserved criticism and a means of furthering dialogue. If I want to call you out, I’ll do it on my blog after conversation here has failed, and I’ll be thinking that’s a totally appropriate way and means of voicing my complaints.

  96. Florence
    Florence May 2, 2011 at 5:07 pm |

    Look, I think you’re right that it’s ridiculous to be called out for not reviewing a book when you’re only doing ten or so posts a week. You could have just said that, and you should have said *just* that. Because it’s also ridiculous to write an essay-length post about how hard it is for you to own your privilege. In fact, it makes it look like maybe you *could* have reviewed that book but decided not to for whatever subconscious racist reasons. The fact that Chally is now gone- for whatever reason- really does not help your case.

    There are a lot of structural reasons that the blogosphere is not a reliable place for book promotion, and I’m ruminating on why that is and may contribute more later if I think it’s useful. But Jill’s post really isn’t about Yee or Yee’s book, which will hopefully now get the attention it deserves — it’s a sleeper hit! — it’s about how we eat our own. And we do! And it’s fucked up and needs to stop. Chalking this post up to whiny martyrdom is a good example of eating our own considering the wide array of points brought up in the post and comments so far.

    I’ve never heard of Yee’s book or Shameless until now, but I’ve got one on the radar and the other in my feed reader, so hey.

  97. LoriA
    LoriA May 2, 2011 at 5:09 pm |

    Now, reading through the comments, I see that (of course) others have said it better. Echoing shaunga at #68: some of us, who are women, live our lives in this gap of which you speak. You don’t get to ignore us and never hear about it. That’s not excusing what can sometimes be a toxic culture of how we inform people that they’re ignoring us, but it is pointing out exactly what the original post skirted around.

  98. Florence
    Florence May 2, 2011 at 5:10 pm |

    Yeah, not a fan of the “Mind Your Privilege” crap, especially when privilege can be put to excellent use in activist communities when you aren’t wringing your hands over it. Suddenly “privilege” is a slur instead of a frame of understanding one’s experience.

  99. Florence
    Florence May 2, 2011 at 5:11 pm |

    LoriA: hoing shaunga at #68: some of us, who are women, live our lives in this gap of which you speak. You don’t get to ignore us and never hear about it. That’s not excusing what can sometimes be a toxic culture of how we inform people that they’re ignoring us, but it is pointing out exactly what the original post skirted around.

    Nope, not going to let you draw lines in the sand over this. This isn’t about able vs. disabled, POC vs. white, poor vs. rich, no. This is about all of us living more or less in the margins and our negotiations with that. No more us vs. them.

  100. LoriA
    LoriA May 2, 2011 at 5:11 pm |

    Jill, you started your post off by essentially telling those of us who are off your radar that we should just write about our own issues and not expect you to do the work involved in learning and caring about them, even though your work is feminism and we are oppressed women. If the rest of your post isn’t about that, it doesn’t really matter, and I shouldn’t have to read through the whole thing to make that criticism.

  101. LoriA
    LoriA May 2, 2011 at 5:14 pm |

    @Florence
    Right. There is no difference between those with privilege and those without, and I’m *certainly* not allowed to say there is. Thanks for reminding me what I can and can’t talk about– real awesome, very feminist of you.

    Has it occurred to you that the reason why ‘call-outs’ are necessary is because people like you shut down any attempt at critical dialogue?

  102. Florence
    Florence May 2, 2011 at 5:21 pm |

    LoriA:
    @Florence
    Right. There is no difference between those with privilege and those without, and I’m *certainly* not allowed to say there is. Thanks for reminding me what I can and can’t talk about– real awesome, very feminist of you.

    Has it occurred to you that the reason why ‘call-outs’ are necessary is because people like you shut down any attempt at critical dialogue?

    That’s… remarkably dense. The point is that we all have varying amounts of privilege and lack thereof depending on what context and category we’re focusing on. The only way to delineate who is privileged or not when you play that game is to create a hierarchy of oppressedness and shut up people who aren’t sufficiently beaten down by society/The Man/feminist bloggers/police/social services, etc etc etc. It’s called the Oppression Olympics?

    For example: “People like [me]“… what do you know about me? What hardships do I face? What intersections do I manage? What life experiences do I have to offer? Am I a conservative, anti-feminist spy sent here to agitate the True Scotswomen on this blog? And do I owe you an autobiography to have an opinion in your vicinity? Really, WTF.

  103. zuzu
    zuzu May 2, 2011 at 5:21 pm |

    LoriA: Thanks for reminding me what I can and can’t talk about– real awesome, very feminist of you.

    Versus telling Jill (or anyone else) what they MUST talk about? Because that’s feminist?

    I feel like I’ve talked about this a lot in the past few days in two posts about the fucking royal wedding of all things (and oh, how my potato-famine ancestors would love that!) but it seems like nobody wants to let go of the privilege call-out as a debate-ender.

  104. LoriA
    LoriA May 2, 2011 at 5:22 pm |

    @Florence
    I don’t even understand what you’re arguing anymore. I feel like I’ve made myself sufficiently clear.

  105. LoriA
    LoriA May 2, 2011 at 5:24 pm |

    @zuzu Pointing out that ‘You claim to write about feminism, but you only write about issues that affect certain women’ is not telling someone what to write about; it’s pointing out that someone isn’t writing what she says she is.

  106. Florence
    Florence May 2, 2011 at 5:26 pm |

    LoriA: I don’t even understand what you’re arguing anymore.

    Shades of gray. Pragmatism. As a community, committing to looking before we leap to unfair conclusions.

  107. zuzu
    zuzu May 2, 2011 at 5:29 pm |

    LoriA:
    @zuzu Pointing out that ‘You claim to write about feminism, but you only write about issues that affect certain women’ is not telling someone what to write about; it’s pointing out that someone isn’t writing what she says she is.

    Every post must be an omnibus, then, or you won’t give it your stamp of approval?

    There’s an awful lot to write about, and as noted, the internet is a big place. The publishing industry is a big place. When friends of mine have written books, they have told everyone they know they’re writing a book. They’ve worked their contact lists. Their publishers have done the same.

    I don’t think it can be emphasized enough that this book is not even listed on Amazon. That’s… perplexing. You can self-publish to Kindle, so it’s not like you have to go through some kind of initiation rite.

    Are there things to discuss about how this whole thing has gone down, and who gets whose attention? Sure! But telling Jill she can’t be a feminist because you aren’t satisfied that she’s a human being with only so much time in the day and so much mental space is pretty whiny.

  108. Nahida
    Nahida May 2, 2011 at 5:31 pm |

    LoriA: @zuzu Pointing out that ‘You claim to write about feminism, but you only write about issues that affect certain women’ is not telling someone what to write about; it’s pointing out that someone isn’t writing what she says she is.

    “Writing about feminism” isn’t the same as “writing about every possible topic that could affect every woman alive, dead, or dying on the face of the planet.” Who has the capacity to do this? By your definition, no one is really writing about feminism.

  109. little light
    little light May 2, 2011 at 5:35 pm |

    I’ve been around here since it was Lauren’s solo blog, and since it became a group blog, Jill has tried and tried and tried again to get bloggers with perspectives different from hers to blog here. Some of them have been really great. You know what happens? The commentariat here burns them out.

    Here’s the truth about us, folks: we’re a nasty bunch, and we burn out everyone, and the folks who have the least privilege and the least-often-centered points of view burn out the fastest.

    Yeah, Jill isn’t the reason I–for the new kids, I’m a poor-ass, queer trans woman of color with radical politics–did not finish any of my three guest stints here at Feministe, and Jill isn’t the reason I didn’t become a regular contributor here.

    Jill, I’m processing a lot of thoughts on this, and I’ve been percolating a lot of this subject for a couple years now. …you know, since I basically burned out completely and dropped out of active blogging and conversation. I’m really disturbed at what online activism has become, and not just because I get extensive hate mail for espousing shit like hope, love, and a basic belief in human goodness and worth.
    You and I don’t always agree on everything but I’m really glad you wrote this and this conversation is happening. Thank you.

    To my comrades: our anger has a place, but I don’t believe it keeps us alive or leads us to justice. Only our love does that. And a movement built first on our love will endure in the way that work founded in rage simply cannot. Our anger is important but I am exhausted with the ways we’ve let the conversation end there. What are we growing, here? What are we feeding and raising up into the world?

  110. In Her Place « Tiny Cat Pants
    In Her Place « Tiny Cat Pants May 2, 2011 at 5:36 pm |

    [...] Jill over at Feministe has put up a great post about the bad dynamics at work in the feminist blogosphere. I have a lot of thoughts, because, if you’ve been around for any period of time, there are a lot of old sore spots. [...]

  111. Shoshie
    Shoshie May 2, 2011 at 5:36 pm |

    LoriA-

    I think the point is that we all have shit going on, we ALL have certain privileges and disadvantages. We ALL have different backgrounds. We all fuck up and we all write when we’re tired and not thinking clearly. And while there is a place for anger and there is a place for telling people that they’ve fucked up, I think that you have to assume that your allies are writing in good faith, until shown otherwise.

    If someone on Feministe who’s a regular non-trolly commentor says something fucked, wouldn’t it be more productive to say, “hey there, that was pretty shitty, and here’s why.” And no, it’s not the oppressed person’s job to educated and no it’s not wrong to be pissed off and smack someone down, but don’t pretend that it’s activism, especially when all it accomplishes is shutting down yet another marginalized voice.

  112. Kristen J.'s Husband
    Kristen J.'s Husband May 2, 2011 at 5:36 pm |

    LoriA:
    I got about halfway through this before I gave up. Look, I think you’re right that it’s ridiculous to be called out for not reviewing a book when you’re only doing ten or so posts a week. You could have just said that, and you should have said *just* that. Because it’s also ridiculous to write an essay-length post about how hard it is for you to own your privilege.In fact, it makes it look like maybe you *could* have reviewed that book but decided not to for whatever subconscious racist reasons. The fact that Chally is now gone- for whatever reason- really does not help your case.

    Label this a call-out if you will. I’m labeling this a deserved criticism and a means of furthering dialogue. If I want to call you out, I’ll do it on my blog after conversation here has failed, and I’ll be thinking that’s a totally appropriate way and means of voicing my complaints.

    Wherein I lose my temper on the interwebz.

    So where do I sign up to call you out for all the oppression that you haven’t had the time or inclination to write about?

    – How about the exploitation of the burakumin and their use as the “disposable workforce” cleaning up the nuclear spill?

    - Where is your post about the new mass grave found in Durango City?

    - Have you explored the recent findings of segregation in retirement homes?

    No? Why not? You must be racist, classist, ageist, etc.

  113. Shoshie
    Shoshie May 2, 2011 at 5:38 pm |

    little light: To my comrades: our anger has a place, but I don’t believe it keeps us alive or leads us to justice. Only our love does that. And a movement built first on our love will endure in the way that work founded in rage simply cannot. Our anger is important but I am exhausted with the ways we’ve let the conversation end there. What are we growing, here? What are we feeding and raising up into the world?

    Little light, this paragraph is awesome and you are awesome.

  114. Alison
    Alison May 2, 2011 at 5:39 pm |

    LoriA, I’d be intrigued to see which feminist bloggers you can point to who *do* write about every single possible issue on the planet that is even slightly related to feminism/womanism and addresses the concerns of every group within those larger communities either in every post or in a post every day. Please, enlighten us as to the Feminists Who Are Doing It Right In Accordance With LoriA’s Amazingly Strict and Narrow Definition, because you sure seem to believe you can prove us all wrong – so I’d fucking love to see it. Because I read a lot of feminist blogs and I sure haven’t found these mythical beings.

    Also, please be sure those bloggers are, like Jill, people with day jobs that occupy a huge portion of most of their days and keep them in their office until the wee hours of the morning at least once a week, often more than once and often on weekend nights.

  115. Bhuesca
    Bhuesca May 2, 2011 at 5:40 pm |

    1. Jill, THANK YOU for all that you do.

    2. Ms. Yee, FIRE YOUR PUBLISHER and hire someone competent, for crying out loud!

  116. sarah
    sarah May 2, 2011 at 5:40 pm |

    this post is just so lost, its sad. feminism is about call-outs. the whole movement is based on calling out the patriarchal structure. awesome.

    what SOME feminists *cough* jill and her kind *cough* dont seem to get is that they TOO can and will and SHOULD be called-out if and when they are wrong!

    you are not above being called out for your douchery just because you wear a feminist badge. just like you expect people who YOU call out on your feminist diatribes to listen and LEARN, so should YOU when others point out you are being offensive.

    whining because YOU messed up and were called out? really? FIX yourself then. you want to be an activist and tell others how to be better…but you refuse to acknowledge your own errors? c’mon.

  117. Brett K
    Brett K May 2, 2011 at 5:50 pm |

    First off, Jill, thank you. I couldn’t run Feministe as a full-time job, let alone as a hobby alongside a fifty-hour workweek. This is a great blog, and you do an amazing job, and I’m incredibly grateful for your presence on the internet. And not to speak for everyone else, but I, for one, enjoy your sense of humour and find your occasional lightweight posts to be a welcome break from the drama and seriousness that tend to dominate the feminist blogosphere.

    I also having to second Shoshie’s reminder that we ALL have complex, intersecting identities, filled with privileges and oppressions. Shutting each other up (or down) only silences marginalized voices, even if those marginalized voices sometimes say some stupidly privileged shit. We don’t need to coddle and shelter each other, but we shouldn’t eat each other alive either.

    Finally, I keep hearing that Feminism FOR REAL is very much a Toronto thing, but I, a Toronto-based feminist, hadn’t heard anything about it until I saw someone reading it on the subway and was intrigued enough to look it up online. So, yeah, as far as the lack of publicity goes, I think the wrong people are being called out here.

  118. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 2, 2011 at 6:03 pm |

    I wrote a (flawed, and I need to go back and fix it after reading this thread) post this morning about blog comments threads and the improvisers’ concept of “yes, and.”

    The idea behind “yes, and” is that when you’re doing improv, you’re not allowed to say no. You’re not allowed to reject the premise or the character or the action that your partner has offered you. You have to embrace it, and build on it.

    Now, obviously, we can’t embrace every single thing we respond to in a place like this. Some stuff has to be rejected, and some people have to get yelled at. But the beauty of the “yes, and” ideal is precisely that it goes so powerfully against the grain. We’re used to thinking of drama and comedy and discourse itself as growing out of conflict. We’re so used to it, in fact, that it freaks us out a little to engage in a practice of starting from a yes.

    Again, sometimes you have to say no. Sometimes you have to scream no. But if we’re not going to work at building the beloved community in spaces like this, where the hell is it going to happen? How the hell is it going to happen?

  119. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage May 2, 2011 at 6:08 pm |

    This is a problem I’ve noticed across all manner of progressive and radical websites, focusing on a number of subjects, over the years. There is a tendency toward circular firing squads and increasingly factionalized arguing that leaves anyone not directly involved in a given debate burned out and unwilling to contribute. The tendency toward default negative assumptions about an individual or group’s statements, or lack thereof, creates an environment where it is simply not worth contributing at all if any contribution creates an expectation of instant attention and perfect understanding. None of us are telepaths, and making various assumptions about why someone did or did not post about a particular subject is the opposite of building solidarity and awareness.

    We’re fallible, and we’re not all-knowing, and while we’re all involved in efforts to improve ourselves and the societies we live in, the expectation that everyone who wishes to participate must be instantly aware of every project, publication, and person involved is unrealistic. We have to take the time to make each other aware, and not assume the worst when the initial effort to make contact fails to have the desired effect. Goodness knows I got called out on a lot of my own expressed ignorance, and still do, but without encouragement to learn about that which I don’t know, I would probably have given up on a lot of things that made me better and smarter than I was then.

    Thought just popped into my head, and maybe I’ll get torn a new one for putting this out there, but I am also reminded of an old tendency in online Linux/BSD forums to reject requests for help from new or otherwise unaware individuals, telling them to “RTFM” and brushing off their entreaties, taking for granted a level of knowledge and awareness that took themselves years to build, never mind the endless licencing arguments. Incidentally, if you want hotbeds of misogyny and unacknowledged privilege, do I have some places for you to avoid…

  120. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage May 2, 2011 at 6:12 pm |

    Forgot to add – the hell of it is, the book in question sounds interesting! I should ask the smarter member of the household if she’s heard anything – she works at a couple of feminist-inclined organizations in Toronto, and from what I was able to glean from the thread it sounds like the book covers topics we regularly discuss.

  121. Mandy
    Mandy May 2, 2011 at 6:27 pm |

    little light:
    To my comrades: our anger has a place, but I don’t believe it keeps us alive or leads us to justice. Only our love does that. And a movement built first on our love will endure in the way that work founded in rage simply cannot. Our anger is important but I am exhausted with the ways we’ve let the conversation end there. What are we growing, here? What are we feeding and raising up into the world?

    THIS!

    Also, if anyone’s looking for a review copy of FFR, I got mine by emailing Jason (ccpaATpolicyalternativesDOTca) at CCPA to request one. I found that email by following a link to CCPA’s website through Jessica Yee’s Facebook page for the book (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Feminism-for-REAL-edited-by-Jessica-Yee/161813713868671). Goodness knows how I came across that. Maybe a friend sent me the link. Maybe I happened across it. Maybe I Googled Jessica Yee or indigenous feminisms or feminist critiques of academia. Who knows? What I do know is this: Sometimes to find nuggets of gold, you’ve got to do some sifting; unfortunately, the gold doesn’t always rise to the surface on its own, especially when there’s a bunch of dirt hiding it and holding it under.

    We’re all busy people, with lives and work and family and friends and health problems and a plethora of other responsibilities. Yet somehow some of us managed to find out about and even read FFR. I don’t think it’s fair to expect Jill or anyone else at Feministe (or anywhere for that matter) to know about every feminist-oriented thing that exists, and I don’t think the critics here are quite saying that either. What I take from these comments is that some of the commenters here have the desire for Jill/Feministe to do a better job of prioritizing the uncovering of those nuggets of gold that are buried. And to that end, I humbly ask Jill/Feministe: how can your readers, and colleagues, help facilitate your awareness of important feminist-oriented news, books, events, etc that fall outside of your immediate communities and sources of exposure? This is not to say the responsibility lies solely or more heavily on their shoulders rather than yours, but if we are to build together then we have to be mutually accountable for and supportive of one another too… at least to some degree.

  122. Lu
    Lu May 2, 2011 at 6:30 pm |

    If I may … To quote Jill above (comment #92), who was writing about the information gap, “if your question is, “Why isn’t this blog writing about X?” the first step should be (at least here) to contact the proprietors of that blog and be like, “Here’s a link to X, thought you might be interested” or some such thing.”

  123. Mandy
    Mandy May 2, 2011 at 6:39 pm |

    Lu:
    If I may … To quote Jill above (comment #92), who was writing about the information gap, “if your question is, “Why isn’t this blog writing about X?” the first step should be (at least here) to contact the proprietors of that blog and be like, “Here’s a link to X, thought you might be interested” or some such thing.”

    Yes, and in her post Jill admits to having “a heavily-used ‘delete’ key.” (I don’t blame her. I do too.) So, I want to know what a second or third step may be, after sending the email(s). I don’t mean this snarkily. I mean this honestly.

  124. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 2, 2011 at 6:40 pm |

    And just to follow up to Lu, it really does make sense to be persistent and accessible. Here’s a story:

    About a month ago, I got a personal email from Suzie Bright about her new memoir. I’d mentioned it on Twitter, and she took the time to track down my email address and write me. Personally. I wrote her back, and she wrote me back, and that second email from her is still sitting in my in-box all these weeks later. Suzie Bright.

    And you know why? Because I was having a busy and difficult personal and professional week that week, and in weeks like that, anything blog-related gets shunted into my mental “blog crap to deal with” folder, and sometimes stuff that gets shunted into that folder never makes it out.

    I’d never tell anyone how they should approach me, and I’d never tell anyone how they should interact with me, but I do tell people what’s likely to get a response from me — what’s likely to get me to write or tweet, and what isn’t.

    Some stuff falls through the cracks. Sometimes Suzie Fucking Bright falls through the cracks, and she’s a god to me. And I’ve just got a piddly little podunk blog.

  125. Lis
    Lis May 2, 2011 at 6:40 pm |

    Great post, Jill. I’ve seen Feministe cover a lot of different perspectives and issues, and I agree with Thomas–it is not the fault of the people in charge here that so many of those posts end in fireworks and tears.

    I also agree with Florence–where people stand on this is not a privileged/non-privileged split. It is not just all super-privileged people saying “this dynamic is not okay”, and all oppressed folk calling out and getting angry. It is never that simple.

  126. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 2, 2011 at 6:40 pm |

    I can’t believe I just misspelled Susie Bright’s name. Sheesh.

  127. I Am Not Responsible For Your Education. « The Rambling Feminist

    [...] Am Not Responsible For Your Education. May 2, 2011 — theramblingfeminist Believe it or not Feministe, with great page-views comes great responsibility; so cut the “but it’s just me and two peeps running this crap”, it just [...]

  128. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla May 2, 2011 at 7:16 pm |

    This post and comment thread has given me a lot to think about, and I don’t have much to add to what has already been said beyond acknowledging my own role in dogpiling at Feministe and elsewhere on the nets and the harm that I’ve done to some people I care about as a result.

    So, I’ll just say this: Sometimes, a post about funny hats … is just a post about funny hats.

  129. Jenny Dreadful
    Jenny Dreadful May 2, 2011 at 7:25 pm |

    I haven’t posted here for a good long time, but it was my first feminist website and was what really got me into feminism in the first place. For that, I will forever be indebted to Zuzu, Jill, Piny, Cara, Lauren, and any other wonderful people I’m forgetting about or overlooking. Sorry guys, love you, too!

    I have to admit that the imploding/cannibalistic nature is part of the reason I stopped this site, as well as Feministing. I know that bloggers like David Futrelle and Amanda Marcotte and Jessica Valenti are real people, too, with feelings that get hurt and who are trying every day to fight the good fight and bring feminist issues to the forefront. Sometimes they fuck up, but the way they’re skewered by other bloggers, by the commenters… man. It’s too painful to watch.

    I was vegan but I quit that shit because the constant scolding from fellow vegans became to guilt-inducing to be good for my mental health. I try my best, but I’m a poor person in a career where people don’t get rich, and if I buy the dollar-ninety-nine body wash that happens to not be vegan, I don’t appreciate being raked over the coals for it. I am a person who tries my best. I believe that Jill and all the folks I mentioned up there are also people who try their best. I honestly believe that this thing we do, where we purge our movement of people who aren’t ideologically pure all the time, will stop activism dead in its tracks every goddamn time.

  130. amandaw
    amandaw May 2, 2011 at 7:33 pm |

    I’ve been on both sides of calling-out parties, and I honestly feel it is an exercise in self-defeat. I’m sick of it. I’ve watched people I care for deeply get eaten alive here, on both sides. There is so much wrong with this community (which extends far beyond feministe, but all seems to gather to take its dumps here) that there is nowhere to start. I’ve seen so many people burn out. I don’t know if this post is the starts of Jill burning out, and afaic when Jill burns out we’ll [i]know[/i] shit has gone wrong.

    I’m trying to push myself to keep going but lately, I just don’t see what the point is. Why come back to… this? Why subject myself to this?

    Jill, I’ve watched you go through a lot (can’t say I’ve been here from the beginning, but I’ve been here several years) and you always keep trying. I’ve had disagreements with you (and bit my lip several times during this post alone) but I’ve always appreciated the fact that you have put some serious energies into lifting up voices that speak to perspectives you don’t yourself have. I think that’s the only way forward, and it’s what you’ve always done. That’s done a wealth of good.

    Unfortunately we’re all swimming in a sea of poison, so our efforts tend to result in dead fish. Metaphorically speaking.

  131. karak
    karak May 2, 2011 at 7:57 pm |

    I’ve left some of the blogging communities because of this Vicious Circle crap. But I don’t feel it’s a feminist thing at all–I’m involved with a lot of communities, including fashion and literature, and they evolve the same way, over and over:

    1. New, enthusiastic people make community
    2. growing pains as they realize how limited their community is, and accept new kinds of people
    3. immature whiny jerks roll in demanding knowledge petulantly
    4. the “old guard” because clique-ish and Full of Rules
    5. The “Rules” start to be used as a weapon
    6. the old guard burns out
    7. ashes and flames

    I’m deep into the local lolita jfashion community, and I just got posted, roasted, and toasted (along with stalked, harassed, and threatened) for a comment I made. Three weeks and commenting and I’m still getting hate mail in my inbox.

    I think a lot of people do things without really thinking how this statement or that call-out is going to bring about their goals. If people stopped and thought “what is my goal, for this specific post, or this specific conversation” I think a lot of this toxic shit would stop.

  132. Sheila
    Sheila May 2, 2011 at 8:13 pm |

    In response to the comments above, about how we cut each other down, chew each other up, drown one another in poison, etc. etc.:

    I just want to request that we put the original post into a bit of perspective. Diandra was making a broader point about communities that are often ignored in feminist conversations. She pointed to feministe once, and didn’t even link to it. She mentioned it in one sentence, along with a handful of other feminist blogs. Bitch responded to us in a positive way — appreciated the heads up about the book and ordered a copy for review. So, why so defensive?

    I feel that our post was taken as a personal attack, but there was very little about our original post that was personal. In the response above, our blog was mentioned and quoted repeatedly. Called out for calling out. I don’t have a problem with that, I welcome criticism, because criticism is what made me the activist I am today, and is what is going to make me a better activist tomorrow. I do, however, find much of this conversation lacking in consistency (praising your “calling-out” while denouncing ours). I am wondering why that is happening.

    @Medea, (re: comment #108)
    I hear what you are saying about posters leaving. This is a problem that Shameless has had in the past, too. Thea left, Jessica left, Pike left, and I was walking out the door when we decided to look internally and see what it was about the organization that wasn’t quite speaking to our bloggers from particularly marginalized groups. It’s not easy. I get it. It’s hard to keep people when we can’t find ways of paying them. I get it. It’s hard to run a volunteer organization in your spare time. I get it. It’s hard to have a demanding day job. Hey, I get that, too. But feminism, or any form of activism, isn’t this static thing that any of us can master — it’s a work in progress, with a huge emphasis on the “work”.

    I feel genuinely saddened and disappointed when people are only willing to take that work so far. It’s a narrative I know well, and one that goes far beyond Shameless, Feministe, these posts or comments. It’s one that widens that gap instead of fills it, and one that has women of colour questioning our relationship to feminism over and over again. I feel that it’s easy to say that those of us who call others out are unappreciative of the good work that they do, and nobody is denying that Feministe (“one of the oldest feminist blogs online designed by and run by women from the ground up”) does some pretty kick-ass work. But it’s also easy to dismiss legitimate critiques, to meet genuine criticism with defensiveness and martydom. And, what purpose does that serve?

    I guess this conversation has triggered a lot. I’m going to curl up with a copy of FFR tonight and chew my nails up over some election results. Before I sign off, I do want to say that, while I don’t agree with the content of your post, Jill, I am grateful to you for posting it. I feel that this conversation is an important one and has given me a lot to think about. Thank you for the work that you continue to do and I’m looking forward to finding ways of pushing the work that we both do, together.

  133. Miss S
    Miss S May 2, 2011 at 8:14 pm |

    Suddenly “privilege” is a slur instead of a frame of understanding one’s experience
    Couldn’t agree more. I also agree with Thomas above.

    Jill, this is seriously an amazing post. It reminded me to step back and remember that people are… people. This blog was the first feminist blog I stumbled upon, and I will always love it for that.

    You aren’t a robot. If you didn’t know about something, it’s okay. Even if you did, but didn’t have time to review it, it’s okay. Between family, friends, personal time, and work, I don’t always find the time to do things I want to. Who does? If I’m going through a hard time, a lot of shit that I may have wanted to do gets wiped off the list. I’m human, and I’m only capable of doing so much.

  134. Miss S
    Miss S May 2, 2011 at 8:15 pm |

    As far as calling out culture, thank you for making the point about academics. Not everyone who stumbles across this blog majored in gender studies, or even went to college. Lots of people have no idea who the hell Judith Butler is. Not everyone always uses the right words because they don’t know them, and not everyone is a master at spelling. I’ve seen people treated like utter carp for misspelling a word, or using the wrong one. I’ve seen commenters snidely tell other commenters to get a dictionary. It’s awful. Seriously.

    We’re not all academics, and that should be okay. Many of the marginalized women we should be trying to reach out to aren’t academics. What’s the point of trying to reach out to communities if you’re going to pick at their language, grammar, and spelling???

  135. LoriA
    LoriA May 2, 2011 at 8:22 pm |

    Of course this has devolved into the always fun ‘if we can’t do it perfectly, we shouldn’t do it at all’ argument against inclusivity.

    One of the many responses that is far more eloquent than what I have the energy for right now: http://thetart.tumblr.com/post/5143038472

    I generally like Feministe and I generally like Jill. I get that this shit is hard. But this is a prime example of Doing It Rong- dealing with criticism, that is.

  136. shannon
    shannon May 2, 2011 at 8:33 pm |

    Karak, I’m happy to see that the lolita community is still going. Hehehe!

    I do miss a lot of the cobloggers here. I know that chally seemed overwhelmed in some of her public messages, and maybe a large community is somehow…corrosive? That the volume of posts and the conflicting views overwhelm people? I don’t know. I’m just on the sidelines.

    I no longer blog. I wonder if I’ll start to miss it.

  137. karak
    karak May 2, 2011 at 8:42 pm |

    @LoriA

    But, see, here’s the thing:

    Jill doesn’t have to take criticism. Jill can write anything she wants, ban anyone she wants, and respond however she wants to any criticism. And, instead, Jill dedicates her time, her health, her mental and physical energy to creating the safest space she possibly can with her limitations, listens as best she can, and often has apologized for fuckups.

    It seems like she can’t post a single thought, a joke, a picture, or a word without a million people leaping all over her shit telling her she’s a bad feminist (and, therefore, a bad person) and then demanding she shut up and take it in her own space. If that’s not bullying, I don’t know what is. The goal isn’t to bring awareness to issues. The goal is now to hurt and attack a blogger, force the blogger to admit they like it, and then masturbate in victory over it. It’s sick, not to mention unproductive.

    Just because a lot of us here lack privilege doesn’t mean we can’t behave like mean assholes. Not only White Rich Men are capable of being cruel, or controlling, or bullying, or even entitled.

  138. astronautgo
    astronautgo May 2, 2011 at 8:46 pm |

    Of course this has devolved into the always fun ‘if we can’t do it perfectly, we shouldn’t do it at all’ argument against inclusivity.

    I disagree. There’s no argument against inclusivity. What I see is an argument against assuming bad faith on the part of people who strive for inclusivity, but achieve it imperfectly because they are human.

  139. doufem
    doufem May 2, 2011 at 9:03 pm |

    ever since reading this post, i have felt off and teary. all day. for all the talk about privilege discourse shutting women up going on here, i feel hardly safe enough to voice anything but a vague sense of pain.

    except for this comment thread, which left me not as firmly convinced that i have a toxic approach to my feminism/womanism. so shouts to them.

    i’m a poor young WOC who has tried again and again to participate in mainstream feminist spaces at her elite east coast university, off campus, and online. i’m trying to fill the gaps, but i feel like i’m being (individually and collectively) scolded in all of those spaces. either my issues aren’t real or i’m trying to fix things too aggressively. maybe i’m young, maybe i’m wrong, but i don’t think this shit is working for me anymore. i feel terribly sad and alienated.

    i have a couple questions: if this blog is often the first stop for curious, budding feminists and shares the center of online feminist discorse (making it, by definition, normative relative to smaller blogs dealing with marginal feminist perspectives) with equally big ass blogs, why does that not constitute Capital-F feminism? i don’t think that’s an attack, i think it’s real talk. similarly, this is one of the first times i’m seeing feministe referred to as “just jill’s blog” or “one person’s hobby.” jill can’t cover nearly everything, true, but lots of people participate in the discourse here and i’m genuinely curious about what that’s supposed to mean.

    jill, thanks for maintaining this blog amidst a super busy life. i have a better idea of what sort of time and work it takes. but, i wanted to comment to see how many other readers are feeling unsafe or that they should be silent because of this post.

  140. Nahida
    Nahida May 2, 2011 at 9:13 pm |

    I like this place. Shit gets done here.

  141. Katharine
    Katharine May 2, 2011 at 9:22 pm |

    I came so very close to leaving feminism all together recently. I couldn’t, in the end… although I’m done with the Left, for similar reasons. I’m a moderate with mainly social leftist tendencies, but i prefer not to be shredded for ideological impurity and disavowing the movement is the most freeing way around that.
    You know the ‘hilarious’ Straw Feminist in pop culture who never laughs and is always on the attack about something? Know how as an insecure newbie you’d always reassure people that feminists aren’t REALLY like that? I realised that, actually, a lot of us are as bad as the mouth-breathing parodies make us out to be. It’s all down to a self perpetuating echo chamber of ideological purity in the comments and heaven help you if you don’t measure up. Signifying status, not achieving anything tangible. So, I read. I almost never comment. I’d never start an openly feminist blog. It’s not the outright trolls that worry me, it’s the venom from ‘my own’ that puts me off. It’s exhausting and pointless, so, you know… screw it.
    I almost think that anyone who blogs/ comments in progressive activist circles should be required to spend about 10% of their time reading WND or FR or even the comments section of any major newspaper to get a sense of perspective of what most people think about the issues that we wrangle over every day (i.e., not a lot. Ignorance to vicious hostility), because there are not so many progressives that we can afford to burn through them like this.

  142. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 2, 2011 at 9:37 pm |

    Yep. To all of it.

    This is actually why I stopped commenting at Feministe for a while. I just wasn’t up for the way that threads tend to devolve into a big mess and it just doesn’t seem like a productive use of anyone’s time.

    I don’t think most blogging is activism. Blogging is a hobby, as is participating in blog comments. In very rare cases it can be activism, but in most cases, no. And even those rare cases tend to sometimes just want to talk about a hat, because people are human and no one is in activist mode 24/7. I’m not quite sure how anyone got the idea that owning privilege was activism in the first place – I can see how people got the idea that calling out privilige was activism, though I generally don’t agree (it’s a good thing to do, often, but that doesn’t make it activism), but the idea that posting confessionals about one’s own privilege is activism makes no sense at all. Most of the time it seems like a rather self-indulgent exercise in purging one’s own guilt. Which is why I don’t do it very often – if I feel guilty about being white, thin, educated, etc, that’s my issue to deal with. It seems unseemly to keep throwing it out and expecting other people to read it, like asking strangers to provide you with unpaid therapy. And it always reads very poorly when people who are genuinely lacking in privilege are attempting to have a conversation and it’s punctuated with plaintive cries of “I own my privilege!” from those who have more. It doesn’t feel like it’s helping – if anything it feels like people are expecting those with less privilege to reassure them that they’re not bad people just because they’re (rich, white, thin, pretty, etc), and that’s really not OK.

    Honestly, whenever this dynamic sets in, it feels like the commenting community is a snake eating its own tail. It’s not productive, it’s not helpful, so why do it? There has a to a better way.

  143. rayuela23
    rayuela23 May 2, 2011 at 9:48 pm |

    just wanted to add some support here, jill – you sound like you could use it.

    sometimes on the internet i think we can be crueler and less collaborative than in real life – hit someone with a ‘that wasn’t good enough’ when we could say ‘well how about this as well?’
    and unfortunately in feminism especially this has a tendency to get out of hand – a kind of oneupwomanship of ‘own your privilege!’; ‘you’ve been called out!’ &c &c.

    incidentally, it seems pretty unfair to suggest, LoriA, that jill failed to write about this book because of her privilege. sounds to me like she’d love to write about the book and if she had enough money to give up her dayjob she’d do nothing but read and blog about women’s stuff all day!

    i think your post is very useful jill (and feministe is great). i think it’s a call to work together a little more, keep the end in sight a little more….
    once i was arguing with a friend who was having some dumb being anti-feminism cos he didn’t understand what it was about moment and i said – look, in the end, feminism is all about respecting and loving women.
    his face lit up and he said – REALLY!? i LOVE women!!! i guess i am a feminist!

    good to remember that sentiment sometimes

    (ps. my friend is a bit of a nincompoop. i know)

  144. April
    April May 2, 2011 at 9:49 pm |

    Great post, Jill. I hope it’s the start of a more reasonable dialog in this corner of the interwebs.

