So, who loves metablogging as much as I do? Probably no-one. Probably definitely not you, the reader. To which I say: too bad for you. I do what I want!
Which, I would submit to you, is the point. I started this space because I wanted to write – I had a degree in that! I had not used it! I wanted to see if I could – and, while I was getting some very small, very poorly-paid, very pseudonymous or anonymous work, which I will never tell you about because it is embarrassing, there was nowhere that I could do exactly what I wanted to do, without compromise or the pressure of appealing to a specific audience. False modesty, or real self-loathing, is a very gross and very gendered thing, in which I participate too often, so instead of offering excuses for myself, I will just say this: I thought I had an interesting voice. I thought I could do interesting things with it. I just didn’t want to wait for anyone to give me permission.
Say, here is something that is in no way related to the above: did you know that sexism exists? Even in the very serious and important and high-minded world of professional writing? Es verdad! I myself, inexperienced as I am in that world, have encountered it: like, having to make nice with an editor who frequently went on rants about how women were “whores” and “crazy” and “liars,” or getting in serious trouble because I told a man that I would not publish his joke about raping an uppity woman, nor would I encourage him to make any further jokes along those lines. This weekend, I was having dinner with a lady, who made the (now by no means unfamiliar) point that many women get ahead in the writing world (and the music world, and many “creative” fields) by flirting or sleeping with dudes who have established themselves therein, and that there’s an economy of dudes who get laid by kind-of-sort-of promising career assistance and girls who end up sleeping with dudes for reasons only somewhat related to the pure and impersonal desire to handle that dude’s junk. Um, yeah: and it’s probably not a conscious conspiracy, either, on behalf of either party. It’s probably just a by-product of the sexist phenomenon whereby lots of dudes won’t even talk to you unless they want to fuck you, are fucking you, or are aware that you are fucking one of their friends. There are men who don’t do this, of course – more of them now than ever before, and they’re lovely. But when Derek Walcott and Harold Bloom are sexually propositioning students (and Walcott, at least, is marking students’ work down if they refuse) the whole climate starts to look unfriendly, both to your ambitions and your right to do what you please with your own personal genitalia.
Then there’s the fact that feminist-backlash pieces are seemingly published more often, and in more prominent markets, than feminist pieces, the way that female writers are often marketed in a sexualized way that their male peers aren’t, the fact that women who achieve success on a large (and typically male) scale are often viciously made sport of and torn down, and on and on and on and it really gets depressing, seriously, for a girl whose only comfort growing up was in books and in the hope that she might someday write one that would help another girl.
So, did I mention that this piece is meant to be about blogging? And marking the boundaries of your own space re: blogging? And Melissa McEwan, and Shakesville? Well, it is. But to say anything about that, we have to acknowledge this: that, in a publishing climate wherein women’s voices are less valued than men’s, and both women’s writing and women who write are often only considered viable if they can be crammed into “marketable” little not-very-feminist boxes, the Internet and the feminist blogosphere have actually become more reliable, vital, and important sources for feminist writing than old-media sources. When I go to the Barnes & Noble’s “Women’s Studies” section, I find the more well-known second-wave classics, a bunch of recent anthologies (containing essays that are, frequently, written by feminist bloggers), several books by blogger Jessica Valenti, one book by blogger Amanda Marcotte, some anthologies about women being bitches or getting married that have no reason to be in that section at all, and the Suicide Girls book. When I pick up one of the Important magazines of our day, I had better hope it’s The New Yorker, because they publish Ariel Levy: the others don’t tend to provide forums for openly feminist voices very frequently, or at all. When I go to the Internet: well. There’s a wealth of loud, impassioned, intelligent, readable, unapologetically feminist writing there for me. There are in-depth discussions of stories that major media outlets have swept under the rug. There’s complicated, well-informed discussion and debate of gender theory. There are calls for action on national and local issues. There’s everything I want and need, and I wouldn’t know half as much as I do without it. The publishing industry has been, I would LOUDLY argue, very much influenced by the feminist blogosphere: in this decade, more and more professional feminist or feminist-leaning spaces are opening up – spaces like Jezebel, and Broadsheet, and Comment Is Free, which publishes a refreshingly high number of feminists, and yes, when the moon is full, even DoubleX – and these spaces are, surprise, on the Internet, in large part because that’s where the built-in, loyal, passionate readership is located.
