A Reminder on Guest Bloggers

Just a reminder about the Feministe comment policy, and specifically our policy on guest bloggers:

Feministe, as part of a site tradition that aims to share the public platform and give readers a taste of our favorite writers and issues, frequently hands the keys to the site over to guest bloggers. Our guest bloggers are chosen by the Feministe crew and approved by all of the regular writers. We expect all commenters to respect our guests as they would the house writers.

Moreover, we invite all these folks write with us because we are their fans and supporters, and because we’re interested in the kind of discussion that their ideas will inspire. While we are very much their fans, that does not mean that we endorse every minute detail of their opinions, much like we can and do disagree with one another. This kind of ideological diversity is a feature of having a group blog, not a bug. Moreover, this kind of diversity is more representative of our feminisms than vetting one another’s writing for cohesion. Our guest bloggers write and publish posts without any kind of editorial review, but with our express support.

As writers, we don’t expect to please everyone, but we do expect that criticism will be hewn to the opinion being criticized and not veer into the likeability of the person expressing it. We will attempt to warn those who are getting into this territory before moderating their comments.

Please also keep in mind that the point of our comment sections should not be fault-finding. We invite a diverse group of guests on each summer because they start interesting conversations; we often specifically select writers who aren’t enmeshed in the feminist blogosphere. The guest bloggers are guests in our home, and we expect commenters to treat them respectfully. We also expect commenters to act like grown-ups and engage with the posts rather than simply hunting for an errant phrase to criticize.

I’m writing this now because over the summer, we’ve gotten a lot of negative feedback about the comment sections here — that new writers and commenters don’t want to participate, that writers in this space feel like they have to write defensively to fend off nitpicky and intentionally-misreading critiques, that the regular readers of many of our guests don’t want to participate here because it’s such a hostile atmosphere. To be quite honest, I feel like that too — that my writing is more focused on buffering against the inevitable critiques than actually writing. It’s made me a worse writer. It’s definitely made me more jaded, and less interested in engaging with online feminist and social justice communities. I can only imagine how it makes our guests feel.

We’re currently brainstorming ways to make this space less toxic, but in the meantime, a humble request: Please don’t be jerks to our guests. Before you comment, consider: Am I adding anything to the conversation, or am I commenting because I found one particular minor sidenote thing irritating? Is this comment about the post itself, or am I coming into this post with a series of my own issues and biases and commenting from that place about my own shit? Am I commenting with the understanding that we’re all more or less on the same side here, and this is a social justice blog where all of the contributors are at least trying to write in good faith? Am I trying to move the conversation forward, or am I trying to shut it down?

Thanks in advance. I know we have many wonderful commenters and fantastic readers, and I’ve been as guilty as anyone of being a total a-hole in the comments. But our guest bloggers are lending their time, talents and thoughts to this space with very little in return; they are being wonderfully generous, and I hate to see them treated poorly. So if we could all show the guests a little extra respect, I would appreciate it.

198 comments for “A Reminder on Guest Bloggers

  1. Lauren
    August 23, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    It’s brutal to write for an audience this size without the filter of an editor and with the criticism coming in real time. I wish more people respected the bravery of folks who agree to do it. At the very least, I would anticipate more humility and less hyperbole on the part of armchair critics.

  2. Athenia
    August 23, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    I think you’re writing is awesome Jill. ^_^

  3. rhubarb8
    August 23, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    A guest writer who doesn’t immediately go into the time out corner to genuflect on her privilege the first time anyone claiming a higher placement in the Oppression Olympics calls her out?

    PROBLEMATIC.

  4. Eve
    August 23, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    I just want to say that I have been and continue to be extremely grateful for my experience here. Thank you to everyone for your passion, and especially to those of you who stay on topic, stand your ground, and are at least willing to give me the benefit of the doubt, whether you agree with me or not.

  5. Nadine
    August 23, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    This is bullshit. Why don’t you complain about the racist commenters who defended that blogger? They’re welcome here they fit in well. You get the commenters you deserve, like rhubarb8. I don’t want to make this space feel unsafe for delicate white ladies so I will take this advice. Most people I know have already stopped reading this blog and it is definitely not because commenters CRITIQUE racism too strongly!

    • August 23, 2012 at 5:29 pm

      Nadine, I am complaining about the racist derailing comments as well. A whole lot of bloggers of color have been driven out of this space by commenters who don’t respect blogger mod choices and who read posts looking for flaws. This is a long-standing problem and not just about the latest flare-up on Eve’s post.

  6. Matt
    August 23, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Guest writers should be subject to the same rules as commentators, and so should regular writers.

    This is not a feminist 101 blog no?

    I think that Eve is reacting to the criticism pretty well. A certain blogger whose name begins with C and who was a pretty well known and long time member of the feminist blogosphere got incredibly whiny over far less intense feedback than what Eve has gotten.

    So I feel like she has at least proven that she is emotionally ready to blog here. I feel like some posts from Jill have been at least as problematic as Eve’s so it’s not like she is significantly more unaware of her privilege than one or more regular writers.

    As for being a worse writer because of the criticism, is it more important to deconstruct your privilege or be a snappy writer?

    “Don’t call out my privilege because I can’t display my cleverness?”
    Seriously?

    • August 23, 2012 at 6:08 pm

      As for being a worse writer because of the criticism, is it more important to deconstruct your privilege or be a snappy writer?

      “Don’t call out my privilege because I can’t display my cleverness?”
      Seriously?

      Uh, no. Not what I was saying.

  7. August 23, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Jill, I’d like to add one thing that you didn’t mention:
    If you ask a question to the blogger who wrote the OP, please wait for the answer before responding to someone else who argues the opposite side, and if you’re not the blogger who wrote the OP don’t answer the question for them.

    Actually that’s two things.

  8. petpluto
    August 23, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    As for being a worse writer because of the criticism, is it more important to deconstruct your privilege or be a snappy writer?

    “Don’t call out my privilege because I can’t display my cleverness?”
    Seriously?

    Or, “I don’t feel comfortable being emotionally honest about certain things/failings of mine, because it will be read as and commented on as I think thing X is ok and cool, even when I intellectually know it is harmful.”

    Or, “I would like to write something about lederhosen. Oh, wait. I don’t have the emotional fortitude right now to deal with another epic thread like that one about hats.”

  9. horseloverfat
    August 23, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    Matt,

    I would imagine Jill is referring to a reluctance to put her honest, three-dimensional personality on display, potentially wart-riddled opinions and all. (And I would “imagine” that because it’s completely obvious, and is a core desire of any writer worth their salt.) That one would have to mute who they are and consider every word they say in order to avoid kicking off a firestorm of personal criticism is destructive to the very act of discourse. And please, before you read my intent as being a green light for any degree of hateful speech, please consider what we’re actually referring to– re-read Eve’s tattoo post again. In no way does it preach a hateful or exclusionary perspective. That she might be coming from a privileged place is plausible and totally worth discussing– in fact, it’s WHAT SHE WAS ASKING– but the way the thread turned on her for asking questions honestly was, frankly, disgraceful.

    So why would you reduce Jill’s intent to “I want the right to be clever?” This is exactly the kind of quick, eager misread she’s talking about. You seem to be admitting that, regardless of the content of a post, your principle goal is to “deconstruct privilege.” Am I wrong about what you’re advocating?

    I don’t think criticizing the comments section on a post like Eve’s is about criticizing the right to call out ignorance or privilege, or even the value of doing so; it’s about how commentators who are obstinately refusing to connect or converse with other human beings are damaging their own cause. Inclusiveness is a two-way street, after all, and the kind of fierce defensiveness that immediately came out on that thread– one that was very, very clearly intending to OPEN DISCUSSION and provide a civil place for learning and idea exchange– struck me as truly ugly.

    Those are my thoughts. I would love to hear more about yours.

  10. sabrina
    August 23, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    I would just like to say that guest bloggers need to be better about posting trigger warnings at the beginning of their articles. Eve’s post where she calls her daughter fat was EXTREMELY triggering of my own childhood experiences, and this is not the first time that it’s happened. Many of the guest bloggers talk about triggering concepts and never warn the community that they are going to do it. It makes it difficult for survivors of trauma to read.

    • August 23, 2012 at 6:32 pm

      Sabrina, I appreciate the feedback, and I am sorry that Eve’s post was triggering for you, but I’m honestly not sure what kind of trigger warning Eve should have posted. Just about anything is potentially triggering — for example, I wouldn’t have thought that a post about one’s daughter growing up would merit a trigger warning. When we write about things like sexual assault and domestic violence (where the topic of the post isn’t apparent in the title) we include trigger warnings, since those are pretty common triggers for feminist blog readers. But unfortunately it’s impossible to predict exactly what will trigger all of our readers. I’m really not trying to sound insensitive here, but some responsibility has to fall on readers themselves. Writers cannot possibly foresee everything that will be triggering or upsetting to a community of tens of thousands of individuals with wildly varying experiences. Eve’s post is a good example — I’ve been writing in this space for years and I’m even unclear on what kind of trigger warning would have been appropriate.

  11. SophiaBlue
    August 23, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    I was one of the ones critical of Eve in the tattoo thread, and while I stand by everything I said, a lot of people came down WAY too hard on her. It really should be possible for us to critique a writer’s work without immediately assuming bad faith.

  12. Anne Marie
    August 23, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    “intentionally-misreading critiques”

    Again, when everyone reads it one way, the problem is the OP’s communication, not our comprehension. It’s ridiculous to demonize your commenters as “intentionally-misreading” while assuming anyone who writes a single post for you is flawless.

  13. Matt
    August 23, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    I would imagine Jill is referring to a reluctance to put her honest, three-dimensional personality on display, potentially wart-riddled opinions and all. (And I would “imagine” that because it’s completely obvious, and is a core desire of any writer worth their salt.) That one would have to mute who they are and consider every word they say in order to avoid kicking off a firestorm of personal criticism is destructive to the very act of discourse.

    I would say the goal of a good writer is to effectively communicate ideas. Putting your full self on display could be useful for that goal, or it could not be.

    We could use an example of male privilege. Todd Akin for instance certainly set off a firestorm of personal criticism, and for good reason. You could argue that a man’s opinion is justly subject to increased criticism because of patriarchy. And it’s true.

    But a lot of the people responding to Eve’s comment on tattoos and also her hairstyle choices are either PoC or people intensely involved in the counter culture as opposed to someone like Eve who is a white suburbanite trying to appear edgy. In this case the argument that a person in a position of privilege would justly be treated to personal criticism applies.

    Especially since this is not a feminism 101 blog as Jill herself has said.

    And please, before you read my intent as being a green light for any degree of hateful speech, please consider what we’re actually referring to– re-read Eve’s tattoo post again. In no way does it preach a hateful or exclusionary perspective. That she might be coming from a privileged place is plausible and totally worth discussing– in fact, it’s WHAT SHE WAS ASKING– but the way the thread turned on her for asking questions honestly was, frankly, disgraceful.

    I thought that the backlash was all pretty reasonable. If one desires to put one’s full self on display one should expect some criticism. A blog about any kind of social justice is not your therapy group or your family. There was very little profanity, no threats of violence or anything that goes beyond the confines of spirited debate etiquette. Most people differ on what constitutes going beyond spirited debate though, so its understandable that some people consider the backlash as more or less excessive.

    So why would you reduce Jill’s intent to “I want the right to be clever?” This is exactly the kind of quick, eager misread she’s talking about. You seem to be admitting that, regardless of the content of a post, your principle goal is to “deconstruct privilege.” Am I wrong about what you’re advocating?

    Consider that its understood, I base this off comments of both moderator/bloggers and regulars of the comments section, that this is not a love fest. No one has the right to confront criticism of privilege with the defense of but that’s how I feel.

    Note that below I realized I was a little of topic of this part of your post, so I’m moving my on topic thoughts above the other things I wrote.

    If part of your writing style comes off as offensive because of privilege its important to grok why its offensive and try and change it. It seems like being more aware of privilege should make you a better writer rather than a worse one.

    /offtopic part mentioned above
    Eve had the ability to do a little googling about her question before coming here. Its easy to see that people with body art including tattoos, piercings, and various hairstyles would consider her post offensive in some way.

    Hell we had a pretty big class discussion about Jill referring to Guy Fieri’s fashion sense as douche baggy while many felt it was simply blue collar.

    If you get criticism, again many people disagree on whether or not the criticism was unwarranted, about being racist and classist, its then up to you as the person with privilege to really think about what you said before posting a response. You have the option to decompress and wait out the initial gut reaction of feeling upset over someone disagreeing with you before your response.

    And as I said, Eve seems to have done very well. No tantrums, no closing comments, no angry retorts.

    I don’t think criticizing the comments section on a post like Eve’s is about criticizing the right to call out ignorance or privilege, or even the value of doing so; it’s about how commentators who are obstinately refusing to connect or converse with other human beings are damaging their own cause.

    The above argument about damaging your own cause is an oft used way for many straight white males to attack both feminism and civil rights activists. A common phrase use by commentators on feminist with regard to BOTH other commentators and also the bloggers is: “Its not my job to educate you.” I consider this part of the thread of this isn’t a feminist 101 blog that wends through here.

    Inclusiveness is a two-way street, after all, and the kind of fierce defensiveness that immediately came out on that thread– one that was very, very clearly intending to OPEN DISCUSSION and provide a civil place for learning and idea exchange– struck me as truly ugly.

    Those are my thoughts. I would love to hear more about yours.

    Again calls for “open discussion” and “civility” are often buzzwords to shut down oppressed groups. I’m not saying that’s what you are doing, but its a lot easier to call for civility and act on that call when you aren’t the one currently on the weaker side of the issue.

    There is a big discussion in movement atheism about how many straight white male atheists shut down women claiming they are being excluded by misogyny by using “free speech”, “no censorship”, and “they are so shrill and angry” type statements.

    I think part of the problem people had was that it wasn’t just tattoos that were being stereotyped. Eve also admitted to having locks to be edgy. Its like it was the combination of those factors that rubbed people the wrong way because they represent a well know outlook among suburban white people that often correlates to extreme ignorance of privilege.

  14. horseloverfat
    August 23, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Anne Marie,

    Herd mentality is a real thing, particularly on the internet where anonymity rules, and I believe it’s at least partly responsible for what happened on that thread. It’s also an extremely flawed barometer to rely on when it comes to acceptable, civil behavior, which is all anybody is really advocating here. It’s hard to read through a thread where the “fuck you’s” flew fast and furious, and in which Eve was essentially accused of writing the worst post in the history of the website and of being akin to a person that would refer to tattooed women as “crackwhores” as remotely civil. Again, I implore you, please read the original post again… Do those comments seem like reasonable or even reasonably well-considered responses?

    And where you got the idea that Jill considers her guest bloggers “flawless” is a total mystery. Her whole point is that we’re human beings with histories and perspectives that are inevitably flawed. All of us. And she hopes commentators will be more thoughtful, polite, and open to new voices in the future, because to be any other way is to functionally shut down all conversation. And go nowhere.

  15. Allison
    August 23, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    “Again, when everyone reads it one way, the problem is the OP’s communication, not our comprehension.”

    But “everyone” didn’t read the post one way. I certainly didn’t read the post as endorsing the problematic ideas about women with tattoos that some attributed, and not all or even a majority* of those who commented appeared to read it that way either.

    *I did not actually count the number of positive/negative/off-topic comments, mind you, so I could be wrong. But there was definitely a diversity of opinion.

    Also, if it’s in fact true that there’s a “toxic” culture of knee-jerk hostility to guest-bloggers, the mere presence of lots of hostile comments wouldn’t prove that the hostility was justified.

  16. sabrina
    August 23, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    I would appreciate diet talk to have a trigger warning. Many of your commentariat have battled eating disorders and diet talk triggers that trauma.

  17. am
    August 23, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    @Allison: Fine, not all, the majority. I had no idea whether the OP was a guest or not but being a guest isn’t an excuse to say sexist things.

  18. am
    August 23, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    @Allison: And seeing the quote, “Someone in our family recently began the process of [x]; I can’t help feeling like it’s a cry for …something. (Help? Attention? Is it armor? Is it just sexy?)” – you don’t see the sexism? Replace “x” with “breast reduction surgery,” “getting a Ph.D.,” “getting really into WoW,” etc. It’s just being judgmental of women’s choices for no reason.

  19. Allison
    August 23, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    But doesn’t it matter a lot what we swap in for X? Getting a PHD vs. getting a chest tattoo vs. having her left arm amputated for no medical reason?

    But I take your point re: this particular post, since the author acknowledged that she might respond differently to a man doing the same thing. But since this was in the context of her *examining* her different reactions and asking what that difference said about her, and about society, I did not take her to be endorsing sexism. I mean, given that we live in a sexist society, it stands to reason that most of us have probably internalized some sexist ideas, and that it might be helpful to explore them.

  20. AMM
    August 23, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    I went and read the Tattoo thread to get some idea what Jill was talking about, and it struck me how many commenters wrote that they were offended by the OP (or by other commenters), and how often Jill asked people not to interpret the OP in the ways that they were taking offense at.

    When someone says they are “offended” at something someone else has said, they are really saying that they have a right not to hear it and the person who said it had no right to say it, and, a fortiori, no one should be discussing it.

    Now, in my perhaps antiquated view, Feministe is Jill & Co.’s salon, and it is up to them to decide what people do and do not have a right to say here. If some commenters wish that certain phrases or topics or views or perspectives should be off-limits, they can certainly ask Jill & Co., but if Jill & Co. make it clear that they don’t agree, it’s boorish to keep complaining about those phrases/etc. Either engage with what you can/are willing to engage with, or leave the discussion.

  21. chava
    August 23, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    I don’t know, one of the things I enjoy about this space is the intensity of the discussion. Yeah, it can get a little neurotic at times, but in general it’s fun to debate w/people. If we all agreed, it would be quite boring…

  22. LotusBecca
    August 23, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    I went and read the Tattoo thread to get some idea what Jill was talking about, and it struck me how many commenters wrote that they were offended by the OP (or by other commenters), and how often Jill asked people not to interpret the OP in the ways that they were taking offense at. When someone says they are “offended” at something someone else has said, they are really saying that they have a right not to hear it and the person who said it had no right to say it, and, a fortiori, no one should be discussing it.

    AMM. . .what you said here interested me because it wasn’t my memory of the thread. So I decided to do a little statistical analysis. Searching for the specific words. . .it turned out only one person said they were “offended” by the OP or that the OP was “offensive.” (Perspicacity, the first commenter). On the other hand, there were three people–horseloverfat, Tara, and Sara Bella–who specifically used the word “offended” to describe how everyone else was supposedly reacting to the OP and how everyone should NOT be reacting to the OP.

    My interpretation of this? Well, if a person criticizes something in an unpopular way or from a position of lesser power, their criticism is often villified, dismissed, and mischaracterized. Western society has a big emphasis on free speech and people who get “offended” easily by things are generally believed to be hypersensitive puritans. Therefore, it’s tempting to dismiss an unpopular or weaker person’s criticism as evidence that they are merely “offended” and attempting to censor things, even if that person is putting forward a critique significantly different or more complex than “hey, that offended me!” And I think this dynamic was at play in the tattoo thread.

  23. miga
    August 23, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    Perhaps this seems a little too unrealistic for this blog, but I’d hope that personal attacks could get tuned to a minimum in the future.

    I read Feministe often for the debate sparked by the arguments- many of the threads here have made me change my perspectives, or at least given me something to think about – but when things start turning personal I leave.

    I’m more of the Jay Smooth style of debate- someone says something problematic? then call a spade a spade- but don’t assume the entire deck is a spade and throw it out. That leads to lots of acrimony and takes away from the discussion. I’ve seen threads devolve into well-written name calling, and as much as we all have a right to be angry (and being on this blog is maybe the only time some of us ever feel free to express our frustrations), personal attacks really don’t help.

