Diversity Weblogging


Commenting and cross-commenting associated with Mike Golby’s posting. Lots of words to get to core of the matter: Mike wants to discuss the issues without someone experiencing personal affront. He says that I am being defensive. I rant and rail and point and link until I slow down (hitting a wall does tend to slow you down) and realize…damn…

Yup. I have become a hedgehog of defensiveness, rolled up into a cute but painful little ball, spikes out, bitty nose buried, gleaming little eyes looking up as if to say, “You can kiss my spiny butt.” Just be glad I’m not licking your shoes and foaming at the mouth.

It is very difficult to discuss issues such as gender bias, stereotypes, and sexism without internalizing the discussion. I have long admired those who can discuss even the most vitriolic topic in calm, measured words. I can’t. I have a tough time just convincing people I’m being passionate, not angry.

The difficulty inherent with some of these discussions is that the comment boxes aren’t big enough to handle all the baggage we bring with us. There’s barely enough room to move. Worse, we can’t look each other in the eyes to know when to press forward, and when to pull back. Quickly.

Adding to the challenge is that the conversation can continue off-weblog, flurry of emails and exchanges becoming increasingly angry passionate.

You, innocent reader, see the tip of the discussion and can’t understand why something so small can be so deadly. You wonder in trustingly, open your mouth, issue a tiny squeek, and WHOMP!

You have just been overreacted.

Poor you. You get up and check yourself for injury, wipe the blood from your eyes, and, shivering from shock, crawl away, trying to move carefully so that your movements don’t attract further attention. A whimper issues from your mouth as you vanish from the weblog page. Not a pretty sight.

Sometimes when we feel very strongly about something, it’s challenging not to get angry passionate. Passion is great to start the fire (“we didn’t start the fire..”) but it’s hell on the participants over time.

Mike has questions to answer and this topic of gender stereotypes and bias, sexism and sex discrimination is worth discussing. Tish wrote an excellent, detailed response to Mike’s question.

(Is it just me and my hedgehog nature, or are Mike’s questions a tad bit loaded?)

Diversity Weblogging

Girlism Redux

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Mike Golby wrote a posting that asks several very complex questions, leading to one stated goal: he wants to understand why I (and Dorothea) fight these battles about sexism and gender bias and equality, such as the one about girlism this week.

I’m not asking these questions because I have nothing better to do. I want answers because these questions are there and they constitute obstacles to my understanding what is irking two of my friends, Shell and Dorothea. In other words, while I understand that I might come across as sexist and that view will be ‘me’ in the eyes of others, I feel something of their pain and want to know what I can do to ease it

I don’t believe there is an answer that I can give Mike, other than to point to what I have written. If in these postings he hasn’t found the answer, then nothing further I can write will provide any additional clarification. Or justification. Perhaps the only answer is there is no answer because the issue is less about understanding and more about acceptance. I can say that I don’t write on these issues lightly.

If this is the brave new medium we keep telling each other it is, then each of us must celebrate it in our own way, and this means writing about what is important to each of us. These issues are important to me.

When Halley wrote the following, it was something I could not ignore:

It’s “girlism” — women want to be sexy girls and use all the tricks girls use. Crying, flirting, begging, winking, stomping their feet when they don’t get their way, general trotting around showing off their long legs and whatever else they decide to show off thereby distracting and derailing men.

Stealing the phrase from Mike, I didn’t respond to Halley’s writing because I had nothing better to do. I waited for three days hoping someone else would respond because I knew writing about it could possibly generate tension. In the end, when I saw no one else commenting, I did so because the behavior Halley attributes to generic Woman can be generalized to fit all women, and that means me. And this type of behavior, as described, violates every bit of honor and pride in being a woman that I have. It violates every bit of honor and pride in being a woman of all women I know.

Mike, in your weblog posting you seem to wonder what the harm is in comments such as Halley’s or in stereotypes, and to question why women and gays fight so strongly against them and for our “rights”. To paraphrase you, aren’t we isolating ourselves by our actions?

In response all I can say is that generalizations based on class or gender membership, stereotypes, bias, bigotry, and racism are not acceptable, in deed or by word. After all, human history has shown the harm that “words” can cause. As for needing to fight for rights, in this country it is still illegal in some states to be gay and it is deadly in other countries. Being gay is still condemned in many major religions, including the Catholic religion. I don’t even need to go into the fight women still have for equality, both in my country, and in the world. Women have to fight, even in a modern country such as the United States, just to keep the right to have an abortion by some means other than on her back on a kitchen table being stabbed with a coat hanger.

