I was catching up via chat with a friend, and we were talking about blogging.
“I actually feel the urge to write more about feminism and gender issues, but the truth of the matter is that I’m not really up for the backfire that comes along with that.” I mentioned.
“Yeah, it’s inevitable,” she replied. “I don’t blame you.”
“…you know you’re opening yourself up for harsh criticism.”
“And downright abuse.” she added.
“…and I’m just too sensitive to open myself up for that intentionally.”
The conversation shifted, and no conclusions were reached. What strikes me now is how readily we seem to accept this fate: there is a tone of, “Well, that’s the cost of doing business.”
The cadence of this powerful short essay comes to mind. I’m tired. I don’t feel like I have the energy.
A little over a year ago I posted a pretty introspective piece about body image, specifically my own. Since then I’ve received dozens of super meaningful comments from other people (mostly women) who have told me how much it meant to them: that it reminded them of their own experience or somehow gave them the courage to think differently about their own body image.
Since then I’ve also received several… less meaningful comments from male commenters. Most I interpret to be well-meaning but tragically misguided, while others border on blatant sexual harassment. I screen my comments and choose not to publish these comments, but of course that means reading them in the first place.
The commenters believe they are complimenting me: interestingly, they all seem to include what appear to be their real email addresses. (As though I might look them up?) Each one indicates that I am the type of women that *they* like. (Because being liked by a man is the key to self-acceptance. Right girls?)
Here are some of the comments I have received, unedited. (Somewhat NSFW)
It’s weird, right?
Keep in mind that all of these comments were screened, so there was no “joining in.” Each male commenter had the unique idea to make this type of comment, where otherwise there was nothing but supportive comments. Each male commenter said to himself, “Thank God I’m here to tell this female that she’s attractive!”
When I posted my body image post, I made an active decision to post photos of myself in my underpants (in what is essentially, a swim-suit) in non-sexualized poses, along with a lengthy essay about learning to like my body shape. Did I “ask for” these type of comments?
Is this really “the cost of doing business” for being a female blogger?
The thing is, I haven’t seen anything yet. What Sarah and I were chatting about yesterday was the death threats and the more blatantly abusive comments that are sure to come when you start posting about issues that people are impassioned about, such as women being treated as equals.
I want to write the sort of articles that get people fired up. But I just don’t know if I’m up for it. Even the act of disabling comments is up for critique.
I still haven’t reached any conclusions.
I asked my husband the other day, “Of course there are still exceptions, but have you noticed that, over the last four years or so, Internet Comments have gotten slightly better? Like people are just generally a tiny bit better?”
He said that he had, and we mused momentarily at the inclusion of Facebook elsewhere on the web. “Or maybe,” I remarked, “all of the Bronies really are learning how to be nice to each other.”
Help us, Lauren Faust. You’re our only hope.