Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Tall Poppy syndrome is alive and well in the blogosphere

There is feminism, and then there is Feminism.
There is first wave, second wave, a token wave to, and ‘the revelation hit me like a wave” Feminism.
There are young people just learning and starting out, and older women who have battled for a generation or more already.
None of us are alike, but all are invested in equality, it is only our knowledge of the world around us that varies how we practice what we do.

I must confess that one of the biggest deterrents to blogging was the large amount of sniping and criticism that goes on in blogging circles.
This isn’t a “lady problem” or even uniquely feminist. I find the same thing in atheist circles, parenting blogs, and science groups.
If someone is passionate enough about something to write at least once a week on the topic, then they have got confirmed theories, opinions and issues around the topic already. Add to the mix the amount of anger that can stand behind marginalised groups, and the fact that each person is a different medley of minorities and it is a volatile mix.

I love the debate of the comments sections because I can choose or not choose to engage.
It gives all sides an opportunity to explain themselves if needed, and provides an open forum to potential resolution and understanding in both parties.

I’m less fond of the growing trend of passive aggression by the way of writing a critical analysis of someone else’s point of view and separating into two camps without constructive discussion between the two. It's all well and good if you overtly disagree with the entire thing (my example would be the tits out campaign). However if you like a concept but they have missed mentioning something that is YOUR baby (whether it is the forgetting the inclusion of your group, or the way something is worded) don’t immediately run back to base and undermine an entire cause.
Discuss with the organisers your concerns in private.
Discuss with the organisers your concerns in public.
Then look at reasons that have been put out there, and if they are still unreasonable by all means, step up and take a stand.

Before you do all this, take a look at the organisers.
A corporate group with their own legal team and plenty of moolah to research should know better, and should take feedback on board and make changes swiftly.
(Hello The Rock FM and HAHAHAHA to your latest ratings btw).
A volunteer group may not have the resources, but should also have people’s best interests at heart.
A blogger... well who are they?
Are they just some shmuck who likes to write, a person with their own passions for human rights but a fledgling knowledge of all the issues?
Or are they a well informed person who should know better and is well respected and widely read?
Are they a cover for someone on the other side trying to undermine a cause?
(The “vote on my abortion” fiasco would be a good example of this).

Take a look at who you are trying change, and why.
The range of opinions on the internet is what makes it so cool, and I would hate to pasteurise our feminist movement through fear of criticism.

So next time you decide to jump on a good cause because there is something you don’t like about it take a deep breath.
Is it really their job to cover ALL the issues at once?
Is there a trend of offensive behaviour or exclusion?
Have you even asked why they have done what they did?
Have you given them the opportunity to improve?
What are YOU willing to do as far as putting in working hours to help find a solution?

Or are you just doing this to bolster your own profile and have something to write about in your own space?
Tall poppy syndrome is international, not just a kiwi issue. The internet has shown this to me.

Disclaimer: I started writing this when I first started my blog and it always sounded like "why are people so meeeeeean?" it has taken me this long to whittle it to a more functional version. If I didn’t know you 18 months ago, it has nothing to do with you! (except you jerks mentioned in the examples!)


Boganette said...

I kind of take the opinion that too often legitimate and valid questioning or criticism is shot down with claims that 'The Cause' is being undermined. And a 'how dare feminists challenge feminists' mentality. And 'don't you know you're hurting the sisterhood!' and 'why are you being mean?'.

It's a silencing tactic.

I would much prefer feminists challenging each others assumptions, questioning each other and insisting opinions that are problematic are actually properly analysed than have an echo chamber where it's just feminism 101 and half-thought out ideas circling incessantly.

I don't think that there is any trend or a 'call-out culture'. I just see it as people who have been erased from capital F feminism finally feeling like they can speak out. That's a good thing. It's not a good thing when feminists call that kind of angry (yes, nothing wrong with being angry) feedback - bitching, sniping, anti-feminist etc. I often think when feminist bloggers say they run a 'safe' place or only want to visit 'safe' places they actually mean they want a place that is safe for themselves (safe from criticism, angry feedback, too much questioning etc) and for their mates. Mates who pretty much only have to show a slight, possible interest in equality as a concept to show they're completely undeserving of any kind of challenging of their opinion.