  145. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 2, 2011 at 10:22 pm |

    Also, about this particular book, I’m going to refer back to Toni at comment 74. PR is hard. No, really, just sending out a few emails usually isn’t enough.

    I cover music (and sometimes fashion) and right now in my personal inbox are literally dozens of email from PR folks. Note – personal inbox, not work. I am not currently working for a media company, I’m freelancing, and PR contacts know this. And yet I get many emails every day reaching out to me directly, by name, with a friendly greeting and a how are you doing, asking me to cover stuff. Most of which I will never cover, and some of which sadly I will never even read the email promoting, but there is only so much time available. From some PR people I will read everything they send, because they are really good at their jobs and have been able to establish a relationship (and I know that whatever they send me will be readable and interesting and entertaining, even if the artist promoted isn’t). Those PR people are very sought after and make a lot of money, because again, PR is REALLY HARD, and not everyone is good at it.

    So, if you don’t know how many emails were sent, and they weren’t specifically addressed to the people they were sent to, and the person sending them didn’t already have a relationship with the person who recieved it? Chances are the person who recieved it didn’t even open it. Maybe they hovered over before deleting and scanned the first few lines, and if those weren’t written in such a way that they made the person want to read more (again, this is HARD TO DO, which is why good PR people are very well paid), then the message was probably deleted.

    Welcome to the world of PR. If you want to promote something (especially a book, since not that many people read actual books any more), a couple of general, non-personalised emails is not going to be enough (especially if they don’t offer a free review copy). Since the PR campaign is not described in any detail for this particular book, I have no idea if more was done. But a lot of PR is just “couple of emails sent out to email addresses without any personalisation, and no phone follow up”, and things promoted in that way tend not to get much media attention. Because if I’m getting dozens of emails a day in my personal gmail inbox, how many do you think an editor at a newspaper or magazine is getting every day, and of those, how many do you think they ever read?

    So yeah, expecting extensive coverage of any given book just because a couple of blogs posted about it? Not going to happen. No matter how good the book is. Sad, but true.

  146. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 2, 2011 at 10:33 pm |

    Also re RedRightAnkle’s comment about there being a pattern to which stuff falls through the gaps and doesn’t get coverage – yes, this is true. But it’s not simply a matter of reporters ignoring stuff that tackles race, gender, etc, or material produced by marginalised groups, because of conscious or unconscious bias. Like everything else in our capitalist society – follow the money. Material produced by marginalised people often does not get the PR push that it would need in order to reach a wide audience. Either because the company promoting it doesn’t have the money to do a comprehensive campaign, or because they choose not to spend the money (this actually happens to books by women authors all the time). And without that big, expensive PR push, most books, records, movies, etc will fall through the tracks. Very rarely something succeeds without a big, expensive PR push, but the key word here is “rarely”.

    So I’m not saying this is not a problem, this pattern by which books, albums, movies created by marginalised groups don’t get read/heard/seen. It is a problem. But it’s not as simple a problem as “people like Jill need to own their privilege and care more about marginalised writers”. It’s that those books/albums/movies usually never stand a chance in the first place, because of structural issues in the way our media operates.

  147. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 2, 2011 at 10:34 pm |

    And of course, yes, this is in no way Jessica Yee’s fault.

  148. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 2, 2011 at 10:35 pm |

    (Sorry for the minor derail, by the way. This is hitting on something that falls within my personal work area, and it’s a real and ongoing problem in terms of which voices are and are not heard in our culture.)

  149. Florence
    Florence May 2, 2011 at 10:38 pm |

    I think these are some great questions that also kind of segueway into what I was thinking about before, so I’m going to go for it:

    If this blog is often the first stop for curious, budding feminists and shares the center of online feminist discorse (making it, by definition, normative relative to smaller blogs dealing with marginal feminist perspectives) with equally big ass blogs, why does that not constitute Capital-F feminism? i don’t think that’s an attack, i think it’s real talk.

    Blogs have, for a lot of reasons, become a locus of attention for the feminist movement. Blogs are fast, they’re self-published, they don’t have the political red tape that a lot of brick-and-mortar feminist groups have and so are freer to say and represent a wider variety of voices than may have been accessible in the past pre-internet feminist movement. But blogs are not the end-all-be-all of feminism (or any other SJ movement) — movements require, well, MOVEMENT on behalf of members to agitate to get things done. There is street activism: Letters must be written, signs drawn, marches marches, electoral offices filled, protests staged, consciousness-raising done, etc etc. There are also academic approaches to feminism that are probably far more entrenched than anything blogging can do — and blogging is an effective way of undoing the exclusivity of the ivory towers. There are reproductive rights orgs, domestic violence orgs, food and housing orgs, peer-self-help orgs, etc, that exist outside of the feminist blog world. Blogs are transient and representative really only of the person writing them. So no, I don’t think blogs represent big-F feminism all that well.

    similarly, this is one of the first times i’m seeing feministe referred to as “just jill’s blog” or “one person’s hobby.” jill can’t cover nearly everything, true, but lots of people participate in the discourse here and i’m genuinely curious about what that’s supposed to mean.

    My new theory is that I think we can pretty fairly break blogs into one of three groups: hobby blogs, promotional blogs, and professional blogs. Hobby blogs are labors of love by people who are not professional writers. Promotional blogs are for people who are building a career and whose blogs are strategically managed in order to promote a book, a freelancing career, etc. Professional bloggers are people whose full-time gig is writing, moderating, advertising, and promoting their blog. Sometimes you’ll see hobbyists parlay their blog theme into a book deal or a professional thing, but for the most part, hobbyists are in it for the intellectual and social stimulation of participating in the group. If I’m right, Feministe doesn’t employ any full-time people as writers and none of the bloggers have been picked up by any publishers except for the odd essay, and they’ve been pretty transparent about ad money, which would make this a hobby thing. But unless I’m missing something, this isn’t “just Jill’s blog”, it’s actually content provided by a variety of writers who are for whatever reason leaving or dormant at the moment.

    On the publishing tip: It seems like bloggers have been screwed over by small publishing houses enough now that a) bloggers would run screaming from the elusive but intoxicating book deal offered by small publishing houses looking to poach quick and popular entertainment, or b) the publishing houses still interested in picking up bloggers’ work would have learned from the hellish object lessons that are easily provided by being nominally familiar with the feminist blogosphere at all.

  150. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 2, 2011 at 10:44 pm |

    RE Florence’s comment – if feminism as a movement is structurally dependent on hobby blogs as a main source of activism, we’re in big trouble. Because people have lives offline, and people get sick or super busy and don’t have time all of a sudden, and if that person happens to be an A-list blogger, then what happens if something big happens while they’re out of commission?

  151. Mandolin
    Mandolin May 2, 2011 at 10:53 pm |

    To quote Jill above (comment #92), who was writing about the information gap, “if your question is, “Why isn’t this blog writing about X?” the first step should be (at least here) to contact the proprietors of that blog and be like, “Here’s a link to X, thought you might be interested” or some such thing.”

    Right, definitely.

    But how do you talk about a structural problem then? If the problem isn’t that (Jill at Feministe) or (random person at random place) or (whoever the heck wherever the heck) isn’t–or is!–doing something, but that structural access means no one is?

    Someone mentioned above the Amanda Marcotte/BFP thing… that upset me for the same reason that the commenter above mentioned. When she tried to explain herself, Amanda got told that she was not the issue; that people were trying to discuss something systemic in the way that white women get more attention for saying things that brown women have been saying a long time. But when she shut up so that the systemic conversation could happen, a lot of comment threads just went on about Amanda and her particular circumstances and how bad Amanda was.

    We can’t get mad at people for thinking that conversations are all about them when they’re about systemic things, and then *not focus on the systemic things*.

    There has to be a way to use individual examples, not as a way of saying “everything rests on this particular example,” but as a way of saying “this is illustrative.”

    Hell, I feel like it’s recursive here, if I’m reading people correctly. The post about FFR complains that systemically a book that’s a big deal in their community hasn’t perforated the mainstream, white feminist community, and lists some examples. The examples get focused on over the holistic complaint.

    And then, also, here–Jill is talking about a system of conversational dynamics that creates a toxic environment–and the focus goes onto the example rather than the systemic dynamic.

    I think conversations have a tendency to veer toward the few, specific examples, instead of the broader dialogue, because they offer us an easier mode of analysis. Seriously, it’s easier to debate whether a handful of named feminist bloggers should have already seen notices about the book versus whether the marketing for the book is poorly done than it is to figure out the relationship between mainstream feminism, as a body, and intersectional feminism and anti-racism, as a body.

    But there has to be a way–there must be, I really hope–a way to frame a conversation so that the specific example is *not* the focus of attention, isn’t villainized out of proportion on one side, and/or reacting out of proportion to perceived villainization on the other.

    I’m genuinely interested in figuring out how to do this, and I admit it’s mostly because of watching racefail from the sidelines. I think if we–both sides and anyone in the middle–could figure out a way use individual circumstances as examples, without making individuals INTO examples, it would go a long way toward reconciling people during and after social-justice-oriented flame wars. I think it would also make it easier and more productive to have these conversations.

    I don’t know how to solve the problem, though.

  152. Ronak
    Ronak May 2, 2011 at 11:19 pm |

    Hey all!

    I tried to post this earlier in the day so I’m trying again.

    I’m Ronak, the arts editor over at Shameless.

    I’m a big supporter and fan of Feministe and Jill’s work and had the opportunity to interview her last year for a project on feminism and social media. At Shameless we work to create a feminist magazine for teen girls and trans youth.

    I posted this on the Shameless blog and wanted to post it here too (I hope it gets posted, please note I am not yelling):

    I think bitch magazine had the best response to this post when I tweeted about it: from @bitchmedia: @ronakgee We are going to be selling the book, actually, via our website! But we weren’t sent a review copy, so we didn’t know it was out!

    Being open to feedback from posts such as Diandra’s is important. I also don’t think she’s “calling out” anyone (re: the response on Feministe). When I tweeted about this post I got really excited about it because I am such a huge fan of Feminism for REAL and said that you’re (the publications) being called out: from @ronakgee: HAY you’re being called out @BitchMedia @bust_magazine @Feministe @feministing ! check it out & support! http://bit.ly/m5rdVw

    Upon reflection perhaps I shouldn’t have said that (“called out”). I added the “support” intentionally — as in feminist media supporting other feminist media. I find that Bitch is really good at doing this, which is why I’m a Busy Bee sustainer.

    I find Diandra’s post really well thought-out and she raises so many important points. As a consumer of many feminist blogs, and a researcher of feminism and social media, I was surprised that the book did not get a lot of online-coverage. But I think we have to be open to criticism and re-evaluation; I know at Shameless, we are.

  153. Spectacle
    Spectacle May 2, 2011 at 11:24 pm |

    Well,
    Yes,
    And I agree with Karak that these issues are common to formed communities and their online manifestations. Tension in all comment sections feels like a reminder of how adolescent our web 2.O village is. As in, for some, earlier knowledge of online communities and there failures and successes allows one to perspective on common trials there (flame, circle arguments, etc.).
    I liked how Karak brought up the Lolita (egl) community. In this community most rules have been established as guidelines.
    So, there seems to be a lot to learn concerning the personal and social management of online communities of language. I hope those who can give advice will.
    <3

  154. RoryBorealis
    RoryBorealis May 2, 2011 at 11:25 pm |

    Jill, I typically lurk here, but I want to thank for all that you do here. You do a seriously impressive job; I’m not sure how you manage it while maintaining such a busy offline life. (I suspect superpowers.)

  155. evil_fizz
    evil_fizz May 2, 2011 at 11:29 pm |

    Mandolin, it could be because I’m feeling a little punchy right now, but part of me wants to say the solution becomes…statistics. This probably rates up there as one of the least gratifying and most esoteric suggestions, but I think that one way to address a systemic topic (like underrepresentation) is to count. To take a very easy example: studies which count the percentage of women who byline pieces in certain publications. Of course, when you generate numbers, you have a tendency to obscure subtlety and the voices which make it up. You also have the “this describes a population, not an individual!” problem.

    I also think that it is impossible to get away from “X thing is bad, Y is an example of a person doing X, therefore Y is a bad person” or some variation thereof. A long time ago, Lisa (of My Ecdysis) made a video in which she wore some awesome hats and did (essentially) dramatic readings of ridiculous and race fail comments left on feminist blogs. I think for some people, it was instructive. For the people who were named, the comment threads turned into nothing but their trials and tribulations for having been called out for saying something stupid on the internet.

    This cycle tends to devolve into: [painfully stupid remark -> critique -> defensiveness -> WHY IS EVERYONE SO MEAN?! -> wait, feelings of the privileged are paramount? are you really making a tone argument?] and it’s hard not to see strains of it in tons of feminist blog threads.

  156. evil_fizz
    evil_fizz May 2, 2011 at 11:38 pm |

    And I fear that my last comment suggests that I’m being sarcastic about how this often plays out. What I mean is that I think the [painfully stupid remark -> critique -> defensiveness -> WHY IS EVERYONE SO MEAN?! -> wait, feelings of the privileged are paramount? are you really making a tone argument?] is how many situations play out and that’s depressing because it really only serves to cement underlying power dynamics and often provides fodder for additional oppression. Having said that, I believe that there are plenty situations which are not anywhere near that black and while, but it’s still a very standard rubric which is invoked a lot in these threads.

    Requests for good faith and the benefit of the doubt sound very, very different when they come from people who enjoy disparate levels of privilege and it’s important not to obscure that. At the same time, I think you need to have those things (at least in small quantities) to engage in a productive discussion.

  157. Mandolin
    Mandolin May 2, 2011 at 11:43 pm |

    Statistics are good, too, but I think they can also be easier for people to ignore.

  158. evil_fizz
    evil_fizz May 2, 2011 at 11:47 pm |

    Statistics are good, too, but I think they can also be easier for people to ignore.

    Oh, sure. Particularly in the, “Wait, I’m not the problem individually, it’s systemic, so I can’t really change it!” sort of way. To say nothing of the rationalization some folks get themselves into…

    But then what’s the line between something that often gets construed as a personal attack and the anonymity of statistics?

  159. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 3, 2011 at 12:13 am |

    @Mandolin & Evilfizz,

    A couple of thoughts,

    1) If its a structural problem, why do we place the burden of solution on specific individuals? Isn’t that problematic as well?

    2) Are we (people of varying privilege) abdicating our responsibility to address structural problems when we call out a gap and fail to fill it ourselves?

  160. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 3, 2011 at 1:05 am |

    Here’s where the whole calling out of privilege as activism thing loses me (and we have examples in this very thread). OK, so, commenter says “Jill, j’accuse – you have privilege”. Jill says “yes, you are correct, I do, and it’s wrong that our society is structured in such a way that I have that privilege”.

    OK, now what? What is the goal here? In what way is this activism? Because if there’s no goal, and no next step, then what have we accomplished? Is there a next step? If so, what is it?

    If the goal is to express anger or frustration at societal inequality, then OK, fair enough. But that’s not activism. Not unless it leads to change in some way. And a person with privilege can admit that they have it, but they can’t actually give it up or give it away to someone else, because society will not allow them to do so. So, again, what are we attempting to accomplish here?

  161. tricia
    tricia May 3, 2011 at 1:16 am |

    Jill, you do a lovely job maintaining this blog and filling it with content. It’s one of my favorite things to read on the internet. Thank you.

    Online feminist communities are chock full of people who are Always Right and Always Righteous, but the truth is that none of us is a perfect feminist. You do a better job than just about anyone of acknowledging your occasional missteps and owning up to them.

  162. Renee
    Renee May 3, 2011 at 1:30 am |

    I’m sincerely confused about what we’re even talking about. You aren’t upset about people of various neglected marginalisations speaking up for themselves? Because that’s not how I parsed the essay, or most of the comments that followed.

    Speaking generally about the nature of discourse in the feminist community, I’ll say this: We would be able to see the gaps better if everyone writing did a better job of centering themselves in their subject matter. Acknowledge your margins so we can infer space beyond them.

    Example: Don’t talk about abortion as a “women’s issue”…recognize in words that it’s also an issue for trans people…show that you understand your perspective is white and western and cis and not necessarily representative of all people or all women or people who don’t share that arrangement of labels. And do this for everything. Don’t universalize your words, contextualize them.

    Because when you universalize, you intrude upon the gaps… you colonise them. And like Shaunga says, there are people living there. When you call abortion a women’s issue, you leave no room for the trans person or non-western person to talk, except in a calling-out fashion. We have to do that to make room for ourselves…and yeah, a lot of times we’re going to be angry. Everyone here should understand why. Nobody primarily does feminism because it’s fun…we do it because it’s necessary. And that’s what my call outs, the call outs of most people I know, and as far as I can tell most of what is being talked about here is about…it’s preservation of the spaces we exist in, so that we can be seen at all.

    (And for the love of god, please don’t anyone say that we all share the same space and that there aren’t lines separating us because that’s just willful ignorance. I’m sorry, but it is.)

    Is this going to magically solve everything? Not at all. It certainly would not have helped this book get reviewed (or would it?). But there is an unequal, and uneasy, balance of power in the feminist community and right now a lot of us are just gasping for breath. It’s going to be hard to move forward while that condition exists.

  163. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 3, 2011 at 1:50 am |

    @Renee,

    I think that has been “historically” what call outs refer to. More recently there has been a trend where people argue that the blogger isn’t addressing a topic rather than the blogger is addressing the topic in a way that further marginalizes. I *think* that captures the distinction of action/ommission that Jill was pointing to.

    Personally, I agree with you. When we fuck shit up people have every right to point it out and we (privileged in this context) have a responsibility to listen without reflexive defensiveness and do better going forward. I am in many ways grateful to that strain of “call out” for educating me when I was too damn steeped in my own privilege to understand how my perspective was flawed and my words or actions were oppressive.

    But is asking people not to actively oppress the same as asking them to actively and proactively promote? I struggle with the notion that one person or one blog or even one movement can be expected or even should be try to cover or promote all perspectives. I see the structural problem, I just don’t necessarily agree with the proposed solution.

  164. Mandolin
    Mandolin May 3, 2011 at 1:55 am |

    “1) If its a structural problem, why do we place the burden of solution on specific individuals? Isn’t that problematic as well?”

    Absolutely.

    But there should be a way to discuss the structural problem without putting the weight of it all on one example–or on one individual’s shoulders.

    I apologize if I’m coming across as saying otherwise?

  165. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 3, 2011 at 1:59 am |

    @Mandolin,

    No, no, no…those were just ruminations based on what I thought was a good conversation. I didn’t mean to specifically direct them! I’m just parsing through the ideas. My bad! :)

  166. Mandolin
    Mandolin May 3, 2011 at 1:59 am |

    And to be clear, I do think specific examples probably need to be part of that, because otherwise the writing comes across as too abstracted.

    But maybe there’s a balance in disclaimers, statistics *and* personal anecdotes?

  167. Mandolin
    Mandolin May 3, 2011 at 2:01 am |

    Sorry, Kristen J. ;) Just trying to make sure I hadn’t crossed any discursive lines!

  168. Maia
    Maia May 3, 2011 at 2:04 am |

    Mandolin – I really like the questions you’re asking – and I definitely agree about the recursiveness and also part of the question being about where the line is.

    I think possibly both in cases of the existence of gaps and ‘calling-out’ there’s the problem of the collective impact. It doesn’t have much impact if one person doesn’t write about any particular issue or if one person argues that a particular post is problematic, but it does when it happens en masse. I’m all about the deliberate use of collective power. But think the unintentional effects of collective impact can be super problematic.

    evil_fizz – I agree that statistics are good at pointing out the problem, but they’re not necessarily good at changing it.

    Someone could look at New Zealand feminist blogs (I’ll include an sample set that includes me and few else in this example to avoid stress) and say “People made X [huge number] posts and Y [tiny number] of them mentioned Maori issues. The issue of protests against oil drilling received Z [very small number]. Comparable issues affecting Pakeha (New Zealand European) women such as Blah-blah and blah received much more attention”

    I broadly know that (and imagine most other people who read NZ feminist blogs do too) – without having the numbers. That’s all true and I don’t need statistics.

    But that’s not going to write any more posts or change the nature of feminist blogging in NZ.

    2) Are we (people of varying privilege) abdicating our responsibility to address structural problems when we call out a gap and fail to fill it ourselves?

    But the whole point of structural problems is that you don’t change them by individuals acting differently. The whole point is they require structural change.

    And the problem with the blogsphere is that it doesn’t have structures that can be changed. It is pretty individualistic – there is no collective decision making process. Each blogger just does their own thing, and of course that results in replicating existing power structures.

  169. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 3, 2011 at 2:23 am |

    Maia: But the whole point of structural problems is that you don’t change them by individuals acting differently. The whole point is they require structural change.

    And the problem with the blogsphere is that it doesn’t have structures that can be changed. It is pretty individualistic – there is no collective decision making process. Each blogger just does their own thing, and of course that results in replicating existing power structures.

    Right. I agree that the problem is structural, but as you say in a grassroots org like the feminist blogosphere there are not structural institutions to change. We ARE the structure. Individual people who are themselves fighting for social justice in imperfect ways. So instead of dismantling the institutions we end up dismantling each other. Over and over.

    Which I don’t see as a workable solution.

    So how do we address the structural problem of a kyriarchy that filters its way into a grassroots community without destroying one another?

    My only thought is that if we are the structure of this community then shouldn’t we* be the ones taking on the responsibility of filling the gaps?

    By asking “institutions” like Feministe which is really just a couple of human beings who are acting in good faith, to cover…all of oppression, every where…aren’t we abdicating our role in fighting oppression?

    *To be 100 percent crystal clear. By saying “we” I’m referring to members of the community with the time and energy. I am specifically not saying that marginalized people need to add to their list of To Dos “Educating Privileged People.”

  170. Renee
    Renee May 3, 2011 at 3:02 am |

    @ Kristen

    I haven’t seen that quite as much, and I write for a feminist blog myself. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, just that I haven’t experienced it (although I’ve given and received the traditional kinds of call-outs aplenty).

    I suggest one of the reasons a blog like Feministe might suffer that problem is from the universalizing of its own brand. A blog that calls itself “Feministe” and is built from the ground up as a place for feminism is going to have a hard time living up to expectations. It’s going to have to be representative of the vast diversity in the feminist community, and I don’t really see it as unreasonable that someone of a particular section of the community gets upset about under-representation when the site fails to live up to its (implicit) promise.

    And I’m not talking about Feministe necessarily narrowing its focus. I think doing that would (rightly) result in raised voices objecting to exclusivity (which is kind of what’s happening now anyway, I guess). But a generous reading of Jill’s essay – particularly the parts about her life away from online activism – could be seen as an attempt to contextualize herself in relation to the site, and thereby set up some retroactive boundaries (although simply saying “I don’t have time for everything” isn’t much of a boundary). Things would be very different if Jill and the contributors were seen first as people rather than Feminist Leaders ™, and if we weren’t used to them trying to be everything to the feminist community all the time (which is obviously doomed to failure, otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about this). I don’t have a magical solution to all of this, except to say it becomes easier for people in the gaps to talk if everyone else stops talking for or about them.

    I might also add, your bit about “education” tweaks me badly, and does a lot of other people too. It’s not that education doesn’t happen through the process of talking and listening, but this idea that the reason I’m here is to teach people? That has to go.

  171. Renee
    Renee May 3, 2011 at 3:09 am |

    @ Kristen

    And I see now you clarified about the education thing, so now I understand your position better.

  172. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 3, 2011 at 3:13 am |

    @Renee,

    I’m a regular reader of yours. I was just trying to explain what has been going on around here recently. Re: education. My intention using that word was to acknowledge that I WAS educated that way, not that I should have been educated that way.

  173. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 3, 2011 at 3:15 am |

    lol. Crossing comments! :)

  174. Renee
    Renee May 3, 2011 at 3:24 am |

    @ Kristen

    Sorry! Also I’m sometimes confused with Renee over WM, but presuming you’re actually talking about me and not her, *blushing*.

  175. A Calmer (or at least much shorter) Perspective? « The Rambling Feminist

    [...] Or at least one not so raw from the initial hurt. [...]

  176. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley May 3, 2011 at 4:34 am |

    I’m gonna apologize up front that this comment is going to cover a lot of ground and will likely be all over the place.

    I really think what makes Feministe unique in the realm of the feminist blogoverse is actually it’s vibrant comment section. We get not only wonderful essays and article by the Feministe bloggers but we get some amazing dialogue and extra information from the comment section. When you look around at other blogs, none of them have the comment base Feministe does, look at Feministing especially it’s a ghost town there in terms of any sort of continuation of dialogue. Now I’ll also admit that I have this unique gift of being able to wade through bullshit unscathed, in fact it’s a hobby of mine to go to far out right wing blogs and read their comment sections, if only to get a really great idea about what I’m up against. So maybe that’s why I’m able to continue on here.

    As for the Hat post (and I think this is relevant here too). What we had there was massive amounts of fail from everywhere potentially myself included). The initial concept of engaging in a discourse about the real life implications of the wedding (ie the violations of civil rights and the tax money) was presented to y’all in potentially the least effective manner that much I’d like to acknowledge. But here’s the thing, and this is pretty big, there was also within those posts some astonishing information, information that I hadn’t heard anywhere else, information that had those comments not been left in that hat thread I would never have known. It frustrates me that people who read those comments immediately went straight for the tone and ignored any substance. The police abuses were discarded, the tax money was ignored, anti-American sentimentality as responded with anti-British sentimentality and in the end people were told to basically shut up because this post was about a hat. I just felt that while people had a right to be upset with how the information was presented (it was a lot of fail, some fail that I admit I tried to gloss over in the interest of trying to encourage more discussion on the taxes and police abuses) we easily could have condemned the tone while exploring the content, they were not mutually exclusive. I’ll finish by apologizing for not acknowledging the tone fail when I had the chance in that thread and while I stand by my claim that I never once intended to demand Jill blog about that aspect of the wedding, I’m sure it likely came off that way so for that I also apologize. I end with a thank you to Jill for continuing this blog and providing for me at least a wonderful outlet for engaging in discourse.

  177. Pseudonym
    Pseudonym May 3, 2011 at 5:16 am |

    So LoriA, by virtue of her lack of privilege, gets to “call out” Jill for not posting about a book that she has almost no way of knowing exists? And Jill, who volunteers her time to run a blog on feminism, has the burden of figuring out what topics LoriA wants to see before Jill writes her articles for that blog, but LoriA doesn’t even feel a responsibility to read one of those posts in its entirety before launching into some calling-out routine? I’m sorry, but that’s just ridiculous. People should not have to approach writing as though they are tiptoeing around landmines. The constant threat of being called out for “douchiness” accomplishes exactly one thing: shutting down discussion and silencing people.

  178. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 3, 2011 at 8:00 am |

    I think this post is a welcome and needed reminder that Feministe is run by amateurs who do it for the love of it.

    That said, Florence’s “FILL THE GAP!” was annoying in the context in which I read it, because while I would have loved to do a front-page post for Feministe on the political aspects of the Royal Wedding, with all the links that got added in the comments-threads, I knew I didn’t stand a chance in hell of being asked to do so.

    (And sadly, the blog where I usually post my feminist thinky-thoughts is down – the woman who holds the keys seems to be busy with Real Life Issues, ie not blogging, and so I haven’t been able to blog about Diana Wynne Jones, or Joanna Russ, or Royal Wedding … )

    One of the things I really appreciate about Feministe, that I try to look at every week, is the Shameless Self-Appreciation Sundays, which allow me to discover and read smaller feminist blogs/blogging that I wouldn’t ordinarily stumble across – it’s a big internet out there. It fills a gap, and I would really miss it if it wasn’t there, so cheers for that.

  179. Maia
    Maia May 3, 2011 at 8:35 am |

    Right. I agree that the problem is structural, but as you say in a grassroots org like the feminist blogosphere there are not structural institutions to change. We ARE the structure. Individual people who are themselves fighting for social justice in imperfect ways. So instead of dismantling the institutions we end up dismantling each other. Over and over.

    But the feminist blogsphere isn’t a grass roots organisation. It’s not an organisation.

    I don’t think that individuals become the structure just because the structure isn’t tangible. Or rather, I don’t think individuals become an effective to create structural change just because the structure isn’t tangible. (I would compare this to the difference between struggles at work and struggles against rape culture. The workplace is a very tangible place to have a struggle . Whereas rape culture I’ve been thinking and doing for years and I still mostly want to throw my hands up and go “How the fuck do we stop this.” But that doesn’t mean “Everyone should just be better becomes effective” just because figuring out how to make structural change is hard.)

    I’m a huge fan of the tyranny of structurelessness and if I was going to summarise the argument it would be without structures you can’t make structural change.

    Apart from anything else, presumably what we’ve got at the moment is what happens when everyone tries their best. I think this is people trying to fill the gap.

    That makes me sound very much like I don’t think anything can change – and it’s not that but I do think it’s very difficult to consciously make change without collectivity.

  180. Jim
    Jim May 3, 2011 at 8:41 am |

    Jill, great post. I just want to commend you for your superhuman graciousness and patience throughout the ensuing discussion.

  181. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 3, 2011 at 8:51 am |

    Maia: But the feminist blogsphere isn’t a grass roots organisation. It’s not an organisation.

    Community then…but I get your point. But it does seem that we use structural analysis to critique this non-structure. So is the solution to create institutions? That seems contra to many strains of anarchist-feminism.

  182. annajcook
    annajcook May 3, 2011 at 8:54 am |

    I really like your point(s), Maia, about the feminist blogosphere vs. institutions/structures. I get very frustrated when people start talking about how such and such a blog represents “Capital-F Feminism” just because it gets a lot of traffic. Even if it’s a group blog, it’s still just individual voices, not any sort of political organization with funding, or an official platform … at least most of the time.

    Which is why I think individual people end up getting targeted for stuff that is more systemic … because it’s difficult to talk about slippery things like “rape culture” whereas it’s super easy to get angry at an individual person whose ill-chosen words, etc., end up being the locus for everyone’s pent-up fury at the nebulous cultural marginalization, etc. Because individual actions are much more concrete to hang on to. And yes, individuals ARE responsible for their actions … but often the hate piled on an individual person, particularly someone who isn’t being an intentional asshole but just fucked it up by not thinking clearly in the moment, is disproportionate. Not in terms of the anger that is rightly expended against the violence that is rape culture, etc., but in terms of this one person who (more often than not) is genuinely trying to act in good faith.

    We need better ways to differentiate between individual actions and opinions and mis-steps and the cumulative effect of those inadvertant actions which end up being far more than a sum of their parts. No one person should be the scapegoat for a culture or cultures we all participate in to some extent.

  183. Mandy
    Mandy May 3, 2011 at 8:56 am |

    The question I hear being asked by this post and some of the comments is one that demonstrates and demands a lot of self-struggle: Given that exposure to and interaction with books/issues/people/oppression/etc is a function of our own actions and inactions, which are both individually chosen and systemically assigned (e.g., the people we build relationships with/the news and blogs we read or do not read), how much effort put forth is enough when holding oneself accountable for one’s own education about and filling in of the gaps one plays a part in creating?

    I think the most difficult part for some folks is that, while there is a real desire to be in solidarity with the folks who live in the gaps, the desire to not live in the gaps with them is greater, and finding a way to reconcile those two things takes more effort than most are willing or able to make.

  184. Responding to the mainstream feminist blogosphere on Feminism FOR REAL | Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture

    [...] heard about Nunavut before – Nunavik is a completely different Inuit region) this happened in the feminist blogosphere regarding the lack of mainstream feminist coverage of Feminism FOR REAL – Deconstructing the [...]

  185. annajcook
    annajcook May 3, 2011 at 9:01 am |

    @Yonmei,

    I knew I didn’t stand a chance in hell of being asked to do so.

    I obviously can’t speak for Jill and/or the rest of the Feministe bloggers, but why assume you “didn’t stand a chance in hell” of being able to write a guest post? You could always email the regular bloggers and pitch a post idea? I write for a group blog, and sometimes we solicit posts from friends following a particularly interesting conversation or something — but we’ve also had people approach us about guest-blogging and while we don’t automatically accept every offer, we’re always enthusiastic that readers want to participate and do whatever we can to make it happen!

  186. Alix
    Alix May 3, 2011 at 9:14 am |

    Even I know that if you want a review of a book, the hopeful requester sends a copy of the book.

  187. Sungold
    Sungold May 3, 2011 at 9:17 am |

    I’m not going to wade into all of the issues in this discussion – though I would second what Thomas and Little Light said, especially this (which bears repeating again!):

    To my comrades: our anger has a place, but I don’t believe it keeps us alive or leads us to justice. Only our love does that. And a movement built first on our love will endure in the way that work founded in rage simply cannot. Our anger is important but I am exhausted with the ways we’ve let the conversation end there. What are we growing, here? What are we feeding and raising up into the world?

    I see Jill carrying this blog almost singlehandedly, at this point, especially now that Chally is gone. Maybe that’s a misperception. I know there have been numerous guest bloggers lately. Even recruiting and organizing them takes a fair amount of time. Jill, you are doing an amazing job, and honestly I thought you were going to end your post by saying, “And I just can’t continue doing this anymore.” I’m glad you didn’t.

    In her post, Jill says she’s been dealing with shit in her life. Some of the comments have basically come down to: “But if you cared about oppressed people, you’d set different priorities!” What if the personal issues were a sibling with cancer, or a parent with Alzheimer’s, or one’s own struggle with bipolar, or the aftermath of being sexually assaulted? Would people still come with the shaming? We don’t know what’s going on in Jill’s life, and it’s none of our damn business. She shouldn’t have to spell out the distressing details in order to garner some empathy and understanding.

    Jill, I have great respect for the work you do here, and I hope you’ll continue as long as you can do it without harm to yourself. It seems to me that what Feministe would need is a larger group of core writers, as in the past – otherwise, I don’t know how you can carry on. I don’t often comment here due precisely to the dynamic you described so trenchantly in your post, but I read faithfully and find food for thought. There are also so many caring and thoughtful people among the commenters; I hope that going forward, they/we can remember that even when we start from a place of anger, social justice is ultimately about compassion, love, and good will, and frame criticisms in that spirit.

  188. bfp
    bfp May 3, 2011 at 9:20 am |

    Well–if blogs are just a bunch of individuals, will we finally all stop talking about “the movement” being online? And does that mean we can finally admit that there is no “feminist movement”?

    Also, I have a real problem with “call out culture” being framed as what was at stake with my situation with Amanda.

    And finally–I notice that there is a voice that is missing on this thread. And real physical world structural issues were mentioned as the reason why she was not on this thread (see Latoya’s post). I wonder if that has anything to do with the individualistic non-existing structure of blogging–and I wonder if the lack of visibility, conversation, or workable suggestions to those real world issues by people NOT struggling with those issues (or at least not struggling with them to the same extent that Jessica Yee and others like her are) has anything to do with solutions to the problems of that non-existing structure.

  189. bfp
    bfp May 3, 2011 at 9:26 am |

    The above paragraph should read:

    and I wonder if the lack of visibility, conversation, or workable **SOLUTIONS** to those real world issues ***GIVEN*** by people NOT struggling with those issues i.e. people on this thread (or at least not struggling with them to the same extent that Jessica Yee and others like her are) has anything to do with **POSSIBLE** solutions to the problems of that non-existing structure.

  190. Allison
    Allison May 3, 2011 at 9:40 am |

    @BFP:

    bfp: Well–if blogs are just a bunch of individuals, will we finally all stop talking about “the movement” being online? And does that mean we can finally admit that there is no “feminist movement”?Also, I have a real problem with “call out culture” being framed as what was at stake with my situation with Amanda.And finally–I notice that there is a voice that is missing on this thread. And real physical world structural issues were mentioned as the reason why she was not on this thread (see Latoya’s post). I wonder if that has anything to do with the individualistic non-existing structure of blogging–and I wonder if the lack of visibility, conversation, or workable suggestions to those real world issues by people NOT struggling with those issues (or at least not struggling with them to the same extent that Jessica Yee and others like her are) has anything to do with solutions to the problems of that non-existing structure.

