Yes, it’s as true today as it was yesterday: Tiger Beatdown is three years old. Actually, Tiger Beatdown is slightly older than three today, which I personally find shocking. And, as is usual every few months, we are fundraising, which means that now is a special time where you can donate to Tiger Beatdown, or subscribe to it, to give it a little birthday present and invest in its future. Look, here are some buttons!
But here’s the thing: A lot can change in three years. A lot has changed, in fact. We’ve had different rosters, different schedules, different recurring features, different rates of posting and styles of posting. After so many changes, I would not blame anyone for being confused about this blog’s identity. In point of fact, after a while, I became fairly confused myself. And so, I took to the mighty Tiger Beatdown Back Channel — where Garland Grey, Emily Manuel, Flavia Dzodan, S.E. Smith and myself have undergone the process of transforming into what is clearly some form of Captain Planet — to discuss this. What is Tiger Beatdown? What do we do? How do we define ourselves; how are we different than other ladybusiness blogs, what are we best at, what, if anything, makes “Tiger Beatdown” more than just two words assigned to a random collection of posts?
And so, after lo many an e-mail, we have come up with this: Our statement on what Tiger Beatdown is, and what we believe it will be for the future. It is not completely complete. It is not finally final. But — for your benefit, dear Reader — it is the closest we can get to making a statement of Tiger Beatdownness. And we hope you will benefit from the brand-new lack of confusion.
(1) We do long-form. Oddly, all of our editors seem to agree that it’s this — more than any one stance on the lady politics, or the politics generally — that defines us. We all write ourselves some long-assed posts at the Tiger Beatdown. And we don’t write much else.
This isn’t the most conventional way to run a blog. It’s also not the decision that makes the most immediate sense, business-wise. Making frequent, short, incisive posts is a reliable, respected way to make a blog popular. It drives up pageviews, both because there are more posts to click on, and because all of those posts generate comment discussions, which means people coming back to the page over and over again. Those big pageview numbers make advertisers and investors happy. The old saw, when it comes to professional blogging, is that the more you do it, the more popular and profitable you become. But that’s not the choice we’ve made for Tiger Beatdown.
By putting these considerations up front, I don’t mean to denigrate that way of blogging, or to imply that it’s purely commercial. My Google Reader is full of blogs that follow the 12-post-a-day model, or that at least publish more than once a day; it’s filled with blogs that do short-form posts; frequently, the short-form posts are mixed with long-form posts. These are blogs I rely on and love. If something is happening right now, I know these blogs will tell me about it. If I need to get the issue wrapped up for me in a nutshell, I know these blogs will do that for me. And I also know these blogs are written and run by smart, passionate people who care about their subjects, and care about good writing, and who just so happen to be really, really good at writing short posts that are entertaining, insightful, and informative. I have much respect for these blogs. I think all our editors do.
But — again — it’s not the form we’ve chosen for Tiger Beatdown. I bring up these other models just to stress that we do know about them. And we know that they work. And we know that they can be excellent. We’re not just fucking around here, being unprofessional and breaking rules and going over word count because we don’t know any better; at this point, we’ve consciously chosen to be an exclusively long-form blog, and to sometimes make that long-form very long, because we believe that model has value.
Because here’s another thing about those awesome 12-post-a-day or short-form blogs: They already exist. There are lots of them. And, because most people have more business sense than we do, we can assure you that blogs like these will continue to exist. And will continue to frequently be excellent. What’s slightly more doubtful is that people will continue to place a priority on the long-form. It drives me, personally, up the wall when people define “good writing” as concise writing, or complain about something’s length without reading it (TL;DR — the WORST expression on the Internet? The Vengeful Ghost Of Marcel Proust says “oui”), or seem to believe that the only value of Internet writing is to convey information quickly. Here’s what’s going on with this news story, here’s what you should think of this record, here’s what Sean Bean did in a knife fight; yeah, fine. Great information to get quickly, if you want to stay up-to-date on these things! But I have also seen someone refer to an 800-word piece of mine as “long, but worth reading.” As more and more of us read the Internet to get our information, and come to internalize the standards of the short form, I’m worried that there are certain values and experiences we’ll lose. The experience of getting absorbed in a piece of writing, wanting to spend time with it, letting that piece take you on a little trip to wherever it’s going, with patience for the weird roadside stops and detours: I don’t want to lose that. The value of non-immediate, thoughtful, detailed writing, not done in the heat of the currently unfolding moment, but after the writer has had time to reflect upon and absorb her experience: I don’t want to lose that. Reading something not for its “relevance,” or because you need it to be “relevant,” but because you believe that what’s contained in this piece of writing could enrich your life or thinking in some way: That’s not something I’m willing to lose, either.
