Margarita Dissent

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I haven’t heard anything from Dori Smith, the panel leader, whether the panel on women and visibility is going forward or not. That will most likely be between her and the SxSW folks.

If it does go forward, I have to decide whether to appear on it or not. Kathy Sierra’s participation was important to me, primarily because hers is a strong, articulate voice in dissent. Too many panels–especially ones having to do with women and technology, or women and online visibility–tend to be a group of like minded people who basically end up saying some variation of the same thing. The very concept of dissent seems to be discouraged, or even stigmatized as ‘trolling’, ‘flaming’, or some variation.

When dissent is carefully introduced into the discussion, it’s so bloodless as to de-emphasize the differences; all in the interest of presenting a common front. How many times have you attended a panel where the moderator ends up saying, “…though we have our differences, we all agree…” at the end, as if the one and only goal of the panel is agreement.

Based on my reading of posts, participating in the official backchannel, reading the liveblogged sessions, and listening to podcasts, though the participants at BlogHer, were engaging, intelligent, and diverse, there seemed to be a commonality that ran through this conference that left as many questions unanswered as answered. What was missing, in my opinion, were those who not only disagreed, but could express their disagreement with thoughtful, articulate passion.

That’s why I was looking forward to Kathy’s participation–not only is she an articulate and passionate speaker, she didn’t even agree with the panel title. The issue of women’s invisibility online and in technology would have been explored deeply, as well as broadly.

I have debated Kathy many times in online communications, either her and I alone or with other participants, (instances of which, found via a quick search, are herehereherehereherehere , hereour first comment discussion back in March in David Weinberger’s comments, and so on). I was looking forward to doing so in person — not the least of which (she selfishly and sheepishly admits) because Kathy has five times the readership and ten times the presentation experience than I do, and I wouldn’t be accused of ‘kicking the baby squirrels’ if I do disagree with her. And I doubt that anyone would accuse Kathy of kicking the baby squirrels for her disagreeing with me.

Women disagreeing. Too often, this ends up being categorized a ‘cat’ fight, an absolutely appalling term used by those who seek to denigrate any arguments made by women. Or the participants are looked at with disdain by the prim and proper among us–all of whom look as if they’ve been sucking a lifetime of lemons. We only have to consider the recent altercation between Mena Trott and Ben Metcalf at Les Blogs to realize that there was a strong hint of disapproval of Mena’s outburst, less because of the outburst than because of who she was : Mena. Sweet, smiling Mena. One could almost feel the puckering through our computers.

Women can disagree, yes, even angrily and passionately, and still be feminine/womanly/women. Where did we lose this right? When we decide that women must be mannered at all times?


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