  24. Miss S
    August 23, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    If we all agreed, it would be quite boring…

    I don’t think ‘agreeing’ is the goal though, as much as civil disagreeing. I agree with the person above who pointed out the internet anonymity aspect.

    In real life, merely disagreeing with someone doesn’t turn into anything that resembles some of the comment threads here.

    Sometimes it feels like there is no room for diversity here. Sure, we have some Black women who comment here, and some Jewish women, and some men. But I realized that unless I agreed with the core commenters here, I was going to get piled on. See: me and Azalea on the Christian thread when it turned to a slavery. People were arguing things that I never said, replying to quotes that weren’t mine, calling me names- and then realizing that I never said those things.

    To me, diversity also means people with varying perspectives, and lives, and thoughts. I would think that this would be the place where people could come to give those perspectives, but damn it’s always a struggle.

    I understand that we talk about sensitive topics, but the hostility and rage are not needed most of the time. The hostility and rage also rarely lead to a productive discussion because people either leave, or they continue the hostility until about 500 posts. By then, it’s not a discussion, it’s a fight.

  25. Miss S
    August 23, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    Also? Don’t engage the trolls. Some of them are obviously here to piss everyone off by saying things like “women are gold diggers, obviously” or “women want to steal my sperm so they can trap me by their pregnancy” or other complete bullshit. Those people aren’t here to engage, they’re here to piss you off. They completely derail the discussion.

  26. Li
    August 23, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    AMM. . .what you said here interested me because it wasn’t my memory of the thread. So I decided to do a little statistical analysis. Searching for the specific words. . .it turned out only one person said they were “offended” by the OP or that the OP was “offensive.” (Perspicacity, the first commenter). On the other hand, there were three people–horseloverfat, Tara, and Sara Bella–who specifically used the word “offended” to describe how everyone else was supposedly reacting to the OP and how everyone should NOT be reacting to the OP.

    Sometimes, LotusBecca, I really truly love you.

  27. Synna
    August 23, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    Jill:

    Putting a trigger warning stating : ‘Trigger warning, fat hatred’ would suffice. It’s not about knowing everyone’s triggers but using common sense to determine if the content of the post might be upsetting. As you rightfully suggest, discussions of sexual assault and DV can be triggering. So can diet talk, eating disorders, ableism, racism, animal cruelty, medical talk, mental health, insert topic here.

    Call it a trigger warning, a content note or whatever. It’s just showing an awareness that people like to be warned before diving into something which may upset them. That way it’s their choice if they proceed.

  28. LotusBecca
    August 23, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    Sometimes, LotusBecca, I really truly love you.

    Awww. Thank you Li. I’d like you to know that the feeling is definitely mutual. :-)

  29. horseloverfat
    August 23, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    @LotusBecca – Interesting point on the cultural use of the word “offended,” but that absolutely CAN’T be the end of your statistical analysis regarding that thread. A person who says “people just like you, Eve, call my friend a crack whore” sounds… mm… kind of offended? Is that really such a stretch? Plus, after my first comment, there were multiple people defending the response to the post by saying that it offended the readership (Katniss and Revolver). You didn’t mention them. So it seems at least a little disingenuous of you to suggest that some people (like me) were coming from an oppressive place in using the O word as a descriptor.

    Still, I think it’s a smart analysis of how that word is sometimes used. I just think it was accurate in this case, and that you’ve kind of missed my points in the case of that thread.

  30. sabrina
    August 23, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    thank you synna for saying that more eloquently than I could.

  31. Rayuela23
    August 23, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    Whilst I broadly understand and support your objective here, Jill, I also feel a bit uncomfortable about this post.
    I do think it is important and informative to have a variety of voices contributing to this blog, it is a great reminder of the diversity of feminists, or of, as bell hooks would put it, the diversity of those who advocate feminism. Generally most of the ‘staff’ (I know none of you get a cent!) writers write in quite a ‘professional’, formal style; guest bloggers are often more ‘personal’ or informal (I know that can be a bullshit distinction). Guest bloggers are also at times less well-versed, I guess, in current understandings of privilege and oppression, at times have done a bit less reading or less research, and at times in doing more ‘personal’ writing are exposing themselves more to the commentariat. I think it is really great to ask commenters to be respectful and engage in good faith with all of these things, with an especial emphasis on being extremely reserved with negative comments about contributor’s personal lives and decisions.

    BUT.
    Feministe has a problem with race.
    I can’t really think of a nicer way to put this. And it is extremely disturbing and dispiriting, and it is something that I consider must be addressed and improved as an issue of tantamount importance. It is extremely depressing to continue to see women of colour driven away from this space by the ignorance and defensiveness of other commenters, and indeed sometimes contributors. And I am somewhat disturbed that it seems as if this post is perhaps in part chiding the women of colour who expressed their discomfort with the wearing of dreadlocks by white people as a form of ‘edginess’. If this is not the case, perhaps it would be good to make it explicit in the post. (I really hope – and believe – this is not the case).

    In general, I agree with requesting patience and openmindedness for Guest Blogger season. But Feministe has asked *far* too much patience of women of colour already. In other areas there may be room for some lenience, some less fraught and perhaps more 101-style discussion. But the race problem in this blog is too damaging to be allowed to be free from critique in the name of variety or friendliness.

  32. August 23, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    I really enjoy this site, and I enjoy guest blogger season for the wide array of voices we get to hear, so I hope this comment comes off as being in good faith as it is intended.

    While guest bloggers, and often regular bloggers, do get jumped on too often for reasons that can indeed be ridiculous, sometimes I feel like guest bloggers get away with too much just by virtue of being guest bloggers. Sometimes it seems like any criticism is seen as harsh, when really it’s people saying “Hey, that’s racist/fatphobic/generally just a shitty thing to say.” I know this post is not saying “don’t ever criticize guest bloggers ever ever” but it kind of seems like guest bloggers get to just say and do whatever and if they upset a lot of people and shit-storm ensues, oh well, too bad.
    I hate to see good bloggers be run off by unnecessarily nasty comments, and I do think guest bloggers tend to get harped on more because they are not regulars, but I wish there could be a better balance where commentors can leave constructive feedback, or deserved criticism, and maybe actually be listened to.

  33. horseloverfat
    August 24, 2012 at 12:34 am

    Matt,

    Hey, thanks for being so thoughtful with your response!

    “I would say the goal of a good writer is to effectively communicate ideas.”

    I think that can be one goal of a good writer, but surely another is to inspire thought and discourse. Not all writing, particularly the kind of writing that appears on blogs with such an energetic comment section, has to come from an instructive place. You talk aboutt he great discussions this blog has had in the past, and I think that’s what Eve was hoping to engage. It’s the unwillingness to meet her on that level of curiosity that was so disturbing to me. If her questions were flawed or unclear, she was obviously willing to hear about it and probably would have responded with details, so why take that moment to stop at simply complaining about her post or to attack her personally? (I should also say, I’ve gone back through the entire thread, and there were definitely a lot of interesting stories, points of view, and eloquent criticisms present… certainly not everyone is guilty of attacking, and it’s too bad the clamor kind of stamped out the opportunity to have a conversation with those commentators.)

    “We could use an example of male privilege. Todd Akin for instance certainly set off a firestorm of personal criticism, and for good reason. You could argue that a man’s opinion is justly subject to increased criticism because of patriarchy. And it’s true.

    But a lot of the people responding to Eve’s comment on tattoos and also her hairstyle choices are either PoC or people intensely involved in the counter culture as opposed to someone like Eve who is a white suburbanite trying to appear edgy. In this case the argument that a person in a position of privilege would justly be treated to personal criticism applies.”

    I’m not sure I see how this Akin analogy applies. First, he is a person vying for a position of power, which would give him an influence over millions, and he was specifically stating something idiotic and completely factually inaccurate as a truth. Second, those things he said were A THOUSAND TIMES more hurtful and ignorant than anything Eve said or potentially implied, even under the worst possible light. I can’t imagine we don’t disagree there. And third, Eve was asking for opinions! She wasn’t making any statements, or implying she had a rigid point of view on any of these things. One would think that someone actually creating the opportunity for feedback would not be slammed so hard.

    “There was very little profanity, no threats of violence or anything that goes beyond the confines of spirited debate etiquette.”

    Then I think my high-school debate class was doing it wrong. Nobody ever demanded that I apologize for asking a question, or exhibited outright hostility, whether in language or personal judgment. Again… I know it was just one comment, but the individual who said that Eve was the kind of person who would call someone with tattoos a “crack whore” was simply, clearly, overwhelmingly out of line. That’s not spirited debate, man… That’s someone accusing a curious person of vicious hate speech. Yet nobody other than Eve even mentioned that comment.

    “If part of your writing style comes off as offensive because of privilege its important to grok why its offensive and try and change it. It seems like being more aware of privilege should make you a better writer rather than a worse one.”

    Great! Love this idea, and totally agree with it. I’m not sure I personally believe that this applies to what Eve wrote, but clearly others did think that, and those kinds of constructive comments are not the issue at all. It’s the meanness, you know? It’s not taking her at her word that she was open and interested in other perspectives.

    “The above argument about damaging your own cause is an oft used way for many straight white males to attack both feminism and civil rights activists.” …etc.

    The “damaging your own cause” was referring generally to our mutual aim for universal tolerance and all-inclusiveness. I thought that was clear by following that up with “inclusiveness is a two-way street,” but I see that I could have set that statement up better. Still, this focus on buzzwords is partly the problem, in my view– you knew that I wasn’t seeking to shut down any groups or individuals (you said so yourself), so why mention it? There seems to be a bit of a pattern of missing the forest for the trees in these kinds of posts, particularly ones coming from guest bloggers… Some readers immediately key in on apparently problematic words or references (Eve’s dreadlock photo was identified as being from “ten years ago,” and she further clarified in the comments that her wearing them was part of a personal growth process), and fail to engage and give the benefit of the doubt to someone brand new to this space who clearly came with curiosity, good intentions, and a willingness to have a conversation. Who knows what kind of good and mutual understanding would have come if people had asked Eve questions about her family member, or about her choice to have dreadlocks? Is it so out of line to imagine that the readership of this blog might even benefit from hearing more about her story, and understanding the context of the things they’re so enraged by? That was never ONCE extended back to her.

    Perhaps you, or some of the readers of this blog, feel that people like Eve is simply unwelcome here. The point you keep making about this blog not being Feminism 101 and “it’s not [our] job to educate” seems like a cop out. Is this what you would say to anybody hoping to have an open dialogue? If you believe Feministe should not allow people like Eve– a writer from outside the academic world– then perhaps people should let the regular writers at this blog know. And people like her, and people like me– curious, open-minded, eager to learn from people’s lives, points of view and stories– would simply stay away.

  34. Alexandra
    August 24, 2012 at 12:42 am

    You know, I didn’t like Eve’s post about tattoos. I didn’t find it very interesting, provocative, or informative. I have no problem with asking open-ended questions or talking about one’s own prejudices and hang-ups, but I do ask of writers that they spend some time hashing out possible answers to open-ended questions, or really thoroughly interrogating their own prejudices, before they ask me to read and consider what they’ve written. I maintain that Eve’s post wasn’t terribly reflective, and that was my biggest issue with it – not that Eve has prejudices (who doesn’t?) or that she did dumb stuff with her hair (god knows I have).

    But by far the largest issue I take with what happened in the DISCUSSION on Eve’s post was that talking about dreadlocks suddenly became a derail that had to be shut down, hard – with threats of banning, even! – when Eve brought up dreadlocks and her reasons for wearing them in the body of her post. It’s one thing to say, I want the conversation to be about this. It’s another thing to take issue with people talking about what you’ve written in the comments section to that particular piece of writing. Writers may ask, suggest, implore that their readers explore what is interesting and important to the writer, but readers will make up their own minds about what’s significant to them. I did not find the dreadlocks discussion anywhere near the kind of derail as on the Simone Weil thread about whether or not religions are inherently oppressive (and thanks, Jill, for getting us back on topic!).

    And last but probably most importantly, shutting down the dreadlocks conversation ONCE AGAIN happened to entail shutting down a conversation where women of color were calling out racism, not just in the blog post but especially in the commentariat. If the only place people can call out racism is in posts specifically about racism, Feministe is going to end up tolerating an awful lot of casual racism in its comments section.

  35. horseloverfat
    August 24, 2012 at 12:45 am

    Sorry, Lotus… Typo. I *don’t* think it was accurate in this case.

  36. Caroline
    August 24, 2012 at 1:43 am

    Thanks for the post, Jill. I really enjoy reading Feministe but over the past half year, looking at the comments section has more often than not left me with a bad feeling. I really appreciate that Feministe tries to create a more friendly atmosphere anew.

  37. SydneyKait
    August 24, 2012 at 2:16 am

    I barely come here anymore. Jezebel is a breath of fresh air in comparison.

  38. SydneyKait
    August 24, 2012 at 2:19 am

    Seems like everyone here is super delicate and needs a trigger warning for everything. Walkin on eggshells.

  39. Li
    August 24, 2012 at 2:42 am

    I barely come here anymore. Jezebel is a breath of fresh air in comparison.

    Seems like everyone here is super delicate and needs a trigger warning for everything. Walkin on eggshells.

    What. A. Loss.

  40. SydneyKait
    August 24, 2012 at 3:04 am

    I know right? Thats why no one wants to blog here or comment. :D

  41. Matt
    August 24, 2012 at 3:09 am

    I disagree. I get shit from a lot of people here for what I post. But since my goal is not personal validation and happy feelings it doesn’t cause me to leave.

    The level of forum pvp, well technically blog pvp, here is pretty low.

  42. Alexandra
    August 24, 2012 at 3:30 am

    I don’t think anyone wants this place to be more like Jezebel, except maybe SydneyKait — if I were thinking of a blog on the internet whose culture I truly admire, the one that immediately pops into my head is Ta Nehisi Coates’s place over at The Atlantic. I love the discussions there, though they usually concentrate on East Coast time, which limits my participation a bit. He’s the only blogger I know with a comments section that is both civil and also not afraid of real disagreement or provocative thinking. Most of his readers aren’t coming from the far left or from deeply engaged feminism, though I suspect there’s a lefty bent to most of ’em. Coates’s politics are interesting too – he manages to avoid a lot of the myopia and infighting tactics common to all fringe political groups, from marxists to feminists to libertarians.

  43. DonnaL
    August 24, 2012 at 5:44 am

    What. A. Loss.

    I know. Don’t forget the transphobia!

  44. tmc
    August 24, 2012 at 6:04 am

    Feministe has a problem with race.

    That’s definitely putting it nicely. Feministe is downright toxic for women of color. I’ve been reading this site for many years although I only recently (maybe in the past year?) started posting. And I have seen POCs get burned out again and again by the racism, by the derailing, by the hostility of certain white commenters and the indifference to that hostility of so-called white allies.

    It’s not like this is the first time that POCs have said this stuff about this place. And yet it hasn’t changed. I can’t even say that the attempts to bring POCs to the table have failed, because really, there haven’t been any such attemps!

    The only fucking “solution” that ever gets trotted out is that POCs should guest blog, should make themselves vulnerable and open themselves up to the racial fuckery here for the sake of educating whites and doing all the heavy lifting for free.

    I saw what y’all did to mai’a. I saw what y’all did to Chally. You think anyone wants to pour their heart out just to be told that we’re too angry? Just to be told that we ought to be GRATEFUL to racist white women because feminism? To be told that our problems aren’t real problems because women of color ain’t real women? Yeah, fuck that.

    Everyone’s always quick to jump on the anti-racist bandwagon when it comes to the easy stuff…usually. I thought that the Trayvon Martin thread would be pretty easy, that everyone would be on the same side because DEAD CHILD ARMED WITH SKITTLES, but it turned into racist whites ‘splaining to POCs that we’re more criminal than whites or that our children misbehave more. And those racist whites who spit in my fucking face while I was grieving for Trayvon are still here posting happily and unchallenged while my so-called allies seem to have forgotten all the fuck about it.

    And when it comes to the stuff that’s a little more challenging? Fucking forget it. A WOC merely mentions the word “decolonisation” and people LOSE THEIR FREAKING SHIT like she just burned an effigy of a white baby on their goddamn porch.

    After the last debacle in which I was silenced for having the audacity to call racist white people on their shit, I am seriously wondering whether I can stand to be here anymore. Feministe was the first feminist blog I ever read and it certainly played a part in developing who I am as an activist today. Which is probably why I haven’t been able to make myself abandon it even after I cut ties with other toxic communities long ago. I’ve been hanging around for sentimental reasons, and lately, those reasons just don’t seem like enough.

    I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will. I do have white allies, but they are a minority among the fake allies who just pretend to give a shit about POCs for the sake of making themselves feel good. I like to think that my real allies here, the ones who step the fuck up and challenge racism the moment it spills from someone else’s keyboard, who challenge themselves when their own racism spills out, who make themselves better allies every day by listening to and learning from POCs, already know who they are. Many thanks and love to them.

  45. konkonsn
    August 24, 2012 at 7:13 am

    Are we critiquing what is being said or how it’s being said? Because I often find the comments to be pretty cool and engaging (especially when you compare it to comments on many other websites…seriously, this is probably the one place I visit where tldr isn’t used for anything over a paragraph). But I can also understand that there is sometimes a level of snark used that may be unnecessary in an attempt to look witty.

    However, parsing out that snark from people who are actually hurt and just don’t feel like being nice to the oppressor any more can maybe be difficult, especially when you can’t tell who is bringing what to the table as easily as you might in a face-to-face (and even that’s difficult to say because you can’t always tell someone’s race, sexuality, gender status, etc. just by meeting them). I know that, personally, given my various statuses as oppressor and oppressed, I don’t really have personal or justified anger in certain debates, and so I should probably make sure that I’m not just being a little mean just to up my own ego or buddy up to other commentors. But in other discussions, ones where ideas that have hurt me in the real world are being talked about, then I feel like there shouldn’t really be the obligation on me to not be emotional.

  46. Lauren
    August 24, 2012 at 7:54 am

    It is extremely depressing to continue to see women of colour driven away from this space by the ignorance and defensiveness of other commenters, and indeed sometimes contributors. And I am somewhat disturbed that it seems as if this post is perhaps in part chiding the women of colour who expressed their discomfort with the wearing of dreadlocks by white people as a form of ‘edginess’. If this is not the case, perhaps it would be good to make it explicit in the post. (I really hope – and believe – this is not the case).

    As a former blogger here, I feel confident saying that the commenters are a large part of what has driven off WOC bloggers from writing on this blog. Several women have written about this very subject here NUMEROUS times, just to get the same arguments that folks here are proposing (I’m particularly fond of the “cleverness” bullshit, Matt; you prove Jill’s point). Chally, for example? The beloved writer who was tired of explaining racism to myopic commenter assholes? Holly and Jack, who expressed feeling tokenized not only by Feministe but by the feminist blogosphere as a whole? And also got really tired of doing Racism 101 on every thread? That’s not even to mention the guest bloggers, several of whom got ran out on their ears for not towing whatever feminist-trendy line of the day it was, and the commenters flipping out, demanding apologies, entitled enough to demand that writers to be figureheads for their specific causes. All this to say that social justice is a big tent, and Feministe has tried to welcome a lot of voices in the spirit of inclusion and soapbox-sharing. It also means that writers who have important and valid things to say see a bump in readership. Feministe as a group has always treated this as one chance to fill in the gaps of coverage and inclusion that happen during the rest of the year. It shocks me that the commentariat is so generally hostile to guest contributors, especially considering the common complaint that Feministe is already exclusive.