    I feel much the same in that the conversations on this thread are raising more questions than concrete solutions. How do major online feminist communities participate in the promotion of some books? Networking, conferences, list servs, etc. But if you are not part of this professional-feminist-structure (and I completely agree that the structure, such that it is, is non-existent), how do you promote your work from the margins? Is it the responsibility of the marginalized to insist that review copies of independent-press books are sent out in droves? Yes, things get overlooked. No one is perfect. But there are clear indicators that some writers, some bloggers, and (yes) some feminists rise to the top while others are told to “promote yourself more” and you’ll get there. It’s false reasoning, particularly when those demanding more self-promotion aren’t considering the lack of resources a small press has to publicize new books, or the effects of blogging from a rural location, or how book reviews don’t usually get a lot of comments to begin with on blogs and thus it’s hard to quantify the relationship between book sales and blog promotion.

  191. annajcook
    annajcook May 3, 2011 at 9:41 am |

    @bfp,

    I’ve always liked bell hooks’ characterization of “feminist movement” as a verb, not a noun.

    At the very least, I think feminist movementS should be recognized as plural, not singular, because there is no single Feminist Movement that all of us subscribe to. Yet I do still see feminist activism happening online, and feminist conversation and consciousness-raising happening in virtual spaces (including this comment thread). I don’t see it as an either/or … particularly since many folks who discuss and act in online spaces are also discussing and acting in non-virtual spaces as well … a lot of which is invisible in an online context (for privacy reasons, for safety reasons, etc.).

  192. Esti
    Esti May 3, 2011 at 9:59 am |

    @Renee

    Abortion is an issue for many non-Western women. By saying that, you completely negated the life experience of a multitude of women in India (where sex-selective abortion remains a huge problem), in China (where the One-Child policy has led to skyrocketing abortion rates), in Russia (which has one of the highest abortion rates in the world), and in countless other countries. If you’re going to use abortion as an example, it’s egregious that you wouldn’t take the time to look into how it affects women in all those places. You need to check your privilege and learn to situate yourself.

    … I’m not serious (about being angry — it is true that abortion is a huge issue for many non-Western women). But it is a little ironic that in a post about Jill/others needing to constantly police everything they write they make to ensure it isn’t excluding people on the margins, you did exactly the same thing. And while I agree with you that, in general, it’s helpful to think about our position and to reach for non-exclusionary language, I think your post perfectly demonstrates the limits of that strategy — you can’t do it all the time. You will never not forget (or not know) about someone. You will never not screw up. And frankly, it sounds completely exhausting to have to go back and study every word of every sentence to ensure that it represents the complexity of all of humanity’s experiences. I don’t think anyone is going to be writing blog posts if that’s the standard they have to live up to.

    It’s good to keep the ideal in mind. It’s good to strive for more inclusion and to listen and (constructively and positively) respond to critiques. But it’s also good not to have every single discussion devolve into a fight over what the perfect language would have been. This isn’t “we can’t be perfect, so why try?”. It’s “recognize we all have limits and are engaging in good faith”.

    Call out when it’s egregious. Make suggestions when it’s not. And try to remember that there are real people behind all of these discussions, the vast majority of whom are striving to engage in respectful and productive discussions, and that we will ALL forget or overlook things sometimes. I think that’s all that Jill was trying to say.

  193. Ariel
    Ariel May 3, 2011 at 10:05 am |

    I think why I quit trying to participate in comments is that it actually is unproductive. I am white. The whole point of white supremacy is that no matter what I do, no matter what I try to accomplish, my life just is what it is: more privileged (along this one axis) in America than it is if you are black, or Puerto Rican, or Dominican, or Egyptian, or any other kind of -an that is put into the people of color category.

    I could spend my whole life, 24/7, trying to overcome my internalized racism and I still wouldn’t win, you know? That is the fundamental assumption on which the idea of white supremacy is based. It is the fundamental assumption on which ALL ideas of power imbalance is based. My friend who grew up rich and is now broke by choice is still benefitting from the class privilege she grew up with even if she doesn’t have much cash capital.

    I know I get things wrong. I appreciate it when people tell me. I know it’s not their job. But if the gateway to participation in feminist dialogue on the internet is somehow having transcended the privilege I grew up with completely, then I have a lot of work to do before I should open my mouth. And since that seems to be the gateway, I don’t; I just try to do my work in real life, not be a douche, and accept that I will never really get it right without letting myself off the hook for trying.

  194. Emeryn
    Emeryn May 3, 2011 at 10:38 am |

    I’m a longtime lurker, sometimes commenter… in large part I rarely comment because of how the comment threads kind of scare me. To say that it’s a toxic environment is an understatement.

    And that makes me sadder beyond belief. I know firsthand how GREAT the community here at Feministe can be. Last August, I was assaulted at work. I didn’t have any local resources as to what to do and I emailed Feministe out of desperation. Jill was incredibly kind to me and bounced my dilemma out in the open for me. The support and advice that I received blew me away.

    I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I know how supportive and strong this community can be and it depresses me that it can’t be like that more often. I, for one, think Jill does a wonderful job and she has my gratitude. As does everyone else who has written for Feministe.

  195. JP
    JP May 3, 2011 at 10:45 am |

    bfp: And finally–I notice that there is a voice that is missing on this thread. And real physical world structural issues were mentioned as the reason why she was not on this thread (see Latoya’s post). I wonder if that has anything to do with the individualistic non-existing structure of blogging–and I wonder if the lack of visibility, conversation, or workable suggestions to those real world issues by people NOT struggling with those issues (or at least not struggling with them to the same extent that Jessica Yee and others like her are) has anything to do with solutions to the problems of that non-existing structure.

    And, as we all know, the best way of making sure that, e.g., certain communities have better access to telecommunication infrastructure, is by having one blogger blog to tear another another blogger to bits over that blogger not blogging about what they thinks they should be blogging about. Because we all know that, e.g, telecommunication infrastructure problems affecting communities differentially, are caused by blogging not being focused on the right issues.

    As a number of commenters have suggested, a large portion of the present problem, and the amount of vitriol and recrimination, is a direct consequence of the fact that many people have, for a variety of reasons (not least of which that we all have a desire to think of our activities as being more important than they actually are), started thinking of blogging (especially their own) as a central, rather than at best peripheral, form of activism.

    In reality, the effect of blogging in separation from old-fashioned forms of face-to-face political action is marginal. Of all the readers a blog might get in its lifetime, a handful will learn something, a small fraction of those will perhaps be inspired to contribute with comment, a small fraction of those who comment will have something useful to say, a small fraction of those will take some of that interaction out of the computer screen and into their real lives, and only a small fraction of those will ever channel that into activism that makes any practical difference to anyone.

    I have having to invoke someone as odious as Henry Kissinger, who pilfered the idea anyway, but one might say that in the blogosphere, as in the academia, the fights are so bitter because the stakes are so low. Usually, the only real stakes are the egos of all the bloggers involved.

  196. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 3, 2011 at 10:46 am |

    Ariel: I could spend my whole life, 24/7, trying to overcome my internalized racism and I still wouldn’t win, you know? That is the fundamental assumption on which the idea of white supremacy is based. It is the fundamental assumption on which ALL ideas of power imbalance is based.

    Ariel, a way of thinking about these issues that I’ve found useful is this: You probably can’t make yourself non-racist, but you can make yourself anti-racist. And in the end, anti-racist is actually a more productive thing to be.

    No, you can’t ever rid yourself of privilege completely. But you can go a long way to rid yourself of ignorance of that privilege, and more importantly, you can make yourself into an opponent of privilege as it exists in the world, rather than just as it exists in you.

    Jill hit the nail on the head when she said that the struggle to be — and to be seen as — “one of the good ones” can be a distraction from the real work of the activist. If you find stuff that needs doing, you figure out how you can help, and you get to work on doing it, that’s activism. Checking your privilege is best seen as a part (and an ongoing part) of that process, rather than as an end in itself.

    Finally, there’s no contradiction in saying on the one hand that there should be less yelling and attacking in progressive spaces, and on the other that getting yelled at and attacked isn’t the end of the world. Sometimes people are right to yell at you. Sometimes they’re out of line. Staying open to both possibilities is important, but learning how to distinguish between them — and figuring out how to respond to each in a productive and self-caring way — is too.

  197. Natalia
    Natalia May 3, 2011 at 10:49 am |

    this post is just so lost, its sad. feminism is about call-outs. the whole movement is based on calling out the patriarchal structure. awesome.

    I want to address this comment, because the feminism I actively participate in is certainly *not* based on “calling out the patriarchal structure.” (What does that even mean? How do you “call out” a structure? God, I am sick of abstract, pseudo-academic talk)

    My feminism revolves around practical solutions to problems that are caused by various issues in a given society. “Awareness” (another word I am freaking sick of, but whatever) is a good starting point – but it’s not the thing that helps, say, poor mothers organize a creche. It will not alone solve the problem of access to decent birth control. I am not “raising awareness” when I invite a friend getting out of an abusive relationship to stay over for the night and then call all of our mutual friends and try to work out at least a semi-permanent living solution for her, or when I donate and spread the word about a hospital with a good childbirth program that could use donations (not that I am currently financial able to donate to anything or anyone – but say, in better times, I try).

    It’s the same with “call outs” – they don’t really do shit, OK? Is me calling someone out going to help me keep my baby fed? Didn’t think so – so why do people pat themselves on the back so much for bravely calling out other people on the internet? Oh, I know, because it’s easy as hell – even though, at this point, a critical mass has been reached and it’s plain to see that aside from genuine constructive criticism that points to specific issues that can be worked on or with, a movement “based on call-outs” hardly achieves anything.

    Let me tell you, as someone who presently has no idea whether or not she’ll be able to keep a roof over her head in a few month’s time, as someone who has to pick between medicine and food on a regular basis right now, I am way, way impressed by all the wonderful things that internet call-outs achieve in global society, for women especially. Bravo and all that.

  198. Some Thoughts on Privilege and Getting Yelled At « Student Activism

    [...] from a comment I just left at [...]

  199. Pattern Cutter
    Pattern Cutter May 3, 2011 at 10:59 am |

    Here we go again.

    Jill is called out on her privilege, Jill makes a snarky post telling people to lighten up and all her little cheerleaders come out to play and pat her on the ass.

    This place for white moneyed urbanites with working bodies and minds with their cisstraight privilege, to talk ABOUT the minorities. It’s not about ‘filling the gaps’ so much as it is about wallpapering over them so that the mean icky minorities are covered up, so y’all can talk ABOUT them in peace. Should someone wander in accidentally you talk over them and dismiss their lived experiences, you say HUSH NOW! THIN PRETTY WHITE LADIES ARE TALKING! YOU DON’T BELONG HERE!

    Chally did her level best to combat the prevailing view that this blog and indeed the whole internet is for white, het cis moneyed Americans. Jill makes posts or comments mocking or erasing gay people, WOC trans people asexuals people with mental and physical handicaps, people who aren’t american or from urban america, she has a real hate-on for poor people too not to mention fatties. so chally would be moderating away, telling people to not be ablist or heterosexist or classist while Miss Jill was throwing her privilege around like confetti.

    I didn’t get the email
    I didn’t know about it
    I didn’t think of it like that
    Lighten up
    It was sposed to be fun
    Don’t be mean
    Look at what this man has to tell you all about your bodies and choices look at what this privileged person has to say about gross fatties eatin donuts look at the middle class person talkin about poverty LOOK LOOK SHUT UP WE’RE TALKIN ABOUT YA, NOT TO YA.
    This is my blog mine. I’ll write what I wanna. Hats are pretty.

    Meanwhile jilly’s cheerleaders ignore guest posts from WOC or PWD and only ever comment on posts about gay or trans issues to say what great allies they are and how this one time their awesome gay friend did something and………….

    Don’t ‘call out’ white able cisstraight fem’nists cause them’ll cryyy, it’ll make their playground toxic, it hurts them when real live actual minorities tell them we don’t need no allies, we don’t need phony slacktivist bullshit. don’t upset the ladies, theys trying their best, they can’t help being privileged after all, they didn’t mean to be racist or heterosexist or ablist or classist or transphobic or nuthin. we just need to understand them better to wipe up their tears to not use no high toned arguments that hurt their precious privileged feelings.

  200. Natalia
    Natalia May 3, 2011 at 11:03 am |

    So here’s a pretty good example of what I was talking about in this post: http://littlejilly.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/hello-world/

    Someone please tell me what purpose that serves, other than to just be asshole.

    Yep. Asshole. And a cowardly one at that.

  201. gretel
    gretel May 3, 2011 at 11:06 am |

    Jill:
    So here’s a pretty good example of what I was talking about in this post: http://littlejilly.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/hello-world/

    Someone please tell me what purpose that serves, other than to just be asshole.

    Purpose? I guess the person is extremely immature (Jilly Flipperwitch? seriously?) and doesn’t know how else to channel their rage. And the person’s an asshole.

  202. bfp
    bfp May 3, 2011 at 11:08 am |

    JP: And, as we all know, the best way of making sure that, e.g., certain communities have better access to telecommunication infrastructure, is by having one blogger blog to tear another another blogger to bits over that blogger not blogging about what they thinks they should be blogging about. Because we all know that, e.g, telecommunication infrastructure problems affecting communities differentially, are caused by blogging not being focused on the right issues.

    I don’t believe that this was the natural outcome of my point. I believe that in centering the person’s *needs* that the original critique centered on (and let’s also notice that the original critique was made by a self-described white woman who may or may not have actually talked to Jessica Yee about her post and gotten the ok from her to go ahead and post it) rather than on what Yee *should be doing better* or how she should be *working harder* –there might be more of a chance to uncover and unfold the very real spaces within blogging that operate under the guise of “friendship” but often exist within the framework of segregation. Because telecommunication inequality is not the only space where very real systemic borders are built. Allison mentioned things like conferences, listserves, lecturing circuits, etc. When a person doesn’t have regular access to the internet, how on earth is she going to be able to do things like be a vocal presence on listserves (where networking happens). When a person is a mother and can’t afford her own plane ticket much less a plane ticket for each of her children (or childcare, which is never provided by conferences) how on earth is she going to go networking at the latest conference?

    Nobody bothered to follow up on what Latoya said about access, much less approach Jessica Yee (rather than the white woman who wrote about her) on her choices, needs, issues, etc–why does anybody on this thread feel like they have the right to lecture her on what the best working method for promotion really is? And why does anybody feel like they have the right to declare the whole situation hopeless because there is just no structure–without talking to the people who *are marginalized* within that none existent structure?

  203. shannon
    shannon May 3, 2011 at 11:10 am |

    Ariel, I don’t think it’s so much about being a good person, or completely erasing all privilege as it is to progress. I don’t do anything in real life at all. It’s a miracle if I can even drag myself to the gym or work a full day.

  204. Mandy
    Mandy May 3, 2011 at 11:12 am |

    Jill:
    So here’s a pretty good example of what I was talking about in this post: http://littlejilly.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/hello-world/
    Someone please tell me what purpose that serves, other than to just be asshole.

    I listened to a TED talk the other day about how most of us live our lives coming from a place of self-certainty, and how this way of being interferes with our ability to be empathetic with or even make attempts to see others’ points of view. To me, when you dig deeper than the snark and try to see from this person’s vantage point, this post illuminates a legitimate frustration with systems of oppression and privilege that allow for a lack of understanding and dismantling of said systems. For me, when I de-center myself, I find I am better able to engage productively.

  205. annajcook
    annajcook May 3, 2011 at 11:20 am |

    Building on what Angus wrote (#213), and responding to Ariel (#210) I think that feminist theory and practice — in any of its real-world iterations — has failed individual human beings when the take-away message of feminism as a social justice movement is self-hatred and silencing. I have several very close friends who were really turned off feminism as a set of ideas and actions because the people who first exposed them to feminist thinking were people who just used feminism as a way to belittle others and make themselves feel “holier than thou.”

    To have feminist theory and practice reduced to self-flagellation, to automatic assumption of someone’s guilt (of X-ism) when they’re less than perfect, to the sort of cannibalism that Jill is talking about here … that’s a poor husk of the feminism I learned, and continue to learn … a feminism that looks more like the practice of lovingkindness meditation or liberation theology. a feminist practice that includes critical analysis and anger, but is predominantly built upon a vision of waking up every day and saying to one’s self, “what can I do to make the world a more loving, caring, sustainable place?”

    Sometimes that incorporates a real burning anger about injustice. But in my opinion, that anger works best as fuel for positive action, for building the world we wish to inhabit with our allies, not for self-evisceration (which leads to immobilizing shame) and character asassination.

  206. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar May 3, 2011 at 11:23 am |

    People who think that big feminist spaces should reflect the voices of women whose experiences are ignored are correct. I agree with that.

    I think the only way to really do that it to make this a space where women whose experiences are outside the overrepresented able/cis/white/class privileged norm can write.

    Jill has tried to do that. Every woman who has come here and presented a different set of experiences has been driven off by the commenters. Most recently, Chally tried to talk about her life’s experiences and a bunch of whiny white people insisted on only talking about their white experiences.

    Pressuring Jill to be better will not actually change anything. Being a receptive audience for different perspectives could change who is heard in this space. We’ve been asked, encouraged, cajoled and invited to do that, and we have refused.

    Obviously some people find it easier to personalize it to Jill. I disagree. This problem of exclusion is the monster we’ve made.

  207. Natalia
    Natalia May 3, 2011 at 11:29 am |

    This place for white moneyed urbanites with working bodies and minds with their cisstraight privilege, to talk ABOUT the minorities. It’s not about ‘filling the gaps’ so much as it is about wallpapering over them so that the mean icky minorities are covered up, so y’all can talk ABOUT them in peace. Should someone wander in accidentally you talk over them and dismiss their lived experiences, you say HUSH NOW! THIN PRETTY WHITE LADIES ARE TALKING! YOU DON’T BELONG HERE!

    Go fuck yourself. You have no idea what this place has been for me. And you and your words have not done shit for my body or for my mind – so don’t pat yourself on the back for caring about others more than someone like Jill (or Cara, for example) does.

  208. Why feminist blogging sucks « Natalia Antonova

    [...] sucks that I even have to flay myself open, as Jill put in her original post on the issues in the feminist blogosphere, to get my point across – but whatever. I don’t even care about that anymore. I am [...]

  209. Mandy
    Mandy May 3, 2011 at 11:35 am |

    Jill: So an anonymous website titled “little jilly” that is dedicated to mocking me illuminates a legitimate frustration, and I should engage with it productively? This is the point at which I say, “Fuck that.” There is no way to engage productively from that starting place.

    I meant engage with the issue, not necessarily with “littlejilly.” Can you see where that person is coming from, though? And why writing a post like that isn’t just that someone’s an asshole, but that perhaps it’s also illustrative of a point about privilege and oppression?

  210. Angel H.
    Angel H. May 3, 2011 at 11:39 am |

    You have no idea what this place has been for me.

    Good for you. I am glad that through Feministe, you were able to find the support that you need. Unfortunately, many of us have only found erasure and disdain from this and other major feminist blogs. And we have every right to say so.

  211. Addition to reading list: Feminism for Real

    [...] Feministe’s Jill, in response, offered this critique of “call out culture” in the feminist blogosphere: I’m as guilty as anyone else when [...]

  212. bfp
    bfp May 3, 2011 at 11:46 am |

    Jill–I agree 100% on your above comment (#222). But I disagree entirely that the example you linked to (the Shameless essay) was anything at all like the littlejilly comment. There were no personal attacks in the Shameless essay, there were no massive all encompassing YOU TRIGGERED ME AND MUST APOLOGIZE demands, there was no massive swarm of an entire community coming to demand an apology from you–I am not the biggest fan of Sady Doyle’s Moore and Me campaign–but I will agree with her 100% that she was on the brunt end of a lot of heinous shit operating under the guise of “critique” and it’s mighty fucking hard to hear “critique” when you’re being told to apologize by hundreds right now this minute and for every second that you don’t apologize (even if you don’t feel like it, don’t want to, don’t think you should have to, etc) another attack and condemnation of you as a person and human being comes.

    That’s not what happened here with the shameless essay. That IS what happened to Chally. That *is* what that littlejilly comment is trying to do. I think it’s unfair to insert Jessica Yee and the massive problems in the feminist blogosphere around (for lack of better phrase) “communication segregation”–into a discussion about relentless, endless, “Jill has always been a racist and she’s never apologized for it and now we’re going to make her” swarming.

  213. Nobody
    Nobody May 3, 2011 at 11:48 am |

    And why writing a post like that isn’t just that someone’s an asshole, but that perhaps it’s also illustrative of a point about privilege and oppression?

    Not really.

    Look, the lesson some people seem to take from their exposure to the language of progressive/feminist critique is that, as long as they use that language they have a free pass to behave like an asshole to their heart’s content.

    That fact is sort of the elephant in the room here. Talking about the role of social media in activism, the structure of the publishing industry & etc. is way to avoid facing it. And it’s too bad we avoid calling it what it is, because this syndrome has ruined more than a few online communities.

  214. Alison
    Alison May 3, 2011 at 11:49 am |

    Mandy: I meant engage with the issue, not necessarily with “littlejilly.” Can you see where that person is coming from, though? And why writing a post like that isn’t just that someone’s an asshole, but that perhaps it’s also illustrative of a point about privilege and oppression?

    Also a point about how the person couldn’t find a way to be critical without being a misogynist? “Jilly Flipperwitch”? “Jilly” to infantilize an adult woman, “Flipperwitch” to be sexist and call her a witch (and I’m honestly shocked the name wasn’t “Flipperbitch” but I’m sure that’s coming). See, when that’s the default way you try to criticize someone, you lose all fucking consideration from me. It’s like when people couldn’t criticize Palin without calling her a MILF or telling her to suck their dicks or whatever. If you can’t make your points without being a sexist asshole – and in this case, a cowardly one at that, hiding behind anonymity – then frankly, I don’t give a fuck about your points. It’s one thing to show legitimate anger, it’s another to do it in a way that is far far nastier than the target of your anger has ever been.

    Seriously. Grow the god damn fuck up and engage like an adult, or don’t engage at all.

  215. Erica
    Erica May 3, 2011 at 11:50 am |

    Natalia said:

    Let me tell you, as someone who presently has no idea whether or not she’ll be able to keep a roof over her head in a few month’s time, as someone who has to pick between medicine and food on a regular basis right now, I am way, way impressed by all the wonderful things that internet call-outs achieve in global society, for women especially. Bravo and all that.

    This argument is a distant cousin to the “Why are we talking about ableism in Lady Gaga music videos?” question. To be brief: feminists talk about A LOT OF STUFF on the internet. Much of the media criticism that takes place in feminist spaces online is devoted to considering media and shedding light on the problems (racism, transphobia, sexism, etc.) in those cultural products. This type of post does not, unfortunately, put food on your table; it doesn’t make sure the ERA gets added to the US Constitution.

    That doesn’t it’s not important.

    That sort of cut-and-dry assessment of feminism–only THIS type of activism that has Y result is worthwhile–helps no one. At the end of the day, that blog post about transphobia on The L Word out on transphobia, or that post calling Naomi Wolf out on victim-blaming– that could make a reader look at their own life and say, “There are structural problems here” or “I’ve always been uncomfortable because I heard [X] and never knew why” or even just “I am okay”… That’s worth something.

  216. Natalia
    Natalia May 3, 2011 at 11:52 am |

    Good for you. I am glad that through Feministe, you were able to find the support that you need. Unfortunately, many of us have only found erasure and disdain from this and other major feminist blogs. And we have every right to say so.

    Except addressing erasure and disdain is not the same as stupid-ass trolling.

    And also, let’s be honest. You’re not “glad” that I found support (although it was not support that I was talking about, truth be told, though I’d rather not get into the specifics right now). You don’t care. This is what these discussions ultimately highlight over and over again – we don’t really care about each other’s problems across various divides. We don’t relate.

    I don’t want people to humour me, I really don’t. It’s hollow. And patronizing. But when I read troll comments about who this space is “for”, I ultimately have to laugh through the pain. Just as I type through pain these days as well, I guess.

  217. No thanks!
    No thanks! May 3, 2011 at 11:54 am |

    There is no way to engage productively from that starting place.

    Perhaps that’s your trouble: What would possess you to call a poorly executed hate-blog of you is a “starting place?” By the time someone goes to the trouble of registering a blog just to be a snot to you, they’re well past starting. This could be the work of an opportunistic troll, perhaps antifeminist, perhaps personal, or it could be the work of someone who judges the likelihood of you listening to earnest, given in good faith critique to be so low as to not be worth bothering with (and given your responses in this thread, I sympathize), so why not say to hell with it and have some cheap laughs at your expense instead?

    Whichever/whoever it is, though, that blog clearly is not a starting place. It’s a safe bet that it was never intended to be a starting place. You seem to have this weirdly persistent idea, even over 200 comments in here, that people should still be taking care to select an appropriate “starting place” with you.

    My question is, why? Why, when you wrote this three years ago:

    I am not going to be able to answer every call to action. I am not going to always be able to tell my friends what they want to hear. But I want to not lay awake at night, sick to my stomach, because I’m sitting on the fence. And I’ve sat on the fence here, and I effectively crossed a picket line when I promoted that book.

    For the most part, as angry and hurt as people were, they trusted me enough to come here and talk. I can’t explain how grateful I am for that. And I don’t want to be a disappointment.

    Why, after that and all the subsequent disappointments of intervening years, would you presume anyone was looking to start?

  218. Angel H.
    Angel H. May 3, 2011 at 12:03 pm |

    But when I read troll comments about who this space is “for”, I ultimately have to laugh through the pain.

    Then who is this place “for”? Is it for women who self-identify as feminists? What about other people who self-identify as feminists? Is it for those of us who don’t identify as feminists? What about the ones who believe in the feminist ideal but don’t identify as feminists because of the feeling of marginalized by The Movement? Is it for those who want to learn about feminism or for those who want to actively engage in Feminism(tm)? Can you or anybody else tell me who is this blog for? Let me know where I stand, so I won’t waste any more of my time.

  219. Mandy
    Mandy May 3, 2011 at 12:13 pm |

    Jill: So I do see where the person is coming from, and I think that they decided to react that way speaks a lot more to their character than to mine. And I am not going to engage someone who is that rotten.

    I hear you and I ask you to consider this: Instead of seeing “littlejilly” as someone with a character flaw, one could see this post as symptomatic of the way we all act and react in ways that are shaped by the tools we have at our disposal, and that some of those tools are deemed acceptable while others are deemed unacceptable according to the standards of a society (e.g., “polite discourse”) that are shaped by people with privilege and power who assign value to the tools they possess while devaluing the tools others possess.

    To be real, the “littlejilly” post is offensive to my sensibilities too. And I feel sympathy for you because I’ve been where you are now and I know it feels badly and I don’t think public shaming is particularly instructive. And I wish folks would (re)act with a little more kindness and a little less anger. I’m just trying to balance those things with also not wanting to write this off as someone simply being an asshole, because there’s always more to the story than that.

  220. JP
    JP May 3, 2011 at 12:17 pm |

    bfp: Nobody bothered to follow up on what Latoya said about access, much less approach Jessica Yee (rather than the white woman who wrote about her) on her choices, needs, issues, etc–why does anybody on this thread feel like they have the right to lecture her on what the best working method for promotion really is? And why does anybody feel like they have the right to declare the whole situation hopeless because there is just no structure–without talking to the people who *are marginalized* within that none existent structure?

    Because that is what bloggers and blog commenters do, and even if they were better and more thoughtful people, and didn’t do such things, and blogged less inanely, it still wouldn’t do anyone any real good, in the absence of the sort of political action that could go on just as well tomorrow if nobody blogged at all, just as it has for many decades. Any person on the internet has the right to declare anything they like (to the first approximation), and any other has the right to disagree, and declare, and everyone can go someplace else on the internet and vent about how the previous place was benighted. And in the end none of that will help anyone without internet access.

    Which is not to say I think anyone should apportion their outrage differently – it’s not a limited resource, after all. But I do think we’d all be better off if there were wider agreement that this is all just so much performance art.

  221. Esti
    Esti May 3, 2011 at 12:21 pm |

    There is a difference between being angry and being an asshole. If your reaction to the jillyblog was “this person’s anger probably comes from being oppressed, so it is okay to express it by being an asshole” then you are the one doing a disservice to minority groups everywhere.

  222. Mandy
    Mandy May 3, 2011 at 12:28 pm |

    Esti:
    There is a difference between being angry and being an asshole.If your reaction to the jillyblog was “this person’s anger probably comes from being oppressed, so it is okay to express it by being an asshole” then you are the one doing a disservice to minority groups everywhere.

    Yes… and no. There are fuzzy lines between “understandable” and “justifiable” and “right” and “good.”

  223. Natalia
    Natalia May 3, 2011 at 12:34 pm |

    Then who is this place “for”? Is it for women who self-identify as feminists? What about other people who self-identify as feminists? Is it for those of us who don’t identify as feminists? What about the ones who believe in the feminist ideal but don’t identify as feminists because of the feeling of marginalized by The Movement? Is it for those who want to learn about feminism or for those who want to actively engage in Feminism(tm)? Can you or anybody else tell me who is this blog for? Let me know where I stand, so I won’t waste any more of my time.

    Personally, I still identify as a feminist – but I put qualifiers on that. For a variety of reasons.

    I can also tell you that I feel fucking offended as hell when someone goes on about “able bodies and able minds” in regard to the community here, and that someone is a troll but said troll is labeled as coming from a place of legitimate frustration. Because this space is for people like me as well, that’s what I have always felt since discovering it, and erasure, I believe, goes both ways. But it’s true, what Jill said – one often has to flay oneself open in order to be heard in situations like this, and I think there is something seriously wrong with that. I used to think it was normal, like I said way up above, I hadn’t realized that how destructive it can ultimately be.

    But as for where you stand, I can’t tell you that, of course – though I would hope that it’s next to someone like me.

  224. abby
    abby May 3, 2011 at 12:35 pm |

    Riverdaughter:
    If you’re a feminist, why are you not promoting women of color?If you’re a feminist, how come you don’t think all men are rapists?How come women aren’t all victims of the patriarchy?Makeup and high heels are baaaaaadddd.Abortion is the ONLY thing worth fighting for.

    one of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong…

  225. RamblingFeminist
    RamblingFeminist May 3, 2011 at 12:37 pm |

    Jill:
    So here’s a pretty good example of what I was talking about in this post: http://littlejilly.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/hello-world/

    Someone please tell me what purpose that serves, other than to just be asshole.

    While I strongly disagree with parts of this post, I think we can all agree that this is high in the realms of “HOW TO BE AN ASS AND MISS THE POINT ENTIRELY”. That’s quite horrifying and way past the line it’s not even funny.

  226. Natalia
    Natalia May 3, 2011 at 12:43 pm |

    one of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong…

    Yes.

  227. Renee
    Renee May 3, 2011 at 12:49 pm |

    @ Esti

    I get what you’re saying. And I’m certainly not intending to suggest, in my example, that abortion isn’t important to anyone else ever outside the world of western feminism (if that’s how it came off, then that’s a major screw-up on my part…I will try to do better). But I don’t need to go research abortion everywhere in the world to be able to say “this is my perspective, others elsewhere may or may not share these priorities…let’s be respectful of that”. In fact, I think it’s rather a bad thing that by spending a few hours online researching a subject I might then feel okay speaking about it (this is an example of what I mean when I say feminism colonises spaces). We don’t all have to be experts to have a voice – if that were the case, almost no one would get to say anything – we just have to make sure when we talk we’re not universalizing our experiences, and that we leave space for others to fill (if they want and can*).

    We’re only human, so this is never going to be perfect. Whether it’s as hard as it seems, I don’t really think so. But I guess that’s unproven as of yet.

    * There’s a whole separate discussion to be had about what happens when a space goes unfilled, particularly when a given viewpoint can’t access the place in which the conversation is happening. Getting into that seems inappropriate right now, except to say I think we can acknowledge the existence of missing perspectives without even really knowing what they may be by being respectful of our own boundaries and limitations.

  228. Esti
    Esti May 3, 2011 at 12:56 pm |

    @ Mandy

    Yes, of course. No bright lines here (I actually posted something about that… oh, two hundred or so comments ago. Which I certainly don’t blame you for not noticing, because this comment thread is ridiculous). But I think we all agree that at least some boundaries are possible: white women don’t get to express their anger at patriarchy by being racist; cis women of colour don’t get to express their anger at racism by being transphobic, etc. In practice, of course, we still have a lot of disagreements about the contours of those boundaries.

    Similarly, we aren’t going to reach a perfect consensus on anger and discussion styles. But I think we need to talk about the issue, and to recognize the issues it’s causing, and yes, to call out the most egregious examples of the problem. Not to the exclusion of other topics, and not by demanding behaviour that conforms to narrow ideals, but in the request that people engage in good faith and without being total assholes.

  229. Angel H.
    Angel H. May 3, 2011 at 1:09 pm |

    But as for where you stand, I can’t tell you that, of course – though I would hope that it’s next to someone like me.

    But this is one of the main problems I have with Feminism(tm) – it expects the marginalized bodies to stand in solidarity with it, but it does nothing in return.

    That being said:

    I can also tell you that I feel fucking offended as hell when someone goes on about “able bodies and able minds” in regard to the community here, and that someone is a troll but said troll is labeled as coming from a place of legitimate frustration. Because this space is for people like me as well, that’s what I have always felt since discovering it, and erasure, I believe, goes both ways.

    I don’t know if this is about a speicific incident or a number of incidents. And I also don’t know where you’re coming from regarding your own privileges, struggles, and oppressions. As for me, when someone says, “this is an erasure of xyz” and I don’t happen to notice it, I take it as a hint that I need to STFU&L. Even if someone says, “that’s racist,” it wouldn’t be fair of me to say, “well, I’m Black and I don’t think that’s racist” because as a Black American women, I have my own issues of internalized racism that I need to work out.

    I would like to think of Feministe as a place for shared ideas, but when one side of the room is being ignored I find it’s just easier to get up and walk out.

  230. Esti
    Esti May 3, 2011 at 1:10 pm |

    Renee: @ EstiWe don’t all have to be experts to have a voice – if that were the case, almost no one would get to say anything – we just have to make sure when we talk we’re not universalizing our experiences, and that we leave space for others to fill (if they want and can*).

    I mean, I fully agree with that. I would just add that when we picture ourselves trying hard to live up to that ideal, we also (unless there is evidence to the contrary) picture the people we’re talking to also trying, albeit imperfectly, to do that.

    Because it seems like a lot of discussions become “you said this one sentence that I read to be really terrible” and then the discussion becomes a fight about whether the poster said that thing, or meant that thing, and the various ways in which that thing might or might not have been understood, and then people start accusing each other of silencing or not owning their privilege or inappropriately universalizing or trying to make it all about them or or or. And then the original topic is lost, and any type of goodwill amongst the people discussing things is lost, and a whole bunch of people check out of reading (or writing for) these spaces anymore because it is just. too. exhausting. to keep having variations of that fight.

    The issue is not that people want to discuss how things are said (or what things aren’t said). The issue is HOW they discuss things.

  231. Florence
    Florence May 3, 2011 at 1:15 pm |

    Mandy, I understand where you are trying to go here and I think it’s from a good place, but there is a problem with asserting that an individual should be required to endure purposeful abuse because others are frustrated with the system at large. At this point Jill is a stand-in, a figurehead, for larger systemic issues of racism, sexism, ableism, etc. A lot of us are asking why: Are blogs the new locus for feminism? Should they be? How responsible should a blogger be to represent an entire historical and active movement? How should we as a collective of people handle egregious fuck-ups and/or bad faith and/or call-out culture and/or people who are transparently unwilling/able to deal with their own limitations? How do we deal with our own limitations as bloggers/writers/commenters/participants in this culture? The answers to these things, and hell, the real frustrations with these things, do not lie in abuse. As a justice-oriented community we must be harsh with purposeful abusers, not defend them.

  232. Michelle Dean
    Michelle Dean May 3, 2011 at 1:15 pm |

    This is gonna be a long comment.

    I left self-conscious feminist blogging awhile back. There were a lot of reasons for that, not all of which have to do with the issues raised in this post, but some of them certainly did. I feel I should say before continuing that I share a lot of Jill’s privileges myself – or did, anyway, I am about one year sober from law firm life and counting. But I also don’t think that I, personally, was subject to much of the behaviour being discussed here.