So, yes. Tiger Beatdown does long-form. We provide a space for long-form on the Internet. Unless something is an immediate action alert, odds are, it will take some time for you to read. We hope you read it anyway. We believe we provide a valuable alternative, and a necessary space (one of many necessary spaces, in fact) for long-assed posts upon the Internet.
“Many blogs put together plenty of short posts with links or videos, etc,” Flavia said, when we were discussing this, “but where are the long form feminist/gender/sexuality/politics blogs? There are plenty for mainstream issues, mostly male dominated, but where are the ones that center in ‘our’ issues? And I think we fill that gap and we do so with quality and with honesty.”
(2) We post long-form, so we post less often. It will take you some time to read a typical Tiger Beatdown post. But, I can assure you, it will have taken much more time to write that post. I can’t speak for all the other TBD editors, but I know that lately, I like to take a few days to sketch out, write, think over, and re-write my Tiger Beatdown posts. Because I can, and because I believe that makes them better. I enjoy living with something for a while before I publish it; that doesn’t guarantee that I’ll be right, but it means I will have had a lot of the necessary arguments with myself, and therefore I will be less wrong. The long-form, reflective approach doesn’t really lend itself to newsiness. Nor does it lend itself to putting up a ton of posts, one right after the other, especially since all of our editors are writing (and in Emily’s case, editing) for other publications, and have to maintain space and time to give those publications our full attention. We are giving some thought as to how to make sure we are not just ditching you or drastically under-posting, and you will hear about that later. But, in the meantime, think of us as one of those big, complicated meals that takes all day to prepare. Thanksgiving dinner, or really good chili, or gumbo, or what have you. I love those meals. I could not do without them. I also acknowledge that I live next to what is probably the best falafel stand in the entire universe, and sometimes, making chili seems like a ridiculous amount of time and effort, when the fact is that I could be putting some amazing falafel in my face right now. This is where we stand, in regard to blogs that post more often than we do.
S.E. summed it up: “Some weeks we have two posts. Some weeks there are ten. All of those posts are good.” This is what we’re aiming for.
(3) This is a space founded upon the diversity of its contributors. This is something that absolutely all of us stressed, in our enormous Editorial Standards E-Mail Chain O’Doom. Again, I refer you to S.E.: “Tiger Beatdown as originally conceived was Sady Doyle, and is not anymore. I happen to think that this is a good thing.”
As Sady Doyle, I agree with this statement! In this culture, there is one fairly popular image of The Feminist Blogger. That picture is of a person who is white, young, female, college-educated (at the very least), abled, middle-class, straight, and cis. That picture looks a lot like me. It’s missing a few of the complications in my history — around class, around health — but it’s undeniable that I am very, very easy to mistake for the woman in that picture. And part of my job, as I conceive of it, is to make it clear that this picture is NOT AN ACCURATE REPRESENTATION OF THE LADY BUSINESS, nor is it an accurate representation of the people who do it. It is also part of my job to recognize that there are some subjects I simply can’t pronounce upon with authority, since I don’t have the lived experience that produces authority, and to provide a space for authoritative writing on those subjects. Here, I turn you to Flavia:
“Within the culture,” she wrote, “there is this ethos of ‘all feminist blogs are X’ (where X is white, cis, American dominated) and that is true for many (or even the majority of blogs), but it is certainly NOT the case for TB.”