    On a more personal level, it’s really shocking to me that the feminist blogosphere no longer seems to recognize that social justice is a journey of self-discovery, community-building, and activism. We’re in a weird spot where we expect all active members to be completely-formed and perfect in theory and practice and/or incapable of evolution. That’s just not my experience. Things I said five years ago make me cringe today. Things I said ten years ago made me cringe five years ago. Things I said ten years ago make Today Me want to crawl under a rock. We evolve and grow as people, so does our movement as a community, usually for the better. As a community, I think we need to create some space in our language and treatment of one another for compassion, even from a distance if necessary.

    • August 24, 2012 at 8:08 am

      What Lauren said. This post is about 2% about Eve and 98% about a long history of guests and commenters who are posting in good faith feeling unwelcome here, and being roundly criticized and attacked (including guests we’ve invited on for this summer who have read the comments and are now saying that they don’t want to write here anymore because it’s so awful). I feel like I write some version of this post every summer, and it’s frustrating. And many of the pile-ons and bad-faith criticisms and nitpicking have been at the bloggers of color who we’ve invited, and at (former) staff Feministe bloggers. The culture of our comments has driven away a lot of great writers. Women of color who have tried to write here have gotten it the worst. I’m tired of seeing it happen.

    • August 25, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      Lauren:

      On a more personal level, it’s really shocking to me that the feminist blogosphere no longer seems to recognize that social justice is a journey of self-discovery, community-building, and activism. We’re in a weird spot where we expect all active members to be completely-formed and perfect in theory and practice and/or incapable of evolution. That’s just not my experience. Things I said five years ago make me cringe today. Things I said ten years ago made me cringe five years ago. Things I said ten years ago make Today Me want to crawl under a rock. We evolve and grow as people, so does our movement as a community, usually for the better. As a community, I think we need to create some space in our language and treatment of one another for compassion, even from a distance if necessary.

      I’ve been thinking about this overnight, and how true it is. I have learnt so much about my previously unexamined white/het/cis-etc socialisation/privilege baggage since I’ve been blogging, and there are absolutely hundreds of things Today Me wishes I had never ever said. I’m sure that Ten Years From Now Me will look back at some of what I do now and in five years time with a face full of palm too, because I certainly don’t think I’ve Arrived at my social justice destination yet. I look forward to continuing to deconstruct more of my own privileges, not because it’s some Great Self Growth journey for me to make me feel good about myself, but because that way I know that I will be doing ever less harm to marginalised people, and that’s an absolute social good.

      I do worry about the balance between what can be legitimately perceived as just another tone argument about extending the benefits of doubts versus the absolute necessity of calling out unexamined underlying issues of marginalisation, but I do think it’s necessary to remember that a balance of calling-out/calls-for-clarification/charitable-interpretation is both possible and productive.

  47. Lauren
    August 24, 2012 at 8:20 am

    …if I were thinking of a blog on the internet whose culture I truly admire, the one that immediately pops into my head is Ta Nehisi Coates’s place over at The Atlantic.

    TNC4EVER!!!! Yes, he and his community demand thoughtfulness of one another, including in their criticisms of one another. Anything less is an offense to the subject matter.

  48. August 24, 2012 at 9:45 am

    I’m torn on this. On one hand, yes, sometimes the snark gets out of control. I know I’m guilty of that and I’m trying to stop – I used to be a lot better and it seems like lately I’ve got a hair trigger going on and my former self-censorship is failing me. On the other hand, one of the things I love the most about Feministe (and maybe I’m a minority on this) is the willingness of the core commentariat to speak up, criticize, and educate, despite being exhausted, although I wish they didn’t have to.

    Thinking about my own hair trigger, I’m wondering if it isn’t an issue of trust. As others have pointed out above, there are still a lot of “status quo” attitudes and beliefs that are transphobic, racist, ableist, classist, and so on, and it’s important to me that Feministe *not* let things like this slide, but given the willingness of many members of the commentariat to jump in and perpetuate these even further from what may have been a single off-hand remark in a guest blog, I completely understand other commenters jumping in defensively as well, because it’s exhausting to see the same frustrating BS over and over. And while I don’t think I expect Feministe to be perfect, I do expect it to be better than what it sometimes is. And I guess it feels like that change at Feministe *has* been in part driven by the unwillingness of commenters to back down from challenging problematic (I know, I know) viewpoints. And I guess these reminder posts always seem to me to conflate people who are defending the kyriarchical status quo with those who are criticizing it, no doubt because we don’t all agree what comments constitute which.

    When I was invited to guest blog at Feministe a couple of years ago, I (reluctantly) declined because I knew that summer I was not going to have the time or mental energy to both blog *and* handle the comment section. Honestly, were I ever to guest blog in a space like Feministe, I would consider the discussions to be the major part of the commitment, more than just writing the original posts, because they can be so demanding and complicated – I sometimes get the impression that guest bloggers are not aware of or prepared for that, and it ends up being a frustrating experience on both sides, which just exacerbates things. It’s not just that Feministe isn’t a 101 space for activism, it’s not a 101 space for blogging either. Given that it’s a relatively lightly moderated space that is relatively easy to stumble into (I have a suspicion that Ta Nehisi Coates’ space is more heavily moderated, as are some of my favourite comment spaces, which are also further off the radar), there are a lot of shit-stirrers who wander in and a lot of unfamiliarity and lack of trust even among the commenters, and it seems like everyone ends up on a hair trigger. I would like to see the culture of defensiveness around here change not because we stop caring about being critical and challenging (which for me is the point of participating and of trying to start my own blog – to be criticized and challenged), but because we stop feeling like we need to be defensive in this space. But “disarmament” is legitimately hard when it comes to who is going to put their guard down first. I don’t have any answer and I don’t envy your position, Jill. All I can do is keeping participating according to my own principles, and if I’m ever unwelcome because of that, so be it.

    I’d also like to mention that I’ve seen some really wonderful conversations happens here, including some where people started out seriously disagreeing or sometimes misunderstanding each other, and worked toward a peaceful agreement.

  49. sabrina
    August 24, 2012 at 10:54 am

    I really don’t appreciate the eggshells comment. I often don’t comment here because of the toxicity of the comments section, but I do often enjoy the posts and appreciate the wide variety of voices that feministe brings to the table. This includes the guest bloggers. I just wish that people could step out of their own shoes and into the shoes of a trauma survivor for a little bit and maybe they would understand why some of us appreciate the trigger warnings. The fact is many many women came to their feminism as a result of traumatic experiences who have roots in the patriarchy. This means that a lot of us are going to be really off put when we can’t participate without having to fight through our triggers in order to read something. Some days we just don’t have the energy to put up with it, and on days when we do being able to take a minute and prepare ourselves is still nice.

  50. White Rabbit
    August 24, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Thank you.

    I’m one of the newcomers here who has been afraid to pipe up. I didn’t realize that others also perceived a hostile atmosphere, and I feel bad for not piping about this as others apparently did. It’s heartening to know that Feministe cares about maintaining a welcoming space to address this head on.

    The following recent tweet from Cliff Pervocracy sums up a lot of what I’ve witnessed and found frustrating both here and in other feminist spaces (I’m honestly not articulate or succinct enough on this subject to convey this as well as Cliff did in under 140 characters):

    “I think refusal to distinguish between conscious bigotry and mere thoughtlessness is a huge problem in the social justice-o-sphere.”

  51. zuzu
    August 24, 2012 at 11:36 am

    But by far the largest issue I take with what happened in the DISCUSSION on Eve’s post was that talking about dreadlocks suddenly became a derail that had to be shut down, hard – with threats of banning, even! – when Eve brought up dreadlocks and her reasons for wearing them in the body of her post. It’s one thing to say, I want the conversation to be about this. It’s another thing to take issue with people talking about what you’ve written in the comments section to that particular piece of writing. Writers may ask, suggest, implore that their readers explore what is interesting and important to the writer, but readers will make up their own minds about what’s significant to them. I did not find the dreadlocks discussion anywhere near the kind of derail as on the Simone Weil thread about whether or not religions are inherently oppressive (and thanks, Jill, for getting us back on topic!).

    And last but probably most importantly, shutting down the dreadlocks conversation ONCE AGAIN happened to entail shutting down a conversation where women of color were calling out racism, not just in the blog post but especially in the commentariat. If the only place people can call out racism is in posts specifically about racism, Feministe is going to end up tolerating an awful lot of casual racism in its comments section.

    IMO, it wasn’t the people who first raised the dreadlocks issue who were derailing, but the ones who tried to quash/distract from that discussion by bringing up the friggin’ Celts. But those people so poisoned the well that it wasn’t possible to rescue the discussion at that point. Which, as has been noted, is a huge problem among the commentariat here.

    I also think there’s a huge difference in terms of what happens to a discussion when someone raises a question or concern in a way designed to foster discussion/seek an explanation/criticize a thought process vs. what happens when someone gets their back up and draws a conclusion about the writer, her intent, etc. Or my favorite, makes demands on the writer about what she should have written.

    • August 24, 2012 at 11:39 am

      MO, it wasn’t the people who first raised the dreadlocks issue who were derailing, but the ones who tried to quash/distract from that discussion by bringing up the friggin’ Celts. But those people so poisoned the well that it wasn’t possible to rescue the discussion at that point. Which, as has been noted, is a huge problem among the commentariat here.

      Yeah, agreed. Mentioning dreadlocks (even in a critical way!) wasn’t the issue. It was the whole side-fight about how white people who get dreadlocks are never racist because Celts. That was derailing and obnoxious and not relevant to the point of the post, and quickly turned the conversation ugly.

  52. Bagelsan
    August 24, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    On a more personal level, it’s really shocking to me that the feminist blogosphere no longer seems to recognize that social justice is a journey of self-discovery, community-building, and activism. We’re in a weird spot where we expect all active members to be completely-formed and perfect in theory and practice and/or incapable of evolution. That’s just not my experience. Things I said five years ago make me cringe today. Things I said ten years ago made me cringe five years ago. Things I said ten years ago make Today Me want to crawl under a rock.

    All of this so much.

    But, I don’t know if this vastly important goal and perspective is compatible with our absolute intolerance for anything that can be called “feminism 101.” A bright golden shiny purely non-101 space?That’s just fucking unrealistic.

    Magically knowing not to use the word “chubby” about a child, or knowing that an embarrassing old photo of you in dreads will start a racist shitstorm doesn’t mean you fail 101, it means you fail being PSYCHIC. What happened to the idea of 101 as being stuff that a reasonably intelligent and thoughtful person might be able to figure out? Feminism 101 is “why is rape bad?” or “what’s patriarchy?” it’s not what Eve wrote. Eve’s stuff is easily 201 or higher, in many many ways. Maybe not in regards to race; calling out the dreads was appropriate, and the Celts can just shrug their blue shoulders and bite their tongues even if not getting to claim “locs” is a grave injustice to the White Man.

    And no one’s going to be post-101 in every facet of anti-racism/sexism/ableism/colonialism/colorism/transphobia/queerphobia/etc. FFS at age 4 I wasn’t positive that black people weren’t chocolate-flavored; at age 6 I had experienced physical sexual harassment from a classmate; at age 8 I knew exactly how terrifying mental illness can be even if I couldn’t put a name to it, at age 10 I thought boys were better than girls. Does that mean I was an ignorant kid? A wise kid? What the hell am I now? I’m somewhere in the 100’s on race, I’m definitely around the 300’s in feminism, I’m probably 200’s on ability, 150-ish on fat acceptance… Fuck knows what I average out at. I’m level zero at things I’ve never heard of, obviously.

    And that has to be acceptable because there aren’t a lot of alternatives. The best we can ask is that no one say anything blindingly offensive. And no, it’s not only POC who have been hurt by blindingly offensive (or at least, blindingly controversial) statements and questions, though they tend to get it in the gonads more than most. Crazy fat non-parent atheist Jew whatever; everyone’s got a trigger. And asking every guest blogger to trigger no one is fucking ridiculous. Life is super triggering sometimes.

    We shouldn’t be whining that it’s “not a 101 space!” we should be trying to make it not a 101 space. In any ism. And I don’t care if that puts a burden on people to educate when they’re tired because I’m shouldering that burden too, and I’m glaring at allies to pick up some fucking slack. Including myself. Pick up some fucking slack. My blue-ass Celtic ancestors didn’t JAQ off about their hair all day, they buckled down and conquered shit.

    …And yeah, maybe I said some “problematic stuff” in this huge rant, I don’t even know. I’m not perfect; I couldn’t even know. But I damn well meant it to be read in the most charitable way possible, just like everyone wants to be read, and if charity is impossible then go talk a walk or eat a cookie or pet a cat or read Womanist Musings until your spoons are refilled, and then come back and try the whole process again.

    Or bail for a whole year and come back then and see if things have improved. It’s your pro-con list. I don’t know. I’m not your boss. I just want Feministe to not suck.

    Fin.

  53. Leah
    August 24, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    It seems disingenuous to collapse the toxic environment for women of color and trans women at Feministe into a “hostile commentariat” problem. I see a difference between dozens of unique commenters “taking issue” with different aspects of guest bloggers’ posts and a few women of color, trans women, and allies responding consistently, repeatedly, and at length to racist and transphobic comments on (or content in) post after post. To include those commenters in the “hostile commentariat” who are just searching for things to declare problematic ignores this pattern.

    In the Trayvon Martin post that tmc cited at 47, for example, matlun (not to mention Sea the Terrier who was eventually banned) was allowed to go on and on with his dehumanizing, violently racist comments. This wasn’t just a problem with mods originally allowing the comments to stand. As has been noted, commenters do realize that bloggers are have their own lives and are not simply standing guard with the banhammer at Feministe. But even after a mod showed up, matlun wasn’t threatened with banning, as were the respondents to the loc/dreadlock “derail” in Eve’s tattoo post. At the very least, it should be acknowledged that that kind of response, or non-response, by mods may contribute to the toxicity, which has so far been blamed only on the (homogenized) commentariat.

  54. lcd
    August 24, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Ok, Jill, then why just shut comments down entirely without specifically calling out the racism? The way things are conducted makes it seem like both you and Eve had way more of a problem with WoC bringing it up than the incessant racist derailing that came after. It’s not really fair to just swoop in and say, as Eve did

    Anymore comments about dreadlocks/locs/appropriation will be moderated (deleted) by me.

    is really dismissive and part and parcel of the attitude that WoC are talking about facing here.

    Generally I also agree that the attitude towards guest bloggers has not been fair, but conflating past instances where bloggers of color were run off with a white poster refusing to acknowledge racism or shut it down specifically, rather than just generally declaring the topic off limits, is misleading and ignores the fact that this commentariat does have a race problem, and none of the bloggers have been willing to moderate in a way that is more responsive to POC.

  55. Bagelsan
    August 24, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    I just read that out loud to my mom; she was offended that I said “pet a cat” instead of “pet a dog.” But we’re still on speaking terms. Jeezus. Let’s aim for that level of civility. :p

  56. IrishUp
    August 24, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    *** standing O for tmc **** & seconding leah and lcd

  57. Lauren
    August 24, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    It seems disingenuous to collapse the toxic environment for women of color and trans women at Feministe into a “hostile commentariat” problem. I see a difference between dozens of unique commenters “taking issue” with different aspects of guest bloggers’ posts and a few women of color, trans women, and allies responding consistently, repeatedly, and at length to racist and transphobic comments on (or content in) post after post. To include those commenters in the “hostile commentariat” who are just searching for things to declare problematic ignores this pattern.

    I’m not saying you’re wrong. I do think it’s part of the problem.

    But just as a historical point, check out this post from 2010, which Jill posted after the commentariat blew up over two of the most respected WOC in the blogosphere because they were too busy being offended over a phrase or two (and then over something stupid that someone, inevitably, eventually says in comments) than to consider the context from which these women were writing. Really, what a shame to have lost that learning opportunity. And last time I checked, anyway, it burned one of those writers so badly that she wants nothing to do with this community anymore. That still gets my hackles up when I think about it.

  58. unyun
    August 24, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    I just wanted to apologize again for my ignorance (privilege) on yesterday’s thread. I realize that I have caused pain and I really am sorry. For a long time I was just a lurker here at Feministe, and yesterday when I commented I was doing so without keeping my privilege in check, and I know that I probably contributed to a climate of racism. Ugh.

    I will be lurking from now on mostly, but I just wanted you all to know that I value and respect your voices… and I don’t think any of the women of color that spoke up yesterday were being “hypersensitive” at all. To be an effective ally I understand I’m going to have to do some uncomfortable self-reflection and probably a whole helluva lot more listening, and I hope you all keep coming back and commenting if you have the energy (of course… I do not expect this from you. Just know that I truly appreciate it if/when you do).

    Again… sorry.

  59. pheenobarbidoll
    August 24, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    then why just shut comments down entirely without specifically calling out the racism?

    This happens a lot in the feminist blog world. The entire conversation is treated as “everyone acting badly” instead of ” racists being horrible and POC rightly defending themselves”. It’s like when teachers punish the whole class when one or two boys are bullying/pestering the girls. Standing up for yourself is treated the same as instigating the problem.

    It’s not the same.

  60. DonnaL
    August 24, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    At least so far as transphobia and cissexism are concerned (the latter is more common), I agree that most the problem is caused not by bloggers or guest bloggers, or by regular commenters, but by people showing up to say awful things — or willfully ignorant things, which are quite noticeably different from people who just don’t know and are willing actually to listen — who aren’t members of the regular commentariat. Some of whom get incredibly persistent, and go on to derail whatever thread it is for what feels like hundreds of comments before they finally get banned or the thread finally dies of exhaustion. Like the “disclosure” thread as a recent example, or the guy a while back who insisted ad nauseum that a particular article he had linked to wasn’t transphobic, or the CeCe MacDonald discussion, and on and on.

    I know that a lot of regular trans commenters (I haven’t been here long enough to know if there have ever been trans bloggers or “regular” guest bloggers here) were driven away well before I started commenting myself last fall, and there are times I get tired of it too.

    Yes, there are lots of good allies who speak out against transphobia and cissexism, just as there are people who speak out against racism, but the only solution that might actually work is to have stricter and more discriminating moderation — to ban the derailers and the transphobes/cissexists early on, before things get out of hand. I understand that this place can’t be Shakesville, but whatever is going on now sure isn’t working. And the automated moderation system accomplishes nothing to that end, so far as I can tell. And “not feeding the trolls” can, in my opinion, be a pernicious and harmful piece of advice with respect to things like this. I can’t afford to ignore them.

  61. GinnyC
    August 24, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    The comment problem is worse on long threads. I tend not to comment a lot because of the following.

    1. I know that at least some of the commenters are going to be awful to other people, and that at least a few people will agree and defend the racist and transphobic comments. Long comment threads get more of this behavior.

    1b. The same people have to police this space over and over again, and they aren’t the mods. This really should not be happening, but Jill and the other bloggers have jobs/lives and can’t be the comment police….so…. How do we get the bigots and assholes to quit commenting?


    2. People engage in absolutely vicious personal attacks and never get banned or really reprimanded. People are allowed to silence others by being assholes as long as they get some people to agree with them.

    2a. If someone posts about her experiences of motherhood, there will be comments that call her ignorant and a bad mother. This is worse for WoC but seems to happen to anyone who posts about being a mother.

    2b. If the discussion turns to religion, someone will comment about how all religious people (or secular people from religious minority backgrounds) are idiots and oppressing atheists by existing. (Btw, I’m not religious)

    2c. A significant group of the commenters think theory trumps lived experience every time, and they are happy to tell you why your opinions don’t count.

