Thoughts on blogging, hostility and feminist dialogue June 23, 2006Posted by Winter in feminist blogging.
If the anger, hostility and hurt expressed around the feminist blog community in recent days reveals anything, it’s the fact that we have a serious problem with dialogue and communication. Clearly, it is very difficult for people to disagree and engage with each other on important issues respectfully and constructively. Having indulged in some of the bitching, I don’t exclude myself from this problem. I have no solutions, so I’m just going to throw out a few thoughts and questions.
Why is feminist dialogue so difficult?
Why can’t we disagree respectfully without insulting each other?
Why do things get so deeply personal?
Is it partly a problem with the blogging medium?
It is very easy to forget that there is a real person with feelings behind the pseudonymous name and we lose so much, in the cold type, that is part of personal human communication. It is also very easy for posts and comments to be interpreted as offensive whatever the intention of the writer and, when people respond angrily, things kick off very quickly and spiral into a fight, although there are also people who’s intentions are unmistakable. Still, in the 11 or so years that I’ve been involved in feminism, I have never seen anything like the infighting I’ve observed on feminist blogs. In personal group situations, I find that feminists of different persuasions are generally well able to communicate ideas and opinions without any eye gouging. That said, perhaps I’ve just been lucky and of course I’m well aware of a long history of passionate feminist fighting, especially over certain issues deemed to be of special importance to the movement. So, perhaps it is inevitable and we’re just going to have to fight it out for a while yet.
The question of dialogue is particularly pertinent here because, as we keep saying until you’re probably sick of it, we set this blog up as a space to discuss feminism. Now we’re wondering if we were a little bit naïve and are very aware that the hoped for discussion has not really transpired. This raises important questions for us:
Are feminists at all interested in dialogue with feminists who don’t agree with them?
Does the fact that a lot of people out here plainly cannot stand each others’ guts render discussion impossible, because it gets to the stage when even speaking to someone is read as putting you in their camp?
If so, the general aim of this blog is called into serious question.
Or, is it just the case that we’re not doing it right and haven’t configured this space in such a way as to facilitate the kind discussion we want?
We have no problem with traffic. We get about 100 hits a day here, which exceeds our wildest expectations for a small and slightly haphazard blog. But, in relation to the readership, we get relatively few comments. If people prefer to read and lurk that’s absolutely fine, but again it raises questions about our discussion agenda. We have wondered if we should write more provocative posts to spark debate, but we certainly don’t want to encourage fighting and nastiness.
We also note that there’s been a deathly silence in response to the new discussion rules, so we have no idea if they’re ok or not. When we posted them we were aware that in seeking to protect everyone, we might not be pleasing anyone or, worse, offending pretty much everyone!
Perhaps we don’t want dialogue and community building. Perhaps we want fights. Well, at least we should be honest enough to admit that bitching can be a lot of fun, but are the resulting thrashathons productive? Some people say yes, but I’m not at all sure I agree.
Interestingly, we’ve only had one serious disagreement in MTG and it was over whether the group was going to be inclusive of all people who identified as feminists or whether we were going to adhere to a more specific feminist politics. At the time we didn’t know why were all so riled up about it, but now I think I’m starting to understand the significance of the argument.
Over to you.