Monday, June 14, 2010

The Mean, Lean World Of Blogs

Last Saturday Atrios linked to this post:

In February, a NYT blogger, Zachery Kouwe, was fired for plagiarism. The proximate cause of the firing was a complaint from the WSJ, but he'd had run-ins with other publications in the past, including nicking a memo from Dealbreaker without attribution. That didn't stop Dealbreaker hiring Kouwe in April. Which seemed a bit odd at the time, and which in hindsight was certainly a mistake, since now they've gone and fired him. But it wasn't for plagiarism, this time.

I spoke to Matt Creamer, the executive editor of Breaking Media, Dealbreaker's parent. He sent me this statement:

Zachery Kouwe was a freelance contributor on Dealbreaker for just over two months. We ended the relationship on Thursday after it came to our attention that he wrote emails to Dealbreaker commenters referencing their workplaces. Our readers and commenters trust us with personal information and we take that responsibility very seriously. Anyone who registers on our sites should feel confident their information is secure.

Atrios then pointed out that:

One of those things you learn very quickly when you start blogging and get a commenting audience is that if you can't take a steady stream of not necessarily friendly criticism then blogging really isn't for you.

What Zachery Kouwe is alleged to have done is wrong, of course, and blogs indeed do get a fair amount of critical comments and a blogger must be able to take that.

But. I bet you knew that was coming, that but. But the situation is not the same for all bloggers. Some of us get lots more critical comments than others (though I'm not necessarily speaking of my divine self here). Women do seem to attract more than a per blogger share of nastiness. All women are subject to this, not only those who blog but also those who comment, based on a study that was done some time ago. Women who write on feminist topics are, however, especially attack-worthy.

It's easy to see why that would be the case. A feminist blogger is going to get the usual valid debates, the usual silly criticisms and so on. On top of that she is going to get the misogynists. They are drawn to feminist blogs like wasps to picnic lunches in parks. Hence the registration requirement on most large feminist blogs now.

Rather than writing about why that is the case (you know, in any case) I want to write about its impact. This might be chilling, because women considering a (so-well-paying) career as feminist bloggers must be able to take not only the usual level of criticism that all bloggers face but much more.

It's like an extra entrance fee to the field, one which you may or may not be willing and able to pay. It also wears you down over time, though of course it also reminds you of the reasons why you write in this field in the first place. It might also radicalize you further. Come to think of it, that is a pretty likely danger caused by those trolls and exactly the thing they don't want to happen.

Take me, for example. In my meatspace life I avoid woman-haters quite successfully. Most people I meet are OK. To have the woman-haters write me letters and such reminds me of their existence and of the strength of their hatred. After a while I had to start doing reality-checks to make sure that I don't become a reverse sexist on this blog or in my concrete life. I hope I have avoided that. But those constant reminders do serve as -- reminders of the fact that, yes, indeed, misogynists are out there and in some force. And they hates us, my precious, they do.
For an earlier post on this topic go here.