Sorry, you mean some bloggers aren’t white men?!

June 11, 2008 at 10:17 pm | Posted in Feminisms, Misc. | Leave a comment

Sunny Hundal’s post about writing for the bearpit that is Comment is Free – and the attendant issues about the abuse slung at women and minorities – raises a lot of interesting points, most of which this white, Cambridge-educated Yorkshireman isn’t all that qualified to answer without sounding like a complete dilletante. Still, I’d like to think that there are one or two non-moronic observations I can make.

The first is this post by a stand-in on Megan McArdle’s blog:

Bloggers write about their lives, their interests, their cities, their friends. On many blogs, the author’s life becomes part of the story — you read these bloggers as much for who they are as for what they have to say. This is what accounts for the sense one sometimes gets that one “knows” the blogger. Blogs serve as running commentary on the world at large (or some part of it), yes, but also as extensions of the lives of their authors. To become a regular reader is to share and take part in that life, and that’s a large part of the blogosphere’s appeal. It’s also a function of both the frantic pace and pressure of the professional blogosphere: The easiest content to produce is that which is inspired by what’s nearest to you

For me, this reveals a large part of what is wrong with Comment Is Free – too many wannabe Op-Eds, not enough bloggers. Regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or ideology, CiF garners a large number of spiteful comments, and I wonder whether this might be, in part, due to the fact that readers are subjected to an endless stream of opinions without ever getting to know the opinion-makers. There are too many hit-and-run posts, and even those posters who stop to contribute in the comments are defined entirely by argument and counter-argument. If you take a look at the Atlantic stable McArdle belongs to, you’ll find a host of authors (Sullivan, Yglesias, Ambinder, Douthat, McArdle herself) who post several times a day and about a variety of topics – some personal, some political. In the process you begin to get a sense of the personal and political life of the authors, and for regular readers this makes them far less inclined to subject the author to a stream of personal attacks, and more likely to engage in constructive dialogue.

Of course, none of this answers the question of how to counteract the abuse faced by women & minorities who try to blog. In light of some of the ghastly anecdotes made during this discussion, in which I learnt that one of my Favourite Writers and 2nd Favourite Feminist Blogger (here’s Number One, in case you’re interested) is frequently subjected to abhorrent, gender-based attacks, it’s clear that having safe places for women and minority groups to congregate is absolutely necessary. However, for them to engage in more mainstream sites like CiF, there is an obligation on those of us who object to racist, sexist & homophobic comments not just to wait before a moderator bans some bigot who speaks the worst impulses of humankind. Whether or not we agree with someone’s argument, those of us who believe in decency and equality have a duty to help shut down those who would tear down marginalised voices.


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