Recovered from the Wayback Machine.
In my last essay Erik wrote about the post that it …it takes the small and relates it to the large, takes the specific and relates it to the general. I appreciated his notice of this, which I had attempted to carefully craft. I wasn’t sure if it would be lost because I used certain keywords, such as “Dave Winer” and that tends to obfuscate the rest of what I’m saying.
The only reason I continue to discuss the incident with the weblogs being shut down and the subsequent behavior is because I am seeing, in a microcosm, much of what bothers me about weblogging; and since the American perspective dominates weblogging, I am seeing much that concerns me about the country as a whole. It’s not so much that I’m taking from the small and extrapolating to the large, as this small, focused, self-contained event helps me better refine and understand what I feel about the larger forces surrounding me. Us.
Winer writes today:
I’m a big, strong, intelligent, self-reliant male. Our culture acts as if such people never need help. “Be a man,” they say. Enough of that bullshit. Inside every strong self-reliant male is a scared kid, who doesn’t think he’s going to get out of this alive. The attackers are dispropotionately women. Do you think maybe they’re using me to get even for how someone treated them? A father, a brother, an uncle, an ex? Does our culture let them be abusers, assuming the man is always wrong, guilty until proven innocent? I’ve been in this big strong body for a long time, and I gotta tell you, it’s a rare thing when people consider your feelings in how they deal with you. I think some people take advantage of that too.
(Of course, one could respond to this with, which is it to be, Dave? Camille? Or Hercules?)
Personally I believe that neither sex should be allowed to get away with abuse – mental or physical. But then, I don’t equate disagreement with abuse, either.
It does seem as if more women have been critical of Winer’s actions than supporting of them and him, and I’m including my writings, as well as those of: Jeneane Sessum, Halley Suitt, Dori Smith, Medley, Michele, Elisabeth, and others. But then, my own view is critical and my viewpoint of others will be biased because of it.
My reasons for being critical of Winer are more complicated than he gives me credit, and since, yes, I am a woman, this must be included in the equation. However, unlike Winer’s assertion that it must be because I’m trying to get back at some big, strong, intelligent, self-reliant male who he metaphorically represents, it has more to do with loss of self-determination, and watching people being forced into a role of helplessness.
When Winer pulled the weblogging pages, and gave those who were so affected no option other than to ask for them back, one by one, it forced these people into being deliberately dependent on him. He put them into a role, intentional or not, of having to be subservient to him in order to get their writing back. More than that, when he wrote in the very first comment to the thread attached to the post the following:
Groundrules: Personal comments, ad hominems, will be deleted. And no negotiating or whining. Just post the url of your site.
He established a implication, whether directly stated or not, that people would have to ask, pretty please, in order to be allowed to keep their writing.
For someone with a sense of fairplay and honoring one’s commitments, this act could be considered inappropriate; they might even think it would be ‘indefensible’. To anyone who has been bullied in the past, or put upon by those who have power over them, this action would be distasteful. But perhaps for women, many of us who have been told to ‘ask nicely’ when we want to be treated fairly and equitably, who have been put into positions of dependence and helplessness by culture, marriage, and even law–this act is all too familiar: the stronger holding that which is needed or wanted out of arm’s reach from the weaker.
In fact, it reminded me this week of some of the news stories circulating about lost prisoners from the early Iraqi fights, and how our own Justice Department has been ‘re-interpreting’ the rules of both national and internation law when it comes to the growingly tiresome ‘war against terror’. By any standards, even those who supported our entering Iraq, re-writing international law in how to deal with prisoners humanely has to give pause–but what is the world, or any of us to do?
After all, the US is the strongest country in the world. There is no one country, or even several combined countries that can militarily contain us. Even if they could, they wouldn’t; the world is too dependent on us economically. We literally hold all the cards.
In this country, we in the streets feel powerless to hold our government accountable to national and international law when it comes to the treatment of prisoners, and those being held on ’suspicion’. Back in a moment of outrage we passed laws that have given too much power to our current administration, and now we’re paying the price as we watch our own beliefs and integrity and justice subjugated to the twistings of a small group of people who genuinely think they are doing the right thing, but have lost much of their perspective about the true dangers facing us today.
All we can do now is stand on the ground and look at this thing towering above us holding that which we value, our sense of fairplay, dangling above our heads, just out of reach. It is frustrating. More, it makes one angry to be helpless and under someone else’s control.
But to return to this single incident in this small microcosm, I did not necessarily want to bring gender into this discussion because I had done so in the past to no real benefit. Several months ago I decided that I would do more for my sex by pointing out strong women than weak men.
But gender was introduced, and even though I had been counseled by some smart women that this latest from Winer was nothing more than a deliberate ploy to generate more attention –after all negative attention is better than no attention at all–it also highlighted something else I noticed yesterday that disturbed me more. Something that was only born out when I received an email related to it today from other weblogging women.
If it seems like more women are critical of Winer than supportive, we have also noticed that the most virulent attacks directed against those who have been critical about Dave Winer have been made by men against the women who have responded negatively.
This could be that there are a bunch of misogynist guys who use the cover of anonymity to take pot shots at any women who dare to question a male. It could also be because women have made the stronger statements, though I have seen some fairly strong statements made by men who have have had relatively mild responses in return.
I think, though, that this might be because this is one of those few blogging incidents that made it into the press that featured more statements by weblogging women than is usual. Consequently, these ladies attracted more of the gnats that frequent the Internet, landing to feed quickly when they scent blood, and just as quickly move on.
In fact, by precipitating this act as he did, Dave Winer has actually helped women in weblogging, even while he disparages our contribution. I just wish I could drop this sneaking suspician that aside from the obvious strength and passion and sincerity of many of the comments contributed by the ladies, the press also enjoyed tweaking the mighty utopian world of weblogging by subtly re-casting this into a battle of the sexes.
(In fact, I bet that’s why more than a few people would like this whole thing to just go away. How droll –airing our dirty laundry in public like this. Personally I think it’s good for the ‘mighty utopian weblogging world’ to get caught picking its nose in public.)
After all, Dave Winer has done so, saying in comments in another weblog:
Next time Powers or Suitt or Sessum try to insert hysterics, we can swarm them with love, ask them to stand back until the problem is clear, to stop meddling and when there’s an outage, please please don’t get us Slashdotted.
Curious – why no mention of any of the men who have been vocal and critical? By turning this into an issue of gender, does this somehow make what we say that much less credible? And swarm us with love, eh? That sounds remarkably like having your herd of followers overwhelm us to suppress any further outburts from the uppity ‘broads’ again.
(It reminds me of when I counseled women while working at the Women’s Center in my early 20’s and listening to the ladies talk about how their men would hold them down and beat them, but it was all done out of love, and all that.)
All I can say is, “Thank you Dave, not only for effectively demonstrating most of what I’ve been saying this week–scratch that, the last couple of years–but also for grouping me with such fine ladies as Halley and Jeneane.”