Well, my guest blogging stint at feministe is over, now. It was a pretty interesting week, and I'm having a lot of thoughts and feelings about it, and I thought I might as well throw them down, too.
To say that feministe has a bigger readership than any blog I've been a part of before is sort of like saying that the Enterprise is bigger than a city bus. Sure, it's objectively true, but it's a pretty ridiculous comparison to make in the first place. It's practically comparing apples to oranges. The majority of my blogging has been personal- a livejournal or a myspace page. My readership has consisted entirely of my friends or family, until recently. A really interesting thread on one of my blogs might have, oh, 8 or 10 comments, including my own.
Feministe, on the other hand, is huge. It's run by a team. It's been around a while. It's pointedly political, and it's got a serious readership. I can go days without getting 2 or 3 comments on a post. Feministe posts routinely get ten times that many within hours.
In other words: it's big.
So, getting invited to post there was, to say the least, intimidating. I'm not at all sorry I accepted the offer, but damn-all if I didn't feel a little bit like I was moving from swimming in the kiddie pool to jumping into the middle of the ocean. I was moving from farm-league to big-league, if only for a week.
I learned a few things this week, though, and I figured I'd share.
The first thing I learned is that no matter how uncontroversial you think a post is going to be- it's not. I honestly thought I was starting off light when I posted about "I Hate Children." It was something that bothered me, and that I had talked about with a couple of other people, but I really figured that the basic response would be "Yeah, that is kind of shitty behavior. People shouldn't do that." It didn't help that I was completely unaware of The Mommy Wars. So, what I thought was going to be a pretty harmless post turned into 760+ comment post that really pissed some people off.
And I think that's probably unavoidable.
When you're talking about issues that people have strong feelings about, on a site that gets gods only know how many visitors, and you're taking any kind of stance on something... you're going to piss people off. Even when you don't expect it. Guest blogging on a site that big is, in this regard, a rock and a hard place. I'm coming from relative obscurity to a site with tremendous levels of traffic. I'm only there for a week- I don't have the time to build up a readership and slowly work my way up. I'm expected to come in for a week, write some things that people can be interested in, and then take off.
And on a site with that kind of traffic you're going to annoy someone. You just are. If you post on "safe" topics and don't take a strong stand, you're probably going to be accused of being boring or wishy-washy. People who prefer a more in-your-face blogging style will find that kind of writing really uninteresting. If you decide to tackle something more controversial or you take a strong stance on something, you're going to annoy some of the people who disagree with you.
Which isn't to say that some of the criticism doesn't sting. It does. The worst I've had to deal with on my own sites was a friend disagreeing with me, or some jerk-wad coming on and telling me how to blog. That's annoying, but hardly scathing. It's a little different when you're guestblogging. While I was unprepared for the reaction the first post got, I knew I was dealing with more traffic than my blogs, and I expected to get some criticism for things like my sex-work post. But, when people start getting personal, it does sting a bit. I put a lot of effort into making posts that I thought would be interesting and would encourage some debate and discussion. I opened up a lot with several of those posts- exposing some pretty personal stuff, and so, I'm not gonna lie, when someone says Another week of Roy’s “Hey, guys! Inflammatory, not even close to feminist statement! What do y’all think?!?!” would have lost me as a reader. It’s definitely dropped my esteem of this blog... well... yeah. That stings.
I'm not even completely sure what that comment means- were my posts afeminist or anti-feminist? I don't know. Particularly since I thought that the only post that went poorly was the first one. Even my post about sex-work turned out to be overwhelmingly civil, and several people had mentioned that they were surprised by how interesting and focused that thread ended up being. And, really, those were the only two that I thought were particularly "inflammatory," and I don't think it's particularly fair to call either one inflammatory.
Anyway, there were a number of comments along those lines. There were a few blogs that linked back to my posts with some pretty harsh criticisms, and a few readers who were really unhappy about my being there. I guess I wasn't quite expecting that- I'm not used to it, and it took me by surprise. I think that's probably just something you have to learn to deal with when you're talking to such a large group.
Of course, it wasn't all bad, either. I also wasn't quite expecting the level of positive response my posts got, either. Overall, I think most people were really supportive and engaging with me. There were quite a few people who were absolutely thrilled by my posts and actually thanked me for making them. That was a pretty awesome feeling, I have to admit. One person said she was moved to tears by my post.
That's pretty freakin' awesome.
The biggest things I took away, in regards to my actual posts, were that it's ridiculously hard to come up with solid posts every day, unless you're going to post about the news. I generally don't like posting random bits about the news that come up. I love reading blogs that post quick hits on news articles and such, but I'm not particularly thrilled by making the posts myself. I like to talk. I'm wordy. I would much rather post something about my thoughts on issues and my reactions to things than just post a link to an article that's bugging me. Doing that five days a week plus moderating comments, plus trying to actually do work while I'm at work?
No. Freakin'. Way.
There's no way I could have kept up that kind of pace and still maintained any sanity. It's a lot of work posting on a site like that. I don't know exactly how long it took me to write any one post, but it's not the sort of thing that I can tear off in an hour. I read a lot of other blogs as I was writing those posts, getting a feel for issues. The post about sex-work was something that had been stewing in my brain for some time, and, then, reading Belledame's post kicked it to the front. That post took a long time to write, and was emotionally and mentally draining. It was, in other words, hard work. So, don't expect me to come on here and make massive, brilliant posts five days a week, is what I'm saying.
The other thing that I learned was something that was totally my own fault. When I made my initial guest-post on hating children, I was reading up on some of the different issues that children face in the United States and around the world. While the UNICEF stats didn't have anything specifically to do with my point, I found them really interesting in a heartbreaking sort of way, and I included them in my post. When I'm writing on my own blog, with a few dozen readers or so, it's not a big deal. If someone misunderstands my point, I can clarify it and everyone is happy. On a post like feministe, that's impossible. No matter how many times I pointed out my intention there, people were either unwilling or unable to understand, or, as likely, they simply didn't see my clarification.
Some people took my use of the UNICEF stats as a personal attack. Others weren't sure what I was getting at. Others thought I was trying to say that there's no difference between a US kid and a kid living in a developing nation. I think that the criticism of my use of the stats is fair, and I admit that I should have been more careful in how I worded that post. If I were going to write that post now, I'd be a lot more careful about using stats, and might even forego them completely.
Anyway, it was a hell of a week, and I'm absolutely glad that Jill invited me over there. I hope, if they do another round of guest posting in the future, that they'll consider having me back. In the meantime, thanks again, feministe readers- you'll still find me leaving comments there, and this will be my home for the time being.