    Still, I spend a lot of time thinking about the meta-issues raised in this post. I have the impression that these meta-posts do not usually resolve the attendant issues. I mean, even my cursory participation in these spaces allows me to read the subtext here. Jill is right I think to say her choice of Shameless was a mistake, not just because it is different, as BFP pointed out, but also because none of this stuff happens in a vacuum. I can’t read a post like this, myself, and not think of what happened with Amanda’s first book, and/or with “Fuck Seal Press,” and/or the Professor What If? debate, and/or the cover of Full Frontal Feminism, etc. I bring these up not to open old wounds but to point out a thing that Latoya pointed to awhile ago: the past ain’t even past, here. And I don’t see how these abstracted points can get you anywhere without understanding that.

    Anyway, my belief is that a lot of this stuff can be traced to a tension in the way this “community” (let me define the term loosely here to include everyone who participates) describes what it does. Some people are here to do politics (or movement), and others are here to talk about politics (or movement). That is not a trivial distinction. The former is about taking a principle and riding it all the way to righteousness; the latter is about exploring, in concert with others, what that principle might mean or imply. I’m not saying there isn’t space for both, in the world. But I do think that on most if not all the feminist blogs I read who form this sub-blogosphere, there is little consensus about what it is anyone has been doing. Personally, I like to do the latter, mostly because long engagement in these kinds of conversations have taught me that when the doing is given priority over the talking, a lot of stuff gets missed and a lot of people get excluded. I also think it’s the function blogging can hope to serve best, for what I think might be obvious reasons.

    In which case, I think, the solution to some of this is in the framing, because if you frame “feminism” as a conversation rather than a marker of the “right stuff” or whatever in political action, people are more likely to aspire the kinds of behaviours we would typically associate with productive conversations rather than those behaviours that result in “radical action” or whatever the catchphrase du jour is. Which means: listening, reconsidering one’s own position in light of criticism, being respectful of someone else’s boundaries, etc. I realize of course not all conversations happen that way; I’m just talking about the ideal type.

    This might all seem like I’m just another commenter calling for “civility,” or “niceness” in feminism. I’m not. I don’t find the content of those terms neutral, and I think there is far less agreement on what those require than dominant voices in these spaces tend to assume.

    Again, it seems to me to be all about framing. I want to frame the criticism here by measuring not whether there are hurt feelings but rather whether the behaviour is really consistent with the spirit of a conversation where an actual exchange of ideas happens. As one example: I don’t even like framing this in terms of “[Blogger X] is a person.” Well, of course they are, but the quality of personhood does not exempt you from engaging in hurtful behaviour, either with your fists or even just with your elbows. And the people sprawled on the pavement are people, too. So to speak. So it’s not quite a matter of just ending, full stop, there. But you can put it differently. You can say: “This criticism is keeping us from continuing to work things out by talking to each other, and that’s a problem because we want to stay at this table until we’ve hashed more of this conflict out.”

    These are my wordy thoughts.

  233. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 3, 2011 at 1:17 pm |

    bfp: Nobody bothered to follow up on what Latoya said about access, much less approach Jessica Yee (rather than the white woman who wrote about her) on her choices, needs, issues, etc–why does anybody on this thread feel like they have the right to lecture her on what the best working method for promotion really is? And why does anybody feel like they have the right to declare the whole situation hopeless because there is just no structure–without talking to the people who *are marginalized* within that none existent structure?

    @Bfp,

    I don’t think it’s hopeless, but I do think our current approaches aren’t fixing anything. So let’s be solutions oriented. How do we incorporate diverse voices?

    One solution was guest blogging or inviting a variety of bloggers to this space…which…well, we’ve seen how well that works. As commentors, we’re assholes …those last thread few threads with Chally…were unfucking believable. If you recall the debacle that was Maia’s guest posting a few summers back, a similar thing happened (and I regretfully had a part in it). How do we prevent the commentors (including ourselves) from being assholes? How can we expect Jill or the other moderators to fully prevent our own assholishness?

    Even with diverse guest bloggers there are still missing voices. There always will be. As a more meta question how can we incorporate those voices? Can we incorporate voices where the person may not be able to incorporate the specialized language of this site. Can we incorporate those voices even where they may be problematic in other ways?

  234. Natalia
    Natalia May 3, 2011 at 1:20 pm |

    But this is one of the main problems I have with Feminism(tm) – it expects the marginalized bodies to stand in solidarity with it, but it does nothing in return.

    It’s one of the problems I have with it too. That’s why when I say that “Feminist blogging sucks” – I mean it. I’m not being facetious. It’s still important – but it sucks. Big time.

    And one of the things that sucks about it is the flaying ourselves open part. You don’t know where I’m coming from. I don’t know where you’re coming from (at least, we don’t know these things automatically). I’m not going to expect you to necessarily tell me either – I want to engage in good faith without going, “please present a checklist.” Which is why I object so strongly to the trolling, it furthers the checklist culture.

    And I apologize in advance if I do check out of the conversation at some point. I am typing with one hand right now, and it’s not for fun reasons. My left shoulder feels like it is about to fall off.

  235. Renee
    Renee May 3, 2011 at 1:25 pm |

    @ Esti

    Your first paragraph has meaning for me because I’ve been doing a lot of personal work on how I visualize spaces, as they pertain to online activism. And also about analyzing my own expectations of people who are not myself. So, I’m going to go off and think about that for a while.

  236. Deanna Zandt
    Deanna Zandt May 3, 2011 at 1:27 pm |

    Latoya Peterson:
    Jill, no one is mad at you personally for failing to cover one thing in the tidal wave of media that is out.

    But there was a marketing campaign done and a lot of tours, including a stop in NYC.Annouced this week, once location is finalized.

    Trouble isn’t that you didn’t cover it – its that almost no one did.We don’t count – Jess writes for us.But its interesting that so many folks who love her and read her still had no idea.I can talk to Jess’ press people, but its still a bit strange.

    Jumping in late here, but I want to throw in the perspective of just coming of heavily promoting my book for the last year. It is truly shocking the little amount of coverage that most books, outside of a very few, get in blogs and mainstream media today. I mean, I live this, I’m a shameless self-promoter, I’ve worked for authors for years– and I was really blown away. Often very, very hurt. I busted my ass getting the word out and it still did very little help. So, know that at least part of this issue is the simple fact that book promotion effing blows unless you’re famous.

  237. Emeryn
    Emeryn May 3, 2011 at 1:28 pm |

    Pattern Cutter: This place for white moneyed urbanites with working bodies and minds with their cisstraight privilege, to talk ABOUT the minorities. It’s not about ‘filling the gaps’ so much as it is about wallpapering over them so that the mean icky minorities are covered up, so y’all can talk ABOUT them in peace. Should someone wander in accidentally you talk over them and dismiss their lived experiences, you say HUSH NOW! THIN PRETTY WHITE LADIES ARE TALKING! YOU DON’T BELONG HERE!

    I just now saw this and have to agree with Natalia when she says “Go fuck yourself.” It makes me sick to my stomach to read that, just from the sheer amount of hatred spewed there.

    And that’s speaking as a Japanese-American, bisexual, overweight bipolar woman. Those facts about me shouldn’t need to be mentioned, but apparently that’s what matters to you.

  238. Natalia
    Natalia May 3, 2011 at 1:31 pm |

    This argument is a distant cousin to the “Why are we talking about ableism in Lady Gaga music videos?” question. To be brief: feminists talk about A LOT OF STUFF on the internet. Much of the media criticism that takes place in feminist spaces online is devoted to considering media and shedding light on the problems (racism, transphobia, sexism, etc.) in those cultural products. This type of post does not, unfortunately, put food on your table; it doesn’t make sure the ERA gets added to the US Constitution.

    Really? I had *no idea* that feminists, like, talk about stuff on the internet! No clue whatsoever! Please educate me some more on this truly revolutionary concept!

    Snark aside, as you obviously didn’t notice – my objection was to the idea that feminism is somehow “based” on “calling out patriarchal structures” – and the framing of that call-out structure as “calling Jill AND HER KIND assholes is totally activism, gaiz!” No, that is not, I believe, how it works.

  239. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 3, 2011 at 1:34 pm |

    Kristen J.: If you recall the debacle that was Maia’s guest posting a few summers back, a similar thing happened (and I regretfully had a part in it). How do we prevent the commentors (including ourselves) from being assholes? How can we expect Jill or the other moderators to fully prevent our own assholishness?

    This was what I was going to say (right down to the mai’a), but I think I have a problem with word choice, so I deleted it. Thanks.

    And I came to a similar conclusion – we could talk about putting those threads on full-moderation and weeding out privileged voices, but I’m guessing that it would be a ridiculous strain on the author of the post. And having no comments on them – well, it’s not fair to those who have legitimate thoughts and criticisms that ought to be shared.

    I walked away from that debacle smarter and better off. I learned that my voice just doesn’t have a place in some conversations because of my privilege – but it came at a really shitty cost to mai’a.

  240. Esti
    Esti May 3, 2011 at 1:39 pm |

    @Renee

    For what it’s worth, thanks for the discussion. I know I have a lot of thinking to continue to do about my own role in this community, and the reasons for the views that I bring to the table (and yes, the various types of privilege that I have).

  241. Renee
    Renee May 3, 2011 at 1:42 pm |

    @ Esti

    It means a lot. Thank you too.

    (and me too…we probably should never stop thinking about those things, eh?)

  242. Mandy
    Mandy May 3, 2011 at 1:48 pm |

    @ Esti

    (Trucked back up to re-read your comment!) Yes, I agree with you. I also know that we’re talking about behaviors that are learned and influenced by our social, cultural, economic, geographic, national (etc) locations and if we talk about the establishment of sanctioned behaviors, the question comes back to “who gets to establish the guidelines?” And that makes me nervous.

    The examples of the boundary agreements you name demonstrate people w/ privilege using that privilege to free themselves and oppress others in the process. What I’m talking about is when people who are oppressed use tools they have at their disposal (that aren’t socially sanctioned) to chip away at those with privilege and upset systemic oppressions regarding socially sanctioned behavior. Many times when that happens, people w/ privilege simply label the behavior as “bad” and dehumanize the person doing the behavior (“asshole” “rotton”), which ignores/dismisses the systemic elements at play and reifies the privilege/oppression dynamic by making it the responsibility of the oppressed to use the tools of the privileged — which they may or may not have access to anyway. And I don’t think that’s an adequate solution either, ya know? So, I think it’s important to try to hold both of these simultaneously when seeking a solution that is inclusive and meets everyone where they’re at.

  243. Mandy
    Mandy May 3, 2011 at 1:51 pm |

    Deanna Zandt: Jumping in late here, but I want to throw in the perspective of just coming of heavily promoting my book for the last year. It is truly shocking the little amount of coverage that most books, outside of a very few, get in blogs and mainstream media today. I mean, I live this, I’m a shameless self-promoter, I’ve worked for authors for years– and I was really blown away. Often very, very hurt. I busted my ass getting the word out and it still did very little help. So, know that at least part of this issue is the simple fact that book promotion effing blows unless you’re famous.

    As someone just starting this whole self-promotion book publicity process, YES!

  244. Mandolin
    Mandolin May 3, 2011 at 1:51 pm |

    People live at the crux of a number of different oppressions and privileges. Some of us are both cis and disabled.

    This should be obvious, but I, for one, feel really erased by the assumption that Jill has a “hate on” for X, Y, and Z.

    You know, hey, I’m fat. And sure, I actually *do* feel uncomfortable when people go on and on about how they hate jeggings or whatever, because whether or not they see it, the discourse they’re promoting around “ewwwww” there really does dovetail with the way my body is seen in general, and how paranoid I am and to some extent have to be about the way I dress all the time in order to mitigate fatphobia. I know they’re intending to make hyperbolic and silly statements, marking their personal preferences as if they were universal for comic effect–the way I might about WTF IS UP WITH COW PRINTS; THEY MAKE NO SENSE AS FASHION–but I do hear an echo of my mother telling me when I was thirteen that a pair of shorts I had to wear for a uniform made me look like a “stuffed sausage.”

    I do think that some of the posts here reflect a not-very-deep understanding of how thin privilege works. I do think that the reaction to the explicitly fat-shaming guest post was mitigated to some extent by what appeared to me as some of the bloggers not really thinking that fatphobia is that big a deal. (As a fat, disabled person, let me tell you that I personally suffer way more from the fatphobia than I do from the ableism. And fun facts: they interact!)

    But it’s not reasonable to generalize that to “Jill has a hate-on for fatties.” Jill is, as far as I can tell from her writing, someone who is an ally on some of the big questions–like whether or not fat people should have access to health care!–who doesn’t really have an intuitive understanding of how fatphobia works.

    I would not, in fact, characterize this as hate. It’s not even close to hate. It’s not cousins with hate.

    You know, to be honest, I think people in the blogosphere have a real problem with throwing other people away over what is effectively small but frustrating shit.

    It’s not that there isn’t a line between what qualifies as small and what doesn’t. For me, Heart’s amazing and constant parade of transphobia makes it impossible for me to deal with her even on the issues we probably agree about. But that’s an impact of constant hammers. Feministe’s “fat-hate” is needles, and occasionally a hammer or two. I totally understand walking away from needles. I totally understand thinking that the possibility of hammers makes it impossible to be in a space with that person. I understand disliking someone because of needling or hammering or anything in between.

    Everyone gets to draw their own lines about when they’re done interacting. Everyone’s going to draw different lines at the point where “done interacting” meets “no, that is a constant hammer parade.” And that’s fine in a general way.

    But I feel like people end up with these buckets. The Irredeemably Fatphobic bucket and the Not Fatphobic bucket. When it’s really a spectrum with, I don’t know, Kate Harding on one side, and those paramedics who let a fat woman die a few years ago on the other.

    I worry this will come across as saying something I don’t mean. I don’t mean that there’s no fatphobia in the center—or heck, probably even on the positive extreme—of the spectrum, and that the fatphobia isn’t worth identifying, exposing and examining. Sometimes angrily! Sometimes with gnashing teeth and fiery breath!

    I also don’t mean that anyone is required to interact, personally, with people at any spectrum point they dislike.

    But I do think it’s important to maintain some nuance between “does not Really Get It” and the hate-on bucket of irredeemability.

  245. renska
    renska May 3, 2011 at 1:54 pm |

    CassandraSays:
    (Sorry for the minor derail, by the way. This is hitting on something that falls within my personal work area, and it’s a real and ongoing problem in terms of which voices are and are not heard in our culture.)

    I’m not so sure that pointing out the mechanisms by which publishing/publicity works IS a derail. Just as Jill was right to point out she has work plus life plus crap related to both to deal with, it helps to understand the commercial mechanisms that either help to foster success (for books/film/music etc) or stand in its way. (And yes, there are systemic issues too…)

    Another example:

    Readers have gotten (rightfully) angry when a new book is published and, somehow, even though the main character is a person of color, the image of the person on the cover is lily white.

    Bad author! some may say.

    Except unless the author is JK Rowling (post success) or Steven King or some other mega-successful commercial writer, the publishing house is going to do what the publishing house feels is in their economic interest and — in my experience in the world of children’s publishing — that HAS meant deliberately choosing this “strategy” when the book is being marketed to a wider (rather than a “niche”) audience.

    (Caveat: I’m talking based on my experience in children’s publishing rather than in niche publishing for a particular market/genre or for academic publishing. Also my experience is dates back to the early/mid-90s. But I think there have been similar episodes in the past 3-5 years and castigating the author for this… But y’know? It isn’t going to help. Really. Authors RARELY get input on book jacket design.) Again, lack of understanding of “how the world works” in a specific industry can lead to some unfounded assumptions and accusations.

    And I do feel that some commentary about how PR works is relevant to the discussion at hand because part of the argument is “how can I talk about something if I don’t know about it?” Part of the reason Yee’s book may be news to some folks who would otherwise be interested in it is… a perhaps not-so-great job on the part of the publishing company.

    Another caveat, though, based on my experience. New authors in the world of kids’ books often learn the hard way that there is no such thing as a book tour. You want to do signings/events/book reading at library or local school? Here’s some handy guidelines. Set ‘em up yourself. Let us know when they are. And, hey. We’ll be happy to ship 20 to 40 books to be sold at the event/for you to sign. The fact that Susie Bright did personal outreach on behalf of her own book (see #138) — and she IS a “name” — is perhaps indicative that authors may supplement the marketing/publicity efforts if they see an opportunity their publisher may have otherwise missed.

  246. Shoshie
    Shoshie May 3, 2011 at 1:57 pm |

    PrettyAmiable and Kristen J-

    I was thinking of Mai’a’s posts too. And, though it wasn’t perfect (and explicitly didn’t intend to be), how much I really appreciated Shapely Prose’s Draconian Comments Policy. But it seems like it was, in large part, enforcing that policy that caused the bloggers to burn out. Sad. But, really the only thing I’ve seen for keeping out the comment-poison is very heavy moderation. Would it be feasible (or desirable) for Feministe to recruit more mods? Not even necessarily people who write, but people who can keep an extra eye on things, especially for guest posters who want it.

  247. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 3, 2011 at 2:10 pm |

    Shoshie: I was thinking of Mai’a’s posts too. And, though it wasn’t perfect (and explicitly didn’t intend to be), how much I really appreciated Shapely Prose’s Draconian Comments Policy. But it seems like it was, in large part, enforcing that policy that caused the bloggers to burn out. Sad. But, really the only thing I’ve seen for keeping out the comment-poison is very heavy moderation. Would it be feasible (or desirable) for Feministe to recruit more mods? Not even necessarily people who write, but people who can keep an extra eye on things, especially for guest posters who want it.

    I’ve suggested this before, too. But in the end it has to be people that Jill and the other bloggers can trust to mod. For example, I would be happy be volunteer to help, but let’s face it…I’ve been an asshole on more than one occasion. I’m not sure how many people there are like that who would be willing to mod.

  248. Florence
    Florence May 3, 2011 at 2:21 pm |

    I feel like I also need to be more clear about the “gap” as it were since it got quoted and I think the meaning is being taken differently than what I intended. This is actually a phrase I borrowed from Ta-Nehisi Coates, one of my favorite bloggers, a professional blogger who moderates his own comments very heavily to keep people on topic and without a lot of invective. If you hang out at TNC’s blog in the comments much, you’ll see him referencing “the gaps” meaning, the information gaps. He has no patience for people showing up to tell him how stupid he is because he left out X, Y, and Z, and reminds them that their willing participation would “fill the gap” just fine. Hell, you’re already (t)here anyway — just share what you think should be said already. Put it on the table. Let’s share, let’s talk to each other, let’s make it cool to be as smart and motivated and engaged as we are. Let’s cheer one another on. Let’s not drag one another down with the pedantic Feminist #1 poo.

    The point of “filling the gap” is that it’s ridiculous to expect one person to represent all of us perfectly, it’s that we are perfect to represent ourselves. But that to represent ourselves, and to see ourselves represented, we have to do some of the work of creating and hustling and selling the POV that must be seen. (Yee has responded on Racialicious and it’s pretty clear she’s a hustler and a creator. It also looks like she purposely chose to go with a small, independent publishing house which explains the odd PR stuff, something that probably wasn’t on the radar for the folks who posted/tweeted for Shameless.) Systemically this is why those of us POC find it more difficult to get the attention that we deserve, because some of us white ladies cruised by on greased rails. The hope, the ideal, is that we can all help one another along and lift one another up — I love what little light said about the need for a movement of love upthread for this reason — and it gets back to what I also mentioned earlier about using privilege for a greater good. If my rails are greased, baby, let me grease your rails. And when I’m in a shitty spot where all I get is friction and I feel like I can’t go anymore, I so hope the lady with the grease will see me struggling and give me a hand.

  249. Kathleen
    Kathleen May 3, 2011 at 2:34 pm |

    Just because it doesn’t seem to have been said here (and I really have tried to read all 260+ comments so far), I want to say I think Feministe’s comments section is actually kind of great. Smart, funny, and kind. Much of the sharpness I’ve seen here has been directed at deserving targets (spouters of evolutionary psychology, for example), and I’ve seen a ton, a ton of kindness and mutual support and also alerts about political stuff that I have turned into real world action (writing letters and donating; no storming of any gates, I’ll admit).

    About the “calling out”: well, I guess I have tended to see it as exuberant rather than mean. I am guessing most of us live in worlds in which it would be anywhere from difficult to downright dangerous to call people on disabilism, transphobia, fat-shaming, slut-shaming, racism, and so on: especially the forms that many people wouldn’t even notice and that having your consciousness raised about suddenly makes you realize oh my god we are up to our necks in it! Just being in a virtual world where it is possible to make those calls out loud instead of silently: that’s heady stuff, and yeah, on feminist websites people get a little drunk on it. That strikes me as more groovy than ungroovy, given the context of the whole world. Coming here and having a space in which getting mad doesn’t get you ostracized (or injured) is balm for many souls. But,

    I know that what I see on Feministe is a small fraction of what the moderators see — stuff that isn’t just vociferous but vicious, plus the rivers of bile from anti-feminists, racists, haters of various stripes who can’t keep away from feminist sites. Operating those sluice gates has gotta take an incredible toll: keeping a space safe for righteous anger is like standing knee-deep in corrosive acid, I reckon. Probably no one should be expected to do it for too long.

  250. annajcook
    annajcook May 3, 2011 at 2:53 pm |

    Florence: The point of “filling the gap” is that it’s ridiculous to expect one person to represent all of us perfectly, it’s that we are perfect to represent ourselves.
    The hope, the ideal, is that we can all help one another along and lift one another up — I love what little light said about the need for a movement of love upthread for this reason — and it gets back to what I also mentioned earlier about using privilege for a greater good. If my rails are greased, baby, let me grease your rails. And when I’m in a shitty spot where all I get is friction and I feel like I can’t go anymore, I so hope the lady with the grease will see me struggling and give me a hand.

    I just have to say I love this. “If my rails are greased, baby, let me grease your rails” might have to become a regular mantra of mine.

    And I do think that while it’s important to challenge public spaces to be more representative (if blogs even count as public spaces … some do, some don’t) it’s insanity to expect that the work of representing who you (specifically YOU) are, your issues, your desires, your vision, in the world will be done by anyone else but you. Because you’re the best person to do it! Yes, what we hope is that folks will open doors for each other, amplify the signal, etc. … but each person is ultimately the best person to say their piece.

  251. Medea
    Medea May 3, 2011 at 2:54 pm |

    Pattern Cutter: Jill makes a snarky post telling people to lighten up

    The post above wasn’t snarky.

    Pattern Cutter: This place for white moneyed urbanites with working bodies and minds with their cisstraight privilege, to talk ABOUT the minorities.

    Then how do you explain all the commenters who don’t fit those requirements? They contribute, after all.

    Pattern Cutter: Meanwhile jilly’s cheerleaders ignore guest posts from WOC or PWD and only ever comment on posts about gay or trans issues to say what great allies they are and how this one time their awesome gay friend did something and

    Guest posts from WOC and PWD are not usually ignored. Sometime they’re greeted with “thank you for writing this,” sometimes a discussion, sometimes a massive pile-on.

    The problem was very snide comments like yours isn’t that the tone hurts feelings–though it may–it’s that being snide interferes with accuracy. There’s no point in a call-out that’s not based on reality.

  252. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 3, 2011 at 3:01 pm |

    Florence: This is actually a phrase I borrowed from Ta-Nehisi Coates, one of my favorite bloggers, a professional blogger who moderates his own comments very heavily to keep people on topic and without a lot of invective. If you hang out at TNC’s blog in the comments much, you’ll see him referencing “the gaps” meaning, the information gaps. He has no patience for people showing up to tell him how stupid he is because he left out X, Y, and Z, and reminds them that their willing participation would “fill the gap” just fine. Hell, you’re already (t)here anyway — just share what you think should be said already. Put it on the table. Let’s share, let’s talk to each other, let’s make it cool to be as smart and motivated and engaged as we are.

    I didn’t get that: thank you for clarifying.

    annajcook: I just have to say I love this. “If my rails are greased, baby, let me grease your rails” might have to become a regular mantra of mine.

    Yeah. :D

  253. Lindzanne
    Lindzanne May 3, 2011 at 3:20 pm |

    I am really really really disappointed.
    I like Feministe. I like your posts especially, Jill. But I read the post at Shameless with a little fist pump and a “YEESSSS!!” because she respectfully and eloquently described so many of my frustrations, not just with the reception of Feminism For Real, but of the inclusion or lack thereof of issues important to me as a Native woman in a lot of feminist discourse.
    We could be having an important discussion about why this is right now.
    Instead we are having a discussion over what frankly seems to me like a way overly defensive post about why we just cant do everything and would people just quit whining over their personal pet issues not getting enough attention.
    I know you guys at Feministe are busy, you work really hard and bring so many great issues and discussions to the table, and I know that the type of discussion I WISH was happening right now happen really often here.
    I would have loved your post if it had been triggered by something more appropriate. I know that there are PLENTY of better posts than the one at Shameless that could have been a catalyst for a discussion over calling-out, shaming, and meanness. This was not one of them.
    Maybe I’m sensitive because I’m used to getting shut down myself every time I try to bring up concerns specific to myself and other Native women I know in “mainstream” circles.
    This makes me really sad, and honestly, I’m offended. I know that was not your intention, but yet, here it is. I hope you all read Jessica Yee’s response to this whole issue. It’s really important and very well put.
    Maybe there’s a lesson for me here too…..I’m sure I have some defensiveness to get over as well.

  254. Esti
    Esti May 3, 2011 at 3:21 pm |

    @ Mandy

    I agree it’s a discussion that comes with dangers, which is why it needs to be approached with a healthy level of awareness and respect. And I agree that often “bad behaviour” is a label slapped on some groups more quickly than others, and that some groups need to act “badly” because they haven’t been heard when they’ve followed the rules.

    But I (partially) disagree with this: “people who are oppressed use tools they have at their disposal (that aren’t socially sanctioned) to chip away at those with privilege and upset systemic oppressions regarding socially sanctioned behavior.” I mean, sometimes. But privilege and oppression are a lot more complicated than that. Almost everyone is privileged in some ways, and most of us are also oppressed in other contexts. I think a lot of us don’t want to be reduced to the sum of the disadvantages we’ve faced. And when we’ve hit a point here where a lot of people feel the need to list their oppressions to be permitted to speak up, then I think we’re missing the point of the exercise.

    Even if we could identify a class of “oppressed” and a class of “privileged”, I still think that it’s okay to push back when people of either group are being nasty.* Yes, that’s frought. All social interactions come with the baggage of oppression and privilege, but it doesn’t mean that we have to become completely reductionist about it. For me, it’s not just a problem when someone uses their privilege to hurt someone more oppressed than them. It’s a problem when they hurt someone else. It happens more in the former context, and it’s usually more damaging, and it’s really important for us not to ignore it when that happens. But I don’t think the existence of the former means we have to accept the latter.

    * I should say that I do recognize that these conversations are often very personal and very painful for people (they certainly are for me, at times), and that it’s not always possible or desireable to type out a friendly educating comment. I don’t expect people to always be polite or non-angry when discussing these issues. And on topics that are particularly personal and painful, I think everyone — and especially individuals with relative privilege on the subject — need to be particularly mindful of the opinions and feelings of the people they’re having discussions with.

  255. This shit. Again. « She Has My Eyes

    [...] Yes, I am breaking my hiatus for this shit. [...]

  256. Angel H.
    Angel H. May 3, 2011 at 3:37 pm |

    The point of “filling the gap” is that it’s ridiculous to expect one person to represent all of us perfectly, it’s that we are perfect to represent ourselves. But that to represent ourselves, and to see ourselves represented, we have to do some of the work of creating and hustling and selling the POV that must be seen.

    If you’re a privileged body then you’re already used to seeing your POV everywhere, even when it’s not explicitly stated. Why is it so hard to understand that the rest of us want that kind of attention, too? And if we do make our opinions known, it’s seen as a niche or special interest topic and not given the same weight, or worse it’s appropriated in order to supplement the needs of the privileged. Saying “if you don’t like it, do it yourself” doesn’t help matters when it’s not given the same level of treatment.

  257. annajcook
    annajcook May 3, 2011 at 3:50 pm |

    @Angel H.

    I think part of Florence’s point is that privileged POV is complicated, and that assuming all (or most) of the commenters and/or bloggers in this space are being represented by the mainstream media or even on this blog is a BIG assumption to make. Rarely are individual folks fully represented everywhere at all times, even those who actually are “privileged bodies” in one way or another.

  258. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil May 3, 2011 at 3:50 pm |

    Instead we are having a discussion over what frankly seems to me like a way overly defensive post about why we just cant do everything and would people just quit whining over their personal pet issues not getting enough attention… I would have loved your post if it had been triggered by something more appropriate.

    Lindzanne, see Jill’s comments at 92, 151, 215, and 237 explaining her use of the Shameless example, responding to a staffer from Shameless, and citing a better example.

    See also Thomas’s comment at 94 for a bit more on the history of the Feministe commentariat.

    The joys of ~300 comment threads.

  259. Mandy
    Mandy May 3, 2011 at 4:16 pm |

    @Esti

    Absolutely. Privilege and oppression are far more complicated than that — which I think is a large part of why it’s so hard to have definitive discussions about them, in general, and harder still to talk about specific instances… because how do you parse those things out? And (as you said) is it even useful to do so, and to what extent, and to what end? I don’t think these parameters are very well defined in most online spaces (or most spaces at all?), necessarily so since the “community” is constantly shifting. And then there is the question of who is “permitted” to speak in a given space/context, and how freely? And how do we tell the difference between privilege and (self- or externally imposed) censorship? So, all of these questions given that we are all bound to our own confluence of privileged&oppressed positions, and that those positions are always shifting, so we are constantly negotiating and re-negotiating them — and not always well.

    I definitely don’t want to default to reductionism. I don’t think that’s helpful by itself. I do think it’s helpful when it is a part of one’s processes of deciding how to interpret subjective and complex things like malice and the subsequent framing/courses of action because it lends itself to an empathetic de-centering of one’s self and a broader vantage point that opens the possibility of reconciliation rather than rejection — all of which happen far too infrequently.

  260. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 3, 2011 at 5:46 pm |

    Still chewing over the idea that calling-out culture is activism, and still think that idea is fundamentally false. Many people have tried to explain why, but for the sake of brevity I’m going to just use this example (thanks Natalia).

    “my objection was to the idea that feminism is somehow “based” on “calling out patriarchal structures” – and the framing of that call-out structure as “calling Jill AND HER KIND assholes is totally activism, gaiz!” No, that is not, I believe, how it works.”

    Two separate but related issues here. First, no, saying “privileged person is privileged, gotcha!” is not activism, nor is it in any way productive or helpful other than in the sense that it may allow the person speaking to purge anger or frustration at the kyriarchy. Which…littlelight attempted to address this, and it doesn’t seem like anyone listened. Sure, that anger exists for a reason, and wanting to vent is understandable. But what next? Where do we go after that? If the initial burst of frustration is then followed up by something constructive, cool, now we’re getting somewhere. But the idea that the expression of anger in itself is activism is fundamentally flawed. It might make the individual feel better, and there’s value in that for that individual, but it doesn’t advance any feminist goals. Like Natalia tried to say, “f you privileged b@$ch” doesn’t build a creche, or feed a family.

    The more I read of this comment thread the more hopeless the situation feels, which I’m sure wasn’t Jill’s intention at all. And it’s sad because I do think feminist blogging has a place and a role to play, but I don’t think it’s currently playing that role very effectively. It used to be better.

    Here’s what I think the real reason that feminist blogging is valuable is – the primary one anyway (there are others, like networking, spreading information that needs to be spread quickly, etc). The most important use for feminist blogs is to provide a sense of community and a space in which they can talk to people who don’t think they’re crazy for women who for whatever reason don’t get that in their day to day lives. The teenager living in a conservative community who gets laughed at when she tries to talk to anyone in her life about that sense she has that the way women are treated just isn’t right, the middle aged mother who has no one with whom she can share her frustration about how sexist the way society treats mothers is, the retail employee who never got to go to college because of lack of funds who’s always had feminist leanings but never had the luxury of being able to explore them while at university, and who may not even have the language to explain why she’s so frustrated with her life, the woman in a conservative country who’s too scared to even try talking to other women in her community about how angry her situation makes her, but who does have access to the internet. Those women need a place to go where they can experience some sort of community of other women who will tell them that no, they’re not crazy, and yes, they’re right to be angry and to want things to change.

    You know what happens when those women actually access feminist blogs as of right now? They get mocked for not knowing the lingo. They get dismissed for not being hip to whatever the current thing that everyone is focusing on is. We drive them away, basically. And that’s not just because on average feminist blogging really is a phenomenon mostly centered around well educated well off white urban people. It’s because we’re being assholes.

    I’m totally behind the idea of feminist blogs being used for more sophisticated ends too, but I really feel like right now we’re letting down the people who need access to feminist communities online the most. And I think that’s a lot more important than a bunch of intercine squabbling about how person A loves Judith Butler and person B thinks she’s full of shit.

    Also, on the idea that feminism is based on calling out patriarchal structures – no. Well, as a first step, sure, we can and should do that. But if all we do is go “hey, that’s bad!”, and we’re mostly talking to each other, then it’s kind of a “newsflash – water is wet!” scenario. When done well it’s useful – Hollaback would be an excellent example – but no, feminism is not just about pointing out that patriarchy sucks. There’s a next step, and then a step after that, and it’s the concrete steps taken after that that are activism. If people have come to really, honestly believe that activism is just going “hey, this thing over here, it sucks” then, well, that would explain why we seem to have been eating our own tails for the last few years.

  261. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 3, 2011 at 6:00 pm |

    Also, so that I’m not just pointing out gaps and doing nothing to fix them – in terms of how to actually make a blog useful to it’s readers and a productive place for commenters to interact, I really think that the best example of how to get that right in recent memory was Shapely Prose. Although you did get some epic comment threads, what you generally didn’t get was the sort of unproductive showing off and everyone trying to out-righteous each other that often happens here. So, if we want a model to aim for, that would seem to be a good one, because that was a place that managed to balance creating a safe-ish space where commenters could talk with still allowing enough wiggle room for people to talk honestly and express themselves. That community felt very smart and very nurturing, and a lot more welcoming to newbies.

    The problem is, that community effect was achieved via pretty heavy moderation and use of the banhammer. And there’s no way that Jill alone could manage that for a community as big as Feministe. I’m not sure what the solution is, but I do think that active moderation is part of it, because if a mod doesn’t step in fairly quickly and stop things when threads start to go down the rabbit hole, it tends to get out of hand very quickly. As recent pile-ons that happened to guest bloggers illustrate.

    (Not blaming Jill or any other Feministe mods for that – like I said, active modding is extremely time and labour intensive, and it’s pretty clear that Jill just doesn’t have that kind of time.)

  262. Florence
    Florence May 3, 2011 at 6:07 pm |

    Angel H.: If you’re a privileged body then you’re already used to seeing your POV everywhere, even when it’s not explicitly stated. Why is it so hard to understand that the rest of us want that kind of attention, too? And if we do make our opinions known, it’s seen as a niche or special interest topic and not given the same weight, or worse it’s appropriated in order to supplement the needs of the privileged. Saying “if you don’t like it, do it yourself” doesn’t help matters when it’s not given the same level of treatment.

    But that can’t remain a barrier forever? I mean, you’re completely correct, absolutely 100% correct. But I don’t think solutions come from throwing our hands up at the problem. This is what I was trying to get at with the “create/hustle/sell” idea — it’s not enough to just create something, you have to position it in a place where it can be seen, and then you have to sell the shit out of it and keep pounding it and pounding it until it’s clear that your position is undeniably part of the fabric of this thing. We’ve seen huge strides made for women and POC and WOC/womanist theory and trans acceptance and sex workers rights (for example, among other movements) in the blogging community in recent years and it’s because of the tears and hustle of some beautifully hard-hitting and dedicated people doing exactly this that this is so. It’s godawful shitty that the community has burned these people out and driven them away from participation, yet paradoxically these personalities the real trailblazers for the rest of us and the reason that these issues are on the table BECAUSE they stuck their necks out, took risks, and made shit happen. It’s pretty amazing, actually, and why it always leaves a visceral void when they go. What we need to be asking is what we can do to make it easier for the trailblazers to trailblaze.