Also, I think because it's so difficult to challenge a feminist blogger on their shit - chances are the person doing the questioning HAS thought more about their position than the person who wrote the post in the first place. When I post about something - yes, I have thought about it - but I can only view it through my privileged perspective. If someone says to me - "this is problematic because....and you should know better", that's a good thing. And I *should* know better, and at the very least take on what is said, learn from it, apologise and thank the person for helping me see what needed to be seen.

It's as if all these feminist bloggers are running around saying 'I'm such a bad feminist because..." and then in the same breath saying "OMG! How dare you question my view on this! I'm a Feminist!". Either you accept that you fuck up while blogging, and that you're not perfect and are therefore thankful when you get schooled or you hold the opinion that you're above questioning and being criticised and your hurt feelings are more important than allowing others the right to speak.

It sucks when you first get criticised about a blog post. But you get used to it. Learn from it. And hopefully, you don't make the same mistakes again.

Scuba Nurse said...

I agree ten times over Boganette, and there should always be questioning. That's why I love the comments section.
What I have been seeing (but have not yet experienced myself) is that people are sometimes using something they object to as their own post without any discussion- effectively creating a second echo chamber without discussion between differing opinions.
All good points, thanks for expressing them so awesomely

Boganette said...

There are multiple reasons for someone responding to someone else's blog at their own place rather than in that blog's comment section:

1) Too many comments means your comment might not be seen or answered.
2) Not being allowed to write an essay on someone else's post (see I'm bad with that, my comments are WAAAY to long). But what you want to say can't be said in a 'short' comment.
3) Feeling like you're going to be shouted down by all the supporters of that blog because what you've said is viewed as an 'attack' on the beloved blogger you're questioning.
4) Being accused of derailing. Or mods cutting your comments, or slow response times getting your comments through.
5) Being called a mean, scary bitch. It happens a lot. Whereas if you do it on your own blog, your readers know your tone and can view what you've said in the context of what your other posts are about. And they're not going to believe that you're just a mean, scary bitch - they're going to read your post and figure out based on the contents of that post whether or not they agree with you.
6) It makes it less of a confrontational thing. Most NZ feminist bloggers are good mates and catch up all the time. It makes it less of a 'you did this thing wrong' and more of a 'this opinion is difficult because...' thing. Which is what it's really about. It's not about attacking 'people'. Because if a blogger who is also a friend says something I disagree with I want to be able to reply without them thinking "oh no, she hates me". And it's a tricky balance. Heaps of times I've thought 'Holy shit, does that person not like me?' and it's not about that at all.

Also, I think there is an assumption that if a blog doesn't have any comments then people don't have a view on it or it's an echo chamber. I get lots of emails saying "Hey I lurk, I liked that post you wrote" etc because some people don't like to comment. I also get heaps of "Hey, you should read this in light of your post about..." and that's good too.

Some places are set up because the bloggers are desperate for comments. They don't want to 'scare' anyone away, they just want hits and traffic. I don't think a place is an echo chamber just because it doesn't have comments saying 'I don't agree'. Or if they have heaps of comments saying 'I totally agree'. Because a lot of the time people don't feel comfortable commenting as they feel they'll be attacked with tone arguments or they want to educate themselves further before they comment, or there is nothing more to say because the blogger said it so well (or said it so badly they don't know where to begin). So instead they'll do their own blog. As long as they link - I think it's a good thing.

LudditeJourno said...

I like this post too - not just in terms of what it's saying about how we respond with posting our own ideas, but in terms of thinking about comments and what their role is. And I've seen you take on board new learning in about as awesome a way as anyone on the NZ interweb Boganette, so big ups for that.

I guess I also like the idea that we try and do the challenging in constructive ways too though - just basic kind of courtesy - which doesn't mean not being angry. But addressing the issue not insulting the person, all those good basic things about collective collaborative process, challenging while leaving someone else intact.

I know that's not always easy and know I don't always get it right myself. Welcome the reminder to keep trying, ta Scube :-)

Scuba Nurse said...

thanks LudditeJourno, I personally love the fact that in a post about the role of comments and disagreement in blogging boganette goes and rocks through in the perfect example of a functional response that isnt kissing my ass.

and i didnt even pay her!
mucho loves to all the bloggers out there who keep each others heads screwed on by constantly adressing each others weaknesses.