So, I think some of you might have heard about that Open Letter?
Some stuff was said, some things were arranged, and long story short (too late) a chat was arranged w/ representatives from Feministing so that we could discuss the differences that we had, and voice our concerns, and hopefully work towards a common understanding of what could be fixed. We agreed at the beginning that this would be public, and the full transcript of the chat can be found here. I didn’t feel the need to reprint the whole thing here.
What I do want to show here is how seriously I think our position was taken. Here is an excerpt from that chat (emphasis mine):
Miriam: I also want to challenge the idea that we’re responsible for how our commenters think
I know comment moderation is a huge challenge at feministing
one that we have not addressed adequately
annaham: Okay, but aren’t y’all responsible for stepping in when things get rough?
Miriam: we should be–and we’re constantly trying to find new strategies for how to do so
its about capacity for us
that’s not to say anyone is wrong for calling it out
amandaw: There is a reason commenters feel comfortable saying certain things.
Also, it does not matter who you intend to target. What matters is how your site is understood.
And your site is demonstrably understood as exactly how it was described.
Miriam: I’m not sure that can be blamed on our content. You could be right, but we also have to recognize it;s not a static community of commenters. We get about 500,000 visitors a month, some of those commenters may never read the majority of posts we right.
Do you think we have control over that?
Anna: No one here thinks you have control over what people actually do.
amandaw: You control comments.
Do not tell us you do not control your comments.
You control comments lightly, but you still control them.
You watch for certain things.
And you take care of them.
We are saying: we are excluded from “certain things.”
Miriam: We need to moderate them better, we’ve never had the capacity to actually monitor them.
amandaw: Rape apologism is quickly taken care of.
Miriam: I hear that
annaham: Okay, here’s an example of a problematic comment thread: http://www.feministing.com/archives/015536.html
amandaw: We know you are a large site.
We KNOW this.
We are not somehow unaware that there is a lot to manage and that it is very complicated.
annaham: Comments were closed down on the post, but a lot of them are extremely ableist
Anna: Miriam, I’m not sure if you recall we had a back and forth about this a few months ago in the comments on Feminsting. It was when we were discussing trans* inclusion on the blog.
you mentioned then that you all were working on a comments policy.
Courtney: Amanda [Last Name], your tone isn’t appreciated FYI. We’re trying to be real about where we’re coming from while really taking in the criticism.
amandaw: Excuse me?
Can we stop for a moment?
It took about two seconds into really addressing what amandaw thought was a key issue (and pretty much the main issue that irks me, FTR) for Courtney to whip out the Tone argument. Now, I am not one of those scholarly feminists, and I haven’t taken any fancy women’s studies classes at any big Universities with any hip, cool authors for teachers, but I am pretty sure that using the Tone argument is Silencing 101. In fact, I am pretty sure that is a big ol’ Anti-Feminist go-to move, ya know, the ol’ “hysterical woman” routine, or the “Uppity Woman of Color” in a White Girl’s face thing. “Tone” is anther way of saying “you’re too emotional”, and detracting from the validity of the point. It’s a great big finger.
If I am going to have a Tone argument thrown at me, the conversation is over. And amandaw is pretty much a pillar of Sainthood for continuing on with the remainder of the chat afterward, because had it been me I would have been done. I have been verbally and emotionally abused enough in my lifetime to allow someone who claims to be engaging in good faith with me pull that bullshit on me. Nuh-uh, not happening. That is the kind of shit an abuser does. When they are wrong and it is inconvenient they turn instead to silencing.
So, no. I don’t think that Courtney has taken anything away from this except what she can chalk up as a Personal Journey experience, or maybe something cool for her next book or column about how she has grown as a person. I, personally, and not as a representative of the group at large, will not proceed in anymore conversations if Courtney is going to be a part of them, since this is a recurring pattern with her (See: her Military Missives Part 2 post and discussion, which I will not link to, because I am done giving her traffic, and which several people have pointed out already, where she jumped on someone about their tone). This is not how someone engages in good faith, or how someone claims to be interested in making a space less hostile to a marginalized group, or even how someone goes about learning about an issue they claim to want to learn more about. I expect and demand more from respected names in feminism, and for someone who is likely going to be one of the first names a person is exposed to in online feminism, I expect that she should expect more from herself, too.
The fact that she knew this was going to be public and still felt free, as an able-bodied woman, to chastise amandaw, a disabled woman, about her tone while discussing how disabled people are treated within the Feministing community speaks volumes about how seriously Courtney is taking this dialogue.
I am choosing now, instead, to focus on the positive things that have come from this, not a direct result of, but as a ripple effect of sorts, which is a really kick ass and supportive group of incredible, and incredibly talented women, the crew of FWD, and what we have put together. So far it has been better than I could have imagined, and that is more than I could have asked for.