Without people like Melissa McEwan, this just would not be the case. She isn’t just participating in the feminist blogosphere: she actively took part in creating it. She does this for low pay (which is its own issue: writing takes time, and you need money to have time, and the people who are getting compensated for their time tend to be men or non-feminist women writers, and does this smell like economic marginalization to you? It is) and she does it all fucking day long, every day of the week. And then her commenters repay her by diligently working to insult her and drive her insane.
Look: we all need this space, right? This ever-expanding, nebulous, no-fees-or-blow-jobs-required-to-enter space known as the “feminist blogosphere,” right? We all know that Shakespeare’s Sister is one of the more important hubs therein, yes? We know that if Shakespeare’s Sister publishes less or (God forbid) stops publishing, everyone loses? Well, then. What I request is this: that, in order to keep this space as vital as it is, we do not become more cruel to each other than the world is already cruel to us, simply because we are mouthy women and mouthy-woman-friendly dudes. I am going to do something that I do not do often, and which will probably get me in some kind of trouble. I am going to approvingly quote I Blame the Patriarchy. More specifically, I am going to approvingly quote its author, on the relationship between her Internet persona (“Twisty”) and her actual self (“Jill”) and how both were involved when she made the – highly controversial! – choice to call a woman a “cuntalina” on a blog where she routinely takes people to task for using that very same kind of language:
Twisty, a staunch dogmatist, probably wouldn’t use the word “cuntalina” to describe some antifeminist knob unless I, Jill, had had it up to here with that relentless, sanctimonious, supercilious Metrical Formula of Internet Feminist Conformity and Propriety, and had given in to the urge to let fly a deeply satisfying misdemeanor, yup, on purpose, because it blows my lobe, this impossible effort to continually accommodate every little stultifying molecule of the feminist archetype… seriously, get off my fucking case already with this hypervigilant radfem hall monitor shit. The policey, self-righteous, gotcha bullshit around here generally is chapping my entire hide. When and if I commit some egregious ideological error that threatens the very fabric of the cosmos I’ll make Twisty fucking cop to it, as you fucking well know if you’ve been reading this blog for more than five minutes.
Now: the “cuntalina” thing is complicated. I’m not going to weigh in on it right now! Because of how complicated it is! But I will say this: when Jill and/or Twisty Fucking Faster says that we’ve got to stop being “hypervigilant radfems” and disagree with each other in a more civil way, something is up.
I owe something to each and every person who reads and comments on this blog. I owe you intellectual honesty, a rigorous dedication to feminist principles, interesting topics, and a truly unprofessional and non-standard usage of exclamation marks and colons. ALSO A SENTENCE IN ALL CAPS NOW AND AGAIN WOULD BE NICE. All writers owe at least some of those things to their readers. What I don’t owe anyone – what Melissa McEwan doesn’t owe, what Twisty Jill doesn’t owe, what no woman owes and what too many women have been asked to provide, as writers and as people – is the boundless patience of the Virgin Mary when it comes to how I or my ideas are treated. I am, as has been well-documented, a gigantic asshole to disrespectful commenters. This is because I want you to know exactly who makes the rules here. I started this place because I wanted to write what I wanted, without compromise and without having to make it “marketable” or appealing to a pre-defined audience. That is how it’s going to stay. Because I say so.
Basically, you are, right now, in the futuristic Internet-enabled version of my living room. I will fix you a drink. I will listen to your entertaining anecdotes and serious concerns. Sit on the couch, my friends! It is comfy! Relax here, in this overwrought metaphorical living room of mine! However: if you take a shit on my rug? Things will not work out so well for you. I, when commenting/relaxing in your living room, will try to uphold the same rigorous non-shitting standard of behavior. Like, phrasing disagreement respectfully. Or not asking you to respond to everything I have to say at once, and in the manner I have determined to be appropriate. Or showing up with a big bottle of 2009 I Think You Suck.
Which, if you’ve made it all the way to the end of this post, is where I finally get to the point and realize that I am, in fact, writing an open letter to Melissa: it’s your house, lady. Don’t let them trash the place. Throw the fuckers out if they can’t behave.