    3. Certain people just want a fight and twist other commenter’s worlds.

    4. My comment will either get ignored completely or someone will “yell” at me for not reading and understanding the whole thread. Responding tends to be either pointless or a time sink.

  62. DonnaL
    August 24, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    This happens a lot in the feminist blog world. The entire conversation is treated as “everyone acting badly” instead of ” racists being horrible and POC rightly defending themselves”. It’s like when teachers punish the whole class when one or two boys are bullying/pestering the girls. Standing up for yourself is treated the same as instigating the problem.

    It’s not the same.

    Thank you. I see this too. There’s too much “blanket” calling out — of the “you’re all being bad” sort — without making it sufficiently clear exactly what’s being called out. I think that happened here, and it happens quite a bit.

  63. FashionablyEvil
    August 24, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    I’m not saying you’re wrong. I do think it’s part of the problem.

    But just as a historical point, check out this post from 2010, which Jill posted after the commentariat blew up over two of the most respected WOC in the blogosphere because they were too busy being offended over a phrase or two (and then over something stupid that someone, inevitably, eventually says in comments) than to consider the context from which these women were writing. Really, what a shame to have lost that learning opportunity. And last time I checked, anyway, it burned one of those writers so badly that she wants nothing to do with this community anymore. That still gets my hackles up when I think about it.

    I have been reading Feministe since 2006 and I hate to say, but nothing about this comment thread (or the original) surprises me in the least. I’ve read multiple iterations of this whole issue: WOC guest blog or call out racism in a thread, comments explode, moderation sort of happens, some commenters get banned, plea for civility, WOC leave the community. Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s depressingly familiar.

  64. Bagelsan
    August 24, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    I would personally like amblingalong’s perspective on this; the dreadlock discussion was not all a POC vs. white thing by any means.

  65. August 24, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    We shouldn’t be whining that it’s “not a 101 space!” we should be trying to make it not a 101 space. In any ism. And I don’t care if that puts a burden on people to educate when they’re tired because I’m shouldering that burden too, and I’m glaring at allies to pick up some fucking slack.

    See, that’s what I thought was (partly) being called out here – that “educating” in the form of critical comments is not welcome because it’s “nitpicking”. And, honestly, I’m getting seriously confused. What, exactly, is being called out here? People calling guest bloggers out on problematic (e.g., racist, transphobic, ableist) statements (which, in my experience, usually starts friendly enough, with some exceptions that are often completely new commenters rather than the regular lot) or guest bloggers being subjected to racist, transphobic, ableist, etc. comments? Because the latter I will stand behind as being not on, but the former? Yeah, no, I don’t see that as a problem. There’s a difference between what happened to, for example, mai’a, which was appalling (and there were a lot of commenters who were trying to fight on her behalf), and, say, Monica after her post on fat and health and ensuing fat-hatred in the comments, which even elicited a response post from zuzu at the time.

    So which is it that’s more unwelcome at Feministe? Because it’s not always clear to me.

  66. Bagelsan
    August 24, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    See, that’s what I thought was (partly) being called out here – that “educating” in the form of critical comments is not welcome because it’s “nitpicking”.

    I think “nitpicking” is when you call out something that’s essentially a brain typo or a misplaced word. The idea in its entirety might be good, or even great, but that one word or phrase that isn’t perfect gets all the attention. That’s not educational at all, imho. When I tutor, I don’t look at an essay and find the one thing that sucks and make it the sum total of my feedback!

  67. August 24, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    I think “nitpicking” is when you call out something that’s essentially a brain typo or a misplaced word. The idea in its entirety might be good, or even great, but that one word or phrase that isn’t perfect gets all the attention. That’s not educational at all, imho. When I tutor, I don’t look at an essay and find the one thing that sucks and make it the sum total of my feedback!

    I agree with that, but sometimes I feel like it’s a term that gets used (maybe not by Jill and co) to minimize what is a legitimate criticism, especially as we don’t all agree on what constitutes a legitimate criticism. Would it be “nitpicking” to point out if a guest blogger used “transwomen” instead of “trans women”? I mean, it’s just the matter of a space, but it’s a loaded space. And if a trans woman who is burnt out from constantly defending herself in hate-filled and ignorant spaces were to respond to this with a brief, “Put the space in,” would that be “too unfriendly”? I mean, I’m not condoning someone coming down on something like that with a verbal equivalent of a nuclear bomb, but I don’t remember seeing much of that, honestly – what I see are people who try to make critical corrections, who then get lambasted by other commenters for being “too sensitive”, and then the conversation escalates because no one is around to mod (which I get is a resource thing and I don’t blame the mods for having lives), and then people start talking about how goddamned oversensitive and angry Feministe commenters are. (Or, in cases like mai’a’s or Chally’s, skip the initial commenter and go straight to the lambasting blowback.) See, when I hear that, it doesn’t seem to me like that’s meant to apply to the transphobic commenters – it seems levelled instead at the lone trans woman who had the gall to make the initial correction. That’s the clarification I’m looking for.

  68. Miss S
    August 24, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    And I have seen POCs get burned out again and again by the racism, by the derailing, by the hostility of certain white commenters and the indifference to that hostility of so-called white allies.

    This, this, this. I can think of a few Black women who used to comment here who no longer do, and it’s a shame. I also remember the mai’a thread, and I was shocked at the level of hostility and vitriol.

    Also I’ve noticed that when other marginalized groups are being treated unfairly, most of the commenters rush to their defense. Black women receive no such treatment, and instead just get piled on by damn near everyone. That’s why there aren’t many left. When Chally was guest blogging, someone actually went onto another online space, wrote an entire rant about why my perspective was wrong, and then directed to me it.

    Honestly? I get the impression that if you don’t agree with the core commenters here (such as EG, DonnaL, PrettyAmiable, occasionally Chava)*, you’re pretty much fucked.

    • August 24, 2012 at 2:47 pm

      I agree with that, but sometimes I feel like it’s a term that gets used (maybe not by Jill and co) to minimize what is a legitimate criticism, especially as we don’t all agree on what constitutes a legitimate criticism. Would it be “nitpicking” to point out if a guest blogger used “transwomen” instead of “trans women”? I mean, it’s just the matter of a space, but it’s a loaded space. And if a trans woman who is burnt out from constantly defending herself in hate-filled and ignorant spaces were to respond to this with a brief, “Put the space in,” would that be “too unfriendly”? I mean, I’m not condoning someone coming down on something like that with a verbal equivalent of a nuclear bomb, but I don’t remember seeing much of that, honestly – what I see are people who try to make critical corrections, who then get lambasted by other commenters for being “too sensitive”, and then the conversation escalates because no one is around to mod (which I get is a resource thing and I don’t blame the mods for having lives), and then people start talking about how goddamned oversensitive and angry Feministe commenters are. (Or, in cases like mai’a’s or Chally’s, skip the initial commenter and go straight to the lambasting blowback.) See, when I hear that, it doesn’t seem to me like that’s meant to apply to the transphobic commenters – it seems levelled instead at the lone trans woman who had the gall to make the initial correction. That’s the clarification I’m looking for.

      I think that’s fair. And part of the problem is that there isn’t a bright line. Some critiques are legitimate, but also nitpicky. Sometimes when you spend three hours writing a post on an important topic and one of the first five comments is getting at you for not including X or phrasing Y like that, and then the whole thread goes into a discussion of whether or not X and Y are important enough to be discussing and WHAT ABOUT Z and no one is discussing what you spent so much time carefully crafting? That’s frustrating and not good, even if X, Y and Z are all important and legitimate issues. That was my perception of what happened in the tattoo thread — that one or two commenters brought up some legitimate issues about race and appropriation, and then a few other commenters jumped on their arguments, and then there was this whole side conversation about Celts that quickly devolved into name-calling and willful misreading and a bunch of fuck-yous, and some people were right and some people were wrong and some where a combination of both, and when Eve tried to shut that down in the simplest way possible by being like, “stop with this derail,” she was perceived as wanting to shut down legitimate critique. Which I understand. But when we’re talking about a 100+ comment thread that also has all of these other things going on aside from the conversation about dreads, I can also see how using a blunt-force instrument (“stop the derail about this whole topic”) can be the best solution.

      I think there are a couple of things going on here (and again, the tattoo post? Is only the latest incarnation of this, and doesn’t even relate to half of what I’m about to write. This stuff has been going on for years). One is the Best Feminist On The Internet issue, which I see play out a lot, and which I find irritating and pointless. That’s the knee-jerk reaction to read a post and try to identify what aspect of PRIVILEGE the author is not sufficiently flagellating themselves about, and then yell at them. The goal seems to be to prove that one is a better feminist and a more thoughtful social justice advocate than whoever is writing the post. The goal is to Take Issue With Something Problematic, and not actually to move the conversation forward. This is bad because (a) it fosters a lot of hostility and defensiveness, and (b) it turns social justice blogging into a competitive sport instead of an ongoing process for all of us.

      The other is the ignorance and asshole-ness of many drive-by commenters who post legitimately racist, transphobic and sexist things, which then understandably spur other people to comment, and sometimes those comments are (legitimately and fairly) angry and hostile.

      I don’t feel a need to shut down anger/hostility over bigotry. I do feel a need to shut down a modus operandi that centers on positioning oneself as a Better Activist by lobbing insults and CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE!! and THAT’S PROBLEMATIC!!! at contributors and commenters who are not being bigoted assholes but instead have a slightly different view, or used the wrong word, or didn’t think about X issue from Y perspective. Which doesn’t mean that no push-back is allowed; it does mean that the push-back should come in the form of engagement, in a spirit of productivity and good faith. And yes I realize that comes sort of close to making a “tone” argument, but I really think it’s the only way for a space like this to be functional.

      Part of it is also a question of priorities, ideals and movement strategy. Is it more important to call out a social justice writer for using a word like “crazy,” or is it more important to focus on the content of her piece? How can we do both at once? Can we point out the implications of certain choices (like using words that a lot of folks find offensive) in a way that doesn’t automatically put the writer on the defensive? Can we recognize that even in social justice communities, there are going to be differences of opinion when it comes to certain issues (again, the use of words like “crazy” comes to mind)? Are commenters ever actually too sensitive, or should we just always assume that if someone takes issue with something, it should be accepted (a commenter who a while ago asked for a trigger warning because I used the word “puke” comes to mind)? Where do we draw our lines around inclusion vs. exclusion?

      There aren’t easy answers to any of those questions. And it’s not easy — I’d even say it’s impossible — to draw clear lines around what’s productive and what’s not, or what’s nitpicking and what’s engaging. I’m trying to encourage people to comment kindly, and to keep the big picture and end goals in mind — a more just society, a deeper understanding of social justice.

    • August 24, 2012 at 2:47 pm

      I also just want to add that we’re discussing all of this on the back end, and coming up with what we hope will be some solutions.

    • chava
      August 25, 2012 at 5:11 pm

      Erm, while I’m flattered (I guess?), I’ve pretty much just been around awhile. I’ve never guestblogged, I don’t get love OR hate for the majority of my comments, and I’ve gone months without commenting at various points.

      From my perspective, the reason why EG, Donna, PA, KristinJ, William, zuzu et al get a lot of discussion and attention is because they make interesting, well thought-out points most of the time.

  69. Bagelsan
    August 24, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Would it be “nitpicking” to point out if a guest blogger used “transwomen” instead of “trans women”? I mean, it’s just the matter of a space, but it’s a loaded space. And if a trans woman who is burnt out from constantly defending herself in hate-filled and ignorant spaces were to respond to this with a brief, “Put the space in,” would that be “too unfriendly”?

    Personally, I wouldn’t call it nitpicking to say “put the space in”, but I also wouldn’t personally* think that failing to do so initially was a blatant level 101 fail either. I think it’s ignorant of something that’s kinda unique to certain blogospheres, and slightly sophisticated, and not meant to be hateful.

    To use an example I have more to say about, take the word “crazy.” Ableism 000 might say “lol crazy” while 101 might say “don’t use it!” but 201 might say “some people can use it some ways.” And it’s still very much a controversial word among us crazy people.** So I wouldn’t expect a blogger to get stomped for using or refusing to use it; that’s not a 101-level decision, it’s more sophisticated than that. I would give a blogger more leeway because it is a complicated issue, and there is no consensus in-group let alone as part of the 101 curriculum. It doesn’t make her a bad person to say crazy, probably, unless it’s in a completely unexamined way, because to many people that’s a legitimate word.

    To bring this back to the dreads thing, briefly, I think that saying you give white people with dreads side-eye is educational-not-mean but also I think that having worn dreads a decade ago doesn’t mean you fail antiracism 101 forever either. Appropriation is a complex and non-101 area, I think.***

    *I’m not trans hence it’s ultimately not my call.

    **See wut I did thar. :p

    ***I’m not a POC so obviously still not my call, but this is very much just imho.

  70. Lauren
    August 24, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    I’ve read multiple iterations of this whole issue: WOC guest blog or call out racism in a thread, comments explode, moderation sort of happens, some commenters get banned, plea for civility, WOC leave the community. Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s depressingly familiar.

    I’d argue this has been a problem of feminist blogging at large. And feminist organizing online at large. And also of feminism at large.

  71. Alexandra
    August 24, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    I’d argue this has been a problem of feminist blogging at large. And feminist organizing online at large. And also of feminism at large.

    And the political discourse in America at large…

  72. DonnaL
    August 24, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    if you don’t agree with the core commenters here (such as EG, DonnaL, PrettyAmiable, occasionally Chava)*, you’re pretty much fucked.

    You have to name names? I’m a “core commenter” now? For God’s sake, I haven’t even been here that long! I would say that, yes, if you’re transphobic or anti-Semitic or an unthinking Christian supremacist, yes, you are pretty much fucked here. And thank goodness for that! Intersectionality is a good thing. Is that not OK with you? Is there some problem you have with me specifically? Let’s see, in that thread where everyone was fighting with Azalea, which person who disagreed with her did she single out as having treated her respectfully?

    Just leave me alone, OK?

    • August 24, 2012 at 2:48 pm

      if you don’t agree with the core commenters here (such as EG, DonnaL, PrettyAmiable, occasionally Chava)*, you’re pretty much fucked.

      Well, I guess I’m fucked then, since I have disagreed with everyone listed at least once or twice (and they’ve disagreed with me more than that).

  73. DonnaL
    August 24, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Needless to say, I don’t think the other people you chose to name deserved being singled out that way, either. And please don’t pretend that you didn’t mean anything negative by it.

  74. ellie
    August 24, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    You know, I wonder how much of it has to do with the format of the comments section. Maybe it’d be easier to shut down things like this if the comments were threaded. It gets so easy to take a side mentally when shit starts going down in the comments, even though you may not agree with everything everyone on your ‘side’ says… and to interpret things incorrectly because you don’t know who’s responding to what.

    Comment formats like this can be so hard to follow. If one person steps out of line, and then someone else calls them on it, it’s sometimes hard to interpret that calling-out as a response to a single commenter and not an argument towards a side – especially when several separate discussions are all mixed up into one uniform blog thread. I think things here get very two-sided when they don’t need to.

  75. zuzu
    August 24, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    I’ve read multiple iterations of this whole issue: WOC guest blog or call out racism in a thread, comments explode, moderation sort of happens, some commenters get banned, plea for civility, WOC leave the community. Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s depressingly familiar.

    I’d argue this has been a problem of feminist blogging at large. And feminist organizing online at large. And also of feminism at large.

    And the internet at large, with various groups substituted for WOC.

    One problem is the moderation issue. Without dedicated moderators, clusterfucks are the rule rather than the exception. Someone mentioned Ta-Nahesi Coates’ comment threads as an example of respectful, substantive commenting. IIRC, his blog is heavily moderated, with registration required to comment, or at least was at the beginning, and a culture has grown up around it where now the commentariat reinforce the prevailing culture.

    But here’s why this works: TNC blogs at The Atlantic. The Atlantic is a profit-generating enterprise that pays people to be full-time mods who can and will enforce TNC’s rules. That’s something most ad hoc blogs started by individuals can’t do. So while there’s always space to criticize how moderation *is* done in the feminist blogosphere in general and this blog in particular, it’s a little unfair to expect the kind of results you get when you have a professional mod taking care of business.

    • chava
      August 25, 2012 at 5:14 pm

      This is an excellent point. Anyone remember how burnt out Kate and her team got at SP after three years? Yeah.

      Compensation for work; it’s a thing.

  76. Nobody
    August 24, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Maybe it’d be easier to shut down things like this if the comments were threaded.

    AAAHHHGGG!!! Threaded comments are an instrument of the devil!

    Not that I have a strong opinion on the subject or anything…

  77. Alexandra
    August 24, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    As I recall, Ta Nehisi Coates is the sole moderator of the comments section for his blog. He is quick and unapologetic to ban and delete offending comments, but I don’t believe anyone is working for him.

  78. zuzu
    August 24, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Point taken, but he’s still a paid blogger who doesn’t have to moderate while sneaking time from his regular job.

  79. Lauren
    August 24, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    But here’s why this works: TNC blogs at The Atlantic. The Atlantic is a profit-generating enterprise that pays people to be full-time mods who can and will enforce TNC’s rules. That’s something most ad hoc blogs started by individuals can’t do. So while there’s always space to criticize how moderation *is* done in the feminist blogosphere in general and this blog in particular, it’s a little unfair to expect the kind of results you get when you have a professional mod taking care of business.

    Yeah, totally. When blogging started taking off as a mainstream thing and people were breaking into professional blogger territory, this was one of the things I anticipated with dread, that professional standards (regarding writing, editing, moderating, etc) were going to be held against non-professional spaces and people. Personally, that’s the beauty of blogging — it’s accessible to most any writer that has meaningful internet access and you can get it for free.

    AAAHHHGGG!!! Threaded comments are an instrument of the devil!

    Not that I have a strong opinion on the subject or anything…

    I used to feel the same way, but since we’re talking TNC (TNC! TNC!), his blog was the one that changed my mind. It’s useful to see that some arguments, especially the ones over some willful ignorance, are swiftly taken down and not indicative of consensus. Like ellie said above, when the comments are linear it sometimes gives the appearance that there are only one or two sides represented. I also like that TNC’s threads are arranged to the point where if a comment thread has gone on for awhile, it goes “in the margins” where each comment is so skinny it’s illegible. In that case, the argument is basically moderated by design. Anyway, that’s nerd talk.

    Sorry if this is a derail.

  80. August 24, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Honestly? I get the impression that if you don’t agree with the core commenters here (such as EG, DonnaL, PrettyAmiable, occasionally Chava)*, you’re pretty much fucked.

    Now that is just demonstrably untrue. if you don’t agree with them- they disagree with you- openly and vocally- and why not? I will say this. All 4 of the people you mentioned have disagreed with me and agreed with me in various sums raging from 0-r for and against, but certainly none have ever held disagreements against me in other threads or in any way made me feel like I was ‘fucked’.

  81. konkonsn
    August 24, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    I think there are a couple of things going on here (and again, the tattoo post? Is only the latest incarnation of this, and doesn’t even relate to half of what I’m about to write. This stuff has been going on for years).

    I think this is an issue with the discussion we’re trying to have. When you’re talking about people piling on in the guest bloggers, my mind goes to the recent tattoo post and Anna’s posts as opposed to something that happened two years ago (and I think the critique of Anna was justified and have lukewarm feelings about the tattoo post, so…).

    I also learn better through example, but I can see where picking out a comment and tearing it apart would be a big issue. But all this talking in abstractions makes things a little unclear.

  82. Miss S
    August 24, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    You have to name names? I’m a “core commenter” now? For God’s sake, I haven’t even been here that long!