Accordingly, whenever we have sought out new voices for the Tiger Beatdown, we have sought out people who come from different experiences of marginalization, and of life. And, huzzah! Such is the team we have today! We have team members who are women, we have team members who are not women. We have trans* editors, we have cis editors. We are not all white people. We are not all from the same continent, and we are not all located on the same continent currently. We come from all over the place on the glorious rainbow of human sexual and asexual orientation. Some of us say “feminism” every fourth breath, one of us doesn’t identify as feminist at all. We live in different places, we have different levels of ability and disability, we are married and single and Living In Sin, we have different cultural and religious backgrounds, we are just generally a group of unique and varied and multi-dimensional human beings. Because this is what Ladybusiness looks like, in reality. It connects to all the Businesses there are. It cannot ignore or isolate itself from the other various Businesses. Reflecting that fact is a key, foundational principle of this space. Oh, and also:
(4) This is a space founded upon diversity of opinion. There is never any guarantee on what you will find in a new Tiger Beatdown post. Some are about working in prisons. Some are about the Global South. Some are about books with wizards in ’em. I myself am writing a post about that new Tori Amos album, which is possibly only relevant to myself and my embarrassing little inner twelve-year-old superfan. And this is how we like it.
There is, Flavia pointed out, an unspoken agreement among the editors of this site. We are not always going to agree with each other on everything. We are, however, going to respect each other and the work that we do. Hopefully, the key points of agreement — people are human, inclusion is important, let’s not perpetrate marginalizing bullshit upon each other — remain firmly in place. But the freedom to write and think, to bring differing takes and opinions into this space, is another key agreement that we share. And we would hope that we have this same agreement with the readers of the site. You are not always going to agree with every single thing that is published here. (In fact, I personally sort of hope that you do not. I am very uncomfortable in environments where everyone agrees on everything.) But we would hope that you’d respect the fact that so many opinions and perspectives are being published.
The Internet has given feminists and social-justice types more ways to communicate than ever, and we communicate faster than ever. And, accordingly, we produce consensus faster than ever. But the history of social justice movements, and maybe feminism especially, is not a history of achievement by consensus. Consensus is responsible for a lot of the achievement, and for our ability to unite and use our sheer numbers when necessary. But the history of social justice movements is also, perhaps even more importantly, a history of achievement by adventurous thinking. Which is, if anything, the opposite of agreement. Knock-down drag-out infighting, massively out-there theories, challenges to privilege, challenges to received wisdom, good and idealistic and dedicated social justice types being ass-nasty to each other and hating each other publicly and at length: All of this has been with The Women’s Movement for as long as the Women have been Moving. (In fact, I’ve been reading about some stuff that went on in the second wave, and it was, if possible, even more ruthless than today. Did you know that a radical feminist collective published an article declaring Gloria Steinem a CIA plant dedicated to RUINING FEMINISM FOREVER? Well, you do now! Also, she sued for libel.) We are not fans of ass-nastiness around here. But the environment that produces it is also an environment in which people feel free to make new statements, and try out new ways of envisioning the world and its problems. Too much consensus leads to stagnation. Lack of consensus leads to articles about how you are working for the CIA, but it also leads to the works of bell hooks.
“We are a blog that tries to think new things,” quoth Emily. “And that sounds super obvious, but it’s really not in a world where people usually read to have what they already believe confirmed.”
The Ladybusiness, and its inherent connection with and responsibility to all forms of Businesses, has always been messy, it has always been contentious, it has always been ideologically diverse, and it has never had a sacred text or a set of rules or a single authority by which to define itself. That is one of the best things about it. And that is what we are dedicated to preserving through Tiger Beatdown.
(5) If we are missing something, you can write it. It’s true that we don’t publish massively often. And it’s also true that, even though we’re a fairly diverse team, we don’t and can’t represent every human experience and perspective. So if there is something you would like to see on the Tiger Beatdown, well: Consider that, through a recent technological miracle, it may be possible for you to get a post on this thing, written to your exact specifications, and written exactly the way you would write it, onto the Tiger Beatdown itself! This technological miracle is called “guest posting,” and it is something that we do. We encourage you, in fact, to pitch us guest posts! We don’t accept every pitch we receive, because no-one does, but if your take is interesting and your writing is good, we would love to have you. Love it. Send your pitching into Ye Olde TBD Mailbox any time of the day or night that it may suit you. This, you will note, also means more posts on the blog. Everybody wins, with guest posting!
And that, my friends, is the current statement. That is Tiger Beatdown. We are still working on smaller details — recurring features, schedules, policies for handling guest posts, etc.; again, you are free to speak to those things in our comment section — but generally, this is the vision that we share, and that we are committed to. And now you know about it! So we all, very much, hope it is a vision you enjoy. If you do, consider donating! Or, subscribing! If not, consider seeking out alternate visions, perhaps ones with Jon Hamm that are streaming on Netflix. I find those to be a great deal of fun.