If you are looking for a safe space, the blogosphere is not that, and it is particularly not that if you are a feminist academic. We who are out there typing the type, Tweeting the Tweet and breaking the rules have to have — or acquire — a particularly thick skin. Criticism is an acquired taste. You either learn to love it or you get out of the business of feminist bloggery.
Feminist blogging is definitely not for wimps, which is why the vast majority of us do it pseudonymously. The condescension and mansplaining is hard to bear, particularly if you have to deal with a fair amount of this in the meat world. More importantly, perhaps, is that you really don’t want the people who write really hateful things having access to your home address or professional email if you are subject to bouts of anxiety or insecurity. A number of my correspondents have been picking up on some particularly obnoxious traffic in the comments section since I came to the Chronicle of Higher Ed, and I have heard from some that they now lurk because they don’t want to become objects of attack too. Although I miss them and wish they would return, I don’t blame them: trolls not infrequently migrate over to someone else’s blog if that person chimes in to defend the blogger from trollery. If they don’t get satisfaction there, some of them then engage in stalkerish behavior: sending unwelcome emails, writing trash to your colleagues and supervisors, Tweeting about you to their skeezy friends, and writing the occasional attack in more public venues.
There are basically three kinds of posts that create all kinds of chaos in my comments section from people who I am sure view themselves as highly principled, but who seem to spend most of their time on rhetorical search and destroy missions. Writing about race, as anyone who follows my Twitter box can see, brings all kinds of weirdos out of the closet who self publish books and maintain their own blogs and websites about how racist everyone on the left who thinks, writes and talks about race is. Many of them claim to be mixed race, or white people with mixed race children or adopted children who are of color. They all seem to think that people who write about race have the same power over other citizens that you would normally attribute to, say, the federal government, a state legislature or the Supreme Court.
A second dangerous topic for the feminist blogger is sexual assault: it is apparently perfectly obvious to many commenters that women know nothing about this and should just shut up, because the real issue is false charges of sexual assault filed against men. Feminist bloggers, when they write about rape, demonstrate their unshakeable bias against all things male because it is really men who are the victims of a social obsession with rape. We feminist bloggers also fail to emphasize the “fact” that women just use rape charges to get back at men for regrettable but consensual hookups; or that the sexual assault of men by women is an equally, if not more, pernicious problem on college campuses.
Interestingly, no one has ever accused me of being a man-hating lesbian. Is this out of fashion? Discuss.
I should say that I was not immune to these problems when I was over at Blogger. The rules that applied over there were pretty much the same, except that my audience was more self-selected. This leads me to Dangerous Topic Number Three: sports. It was a blog post about race and sports back in March, 2007 (taken down for a while, and republished here) that made this blog widely visible because I unintentionally stepped on the toes of a man with a book contract and an ax to grind. In general, however, the rule is this: feminist bloggers have no authority to comment on men’s sports or college fraternity scandals, and if they do they must always assume that anything violent that the lads are charged with is exceptional, even if they seem to do $hit like this all the time. Recent traffic on my post about the Wayne Hills assault case went to far as to accuse me of racism, since I also associated the sport with a culture of violence and, as several commenters charged, implied (without ever saying so) that all football players are black. Except in Wayne Hills, where they seem to be all white, as athletes often are in wealthy suburban public school districts.
But what-evah. The point here was not whether I was a racist (that was icing on the cake: in fact, I never mentioned race once in the piece, so to my mind the commenters’ assumption that football players must all be African American is, well, interesting!) The point was: ”Hey LADY!!! Whaddafuckyoutinkyougottarighttellinmenwhaddado?”
I may be many things, but I am no lady: this is my salvation when it comes to returning to this fraught space as many times a month as I can. Things will continue on as they have at Tenured Radical, and we will continue to delight and annoy in equal measure. I suspect, however, that there is one other group of commenters out there on a particular mission, who are not nuts and who I am perhaps perversely glad to have acquired. This bunch present as highly conventional academics who are, in many cases, probably ideologically conservative or neocons, and who find my very presence in this publication astonishing and offensive (those are the ones who also write in to correct my grammar, among other things.) What they want to know is this: “Given how unrespectable, irreverent and impolitic you are, Dr. Radical, how did you get into the CHE and I did not?” The answer to that question is:
Practice, practice, practice. And Ryan Gosling.