    So, I put an asterisk (as you can see) but accidentally cut the explanation of the asterisk out of the bottom. To sum it up:

    By core commenters, I mean the people who comment often who also tend to have similar views on controversial topics. I’ve agreed with every single commenter I’ve listed on various things, and I’ve learned from them. I do think that the core commenters seem to set the discourse for the discussions. This is honestly, truly, what I see going on, and I debated posting it, but that’s the truth from where I’m sitting.

    It doesn’t mean that any of you don’t have anything valuable to share- as I’ve said, I learned from quite a few of you. Also, I never suggested you were disrespectful, I’ve seen you stand up to unacceptable comments, and I admire and have been honestly touched by your comments on parenting. That doesn’t mean I can’t take issue from the way the opinions of the few are sort of seen as ‘the right way to view any given topic.’

    Well, I guess I’m fucked then, since I have disagreed with everyone listed at least once or twice (and they’ve disagreed with me more than that).

    Well, yeah, and I’ve disagreed with you also. I still think that disagreeing with certain people will stress you out enough to not come back. This is your blog, and maybe you can handle more, or maybe you don’t get piled up on or attacked in the way I’ve seen. I can think of one Black woman who used to post here, who no longer does, and I remember one of the last threads she posted in, and I remember who else was posting in that thread and I don’t think it’s one big fucking coincidence. I don’t think I’m the only one who has picked up on this almost ‘cliquish’ behavior, where certain posters have certain beliefs, and everyone else is wrong.

    I’m not suggesting that it’s the fault of those posters that ALL minority women are leaving, I’m suggesting that not being open to different perspectives than those of the certain people is contributing to it.

  83. Eve
    August 24, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    I feel like I should come in here and offer some thoughts about my own experience here as a guest blogger, day 5. But I also want to write a larger piece at the end of my tenure, so I am debating about how much to offer today.

    About the tattoo/dreadlock discussion: I went back through the thread last night, with a marker and legal pad to count different types of comments and get some idea of real statistics. (As “real” as they can be considering my felt tip pen, exhaustion and human subjectiveness.) It was good for me because it forced me to re-read everything, even though I thought I had had enough. What I discovered was that more than half of the comments offered constructive discussion, certainly including the POC’s dreadlock/loc discussion. But I counted 47 angry comments, whether they included the word “offended” or not. There was a lot of cursing, incredulity, and general unkindness — none of which contributed to discourse. I hope everyone understands how much accidentally offending people and trying to keep up with the comment thread AND run my regular life feels like a hopeless cycle. I defend/explain/apologize for one thing, but that offends someone, so I try again, but I use the wrong word, so I try again, but meanwhile the thread is continuing and now people are demanding apologies, and they are angry at each other too…and in addition to THAT, people are trying to participate cordially without reading my question properly. SO by that time, I did what I thought was the most sensible thing to do. I am sorry if “derail” was the wrong word. I am sorry if it made POC feel marginalized, that certainly wasn’t the intention. I am sorry that I didn’t participate more, or specify how uncomfortable I was with a thread containing insults and “fuck yous”; please know that my silence was a mixture of time-management, interest (there was a lot to read!) and intimidation/emotion; I hope to balance my time and bravery better next week.

    I have a long list of topics I would like to write about here at Feministe, and I still have another week. I hope that we can continue to learn from one another.

  84. Matt
    August 24, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    I agree with Miss S. that there is definitely cliquish behavior here, but that’s the rule at any long running social space.

    There are certainly posters who if you call out what you think is a fault, the pile on is much more extensive than with other posters. But again that’s unavoidable.

    I’ve been keeping vague track of how many people have stopped posting here since I’ve been checking in, but I take long breaks so its not definitive, and also why they leave. It’s generally true that someone who finds fault with a particular set of commentators will get run out, intentionally or not.

    And for all the talk of avoiding the oppression Olympics there is a clear hierarchy split into two parts.

    First there is what people claim are the most important issues.

    It generally goes: Feminism, Racism, anti-Gay/Bi/Lesbian, anti-Semitism, other QUILTBAG issues, anti-Sex, Atheism.

    Then we have the actual results, note that this is my personal perspective:

    Feminism, anti-Sex, anti-Gay/Bi/Lesbian, anti-Semitism, other QUILTBAG issues, Racism, Atheism.

  85. LotusBecca
    August 24, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    Wow. This thread has given me a lot to think about. I want to say that I completely cosign what tmc said at 47, what Jadey said at 52, and what Leah said at 62. . .just to single out a few of the comments where I was nodding most vigorously.

    Jill. . .I understand that you are coming from a perspective of being a blogger. You put a lot of time and energy into this blog, and when you write about something you want people to address the meat of the post that you worked really hard on. And when you have guest bloggers on, who are people you like and respect, you want them to be treated well, and you don’t want people to jump down their throats over the smallest thing.

    I don’t have that kind of investment in or knowledge about Feministe (or blogging). . .so I can really only imagine what it’s like. But I’m very invested, more generally, in the movements for and ideals of social, political, and economic justice and freedom. I’ve never been in a leadership role. But I’ve seen some things. I saw how a male “leader” at Occupy Austin dismissed a woman who was trying to raise concerns about the threat of sexual assault at the encampment. I see how there are hardly ever any women of color in the feminist bookstore where I volunteer in Portland even though the store is located in a neighborhood where the majority of the residents are people of color.

    Jill. . .I know that this is something you are aware of and most of the commenters here are aware of, but: women of color, working class women, disabled women, trans women, and other marginalized groups of women are horrifically oppressed in our society. AND organized feminism is a microcosm of that oppressive broader society. AND Feministe is a microcosm of that all-too-oppressive organized feminism.

    I can’t agree that there’s a problem with people calling out privilege on Feministe willy-nilly. I can’t agree that Feministe needs to be more civil. I can’t agree that Feministe needs to be more welcoming to guest bloggers in some sort of general, abstract sense.

    What Feministe needs (and yes, I realize it’s up to the bloggers’ discretion what Feministe is and what it will become), is to be more consistently anti-oppression. Feministe needs to become less civil and welcoming toward racism, classism, ableism, and transphobia. Feministe needs to be more civil and welcoming to women of color, working class women, disabled women, trans women, and other oppressed groups of people.

    A general call for civility or for being charitable toward guest bloggers completely misses the real problems in my book. I understand that Eve was hurt by the mean comments toward her on the tattoo thread, and I agree that there were some comments that were awfully harsh to her in a way that I would never want to speak to a person. But, in my opinion, the real travesty on that thread was the unconscionable racism toward women of color that was allowed to stand relatively untouched by any of the moderators. Henry especially said some pretty appalling things, and overall I thought the climate was very hostile, marginalizing, and racist. And I thought the same thing about the ways in which slavery was being discussed on the thread about homosexuality and sinners (as Miss S referenced here). And I thought the same thing about the Travyon Martin thread. And. And. And. I’ve only been posting at Feministe for 9 months. I’ve said some racist things myself, which I regret.

    So I think all the white people here, both among the moderators/bloggers and the commentariat, should listen to people of color here long and hard and fucking carefully. I know that’s what I’m trying to do as a white person.

  86. Kristen J.
    August 24, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    A couple of thoughts…

    I think we would have a more productive dialogue if everyone viewed their fellow participants as good people acting in good faith and sometimes fucking shit up.

    But its inappropriate to expect people to treat you as acting in good faith. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt when they say something hurtful is work that you can’t expect someone to perform on your behalf.

    And when someone accuses us of acting in bad faith its hard not respond with defensiveness, because we know we aren’t acting in bad faith. But becoming defensive when someone says “Hey, that’s hurting me” *looks* like bad faith. So even if I didn’t mean the initial offense…becoming defensive makes the other person feel like I don’t give a shit about them at all.

    I know all of that is just communication 101, but it bares repeating.

    Adding to the complexity there are people who get frustrated with the fact that we don’t give bloggers the benefit of the doubt and so they defend the bloggers original language/intent.

    If that was it we might have a fighting chance, but I think there’s more of a problem then that.

    But there are a number of people who are just *trying* to be assholes. They aren’t acting in good faith. But its difficult to distinguish sometimes between those who are acting in good faith and those who are just assholes.

    Then, with such a large commentariat its hard for a blogger to wade through all the different views and determine who was actually harmed by your comments, who is just being an asshole, and how to appropriately respond without causing further offense to others.

    So basically its a clusterfuck and I don’t know if there is a good solution.

  87. GinnyC
    August 24, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    At least I think, the problem isn’t that the comments call out what other people say for being problematic. I think most of us want to be made aware of assumptions that we make or things that we say that are hurtful or when we act in ways that internalize fucked up aspects of society.

    I think the problem with calling people out comes when the culture Jill wrote about happens and people compete to be the “Best Activist On The Internet.” I think this culture is antithetical to anti-oppression activism. “The Best Activist on the Internet” behavior seems to comes from the assumption that somehow people can be immune to internalizing fucked up aspects of society. It assumes that if someone reproduces something oppressive in their writing that the person is actively trying to oppress others. But discriminatory social orders stay in power in part because people absorb them without reflection. I’m thinking of Junot Díaz’s writings about racism and cycles of colonial violence as a reference point here. I think that expecting ideological and behavioral purity in activist circles is completely toxic to the purpose of activism itself be cause it mis-characterizes how oppression happens. It is essential to call people out when they perpetuate oppression. But the world isn’t divided into bad people and victims. We participate in oppression even when we are also the victims.

    We need a way for people to be able make important critiques without rewarding the “Best Activist Ever” culture. I know that this works on heavily moderated blogs and smaller, more personal activist spaces. I’m not sure what the solution is when dealing with a big blog in which the commenters may not have repeated personal interactions.

    So basically, I’m not being very helpful here at all. I don’t have a solution for this problem, which seems to come up in all social justice spaces, but perhaps especially, on the internet.

  88. LotusBecca
    August 24, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    And I thought the same thing about the ways in which slavery was being discussed on the thread about homosexuality and sinners (as Miss S referenced here).

    I want to clarify my stance on this since it was such a divisive and acrimonious thread. I believe Azalea’s discourse there about homosexuality being a sin was fucked up and oppressive. I also believe that the way in which a lot of the white people on the thread were talking about slavery (among other things) was inappropriate and contributed to a climate that could reasonably be triggering and marginalizing to Black people. I said both of these things at the time, and I still think them. I’m aware that some people whose opinions I generally respect, such as DonnaL and tmc, had different interpretations of some of the racial aspects of the thread though. The thread was still an example that came to my mind of the bigger problem of racism at Feministe.

  89. Kristen J.
    August 24, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Feministe needs to become less civil and welcoming toward racism, classism, ableism, and transphobia. Feministe needs to be more civil and welcoming to women of color, working class women, disabled women, trans women, and other oppressed groups of people.

    @Becca,

    One of the things we have to acknowledge/accept is that not all members of X oppressed group are perfect when it comes to intersectional oppression. Historically (and this is going into the way back machine which you may or may not be familiar with) we’ve had guest bloggers who were writing about the vector(s) of oppression that they experience who said things that were offensive to members of other oppressed groups. I mean if you read a lot of working class blogs you’ll run into some significant ablism. There are a few anti-racist blogs that engage in some fairly substantial sexism and cis-sexism. And it goes on and on. Being welcoming is a phenomenal ideal, but in practice everyone fucks up in some way or another and makes the space unwelcoming for others.

  90. Bagelsan
    August 24, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Cosign Kristen J. @ 97. Some of the stupidest crap I’ve ever heard has come out of the mouths of oppressed people; is anyone here not oppressed in some way, and not capable of saying stupid shit? Black people aren’t all angels about ableism just ’cause they’re oppressed racially, atheists aren’t automatically knowledgeable about trans issues because they’re oppressed based on (lack of) religion, yadda yadda.

    Which is why I take issue with the whole concept of “this isn’t a 101 space!” Because for a lot of oppressions it is a 101 space a lot of the time, thanks to the very “oppressed” people that non-101 rule is supposed to protect. Not everyone is graduate level in every ism, and expecting that is ridiculous.

  91. DonnaL
    August 24, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    not being open to different perspectives than those of the certain people

    Anyone else being referred to here besides me is well able to speak for themselves, so I won’t attempt to. As for me, I think most regular commenters are aware of which issues I tend to write about most, because they affect my life and my son’s life the most. As is true for most commenters here. Racism is not the only issue as to which Feministe should not be open to “different perspectives.” Didn’t you comment in the “disclosure” thread? (If I’m wrong, I apologize; with few exceptions, I don’t have a good memory for people’s screen names or what they say from one thread to the next, which makes this whole argument doubly absurd.) But if I’m right, and you argued what I think you did, and felt outnumbered? That’s a very good thing, and has nothing to do with cliquisheness. The day Feministe — which always used to have a reputation for being a cesspool of sneering cissexism if not of open transphobia — becomes generally “open” to “different perspectives” on such issues, will not be a good one. It’s still bad enough as it is, given that it’s impossible to have a discussion about trans issues without those so-called “different perspectives” being presented. (Speaking of privilege!) If you want openness to “different perspectives” on trans issues, there are innumerable venues (including plenty of feminist venues) where you can find them.

    Similarly, it’s impossible to have a discussion even touching on Jews or Judaism without being confronted by overwhelming Christian-centrism, including from self-identified atheists. And I dispute that my perspective, or EG’s, or Shoshie’s, or Chava’s, is by any means that of the majority around here.

    It is hardly the result of “cliquishness,” or unthinking agreement with whatever I say merely because I’m the one saying it, if the majority of people tend to agree with me about, for example, trans-related issues, whether because of anything I say or any other reason. I simply can’t believe anyone thinks I have that power, let alone the power to run anybody off, whether exercised individually or with others of “the certain individuals.”

    This entire subject is highly embarrassing, given that the last thing I would ever want is to be an “issue” here. But I had to say something.

  92. DonnaL
    August 24, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    Becca, I’m just curious: have you ever tried reading Shakesville? If so, what do you think of the commenting/moderation approach there?

  93. Matt
    August 24, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    Its more about the intensity of the response. Certain posters who are regulars are generally more comfortable in their ability to get intense about an argument than others. And certain other regulars have been around said person enough to treat someone arguing with them as more on the wrong side than if they were arguing with any given random poster.

    If a new person was to say something offensive without realizing it and they happened to say it to one of the previously mentioned regulars, when faced with the very angry response they are likely to conclude that Feministe is a place that is quite unwelcoming and nasty.

    And this is added upon by cutting slack for regulars as well, which increases the feeling of cliquishness. There have been some kerfluffles about some of Jill’s fluff pieces where she said something offensive and many blog regulars jump in to defend her from criticism. But a new commentator would get the shit scared out of them by the response to a slip up of the same level. And this applies to regular commentators as well as to the regular bloggers.

    When a person cuts a regular slack for the same offense that they shred a new person for, that sends the message that new people are not welcome. Especially if one comes here without spending much time on the rest of the internet where this behavior is quite common it can really scare one away.

    In this thread a lot of people have called for exercising the understanding that we all internalize some fucked up shit. Which is good, except that humans are exceptionally bad at applying such directives equally.

    The prevailing outside opinion appears to be that feministe does not apply these rules equally, hence claims of cliquishness and hostility to non-regulars.

  94. DonnaL
    August 24, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    Matt, I don’t buy it for a moment, especially — to be blunt — where you’re concerned. If people give you a hard time, that’s on you.

    Also, you don’t seem to get that I’m a relatively new commenter myself, of only 8 or 9 months’ standing. How exactly do you think I got to the allegedly exalted position you think I hold, if new, non-regular commenters are so disadvantaged?

  95. Matt
    August 24, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    Well you’ve been here almost as long as me.

    And I wasn’t referring to me personally, regardless of whether I deserve negative responses or not, I rarely get them. I’ve probably only had 1 or 2 major arguments with people.

    I will say that I am specifically excluding myself from the unreasonably attacked group to avoid that coloring the discussion.

    And I don’t really think you are in the discussed group anyways, that was Miss S.’s assertion.

  96. DonnaL
    August 24, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    All right, I think I’ll stop. Obviously, I can’t be objective about this.

  97. August 24, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    And this is added upon by cutting slack for regulars as well, which increases the feeling of cliquishness. There have been some kerfluffles about some of Jill’s fluff pieces where she said something offensive and many blog regulars jump in to defend her from criticism. But a new commentator would get the shit scared out of them by the response to a slip up of the same level. And this applies to regular commentators as well as to the regular bloggers.

    The fact that someone’s a regular usually means that it’s someone we’re familiar with. The main bloggers and regular commenters communicate enough to develop a sense of history and understanding. I know that when Caperton posts, she’ll probably have something interesting and insightful to say. I know that when DonnaL comments, I’ll probably learn something.

    If Jill says something disturbingly sexist, I’m inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt because I’ve been reading here for years and I have a pretty good idea of where she stands on most issues. I have a sense of what’s an atypical comment from her.

    New commenters and guest bloggers don’t have that sense of history. There’s no shared understanding. We’re starting with a blank slate. I like to read in good faith and give people the benefit of the doubt, but I don’t know if a sexist remark from them is atypical or poor communication or their usual mode of conversation.

    Personally, I try to tread lightly at first, but if a complete stranger enters a space that’s familiar to you and says something hurtful, your response might be blunt.

  98. August 24, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    Ack, DonnaL, I’m sorry. It was inconsiderate of me to use you as an example after you clearly stated that you didn’t appreciate being named specifically.

  99. Matt
    August 24, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    On another topic, it may be an interesting experiment to pass a survey around some other popular feminist blogs as to why people dislike the community here or if they do like it why.

    Its probably not useful to ask people who still comment here why or why not the community is perceived as hostile.

  100. Matt
    August 24, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    @With Love:

    I know how the social dynamics usually wind up. But just because that’s how it normally works, doesn’t mean its beneficial. Its especially problematic with people who are victims of 2 different kinds of oppression. If a poster says something that is considered really ableist and gets hammered and then another poster says something quite racist, if they are part of the in group you might say well I know them and that’s not normally what they would do. And since we all mess up more than once a pattern emerges. Plus other commentators or just lurkers don’t have the knowledge of that shared history. You may feel like the wrong thing a regular said is abnormal but people who don’t know them are in the same place as you are with an outsider.

    Basically, it doesn’t matter if you feel like you have a good reason for special treatment, it only matters how it is perceived. Intention isn’t magic. Based on comments on this site and other sites, several groups perceive Feministe as having a poor environment. As long as you don’t care if Feministe is perceived as welcoming it doesn’t matter, but if you desire to expand your audience it does.

    I think I’ve posted enough and I really want to see how other people feel. I’ll avoid commenting again until tomorrow.

  101. Safiya Outlines
    August 24, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    That fact that this post is a repeat from previous years is pretty telling.

    Trying to ask people to play nicely, or whatever, has not worked in the past. It’s probably not going to work now. So it’s up to the people running the blog to change the way comment moderation happens on the blog.

    I know this blog is no one’s day job, but there are a lot of side blogs out there who manage it and IMHO, it’s the only way that things will change in the comment section.

    Have a think about what the big Do Not Wants are, maybe audition some guest mods and take it from there.

    Otherwise, there will just be the same behaviour and this same post being printed again and again.

  102. karak
    August 24, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    I feel there’s a difference between an FYI and biting someone’s head off.

    Because I am psychic, the SECOND I looked at Eve’s post I knew it was going to turn to shit about the locs and people dicked off about the tattoos, just on the way she said it. And I didn’t even bother to give her an FYI, I just thought, “Man, she’s going to get ripped apart like she just swallowed baking soda and salt” made my comment, and moved on.

    And that’s the issue in the community–that I smell an oncoming shitstorm, know exactly every argument and usually the weird ways it’s gonna derail, and even who’s coming to the party and how the “sides” are going to breakdown. If we’re grimly doing the same dance over and over, why the fuck am I reading anything?