  263. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 3, 2011 at 6:10 pm |

    Quoting Mandolin.

    “But it’s not reasonable to generalize that to “Jill has a hate-on for fatties.” Jill is, as far as I can tell from her writing, someone who is an ally on some of the big questions–like whether or not fat people should have access to health care!–who doesn’t really have an intuitive understanding of how fatphobia works.

    I would not, in fact, characterize this as hate. It’s not even close to hate. It’s not cousins with hate.

    You know, to be honest, I think people in the blogosphere have a real problem with throwing other people away over what is effectively small but frustrating shit.”

    This is a really big, key point. There is a significant difference between “person just does not, on a gut level, really get issue X” and “person is actively prejudiced against X group, does not support fighting issue X, and in fact is going out of her way to oppress group X because she has a personal dislike of them”. And I think we very often act like this is not the case.

    This is what I was trying to say in the various royal wedding threads. I do not expect Americans to full grasp how Brits feel about the royal family because, hey, Americans don’t have a royal family, they are not intimately familiar with how the whole thing works, and even if intellectually they know why Brits have issue with it, it doesn’t carry the same emotional impact as it does for those directly affected. And what I saw happening in that thread was a few Brits getting angry and frustrated because an American (Jill) didn’t feel the same gut level response to displays of royal overspending and overreach of power that they do. And I don’t think that’s reasonable or productive, as a thing to argue about amongst ourselves, because people not directly affected by an issue just aren’t going to respond to it when it comes up in the same way, because it doesn’t sting in the same way if it doesn’t affect you personally. This seems to be happening a lot, people getting angry because someone wants to be an ally but just doesn’t get the issue on the same gut level that those directly affected do. And I’m not sure that it’s reasonable to expect anyone to really get things that don’t directly hurt and sting them personally on that same gut level. People can want to be allies, they can try to educate themselves, but there’s an element of personal experience there that really does make a difference to how people percieve things.

  264. arimel
    arimel May 3, 2011 at 6:19 pm |

    If I can weigh in as well…

    I feel like there are a number of issues that keep swirling around that make the commentariat (haha) here occasionally quite nasty and generally less pod-person than some of the other major feminist blogs. In general I think there’s not enough confidence in good faith here, whether it’s the idea that the OP doesn’t approve of arresting people for expressing free speech or whether it’s realizing that sometimes, even if it’s not explicit, that a post or idea isn’t directed at you and your pet topic but the OP and the OP’s topic, and that it’s not OK to try and steal the post away from them. That maybe it’s OK to try and add information but not OK to derail it in a different direction.

    Probably the best example I can think of is that post that Chally had a few months ago about being racially misidentified and having people assume things about her background that were incorrect. I fucked up (like a fair number of people) because my efforts to identify with what was going on (my interest in how Eastern Europeans have been racialized in America in interesting and bizarre ways) actually had nothing to do with the point, which was that even native-born POC are racialized as foreign, while Eastern Europeans lose that automatic racialization about the time their accent goes away. So while it is interesting to me that Eastern Europeans are treated oddly in the Anglosphere, that actually wasn’t the point of the conversation. If I’d wanted to talk about that (and actually, I do think that could be really interesting if someone who’s super qualified could say something–I think it’s Natalia, who’s written some about Eastern European identity in a Mid East context? If she writes something, I’d be on that like white on rice), I should have suggested it, instead of throwing my non-identical and off-topic experience in the mix. It’s not that there was anything wrong with my idea; rather, it was that we weren’t talking about that idea, and if I wanted to talk about another idea, that wasn’t the place.

    I think it really is about good faith efforts and recognizing in a non-accusatory fashion that the other person may not be aware that they have just stomped all over your pet interest. That is to say, as a commentator, not to jump off the deep end unless the OP is actually saying something ridiculous and hurtful, rather than something that could be deemed ridiculous and hurtful if seen through an otherworldly interpretation. Does that make sense?

  265. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh May 3, 2011 at 6:59 pm |

    I think it really is about good faith efforts and recognizing in a non-accusatory fashion that the other person may not be aware that they have just stomped all over your pet interest. That is to say, as a commentator, not to jump off the deep end unless the OP is actually saying something ridiculous and hurtful, rather than something that could be deemed ridiculous and hurtful if seen through an otherworldly interpretation. Does that make sense?

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, that is an excellent point.

    And thank you also to CassandraSays, who made a really excellent point about feminists in the feminist blogosphere alienating new feminists or feminists who don’t have an education in Women’s/Gender studies or much exposure to anything feminist.

    I believe that being able to study Women’s or Gender Studies formally is a form of privilege that most women don’t have. So when feminists in the feminist blogosphere jump all over new feminists or feminists who don’t have the formal education in feminism, it’s pretty icky, so thank you.

  266. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh May 3, 2011 at 7:01 pm |

    Whoops, that first paragraph was me trying to quote arimel’s comment and failing miserably.

  267. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 3, 2011 at 7:08 pm |

    Cassandra: And what I saw happening in that thread was a few Brits getting angry and frustrated because an American (Jill) didn’t feel the same gut level response to displays of royal overspending and overreach of power that they do.

    What I saw happening was a few Brits getting angry and frustrated because many Americans just didn’t want to know that many Brits have a gut level response to displays of overspending and overreach of power: instead, Americans wanted to talk about the foofy hats and other paraphernalia, and got mad at Brits for bringing up the politics.

  268. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 3, 2011 at 7:16 pm |

    Yonmei – Please see arimel’s comment above. She summed up the issues that people were having with the way you were attempting to make your point in the royal wedding threads quite neatly.

  269. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 3, 2011 at 7:58 pm |

    I read airmel’s comment. I liked it.

    I like less your comfortable self-perception that neither you nor any of the other people stomping & screaming over the Brits raising political points in the Royal Wedding threads, need have any concern that you acted in any other than the very best of good feelings and we all should have had more confidence in good faith: just because it looked like you were treating Brits discussing British politics on a post about a British political event with scorn and spite for wanting to do so, didn’t mean our perceptions of your behaviour were in any way valid compared to your own judgement of how you were behaving.

    Jill and other Americans wanted to talk about the foofy hats. I and other Brits wanted to talk about the politics. Possibly a double thread could have developed, with two discussion strands, but for that (reading back through the Awaiting the Royal Wedding thread) it seems to me that Americans owuld have had to accept that Brits were going to feel differently about the Royal Wedding, and that different from Americans didn’t automatically mean in the wrong.

  270. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 3, 2011 at 8:09 pm |

    Sigh. OK, I’m going to try again to explain why people were annoyed in the royal wedding threads. Others, (especially zuzu, who is not in fact a small citrus fruit) please chime in if you still have any remaining patience.

    The reason your attempt to introduce a few new themes into those threads failed spectacularly is that first of all, you did so by accusing the blogger and commenters of nefarious motives in not having already addressed those issues. If you’d said hey, guys, this is a little shallow, can we talk about this other stuff too? things would have gone differently. Secondly, the whole “gushing” issue. Again, not quite imputing nefarious motives, but similar – the repeated assertion that the blogger and commenters were somehow advocating love and adoration of the royals ended up derailing any possibility of a productive conversation. No one was actually gushing, the tone was actually more mocking and amused, but because you kept insisting that people were gushing what happened was the people thus labelled kept going “wait, what gushing?” and you consistently ignored that and kept saying they were gushing even after it had been made clear that a. that wasn’t what was actually happening and b. the fact that you kept insisting it was was pissing everyone off. So, basically, you were coming across as kind of a jerk, and because of that the thread became “hey, stop being a jerk” rather than “here are some additional issue for discussion”. Now, could everyone else have chosen to rise above their emotional response to your jerkiness and discussed the additional issues? Sure. But a., what arimel said – not really the thread for that. And b., people are human – if you keep approaching them in the most jerky manner possible that makes it unlikely that the response you get will be very receptive.

    Honestly, if you’d just dropped the “gushing” thing after the first few times people told you that it was annoying them things might have gone very differently. Also dropping the “omg you are all so very stupid” tone might have helped too.

  271. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 3, 2011 at 8:23 pm |

    Or, to summarise more succinctly – see where in Jill’s post she made a point about the fact that the feminist blogosphere would work better if people didn’t automatically assume nefarious motives and then go off half-cocked because a blogger didn’t address a point they consider important? That’s exactly what happened in the royal wedding threads. Jill did not in fact make a conscious political decision to treat the wedding as apolitical, it just doesn’t seem to have occurred to her to consider the ways in which it might seem very political to someone coming from a different perspective. So to act like she did omit those things consciously is assuming bad faith on her part (and on the part of the commenters who chimed in with “lol funny hat” comments too).

    And from there everything just kept going downhill. I’m kicking myself for getting involved at this point – I should have learned from previous experience that when someone jumps into a conversation all “you deliberately ignored this issue that’s very important to me, you bad person you” there’s almost no chance that a productive conversation is going to result.

  272. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 3, 2011 at 8:28 pm |

    CassandraSays, Yonmei wasn’t the only person critical of the royals in those threads, and she wasn’t the only one getting crap about it. I think it’s fair to say that both sides in that debate were being excessively snarky and snotty. There were plenty of opportunities for “I see your point, and you’re right, but…”, but they were mostly passed up by everyone.

  273. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 3, 2011 at 8:30 pm |

    Angus – this is true. I still think that thread is a perfect example of how the assumption of bad faith on the part of a blogger by commenters poisons discourse in the feminist blogosphere, though.

  274. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 3, 2011 at 8:34 pm |

    Also, to get a bit more meta, I think part of the problem was the idea that individual person who is part of demographic group X = all members of demographic group X. So there was lots of talk of Brits this and Americans that, when in fact it was really person A thinks this versus person B thinks that. This happens a lot on blogs, and again, it’s poison (and very annoying to members of the group being spoken for who don’t agree with what’s being said supposedly on their behalf).

  275. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 3, 2011 at 8:51 pm |

    Absolutely on all counts, CS. But by the same token, I think Jill thought she’d been considerably clearer in her expressions of ambivalence than a lot of folks read her as being. Both sides got off on the wrong foot, and it all turned to shit really quickly.

    And yeah, the nationalist essentialism boggled my mind. I kept find myself thinking “Really? You just said that? On a progressive blog?”

  276. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 3, 2011 at 8:51 pm |

    Absolutely on all counts, CS. But by the same token, I think Jill thought she’d been considerably clearer in her expressions of ambivalence than a lot of folks read her as being. Both sides got off on the wrong foot, and it all turned to shit really quickly.

    And yeah, the nationalist essentialism boggled my mind. I kept find myself thinking “Really? You just said that? On a progressive blog?”

  277. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 3, 2011 at 8:51 pm |

    Absolutely on all counts, CS. But by the same token, I think Jill thought she’d been considerably clearer in her expressions of ambivalence than a lot of folks read her as being. Both sides got off on the wrong foot, and it all turned to shit really quickly.

    And yeah, the nationalist essentialism boggled my mind. I kept find myself thinking “Really? You just said that? On a progressive blog?”

  278. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 3, 2011 at 8:55 pm |

    I swear I only hit “Submit” once.

  279. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 3, 2011 at 9:01 pm |

    Angus – Yep, the nationalism was mind-blowing. And honestly, as a Brit, a bit embarrassing. It seems to be one of the dirty little secrets of British/American relations that a lot of Brits do see themselves as fundamentally superior in some ways, and when that attitude starts to peak out it’s really not pretty. I know that’s part of what set me off, the contempt for Americans that was starting to be apparent. I mean, I live in America, and I’m from Scotland (and lived in London for years). Both countries have their good and bad points, and if there’s anything that a huge expensive royal wedding illustrates, it’s that as Brits we really don’t have any good excuse for feeling so very proud of ourselves for being smarter/more leftist/more socially liberal than Americans.

    Also I really do take issue with the idea that member of group X has the authority to speak for group X, and it happens a lot. Within my own family I can find attitudes to the royal wedding ranging from “f them all, the blood sucking parasites” to “oh, didn’t they both look lovely, Diana would have been so proud”. There is no consensus on this issue, just like there’s no national consensus on a lot of issues. Apart from anything else, the British aristocracy are also, well, British, yes? And most of them aren’t anti-royalist.

    Oh well, at least that thread was relatively free of the “flay yourself open psychologically and disclose all your pain and personal wounds, and then I’ll decide whether or not you get to have an opinion” dynamic that often happens, so I guess that’s something.

  280. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 3, 2011 at 9:17 pm |

    Angus Johnston: There were plenty of opportunities for “I see your point, and you’re right, but…”, but they were mostly passed up by everyone.

    That’s not really true. See Astraia at 63 in the first post, saurus, Florence, and zuzu at 75-77. In terms of that particular conversation, what I think happened was that most of us were on the offensive – a handful genuinely didn’t believe anything to do with a wedding or the monarchy belonged on a feminist site, but expressed it by shaming Jill for wanting to know about Kate’s dress and the rest were pissed off by the shaming. yonmei, the tax issue didn’t even come up until much later – after the straight wedding shaming – but as you can see in 75-77, I genuinely think people would have been interested as they were definitely interested in related topics, but by the time you brought it up, most USians were sick of being told how we felt about the wedding. Gushy, apparently – though I for one would NOT have woken up at 5AM for anything short of a good Osama execution (…get it? The other thread that turned into a shit storm? Get it?).

    Anyway, I wanted to address that before flouncing (!) – two threads on this issue were enough for me.

  281. rae
    rae May 3, 2011 at 9:26 pm |

    @CassandraSays

    “Honestly, if you’d just dropped the “gushing” thing after the first few times people told you that it was annoying them things might have gone very differently.”

    This is demonstrably false. When I backed off the word gushing, I got called “revisionist.” When I tried to re-direct my mode of engagement towards filling the gaps instead of merely noting them, the substantive points I tried to raised were frankly ignored. I’m sorry, but by the time any of the issues started to be discussed, I had gotten so bothered by the fact that every time I checked back at the page I was getting yelled at, I had already checked out.

    Because the language from the pro-hats side of that debacle was at least as mean-spirited as some people interpreted the word “gushing” to be. I was accused of “getting the vapors,” “berating” Jill, T”shaming,” acting like I “owned” the bloggers, being “butthurt.” There was plenty of swearing and CAPS LOCK and demanding that I leave the conversation to go along with that.

    This is not just about how a few people reacted to one thread, though. The point is that whether people are agreeing or disagreeing with the OP, the commentariat here is hostile on both sides. It’s so sad because I think most of us appreciate the work Jill does here and I think we all care about the issues.

    I’m not really sure how this can be resolved. As noted above, heavy moderation can work in some spaces but just heaps more work on Jill. In this case I really think a separate thread could have helped; it wouldn’t have taken much effort to throw up an open thread for the serious discussion of the royal wedding so that the silly hats group could have enjoyed themselves while others of us could have talked about the pre-emptive arrests (horrifying, by the way!) et al. I’ve seen Clarisse Thorn use this tactic really effectively.

    That’s not a long-term general solution though. Because this happens to every lighthearted post Jill tries to make. Yet in a lot of cases I think the points are fair…see, the discussion of regional and economic differences regarding how the bill is split at resturaunts, the implications of small shared plates for vegetarians, etc. There has to be a way we can have both the silly jokes and the examination of related serious issues without killing all the fun or pretending that what’s lighthearted from one person’s perspective is a legitimate issue for others.

    And by the way, I am sorry that my comments made Jill feel bad. I know she’s doing her best. My intent was never to call her out personally.

  282. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 3, 2011 at 9:30 pm |

    @ rae – The gushing comment wasn’t aimed at you. Just FYI. It wasn’t even the fact that anyone initially made that comment that caused problems, I don’t think, it was the insistence on keeping using it (not by you) after it was pointed out that it wasn’t a good representation of how the pro-hat side felt that really helped to keep things contentious.

    I dunno about split threads. Seems like a good idea in theory, but won’t people just follow each other over to the other thread to keep arguing? Experience so far suggests that they probably will.

  283. rae
    rae May 3, 2011 at 9:47 pm |

    You’re probably right, I’m not sure that approach would work here. I can even picture how it might go down: people on the open thread declaring that Jill was treating the political issues as unimportant and failing to adequately flay open her privileges because she spent one sentence declaring an open thread while she spent two sentences and a picture on a funny hat while people on the hat thread chuckle to themselves about the humorless folks who can’t even appreciate a goddamn crazy hat; then people from each thread tromp over to the other to defend themselves…

    It works for Clarisse because she can and does physically move comments from the old thread to the new thread when she splits them, but more importantly it works on her blog because she already has an open dialogue flowing (between PUAs and feminists even!). I am honestly stymied as to how to move the climate here towards that direction (although perhaps we need not go as far as she has…Clarisse has been generous to host that discussion but I don’t think every feminist blog needs to be quite that open; I found Amanda Marcotte’s reaction to the PUA business and the subsequent pandagon comments just as valuable.)

  284. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 3, 2011 at 9:51 pm |

    The sad thing is how predictable it is (I agree with your suggested scenario). And I think that’s at the core of whatever is causing this problem – there are resentments and disagreements about direction/seriousness/whatever simmering away under the surface, and so it doesn’t seem to take much to bring them to the forefront. It feels like the same exact conversation happening over and over again, right? Not just to me? So that’s what we really need to address, somehow, because it feel like we’re all hamsters running in circles on a little blog-wheel, rehashing all the same arguments over and over again in slightly different forms.

  285. Sweet Machine
    Sweet Machine May 3, 2011 at 11:09 pm |

    There has to be a way we can have both the silly jokes and the examination of related serious issues without killing all the fun or pretending that what’s lighthearted from one person’s perspective is a legitimate issue for others.

    Over at Shapely Prose, one week when we were all particularly burned out, we declared it “fluff-cation,” in which all posts would be lighthearted and fun to restore some goodwill. Mostly I posted pictures of lemurs. Most people were fine with it, but we did get some outraged responses of “How dare you not write serious posts right now”–in other words, commenters heard us say “We are fucking exhausted from modding vicious comments” and decided that the best way to respond was to leave more vicious comments. It was maddening, even with our Notoriously Draconian Comments Policy that some people have mentioned above.

    I don’t think it’s possible to overestimate the amount of emotional, psychological, and intellectual energy that goes into managing threads that garner 100+ comments. It is simply a different animal from managing dozens of comments, especially when the regulars refresh and respond regularly. Any vibrant discussion has the potential to become a circular firing squad with no warning. As the blogger/moderator, you find yourself faced with baffling accusations that you hold deep-seated grudges against people when you literally have no idea who they are. It’s especially exhausting when your blog is not your job, when it’s something you do because you have a passion and you want to start a conversation about it. You start to feel instead like an automaton, and when you say that out loud, people accuse you of being selfish. Sometimes, maybe lots of times, you fuck up, and you deserve to be called on it, and you know it, and you feel ashamed. But–and this is what I think Jill has tried to capture here–if you become a “big-name” blogger, this same cycle will happen whether or not you fuck up in any given period. Then you find yourself posting lemurs or funny hats and saying “I like you all, let’s have some fun,” and the post generates the same level of outrage you’d get if you posted something about how maybe women really are too emotional to be President. It is extremely disorienting, and it burned me and my fellow bloggers out, and it obviously has burned out a lot of fine bloggers here and elsewhere. I don’t know what the solution is.

  286. Elisabeth
    Elisabeth May 3, 2011 at 11:48 pm |

    Feminizm: ur doin’ it rong.

    I like how there is a recreation on this thread of one of the actual arguments that in part motivated Jill to write this post. As an American with no Anglo-Saxon connection whose lived in a Commonwealth country, I actually do think the topic of American vs. British perceptions of themselves and the other would be quite interesting, if it started off on not such an acrimonious footing.

    I think the point this underscores is that taking what people say in bad faith is always recipe for failure. Besides obvious trolls, this is a feminist blog, and presumably people who seek out and comment on a feminist blog are attempting to engage constructively with the amorphous series of beliefs and concepts that might be lumped under the umbrella “feminism.” Not everyone is going to come at it the same way, or have the same viewpoint/perspective. People might miss things, or not take certain things into account that they should, etc. This should be pointed out, and if egregious “called out.” However, I don’t think people should forget that other feminists/people who read feminist blogs are not are fundamentally not their enemies.

    Also, I get that “tone” is a sensitive topic, and decorum and politeness have certain problematic class, culture, and gender associations. But, that doesn’t excuse bullying and verbal abuse, two related types of engagements that are also extremely problematic. Verbally abusing people, bullying people, throwing sand in their eyes until they leave the sandbox, is not conducive to a healthy environment either. I get that politeness shouldn’t be a requirement for participation, but not being abusive should be. A large, public, internet blog is not going to be free of contention, nor should it. It’s not really a “safe space” in the sense that other smaller, more homogeneous communities might be, although it can be more or less “safe” depending on how members of the community want to make it.

    Finally, I want to say thanks to Jill. I’ve been reading this blog since 2007, and I left for a long time, mainly due to the comment sections. I’ve come back though, because this is one of the few feminist/progressive blogs with interesting, frequent posts. I don’t always agree with everything, but I really appreciate the effort you put in to keep this going, on top of a more than full time job.

  287. Kristen J's H
    Kristen J's H May 3, 2011 at 11:59 pm |

    A solution that has proved workable in other spaces is a large contingent of pseudo or junior mods. If you had a sufficiently large group that could sort comments into “clearly no”, “problematic”, and “substantive” that might reduce the load on the mods. It might also allow for removing the problematic parts of someone’s writing without ignoring substantive ideas that they may not be able to express in fully productive ways. For example a junior mod might let through a post from a person who (presumably unintentionally) used -ist language but nonetheless had a valid point by editing out the -ist language or noting that such language was not permitted/appropriate. Its not possible for one person to do this obviously. It would take a committed and conscientious group. This has the additional hazard of potentially silencing marginalized perspectives, of course.

  288. Holly
    Holly May 4, 2011 at 12:21 am |

    Hey, former Feministe blogger Holly here. Lo, my name is invoked and I appear in a puff of Mephistophelean smoke, etc. I just wanted to echo something that little light said earlier in the thread (hi, LL! am copying you AGAIN omg demographic unity) and say that Jill not trying hard enough or not covering every single possible base of All-Inclusive Feminism is not the reason I stopped blogging. In fact, Jill is pretty much the anti-reason for that, because I never stopped being amazed by her dedication and commitment, ability to stop and admit when she’d made a misstep, and general willingness to be real about shit. I kind of drifted off out of here unceremoniously, and in retrospect the real reason for that was basically what Jill said, and what Chally said recently about dealing with commenters.

    It just got too tiresome and draining to deal with people’s preconceptions and expectations about what SHOULD and SHOULDN’T be covered on a blog that’s basically a scraps-of-spare-time hobby or side-job, too annoying to deal with everyone’s own personal pet peeve about what you did or didn’t write, regardless of political merit. I feel like I can count on one hand the times when I read a comment that conflicted with my original post which actually had a meaningful opposition or something important to say, and I relish that kind of thing and seek it out. Comment conflicts ended up feeling mostly like people beating their personal drums (however valid, however irrelevant to the topic at hand) or picking a fight or making willful and not-so-willful misinterpretations that fall so easily into bared teeth.

    Anyway. I wrote some words a couple years ago about the privilege that some have to stand on a larger soapbox or speak with a louder megaphone on the Internet. In retrospect, I overstated. Most of the blogosphere suffers from a “big fish in a small pond” kind of problem, and it’s no wonder that there’s contention over who’s going to be a queen bee, so that big megaphone is kind of a bum deal. It’s not all that big, even if you get a book deal, which gets you like 15 seconds of popular notice max in today’s media world. And it gets you swarmed by tiny piranha — so it takes a certain kind of tough heroism to want to keep sticking that out, whether for personal expression or a more noble cause of creating a space people can feel at home in, fostering discussion and thoughtful questions about feminism, moving politics forward. It’s totally not for me, because I can’t stomach all the crap that goes with it, and I’m not stoic enough to be one of those bloggers who’s like “I don’t care what you think, I’ll write what I want, and if you don’t like it, you can leave. I’m certainly not going to engage with you.” Bugs me too much. So like, I figure I have better things to do in the rest of life — more activists and people in need to try and build with and help on the ground, and more people to reach in the mediasphere in other venues where I can get bigger audiences. But I still like to stop by and say hi. GO JILL!!!

  289. Luna
    Luna May 4, 2011 at 1:03 am |

    I’m not going to read all 300+ comments, so I apologize for being redundant, but this post is hugely problematic.

    1. It’s derailing. I understand you have a life outside of the internet. No one is suggesting you spend all day patrolling feminist blogs. But, to be honest, you are making something about you that isn’t about you. It’s one thing to oppose personal attacks. It’s another thing to ask people to do your work for you. You don’t think it’s an issue that there are certain narratives you notice before others? Certain writers you hear about without readers spamming your inbox? To me, this post reads like, “Sorry, if you don’t fit a certain mold, I’m not going to waste my time caring about you.” If you want to write about feminism on one of the most popular feminist blogs on the internet, you need to make an effort. You can dismiss this by saying that I’m trying to tell you what to write, but the fact of the matter is you are reproducing a pretty pervasive mode of oppression here, and it’s not okay. There is a pretty solid history of woc feminists being ignored for the work they do. It would be nice if you examined that meaningfully and how it influences the operations of this site instead of writing about how busy you are and how hard it is to care about woc.

    2. Uhm. People don’t call others out to prove their feminist cred. If you profess to not being active in the feminist blogging community, I’m interested in how you justify this claim. Based on… what? Your hurt feelings? Most of the time, problematic things are ignored by the feminist community until a person who has been directly hurt speaks up. Do you think that’s easy for the person? And do you actually believe that their motivation is to earn cookies? I guess maybe if feminism is a safe space for you already you can demand people do more than call out privilege, but it’s really hard to ~fight for the cause~ when a) your identity is systematically erased/ignored and b) you are constantly exposed to things that remind you that your issues don’t matter. Call-outs are hard. They are usually met with extreme resistance that is further damaging to the person involved. I have called someone out once in my life and the backlash was so intense that I was suicidal for a while. We aren’t talking in abstractions here, but people’s lives.

    3. Plus, I mean, demanding that people do more? Assumes a lot. And ignores a lot of realities about people’s lives. If this is all some people can do, it’s all they can do. That’s not bad. You shouldn’t shame them for being ~inferior~ feminists.

    The things you exclude speak much louder than the things you include.

  290. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 4, 2011 at 1:29 am |

    rae: When I tried to re-direct my mode of engagement towards filling the gaps instead of merely noting them, the substantive points I tried to raised were frankly ignored

    Well, I don’t think the substantive points ever got discussed. The hat side (as it were) did tell me several times that they’d have liked to discuss the substantive points, but my tone was such that it was impossible. As always when the tone argument is used, it’s generally impossble to change your “tone” to please the critics enough. Hence my conclusion that the hat side really did not want the substantive issues discussed.

    Angus And yeah, the nationalist essentialism boggled my mind. I kept find myself thinking “Really? You just said that? On a progressive blog?”

    Yeah, well. I was trying to make angry snark: I realised over a time period of people reacting to it with offense that when snark offends everyone You’re Doing It Wrong, and when I had cooled down enough to mean an apology, I apologised for causing offense. I was sorry for that.

  291. Opheelia
    Opheelia May 4, 2011 at 1:36 am |

    This thread illustrates so many of my frustrations with feminist blogs lately. Every post, every book review, every link, cannot possibly encapsulate the entirety of experiences among women and girls. Yet we seem to point fingers at the bloggers and say that they’ve left us out. I know I’m going to be left out sometimes. Our narratives are different. Our feminist work centers on different but related things. That, to me, was the whole point of feminism and anti-oppression work in the first place. The reality of the internet doesn’t make things easier, it makes covering all corners infinitely harder.

    I don’t come to this blog see what all the other feminists are writing about. I come here to read a feminist take on the major news stories.

  292. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 4, 2011 at 1:40 am |

    “I don’t come to this blog see what all the other feminists are writing about. I come here to read a feminist take on the major news stories.”

    Thank you! I’m still kind of stunned that there are people who consider this a weakness in Jill’s writing, and of the blog in general.

  293. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 4, 2011 at 1:44 am |

    Angus: I think it’s fair to say that both sides in that debate were being excessively snarky and snotty. There were plenty of opportunities for “I see your point, and you’re right, but…”, but they were mostly passed up by everyone.

    That’s very true. :D

    Cassandra: So that’s what we really need to address, somehow, because it feel like we’re all hamsters running in circles on a little blog-wheel, rehashing all the same arguments over and over again in slightly different forms.

    Well, part of what it seems like we do is we have the big meta-thread. One of the things I like about Feministe is that people who say offensive things do often take time to think them through in response to criticism and then apologise.

    Sweet Machine: Over at Shapely Prose, one week when we were all particularly burned out, we declared it “fluff-cation,” in which all posts would be lighthearted and fun to restore some goodwill.

    That’s very interesting. – I mean the reaction to the fluffy posts. For me, the point at which I admit I lost it was the posting of the hat post – because there had been a stack of comments in the previous RW thread about how, wait a minute, there is a political side to this. And a fluffy post about lemurs or kitties would have been, well, fluff. A post about the RW, however brief, which continued to take the position which Jill and other Americans appeared to have been taking in previous thread, that it’s all about the fluff, quit harshing our wedding squee with your talk of politics, was a point where I should have assumed good faith on Jill’s part – and didn’t, because it just felt like a “Up yours, quit your yapping about the politics of it, we don’t want no stinky politics here!” snub. (Which I don’t think a post about ice-cream flavours or small plates would have done.)

    Part of that is treating Jill as if she’s providing a service, like the BBC, which I get to complain about: and that is completely wrong, and I apologise.

    Part of it is, however (I still think legitimately) that a bunch of Americans do not get to tell me to stop being political about a political event in my own country.

    rae: And by the way, I am sorry that my comments made Jill feel bad. I know she’s doing her best. My intent was never to call her out personally.

    This, too.

  294. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 4, 2011 at 1:51 am |

    @ Yonmei – I wish I could be optimistic that big meta-threads like this would change things, but we’ve had them before (not just on this blog), and there’s yet to be any visible change. The exact same pattern that happened last time there was a big intra-feminist blow-up is already repeating itself all over the feminist blogosphere as we speak.

    I still think that heavy moderation might be the only way to keep things in any way productive, but like Sweet Machine said, it’s a lot of gruelling work. Anyone want to volunteer to do that for Feministe (if Jill were to want such a system)? I know I wouldn’t volunteer to do it. I remember the “lemurs, dammit!” posts on Shapely Prose too well.

  295. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 4, 2011 at 2:30 am |

    So here’s the question for me…because I’m getting progressively more ticked off reading some of the reactions…and to be clear this is not specifically about Yee’s work or the Shameless Post…its about the subsequent conversations and the other conversations that are ongoing.

    What’s the prize? What is it that we get out of saying to blogger X, you should have been covering this topic that addresses this marginalized perspective?

    Does it lift up the marginalized perspective? Not that I’ve seen. That could be accomplished by…I don’t know…offering to post or cross-post something on that perspective (i.e., filling the gap).

    So again, what’s the prize? Because it seems like all we get is that same jolt of pride you get when you tear another person down. Oh, look…they screwed up…haha…I’m awesome because I did *that* correctly.

    Fuck that.

    Seriously. Because…no…we’re not awesome. No one is able to address all of the marginalized perspectives. It’s.not.fucking.possible. Sure, you can cover X, Y, and Z which are invaluable…but what about W? What about the burakumin M mentioned earlier. I haven’t seen any discussion of them in the feminist blogosphere. And yet, and yet…people feel perfectly justified saying that blogger X is failing because ze isn’t covering a specific perspective.

    If that’s the case, we all fail. All of us. Big, giant, heap of fail. Because we have limits. We do we you can. And yes, that means that shit gets missed by people, all people.

    Just like the burakumin have bypassed everyone’s filters. And I don’t believe its because people don’t care. I have enough faith in the good will of this community to believe its because people don’t know.

    And yes, shit gets missed on a systematic basis because we live in a world where every human being has systematic biases. But here’s the thing, those systematic biases are not resolvable on an individual level. We can’t make blogger X all knowing. We can’t make ourselves all knowing. We can learn, listen and educate ourselves till the end of fucking time and it won’t change that simple fact. We can get better, but we can’t get it right.

    So what’s the prize in pointing out that someone else didn’t get it right? Does it help them get better? Does it make us better? Does it help others lurking around to better? Cause I’m not seeing it.

    In the end, is the community at large going to be about hearing one another and learning from one another or is it going to be about personal gratification? Do we prop each other up, accepting that we all fail and we all can do better…or do we continually drag each other down in a battle over who gets to be ruler of the Mountain of Fail?

  296. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 4, 2011 at 2:33 am |

    Kristen J.: We do we you can

    Which of course translates from ancient jibberish into “We do what we can.” The you of course is silent.

  297. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 4, 2011 at 2:39 am |

    @ Kristin J – I’d post about the burakumin if I thought anyone would even know who they are. But they don’t, and I wish I could say that I think that if people did know they would care, but…meh, maybe I’m feeling extra cynical ever since I got to see the town I lived in as a child in Libya on the news and realised that most people have absolutely no idea what’s going on in Libya (and don’t care).

    (Not looking for a cookie about the burakumin, btw, it’s just that I can hear the frustration coming from you and your husband that you keep commenting on them and no one is even going “wait, who?”. At this point everyone in the lefty blogosphere seems to have collectively forgotten that the situation in Japan is still ongoing.)

  298. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 4, 2011 at 2:51 am |

    CassandraSays: I’d post about the burakumin if I thought anyone would even know who they are. But they don’t, and I wish I could say that I think that if people did know they would care, but…meh, maybe I’m feeling extra cynical ever since I got to see the town I lived in as a child in Libya on the news and realised that most people have absolutely no idea what’s going on in Libya (and don’t care).

    (Not looking for a cookie about the burakumin, btw, it’s just that I can hear the frustration coming from you and your husband that you keep commenting on them and no one is even going “wait, who?”. At this point everyone in the lefty blogosphere seems to have collectively forgotten that the situation in Japan is still ongoing.)

    Thing is…I don’t expect people to know. I expect them to care if they know…but asking people to know about all human oppression…its sort of ridiculous IMO. And that seems to be what we’re requiring of bloggers. Should you know about the child abuse rampant in fundamentalist churches? Should you know about the extreme rape culture in small religious town in Oklahoma? Should you know about racism in Okinawa? How could you know about all of those things unless you’ve been exposed to them? And even then…can you keep those in mind while also considering the five gajillion others? The burakumin is just an example of something egregious happening in the world that I know is flying under the radar of almost everyone. But there are a million times a million more.

  299. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 4, 2011 at 2:53 am |

    Actually that’s not entirely true. One of the results of the culture of calling out is that I wouldn’t feel confident enough to write and post publicly anything about the burakumin and how they’re being used to do the work no one else wants to, because I am not Japanese, and I am not an academic scholar studying the burakumin, so what the hell do I know? Even if I do know something, and would like to write about it, I won’t, because I can already anticipate the “you’re doing it wrong, and what right do you have to even talk about this?” responses, and like Holly said, I’m just not up for it. I’ve restricted my blog activities to commenting only rather than actually blogging myself because I just don’t feel up to dealing with the fallout.

    (For myraid personal reasons that no, I am not going to publicly flay myself open and reveal. And no one else should have to either.)

  300. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 4, 2011 at 4:58 am |

    Kristen: What is it that we get out of saying to blogger X, you should have been covering this topic that addresses this marginalized perspective?

    At best, filling the gaps.

    Substantive comments pointing out that blogpost A by blogger X does not cover an aspect of the issue which may not have occurred to blogger X but which did occur to commenter Z because of her different perspective of the issue, fill an information gap and should be welcomed.

    Commenters should practice good faith towards blogger X and assume she didn’t include it because (a) there are not enough hours in the day (b) she just didn’t know and see (a): but commenters should also practice good faith towards each other, and not assume a comment that says “Hey, you’re missing something, and here’s what it is” is a personal attack on blogger X. We all failed to do that in the RW threads, as Angus pointed out.

