Friday, August 21, 2009

How to Be Fauxgressive

There's so much fail in all the bullshit that has followed from a comment on the blog We Are the Real Deal that I just can't help but use it as a teachable moment. So, if you're interested in not being a willfully ignorant and hurtful person in the blogosphere, here are some handy tips:
  1. When a commenter (legitimately) notes the lack of diversity on your blog, which claims to address a wide range of issues that diverse people face, stop and carefully think it over a minute before firing off an angry reply.
  2. When you do reply, try not to invoke the very symbol of privilege which represents some of the most oppressive and hurtful elements of our culture in the area in which you claim to be an advocate (i.e. Barbie and her relationship to any woman who doesn't look like her). Don't flaunt your privilege in the face of the presumably less privileged commenter and openly gloat over the fact that you are more valued by our culture because you fit the mold. And please, for the love of dog, don't imply that she's only criticizing your blog because she's jealous of you.
  3. If you happen to have fucked up and engaged in the above noted behaviors, at least try to craft a sincere and thoughtful apology that shows that you've actually heard the things that many people are saying to you. Don't retreat into a "you mean people just don't get my style" routine. Don't pretend you were being sarcastic and claim to have actually been saying something that makes no sense whatsoever given the actual words that are still on the screen in front of all of our faces. And don't defend your indefensible celebration of your privilege at the expense of others. It's not only immature and unseemly, it's downright vulgar and hateful.
  4. If you have managed to bumble your way through steps 1-3 above, and a co-contributor posts a "let's clear the air" post in which she invites people to continue the discussion, since commenting has been closed on the previous post, listen carefully and thoughtfully to the things the commenters take time to write to you, and then respond. Like, to their direct comments and questions. To them. Take the issues they've raised, one at a time, and address them. Listen, and engage in the discussion. This is called "constructive dialogue," and it's one of the most powerful tools we have in the fight against oppression and marginalization.
  5. If you're unable to truly listen and engage in constructive dialogue, then just say so up front. But don't keep saying, "I'm reading and thinking about all of this, and I'm going to address all of your concerns in an upcoming post" and then actually write that promised post without ever really addressing the issues that were raised in a meaningful way. Because that is the perfect example of hypocrisy and self-involved ego-stroking masquerading as advocacy and compassion and inclusiveness. In other words, this entire debacle is the paradigmatic giant, heaving, oozing, steaming mass of FAIL.
OK, I just squicked myself out with that last phrase, so I'm gonna go clear my palate with a little tequila.

27 comments:

  1. Heather28/22/2009

    Just wanted to stop by and say that your comments on WATRD have been awesome! I'm done commenting there because there's only so many times I can bang my head against a wall without it injuring myself.

    P.S. I thought I saw somewhere that you teach philosophy. I'm currently doing my PhD in legal phil.

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  2. That blog is such a clusterfuck. I'm not sure whether to commend you for your tenacity or mock* you for being such a glutton for punishment. You certainly have more patience with these people then I ever could.


    *Only in the most affectionate way, of course.

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  3. Yeah, that whole "you just hate me because I'm beautiful" thing was gasp-inducing.

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  4. Thanks Heather!

    And yes, I do teach philosophy. Have you checked out Feminist Philosophers?

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  5. This is one of the reasons I avoid BlogHer. It seems like this kind of approach is pretty common if you just sort of browse around the BlogHer community.

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  6. Heather8/23/2009

    They are one of my daily reads.

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  7. @ Reann Co-signing re; BlogHer.

    As for WATRD, Heather, aka mamaV, continues to put her foot in her mouth with her sarcastic comments. She hasn't addressed the hard-hitting comments. Nor do I expect for her to do so. She is an intellectual coward.

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  8. Tigger8/23/2009

    Holy shit, what a mess over there. Have you read mamaV's newer comments? Damn.

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  9. Folks should check out the comment thread on mamaV's own blog, MamaVision re: the Barbie post. She's turned off a good number of her own loyal readers.

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  10. Michael8/23/2009

    I've always thought that a person's true colors come out when they're under criticism. I've seen a number of other bloggers say something unfortunate and be called out - even flamed - for it, and handle it in a classy, humble, open way. This is certainly an example of the opposite.

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  11. miriam8/23/2009

    Since mamaV is now insulting your readership, I feel like I should de-lurk and say I'm here reading you blog everyday (for about a month now) and I love it, Rachel! Just sayin ...