    That said, I used to read about 15 or 20 blogs and steadily dropped them one by one for various reasons; this and manboobz are the last ones left. I’ve stuck around here for going on almost four years now and I plan to continue. But yeah, man, we got issues.

  103. igglanova
    August 24, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    I do happen to think that charges of cliquishness have some merit, but I doubt there’s anything we can actually do about that. It’s just a feature of human communication. Sucks, but…sometimes you just have to say ‘screw it’ and say your piece anyway, regardless of how poorly you think you’ll be received. That’s the only way anyone has ever gotten a foothold in any community.

    As for the persistent racefails, transfails, and hall monitor one-up-manship, though, I think Feministe and the community need to seriously step it up. That we have so consistently renewed our reputation for alienating guest bloggers, trans* folks, and POC is unacceptable, and needs to change.

  104. SB2
    August 24, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    I know no one really asked or cares…

    But lemme tell ya a story:

    About a year or so ago, I discovered Feministe. While there were a few posts here I raised an eyebrow at, the majority of the blog was wonderful and interesting. So I lurked, hoping to get a feel of the community to see whether or not I would stay longterm.

    And then I took a peek at the comment threads. Holy. Crap. Holy effing crap.

    Even on the blog posts I didn’t agree with I still felt that the comments were just so… hostile that I halfway wanted to jump in and defend the original poster. I mean, what the hell?

    So I left. The discussion a blog fosters is, in my opinion, as important as the blog itself. And personally, I can’t stand a hostile environment, no matter how cool I think the site may be otherwise.

    Flash forward to now, I’m wandering back, having forgotten exactly why I stopped visiting Feministe, and then it hits me like a ton of bricks when I visit Eve’s thread about parenting. Oh, oh okay, I think to myself. So this hasn’t really changed.

    I’m not here to spread blame, to point fingers, nor to chide you all with a tone argument. But I am here to offer a different perspective– these comment threads do reflect pretty negatively on you all, who, I’m sure, are perfectly wonderful people otherwise. Like someone mentioned earlier (don’t remember exact quote, sorry!) there is a whole lot of self-discovery and examination involved with this. No one is an expert in everything, and despite the fact that I am a black woman, I still recognize the fact that I have a long ways to go, particularly with ableism and transphobia.

    We all do and say some shitty things, and I’m not saying we shouldn’t call each other out for them, but we’ve got to remember that people are only human. The constant criticisms to Eve’s parenting skills on that other thread left me so exasperated and frustrated, and I wasn’t even directly involved!

    We have got to stop with the One True Feminist pissing contests and start trying to foster an environment ripe for learning about each other and ourselves.

    I’m not try to say anger has no place here– that’s not really my call (especially considering I’m not a regular here). But everything has a time and place.

    “I think refusal to distinguish between conscious bigotry and mere thoughtlessness is a huge problem in the social justice-o-sphere.”

    Basically this. I know it can be pretty difficult to read intent through the internet. But we have got to stop jumping on each other like this. It’s completely out of control.

    /perhaps unsolicited opinion (I know there was a lot of me me me me here, and sorry, but I did want to show that yeah, this thing Jill is talking about is real and noticeable)

  105. GinnyC
    August 24, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    I also want to agree with Kristen J # 97.

    @ Donna L # 100, I know you directed your question at Becca, but I have read Shakesville and I didn’t feel particularly welcome there. It seemed like I would have to comment all of the time if I wanted to be part of the discussions. Also, their moderation system seemed like a good idea in theory, but, it also made me feel like I would need to self-censor on some topics. For example, if I talked about my own recovery from disordered eating, I thought I would need to avoid mentioning the kind of thoughts I had when I was eating very little. Maybe, I’m way off base with that assumption. I don’t know. I feel much more like I can admit to not being a “perfect activist” and talk about process of recovery when I post here. Feministe is still much more welcoming to me as an occasional commenter than many other blogs.

  106. LotusBecca
    August 24, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    So it seems at least a little disingenuous of you to suggest that some people (like me) were coming from an oppressive place in using the O word as a descriptor.

    Horseloverfat. . .you’re right. . .I was being pretty fast and loose with my statistical analysis and my analysis of the use of the word “offended.” I hope I didn’t offend you by implying you were maybe coming from an oppressive place. In truth, I don’t have much of an opinion about the tattoo aspect of the discussion on that thread or of your contributions to that thread. My main concern there was about the dreads side-conversation, the racism of some of the commenters during that, and the way in which the moderators didn’t sufficiently (in my view) address that racism. I suppose I wasn’t comfortable saying that directly at first in my post @25 because I was frightened to challenge Jill directly. So I talked about it in a round-a-bout way and invoked you in a way that wasn’t fair. . .especially since I don’t even know you. So I apologize.

    @Kristen,

    You’re totally right. I think what you describe has been one of the biggest challenges in progressive activism since the 1960s and especially since the 1990s (from what I’ve read and heard, at least–lol–I’m 27 years old). It’s great that social consciousness has been raised to levels possibly never seen before in the modern era on issues of race, sex/gender, LGBTQ status, disability, fatness, and so on. And I think ultimately progressive movements will be strong and effective to the extent they are diverse, inclusive, and recognize these as multiple arenas for oppression. But I don’t think most of us have learned how to do it right yet, even if we’re trying. The shift from the left of 50 or 100 years ago that was largely animated by Marxism or social democracy and a desire for economic fairness (and that at the same time often reinforced other forms of injustice) to one that’s genuinely concerned about all people and ending all shittiness is a long and difficult shift that I think we’re in the middle of. . .and it will require a lot of changes in how we think, feel, and act as activists.

    @Donna,

    It’s funny you’re asking that. . .because I actually have just started looking at Shakesville recently. In the six months or so since I came out as transgender, I’ve become much less depressed and nihilistic and gotten more involved in political activism again, and I’ve been looking for other feminist blogs I like besides Feministe. Anyway, I think Shakesville’s moderating/commenting policy seems really good, and I wish Feministe would adopt something more along the lines of that. My only complaint about that blog is that Shakesville’s content seems very focused on electoral politics and supporting Democrats, which isn’t really my thing as anarcho-socialist. Actually. . .if anyone has any suggestions of a good feminist blog that is more to the left and more of a safer space than Feministe. . .I would really appreciate that.

    Oh, and also Donna. . .I’m an atheist of gentile background, so anti-Semitism doesn’t injure me personally, but I greatly appreciate that you consistently speak against it on this website. I don’t think that any form of anti-Semitism or Christian-centrism should have any place in feminism.

  107. Bill
    August 24, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    @Bagelsan 98,

    Privilege tends to be invisible to its holders. It is so insidiously woven into our society that some people, having spent their entire lives subjected to a form of oppression, are only partially, if at all, aware of their oppression (cf. certain Quiverfull women on sexism).

    Most people who experience oppression, however, are well-aware of what they are experiencing. Understanding oppression comes readily when you’re the one being oppressed. But to understand a form of oppression without experiencing it personally is difficult or maybe not even truly even possible. Getting there seems to be associated with 1) witnessing how that oppression affects a loved one or friend, 2) being unusually empathetic or perceptive or 3) having the privilege to study the topic extensively, whether inside or outside of an academic setting. Withhold these factors from the average person, and ze will probably have a very limited understanding of a form of oppression without having experienced it hirself. At best, ze will learn to get along in society with crude heuristics for identifying actions or words that lead to negative consequences, even if ze never understands why.

    What are we really trying to achieve with online discussion? It appears to be a mix of 1) people trying to learn and educate and organize, 2) people expressing the pain they’ve experienced with oppression as a form of release with no specific next steps requested beyond validation and 3) people killing time with social justice as sport, whether through garden-variety trolling or the more elaborate for of trolling that is purer-than-thou-ism. For those in case 1), I hope there is a way to collaborate for mutual benefit, even if we don’t all share the same set of oppressions, and even further realizing that people who don’t share an oppression will continually disappoint us in their understanding of that oppression. For those in case 2), I don’t know that it’s appropriate for people who don’t share the oppression being discussed to enter the conversation, and perhaps only pre-approved comments should be allowed, if any. For those in case 3), you’re making the world a worse place and deserve to be banned ruthlessly, although I don’t know how to make the banning happen without requiring the mods to spend the time required. Can commenters help with moderating?

  108. Miss S
    August 24, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    Didn’t you comment in the “disclosure” thread? (If I’m wrong, I apologize; with few exceptions, I don’t have a good memory for people’s screen names or what they say from one thread to the next, which makes this whole argument doubly absurd.) But if I’m right, and you argued what I think you did, and felt outnumbered?

    I did comment, but I didn’t feel outnumbered, nor did I feel like anyone was being hostile to me. That’s definitely not one of the threads I’m referring to. I’m not saying that you, personally, are running people off, nor am I saying that any individual commenter is. I’m saying that disagreeing with one of you often means disagreeing with all of you, because you tend to agree. And often, it feels like the opposing group is coming across as ‘the perfect feminists’ with the ‘perfect feminist truth’ and everyone else is merely misguided. Coming up against that is a lot to handle in my opinion.

    Also, (and it was likely an oversight on your part, unintentional) I didn’t include Shoshie, but you did in your reply to me.

    It is hardly the result of “cliquishness,” or unthinking agreement with whatever I say merely because I’m the one saying it, if the majority of people tend to agree with me about, for example, trans-related issues, whether because of anything I say or any other reason.
    I realize that many of you have the same beliefs and therefore agree on things. It does appear to be cliquish behavior when all of you are vehemently disagreeing with someone and basically having each other’s back, and defending each other while some of us are trying to give our perspective or experience without that support.

    That doesn’t mean you’re trying to hurt anyone, it doesn’t mean you’re trying to make people feel excluded or unwelcome. It means that sometimes, that’s the result, however unintentional. But as someone pointed out above, this is what happens, on the Internet and in real life.

  109. igglanova
    August 25, 2012 at 12:00 am

    I realize that many of you have the same beliefs and therefore agree on things. It does appear to be cliquish behavior when all of you are vehemently disagreeing with someone and basically having each other’s back, and defending each other while some of us are trying to give our perspective or experience without that support.

    I’d like to second this. I know this sort of thing is unavoidable sometimes, but it gets a bit dispiriting when you’re (e.g.) having an argument with someone and other commenters only chime in to give high fives or ‘QFT!’s to your opponent without contributing enything else to the discussion. I can understand simply being outnumbered by people who disagree, but when those people aren’t even bothering to produce anything of substance it just looks like bullying.

    • August 25, 2012 at 7:40 am

      I know this sort of thing is unavoidable sometimes, but it gets a bit dispiriting when you’re (e.g.) having an argument with someone and other commenters only chime in to give high fives or ‘QFT!’s to your opponent without contributing enything else to the discussion. I can understand simply being outnumbered by people who disagree, but when those people aren’t even bothering to produce anything of substance it just looks like bullying.

      Absolutely this behaviour adds to the perception of a pile-on, even when it’s not what the commentors mean to convey. A bit more time spent on reflection regarding the topic of the post and where the discussion has led, so that one can compose at least 2 or 3 sentences that further the discussion, would be far more productive even when the opinion is dissenting from the OP or from where the prevailing sentiment on the thread appears to be, and especially when the opinion is supporting the prevailing sentiment on the thread – positive engagement shows that one is listening to what others are saying.

  110. August 25, 2012 at 2:08 am

    you know I find it amusing that Shakesville is being mentioned as a somehow less-hostile place than Feministe. Isn’t that the one where people’s comments were deleted if they disagreed with the non-Scottish poster’s post that Scottish people were a marginalized group? You know, because the commenting policy there says “No apologia for racism” and not thinking the movie “Brave” oppresses Scottish people is apologizing for racism? LMAO. thanks, I”ll stick with Feministe.

  111. Rayuela23
    August 25, 2012 at 2:56 am

    Jill:

    “But when we’re talking about a 100+ comment thread that also has all of these other things going on aside from the conversation about dreads, I can also see how using a blunt-force instrument (“stop the derail about this whole topic”) can be the best solution.”

    Yes, in a way I can see why you might feel that way. But I’m looking at this from the point of view of a huge amount of concern about how race is dealt with at Feministe. From that point of view, this is what happened:
    1. A white Guest Blogger wrote a post which contained a fairly trivial but still potentially very alienating racefail.
    2. Commenters, mainly WOC, pointed out the cluelessness and potential hurtfulness of this aspect of the post.
    3. Some ridiculous and depressingly predictable (often fairly aggressive) pushback occurred, of the most exhausting 101 kind.
    4. Anger on the part of the commenters of colour (again, as well as others).
    5. The entire discussion of race, appropriation, and ‘blackness as edgy’ is shut down as a ‘derail’ without any comment on ‘thanks to those who pointed out the potential hurtfulness of this’.
    6. A post goes up with a reminder to be nicer to Guest Bloggers and asking for kindness and patience again without any acknowledgement of the legitimacy of commenters’ concerns about posts that contain casual racism.

    In the discussion here I’m seeing an unwillingness to distinguish between commenters being hostile for the sake of being hostile and commenters pointing out unchecked privilege that is hurtful to them. There is a world of difference between Chally getting pushback and racist apologia for her antiracist posts (for example) and WOC pointing out how exhausting and dispiriting it is to see white people celebrating their wearing of dreadlocks as edgy. I don’t feel like either Jill or Lauren are being clear enough in the distinction between the two.

    I’ll say it again: Feministe has a problem with race. I am only one voice (and comment very rarely since I live on the other side of the world so my time zones make me always about 10 hours late to any discussion) but I think this should be an issue of first priority to the blog. Which means, yes, being quicker with the moderator hammer when people are being awful. But not throwing the baby out with the bathwater by labelling the concerns of WOC as a ‘derail’.

  112. Rayuela23
    August 25, 2012 at 3:05 am

    in my opinion, the real travesty on that thread was the unconscionable racism toward women of color that was allowed to stand relatively untouched by any of the moderators. Henry especially said some pretty appalling things, and overall I thought the climate was very hostile, marginalizing, and racist.

    Yes, LotusBecca says it here better than I managed to. The point is, moderation was present – Eve indicated that any further discussion of dreadlocks was verboten – so the argument that there just isn’t time or resources for moderation doesn’t apply. The point is, moderation was not utilised in a way that contributed to the safety and comfort of WOC commenters in this space.

  113. trees
    August 25, 2012 at 3:44 am

    I’m not really sure how to express this, but I just can’t get this bad taste out of my mouth when reading this thread, so I’ll give it a go.

    I’m seeing acknowledgement of the problem and earnest proclamations to do better, but there also seems to be a certain measure of resistance to self reflection. I’ll give an example of what comes to mind:

    I engaged igglanova on that tattoo thread after this post:

    115 igglanova 8.22.2012 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    Something tells me that people will still find something to complain about if, from now on, all white people only ever ‘stick to their own’ in terms of fashion and hairdos.

    Here’s my response:

    y’all sure do have problems.

    But why is it always about your right to something, and never about responsibility?

    I was responding to what I saw as an absurd persecution delusion where the powerful becomes the victim. That’s more than a little irritating and alienating to this WOC.

    The follow up response didn’t address the spirit of my gripe and argued issues that I don’t have. For goodness sakes, I don’t even necessarily agree with the white people in dreadlocs/locs always equals cultural appropriation, and racist?, that’s a whole ‘nother layer. I guess I was just trying to say “Stop adding fuel to the fire, these are meaty, painful issues for some people in their every day lives, not just theory on the internets. Please stop with the backhanded comments, show some compassion and acknowledge people’s pain.”

    • igglanova
      August 25, 2012 at 11:18 pm

      I initially held off on responding to this, because I didn’t want to derail the conversation by resurrecting an argument from the previous thread. However, nested comments have appeared just in time to assuage that particular worry. So…here. I want to apologize for that bit you quoted above. It was snippy, dismissive, and out of line. It doesn’t deserve a defense. I will do my best to refrain from making similarly shitty comments in the future.

  114. ParanoidAndroid
    August 25, 2012 at 4:02 am

    Hi Jill

    I’m a regular reader and I’ve never commented before. I think the comments on the comments can be just as terrifying. I’m not an an intellectual so I don’t think I could engage with some of the debate on here. But then I look at the comments on articles such as Eve’s tattoo post and I think that some people may be smarter but their such time wasters. Also it just feels like some people are just engaging in a bad therapy session. You read enough comments from people who feel that they have been victimised by the blogger in some way and you’re like…next.

  115. Li
    August 25, 2012 at 5:18 am

    trees, I understand and agree. I think there’s a disconnect happening here whereby some people are willing to say that racism is an issue but are unwilling to be accountable for their role in that racism. Which is really frustrating on a social justice blog where people should know better.

  116. Rayuela23
    August 25, 2012 at 6:09 am

    trees:

    Yes, indeed, and I think that particular incident is a good example of a broader trend. I absolutely agree that appropriation and the reading of trends that are culturally associated with non-whiteness as ‘edgy’ or subversive are not ‘101’ issues (and as someone pointed out above, a slip up in these issues doesn’t make anyone ‘fail at feminism’, or an awful person or what have you). However, the response “Geez, white people can’t do *anything* now” definitely is a 101 response, and people are justified in expecting better in this space.

  117. EG
    August 25, 2012 at 8:42 am

    Coming back from a very busy day to resume my duties as an alienating Core Commenter to respond to this:

    I’m saying that disagreeing with one of you often means disagreeing with all of you, because you tend to agree.

    I’m not sure what’s to be done about this; I agree with the people I agree with because I think they’re right. I’m not going to pretend I don’t agree with them to make other people feel more comfortable. That’s not a conspiracy or a clique; that’s thinking about things and being convinced by arguments and experience. Given that I started commenting here less than…at most a year ago, and that I’ve taken quite a number of lumps here from quite a number of smart commenters who don’t pull punches (hi, zuzu), it’s hard for me to feel that people are easier on me or that I have some kind of Special Status. I think it’s more that I don’t mind too much when people hit me hard, metaphorically speaking.

    It seems to me that there are two or three different issues getting rolled together here:

    1) Feministe has been and continues to be alienating for a number of different kinds of women: women of color, trans women, working-class women. That’s something that yes, I consider to be a real problem.

    2) Feministe can be an intimidating place for new commenters or commenters who’re not too sure of themselves or commenters who are unhappy with combative arguing. I get that, and I think it’s a fair reaction, but I also think that the internet is a big place, and there should be a place on it for people who are comfortable with combative arguing, arguing with multiple people at once, etc.

    3) Feministe commenters can often engage in feminist one-upmanship, often come out swinging in a way unnecessary and disproportionate, and don’t give each other the benefit of the doubt as much as we could. I get that, and yes, I can see why that would be off-putting to many people, including guest and regular bloggers.

    I can also see how these three things reinforce each other, but I also think they’re not all the same thing.

    • chava
      August 25, 2012 at 5:20 pm

      Hey, at least you aren’t merely an “occasional” core commentator.

      • EG
        August 25, 2012 at 6:00 pm

        I confess that I’m not sure how once can be both occasional and core.

  118. August 25, 2012 at 9:08 am

    I’d like to second this. I know this sort of thing is unavoidable sometimes, but it gets a bit dispiriting when you’re (e.g.) having an argument with someone and other commenters only chime in to give high fives or ‘QFT!’s to your opponent without contributing enything else to the discussion. I can understand simply being outnumbered by people who disagree, but when those people aren’t even bothering to produce anything of substance it just looks like bullying.

    To give a different perspective on this, I make a point of making comments like this specifically in a capacity as an ally. Supporting someone, affirming their statements, without getting overly involved in the conversation or taking away attention from the marginalized person who is making a stand – that’s how I interpret this. Obviously we are interpreting the power dynamics completely differently.