  301. Dan Waters
    Dan Waters May 4, 2011 at 5:45 am |

    1) I like how you deny that this blog isn’t somehow part of the bigger-blogosphere conglomerate of Feminism blogging, yet you start out saying how you started with oh-so-humble beginnings to reach this stardom. You also claim to get an amass of emails. If this wasn’t such a big blog, then why are you in fact SO BUSY with all these emails?

    2) You claim to be writing about calling out culture, but in turn, call some folks out. Hypocritical much? A piece could have been excellent on calling out culture, because yes, it is somewhat of a phenomenon when cis, straight, able bodied middle class white women do it to earn cookies. But when a POC person does it, it is not calling out culture, it is telling you where you stepped in your own shit.

    3) You are officially being called out, by me, on the fact that you are showing your privilege. You, as a straight, white, cis feminist blogger, have the great privilege of saying that we’re just yelling that there is a gap. Fact is, you and your privilege that you continue and persistently use (see: your comments) and deny because “it’s sad the system is that way” but you aren’t recognizing your intimate part in that said system RIGHT NOW as you try to silence others and demean others that we aren’t “doing the hard/right/best work” like the boot straps you so greatly pulled up over yourself and got to where you are. You showed incredible erasure of beautiful Native voices, and I am deeply, deeply offended. I have cried, I have mourned, and I can honestly say this without a sweat on my brow: Feministe and Jill is the reason I am officially renouncing feminism, and instead, being proud.

    For those who are tl;dr, Jill just got fucking served.

  302. Matthew Brown
    Matthew Brown May 4, 2011 at 7:17 am |

    And a lot of the reason for that has nothing to do with feminism or the particular people involved; such things happen all the time in online discussion of almost any topic there is.

  303. Angel H.
    Angel H. May 4, 2011 at 8:23 am |

    @ Kristen J:

    The prpoblem that I’m seeing – that is so fucking frustrating – is that we keep seeing the same shit over and over and over and over again. This isn’t the first time this conversation has happened: Someone (or some entity – an organization, a blog, etc.) gets accused of not being inclusive, White Woman’s Tears are shed, excuses are made, and then the question, “Well, what do you expect us to do about it?” The marginalized bodies say, “Listen, learn, actively educate yourselves, and sometimes, STFU.” But nobody does this. Everytime this shit happens, we say the same damn thing over and over and over again. It gets frustrating and tiresome which is why so many of us walk away. But here’s the thing that the privileged class has yet to figure out:

    You* need us more than we need you.

    Sure, it would be nice to get some recognition every once in a while. It would be nice if our existence was acknowledged. But when we get frustrated and our throats get sore from screaming at the walls, we take our power and use it for own purposes. We grow from our own power, not because someone decides to be gracious enough to give us a seat at the tiny place of the big table. No, fuck THAT.

    I had asked further up in the thread just who Feministe is for. The more this keeps happening, the more I come to conclusion that the answer is “not me.”

    *You is meant in the general sense.

  304. gretchen
    gretchen May 4, 2011 at 8:28 am |

    Just wanted to say thanks Jill, thanks for your hard work and for this post. I am a long term reader and like a previous commenter have only recently had the balls to start commenting.

    I think it is really important, though certainly not instinctual when our rage button has been pressed, when commenting to keep our derision of others in check particularly when it is personally framed.

    And lets put the whole ‘Jill it’s your fault you didn’t know about this book, and acts as proof of your privilege that you didn’t’ argument to rest.

    So, now that we are fully aware of the book let’s make up for the previous oversight and fill that gap.

  305. Avory
    Avory May 4, 2011 at 8:43 am |

    I think what’s making it difficult for me to process this post is that there are two separate themes going on:

    1) You absolutely deserve self-care and should not be expected to take the role of Wonder Woman in all things. A blog cannot be all things to all people. I can see how it’s difficult to start out with this blog that you thought would be a fun thing to do, and over time you become one of the Two Big Names in feminism to a lot of young feminists. That does put responsibility on you that you didn’t ask for, and leaves you with the difficult choices of either taking the blog down, leaving it as is and dealing with a huge amount of stress that comes from running such a vast community alone, or changing the shape of the blog by passing the torch or bringing on a large staff to manage things. I also know what it’s like to receive tons of promotion requests and have to weed out even books that you would love to read because they don’t fit in with your blog, or for whatever reason. And I recognize the difficulty of doing what I think is the best thing in situations like this, namely making your blog specific enough to clarify that you are not speaking for all feminists, when you are a young white feminist. Young White Feminist is probably not the best title for a blog.

    2) What really pisses me off about this post, on the other hand, is what you’re saying about “call out” culture. We all need to recognize that POC, PWD, queer people, trans people, working class feminists, etc. etc. are consistently and pervasively shut out of feminist culture. So no, you don’t have a responsibility to review every major book that focuses on the intersection of race and feminism, but that doesn’t mean that feminists shouldn’t call each other out, generally, or that recognizing privilege isn’t extremely important to any activist work we do. And feminists who choose to run large, popular online communities and continue to do so do need to provide a voice for those who have been traditionally marginalized, or accept criticism. I think much of it is in a name: people are going to expect that “Feministe” or “Feministing” cover a broad range of feminist issues. I’m not saying that Feministe doesn’t, but I am saying that it’s something to be aware of.

    This post to me reads like it’s coming from someone who is exhausted, broken-down, frustrated, and generally has a good heart and wants to do the right thing. But it also has a dangerous edge of something I’ve been seeing in feminist circles lately–a sort of backlash against thoughtful criticism and “political correctness.” I don’t know you and so I can’t know exactly where you’re coming from, but as a post that occurs in a particular community moment, it makes me nervous.

  306. Natalia
    Natalia May 4, 2011 at 9:10 am |

    I had asked further up in the thread just who Feministe is for. The more this keeps happening, the more I come to conclusion that the answer is “not me.”

    Angel, I can’t speak for the blog owners, though you did direct your original question at me. I can tell you that I really liked what littlelight said up above – and I think that anyone who believes in her overall philosophy is someone who should at least consider engaging here. What Thomas said here is also true – this blog can be a really mean space, to many different people, and it’s a real failure of the community here, though the community nevertheless has tremendous value – for the connections it allows people to make, for example.

  307. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 4, 2011 at 9:26 am |

    Angel H.: This isn’t the first time this conversation has happened: Someone (or some entity – an organization, a blog, etc.) gets accused of not being inclusive, White Woman’s Tears are shed, excuses are made, and then the question, “Well, what do you expect us to do about it?” The marginalized bodies say, “Listen, learn, actively educate yourselves, and sometimes, STFU.” But nobody does this.

    Wow. This really isn’t my perception. Thinking back to what the progressive blogosphere, and specifically the feminist blogosphere, looked and sounded like five years ago, I see a lot of change around this stuff, mostly for the better. I see far more centering of issues of race and class and gender expression and ability than used to be the case, far more thoughtfulness in how they’re addressed.

    Speaking for myself, I can say that my perspective on some really important questions has been shifted for the better by reading what folks — posters and commenters both — have said at sites like Feministe. And some of the most powerful changes have come out of fights like this one.

    (And to all the people who say that this isn’t activism, by the way, that this isn’t important, I say bullshit. I’m a college professor. And I’m a better professor, a better resource and aide to my students, because of these conversations.)

    Looking back further and more broadly to what youth progressive movements were like when I was in college two decades ago, compared to what they’re like now, I see a profound transformation. There’s far less ablism, homophobia, transphobia, racism, classism among the progressive youth I work with than there was among my peers, and again, I give spaces like this a big chunk of the credit.

    A big underlying premise of this whole conversation has been “we’re spinning our wheels, we’re not getting anywhere.” But I think that’s false, and I think it’s important to challenge. Because if we aren’t getting anywhere, if things aren’t improving, then there’s a good case to be made for just abandoning the whole project. But if things ARE moving forward — more slowly, more annoyingly, more exasperatingly, more hurtfully than we want, but moving — then it’s worth taking a deep breath and thinking about where that movement is coming from.

    Which leads me, I guess, to a question I’d love to hear as broad a range of voices as possible answer: “What’s working?” What IS getting better in spaces like this, and where’s that progress coming from?

  308. Natalia
    Natalia May 4, 2011 at 9:27 am |

    … Hmm, somehow the above cut off. What I meant to add was going by personal example: Feministe was how I got to know Renee Martin. Who went on to become an invaluable contributor to GlobalComment. And although I left GC a while back, I am very grateful for the fact that we made that connection, which, perhaps, would not have been possible had it not been for the people who run Feministe.

  309. Sheila
    Sheila May 4, 2011 at 9:54 am |

    Jill:
    I did not know that history; that’s interesting. Again, if I had to do this over, I would not have focused on the Shameless post, but that’s interesting to know.

    I would be happy to speak more to this, but would prefer it if people involved at the time (Jessica, Thea, Pike and myself) were the ones voicing our own experiences, sharing our own stories.

  310. AnnaP.
    AnnaP. May 4, 2011 at 9:56 am |

    Jill, I think you’re assuming the conversation at Shameless was directed at you or for you. I don’t read it that way. People who are frustrated with the way that online feminist conversations go in larger spaces are typically talking to each other, not to people in the spaces they’re critiquing. I suspect no one emailed you or commented here about it because they weren’t talking to you. They were talking about an issue, and using easily recognizable blog names to talk about that issue.

  311. Nobody
    Nobody May 4, 2011 at 10:15 am |

    But it also has a dangerous edge of something I’ve been seeing in feminist circles lately–a sort of backlash against thoughtful criticism and “political correctness.”

    I think part of the point of the original post is that “calling out” culture – particularly as it plays out here on this site – is precisely not furthering thoughtful criticism.

  312. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie May 4, 2011 at 10:35 am |

    Perhaps Feministe could be “called out” if this weren’t a blog that makes a HUGE effort to include other voices and to examine privilege. In my experience, Jill does a great job at including writers who have a different perspective and life experience.

    I can be a pretty hard-core feminist, and I can get wrapped around the axle about feminism. So sometimes I disagree with posts here, or with comments, and I’ll watch the “calling out” from now on. I’m glad for this post, because I have been part of the “call-out” culture. Which I will gleefully and gladly do at dudebro blogs, but from now on, here and at other feminist blogs, I will attempt to comment with more civility.

    Unless someone is a total sexist asshat. Then I’m still going for it.

    Thank you, Jill, for your work and for this blog.

  313. nathan
    nathan May 4, 2011 at 11:16 am |

    Maybe some of the blogs represented here, Feminste, Racialicious, Womanist Musings, Shameless and others could deliberately team up a bit more, sharing information, having guest posts from each other, etc.

    Part of the challenge I think for anyone blogging regularly, and trying to keep up with even a small percentage of issues to write about, is time and energy. I read the first three blogs in the list above on a regular basis and one thing I notice is how frequently they post. As a blogger, I know the time and energy that goes into this, and also know that I have to rely on fellow bloggers to learn, to develop internal checking of my views, and to be able to ultimately write effectively.

    But what I see as a piece of the larger structural issues discussed above is that there is a huge lack of blogging coalitions amongst progressive/leftist bloggers. And entirely too little deliberate promotion of well written, articulate posts by lesser known bloggers. This is one of the benefits, I think, of doing things like “Shameless Self Promotion” days. But perhaps those activities can be more deliberately incorporated into regular blogging, so that it’s not just about tearing apart the shitty stuff out there, but also promoting with intelligence the beneficial stuff.

    Which gets at a larger point I see. I think a lot of people around here, and on the other blogs mentioned are pretty damned good at deconstruction – taking apart all the tangles that come together to make various oppressions. But what about building up, uplifting, and making something new – like better communities, even if they only start online?

    This, for me anyway, is something I’m trying to focus more on.

  314. Liz
    Liz May 4, 2011 at 11:26 am |

    I don’t think anyone should be trashing you personally for not being on top of everything ever, and I’m sorry you often go through that. Can we really trust ourselves to tell when calling out is “good” and when it might not? What is personal to you surely is still systemic to another person. One could just say, Sorry, I missed that, and move through the bad bits of being personally critiqued and its fairness or unfairness. (As I assume you also often manage to do.) Meanwhile, your friends are there to cut you the slack that the rest of the world never will.

    But that isn’t really where I want to focus, since Diandra’s and Jessica’s posts and the bits of the book I can see have good critiques of white feminists and feminism and privilege and the book seems well worth reading — and important. Let’s give it a read and a bit of amplification! There are several free bits of the book online as PDFs. I really like its mix of essay, memoir, poetry, and interviews!

  315. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 4, 2011 at 11:37 am |

    @Angel H.

    Do you have limits on your activism? Physical limits? Geographical limits? Psychological limits?

    I do. I have X hours in the day and Y amount of emotional energy. I have marginalizations to fight and internalized kyriarchy to overcome. There is only so much I have to give, so much I can hear, so much I can contribute. So I focus and my advocacy for the rights of native Hawaiians is different than my advocacy on behalf of victims of domestic violence. And sure as shit those things (among others) crowd out work I could be doing on behalf of people indigenous to the Americas or relief efforts in Haiti.

    And I’ll also use You in the non-specific sense here to mean someone, not you personally.

    So…when you say you’re screaming and no one hears you…My reaction is what makes you so damn special? Why is it not okay to miss something you say but completely okay for you not to hear the million other voices screaming at you for acknowledgment? Are you more deserving of a voice and acknowledgment than the person being sentenced to death in a nuclear plant today because of a generations old caste system or the child being denied a place to live, meager though it may be, so that tourists can have their pretty beaches? Shall we finger point our failings or address them?

    And again with this route, we end up with our own little mountain of fail fiefdoms where we get to feel morally superior but no actual work gets done.

  316. jess
    jess May 4, 2011 at 11:42 am |

    I just want to co-sign Luna 5.4.2011 at 1:03 am. I’ve been wanting to comment on here since yesterday, and she totally crystallized what I was thinking and couldn’t put together.

  317. Angel H.
    Angel H. May 4, 2011 at 12:07 pm |

    So…when you say you’re screaming and no one hears you…My reaction is what makes you so damn special? Why is it not okay to miss something you say but completely okay for you not to hear the million other voices screaming at you for acknowledgment? Are you more deserving of a voice and acknowledgment than the person being sentenced to death in a nuclear plant today because of a generations old caste system or the child being denied a place to live, meager though it may be, so that tourists can have their pretty beaches? Shall we finger point our failings or address them?

    You’re assuming that it’s an all-or-nothing, either/or thing when it’s not. After all, marginalized persons have always been expected to put aside their own issues in favor of those put forward by the privileged class. (Also, when did I say that *my* issues were the only important ones?) I know that there are only so many hours in day, but is it really that hard to punch in a Google search once in a while? But, whatever…Take your time. Like I said, we’ve gotten tired of sitting quietly and waiting for someone to give us permission to speak, so we’re speaking up for ourselves now. Go ahead and keep doing what you’re doing. We’ll be over here picking up the pieces.

  318. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 4, 2011 at 12:15 pm |

    nathan: But perhaps those activities can be more deliberately incorporated into regular blogging, so that it’s not just about tearing apart the shitty stuff out there, but also promoting with intelligence the beneficial stuff.

    One thing I’ve only just started doing, which has turned out really well so far, is saying in the “contact” page of my blog that the quickest, surest way to get me to pass word along about something is to tweet it at me.

    I only put up an average of 1-3 posts a day, and there’s far more I’d like to blog than I ever get around to. But it’s a matter of just a few seconds for me to RT something. And when I do, folks don’t just get the traffic, they know they’ve gotten my attention — I often follow people after RTing a couple of things they’ve sent, and mutual goodwill definitely seems to be a happy side-effect of the process.

  319. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 4, 2011 at 12:32 pm |

    Angel H.: You’re assuming that it’s an all-or-nothing, either/or thing when it’s not. After all, marginalized persons have always been expected to put aside their own issues in favor of those put forward by the privileged class. (Also, when did I say that *my* issues were the only important ones?) I know that there are only so many hours in day, but is it really that hard to punch in a Google search once in a while? But, whatever…Take your time. Like I said, we’ve gotten tired of sitting quietly and waiting for someone to give us permission to speak, so we’re speaking up for ourselves now. Go ahead and keep doing what you’re doing. We’ll be over here picking up the pieces.

    Right…and who is picking up the pieces for marginalized people you miss? Don’t you see that we are all coming from a limited place? You want to be heard, they want to be heard, a million perspectives want to be heard AND SHOULD BE HEARD. This calling out shit doesn’t get that done. And saying…”nevermind I’ll just focus on my concerns”…okay…fine you don’t owe anyone anything…but don’t think that makes you different from what you railed against here. You’re putting your perspective first and fuck all else including people who may be in a far worse situation than you.

    We could find a different path, but to do it you have to accept that we all get shit wrong and will continue to get shit wrong ad infinitum…we’re not better than one another if we’re all trying.

  320. Kai
    Kai May 4, 2011 at 12:35 pm |

    I’ve guest-blogged here and I like Jill personally, heck we’ve knocked back tequila shots which pretty much automatically wins me over, but I view this post and thread largely as (probably unconscious) attempts to deny or obscure systemic racism and further marginalize the already-marginalized by establishing an arbitrary code of conduct determined by whiteness. “Call-out Culture” is not clearly defined, nor is the line between what constitutes the right and wrong modes of critique and communication. This entire thread is basically an extended call-out of Jessica Yee and Shameless for Doing Things Wrong (wrong approach to white spaces, wrong marketing, wrong publisher, wrong subtitle, wrong promotion strategy, wrong professionalism, etc), including white people saying “Go fuck yourself” to people of color, which apparently falls on the right side of the line. What’s the takeaway from all this? It probably varies greatly according to race, which is something folks might wanna think about.

  321. Florence
    Florence May 4, 2011 at 12:38 pm |

    Angel H.: Like I said, we’ve gotten tired of sitting quietly and waiting for someone to give us permission to speak, so we’re speaking up for ourselves now. Go ahead and keep doing what you’re doing. We’ll be over here picking up the pieces.

    What’s telling about this statement is the assumption that only your and yours fit into category “marginalized” and “tired” and “picking up pieces”.

  322. Florence
    Florence May 4, 2011 at 12:52 pm |

    Kai: This entire thread is basically an extended call-out of Jessica Yee and Shameless for Doing Things Wrong (wrong approach to white spaces, wrong marketing, wrong publisher, wrong subtitle, wrong promotion strategy, wrong professionalism, etc), including white people saying “Go fuck yourself” to people of color, which apparently falls on the right side of the line.

    I get what you’re saying about Yee’s book and I think people are addressing the circumstances around it because it was the example Jill chose to use (though she’s said she wishes she’d chosen something more illustrative) — and Yee herself says she chose to use an independent, non-Amazon-affiliated publisher which ends the speculation about how/why the book was promoted as it was. The “callout” in this case came from a person who lumped together a group of blogs that have a reputation for being Big-F Representative of Feminism Blogs — “Feministing. Bitch. Bust. The F Bomb. Feministe.” I don’t know about the F-Bomb, but the rest of these blogs have people staffed full time to do book reviews, follow Twitter, and generate content. This blog isn’t one of those? And that’s a misconception that Jill et al have every right to explode.

    In any case, I disagree about this thread being an active attempt to further marginalize the marginalized. If anything, I see “call out culture” being mostly about young white feminists calling out others in an effort to prove themselves Best #1 Feminist 4EVA. It’s incredibly prevalent on this blog, but is an issue across the SJ-sphere, and in the last 100 comments or so I see a group of people trying to figure out how to change the atmosphere from one of blood-letting to one of uplift and mutual support. That’s a good thing.

    Unfortunately to get to the good stuff you have to wade through 300+ comments. Meh.

  323. Esti
    Esti May 4, 2011 at 1:20 pm |

    @Angel H

    I think there are two conversations going on at this point. One (caused in large part, as I think Jill has recognized, by the example used in the original post) revolves around the idea that white feminists don’t want feminists of color to call them out, and don’t want to seek out or make space for marginalized voices. I understand the historical and current frustrations behind that feeling, and I do think the example used in Jill’s post was a pretty bad choice and has made discussion of a difficult subject even more difficult.

    But there is a second conversation happening about call out culture generally. Because it is not always oppressed vs. marginalized. This is people who don’t like the monarchy vs. people who wanted to talk about hats. This is people who felt happy when bin Laden was killed vs. people who thought enjoying death was reprehensible. I don’t know the race or gender or medical history or sexual orientation of most of the people having those fights, but I suspect it didn’t neatly break down into white women vs. everyone else.

    A lot of the fights we have about marginalized voices (perhaps most of them) are not about cohesive groups of “privileged” and “oppressed”. They are about individuals, each of whom come with a basket of privileges and oppressions that manifest in different ways in different discussions. I don’t know how you weigh “person of colour feels excluded by this post” against “person with a disability feels excluded by person of colour’s comments on this post” under the oppressed vs. privileged rubric, but I suspect that nothing good would come of trying to do so.

    So — bad example. Very understandable frustrations and reactions to both the example and the ensuing conversation. But there is a valid discussion to be had about the viciousness of commenting threads generally. A conversation that a number of persons of colour in *this thread* have said they appreciate hearing.

  324. Kai
    Kai May 4, 2011 at 1:21 pm |

    Florence: If anything, I see “call out culture” being mostly about young white feminists calling out others in an effort to prove themselves Best #1 Feminist 4EVA.

    Then why is the center of this discussion a book by an indigenous activist making an explicitly racialized critique of white feminism? If you don’t see that as a central part of what’s happening here, that’s exactly why I said that your takeaway from this thread probably varies greatly according to your race. People of color probably mostly aren’t going to see the subject and writer of the book in question here as a coincidental side-fact.

  325. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil May 4, 2011 at 1:28 pm |

    Kai, I’d suggest checking out Jill’s comments at 92, 151, 215, and 237 explaining her use of the Shameless example, responding to a staffer from Shameless, and citing a better example.

    (Not that one can reasonably expect that people will read the 350 comments to find that information, but it is there.)

  326. annajcook
    annajcook May 4, 2011 at 1:50 pm |

    Co-sign with Esti @ #345. While I’m white, I do have other aspects of my existence that mean I’m marginalized in many conversations within “the feminist blogosphere” or in other aspects of social justice activism. I have a mixture of privilege and marginalization in my life that combines and recombines based on specific contexts.

    To give one example: in a group/conversation that assumes heterosexuality or binary sexual identity (hetero- OR homo-) I’d be a marginal voice as a bisexual/fluid woman; in a group/conversation that assumes the participating folks are queer, I’d be a privileged voice in that space.

    I really do believe that calling-out-as-default-interaction is poisonous, as Jill says in comment #333:

    it is a pattern I see over and over again in the blogosphere. And it establishes this dynamic where Finding What’s Wrong is the goal of reading a blog post and commenting. That is pretty poisonous, and I’m not sure what the point of it is.

    And it’s not something that is “skinny white rich bitches” vs. “everyone else.” I’ve seen it happen across and among all sorts of intersecting identity categories and life circumstances. It’s a form of bullying that is all about power-over instead of power-with, about out-shouting those you percieve as a threat. The emotional reaction that is often at the root of calling-out behavior is, I’d like to stress ALWAYS LEGITIMATE in that you’re feeling it. You’re feeling marginalized and hurt and triggered, etc., which is always a legitimate first step. But possibly there are more effective ways of interacting with a post (or comment) one disagrees with than through personal attacks and shaming, etc.

  327. Kai
    Kai May 4, 2011 at 1:52 pm |

    Jill, I hear you. I think I get what you were going for, and I’m sure you’d pay for a do-over, but I also bet you can see why some folks probably aren’t gonna buy any retroactive explanations. People of color tend to hear a lot of “oh I didn’t mean it that way” from white folks after they say something iffy, know what I mean? Anyway, I guess we’re so deep into this thread at this point that these various trains of thoughts are hopelessly tangled, I mean who can hold 300 freaking comments in mind while attempting to unravel some nugget of truth to be gleaned from all this. *big sigh*

  328. Michelle Dean
    Michelle Dean May 4, 2011 at 1:55 pm |

    Jill, I think Kai’s point is that even the way someone reads this post has to do with the background they bring to your table, not that you clearly intended to attack Jessica’s book. I hate talking in the pseudo-academic language that has sprung up in blogfighting generally because I agree it’s wielded as a club way way way too often, but there’s really no other plain-English way to say this: intent isn’t everything here. And I do think you’ve made quite clear that it wasn’t your intent to criticize the premise that Yee’s book deserved coverage.

    The problem is that, taken on its own, the post nonetheless leaves one with the impression that Shameless’s criticism was the straw that broke the camel’s back. That’s why it got comments from people who wanted to analyze Jessica Yee’s PR knowhow and blather on about Amazon. I don’t find it all that mysterious how that happened, myself. Again, it has nothing to do with how you intended the post. It’s just that people read this kind of post, and this kind of argument, and they want to “defend” you, and one of the ways they see to do that is to try and debunk the criticism the Shameless blogger made.

    (Side note: I do feel a bit bewildered, moreover, by this whole “fill gaps/do for self” argument – which often seems to bear a suspicious resemblance to the right’s “bootstraps” nonsense – being anywhere near this book, even if it was just the jumping off point. Jessica Yee did basically exactly that: she went out, found a publisher, got some essays together, and put out the book she wanted to put out. I wish more of this thread had been spent applauding that.)

  329. debbie
    debbie May 4, 2011 at 2:25 pm |

    As others have noted, there seems to be more than one conversation happening here. I read this post as Jill discussing a fairly widespread trend, but in the context of some nasty comment threads regarding the royal wedding (that’s where Florence’s quote at the top of the post comes from). Florence was referring to commenters who were angry that Jill made two fluffy posts about the royal wedding, and did not address the more substantive issues around British class politics, the ridiculousness of using tax payer’s money to pay for the wedding amidst brutal cutbacks, and the monarchy as an institution. Jill’s response (and the response of other commenters) was there’s only so many hours in a day, it’s not reasonable to expect her to cover every issue in depth, and it should be ok to have silly posts on Feministe.

    Maybe this context offers people a different take on this post (and why Jill might have been really frustrated after dealing with all this to read a post that criticized her for not reviewing a book she didn’t know about)?

  330. Miss S
    Miss S May 4, 2011 at 2:37 pm |

    Cassandrasays, I agree with everything your post said, especially this.

    You know what happens when those women actually access feminist blogs as of right now? They get mocked for not knowing the lingo. They get dismissed for not being hip to whatever the current thing that everyone is focusing on is. We drive them away, basically. And that’s not just because on average feminist blogging really is a phenomenon mostly centered around well educated well off white urban people. It’s because we’re being assholes.

    I think about how I talk about feminist issues with my sisters, and what would happen if they stumbled upon this site. It makes me sad. They aren’t academics; they don’t know that certain words would be offensive; they haven’t read the latest feminist journal. But if my bisexual black sister were to vent on something being ‘stupid’ she would be ran off the site for being a privileged bi*** who doesn’t recognize her own privilege, blah blah blah. But how is she supposed to know about ableist language? She doesn’t read feminist blogs for fun, and that should be okay. She doesn’t know who Judith Butler is, and that should be okay. She isn’t working on her PhD and she isn’t a professional writer. That should be okay. She’s a woman who experiences an intersection of oppression, and she shouldn’t need any other qualifications to want to participate in a feminist discussion.

    Sometimes, people just don’t know, and acting in good faith means recognizing this.

  331. Angel H.
    Angel H. May 4, 2011 at 2:45 pm |

    This calling out shit doesn’t get that done.

    But if that didn’t happen then we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

    We could find a different path, but to do it you have to accept that we all get shit wrong and will continue to get shit wrong ad infinitum

    Of course things’ll get messed up along the way. That doesn’t mean we have to sit back quietly and like it. I thought that was what social justice was about anyway. Was I wrong?

    And Florence:

    What’s telling about this statement is the assumption that only your and yours fit into category “marginalized” and “tired” and “picking up pieces”.

    What’s more telling is how you could even make that assumption when I specificly said – I’ll boldface it so you won’t miss it this time – “Also, when did I say that *my* issues were the only important ones?”

  332. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 4, 2011 at 3:06 pm |

    @Angel,

    No we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Instead we might be having a conversation about Yee’s actual work or the one million other voices we should be listening to. Which strikes me as really more important than who fucked up most visibly today.

    And no you don’t have to LIKE it, but you understand your role in it and if you’re feeling advocatie do something to make it better.

  333. Miss S
    Miss S May 4, 2011 at 3:18 pm |

    To me, activism is more than just online discussions. On another site that focuses on the empowerment of hetero black women, the blog owner recently put out a request for people to do something, instead of talking about it.

    It was amazing the amount of work and energy that women –most of whom never met each other- put into doing something about a particular problem, me included. It reminded me why I seek out places like that (and this)- because I want to do something. It also reminded me that people working together in good faith make pretty amazing changes.

    This is why I started seeking out spaces that centered on the issues I identify with. There’s a lot less in-fighting and drama because most of the readers are facing the same issues. Sometimes I want to read and discuss specifically the issues facing me and others like me, and that’s fine. It’s impossible for a site like this one to be inclusive of all women all the time.

  334. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 4, 2011 at 3:23 pm |

    Ack…presumably there should have been a verb in that last sentence. Maybe a “should.” I suck at posting from my phone.

  335. Florence
    Florence May 4, 2011 at 4:21 pm |

    Angel H.: What’s more telling is how you could even make that assumption when I specificly said – I’ll boldface it so you won’t miss it this time – “Also, when did I say that *my* issues were the only important ones?”

    You don’t have to boldface anything for me. My question is who the “us” and the “them” is in your Us vs. Them. You keep talking about how “you” have to “ask permission” to be seated at this table or how “we” trot off into the sunset of privilege while you “pick up the pieces.” Several people have tried to engage you on this, that privilege is a little more complicated than that and that it’s pretty likely that in a space like this most of us live on the margins. I do understand that you’re discussing race in particular, and I don’t want to minimize or deny the existing structures that marginalize people of color. But I’m asking you to step back and see that you’re talking to other individual women whose experiences at large can not be boiled down to “rich white ladies” and who are trying to engage you and interrogate where you’re coming from in good faith, and that you’re coming back at us with dehumanizing language. This thread, this whole topic, is how we can better understand and support one another instead of tearing one another down, and the answer to that question probably has very little to do with drawing more lines in the sand. I know no more about you than you know about me, but here we are talking to one another on the internet, which is pretty amazing, and there has to be more possibility in that connection than emphasizing divisiveness.

  336. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery May 4, 2011 at 4:49 pm |

    Jill just got fucking served.

    I’m pretty sure that if you have to tell someone they got served, they didn’t get served.

  337. Brett K
    Brett K May 4, 2011 at 5:00 pm |

    Jill:
    That’s not exactly what happened with the Shameless post, but it is a pattern I see over and over again in the blogosphere. And it establishes this dynamic where Finding What’s Wrong is the goal of reading a blog post and commenting. That is pretty poisonous, and I’m not sure what the point of it is.

    I’m not the first person to respond to this, but I wanted to chime in anyway. These two phenomena that we seem to be seeing, with a) everybody “calling out” Privileged People for not being adequately self-flaggelating and/or omniscient and b) bloggers with more marginalized identities being constantly chased out of feminist spaces (with Chally as the most recent example) by the vicious commentariat? This is the SAME PHENOMENON. This is everybody wanting to be the Best Activist, patting themselves on the back for pointing out what someone else has done wrong. It is, as Jill said, this tendency to approach everything in bad faith, to read posts and comments with the goal of Finding What’s Wrong rather than engaging in a productive discussion. People approaching feminist blogging with that mindset attack with whatever ammunition they are given. Sometimes that’s the blogger’s relative privilege, sometimes it’s their relative lack of privilege. Either way, though, its poisonous and destructive and it burns out almost everyone.

    The thing is, though, it affects the most marginalized among us the worst, because those people often don’t have the energy or the resources to just brush it off the way a more privileged person might. If someone like Jill can barely deal with being on the receiving end of call-out culture, I can’t imagine how it must feel for someone without her relative privilege.

    The worst part is, so many people who engage in this feel like they’re counteracting this exact phenomenon. Sorry: you’re not. You’re making it worse.

    (I miss Chally.)

  338. Stephanie
    Stephanie May 4, 2011 at 6:01 pm |

    It strikes me as incredibly reductive and harmful to attempt to categorize anger as either righteous or not-righteous based on whether it’s being expressed by a member of a marginalized group. Shouldn’t the righteousness of our anger be judged according to our goal in expressing that anger? That anger is often understandable does not imply that it is always constructive. I doubt I’m the only person who’s had to struggle with this IRL– there are people in my life I care deeply about and who have varying levels of privilege over me, and I’ve learned from experience that I need to think carefully about how best to address that, because even justified anger can harm relationships when wielded injudiciously.

    Or, you know, maybe I’m Doing it Rong and I should actually be repeating the stuff I hear people say to each other online, like “wow, nice job centering yourself there, I guess this is really all about you and your privileged widdle fee-fees”?

    It’s almost as though that’s a really fucking unhealthy way to interact with other living breathing human beings, or something.

  339. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 4, 2011 at 6:41 pm |

    Following up on Miss S’s point – part of the issue here, a big part, is the idea that seems to be floating around that one blog can and should be all things to all people. Occasionally commenters have been explicit about the fact that they do essentially expect Feminist and other big name blogs to attempt this. And honestly, it’s just not a reasonable expectation. Not even for the big blogs with multiple people posting daily, and certainly not for blogs that are mostly run by one (amateur) person.

    Let’s take something that Kirsten J keeps bringing up, the role of the burakamin in cleaning up the nuclear mess in Japan. Is that an issue that deserves media coverage? Absolutely. Is it frustrating to see that not happening? Yes. But would I expect to see that issue covered on Feministe? Well, no. It would be cool if it was, and I’d read and comment, but I don’t expect it, because it’s kind of outside the core scope of this blog, which is focused on feminism (and most of the people cleaning up the spill will be men). I haven’t checked out Racialicious in a while, so I’m not sure if they’ve covered it, and if they did, again, that would be good, and I’d be happy to read that. And I’d be a little more sad not to see it covered because their core focus is explicitely on race. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t cover it, because they’re North America based, and (here’s the important bit) they may just not know about it, precisely because most bloggers there do seem to be based in the Western hemisphere. What I would absolutely not do is write my own blog post calling them jerks for not talking about the burakamin, because I am going on the assumption that if they don’t it is not a deliberate slight or an active choice to ignore that particular marginalised group. I am working with the assumption that the bloggers there are good people who are trying their best to cover issues that come under their radar. I’m not going to be mad at them if, for whatever reason, they miss something.

    That’s basically what I think a lot of people who’re going “call out culture is not a good and helpful thing” are trying to get at, the idea that hey, maybe we shouldn’t start from the assumption that if a blogger misses something we consider important it’s because of active malice, or passive prejudice. I’m not at all sure why that’s an unreasonable thing to wish for.

    (Now the fact that a story in the Guardian wrote about a guy who was going to be part of the nuclear clean-up team without mentioning that he might be burakamin, or even that the burakamin people exist? That, I will criticise, because that person is a journalist who gets paid to report, and part of that is digging into the background of stories that you cover and providing a context in order to help readers understand what’s happening. And “hey, this historically marginalised group exists, and many of them will probably end up with radiation sickness as a result of cleaning up this mess” is an important part of that context.)

  340. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 4, 2011 at 6:44 pm |

    Addendum : I would also not jump into the comments on an unrelated blog post on a race-focused site to tell them off for not writing about the burakamin. Because that is totally unhelpful, and kind of obnoxious.

  341. Athenia
    Athenia May 4, 2011 at 6:44 pm |

    Kai:
    I’ve guest-blogged here and I like Jill personally, heck we’ve knocked back tequila shots which pretty much automatically wins me over, but I view this post and thread largely as (probably unconscious) attempts to deny or obscure systemic racism and further marginalize the already-marginalized by establishing an arbitrary code of conduct determined by whiteness. “Call-out Culture” is not clearly defined, nor is the line between what constitutes the right and wrong modes of critique and communication. This entire thread is basically an extended call-out of Jessica Yee and Shameless for Doing Things Wrong (wrong approach to white spaces, wrong marketing, wrong publisher, wrong subtitle, wrong promotion strategy, wrong professionalism, etc), including white people saying “Go fuck yourself” to people of color, which apparently falls on the right side of the line. What’s the takeaway from all this? It probably varies greatly according to race, which is something folks might wanna think about.

