Monday, June 18, 2007

Thoughts on My Guest Blogging

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.


Yuri K. said...

I think you did a great job last week, and I got the sense that most people were intrigued by your writing. So keep it up here, and I'll bet you'll get links and readers a plenty. If you can stay motivated, which godknows is hard - note there's no link in my username. I can't keep up a blog.

Jill said...

Roy, I think your observations are spot-on -- especially "The first thing I learned is that no matter how uncontroversial you think a post is going to be- it's not." That's definitely a lesson I've had to learn, too. And it's always the posts that I think are totally benign that turn into giant flamewars.

I'm sorry about the negative comeent -- you're right that no matter who you are and what you say, there's going to be someone who disagrees with you or who doesn't like your style. It's especially hard for guestbloggers because readers have a sense of what the site "is," and if they don't think the guestblogger fits into that mold, the criticism can be harsh. Just keep in mind that you got more comments on your two most popular posts than the regular Feministe bloggers usually get in a week! Obviously you're saying something that people find interesting. And, yes, there were arguments, but your post wasn't purposely inflammatory, and you don't get 700+ comments for nothing. You touched a nerve, and it was something people wanted to talk about. I found your writing very fair, thorough and thoughtful. Apparently lots of other people did too, so much so that they thought your points were worth engaging 700 times over. That's awesome, and hopefully you'll take it as a huge compliment!

Thanks so much for contributing your thoughts to Feministe this week. I know it was a lot of work, and we all really appreciate it. You're awesome, and when we need guestbloggers in the future, you will surely top the list.

Anonymous said...

Roy, I thought you did a great job. If the sine qua non mandate of a big feminist blog is to keep the interest of a feminist readership, you succeeded in droves. And if the measuring stick were getting general agreement, we'd probably all fail.


assembling words to armory, she waits... said...

roy, you should be ridiculously proud of yourself.

it absolutely showed in your posts that you put time, effort, and immense weight on what you said and how you said it. starting an informative discussion/debate is supposed to be the point of blogging on a site such as feministe, is it not? how else do we learn and grow?
in general, i noted that most people were extremely impressed by your skills as a blogger. you know how to execute your points in a clean, logical manner. (your degree in philosophy shows!) i only wish i had the same ability. maybe those negative nancys are just jealous :)

Roy said...

Oh, thanks everyone!

I should have mentioned that- yeah, I think most people were, even when they disagreed, generally fine with my posts. I think that there were a few people that were unhappy about it, but that seemed to be a minority position.

All things together, it was a really great experience, and I don't mean to sound like I felt unwelcome by the majority of the readers.

Cara said...

I thought that you did a great job! Even if I am super-jealous :)

And you're right. Blogging is hard work.

andi said...

Your post made folks talk and think, isn't that what you wanted?
It spawned talks on several blogs and a few msg boards, that's not bad for a first time guest. Also it made folks aware of Feministe that had never been there before. Some will return some won't. That's how it works.
If you're worried about the amount of responses...the "wars" between the cf'ers and the childed have been a hot topic for a long time and will become more so. I think because each side feels the other one doesn't listen.
You got close to 1000 comments and most of the "debate" centered around kids in resturants and movies, also not bad for things that really don't affect people's lives.
Maybe the discourse can continue.

Nique said...

Keep it up Roy. You have "fans" now. Use your newfound power wisely.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not going to join the chorus of those praising you, Roy. I found your opening post to be quite hostile given that you defined "hate" so broadly that it lost all meaning and refused repeated requests to define it more narrowly. And I can do without yet another man lecturing me on how I'm supposed to feel about children. Or worse, telling me how to be a good feminist.

Given that your stint followed Mikey's, which started off badly, and was in conjunction with another man's stint, I'm not terribly surprised that some of the regular readers would be none too happy with the way that you handled criticism, and that they wouldn't be too eager to see future guest-bloggers.

But what does it matter? I left Feministe. And I don't touch those kinds of posts with a ten-foot pole anymore -- though maybe I should, since I get tagged as a child-hater no matter what I do.

Still, you deserve points for walking into the lion's den.

Anonymous said...

That last was me, btw.


Lindsey said...

I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your posts at Feministe this past week -- I'd started to move away from reading the feminist blogs after all the inter-blog drama that was going on for awhile -- and you've renewed my interest in reading and thinking about feminist topics.

Roy said...

Zuzu- thanks for stopping by and commenting.