    I do see how this could contribute to a perception of cliqueishness, but… I don’t know, I’m not sure how to address this. To my view, this is an important part of being an ally. And when I do this, I do genuinely agree with and support what’s being said – I’m not going to change my views on that. One thing I’ve wished for on Feministe (though I’m sure it might be a nightmare to implement) is a way to support and boost statements with a “Like” type function, so that it doesn’t take up unnecessary space in the comment thread, and maybe that would be a less overbearing way of making that statement.

    But if some people are saying that one of their frustrations with Feministe is feeling unsupported and like they are fighting their battles all alone, why shouldn’t we all make an effort to support people whose arguments we feel deserve supporting? To the extent that there’s more support for one side than the other, well, that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? Certain views have more traction in this space than others. It’s because I agree with those views and because I have a lot of respect for the commenters who espouse them that I want to be here.

    I’m very frustrated that this is being perceived as bullying. I have bullied (as a child who was dealing with a lot of personal issues at the time and it’s something I’m deeply ashamed of) and been bullied and I think being a minority opinion in an Internet debate is a pretty far stretch for “bullying”. I’m sorry, but I see that on the level of “These marginalized people got angry at me and it made me feel bad so they’re bad.”

  119. August 25, 2012 at 9:10 am

    And now seeing EG’s comment, I’m very tempted to say, “Yes, that.”

    But, and I’m asking this in all seriousness, is that to be considered a problematic kind of comment in regards to the aforementioned issue?

  120. Lolagirl
    August 25, 2012 at 9:43 am

    Feministe has been and continues to be alienating for a number of different kinds of women: women of color, trans women, working-class women. That’s something that yes, I consider to be a real problem.

    This is the most crucial issue of all, isn’t it?

    I don’t necessarily know what the solution is, though. Jill’s tagline about the sanctimonious women’s studies set is (I think) partly tongue in cheek, but I think it also speaks to at least some of where the disconnect comes in. I don’t think I’m talking out of my ass that the women’s studies set is populated largely by white, middle and upper middle class people, and that their experiences, opinions and values may very well be at odds with WOC and working class people. The blindspots that come along with those differences is a real problem, and modern Feminism really does need to get a handle on it.

    I’m not at all well informed enough to know about how trans people fit in there and would be curious to see what they have to say about the matter.

    • LotusBecca
      August 25, 2012 at 10:06 pm

      **TRIGGER WARNING FOR QUOTED TRANSPHOBIC MATERIAL**

      Yay! My first time making a threaded comment! I’m really excited about this. . .lol. . .

      So Lolagirl, I was trying to think about some of the ways that Feministe might not seem fully welcoming to trans people, since you asked and since I’m a trans woman. I was trying to think of some of the subtle ways, as the worst cases are probably already pretty obvious.

      First off, I have my biases being that I’m a trans woman. . .so I’m more sensitive to and aware of issues affecting trans women than I am to issues affecting trans men or non-binary trans folks. Also, I’m really tenative about what I’m about to say because it pertains to a general, nebulous “atmosphere”. . .and of course, I can’t know for sure what other people are really thinking in their own heads. And I don’t want to seem too “angry.” But here it goes. I do get the sense that many or most cis people on this blog view trans people as a very small and marginalized minority that is treated bad in the general culture largely due to *ignorance* and that this pattern happens to be reflected in feminism too sometimes. And they think it’s good that feminism has finally become sensitive enough to notice this and address the plight of these trans people in the spirit of intersectionality. Also, I think many of these folks view transgender people as some sort of collective “third gender,” even if they only see us that way on a subconscious level.

      But I see trans women as women–women who are not fundamentally different from any other kind of woman. And we weren’t just accidentally overlooked previously because we were too few in number or too exotic or something. Trans women have been greatly contributing to feminism for more than 40 years, although unfortunately, in many cases, we were deliberately forced out of it in the vilest of ways by transmisogynistic cis feminists. For example, Robin Morgan forced the trans woman Beth Elliott out of the Daughters of Bilitis in 1973, saying that because Elliott was trans she was “an opportunist, an infiltrator, and a destroyer—with the mentality of a rapist.” Or. . .Janice Raymond and all the women she organized to boycott Olivia Records and force Sandy Stone out of that organization in 1979. Or. . .more generally, the overall specific hatred for trans women and opposition to our legal equality that many feminists have been showing us for decades. Feminists have kicked us out of domestic violence shelters, opposed medical insurance covering health care for us, and opposed laws to prevent us from getting unfairly fired on the job. Most of this affected other groups of trans people too besides trans women. . .but almost all the hateful rhetoric was directed toward trans women specifically (like Mary Daly comparing us to necrophiliacs, Frankenstein’s monster, and white people wearing blackface). We’ve long been a favorite scapegoat among certain feminists.

      Now I feel like there is very little awareness of the true extent and nature of this legacy among most cis feminists nowadays, including on this website. Up until a month ago the book of Mary Daly’s that included the content I mentioned above was one of a couple dozen books on the special display shelf at the feminist bookstore where I volunteer. This is a feminist bookstore that is officially committed to intersectionality and being trans-inclusive, just like Feministe. I think that cis feminists have an obligation to disavow feminism’s cissexist and transmisognyistic past and welcome trans women specifically. . .because we are marginalized women need feminism desperately and who should have been welcomed into feminism all along. But instead. . .there often seems to be more of a mentality like a favor is being done to us. More of a “look how enlightened we are! We are finally including all these various, exotic types of trans people and learning all about them! Yay for us!” I think this mindset needs to change.

      Obviously there are a lot of great trans allies whom I love on this website, and this is a big part of why I like to post here. . .but I think there are also a lot of people who want to be allies and have the best intentions but are woefully ignorant and continue to hold many cissexist views as I described above. Still, I appreciate all people who are open to learning new things. I would never have written a post like this if I didn’t think there were people out there who may be 100 or 200 level on trans stuff but have enough goodwill and openness to hear challenging information.

      • LotusBecca
        August 25, 2012 at 11:13 pm

        The first sentence in my last paragraph should have read: “Obviously there are a lot of great cis allies to trans women on this website, and I love them, and this is a big part of why I like to post here. . .”

    • zuzu
      August 25, 2012 at 10:47 pm

      Jill’s tagline about the sanctimonious women’s studies set is (I think) partly tongue in cheek, but I think it also speaks to at least some of where the disconnect comes in.

      I realize that 2005 is roughly a hundred years ago in Internet time, but that tagline is there for a reason.

      • Lolagirl
        August 26, 2012 at 7:53 pm

        Thanks for the explanation, LotusBecca, it was very interesting.

        Good grief, zuzu, what a nightmare of a shitstorm. I stopped reading and posting at DK about that time because of all of that sexist woman silencing, but I missed that pie discussion in particular. Interesting how the chickens have come back to roost wrt to reproductive rights. So much for Kos et al and their insistence that we didn’t need to worry our pretty little heads about the RNC taking away our birth control, chip away at abortion rights and even try to curb access ART. I wonder if any of them are feeling sheepish yet?

        Sadly, I doubt it.

  121. DonnaL
    August 25, 2012 at 11:00 am

    if some people are saying that one of their frustrations with Feministe is feeling unsupported and like they are fighting their battles all alone, why shouldn’t we all make an effort to support people whose arguments we feel deserve supporting? To the extent that there’s more support for one side than the other, well, that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? Certain views have more traction in this space than others. It’s because I agree with those views and because I have a lot of respect for the commenters who espouse them that I want to be here.

    I’m very frustrated that this is being perceived as bullying. I have bullied (as a child who was dealing with a lot of personal issues at the time and it’s something I’m deeply ashamed of) and been bullied and I think being a minority opinion in an Internet debate is a pretty far stretch for “bullying”. I’m sorry, but I see that on the level of “These marginalized people got angry at me and it made me feel bad so they’re bad.”

    Thank you for this, Jadey. (And by the way, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone give a “high five” here, or even use “QFT”; I think those words were chosen to make the act of agreement seem non-serious and unthinking, based on personality more than substance.) Those who have been taking this position — and that includes tigtog — seem to be forgetting that what may constitute an overwhelming majority vs. a lonely minority here, is often actually the act of allies giving support to a person from a group that’s highly marginalized out in the real world, against someone taking a position that may be a minority voice here, but represents the real-world voice of the overwhelming majority. There were many times here, especially during a period when I seemed to be the only trans woman commenting regularly, that I would have been all alone in arguing against somebody presenting the cissexist or transphobic position, absent expressions of support from allies. Which I don’t think had to be extensive to be meaningful; the very act of expressing support is meaningful in that context. You can’t look at the dynamics of that kind of conversation in a vacuum, and pretend that only what’s said within this forum counts in terms of evaluating who’s “piling on” whom. In that sense, the discussions of race — where WOC are often the marginalized group both here and outside these walls — are very different from those of not only trans issues but LGBT issues in general (given that I think Feministe is, on the whole, quite heterocentric).

    • August 25, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      Donna and Jadey, you raise very good points about balancing the desire to display ally-supportiveness with a short comment against not swamping the marginalized-identity commentor with one’s own All About My Ally Status baggage, particularly in cases where someone is being pushed back against for calling out. I don’t think it’s wrong to drop an ally-affirmation at all, and my earlier comment was meant to include that scenario as part of a broadly inclusive framework of support-statements, but I think I was being so careful in my phrasing that I ended up way too convoluted so that my point ended up as waffle. Sorry about that.

      *********

      One of the things we’ve been talking about back-channel is instituting nested comments to make it more obvious that an earlier comment has already been replied to. This comment is testing whether that nesting is working – here goes.

      • August 25, 2012 at 12:19 pm

        OK, the comment-nesting seems to be working.

  122. EG
    August 25, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Miss S, in the spirit of giving each other the benefit of the doubt, I would like to point out that of the four “core commenters” you list, at least three are Jewish (PrettyAmiable, I apologize, but I don’t remember whether or not you are). Given that any list of core commenters I make would be incomplete without zuzu, Lauren, mackavitykitsune, pheenobarbidoll, and Jadey (and that’s just off the top of my head), and that one of the anti-semitic accusations regularly levelled at Jews is that we conspire to run things in a way harmful to gentiles, do you see how some of us might respond negatively to your comment?

  123. Lauren
    August 25, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Speaking generally, I know that my sympathy towards and identification with various oppressions has been directly related to my own experience and with people who are affected by said oppressions, which makes me think that people who are less sensitive to or appreciative of the negative impacts of these oppressions just lack personal experience with the gravity of what it’s like to live with that pressure. I realize this sounds a little condescending — that people who disagree with me on any given topic just lack experience with it — but I know that’s true in my own life and in my own thinking. One thing has filled the gaps in my understanding has been my participation online with folks I wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to meet in my meatspace life, where I am limited to my geographical area, free time, work and family obligations, spending money, etc etc. I’ve made wonderful friends online and lost wonderful friends online, all because of spaces like this one where we were encouraged to share ourselves.

    Speaking from example, I haven’t blogged regularly for several years, but I know that if you go through the archives here and at the old blog I bombed, there are things I’ve said publicly about parenting, disability, politics, trans rights and the place of trans people in feminism, Hugo Schwyzer, race, BDSM, and a whole host of other things (including descriptions of myself) that I would modify or completely disavow today. Some of these things are old and some are relatively recent. But it’s the conversations had online and the writers willing to put themselves on the line that have evolved my thinking into a place that is better, clearer, and more compassionate than it was before. Some of these conversations had people calling me out personally and with great venom, and it was the intensity and persistence of their assertions that snapped me to attention and swayed my once firm positions. I also know that my own persistence in taking a stance as a writer and one-time leader has opened other people up to the realities of single parenthood, teen parenthood, poverty, and that these old conversations still reverberate. That’s a net positive in my opinion, and worth my time, frustration, and whatever pain I felt at the time (and yes, there has been real pain, personal, social, and professional, involved). It’s nobody’s responsibility to educate anyone else, but by engaging with others on these topics, we’re bound to learn something. For me, the stakes have been mostly worthwhile (there are some caveats), and I’m accepting of that friction because that psychosocial pain comes with the territory of participating in social justice movements. One thing I regret as a writer is my one-time commitment to the cutting, nasty, personal cut-down, and there are a lot of my old posts that aimed to be exactly that. I think these might be fun to read in the moment, but ultimately lower the discourse, ESPECIALLY when aimed at others who were coming to the table in good faith but just didn’t understand what I did, or who had solid ground to simply disagree with me.

    Tl;dr: People in good faith can both disagree and be swayed. Ultimately, I think it’s more worthwhile to sway people than to cut them off at the knees. Unless they’re trolls.

    What makes things particularly difficult, IMO, is that many of us come to social justice movements because of the personal impact that oppression has had on us, which means that the emotional stakes are high and that the rivers run so, so deep. I don’t think there is a solution for that, other than trying to assume good faith and maintain respect for others and trying to be clear and concise in our relationships.

    • Lauren
      August 25, 2012 at 12:27 pm

      Test.

      • Lauren
        August 25, 2012 at 12:28 pm

        Testing.

  124. August 25, 2012 at 11:56 am

    Given that any list of core commenters I make would be incomplete without zuzu, Lauren, mackavitykitsune, pheenobarbidoll, and Jadey (and that’s just off the top of my head), and that one of the anti-semitic accusations regularly levelled at Jews is that we conspire to run things in a way harmful to gentiles, do you see how some of us might respond negatively to your comment?

    Oddly enough I was thinking the same thing. Though your list of regular commenters made me feel a bit like Trotsky, brushed out of history.

  125. DonnaL
    August 25, 2012 at 11:59 am

    That reminds me: Miss S, my mention of Shoshie had nothing to do with your list of “core commenters.” I mentioned her as one of the people here who is most likely to push back against comments perceived as anti-Jewish or at least as insensitive or uninformed in that regard. The overlap with your list was certainly coincidental on my part, and I’m not remotely suggesting that you set out to compile a list of prominent Jewish commenters yourself, but it did make me a little uncomfortable, for the reasons EG mentions.

  126. Athenia
    August 25, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    It shocks me that the commentariat is so generally hostile to guest contributors, especially considering the common complaint that Feministe is already exclusive.

    I don’t find it shocking at all. Most posts are done by Jill which leads to two ways that prevent certain pile ons 1) Jill has a long history of knowing what the commentors like and don’t like 2) Since Jill is Jill she’s obviously not going to write posts about her personal experience with race or trans issues, for example. So when we have someone who has a different experience or doesn’t have a feel for the commentors, of course, shit is going to fly. Additionally, commentors don’t come here for insightful posts on those issues really–they are going other places instead.

    I don’t think this is just a problem with Feministe….I think any blog has its own feel and character (or should I say, set of beliefs?) and if you present a comment or blog post that isn’t within that framework, you are out of luck.

    I also think personal posts can go very well, or very bad. Eve asked for our advice. Eve displayed her inner-most thoughts, which hey, we all are racist and privileged—so yes, it really sucks when people aren’t clapping you on the back.

  127. EG
    August 25, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Though your list of regular commenters made me feel a bit like Trotsky, brushed out of history.

    I’m sorry, Steve! I also forgot Kristen J. And a lot of other people, too, I’m sure. Apologies. I was typing quickly and wanted to go to lunch.

  128. EG
    August 25, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    I have to say, I’m not a fan of threaded comments, because if you’re away for an afternoon or a day, and then you come back, you won’t be able to catch up as easily, because of having to scroll up to look at the stuff you’ve already looked at to see if that conversation has continued.

    • Lauren
      August 25, 2012 at 12:30 pm

      I am totally threading your comment right now.

      • EG
        August 25, 2012 at 12:38 pm

        Curses!

    • August 25, 2012 at 12:35 pm

      Can’t. Resist. Slightly. Ironic. Threaded. Comment.

      I end up having to do that anyway because of the comments that got stuck in mod. It’s an interesting experiment, at least. I wonder if it will be a pain to people viewing this on a handheld device.

    • August 25, 2012 at 12:38 pm

      EG, that’s one of the reasons we’ve resisted threading comments until now. However, the consensus is that for monster threads of acrimony that happen here more than we would like, that might just be a feature rather than a bug. Commentors will still be able to control-F the page to find a particular word or commentor nym that they remember, and pick it up from there.

      There’s also the option to click on the box that lets you get further comments in email.

      • EG
        August 25, 2012 at 12:44 pm

        Fair enough. I deal with it on LJ, I can deal with it here!

  129. August 25, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    @ tigtog

    Okay, I understand. And thanks to you and the other mods for working hard on this.

    I also want to say that I’m really appreciating this conversation and I while I think that part of the pain of social justice is constantly managing these kinds of difficult intersectional challenges and that kind of work will never fully go away as long as there is oppression and injustice in the greater social context, I do have faith in our ability to make improvements to this space.

    Looking at the lists of “core commenters” that are being discussed (and remembering the names of many formerly regular commenters who have come and gone, many of them POC, trans* folk, and PWD), another thing I note is that the lists *don’t* include a lot of WOC (excepting Mac and pheeno, just from the names that have been mentioned). I just want to say that in addition to these commenters I also look out for comments from Miss S, tmc, Angel H, Azalea (when she was here and with the exception of that really hurtful thread that’s already been referenced), Renee, Li, amblingalong, and other women and men of colour who regularly or occasionally contribute in this space and consider many of you to be “core commenters” as well, whether or not we tend to agree or not. I try to speak up for and support POC commenters as well, though I will admit that I struggle more with understanding things from a race perspective and tend to more quiet/listening compared to perspectives I have more personal experience with, though admittedly it’s hard to communicate a difference between “quietly listening and trying to understand” and “apathy and ignoring” in an online space.

    *If I have mis-identified anyone in this comment, I apologize, but I wanted to “name names”, as it were, as other commenters were already being singled out.

  130. August 25, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Looking at the lists of “core commenters” that are being discussed (and remembering the names of many formerly regular commenters who have come and gone, many of them POC, trans* folk, and PWD), another thing I note is that the lists *don’t* include a lot of WOC (excepting Mac and pheeno, just from the names that have been mentioned).

    I don’t think ‘core commenters’ is a reflection of value, more a reflection of frequency. In my case, my commenting frequency is largely due to the fact that this is the only blog in my RSS reader, and I would imagine a lot of people have similarly random and mundane reasons for choosing to regularly comment.

  131. DonnaL
    August 25, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    I was reluctant to bring it up, but there’s an entirely separate reason — obvious to me, but perhaps not to others — why I reacted so strongly, or perhaps overreacted, to being singled out as one of the so-called “core commenters,” especially given that I haven’t really been here that long. I’m not suggesting for a moment that I was singled out because of my trans history, but the fact remains that that is something about me that’s different from the vast majority of other commenters here, and, therefore, being differentiated from the other commenters for any reason makes me extremely uncomfortable. Especially for the reason given, which (unintentionally) fits right in with the common accusation that trans women use their residual male privilege to dominate the conversation and quickly take over in women’s spaces, and that this proves they’re really men, and so on. And especially because I’ve already been mentioned by name on at least one anti-trans radical feminist blog as an example of a “guy” who does great damage to women’s spaces by virtue of my presence here. So I have no doubt that this will be pointed to as proof. Hence, my horror — and fear, to be honest — at being named the way I was. It’s the last thing in the world I would ever want.

    • Lauren
      August 25, 2012 at 1:03 pm

      I had something like this drafted earlier but didn’t post it because I wasn’t sure about it. But I do think that blogging and commenting typically reifies power structures of meatspace world because those wIth the spoons to stick with it are people who have the social support both on and offline to do so. Which means that people who don’t have that support or “stick out” in some way can be singled out as tokens or figureheads or problems to be solved, which is really draining and leads them to stop participating.