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  12. voiceofreason8/23/2009

    I had sort of concluded that mamaV was just new to blogging and reacting in this really defensive and counterproductive way because it can be kind of overwhelming at first. But I guess she's been blogging for awhile and takes herself to be a great advocate for "girls" with ED. It's hard to imagine that she hasn't done this kind of shit on her own blog, but I wonder if maybe her demographic is just so downtrodden already that they haven't really called her on it? Maybe if you're struggling with an ED you don't have the energy or the confidence to also try to engage with offensive behavior.

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  13. Heathrow8/23/2009

    Also delurking to say I enjoy your blog. I occasionally comment anonymously.

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  14. Anonymous8/23/2009

    I agree that mamaV's behavior in this case is inexcusable, and her co-bloggers are about the same. I can't believe there wasn't more backlash to the "naked natives" comment. But I also think we've all been there when it comes to being called out and feeling defensive. MamaV's response has been unacceptable and offensive, but I think that maybe in time she'll grow and mature and, in hindsight, she'll get what everyone has been saying to her. For now, I plan on avoiding WAtRD.

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  15. happyfeminist8/23/2009

    I agree with some of the commenters there that that blog, like many others on BlogHer, is just a popularity contest.

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  16. megmbg8/23/2009

    Just wanted to say that the one good thing to come out of WATRD is that I, too, have found your blog, and am happy to see that the entire internet isn't full of such narrow-minded bullshit. Thank you for fighting at WATRD as long as you did. And thank you for having your own blog to boot.

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  17. Looks like we read many of the same things (based on your sidebar) and I just wanted to drop a line to say that WATRD is a hot mess of FAIL. I stuck around long enough to take a peek at the Q&A, because I was curious about what might follow the initial round of ghastly horrors (and mildly hopeful that some 101 progress might come of it). But it's clearly unsalvagable at this point, both because MamaV's got the maturity level of the "girls" she wants to save and the group of bloggers there (with the exception of Claire) wrote responses that ranged from outright offensive to just embarrassing in ways that hit my squick button, which goes off anytime I'm sure the person doesn't know what underclothes they've just revealed to the world).

    Still, it was nice to find this blog in the middle of that forest of FAIL.

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  18. You have to wonder how long Claire will stick around - it seems like she's very out of place.

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  19. Um, I think I count among your "readership" too, for those who are counting.

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  20. @voiceofreason
    It looks like her attitude and defensiveness just runs people off, like it's doing at WAtRD right now. That would probably explain her own blog - only her clones have stayed.

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  21. I too am amazed there wasn't more response to the "naked natives" comment. I think it shows that most people have already given up on that blog.

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  22. HI Rachel, I just got here via mamaV's scorn for your blog and readership. Subscribing right now. I'm curious to see how much longer you'll be able to muster the energy to keep 101ing over there, especially since Heather is now (almost) insulting you (almost) directly. Same goes for missincognegro, the F-Word Rachel, and all the other "most negative, judgmental commenters”. Co-signing re: nice to find this blog in the middle of that forest of FAIL.

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  23. Anonymous8/24/2009

    I'm another frequent reader/occasional commenter who checks you out once or twice a week, and wow, that is a giant mess over there. It looks to me like these guys just aren't ready to do the real work of understanding privilege, and I shudder to think of the people who might be in real need of help who seek them out. Yikes. Anyway, I thought your take on all of this was just right. Keep it up!

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  24. Thanks everyone. I've pretty much given up on them, but I see there are others taking up the issues. It's hard to think it will do much good...

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  25. I think the Barbie thing was the most troubling aspect of it, and I notice that it's the one thing mamaV steadfastly refuses to address. Claiming to be a Barbie and proud? How totally inappropriate and hurtful. How on earth can someone with this attitude help others develop a positive body image? It boggles the mind.

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  26. NoseCandy8/26/2009

    I think you should write a whole post about what exactly is wrong with embracing the Barbie image and claiming to be proud of it. It goes nicely with the dicussion you and Nikki had about celebrating privilege, and I think it's a great topic to explore.

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  27. Stephanie8/26/2009

    Did you see that they've now gone through and deleted a bunch of comments in the Q&A thread? But only the ones that criticized mamaV, of course. Their new comment policy appears to be "all of our comments are unmoderated, except for the ones that disagree with us or criticize us in any way." Classy folks over there.

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