Equality, fairness, won’t be given — they have to be taken.

What would you have us do? Wait for the alpha male to tell us “Oh, today you no longer have to bare your throat, we are now equal and you can do as you please”?

One of the most oft quoted phrases I see is David Weinberger’s we are writing ourselves into existence. When I searched on this, I found the following:

“This is exactly what I think is happening with blogging, we are finding voices that will ultimately make us new selves, or as David Weinberger likes to say, “we are writing ourselves into existence.” If Gilligan is right and we’re witnessing the end of patriarchy, the fresh honest style of blogging by both women and men will certainly hasten its demise.”


Halley’s Comments


“The importance of the weblog phenomenon isn’t so much that it enables people to publish their breakfast menus or even their genuine insights. It’s that we now know what our “avatars” on the Net are going to be: not graphical cartoon representations but our body of writing. You are what you write. On the Web we are writing ourselves into existence. This introduces into the self the same issues of control, inspiration, invention, deception and play as have always been present in the relationship of authors to what they write.”

David Weinberger


“I think Dave’s right on with this, and I think we can take it one step further, and a hyperlinked thought it is: As our fingers wind around the keyboard sketching our online selves–filling in the furrows, the wrinkles, the gleam, the raised eybrow as we go–that avatar we create *recreates* us in the offline world. It is a circle of creation and recreation. That is the joy in it for me–not so much the voice, the self I have created through blogging, but how that unleashed voice is transforming me, the person, the flesh and the mind.”


Jeneane Sessum


“As human beings, we are different people. This is where words can hit like hammers. As hearts and minds sharing Web space, I think we understand and know each other. Yet here, on the Web, our words carry even greater weight. ‘We are writing ourselves into existence.’ We do so on delicate, butterfly wings. It is here that words either fly or die.'”


Mike Golby

If we are truly writing ourselves into existence, then we have to accept the fact that our existences may not always overlap. And we’re going to need to learn how to respect this.

This is the last posting on the ‘girlism’ topic I’m going to write. To continue is to belabor the issue, as well as seeming to beat Halley about the head with her words, which was never the intent of any of my writing on this subject. If anything, after reading so many of the thoughtful posts, I am deeply grateful that Halley brought this subject up. But enough’s enough.

Mike, I did a poor job at answering your questions, but I can’t answer for the world at large — why do we do this or why do we do that. All I can answer is why I write as I do. We each have our own windmills to tilt at, and we don’t all share the same friends or foes. At times the only thing we share is the truth of our words, and the passion of our beliefs.

(And again, I have probably taken this all too seriously. After all, this is only weblogging.)

Just Shelley

I, victim

Each of us is capable of being a victim given the right circumstances. The only thing that saves us is learning to control a difficult time rather than let the time control us. This is something I learned when I was 15 years old, a wild child with little sense.

At school I met a girl my age who lived in a foster home. Unlike me, she was sexy and sophisticated, with more than a hint of the forbidden because of past indiscretions. Somehow, we became great, good friends.

I’m not sure why but one day she and I decided to run away from home. We ended up in the pad of a friend of hers who gave us a place to stay — a sleeping bag next to other sleeping bags in a one room apartment somewhere within the down side part of Seattle.

That first night a group of us were playing cards and drinking cheap pop wine when he walked in. His name was Dan and he was 27, tall, thin, with long dark brown hair and mustache. He had a velvet voice, and his moves were sinuous, like a cat. When I looked at him, I saw about the most exotic creature I had ever seen. One look into his deep brown eyes and I was lost.

When Dan looked at me, he saw a too-young woman with long red-brown hair, freckles, green eyes half hidden behind gold-rimmed eyeglasses, wearing a blue shirt and navy bell bottom jeans. As he was turning away from me, rejecting this too-young woman, he saw my hands and stopped. Instead of walking away, he grabbed the floor next to me, leaning close, talking to me in his soft voice.

Later he would tell me it was my hands that caught his eye more than anything else — long, slender, graceful hands.

Dan and I stayed together, moving from house to house, staying wherever there was an empty spot. The friend I had run away with decided to go home but swore she wouldn’t tell anyone who I was with. Well, of course she told everyone who I was with as soon as she stepped through her home door.