  132. Li
    August 25, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    For the record, I’m not a person of colour.

    I’m sorry I haven’t been more able to participate in this discussion because of some personal things that happened recently, because I do think it’s important, but I am reading everything and I might get back once I have more thinky thoughts.

    • August 25, 2012 at 1:26 pm

      Whoops, sorry for that. I do respect and value your comments though!

  133. Dan_Brodribb
    August 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    I don’t comment here often. Part of it is nervousness about how my contributions will be received, but a lot of it is because apparently I can be as introverted online as I am in real life.

    I think the discussion you’re having is worth having. At the same time, I think sometimes when we get into them, it’s easy to forget the things that are going well.

    The comments section is far from perfect, but I’ve learned a lot from commenters, even if they phrased things in a way that left me feeling uncomfortable. They’ve made me reflect on a lot of things, and I expect I will continue to learn more.

    And in some ways, I often envy the more outspoken, harsh, and often very very funny commenters. As someone who tends to hate to offend people and who often goes along to get along, I find it refreshing and inspirational to see people who are willing to speak their mind, even if they risk being wrong or being perceived as a jerk.

    So I hope as you’re having this discussion, you’ll remember that the comment section is doing a lot of positive things as well. It’s really helped me and I like to believe it has had the same impact on others.

    • Past my expiration date
      August 25, 2012 at 6:05 pm

      I also don’t comment often, but also want to say that, even though I know that this is not a 101 blog and that the commenters have no obligation to educate me, I learn a lot from the comments and am grateful to the commenters. Also I love having guest bloggers on Feministe.

  134. PrettyAmiable
    August 25, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    EG, my dad was Jewish, so I don’t claim it. My background is also Polish, so I’m aware of how problematic and privileged i can be, especially given recent history.

    Honestly? I get the impression that if you don’t agree with the core commenters here (such as EG, DonnaL, PrettyAmiable, occasionally Chava)*, you’re pretty much fucked.

    Miss S, for what it’s worth, while we may not have always agreed (and notably, I don’t even agree with all the regulars on some basic ideas – though notably, as I think others have noted, you’re absolutely on my personal list of regulars), I really enjoy reading everything you’ve written here. I actually don’t always respond because when a WOC writes/speaks about her life experiences, I think it’s really rude to tell you how much I get out of it (i.e. it kind of feels like I’m trying to center my white experience), so I think it’s better to just shut up and silently listen.

    I wonder how to best be an ally – whether speaking up is a show of “I think my voice speaking up on this matter is louder/more valued than yours when you defend yourself” – and I think that’s shitty. I do think Jadey has a great way of being a solid ally, and maybe that’s the best tactic – providing links to education and recommending some internal reflection. I completely agree with you though – the running out of Chally era (because it wasn’t one thing – it was post after post) was so disappointing. I loved her writing here. Without her writing, I don’t think I would have given my US centrism a second thought.

  135. Miss S
    August 25, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    I’m trying to explain why some marginalized groups are leaving. I’m trying to explain the reasons that I sometimes feel uncomfortable posting here. If you don’t like it, fine. It’s just my opinion.

    Jadey, I’m specifically talking about marginalized women getting piled on, not people getting piled on by them. Ive also read enough of your posts to consider you an ally to WOC.

    Prettyamiable, I have definitely agreed with you. Again, I’m not suggesting that any of you as individuals are running people off. I’ve also seen yoiu write as an ally to WOC. It’s just that as a group, all of you together can be alot to come up against.

    Donnal your identity as a transwoman isn’t the issue, and I never suggested it was. Please read what I’m writing. Im just giving my opinion as to one reason certain women may not feel comfortable in this space.

    EG your first post on this thread was mocking me, so I don’t know how to respond.

    Seriously, I’m on the verge of being done.

    • EG
      August 25, 2012 at 5:47 pm

      Yep, I made a snide remark in passing as part of a long post. In that remark, I referenced the fact that you called me a commenter who is part of some kind of hive-mind group that fucks over dissenters. If you can’t see why that would read to me like the opening of hostilities, even after the rather calm explanation I gave later, then I’m afraid I don’t know what to say to you either. Did you not expect the people you named to be angry with you?

    • Kristen J.
      August 25, 2012 at 6:34 pm

      I think perhaps this is what I was talking a bit about above. Miss S said something that could be interpreted as unkind. On the other hand, I’ve learned a lot from Miss S and from my experience with her on this forum I don’t think she’s an unkind person. So I don’t think she meant it quite the way it came out. Still, people who were hurt have every right to feel that way. As we say all the time…intent isn’t magic…but responding back with anger often results in escalating the argument over what was initially a mistake.

      So how do we negotiate conflicts like this…which are certain to come up in a way that doesn’t result in daggers all around?

      (And I don’t mean to pick on anyone with this observation…It just seemed like a good example of what happens given that this is occurring amongst a group of people I highly respect and think are genuinely good human beings who don’t intend to cause others harm.)

      • zuzu
        August 25, 2012 at 7:13 pm

        Framing your response as a question seeking clarification (“you said X; what did you mean by that?”) or discussing your own reactions to something without ascribing intent or meaning to the person who said it can go a long way in preventing backs from getting up while still airing the underlying issues.

      • August 25, 2012 at 7:35 pm

        zuzu makes an extremely important point here. Underlying problematic issues should absolutely be raised/examined/challenged, but extending a basic Principle of Charity attitude is useful – acknowledging that the person to whom one is responding may well be either misspeaking or that oneself might be misreading, and that requesting clarification as a first step rather than baring the fangs and claws immediately is a better model for positive and substantive engagement and moving the discussion forward.

      • DonnaL
        August 25, 2012 at 7:52 pm

        I understand assuming good faith, and do try to do that — for example, I always attempt to err on the side of assuming that someone’s cissexist or even transphobic comment came from ignorance rather than malice. But to go back to this specific example, when someone specifically singles you out by saying something like if you don’t agree with the core commenters here (such as EG, DonnaL, PrettyAmiable, occasionally Chava)*, you’re pretty much fucked, there are limits to how much that concept helps. In any event, I think my reaction was more one of being hurt than of being hostile, and none of the subsequent clarifications helped much in that regard.

      • Kristen J.
        August 25, 2012 at 8:47 pm

        I think that’s a good point. Similarly perhaps when someone takes offense at something that we said that wasn’t intended that way, we should acknowledge their hurt feelings and explain what was actually meant?

    • PrettyAmiable
      August 25, 2012 at 8:15 pm

      I think this is really helpful feedback for me, and thank you. igglanova above called out a specific thing I’ve done for sure (blockquoting something I like, with literally nothing to add but QFT), and I really like tigtog’s idea of shutting up for the thirty seconds to see if I have something original to add. I realize it should be completely common sense, but evidently I’ve missed it on more than one occasion.

      Part of the difficulty that contributes to whatever clique-like behavior exists on my part is that when I get riled, I literally think, “This is bullshit,” and feel like my emotion is the best emotion of ALL the emotions. But if three people I respect pop in to say “This is bullshit,” what exactly is my fourth “No, srsly bro, bullshit” adding?

      Many shout outs to the Kristen J/zuzu/tigtog conversation below (below? I’m not good at this threading thing yet) as well – I think people who have experienced pervasive hostility (or maybe just me) are inclined to assume the worst in others – but that’s a “me and my therapist” thing, not a “me and the Feministe commentariate” thing.

      On the bright side, I’m out of pocket for the next few days, so it’ll be a good time to reflect. Thank you for writing on this thread. I totally understand the desire to be done if you’re feeling frustrated, but promise if you continue writing here, I’ll read what you have to say. I’m not pretending that quitting the “QFT” thing is going to solve this problem. It’s like LotusBecca says below (above?), I genuinely respect the commenters who typically post here and often agree with their words. I want to be sure I’m toeing that line correctly, such that we don’t alienate newbies here in good faith.

      • PrettyAmiable
        August 25, 2012 at 8:18 pm

        Ah fuck. I’ll figure out threading eventually.

  136. DonnaL
    August 25, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    Donnal your identity as a transwoman isn’t the issue, and I never suggested it was.

    Miss S, I didn’t say that’s why you named me; I said that being a trans woman is one of the reasons why I reacted so strongly to being singled out.

  137. LotusBecca
    August 25, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Miss S. . I don’t know all what specific incidents you may be thinking about as you’ve been writing your points on this thread. Many of the incidents I personally may have not even seen as most of the threads on Feministe I never get around to looking at. But I’ll guess that one of the threads that may be informing your perspective was the pile on that happened to Azalea on that thread about homosexuality and sin, since you referenced it.

    I will give you my perspective as one of the people who “piled on” Azalea. I was feeling very angry because I believed she was saying very homophobic things and was trying to duck responsibility for saying them. And I was pissed that she continued to defend her perspective over and over again even though people were telling her how hurtful that perspective was. So that’s why I said some heated things to her. . .including some very stridently anti-religious stuff that in retrospect I wish I hadn’t said because it wasn’t conducive to mutual understanding. That’s probably why she ended up completely ignoring all my comments to her.

    I imagine many of the other folks who piled on her, most of whom fall somewhere under the LGBTQ umbrella, where motivated by similar emotions. People–marginalized people–were legitimately pissed off at her. All the same, I was very uncomfortable with the racial dynamics on the thread. I didn’t like how references to slavery were being invoked, and I didn’t like how people were treating you when you started participating. You walked into a shitstorm and because you appeared to be kinda sorta taking Azalea’s side on a couple things, people were hostile toward you and completely mischaracterized what you were saying. That must have sucked for you, especially because you were consistently saying you weren’t even a strictly Biblical Christian and didn’t believe that homosexuality was a sin. Of course, you were a Black woman like Azalea. And I’d imagine being conflated with another Black woman, someone who you didn’t even agree with on a lot of stuff, probably felt pretty racist to you.

    I guess I’m saying all this because I am someone who often agrees with a lot of the people you mentioned. . .DonnaL, EG, and PrettyAmiable (I don’t remember reading a lot of chava’s comments). I have generally found them to be knowledgeable, passionate, and funny. But I’ve appreciated your comments, too. I feel that you have a laid-back and reflective style that can be a breath of fresh air during some of the more contentious topics at Feministe. And I suppose I just hate it when a bunch of people I all like fight, and I’d hate for another women of color commenter to leave Feministe because she feels unwelcome here.

  138. Miss S
    August 25, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Eg, I think the difference between you and I might be that you wouldn’t care as much if you were the only one who presented a different perspective, if you never had support for your voice. I dont think me explaining how that feels is going to help, because it honestly may not bother you.

    It does get draining, and I don’t think I’m the only one. Maybe that wouldn’t be draining to you? I don’t know. But I feel like you do have support, and I know it’s not blind support. I realize the people who agree with you honestly agree with you.

    But what if you regularly visited a space that ‘welcomed’ different perspectives but seemed less welcoming when you presented your opinion as a Jewish woman? What if anti semitc themes popped up and you got shut down for calling them out? What if no one supported you? What if other marginalized identities were supported but yours was far too often ignored? Would you keep coming back? Maybe for you, the answer is yes, but for alot of people the answer is no.

    • EG
      August 26, 2012 at 7:18 pm

      Yes, Miss S, I understand your criticisms and they are obviously legit and accurate, or more WoC would be regular commenters here. What I am objecting to is the no doubt unconscious decision to make your list of core commenters who put off WoC and new commenters 75% Jewish when that is demonstrably not the make-up of regular commenters.

      But I do think that is not the same thing as what is very much about the tone of conversation and disagreement. People disagree vehemently about important issues, and so the tone becomes vehement. And I think there needs to be a place for that.

  139. pheenobarbidoll
    August 25, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Similarly perhaps when someone takes offense at something that we said that wasn’t intended that way, we should acknowledge their hurt feelings and explain what was actually meant?

    Doesn’t this contradict the whole intent isn’t magic thing?

    • Kristen J.
      August 25, 2012 at 10:09 pm

      How so?

    • August 25, 2012 at 10:43 pm

      I don’t think Kristen J. meant that the originator’s intent should override the responder’s challenge/objection here. The idea is, as I see it, both to acknowledge the validity of the challenger/objector’s perception of underlying issues and to clarify their original argument in a less problematic manner so that ideally the discussion can move forward.

      • Kristen J.
        August 25, 2012 at 10:57 pm

        Thanks, Tigtog. That is what I meant.

      • miga
        August 26, 2012 at 10:21 pm

        Especially because the internet is a pretty difficult space to communicate in. You can only use one form of communication, and if people aren’t as good at it (or if certain things, like sarcasm, don’t translate) people get stabby.

        I remember one thread where I was sitting there scratching my head, trying to figure out what two people were arguing so viciously about when, from my perspective, they were on the same side.

  140. Matt
    August 25, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    @pheeno, special rules for special folks.

    • chava
      August 25, 2012 at 10:21 pm

      Really, Matt?

      • EG
        August 25, 2012 at 10:22 pm

        Only occasionally for you, though, Chava.

      • Matt
        August 25, 2012 at 10:36 pm

        I laughed. That was good.

      • chava
        August 25, 2012 at 10:39 pm

        This is why we can’t have nice things.

      • Matt
        August 25, 2012 at 10:47 pm

        Its not picking on Feministe. All progressive movements suffer from this flaw. Each group condemns the mainstream for some bias, usually correctly, but then they stop. Feminism with stuff like racism and transphobia and cissexism for instance. Atheists with women and also some racism, some part of civil rights with women although a lot of that can be put down to Christianity. Similarly with LG rights vs trans or pan and so forth.

        All of the stuff like intent isn’t magic and not feminism 101 are only applied to certain groups in practice even if you INTENDED to apply them to every appropriate case. But intent isn’t magic.

        Sure its proper to say to a straight white christian male that as a women or a PoC or an atheist that intent isn’t magic, but its also right to say that to a straight white christian women as a PoC or an atheist.

        You can go around telling people that intent isn’t magic and then when someone raises a complaint about you say that’s not how you meant it with a straight face if you want. But as some people say in the sex debates, you have a right to your preference but you can still be an asshole.

        Similarly you can say that anger is an appropriate emotion to oppression but then it comes off really weird when say someone gets angry at something racist and you make a post about being nicer to guest bloggers.

        So yes. Seriously. Special rules for special people. It just so happens that your group of special people is different. That doesn’t mean you aren’t treating some people specially.

  141. pheenobarbidoll
    August 25, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    The idea is, as I see it, both to acknowledge the validity of the challenger/objector’s perception of underlying issues and to clarify their original argument in a less problematic manner so that ideally the discussion can move forward.

    Someone says something racially offensive, is then told a POC has been offended by it and the response is ” I acknowledge that offense but I didn’t mean to offend”. Sounds like typical white privilege response to me, because if the POC is still offended, then he or she gets put in a position of having to drop it otherwise they’re being unfair or mean or nitpicky or unreasonable. Because, after all, it’s not like their offense was intended.

    The end result is that the intent over rides the offense. Because the POC that was offended has to stop and make sure there’s clarification first. Which sounds a lot like hand holding. The commenter receives the benefit of the doubt, while the POC just got kicked in the teeth with something offensive.

    • August 25, 2012 at 11:23 pm

      Pheenobarbidoll, I would hope that the response would be more like “You’re right that I fucked up, I totally overlooked/erased that aspect and I should have been much more careful/thoughtful. I apologise for the oversight and regret that I caused offense.

      I’d like to try rephrasing it to better make my point without those problematic aspects: ipsem lorum dolorum est etc”

      • August 25, 2012 at 11:26 pm

        P.S. with comment threading, that ideal response to an objector could even be two separate replies – first the acknowledgement of the validity of the objection, and then a separate attempt to rephrase it more mindfully?

      • Kristen J.
        August 26, 2012 at 1:06 am

        Sure, and as Pheeno implies, just because someone apologizes doesn’t mean that the other person has to accept their apology or explanation. The idea behind acknowledging the harm and explaining is because its pretty much the best you can do when you fuck up. Sadly, life doesn’t have a ctrl-z.

  142. LotusBecca
    August 26, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    Lolagirl. . .just FYI: I posted a threaded response to the comment you left yesterday on this topic. I wanted to mention it just in case you hadn’t seen it and you might be interested.

  143. Guest: Shoshie
    August 26, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    I will say, as someone who’s guestblogged here twice and written about some loaded issues, I find that there’s a big difference between an irritated “Fuck you for saying x because it perpetuates x-ism” and people who are clearly trying to be offended. The former will usually stop posting if I say, oops, my bad, apologize, and make a correction. The latter will typically continue to derail the post and make it all about their issue with x, usually in incredibly offensive and uneducated ways. That latter case is incredibly draining and makes me not want to continue guest blogging, or even commenting here. I’ve definitely pulled back my involvement in discussions, because I just don’t have the energy, much of the time.

    It’s work, but I think that for moderation to be effective, it needs to distinguish between the two scenarios. It’s hard and there are going to be fuck ups, but I think it’s the only way for this problem to get solved, unfortunately. Y’know, unless people on the Internet stop being asshats.

    As far as guest bloggers showing their asses on occasion, though I do think that most posts from guest bloggers are really interesting and show opinions that I wouldn’t get otherwise, I think it makes sense to have more of an intro to Feministe, and maybe link to some 101 pages on -isms the guest bloggers may or may not have encountered *before* they start blogging. And, unfortunately, I think it means that the Feministe team may have to step in occasionally when a guest blogger is writing racist or fatphobic or whatever crap. That may be shooting an e-mail to the blogger. That may mean writing a response. Y’all have to decide what a suitable response is.

  144. August 28, 2012 at 1:36 am

    Bagelsan’s comment @101 is very apt and I’m surprised it hasn’t been responded to. I used to be a frequent commenter on this site and wrote a fairly well-received guest post once, and I ended up leaving during one guest-blogging summer because I could no longer stand the bias coming from the guest bloggers – or, really, its defense by the site administrators in the interest of airing marginalized perspectives. There are other “progressive” blogs that I’ve likewise stopped reading because I can’t take the constant stream of homophobia and transphobia, whether general or whether employed as weapons against commenters the site administrator disagrees with. I’ve been lurking a bit again here recently, and I like that we’ve seen stronger reactions from site-runners against attacks made in the name of progressivism – whether personal attacks on a guest blogger, or inappropriate comments from another guest blogger.

    I feel like we’re still in the process of shaking out the community standards – how much 101 fail in one area is okay in the interest of providing a perspective we don’t often get in another? (How much homophobia is okay in a post condemning sexist comments by a gay man? How much can you devalue childfree women in the interest of promoting motherhood feminism?) What drove me away from these blogs was the “we need to bring WOC and mothers into the movement, so y’all queers who we think are already part of the movement can go fuck yourselves” attitudes, which were a free pass for 101 fail in guest posts and also made it impossible to criticize the 101 fail in the comment sections. Honestly, that’s really a shame, because a blog like Feministe should be operating over a 101 level, and shouldn’t need to drive off editors of X group in order to attract editors of Y group. I think Shoshie’s idea at 195 – to provide guests with resources and keep a closer eye – can really help here.

  145. September 6, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    “I would say the goal of a good writer is to effectively communicate ideas.” >>> And i couldnt agree more with this statement.

    Five years ago, “Jill” wrote the above blog about ME, MY family and MY dream. The newspaper article was poorly written and more so completely out of context. However, I also didn’t think it was anyone’s business to judge my life and/or personally attack my family. No; my dad is not a dick, my mom is not dead and they pretty much are my whole life – who gave up everything for me to be where I am today in my sport. So please, before you go trying to “empower” me as a woman and an individual, think about ways to effectively communicate your ideas instead of putting my family down in a distasteful manner.

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