My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Should You Choose to Comment....

Image description: Major battle with the caption "Meanwhile
in the comment section."

A post in two "parts."  The first its inspiration and explanation:

Last night I got home, sat down to write, and experienced a familiar feeling that I often get at the end of vacations that have gone on just a little too long. I was homesick. I wanted to go home.

I was home.  

I love my new place so fucking hard and it's going to be spectacular once I'm in there (just yesterday I discovered two stores I love and the Lafayette reservoir–which is just a gorgeous place to hang out with some trees or jog or walk–are all within walking distance), but this move is dragging out and I was literally JUST getting settled when I started to move 2.0. This feeling of being DEEPLY in a state of transition has been going on for almost three months now (and has been building since I was asked to leave earlier this year). I didn't realize how much it was affecting me not to feel the ground beneath my feet.

So today I'm going to put in Herculean effort to be mostly done with this move by the end of this weekend. If all goes well, I'll be writing to you from Lafayette by Monday morning. I'm going to post something I already spent this morning working on anyway. It's from my Facebook page. I woke to discover some pretty nasty comments about an article I posted last night, and I realized it was probably time to remind everyone that they weren't going to get away with saying anything they wanted in the comments. I've made some edits to have it fit here.

I don't get a lot of comments here that aren't nominations for one of our reader polls, but I do get a lot on the social media where I cross post my articles--particularly Facebook. The only admin tool I've ever had to use on Blogger was to turn off anonymous commenting for a couple of weeks after Creepy Guy. But my basic rubric isn't going to change from medium to medium, so if one day we start getting robust activity in the comments, it'll be nice to have a comment policy written that I can cut and paste.

I don't like banning people.

But every time I post an article that deigns to intersect with how writing and writers affect social issues or about how language reflects societal prejudice, a few people end being shown the door.

It's not that they disagree. The comments all over this blog are filled with disagreement–it's definitely no echo chamber. The problem is they either decide to react in the most dismissive and derisive way possible ("This is SJW crap!") in which case this page is not for them, and I don't want to have to deal with them post after post, or they outright lose their composure and abusively attack other members or me for taking the time and energy to try to explain an issue or share their personal perspective on a topic. If what essentially amounts to free tutoring is going to be shat on because you wanted to "win" an argument and have the last word, Writing About Writing is not for you.

There is a one-on-one echo that exists within this reaction that I am pretty sensitive to: abusers gas lighting their victims. Instead of taking a moment to consider why someone is upset, that they are accurately able to assess their own mental state, that they can be trusted to relay when they are feeling hurt, or that their life experience may be something worth listening to, often they are told they are being hysterical or ridiculous and dismissed outright. Their feelings and even their actual experiences are invalidated. We see this in a relationship and it raises our hackles (hopefully), but when a group in social power (like men) do it to a group they have social power over (like women or gender variant folks) on a massive scale, it is considered perfectly normal behavior. And it can even cause the people who are constantly being dismissed and derided to question their own perceptions of reality.

(I think abuse and oppression have a number of shocking parallels, but maybe a post for another time.)

Let me be blunt about this. Y'all are writers. You ought to know better than anyone that words carry tremendous power...possibly even to invoke harm. No body ever silently went to war or committed genocide without words first fueling them. No one ever articulated a justification for racism or sexism that caused people actual PHYSICAL HARM without using words to do so.

And if you sit on your couch every November 5th watching a dude in a Guy Fawkes mask bloviate between the fight scenes that, "Words offer the means to meaning," and then starts a revolution because the "truth and perspectives" of his words are bulletproof, and then you imagine yourself leading said glorious revolution with your own martial arts skill and throwing stilettos, yet you then roll your eyes at those Social Justice Warriors being all "oversensitive" to  some slur you intended only to insult one person, you are DROWNING in the irony of social power dynamics and their double standards.

I'm not going to sit here and have a conversation every single time I bring up an issue of social equality with folks who's main conceit seems to be: "writers should be able to write whatever they want." You already CAN write whatever you want, and if you're in a situation where you can't (politically or socially), it's certainly not upholding the status quo that you can't do. And writers often do write whatever they want no matter how harmful or objectionable. Rarely are their careers even impacted, and if they stay off the pages that criticize them, they don't even have to have their feelings hurt. So if you're going to react with hyperbole and loss of composure to anyone asking you to consider how and what you write....on a blog about writing, Writing About Writing is not for you.

Also, I'd rather have a smaller following where folks who aren't well represented in the wider world feel comfortable speaking up than a large following where the Status Quo Warriors speak over and run roughshod over anyone who has the temerity to suggest that maybe arts and humanities affect social perceptions and that once in a while we should think about that. The whole damned world will let the people in power decide what is ridiculous to care about (spoiler: it's anything that challenges their behavior in any way). If you want me to be vapid about the impact of writing and stick to grammar lessons that sneeringly judge people without the education to use the proper your/you're and craft essays, Writing About Writing is not for you.
Maybe arts and humanities affect social perceptions...
This is primarily a blog about writing, but because it is me writing (most of) it, I will constantly post things ABOUT writing that I find compelling, interesting, and worthy of a writer's conscientious introspection. This includes craft and process and insights from my life, but it also includes pointing out how much of the writing that exists (even wildly popular writing) often reinforces harmful status quos like racism, sexism, heteronormativity, transphobia, and more–things are engrained in many of our narrative tropes.

If we can't at least consider and think about these things, we're just telling the same stories again, not new ones.

If you want a typical writing blog with some linguistic prescriptivism that makes fun of legitimate English dialects (often in a vaguely racist and definitely classist way), drops the same dozen articles (and their knock offs) over and over on how to publish your novel/find an agent/write a query letter, and never really asks you to think hard thoughts about how powerful writing is in creating the stories shape our culture, there are just SO many pages to choose from. But that's not what I'm doing here.

And I want those who normally run screaming from the comments sections on most of the internet to feel comfortable participating in my comments. I want that more than I want hostile dismissiveness of one more voice reinforcing the status quo that actively silences such voices.

In case that was too gentle, let me be absolutely clear about this: If your reply is nothing more than "This is PC bullshit!" or "This is crap. You're the real sexist!" or "Shut the fuck up with this pandering crap!" (or any of the thousands of variations on this theme I've heard over the years) or if you use bigoted slurs or double down on your "right" to be sexist, misogynistic, racist, transphobic, homophobic, ableist, or fatphobic after you've been asked to stop, I will use my admin tools to show you the door.

You don't have to agree with me. You DO have to play nice in my playground.

If you don't want to think about it, skip the post for that day. If you want to disagree, you can do so without being abusive. If you can't do either of those things, Writing About Writing is not for you.