    You know, I was thinking about that, but are things like emailing a blogger personally really a huge cultural difference? Is that what we are talking about when we talk about privilege?

  342. annajcook
    annajcook May 4, 2011 at 6:54 pm |

    I came back to this thread to share a personal anecdote about comment moderation and language-policing that occurred to me on the commute home … but first I want to highlight this:

    Brett K: I’m not the first person to respond to this, but I wanted to chime in anyway. These two phenomena that we seem to be seeing, with a) everybody “calling out” Privileged People for not being adequately self-flaggelating and/or omniscient and b) bloggers with more marginalized identities being constantly chased out of feminist spaces (with Chally as the most recent example) by the vicious commentariat? This is the SAME PHENOMENON. This is everybody wanting to be the Best Activist, patting themselves on the back for pointing out what someone else has done wrong. It is, as Jill said, this tendency to approach everything in bad faith, to read posts and comments with the goal of Finding What’s Wrong rather than engaging in a productive discussion. People approaching feminist blogging with that mindset attack with whatever ammunition they are given. Sometimes that’s the blogger’s relative privilege, sometimes it’s their relative lack of privilege. Either way, though, its poisonous and destructive and it burns out almost everyone.

    THIS. Bullying (when it’s one person, or a group of persons, bullying one other person, or a group of persons, in the intimate space of a comment thread) is bullying is bullying and I personally believe that while it may be understandable behavior given the injustice in our culture and peoples’ need to protect themselves and/or be on the defensive, it is never okay or productive behavior (beyond self-preservation in the moment which, yes, has an important role to play … but doesn’t do much to alter the overall dynamic).

    On my way home from work I was thinking about this example:

    Miss S: If my bisexual black sister were to vent on something being ‘stupid’ she would be ran off the site for being a privileged bi*** who doesn’t recognize her own privilege, blah blah blah. But how is she supposed to know about ableist language? She doesn’t read feminist blogs for fun, and that should be okay. She doesn’t know who Judith Butler is, and that should be okay.

    I really think THIS is the dynamic that’s become a problem (and I’ve only experienced the fringes of it as a teeny-tiny personal blogger and more recently as a group blogger at a very low-traffic site. But here’s one example of how this dynamic poisons the exchange of ideas:

    I started blogging at the group blog in January, and shortly thereafter I wrote a post about gender-exclusive dating (basically, what does it mean when people identify as straight if we question the gender binary?) … which meant bringing up trans* issues. Something I almost didn’t do because as a cis- person in new territory I wasn’t sure about my ability to navigate that issue. But I didn’t want to leave it out either, since trans* folks often bear the brunt of peoples’ adherence to rigid ideas about gender and sexual orientation.

    And then, in comments, I had to figure out when to step in and (gently) correct peoples’ use of terms that I thought might make trans* readers feel dehumanized. I had to figure out how to discuss language with folks without making them feel like they’d fucked up and were being asked to leave. Which I wasn’t: I was trying to gently point out which terms might feel hurtful to trans* folks. But because of this background of cannibalism in the comment threads of feminist blogs, the minute I was like, “hey guys, know you didn’t mean it this way, but could we use X and Y instead of Z?” the person whose comment I was reacting to (even though I made it a general reminder to the whole thread) felt compelled to apologize, etc., and clearly felt a little shamed and ignorant for not knowing the “correct” language.

    In a culture where “hey could you use a different word; how about X?” was just that — rather than a “you horrible transphobic person you!” — actually discussing issues of incredible importance AND incredible emotive power might happen more, and more fruitfully.

    I don’t have any more cogent suggestions for how to make this different, except that my girlfriend and I generally hold to the philosophy that NO ONE gets to be a asshole and still expect to have other people be interested in playing with them, paying attention to their words, etc.

  343. Kristen J.'s Husband
    Kristen J.'s Husband May 4, 2011 at 7:20 pm |

    Kristen will not be posting for a day or two. Her bronchitis has taken a turn for the worst and they are admitting her. I’m taking the opportunity to hide her phone and refusing to bring her laptop so that she’ll be forced to rest. But she’s concerned that people here will take her sudden silence as ignoring valid points that they bring up, particularly in such a fraught conversation. I figure this discussion has wound itself down anyway, but for her peace of mind I’m letting you know she’s unavailable.

  344. renska
    renska May 4, 2011 at 8:28 pm |

    Kai:
    I view this post and thread largely as (probably unconscious) attempts to deny or obscure systemic racism and further marginalize the already-marginalized by establishing an arbitrary code of conduct determined by whiteness. “Call-out Culture” is not clearly defined, nor is the line between what constitutes the right and wrong modes of critique and communication. This entire thread is basically an extended call-out of Jessica Yee and Shameless for Doing Things Wrong (wrong approach to white spaces, wrong marketing, wrong publisher, wrong subtitle, wrong promotion strategy, wrong professionalism, etc)

    As one of the people who’s commented on “how publishing works” I have been very careful not to put any of the blame on Jessica Yee. If this is her first book, she may be unaware of what it takes to get publicity and assume her publisher DOES know.

    Also, it is rarely a matter of an author choosing the “wrong” publisher. The publisher most likely chooses you. Or not. Unless you’ve used a vanity publisher and then, well… caveat emptor.

    And there’s no way of knowing whether this particular publisher sucks at promotion, or whether it’s just the individual publicist that sucks. And, even if Yee had chosen a different publisher, there’s no guarantee that the current situation would be any different. Whether we’re talking a publishing house owned by Viacom or a small independent, the fact is — new (newish) author does not translate to promotional dollars (and dollars = salary for the publicist to make an effort, not just the effort in and of itself).

    However… if you want to call publishing “white” — well, yes. At least in terms of the large corporate publishers it’s likely still largely the domain of white folks, editorially speaking. Historically it’s a low-paying profession at the outset (it used to be a milestone if your salary equaled your age…). Back in the “olden days” this was a job kids took whose parents subsidized their lives. The only worse paying professional track job out there for a recent college grad is probably television. When I started out, in ’90, base salary was $17,000. I think by the mid 90s it was up to $23. Suffice it to say, it’s not a job that people with huge college loans are usually terribly interested in taking on. (There tended to be (slightly) more diversity in departments such as graphic design/production and to an extent in marketing/publicity. No clue about the sales force — rarely saw them. Editorial was pretty damn white and, while there was an awareness of this… yeah.)

    Now that publishing doesn’t necessarily require bricks-and-mortar AND the internet exists as a marketing platform, things may change (be changing). Again, my knowledge is now coming up on 15 years out of date.

  345. piny
    piny May 4, 2011 at 9:11 pm |

    These two phenomena that we seem to be seeing, with a) everybody “calling out” Privileged People for not being adequately self-flaggelating and/or omniscient and b) bloggers with more marginalized identities being constantly chased out of feminist spaces (with Chally as the most recent example) by the vicious commentariat? This is the SAME PHENOMENON.

    No, they’re not. The language is the same, lately, but these two problems are not part of the same community failure. And there is a fundamental difference between, “Shut the fuck up about being treated like breeding vermin, angry woman of color,” and, “Stop babbling about Park Slope, silly white lady.” It is exhausting to feel like public feminist property, I know, but it is much worse to be told by a bunch of racists that their racism is not a real problem. You want to talk about how “call-out culture” has made us all sour anal-retentive shame monsters, sure, I can see it, but the thing is: marginalized people could not win for losing before we all decided that This Would Not Stand. There is abuse of activist terms of engagement that, in its self-absorption and cruelty, happens to parallel the SOP of bigots. But then again there is bigotry. The feminist blogosphere didn’t used to be cool.

    I didn’t leave Feministe because of the vicious commentariat; I didn’t leave Feministe because of “call-out culture,” although I did have some unpleasant experiences with it. I left because there wasn’t enough of a premium in staying. There are some great commenters here, and I have missed conversing with them. (And thank you, people who said nice things about me upthread.) But much of the time, the response I got was just not what I needed. (As it happened, I was going through a bad time.) I found myself hashing all my thoughts out on gchat with close friends whose experiences were more similar to mine. I didn’t need to explain as much, and I didn’t feel obligated to perform as much.

    The Former Bloggers aren’t leaving because they’re getting attacked in comments threads. That’s only part of the dynamic. When you say, “chased out,” you’re correct: all these people have been brought on board as auxiliaries, fresh voices, outsiders. Explainers. This is what wears you down. The best possible outcome is getting someone to understand something new. Laudable, but draining.

  346. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 4, 2011 at 9:23 pm |

    Kristen J.’s Husband: Kristen will not be posting for a day or two. Her bronchitis has taken a turn for the worst and they are admitting her.

    Dude! My thoughts are with her.

  347. piny
    piny May 4, 2011 at 9:25 pm |

    Yeah, same here. I hope she comes home soon.

  348. Toni
    Toni May 4, 2011 at 9:25 pm |

    Best wishes to Kristen J.! Hope she feels well soon.

  349. Lauren
    Lauren May 4, 2011 at 10:40 pm |

    Sending Kristen J. a golden blog award WITH MY MIND for thinking of us from her hospital bed. Srsly.

    I’ve been watching this conversation in horror and debating on jumping in or not, but I feel like at this point with the old team showing up to talk about our experiences 400 comments in, why not. For the record, I don’t blog anymore for a variety of reasons: I don’t feel compelled, don’t have the time, don’t have the brainpower, and don’t have anything to say, at least not as urgently as I used to. I also got really sick of pouring myself into a machine that wouldn’t accept people as people and branded people working their way through the learning curve as failures, and that anointed bloggers (big fish, small ponds) as ideological gods.

    So, since this blog started a bazillion years ago, there are quite a few people participating who don’t know an internet without blogging, and for whom blogging is, thanks to our ridiculous mainstream media’s adoption of the medium, a commercialized and commodified thing. Since this blog has been around forever, it’s seen a lot of iterations and reiterations that are notable, from its evolution as my own personal blog to a large, well-trafficked group entity. The blog entity, however, has always operated with the intent to bring all kinds of interesting and challenging people into the fold through guest blogging gigs, single user-submitted guest posts, and by rotating a healthy group of good writers as un- or barely- or rarely-paid “staff.” It’s also attempted to be link-heavy by pointing to other blogs as often as possible and offering opportunities for other bloggers to promote their own stuff. This is as far as I can see still true, and as far as I know it’s an ideal respected by all of the writers that have been a part of managing Feministe through today. This was always meant to be a good faith effort to share the traffic and peddle it away to people interested in being promoted. As far as I know, this is not a mission statement at any of the other big feminist blogs.

    It has also been a thing at Feministe to offer a few different kinds of posts: a) fluff, b) current affairs through a feminist lens, c) long-form personal pieces that deal with one’s identity politics, more or less. There are a lot of ways to build credibility on the internet, but the long-form personal pieces were always the ones that seemed to carry the most weight. I was always very fond of these pieces, as they were a way for me to work through my thoughts by identifying with an individual, even if I didn’t share those same experiences. And usually this was a time when people really supported one another, shared their own experiences, asked questions, and traded resources. The last time I brought this up, someone suggested that maybe I’m remembering this too pastorally, and maybe I am, but there was at least room for this kind of risk as a public blogger/writer. I’m not sure there is anymore.

    If I started a blog today, you couldn’t pay me to put my real name on it. Think about what it means to have your full name attached to your hobby blog — do you get piles of cash? avalanches of hot sex? buckets of kittens? I got a nice trip to BlogHer once and made a lot of friends and contacts online, but other than that, I got years of grief from family, friends, and strangers; a custody lawsuit; rejected in job interviews in unrelated fields; attached with an identity/reputation I couldn’t and can’t shake; phone calls at my home; threats against my life and my child’s life. For what? Blogging. Blogging!

    Which is why I keep coming back to this, which I think is pretty substantial food for thought:

    Jill: And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the one person who has been able to stick it out at Feministe for all of this time is the one person who is young, single, white, financially secure, cisgender, straight, American, etc etc. This isn’t a fun space for me, but it’s not as horribly fundamentally destructive for me as it has been for a lot of our other writers.

    I started this blog. I was a white single mom, eighteen years old, coming off of homelessness, still on Medicaid, food stamps and WIC. Able-bodied but with enough emotional disabilities to keep a therapist busy for the better part of a decade. Still broke, neck deep in debt, working class, college-educated but in nothing related to feminism. Privileged in some ways, but weighed down by a lot of social baggage in others. Blogging lightened my load for awhile — that was the reason I began after all — but in the end, it became one of the heaviest, longest-lasting loads I’ve had to carry.

  350. Sweet Machine
    Sweet Machine May 4, 2011 at 10:54 pm |

    Best wishes to Kristen J.

  351. The Compleat And Actual Adventures of Marcella White Campbell ›

    [...] are still feeling marginalized and ignored, and other, more “mainstream” feminists are still feeling put-upon, still coming up with responses that scream Why do they get upset when it even looks like [...]

  352. Tony
    Tony May 4, 2011 at 11:22 pm |

    Kristen J’s worry from her hospital bed is a bit illustrative of what we’re talking about here, isn’t it? I mean, she only comments but as a respected/well liked member of the community she definitely has an online identity she’s invested in, that creates an ‘obligation’ for her to ‘maintain’ even in bad health; not an obligation, I think, sought by her or explicitly constructed by any of us. But one that just happens as a side effect, in this case, of potential misunderstanding, and more basically because when you give your time to something, you care about what happens to it, and you care about the people involved and the connections made. Only online, whether those things are uplifting or harmful not under your control. And I feel that all regular commenters are subject to the same forces some extent, (including myself). Almost every comment I leave online leaves a little, tiny, eensy weensy bit of anxiety about how it’ll be received until the next time I can log on. So how much more so must it be to have a prominent blog and have your name attached to it? I can’t imagine.

  353. lauredhel
    lauredhel May 4, 2011 at 11:43 pm |

    Liz wrote:

    “I don’t think anyone should be trashing you personally for not being on top of everything ever”

    Wow, reading that link really hits me in the face with how hard it is these days for me to read older white abled feminism that doesn’t thoroughly incorporate intersectionality.

    I also think it’s fairly unapropos to the current conversation. People wrangling with this conversation are hardly “Trembling Sisters” who are setting out to be “helpless” and to “fail”, and to attribute to them the diagnosis of being “emotional weaklings” who are “addicted” to this behaviour, in a conversation that is supposed to include a disability analysis …

  354. We need to talk « blue milk
    We need to talk « blue milk May 5, 2011 at 12:14 am |

    [...] might want to read this.. not only because the whole damn Internet is talking about it, but because it is a really, really [...]

  355. MamaJess
    MamaJess May 5, 2011 at 12:50 am |

    Amen to that. A preference toward mudslinging over filling the gaps however, is not a phenomenon exclusive to feminist blogging. Too many *real life* feminist campaigns and feminist organisations have imploded or fallen victim to the same kind of shenanigans. Why do we keep doing this to ourselves?

  356. MJ
    MJ May 5, 2011 at 1:17 am |

    As someone who has read this entire thread over the past several days (yikes!), I’ve got two things:

    A. I wish people wouldn’t say “I haven’t read all the comments, but…” and go on to add a comment that brings up and rehashes points that have already been brought up and rehashed and addressed and moved on from five times already. Stoppit.

    B. Out of this entire monster, the thing that got buried, and resonates with me most, and bears repeating, is Opheelia’s comment, at 310:

    I don’t come to this blog see what all the other feminists are writing about. I come here to read a feminist take on the major news stories.

    It seems to me like some are advocating that Feministe should be this omnibus blog that covers every facet of feminism ever and that it would somehow get people who aren’t aware of XYZ issues to be aware of XYZ issues and it’ll solve everything! But even if Feministe could become such a blog: people won’t read all of it. Just as Feministe bloggers have finite hours in a day to write/coordinate posts, readers have finite hours in a day to, well, read them. Currently, there are some posts I find that aren’t interesting to me. Currently, there are some posts that I find tl;dr. Jill does a good job of bringing in different voices, especially as part of the guest blogging in the summer, but I’d be lying if I said I listened to every one of them.

    I come to this blog for certain things. I go to other blogs for other things. One blog can’t be everything to all people (though goodness knows this one tries a lot harder than others). The toxic kind of calling out is certainly not going to make it everything to all people. In fact, just the opposite; I dread the day when Jill finally has enough of this and calls it quits.

    For all the “ur doing it wrong!” that goes on, I don’t think people realize what a damn good corner of the internet this is. And I for one don’t want to see it emptied by people for whom it’ll never be enough.

  357. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 5, 2011 at 1:36 am |

    Kristen will not be posting for a day or two. Her bronchitis has taken a turn for the worst and they are admitting her.

    Yikes. Very best wishes: hope she’s feeling better soon!

    But she’s concerned that people here will take her sudden silence as ignoring valid points that they bring up, particularly in such a fraught conversation.

    Not that this has any relation to what people do and don’t have spoons for, but regardless of spoons, I always figure people should have the right just to walk away from any conversation online without giving any reason but “done now”.

  358. Kaija
    Kaija May 5, 2011 at 4:50 am |

    Long time reader, occasional commenter here…I’ve read or skimmed most of this post and the comments, which was brought to my attention by a fellow feminist friend as I have been taking a timeout from the internets due to the EXACT phenomenon being addressed here…and quite honestly, it’s not just Feministe or feminists in general. It seems like every online site/community that I am a regular of has fallen into a similar dynamic. And it’s not just the internet. “Brainstorming” sessions at my job and meeting where we’re supposed to be refining and discussing a draft proposal at the top level 99% of the time descend into nitpicking of details and people being attacked for word choice or not considering fact X (out of 1000s). It’s something about the culture at large. Same with politics…we can’t put forth an idea about fixing something or helping someone out without it being viciously and personally attacked for not being perfect in every way or catering in full to everyone’s needs, wants, or agenda…so the conversations and problem-solving attempts grind to a halt, people burn out and have to recover, and I wonder what happens next.

  359. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 5, 2011 at 5:38 am |

    I’ve waded through the comments and (for once) kept my mouth shut for a few days. But I do want to make a few points:

    Some of this “call out” culture that you’re talking about smacks more of point scoring, Jill. I know you wish you didn’t mention the Shameless/Jessica Yee example, and I’m with ya there. Because to be honest, that opened the door to a lot of lectures from people here about How She Should Have Done It, etc. and for people engage in the very behavior that sets my teeth on edge.

    I’ve seen this twisted in this thread in and in other spaces, so here goes: Some people here are allergic to this concern over “call-out culture” because it’s often been used as a way to shame or silence people who had the gall to point out to someone with privilege that they weren’t being fair, that they were overlooking things, and that they were by their actions and their rhetoric making things harder for people in the thread. We’ve been exhorted by to be nice to d00ds who piss all over comments threads, to be nice to able-bodied middle-class people who trashed some folks here for not shopping at thrift stores (with sneers about PC mores), to be nice to childfree people who declared that certain WOC guest bloggers and commenters were being horrible people because they were angry at the pile-on they encountered, to be nice to people who were being really fucking fat-phobic, lest we alienate potential allies, but there’s no concern on their part that they’re alienating potential allies. They talk about building communities but silence, shame and shut down those people who point out that they themselves are acting in some really divisive and silencing ways. Isn’t that interesting?

    I’ve dealt with this double-standard since waaaay before I started my blog in 2004, I have zero patience left for it. (And no, I didn’t shut down my blog due to call out culture–my reasons had nothing to do with that and I don’t want to derail the thread.)

    I’ve had people point out to me that I was using an inappropriate term or that a comment was hurtful to a community. I didn’t die. I didn’t feel like I was this ignorant, unworthy creature. I didn’t feel like I had no right to speak on anything lest someone be offended by something I said.

    Yes, there are people who try to score points (often they perpetuate the very thing they accuse others of in doing this, ironically enough). Those people? Aren’t worth anyone’s time.

    What I find far more destructive in blog threads all over the internet are trolls running amock, assholes derailing a conversation, and privileged people making it about their feelings while stomping all over people who don’t have the privilege they do. It takes a lot of energy to deal with that shit.

  360. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 5, 2011 at 5:39 am |

    Also, Kristen J–you have my best wishes for a very speedy recovery!

  361. Jeff Kaufman
    Jeff Kaufman May 5, 2011 at 6:39 am |

    Jill,

    I really appreciate your writing and analysis. Thanks for all the work you do here!

    Jeff

  362. La Lubu
    La Lubu May 5, 2011 at 7:55 am |

    The blog entity, however, has always operated with the intent to bring all kinds of interesting and challenging people into the fold through guest blogging gigs, single user-submitted guest posts, and by rotating a healthy group of good writers as un- or barely- or rarely-paid “staff.” It’s also attempted to be link-heavy by pointing to other blogs as often as possible and offering opportunities for other bloggers to promote their own stuff. This is as far as I can see still true, and as far as I know it’s an ideal respected by all of the writers that have been a part of managing Feministe through today. This was always meant to be a good faith effort to share the traffic and peddle it away to people interested in being promoted. As far as I know, this is not a mission statement at any of the other big feminist blogs.

    Thank you, Lauren. That, right there, is what set this blog apart from others on the (predominantly white, predominantly middle-class) feminist and/or progressive blogosphere. It’s also a part of what makes this blog a lightning rod for anger—because people expect a greater consciousness, a greater expression of solidarity. The blogs that are unapologetic about their exclusivity, or that relate to their commentariat in a traditional media sense (we’re the experts, you’re the readers—sittdown, shaddup) don’t get this—few want to waste their time with people whose minds are unlikely to be changed.

    Something bfp said way up above really resonated with me, as does much of her writing: I wonder if that has anything to do with the individualistic non-existing structure of blogging–and I wonder if the lack of visibility, conversation, or workable suggestions to those real world issues by people NOT struggling with those issues (or at least not struggling with them to the same extent that Jessica Yee and others like her are) has anything to do with solutions to the problems of that non-existing structure.

    That spoke to me. The informal, “non-structure”, structure-behind-the-structure. Because it’s what I deal with every day as a tradeswoman. The “glass ceiling”, for lack of a better term (I hate to use that corporate analogy for my workaday world, ‘cuz it’s a poor fit, but it’s easier than writing three paragraphs describing what my world looks like).

    I think bfp hit on something about the solution. How it takes a variety of perspectives. How it takes making that invisible non-structure visible, visible in a way that bridges can be built that will serve those of us who can’t use the current structure.

    I don’t like the term “call-out culture”. It conflates any criticism of perspective or the lack thereof with pile-on behavior—which is not only unfair, but perpetuates the “problem? what problem?” pre-existing reality.

    If I may make a suggestion: previously, there have been guest bloggers invited for a week, with the understanding that they would put up a post a day. That’s “filling the gaps” but…I’ve turned down guest blogging offers because I just can’t handle that right now (single mother, two jobs, my own mother is dying of cancer, and we had to put one of our cats down last night for kidney failure). Perhaps if there were more guest blogging stints that didn’t require such an onerous committment, there would be a greater variety of perspective, which would change the nature of responses.

    I also think there needs to be a heavier hand in moderating, but as this is not a professional blog despite its large readership, I don’t really know how that could be done.

  363. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 5, 2011 at 8:08 am |

    (single mother, two jobs, my own mother is dying of cancer, and we had to put one of our cats down last night for kidney failure)

    I am so sorry. What a big box of suckiness for you to deal with, LaLubu.

  364. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil May 5, 2011 at 10:20 am |

    I also think there needs to be a heavier hand in moderating, but as this is not a professional blog despite its large readership, I don’t really know how that could be done.

    I’ve long thought Feministe could benefit from some community moderators and also a heavier hand on the delete key. Though I kind of wonder if the idea of community moderators is sort of like Jefferson’s yeoman farmers–nice in theory, but not very practical.

  365. La Lubu
    La Lubu May 5, 2011 at 11:56 am |

    Thanks, Sheelzebub. Though, it sounds to me like KristinJ. has it worse…best wishes for your returning health, Kristin!

    Yeah….I’m inclined to a heavier hand in moderation to discourage pile-ons and trollish behavior; I’ve seen other blogs where pile-ons are the method to keeping things “safe” (translation: unchallenging) for the in-crowd at least as often as used to eliminate trolls. I’ve seen some of that dynamic crop up here, too; because I perceive the bloggers here as acting in good faith, I’ve always chalked up the moderation policy to the sheer number of comments and the inability to keep up—and still hold one’s job.

    I dunno. I come from the labor movement, and while things can get heated on the floor (at the Hall)—it doesn’t get this ugly. Sometimes, people are asked to leave, but that’s rare. Our debates work there because (a) there is a recognized authority in the person who is elected President (as well as the other officers and appointees like the Sargeant-at-Arms); (b) there is a long history of formal and informal procedure on handling disagreement, borne out of the assumption that it will exist and that it most often is legitimate; (c) there is a common communication style amongst the members despite our differing identities, as well as a culture of apology……but most of all, (d) there is the inherent recognition that we are all in this together—that we will literally fall without our solidarity. But…this “solidarity” isn’t just a *concept*. We work together. We lead very similar lives despite our other identities. And we do so over a number of *years*, putting time in, not just blood, sweat and tears. That builds bonds. I reminded the incoming apprentices of that Tuesday night—”Look around you. Really look. These are the people you will be working with for the next 25, 30, 40 years. These are the people who will be there for you when times are good and when they aren’t. That is what “brotherhood” *is*. This is family.”

    Feministe as a community has a potential to build that sort or relationship. But we aren’t there yet. It’s harder to build solidarity amongst a group of people that have no “natural” pre-existing bond (indeed, who don’t and probably won’t identify on the basics of feminism—or even necessarily ID as feminist). So, I’m inclined to start on creating that reasonable culture of debate—an assumption that we will disagree, that the disagreements are legitimate and stem from the rest of our lives, that we have room on the floor to voice our perspective and have our voice be respected, and to acknowledge through our actions (not just words) that we all must rise—that an injury to one is an injury to all.

  366. Natalia
    Natalia May 5, 2011 at 12:04 pm |

    …including white people saying “Go fuck yourself” to people of color, which apparently falls on the right side of the line.

    Kai, I stand by the “go fuck yourself.” Anyone who tries to force me into some ridiculous mould is going to get told that – if not much worse.

  367. Mizz Alice
    Mizz Alice May 5, 2011 at 12:09 pm |

    I deleted my blog because I felt I was not knowledegable enough to keep writing. I read Feministe about every other day, but rarely post comments because I don’t feel I have the knowledge to keep up with it. I come here to learn, but sometimes feel like I don’t even know how to ask a question because I am not an expert in feminism. I blew my time and money on an engineering degree. All I have is what I’ve experienced and tried to learn on my own, with what little time I have left over from life in general.

    I love how you write because you are not confusing, it’s easy to follow, and I feel I can understand what your point is until I start reading comments. Then I get confused and feel as if I have no idea what is going on anymore, and I must be too stupid and lazy because it seems to be common knowledge that I just haven’t spent the time to go research and learn about.

    And after typing this, I’m feeling like I didn’t understand your point in this, either and I’m just posting some “poor me” comment. I want to participate, but I feel like I’m totally out of my league here. I have found a bunch of blogs through this site from shameless-self-promotion on Sundays, I’ve added about 20 blogs to my reader from there and I am extremely grateful. Thank you.

  368. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery May 5, 2011 at 12:46 pm |

    I also think there needs to be a heavier hand in moderating, but as this is not a professional blog despite its large readership, I don’t really know how that could be done.

    I work in an industry that involves moderation, so I can answer this question, at least from my own experience. To hire a professional moderation team for a blog of this size, with the rate at which comments are posted, in a single language, would run about $8,000-$10,000 per month. Given the fairly involved rules by which it would have to be moderated (I’d compare the level of compliance required here to what’s required for the promotion of alcoholic beverages — i.e., a hundred or so pages of guidelines to explain them to someone who has no prior experience with them), so that price could rise as much as 25% based on training costs.

  369. Emeryn
    Emeryn May 5, 2011 at 1:34 pm |

    …including white people saying “Go fuck yourself” to people of color, which apparently falls on the right side of the line.

    Natalia: Kai, I stand by the “go fuck yourself.” Anyone who tries to force me into some ridiculous mould is going to get told that – if not much worse.

    And I said it as well. And I’m not white.

  370. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 5, 2011 at 2:32 pm |

    @ La Lubu – Totally off topic, but this…”single mother, two jobs, my own mother is dying of cancer, and we had to put one of our cats down last night for kidney failure).”

    Internet hugs, if you want them. I spent 3 years nursing my elderly cat through kidney failure (only to eventually lose him to cancer instead) and listening to stories from people going through the same thing. It’s a painful way to watch them go.

  371. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 5, 2011 at 2:35 pm |

    @ La Lubu again – and hugs on the situation with your mom, too. It’s been 17 years since I lost mine to cancer, and despite what people say, it never does really get much easier to cope with. It’s always hard to lose the first person you ever loved.

  372. Brett K
    Brett K May 5, 2011 at 4:26 pm |

    piny: No, they’re not.The language is the same, lately, but these two problems are not part of the same community failure.And there is a fundamental difference between, “Shut the fuck up about being treated like breeding vermin, angry woman of color,” and, “Stop babbling about Park Slope, silly white lady.”It is exhausting to feel like public feminist property, I know, but it is much worse to be told by a bunch of racists that their racism is not a real problem.

    They’re not the same thing by a longshot, by they’re part of the same phenomenon – the one where our first reaction to anything we don’t like is to tell someone to shut the fuck up, and our first reaction to anything it to try and find something we don’t like.

    And really, what makes either of those statements okay? The first is far, far worse than the second, obviously (and it happens far too often, even here), but they’re both dick moves. Jill doesn’t deserve to be told to “stop babbling” for writing about Park Slope (or hats) on her own damn blog.

  373. Sho
    Sho May 5, 2011 at 4:38 pm |

    Hi Jill,

    I’m one of those several hundreds of readers who never comment. I think I have commented twice, ever, once because one of Chally’s posts inspired me and my friends to do a series of posts on our blog ourselves. It was only when, on Chally’s “Where are you from?” series, I wanted to post a comment and realized that the comment thread seemed to have been shut down only three days from posting that I sat and read the comments, and realized, and could actually feel, the stress that Chally was going through while trying to have a mature open dialogue with people. (The discussion was of course about privileged people monopolizing the space that the post was trying to give to marginalized identities/voices.) So when she wrote her post saying she was leaving Feministe, that it really struck me how harsh even the feminist community can be, that in my nascent feminist mind I still imagine to be a happy, open, liberal space where everyone loves everyone. (How absolutely bizarre, am I right?)

    Well anyway, this post was particularly hard to read. I wish I was a proper blogger/had read enough feminism (in fact that is my summer agenda, along with an archaeological survey to boot!) to be able to create a feminist space for myself to write in, or to assist at a website, whether Big or Small. I just wanted you to know that as hard as this might seem sometimes, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, all the way from India, for inspiring me to read, and write, and discuss these issues and more with friends, with a loving boyfriend, and with an accepting family. That is my privileged position, I think, that I have people around me to talk to. It’s the rest of the world that’s harder to tackle.

  374. Spectacle
    Spectacle May 5, 2011 at 5:11 pm |

    180 pages to print out this chat….
    wow

  375. Sisou
    Sisou May 5, 2011 at 6:18 pm |

    Brett K: They’re not the same thing by a longshot, by they’re part of the same phenomenon – the one where our first reaction to anything we don’t like is to tell someone to shut the fuck up, and our first reaction to anything it to try and find something we don’t like.

    And really, what makes either of those statements okay? The first is far, far worse than the second, obviously (and it happens far too often, even here), but they’re both dick moves. Jill doesn’t deserve to be told to “stop babbling” for writing about Park Slope (or hats) on her own damn blog.

    Let me ask in my “sweetest tone” stop comparing white lady stuff to that of Woc.
    When Woc tell White women to Shut the fuck up it is not the same phenomenon that cause feminists’ spaces to be unsafe for Woc. These call-outs are completely different. One says , ” stop saying you are allies while erasing our existence.” and the other is saying, ” Shut up cause you are not human. Please go back to being a prop.”

    White women getting upset at other white women or Woc calling them out is about hurt feelings.Woc leaving feminist blogs is about the unexamined racism of its readers and its owners.

    And fyi, if any of you cared about the voices to Woc you would stop patting Jill on the back and go read the responses of Jessica Yee on Racialious and Renee on Womanist musing. Sheesh, just say we don’t matter instead of a post and hundreds comments about how hard it is to be a feminist and how busy you are.

    ~signed a Busy Black graduate student who will always make the time to “call out” white feminists cause they deserved it~

  376. Sisou
    Sisou May 5, 2011 at 6:22 pm |

    shaunga: Some of us live our lives in ‘the gap.’ This ‘gap’ is where we were born, how we were displaced from our homes or removed from our histories. The gap is where we were forced to forget our languages, our traditions and our cultures. In this gap we love and express ourselves in ways that don’t fit into neat categories, but instead shake the grip that rigid boundaries have upon our world and our lives. Look at this gap—acknowledge it, notice it, VALUE it— and you’ll see the complex and varied ways in which we fight, challenge, survive, celebrate and love fiercely, even while enveloped in a system that enforces our separation from our spirits and selves.

    I just wanted to say thank you. I loved these words, I hope you don’t mind but I am going to quote this in a paper I am writing for my social action class. THIS ( omg) speaks to what it is to be people of color so beautifully and why it is so important our voices be heard.

  377. Club Troppo » Missing Link Friday – Fat, feminism, fair pay & philosophy

    [...] Feminist call-out culture: Does the feminist blogosphere have an overactive immune system? At Feministe, Jill writes about the destructiveness of ‘call-out culture’ : [...]

  378. Miss S
    Miss S May 5, 2011 at 9:37 pm |

    Kristen J – feel better!

    La Lubu-I’m sorry to hear what you’ve been going through, and I will keep you in my prayers.

  379. Women And Ph.Ds; Black Women On TV; And More… « Welcome to the Doctor's Office

    [...] heard about Nunavut before – Nunavik is a completely different Inuit region) this happenedin the feminist blogosphere regarding the lack of mainstream feminist coverage of Feminism FOR REAL – Deconstructing the [...]

  380. Medea
    Medea May 6, 2011 at 2:07 am |

    Sisou: And fyi, if any of you cared about the voices to Woc you would stop patting Jill on the back and go read the responses of Jessica Yee on Racialious and Renee on Womanist musing. Sheesh, just say we don’t matter instead of a post and hundreds comments about how hard it is to be a feminist and how busy you are.

    How do you know we didn’t? I sure did.

  381. Kristen J.'s Husband
    Kristen J.'s Husband May 6, 2011 at 10:46 am |

    Kristen is recovering and I will share your kind thoughts with her.

  382. Kristen J.'s Husband
    Kristen J.'s Husband May 6, 2011 at 11:15 am |

    What the hell, since I’m here.

    Natalia: Kai, I stand by the “go fuck yourself.” Anyone who tries to force me into some ridiculous mould is going to get told that – if not much worse.

    Natalia’s comment above – also referenced in the quote – illustrates why I get so angry about this conversation. There shouldn’t be a hierarchy of social justice where one issue is worth two stars and another is worth five. If you were to try to boil my work down to a single idea it would be – people should eat. If you were to do the same for Kristen it would be – people should be free from violence. One of these is not more valid or more valuable than the other, simply different.

    This site has helped people, like Natalia, and will continue to do so. To say “you are doing social justice wrong” because your work helps these people and not those people is missing the whole goddamn point of social justice. There is value in *every* human life. We all deserve safety and food and equality and opportunity and etc.

    If all you can do is help a person who may be privileged on a hundred different vectors, cope on a vector on which they experience oppression, then that is still forwarding social justice.

    Now, I must go find some analog entertainment before Kristen wakes up and realizes she’s bored.

  383. Vigée
    Vigée May 6, 2011 at 12:12 pm |

    What’s amazing to me about this thread is how everything is getting boiled down to black or white, which is a huge erasure of, well, pretty much every other identity/intersectionality. The other thing that’s amazing is some people’s refusal to acknowledge that Jill didn’t say there’s no space for call-outs. She’s said multiple times that they are a useful tool among many, but shouldn’t necessarily be the default.