First: I'm not going to apologize for my first post, although if I had realized what I was stepping into, I might have been a little more careful about how I worded things. I thought I was posting something fairly uncontroversial. It turned out that I was not. I'm not sorry I posted it, but I certainly would have been more careful in my word choice. That's part of the learning experience, I think.

Still, I wanted to remark on this:
I can do without yet another man lecturing me on how I'm supposed to feel about children. Or worse, telling me how to be a good feminist.

This sort of accusation has come up a couple of times, and I'm really not sure how I'm supposed to respond or what I'm supposed to do about it, especially given that there were plenty of women saying essentially the same thing that I was, and a couple who were at least as vocal as I was taking at least as strong a stance as I was.

I'm a man.
It's true.
There's nothing I can do about that fact, except try to recognize privilege when I see it, and try to work to end it. The problem I have with that kind of accusation, though, is that it takes the work I'm doing and the things that I'm saying, and reduces them to being "A man said this" as though that's the only or most important aspect of what is happening. It leaves me with nothing to say, because, at that point, everything I could say in response is reduced to my being a man arguing with a woman.

Would you have really been less annoyed or upset about my comments if they came from a woman? Did you find EGs comments less frustrating, even though she took a stronger stance?

I'm just not sure what reaction I can fairly have in the face of that sort of accusation. In any heated debate on a feminist board, whichever side I happen to disagree with can level the same accusation, and there's no way for me, as a man, to properly respond. It leaves me in a rather difficult position. I'm thanked for my contributions by the people who I'm agreeing with, and accused of being a man telling women how to feel by the people I'm not. How can I even respond to that?

Nisha said...

I'm another of those people who thought your posts were great. In fact, after reading a couple of them, I came over here and to 79 Soul and read a bunch more! You're a great writer, and in addition to that you seem to be very thoughtful and considerate, and that's something that a lot of bloggers lack. I'd say it's a huge asset, and thank you for taking so much time and putting so much effort into your posts. At the very least, I know I'll be keeping up with your posts here! :)

zuzu said...

A woman, at least, has received the same cultural messages I have, Roy. And while I don't take kindly to women lecturing me about how I'm supposed to feel about children, at least I know the frame of reference.

That you could even conceive of such a topic being "uncontroversial" kind of speaks volumes about that different frame, doesn't it? As a man, you can go either way on the child question and no one will bother you about it unless you express yourself offensively.

But for women, it's another story. The child question is a deep one for women, and it's one that inspires strong emotion no matter where you come out on the issue. Women don't have the luxury of being unaware of the controversy or of merely being indifferent.

Again, though, what truly frustrated me about that post was that you defined "hate" and "bigotry" so broadly as to render them meaningless and applied them to mere expressions of annoyance.

Jaclyn said...

zuzu, just because he didn't know all the nuances and social connotations of this particular conversation doesn't mean he's just some "man" trying to tell you what to do. We all have blind spots, as well we should, since we can't all know everything about every issue, and if we tried, we'd burn out right quick.

What matters to me is that Roy, moreso than most feminist bloggers I read, regardless of gender, is actually interested in learning and discussing and finding solutions, as opposed to just being right. I thought he responded quite well when asked to clarify what he meant by "hate" and "bigotry," and also when called out on some things he didn't know or deal with in the conversation (and in all the conversations he moderates and participates in online). It's actually one of the main reasons I read Roy: he's passionate & articulate with a strong voice, but he's also flexible enough to respond fairly to criticism and dissent, and to even change his position sometimes.

Honestly, many of us could take a lesson from him on how to have a smart, passionate, political, and still productive dialogue. I know I do.

zuzu said...

Well, thank you for telling me how I should feel about the post as well, Jaclyn.

Moody said...

Roy is teh RoXoRz.

Good job on the guest blogging.

Brooklynite said...

In any heated debate on a feminist board, whichever side I happen to disagree with can level the same accusation, and there's no way for me, as a man, to properly respond. It leaves me in a rather difficult position.

Yup. It's a dilemma.

Nique said...

Well Roy, even though I like you and your posts and I'm not trying to come across as hostile I've got to admit to having zero sympathy for your dilemma about being a man blogging about feminist issues. Yeah, you might be dismissed sometimes just for being a man. Gee, that sounds kind of familiar. Sort of like how I am routinely dismissed every fucking day just for being a woman. Not in the blogosphere, in the real world. Sucks doesn't it? Welcome to how the other half lives.

Julie Mc said...

You can't please them all Roy, no matter how hard you try.
The people that count think you handled yourself wonderfuly.