We didn’t start the fire

I don’t normally link to these types of things, but I thought this Flash animation of We Didn’t Start the Fire was extremely well done.

I like Billy Joel, and have always liked this song. Hearing it now, though, I find myself nostalgic for the days when all we were worried about was the Soviet Union. Whatever happened to our world, between the joy we felt when the Berlin Wall came down and now?


Yours in dissension

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

JF Cates writes at Blog Sisters:

Do you expect to always have only positive feedback in your comments? Are you upset when someone disagrees with you, or questions your argument? Is blogging about patting those “just like us” on the back, and blocking those who aren’t? Is tolerance analogous to stupidity?

To demonstrate the premise behind her questions, JF links to a couple of what looks to be warbloggers who are having a vehement disagreement with each other about delinking and personal censorship.

I responded, in part, with the following:

As Jeneane will attest, I was ‘delinked’, if this is what we’re calling it now, several months ago and labeled a terrorist sympathizer at the same time. I didn’t care about the link, but wasn’t comfortable being labeled a terrorist sympathizer, considering the country’s mood at the time. I expressed my unhappiness and we had some interesting conversations here and there.

That was then, this is now. Now, if people want to delink me, say nasty things, I could care less. All I ask is that they use a little style. I’ll tolerate being slammed, but I really hate being bored.

Though my comment is rather flippant, the questions JF asks are good ones, and ones that have been on my mind recently. In these virtual communities we build, is there room for disagreement? And the only answer possible is: yes.

How bland to only read those we agree with, and how dull to spend our time only in exchanges of verbal kisses and hugs. Disagreement is, in its way, the ultimate compliment: the person was interested enough in what you’ve written to take the time and energy to write in disagreement. It takes little effort to say “I like what you wrote”, but a great deal to say, “I didn’t like what you wrote, and here’s why…”.

Of course, this presupposes that a person takes the time to write out a thoughtful, indepth, even passionate disagreement. Little effort, or wit or style or intelligence, is expended with comments such as “u sound gay” linked to a photo of feces (in comments made in response to a posting Jonathon wrote).

However, no matter how skilled the argument, it’s for naught if all disagreements are seen as personal attacks. A week ago, Mark Pilgrim listed out various “logical fallacies” that can creep into our discussions with each other, such as that old favorite, argument ad hominem: attacking the person rather than the argument itself. If you’ve been around weblogging for some time, chances are you’ve seen this phrase, as it is used quite loosely in many exchanges. Too loosely at times.

Lately it seems that the phrase argument ad hominen is being used when one person disagrees with another regardless of the argument — it is the fact that the person disagrees at all that is seen as an argument ad hominen, rather than the actual argument. Using this phrase in this context is just as limiting and censoring as more overt forms of weblogging censorship, such as IP blocking or delinking.

As for delinking: if we’re no longer interested in what a person says, generally, then we shouldn’t read them or link to them and no harm is done. But so-called ‘delinking ceremonies”, and making a huge production of removing people from a blogroll is, I think, a ludicrous act of virtual Godhood — as if removing the weblogger from one’s blogroll diminishes them.

(When I talk about public delinking, I’m not including the person, mentioned earlier, who publicly removed the link to my weblog from his blogroll months ago. I personally feel this weblogger has been beat about the head enough for his past action. Time to call the dogs home.)

Children go through a phase when they’re very young of believing that when the television is turned off, the broadcast and the story stops at the point. However, we grow up and realize that, except for a few, our actions have little impact outside of our immediate surroundings. Turning off the television doesn’t stop your neighbors from continuing to enjoy the show without your participation.

Removing a person from your blogroll does not result in a big *POOF* and resulting vacancy where the person previously stood or sat. If that were true, I’d be a cinder and you wouldn’t be reading this. No, the delinked will keep blogging right along, writing what they want, and you’ll most likely end up sneaking back again and again to see what you’re missing.

What’s been hardest for me when it comes to debate and disagreement, especially in weblogging, is knowing when to walk away. As important as disagreement is, there are times when one’s best course is to not reply, to not engage. We aren’t all going to connect with each other, or be able to convince each other of the rightness of our cause; sometimes the participants should agree to disagree and either move on to other topics, or learn to ignore each other and focus energies elsewhere. A mental delinking as it were.