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Alas … a fall October 13, 2006

Posted by Winter in feminist blogging, pornography.

At the last meeting Naiades and I informed group members that this blog is currently linked to a website involved in the promotion of hardcore heterosexual pornography. We explained, as best we could through our own confusion, that due to financial difficulties, one of most high profile male pro-feminist bloggers sold his web domain to a company which promotes pornography websites. While he has retained control of the blog itself, he did not come clean and inform readers that these links would be placed on the main website, nor did he explain that people hitting the site would be helping porn sites make their way up the Google rankings. (If I have any of the details wrong, I’m sorry, but I’ve got to the stage where I don’t want to read any more posts on this subject). You can find an extensive round up of posts critical, supportive and ambivalent here.

We went on to tell them that this blogger has also done a lot to promote feminist bloggers, especially those more marginalised within the blogging community, including Mind the Gap. We believe that Ampersand was one of the first “big” bloggers to link to us approvingly and send traffic our way and we were pleased to be noticed. With this in mind, we waited until Ampersand explained himself further in this post before moving on the issue. The rather evasive nature of his explanation makes us wonder exactly what is in that contract and whether he is currently able to criticise the company that bought his website.

Unsurprisingly, the members present at the meeting decided that they do not want this blog, which represents their interests, to remain linked to a website involved in pornography promotion. Just to make it clear that we’re not trying to avoid responsibility for the decision, Naiades and I do agree that it’s not appropriate to stay linked to Alas, a Blog at the current time. For the most part, I agree with Tekjani’s take. As far as possible, we don’t want to support the kind of company that has bought the domain, whatever we think of Ampersand and his motivations for making the sale.

I read Alas for the interesting posts and marvellous link farms. I’ve hardly ever ventured into the comments section because I find the threads hostile and cliquey, despite the moderator’s endless battle to try and make them work. I don’t know Ampersand, but I don’t believe he’s a secret anti-feminist trying to bring the movement down from within. This is a person who obviously spends a large proportion of his waking time thinking and writing about feminist and progressive issues and if none of that work has been genuine, all I can say is he’s a very strange person indeed. Personally, I think he’s someone who has seriously fucked up and at some point he might be able to explain the causes of that fuck up in more detail. It may well be true that his choices were limited, but he seems to agree with the opinion that he’s made a huge mistake. Yes, he should have been more upfront from the beginning. Yes, he should have been clear about the porn content and given people the chance to object. Yes, rage and mass de-linking were always inevitable, but it would have been over quicker and more cleanly. It’s worse now. As he commented on Kevin’s post at Slant Truth: “Bottom line is, I fucked up. If life only had a rewind button….” I empathise, but sometimes we take actions from which there is no way back. By that I don’t mean I think it’s all over for Alas or Ampersand, but it can never be the same as it was again and I’m sure he knows that.

I don’t feel at all self-righteous about this decision. I feel sad. The whole thing leaves a foul taste in my mouth. I’m aware that Ampersand has long been the target of feminist criticism; I don’t know how justified that criticism is because I haven’t been paying attention; but we all know that when people become positioned as leaders, deservingly or not, they fall very hard when they fuck up. And we’re all extra keen to drag them down because they’ve betrayed us, because we feel they represented us and therefore had some a duty to us and the causes we all appeared to support together. Quite possibly that’s true, but as I write this I don’t feel like an avenging feminist fury, I feel like a member of a gang moving in to kick the shit out of someone who’s offended the group, someone who’s already down on the ground. Get the bastard! He’s betrayed us like we always know he would! Perhaps if I’d been one of the first to find out about it, I’d be more righteously angry, but it’s too late for that now; I just feel queasy and disturbed. In the context of this blog I do think it’s the right decision to remove Alas from the blogroll, but I still feel like a bit of a bandwagon-jumping thug.

And I’m not sure I buy into the sense of betrayal if it’s based on a claim that Ampersand set himself up as a “great leader” and then did us all down. No one can set themselves up as a leader. Even if Ampersand really wanted to be the evil overlord of the feminist blogosphere, he couldn’t do it without our support. “We” the readers and linkers put the big guns where they are by reading their blogs and linking to them. As WOC bloggers have been saying for some time now, the power relations in the blog world mirror the hierarchical and racist power relations in society at large and I think we would all do well to turn a critical eye to the processes through which leaders in the feminist blog world emerge, while others, no less talented, are held back through subtle and insiduous means.

Finally, what happened at Alas clarified a sense of irony which has been lurking in my thoughts for some time now. Here we are trying to spread feminism through the very same medium currently disseminating the worst possible varieties of pornography on a previously unimaginable scale.

Please understand that this post is not intended as an implicit critcism of anyone who remains linked to Alas. We respect the rights of other feminist bloggers to come to different conclusions.



1. Chameleon - October 14, 2006

This is terribly depressing news. I have been so short of time recently that I have not been able to read new postings on my bookmarked favourites for a while. Like you, I will be delinking. For me it doesn’t quite add up. If he needed money, why not like many other bloggers, give his readers the opportunity to donate via PayPal, expalining that the hosting costs were too high (that would have been reason enough without having to go into the details)? Then he would not have needed to sell out to the porn-mongers. I am sure even if his readers had only donated a dollar each it would quickly have mounted up (so I am not totally convinced by his arguments – I mean, how symbolically offensive can you get?). I really am grateful to you for passing on the news and for being so fair and open about stating your reasons.

2. Winter - October 14, 2006

If he needed money, why not like many other bloggers, give his readers the opportunity to donate via PayPal, expalining that the hosting costs were too high (that would have been reason enough without having to go into the details)?

Well, I guess he couldn’t depend on the amount of money he would receive through that means or how quickly he’d get it and we don’t know just how much money is involved.

I mean, how symbolically offensive can you get?

I know and as other people have been saying, the sites linked are selling blatently racist and misogynistic porn. It could hardly be worse.

It is all just really, really odd … to spend all that time and money working on feminist (whatever you think of his brand of feminism) and then do this.

3. Winter - October 14, 2006

I’m annoyed to note that the folks at Creative Destruction have put this post in the ‘supportive’ category.

Now there’s some binary thinking at work for you. Why is that when you try and talk about ambivalence or express doubts, you often get accused of supporting the issue you are writing about?

We do not in any way support what has happened with Alas, but I wanted to talk about how the fall out brought up some feelings of ambivalence for me.

Grah. Sometimes I hate the feminist blogogogogogogoshere.

4. Pony - October 15, 2006

Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. bell hooks


Thanks. Therefore, feminists would be those working to do that.

5. Susan Francis - October 17, 2006

Oh, perhaps that’s why …
My internet access is at my local library, which uses a very stupic set of censorware. It’s supposedly got several settings, for use in schools of different levels, and it repeatedly blocks some things totally that should just be marked as adults only, and a LOT of things that shouldn’t be blocked at all.
When amptoons has been blocked, I thought it was being stupid as usual. Evidently not.

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