Aumumn Harvest said...

nique, I don't get it. Because your beliefs get dismissed due to being a woman, you have "zero sympathy" for Roy's complaint that sometimes his beliefs are dismissed due to being a man? I would think the basic lesson would be that it's not cool to dismiss anyone's beliefs based on their gender. I'm not equating discrimination against men and discrimination against woman in terms of their magnitude, consequences, and hurtfulness that they have had, in the past, and today. I'm just saying that, at an individual level, it's crappy for anyone when their beliefs are dismissed based on their gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. . .

The responses to Roy's posts at Feministe made me think about this, because a lot of the criticisms were in the vein of "oh, great, here's a man saying man-things and doing man-things." Which translates into saying that feminism is purely a dialogue between women, and movement of women against men, so a man can't really be a feminist. And I cringe when I hear those things from conservatives.

zuzu said...

It's interesting that Roy's focus is on the "man" part of the following comment:

I can do without yet another man lecturing me on how I'm supposed to feel about children. Or worse, telling me how to be a good feminist.

If you read those two sentences in full, you'll see that Roy's interpretation of them is a little off. I'm not saying that as a man, he can have no opinion on a particular issue or that his opinion is dismissable just because he has a Y chromosome. Read it again:

I can do without yet another man lecturing me on how I'm supposed to feel about children. Or worse, telling me how to be a good feminist.

I stand by that: I don't need a man, particularly one who has no idea how controversial this issue is for women, lecturing me about how I'm supposed to feel (or, indeed, how I *already* feel) about children. Nor do I need one telling me that the way I feel (or the way he assumes I feel) makes me a bad feminist.

Nique said...

I do like Roy's posts and I applaud any man for talking about feminist issues and actually giving a shit about things that affect women but no, I don't have sympathy for his dilemma.
I actually think it's fantastic that he was challenged for being a man because it forces him to look more closely at the way he words his posts. It forces him to examine his attitudes and behaviour and look at how what he thought was uncontroversial, actually wasn't(which he did, so it's all good).
It's like when white people talk about race issues. Yes, we should care and we should talk about them but I'm not surprised if a black person tells me I don't know what I'm talking about because hey, having never experienced the situations myself, I don't know what I'm talking about, I can only imagine. So I don't feel sorry for myself if a black person tells me to STFU. I reexamine what I said and think hmmm... maybe they have a point.
It's true aumumn, it's not cool to dismiss anyone regardless of who they are but it is cool to challenge people's assumptions and statements and force them to look at their beliefs more closely.
As a blogger, Roy needs to accept the fact that he's going to take a little shit sometimes. (Which he does seem to accept, so good for him).

belledame222 said...

Well, I thought you did a great job, Roy.

And you know what--I'm a woman and I wasn't particularly button-pushed either way about the "children" business. Yeah, I knew about the mommy-wars and so might've anticipated the blow-up--I wouldn't have done so so much, I admit, before I came online; and, but I didn't even see that particular thread as being about that, especially. Mostly: we're not a monolith, are women, and if I'd chosen to write about that particular subject I doubt it would've come off much differently in spirit if not letter.

I think there's other shit bubbling under this, and you know, zuzu, I am sorry for everything that happened recently, and I'm going to miss your hosting. I wish you well.

Autumn Harvest said...

I see what you're saying nique, and I agree with you to a certain extent. Those in the privileged group should be forced to examine whether things that they think stem from their privilege. And white and blacks, or men and women, have pretty different experiences, and it makes sense for a black person to tell a white person that they have no idea what it's like to be black in America.

But that doesn't mean that it's always helpful or reasonable to challenge someone based on their being white, or male. It makes sense if they're making assumptions or arguments that seem very rooted in their privileged experiences. But if it's just a way to bash someone that you disagree with, it actually seems very unhelpful, because it's just going to muddy the waters when they actually say something that's based on their privilege. I really didn't agree with roy's post about hating children, but lots of female feminists who thought carefully about the issue did, and if I give them credit for not just being dim-witted dupes of the patriarchy, it's hard to see that post as emenating from a particularly male perspective, or male privilege.

Nique said...

"But if it's just a way to bash someone that you disagree with, it actually seems very unhelpful, because it's just going to muddy the waters when they actually say something that's based on their privilege."


Renegade Evolution said...


I am late on this and all, but I thought you did great, and yeah, you went at it with hard topics that promised some mayhem. No one does everything perfect and up to the the whole worlds standards. Personally think you handled it all very well.