    Here’s an example. On another recent thread, one commenter said that zie can’t blame people for celebrating Bin Laden’s death, weather those people are Muslim or American. Of course, Muslim OR American is a false dichotomy that should be addressed, but the spirit of her comment was one of inclusion, not exclusion, even if zie did phrase is badly. So another commenter accuses the first of implying that Muslim-Americans don’t deserve to be counted as Americans. Whereas the second commenter could have acknowledged what was being said in the original comment and then added that ‘American’ and ‘Muslim’ are not mutually exclusive terms. You know, rather than accusing this person of deliberately saying that Muslim-Americans don’t deserve to be called Americans. That is an example of an unhelpful call-out.

  384. Kai
    Kai May 6, 2011 at 1:55 pm |

    Amazingly, this thread seems to have taken a positive turn right around the 400 count (though it’s clearly gone right back into the racial gutter since then; so it was good while it lasted!). But good thought-provoking points brought up by piny, Lauren, La Lubu, and Sheelzebub.

    I remain ambivalent about both the concepts of “call-out culture” and “fill the fucking gap” (which, as Michelle Dean pointed out, veers dangerously toward “bootstraps”). I suppose making invisible oppressive structures visible, by shining a light on how things are working, constitutes a “call out” — but that can’t possibly be what’s wrong with online culture. That’s a good, helpful, useful thing for a writer and observer of society to contribute, not something to condemn. So what exactly is meant by “call-out culture”?

    Sheelzebub calls it “point-scoring”, which helps me understand. I’ve seen a lot of griping (in this thread and previously in this space) about people pouncing on others solely to prove how social-justicey they are; but I have to say, this concern does not reflect my lifelong experience in activism (offline). People of color do not receive cookies for pointing out and resisting racism; if anything, you pay a price for rocking the boat, and I think it’s the same with transphobia, ableism, etc. Point-scorers be damned; many people are talking about their day-to-day lived struggles when they bring up these issues, and if your reaction is to boil it down to who looks cool, I think you’re not really listening.

    I’ve also seen a lot of angst about The Existential Impossibility Of Being Omnibus Everything To Everyone Ever. And again, I think this is a misleading frame, because while I don’t believe that most readers here expect Jill to cover Everything Ever, I do think it’s reasonable to expect, oh say, rejecting racism and fatphobia within this particular sphere of discourse and activism. Is that exhausting? Maybe. But worth it, to some; and clearly not worth it to others. You do the math.

    Last thought, I promise: I’ve noticed that a lot of folks here have discussed social justice as either a “hobby” or “profession”. This blog is Jill’s hobby, and an admirable one, at which she excels. But for a lot of people, it’s not a hobby, it’s a struggle to survive. There’s a disconnect in the intensity and directness of feeling and experience surrounding many ideas discussed here. This probably creates a gulf in understanding between “you’re messing up my hobby” and “you’re talking about my life and survival”, to oversimplify. “Hobby” activists can take it or leave it; but many people “in the gaps” don’t have the option of leaving.

    (PS — Peace and light to all of you who — like me — are coping with family realities of cancer, ill-health, mortality. Every day together is a blessing.)

  385. Florence
    Florence May 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm |

    Kai: People of color do not receive cookies for pointing out and resisting racism; if anything, you pay a price for rocking the boat, and I think it’s the same with transphobia, ableism, etc. Point-scorers be damned; many people are talking about their day-to-day lived struggles when they bring up these issues, and if your reaction is to boil it down to who looks cool, I think you’re not really listening.

    Exactly, which is why the point-scoring online is so hollow. There’s so little at risk.

    Kai: Last thought, I promise: I’ve noticed that a lot of folks here have discussed social justice as either a “hobby” or “profession”. This blog is Jill’s hobby, and an admirable one, at which she excels. But for a lot of people, it’s not a hobby, it’s a struggle to survive. There’s a disconnect in the intensity and directness of feeling and experience surrounding many ideas discussed here. This probably creates a gulf in understanding between “you’re messing up my hobby” and “you’re talking about my life and survival”, to oversimplify. “Hobby” activists can take it or leave it; but many people “in the gaps” don’t have the option of leaving.

    There is a lot of debate about whether blogging alone is activism. I think it’s not — and I think if it is, it’s a shallow form of activism, hence my emphasis on “hobbyists” upthread. In this case, it’s that blogging is a SJ-related hobby, but it doesn’t comprise the entirety of Jill’s activism alone from what she’s said online before (and hopefully blogging doesn’t encompass all of feminism, or feminism is in serious trouble). Rhetorically speaking, you can probably change a few minds and inspire some people to put feet to the pavement and do activism offline, but the reality is that this is what people turn to with the TV on in the background and while procrastinating home/school/work-related tasks. It’s an intellectual, sometimes personally fulfilling pursuit at its best, and a maddening, triggering timesuck at its worst.

  386. Lovely Links: 5/6/11
    Lovely Links: 5/6/11 May 6, 2011 at 3:24 pm |

    [...] Another amazing post from Feministe about how often times and generally inadvertently, feminist blogs create conversations in which more energy is spent calling each other out than working toward common goals. [...]

  387. Marie
    Marie May 6, 2011 at 4:10 pm |

    I haven’t read all 400some comments (I can’t imagine how you moderate all these comments!!!)…so I might be echoing what others have said.

    Thank you for all you do. I love reading feministe and appreciate the opportunity to share what I’ve written on “Shameless Self-Promotion” Sunday. I’ve also found a lot of other great blogs through that medium.

    As a 46-year-old feminist, I get very sad to see the way that women get so angry at each other and hypercritical. We need to all recognize each other’s best intentions and find a way to communicate respectfully so we can change the world (and people’s thinking) together.

    I remember once a fundraiser for an environmental organization came to our door, and we told him that we had just donated to another environmental organization. He started going off on that other organization and how his was so much better. That completely turned me off and made me never want to donate to his organization.

    Let’s stop wringing each other’s necks in the blogosphere (we’ll leave that for the trolls) and try to find common ground.

  388. Kristen J.'s Husband
    Kristen J.'s Husband May 6, 2011 at 4:49 pm |

    Kai,

    I live in the gaps too. You say “covering everything” is a false frame – what else is this discussion of gaps about? Institutional gaps don’t make sense in this context when the gap criticism is leveled at an individual. Insead its gaps in one blogger’s coverage of social justice issues. You say its reasonable to expect certain issues to be covered here, but why are those selected? Is it because they relate to the issues centered in your frame? Similarly, you mention anti-racism, but as far as I can tell the blogoverse only cares about limited types of racism and so brown people like me live even in the gaps of anti-racist activism. Shall I dismiss them as useless, privileged people leaving me to pick up the wreckage?

    So yeah, you are talking about my life, my survival, my family’s survival. That’s why this shit pisses me off. Its hypocritcal. As far as I can tell no one in the mainstream anti-racism blogging community gives a shit about my relatives are dying of radiation poisoning after generations of discrimination, but *everyone else* is racist if they don’t review a book immediately?

    If people want to go around kicking each others ass for not being “good” enough, then I hypothesize that we’re all going to end up with sore legs and sore asses and no justice.

  389. La Lubu
    La Lubu May 6, 2011 at 5:59 pm |

    Thank you, Kai. You are one of my favorite writers on the internet. Your clarity of thought, cutting throught the b.s. strategically, your conscious control of anger (yes, that is evident in your writing)…you are an inspiration. I look forward to your other work (the gaming—my daughter will love it!). (also, ma had a good day today. every day is indeed a blessing) Anyway…

    One of the more valuable lessons I learned as an apprentice was how to educate people: without disrespecting them, while demonstrating credit for their abilities, while still being able to reach them in their own communication style. This, like many things in life, was an unspoken lesson—it was there for the taking, if you were but paying attention. And one of the most common expressions one journeyman would say to another is: “May I make a suggestion?”

    It was always, always phrased the same way. Why? Well, because it was a way to acknowledge that the journeyman in question was a person of his/her own abilities and experience—and yet….you had a better way. An easier way. Something more functional. Phrasing it in that way gave respect to the knowledge base of the other person, gave them an option to see it a different way, and made it more likely that they would consider that.

    See, my Local is composed of people from different backgrounds, but the one thing we all have in common is that we are working-class people. People used to having our intelligence questioned, our experiences disregarded. That “May I” was key…and it worked because we all have that same subterranean understanding of the use of that politeness. That we wouldn’t necessarily be receiving it from others.

    I have to get out the door really quick—I hope to get back to the thread sometime this evening….but I had to get that out. Feministe readers do not all have the same communication style. We don’t have that same subterranean understanding of how the world works, what our assumptions in life are, none of that. In order to create that common ground, our starting points have to be brought out in the open. I try to do that when I write—let folks know the “how” of who I am. Why what came to be did.

    I heard about Feminism For Real on Racialicious. I even looked for it at the local Barnes and Noble (yeah, go ahead, say somethin’ about that. B & N *is* my local bookstore. You wanna open an independent in Bum Fuck, Illinois? Let me know, and I’ll be your customer). If I hadn’t heard about it on Racialicious, I probably would have at Colorlines. I didn’t expect to hear about it here. And that’s a shame. It’s a shame because that wouldn’t have always been the case.

    I have a limited ability to fill gaps. But I would be willing to do a book review a month. Or maybe one or two guest posts a month. That’s all I can spare. But….maybe it’s a start. There were more bloggers at Feministe in the past. Maybe if there were more folks contributing, but on a lesser scale to accommodate lives with greater burdens, more of those gaps can be filled—because those gaps….exist for a reason. The people most qualified to fill them have the least latitude to do so.

  390. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 6, 2011 at 7:01 pm |

    I think between Kai and Kristen’s husband we have kind of hit on the key issue here. OK, so, this endless debate that’s happened before is about what issues are centered and what issues are not within the lefty and feminist blogosphere. When it comes to arguments about which issues aren’t being centered and should be, anyone’s automatic instinct is going to be to say “well what about issue X that is really vitally important to me and that effects my life in significant and painful ways?”. And that’s not an unreasonable thing, to automatically do that. But, everyone has different issues that are vital to them and that they feel should be centered. And sometimes, because there just aren’t enough people around to represent and call attention to a particular gap, it’s ignored completely (see – burakamin and nuclear cleanup, and in fact I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a blog that focuses on race issues talk much about the burakamin). But still, everyone is going to think that their specific issue that they care most about not being centered is the biggest and most unforgiveable oversight of all.

    Look at the comment that Natalia’s “fuck you” was in response to – OK, so, we’re talking about race and class here, so referencing those things made sense. But why was “thin” on that list? The blowups that spawned this particular debate were about a book about feminism and race, the royal wedding, and Bin Laden’s death. So why is thin privilege something vital to reference in response to this post? Well, if it happens to be an issue of vital importance to the person commenting, it gets thrown in. And thus the cycle continues.

    I’m not sure if I’m making a whole lot of sense here (forgive incoherance – I’m currently down to my last spoon and about ready to use it to stab anyone who annoys me, or possibly myself instead). But that does seem to be part of the core of what’s going on here, the fact that everyone has their own priorities and would like to see the blogosphere reflect them, and if/when it doesn’t, it’s really easy to feel like that’s a personal slight. Especially if for whatever reason you happen to be short on spoons at the time.

  391. Atropa
    Atropa May 6, 2011 at 10:49 pm |

    This has happened before. Gee. Imagine that. It’s like, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

  392. Atropa
    Atropa May 6, 2011 at 11:23 pm |

    I mean, does anyone remember this?

    Because too often, the in-fighting is framed as being “started” by women of color. It’s framed as those mean WOC “attacking” the big white feminists. And, yeah, in a lot of instances it was women of color who raised their voices and said, “Wait a minute — which women are you including in your feminism?” Which isn’t so much starting it as naming it. But when you don’t realize it exists in the first place, naming it seems tantamount to inventing it.

    The obvious answer is that the onus is on people in positions of privilege, and people with the most powerful microphones, to take greater responsibility. Which is great, except that people fail at that sometimes (or a lot of times), and the whole thing starts again. I want to be able to promise, right here and right now, that I won’t do something like that again. But coming from the position that I come from, and being utterly ignorant about some things, means that I will probably trip up again. We’ve been through this before, and while I do think people are learning, the curve isn’t steep enough. -Jill

  393. piny
    piny May 6, 2011 at 11:47 pm |

    Florence, I could not disagree more with this:

    There is a lot of debate about whether blogging alone is activism. I think it’s not — and I think if it is, it’s a shallow form of activism, hence my emphasis on “hobbyists” upthread. In this case, it’s that blogging is a SJ-related hobby, but it doesn’t comprise the entirety of Jill’s activism alone from what she’s said online before (and hopefully blogging doesn’t encompass all of feminism, or feminism is in serious trouble). Rhetorically speaking, you can probably change a few minds and inspire some people to put feet to the pavement and do activism offline, but the reality is that this is what people turn to with the TV on in the background and while procrastinating home/school/work-related tasks. It’s an intellectual, sometimes personally fulfilling pursuit at its best, and a maddening, triggering timesuck at its worst.

    The reality for me is that writing is obsessive work: it’s how I order my thoughts and explain my life, and it’s one of the most time- and energy-consuming activities I engage in. It’s piecemeal, like every interesting thing in my life these days, but it definitely is not a hobby.

    “Real life” is a canard. There are many people who have no access to communities in “real life.” There are many communities that do not exist, in the coherent communicating sense, apart from virtual interaction. We are too far-flung, too uncommon, too complex. This, to many of us, is a necessary part of the world: not an escape, not a game, not a pastime. It is the place where our lives are real, where our existence is taken for granted.

    I was alone. Encountering other people like me was a mighty help. It brought me to life. Without the friends I have made in this and related spaces, I probably would not have survived everything that came after.

    I came online to become a part of that network of speaking. I do not know how useful I have been. But if I have provided the same support to other people that I have found myself, then I have indeed created positive change in the world. I think that counts as real activism. And I don’t consider it shallow at all.

  394. Latoya Peterson
    Latoya Peterson May 7, 2011 at 12:13 am |

    I was really trying to stay out of this thread – between Jessica’s post and other convos, I think everything that needs to be said has been said. But something else has piqued my interest.

    (Though, thank you so much to BFP, Kai, La Lubu, and everyone else trying to cut through the noise and separate the issues that we are all debating.)

    But on to this other thing. The rest of this comment may very well be tl; dr – I’m trying to explain to the best of my ability why some of these oversights may occur.

    @Kristen J’s Husband –

    Similarly, you mention anti-racism, but as far as I can tell the blogoverse only cares about limited types of racism and so brown people like me live even in the gaps of anti-racist activism. Shall I dismiss them as useless, privileged people leaving me to pick up the wreckage?

    So yeah, you are talking about my life, my survival, my family’s survival. That’s why this shit pisses me off. Its hypocritcal. As far as I can tell no one in the mainstream anti-racism blogging community gives a shit about my relatives are dying of radiation poisoning after generations of discrimination, but *everyone else* is racist if they don’t review a book immediately?

    Fascinating. Id be really interested to know who you consider mainstream anti-racist bloggers, because mileage varies widely, particularly depending on one’s own racial identification and group affinity, and what issues they feel like are important enough to listen to. So, three things:

    but as far as I can tell the blogoverse only cares about limited types of racism and so brown people like me live even in the gaps of anti-racist activism.

    Agreed and disagreed. Part of this comes due to the US-centric false construct black-white binary that reinforces itself time and time again in various ways. So, yes, a great many people do not see themselves reflected in race conversations in the blogosphere because they are considered outside of the binary. This is also reinforced by the fact that we tend to organize ourselves based primarily on the crude racial categories we’ve been slotted into. So in some ways, we need spaces to have conversations about the specific types of oppression that may manifest in some groups and not others (so, I as an African American woman have never had to grapple with the Model Minority stereotype) but on the other hand it can also reinforce huge divisions between those who are caught under the same system. And that gap widens when we start dealing with more elements – region, nation, generation, ethnic identity, how class informs race. And it gets even wider when you consider how differently race has developed from place to place. Even the term “colored/coloured” – it means very different things in the US than it does in South Africa.

    In general, we don’t speak to each other enough. But working in a pan-racial space, I also notice that people tend to only select realities that jive with their images of how the world works. So we can post about racism toward xxx group on Racialicious three days a week, and still get comments from people like “No one ever treats xxx people like this!” It’s because they are only reading from their perspective. Racism is so much worse when it happens to their group, and no one ever talks about it, and every other group has it so easy – I hear this all the time from people across the spectrum. It’s disheartening to acknowledge this as a pan-racial activist, but straight up – a lot of people just don’t care if it isn’t about them. Doesn’t mean that these conversations aren’t happening or the info isn’t out there or the issue isn’t complicated – people tend to believe what they want.

    On Quora, I answered a question about if racism toward Asian Americans in pop culture was worse than racism against other groups:

    http://www.quora.com/Is-racism-against-Asians-in-Media-and-Entertainment-more-accepted-than-towards-other-races-in-America

    And my really, really long answer was basically “how do you define worse without an objective way to measure?”

    [S]ince so much of racism is about systems of interlocking oppressions, it becomes impossible to objectively measure. How do you account for erasure? How do you account for xenophobic bias? Are darker skinned Asian Americans more discriminated against than lighter skinned Asian Americans? Do Hmong Americans in the midwest face the same type of racism as a Bangladeshi immigrant in upstate New York? Does being mixed race Asian American mean you get half the normal amount of racism or twice the normal amount of racism? Are we talking about racism that stems from economic exclusion, workplace bias, representation in pop culture, representation in government, in college admissions, or interpersonal interactions? Is the racism transracial adoptees may experience in their home communities more damaging than generalized Asian American racism (like the Asians in the Library rant on YouTube?) Answers are highly personal and subjective.

    In addition to that, most people will never get to experience what it is like to have some one else’s oppression directed toward them. We all feel our own oppressions very keenly, but only understand the oppression of others on an intellectual level – if we choose to empathize at all. So it’s hard to say what’s “worse” if there is no objective measuring tool.

    So, in essence, you’ve asked a question without an answer.

    However, if you want to get more specific, and ask about something that is measurable – like Asian American representation in Fortune 500 companies, or representations of Asian Americans in pop culture – then you can get a slightly clearer picture as to how Asian Americans are treated in relation to both dominant culture (which in America is white) and in relation to other minority groups.

    After writing out that long ass, data filled answer, I posted it to Twitter. One of my followers didn’t even pause to read the same response, posting “YES IT IS” in all caps. *kanye shrug*

    So, it depends.

    Its hypocritcal. As far as I can tell no one in the mainstream anti-racism blogging community gives a shit about my relatives are dying of radiation poisoning after generations of discrimination, but *everyone else* is racist if they don’t review a book immediately?

    I assume this is about the burakumin conversation that you and CassandraSays allude to a few times over the course of the thread. I can only answer for my community (again, not sure who you define as mainstream so you may not even be referring to us, but I’ll throw my hat in anyway.)

    By way of context, let me also disclose this – I’m what I consider a reformed otaku, a global pop culture junkie who was very heavily into the anime and manga con-going scene for years, and ultimately had to withdraw a bit from that identity because of all the weird things that go on there. Otakudom is like throwing cultural exchange, appropriation, stereotype application, racism, and commerce, gender politics, and xenophobia, and identity into a blender and trying to sip down the contents without puking. So I’ve spent the last few years trying to separate out things I’ve “learned” about Japan through that type of exposure and actual reality. The way information filters through is all fucked up (as it is for most non US nations, but Japanese culture also has the fetish lens), so without folks with strong ties writing about these issues, it’s very easy for those of us who are just casual observers to miss something.

    The first time I learned about any kind of discrimination in Japan was when I was researching a piece on hip-hop in America, in the era right before writing critically, culturally, or historically about hip hop was cool. In some obscure ass journal found through a system wide library search, I found an article that posited that hip hop’s exposure in Japan spread through the zainichi ethnic minority, who could relate to the themes of alienation in hip hop. (Later research indicates this may or may not be true, and most folks in the space do not believe this is the case, but that’s neither here nor there.) It was the first time I heard *anything* about there being minorities in Japan. The next time something pinged my radar was about the popular series Samurai Champloo. The creator was asked why he used hip-hop culture as a theme through out the series, and he responded that Mugen, a major character, was, by nature an outsider – he was from Okinawa and the creator talked about about themes of alienation from larger society. I had totally missed that upon the viewing.

    So by the time I went to a Race and Ethnic Studies symposium and a colleague presented a paper on the social networking site mixi and the imagined boundaries of Japan, I had enough of a framework (a holey, jacked up one but a small framework none the less) to really hear and understand what he was saying, and feel confident enough that I could post about it without screwing up the issue.

    (My rough notes on the presentation are here: http://www.racialicious.com/2009/06/16/do-web-interfaces-have-politics-a-japanese-social-network-site-mixi-and-the-imagined-boundary-of-%E2%80%9Cjapan%E2%80%9D-conference-notes/)

    But that confidence is hard to come by, particularly where we may just have one article without context. Here’s a great example – AJ, our links maven, added a link about discrimination against ethnic Chinese in Malaysia. Just a link to the article. Our comments section blew up with pissed off Malays debating the politics of privileged classes and one even likening the Chinese in Malaysia to whites in colonized India and apartheid South Africa. Whoops! We catch all these links coming in, but a lot of times we have no idea about context. So, when at all possible, we prefer to have folks speak about their own experiences instead of us opining. Black Brits and Black Americans have really different experiences and how we perceive anti-black racism on each side of the Atlantic varies. We’ve had folks write about growing up mixed race in Germany, or bicultural in China. We just had a reporter in Libya ask us to reproduce an article on anti-black racism and xenophobic racism in the wake of Gaddafi; this person had been reporting in the region for the last four years, so we were happy to post an informed take.

    All this isn’t to say that anyone is absolved by ignorance – I would personally love a post on the burakumin, since we like looking at how oppression plays out globally. But things do get complicated in a completely different type of ways when we cross national and geographic boundaries. I often admired Chally’s work here because she clearly explained how USian contexts of race and racism just don’t fit in a variety of contexts. Since Chally writes in English, I could read her posts and google around to see what other folks were saying and what I should be reading – this becomes much more difficult when the information you seek may be in a different language, when you are forced to rely on the translation and filter of others.

    Burakumin is something I had not heard about until today, and I pay a disproportionate amount of attention to ethnic minorities around the globe. (Well, as compared to other folks in my niche, I suppose.) Looking back, even Ryu’s presentation didn’t mention it, though he painstakingly listed most other designations. (This could also be because Ryu grew up outside of Japanese borders – he spoke very frankly about being made to feel inferior because his parents were expats.)

    Also, quality of info is important – this is the fourth or fifth link on a google search of burakumin:

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20090120zg.html

    I could be completely off base on this, but the way in which the article is written feels very similar to how race is written about in America, which makes me a bit mistrustful of the article. People on discussion forums and other journalists were quoted, but no one else – no burakumin appear to have been approached for the story and there doesn’t seem to have been an attempt made to reach out to the BLL, which is a little strange in an article titled “Breaking the Silence on the Burakumin.” But again, I could be off base.

    So I wouldn’t say no one gives a shit – it’s just that we all may be far, far less informed than one would think, and it’s generally only through engagement with our community that we can adequately begin to cover certain issues.

    However, I have to admit, the but *everyone else* is racist if they don’t review a book immediately is grating on me a bit. Please note, there was not a peep from Racialicious before this post went up. The only reason I jumped into this fray to begin with was to counter information that was blatantly untrue – that no promotion for this book was done. That seems to keep propagating, despite efforts by many to clarify what was going on – we even got a condescending comment on our site with a person saying “You couldn’t send an email? Gmail is free.” At that point, it was like “seriously, mofo?” We can debate how much promotion is enough all damn day long, but the end result was that fans of Jessica Yee, queer spaces, anti racist spaces, Rabble.ca, indigenous spaces, the indigenous sexual health network, and the folks who engage with us via Twitter and Facebook all knew about the book. We had an internal convo at Racialicious about the blogosphere’s radio silence on the book, and ultimately were just like ok.

    Why? Because we want to make sure that the people who need the book GET IT. Would it have been nice to get some love from our blog friends? Of course. But there’s a reason why we partnered with Streetwise and Safe/Queers for Economic Justice and not some big NYC based feminist org. We could focus our energy on making sure people who are (presumably) well read and socially aware get this book, or we could focus on taking the book into as many different spaces as possible. The feminist blogosphere was one part of Jessica’s strategy but not the whole, just like Racialicious doesn’t write long ass articles about hip hop music videos to impress the folks here – we’re trying to reach a different group of people. It doesn’t mean we don’t want feminists to support the book. But it does mean if the choice comes down to Jessica limiting her work in rural communities to do the standard book promotional stuff (which could be a whole post in itself about THAT song and dance) then it isn’t a choice – Jess is going to keep doing the work that prompted her to write the book in the first place. Just like we at Racialicious would appreciate feminist writers helping to promote more things like the Phylicia Brown story that SLB wrote for Postbourgie or Gina’s two year crusade at What About Our Daughters to talk about Dunbar Village or the things we publish about race and street harassment, ultimately, the work has got to get out there in a lot of different places, and most of us focus on where we feel we can make the most impact. (It’s also why my head’s been down as well – most of my feminist writing now focuses around music, tech, gaming because that’s where I feel like I can make the most impact.)

    So it isn’t about deeming people racists or bad feminists or whatever – it’s about looking at the why behind things. And, not to speak for Jess or AJ, but it’s just weird that folks who say they follow your work, they love you, they have you on the blogroll, they follow you on Twitter, whatever, still miss something that big. Again, this isn’t about Jill – it’s about using bloggers of color as virtual minority friend stand-ins, to be referenced often, but not actually heard. Our philosophy at the R is to really focus on creating spaces for POC-to-POC conversations about our lives and realities – if we aren’t fighting as hard as we used to for inclusion in predominantly white spaces, it is because we chose to focus our energy elsewhere.

    Which brings me to my third point – none of this is a zero sum game. I can hear, and totally understand your anger. It fucking sucks that our conversations about race are so fucked up that when they are heard at all, it can only be focused on generally accepted ideas of racism, skirting away from structures and other big, unwieldy scary things. It sucks in that tiny space, we still scrap with each other over our place in the kyriarchy, that we find it so hard to contextualize how oppression impacts others that we prefer to ignore it. It sucks that most of the blogosphere is UScentric. It sucks that people have to go through a vetting process just to speak their experience in larger spaces, even ones that are not minority dominated.

    It all sucks, and I’m sorry.

    I’d like to make some big play here and say posts from you and other folks wishing to talk about how race issues play out around the globe are always welcome on Racialicious (which, they are: http://www.racialicious.com/to-contribute-to-this-blog/); but that would be ignoring some realities.

    One, conversations about these issues don’t ever get near the amount of pass throughs and comments and views than do other types of posts. (Calling out white people on racism does get a lot of traction, but not as much as topics like interracial dating, domestic violence, and sexual assault, which our generally our top viewed posts.) We are happy to bring it to our community, but we notice a lot of people just aren’t interested, particularly folks who are only anti-xxx racism or folks outside of the anti-racist community. I personally am a strong believer in the power of SEO and creating archives to help shape web discourse; but for many, investing time in a piece and getting a tepid reaction is disheartening (even if the piece, like many of ours, has a much longer tail/shelf life than the average internet post.)

    Two, our conversations about race and racism are so fucked up because the idea of solidarity means different things to different people. That conversation on Libya was an interesting look at that, as are almost *all* the conversations on mixed race identity. A lot of folks are only interested in their pet issue, and everyone else’s conversations are interesting, but not enough to get invested in. This leads to tension.

    Three, a one off conversation isn’t enough to keep an issue in people’s minds. We try to revisit as much as we can but it’s kind of a Sisyphean task – and even if we manage to pull everything off perfectly, does the rest of the world know or care? I’d like to think we are working toward a day when everyone realizes we are all working toward the same goals and therefore we should pay attention to the struggles of others; but that’s a lot easier in theory than in practice.

    So, in sum, would love to publish something (a convo between you and CassandraSays? A first person reflection piece? A quoted?) on the burakumin if you have time to do so (after helping Kristen J. get well, naturally). Your words have tuned at least one ear – will keep an eye out for articles to add into our rotation and let AJ know this is an ongoing issue that deserves more coverage. And we will continue toward our ultimate goal of being a site about race and pop culture everywhere it happens.

    That’s what we can do at this moment anyway. Would love thoughts about what other things may be possible.

  395. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays May 7, 2011 at 12:35 am |

    Latoya said…

    “By way of context, let me also disclose this – I’m what I consider a reformed otaku, a global pop culture junkie who was very heavily into the anime and manga con-going scene for years, and ultimately had to withdraw a bit from that identity because of all the weird things that go on there. Otakudom is like throwing cultural exchange, appropriation, stereotype application, racism, and commerce, gender politics, and xenophobia, and identity into a blender and trying to sip down the contents without puking. So I’ve spent the last few years trying to separate out things I’ve “learned” about Japan through that type of exposure and actual reality. The way information filters through is all fucked up (as it is for most non US nations, but Japanese culture also has the fetish lens), so without folks with strong ties writing about these issues, it’s very easy for those of us who are just casual observers to miss something.”

    And I’m just going to say, this is both why I wouldn’t even expect most American-based sites that write a lot about race to have dealt with the burakamin issue, and also part of why I haven’t written about it myself. I feel like, no matter how much attention I’m paying and no matter how much I might want to dig into the issue, my inability to read Japanese means that too many primary sources aren’t available to me, which means I’m at risk of running across stuff that’s filtered through that…I don’t even know what to call the way American otaku talk about Japan other than “fetishising racism”. But I do know that I try not to engage with that community if at all possible, and what Latoya is describing is the reason why. With an added layer of WTF in that the person who keeps trying to drag me to events associated with that community is Japanese American, and she doesn’t seem to have any problem with the weirdness of the otaku community other than occasionally wanting to mock them for being nerdy. I refuse to even go cover bands that are playing at conventions (which is notable in that if I was willing to do so I’d be getting paid for it), because the atmosphere is just too weird. Regular plain old gigs in clubs, people watching the audience that turns out to see Japanese bands, is already strange and occasionally uncomfortable enough.

    So basically what my babbling comes down to is that I hope that Latoya and the rest of the Racialicious bloggers don’t think I was intending to call them out, because I wasn’t. I think there are lots of systemic reasons why even within blog communities oriented around specific issues some issues that are relevant get missed, or ignored, and it’s not necessarily because of ill will on the behalf of the bloggers and community members. I’m just not sure where to even begin drawing lines as far as what it’s reasonable to assume that people with an interest in X issues will cover, and what they might miss, and based on that, when it is and is not reasonable to be angry with them for not covering something. I don’t think any of this is as straightforward as a lot of people seem to want to think that it should be.

  396. Kristen J.'s Husband
    Kristen J.'s Husband May 7, 2011 at 2:35 am |

    Latoya,

    I should have been more clear in my frustration. I shouldn’t have said that you and other bloggers don’t care. I should have said, that the issues don’t necessarily register. I did not intend that comment to be a criticism of Racialicious’ coverage. Its an excellent blog that I’ve enjoyed for a number of years. More than anything, my frustration is with the idea that there is fundamentally any difference between the reasons blogs like Racialicious haven’t covered any number of issues related to ethnic minorities outside of their immediate area of focus and why blogs like this one haven’t covered any number of issues related to oppressed persons outside of their immediate area of focus.

    More importantly this isn’t simply a blog issue, there is a snobbery that pervades the activist communities or at least the ones I’ve worked with. As an example, a leader in a local homeless shelter I volunteered at actually lectured me about how much more “critical” their work was than helping abused kids. As if those issues don’t intersect. And god forbid people work together. So, over and over again ego gets in the way of justice and I’m frankly sick of it.

    No question, if someone is actively in oppressive behavior or obstructing others work, we should always speak out – perhaps with additional patience for those who may not understand the right words to use. But that is not the same as someone having different social justice priorities. From where I’m sitting, arguing over who has the *better* priorities is an exercise in ego – i.e., my perspective is the correct perspective – not an exercise in social justice.

    My comment about *everyone else* is racist was not directed at the posts at Racialicious or even the original Shameless, but rather at a number of comments in this thread that have been in my opinion condescending of other vectors of oppression. I’ll admit, I lost my temper a bit and that statement was unwise even if it was how I was feeling in that moment.

  397. La Lubu
    La Lubu May 7, 2011 at 10:18 am |

    Cosign to piny @ #415. This: Rhetorically speaking, you can probably change a few minds and inspire some people to put feet to the pavement and do activism offline, but the reality is that this is what people turn to with the TV on in the background and while procrastinating home/school/work-related tasks. It’s an intellectual, sometimes personally fulfilling pursuit at its best, and a maddening, triggering timesuck at its worst.

    …is light-years away from my truth. I’m not among the (for lack of a better term) “creative class”. I don’t live in one of the bastions of left-leaning folks in the US; I don’t live amongst women who identify as feminists. Women in my world who hear the term “feminist” think of a middle-aged, wealthy white woman in a business suit. In other words, they picture someone who has historically not looked out for their interests, and who would readily bar the country club doors to their presence. Sure, a large part of that is anti-feminist propaganda. But it is also fed by very real historical divisions in the feminist movement—a splintering that has been politically advantageous to the people who make no apologies about their lack of good intentions for anyone not of their blood.

    ‘Nother words, I don’t just come here to shout from the margins, I come here to know I’m not alone, and to let others know they aren’t alone, either. I haven’t given up on the potential of feminist movement, and think that movement is essential to informing other movements for justice. Physical isolation is very real—and may be hard for those in major metropolitan areas to understand. May I suggest a vacation drive through the Rust Belt? Past the boarded-up buildings downtown, and the houses with collapsing roofs? Would you believe there’s still people here? People who still have lives, still have dreams (deferred)? The landscape (both physical and psychological) created by neoliberal global capital is a motherfucker (happy Mother’s Day). I get on the internet to engage with people who are…seeking to change it. Talking strategy. Sometimes just commisserating. Because where I come from, denial is a survival tactic, and one I find (personally) nonfunctional.

    With that said. This: As if those issues don’t intersect. And god forbid people work together. So, over and over again ego gets in the way of justice and I’m frankly sick of it. That makes sense. I would be sick of that, too. But…it’s something I haven’t experienced anywhere other than the internet. I haven’t seen that in the areas I work in, and I credit that not to working with a bunch of saints (BWAhahahaha…we are so far from sainthood…), but because we aren’t professionals. We’re just committed rank-and-file folks. we aren’t being paid for what we do, and we aren’t building a career out of it.

    And I don’t mean that in a snotty way. I’m serious. Because we feed ourselves and keep roofs over our heads with something other than justice work, it keeps that competitive dynamic from creeping in. And frankly, I see quite the difference between labor union folks and others who work in that individualistic, hypercompetitive atmosphere. We aren’t saints, but knowing that we’re paid the same and working under the same contract makes a difference.

    It’s not our difference as individuals, in other words. It’s the system we work under. The backdrop, the assumptions, are totally different. I have often wondered if the professionalization of social justice movements and the lack of a structure for any career stability (such as my union’s hiring hall—when you’re out of work, you just “sign the book” at your home Local and other Locals, and voila! you get a job, with no rigamarole or interviews…that sort of thing)—I wondered if that would replicate the toxins of capitalist, white-supremacist, individualist hierarchy. Or is it more of a “white man’s burden” attitude you see—the professionals coming in from “on high” to Save the Masses from Themselves? To what do you attribute this dynamic, and what solutions do you see for getting rid of it?

    (really. I’m curious. Because there is some fuck-up-ed-ness in the labor movement, but we do—from my perspective—seem to have more structures for cutting through the bullshit.)

    Kristen J’s husband, I think both you and Kristen are valuable contributors to this community. So, please keep that in mind when I say that I have a real problem with this statement: why blogs like this one haven’t covered any number of issues related to oppressed persons outside of their immediate area of focus.

    What about Jessica Yee’s “Feminism For Real” would be outside of the immediate focus of this blog? Setting aside the fact that no, one person (whether it’s Jill or anyone else) cannot be everywhere, at all times, covering all aspects of multidimensional feminist movement.

    My suggestions for solutions would be: more contributors to this blog. Not necessarily full-time contributors—few people have that sort of time available (which replicates the problem)—just, folks who would be willing to put up a post a month. Maybe two posts a month.

    A tighter rein on moderation. Keeping the conversations productive and constructive—less venting, more conflict management. That would require more committment from the commentariat, but….people can and do step up to the plate if/when they know they