Friday, July 13, 2012

Dear Bloggers

Dear Bloggers,


You work hard.  You put a lot of time and care into your posts.

Well, some of you do, anyway.  Some of you are a little slapdash about the whole thing.

But most of the bloggers I read are compassionate, thoughtful people who have interesting, important ideas to communicate.  You put effort into your posts.

Once in a while, someone will point out a flaw.  You'll edit your post.  Everyone continues on merrily.

But you don't leave a note.  You don't say, "Oh, thanks, got it," in comments.  You don't add an "edited for [reason]" to the post.  You don't strike through the part meant for removal.  Not that you have to do all of that every time, but any of that would be helpful.

Here's why.

Scenario one: typos.

Your sentence: Rescue dogs are some best pets.

My comment: Thanks for a great post!  Minor note, but I think that you left "of the" out of your line about rescue dogs?

You edit your post: Rescue dogs are some of the best pets.

You leave no "thanks" or "got it" in comments.  You leave no "edited to add words I left out" or "edited for clarity" in the post.

You're busy.  You're not thrilled to have made a mistake.  I get that.  I see it as an issue of common courtesy.  Basic politeness.  Someone helps you out, you acknowledge it.

Here's something you may not have considered.  Your post had a simple error, a misspelling, an odd glitch in structure.  Someone gave you a hand and helped you to improve it for better readability.  (I'm assuming here that these are polite corrections made in a kind effort to help you out and not coming from jackasses priding themselves on being pedantic.  Go with me.)  Then you made the change and left them hanging.  Now their comment is sitting out there for everyone to read, but the problem's been fixed and their comment left unacknowledged.  Now they look foolish; the post is fine!  What are they even talking about?  People coming along behind them start to question that commenter's reading comprehension.

Do you see where I'm going with this?  She helps you out and you leave her hanging in return.  If nothing else, throw a quick "got it" in comments or "edited for clarity" to the post.

Scenario two: genuine fuck-ups

Your sentences: Which is stupid, right, because everyone knows that only women can wear pink!  So I told Steve, "No way, bro!"

My comment: What's with the gender essentialism here?  Only women can wear pink?

You edit your post: Which is stupid, right?  So I told Steve, "No way, bro!"

You leave no acknowledgement in comments.  You leave no acknowledgement in the post.  You edit that shit out like a ninja and keep going like nothing happened.

First, as above, that leaves me hanging.  Now people come along post-edit and wonder what the hell I'm even talking about.  They get confused.  They turn on me for harassing you about gender essentialism when your post is fine.  Now I have to defend myself and explain, and the conversation becomes even more about your wording than it would have if you'd just acknowledged the problem in the first place.

Second, when you won't acknowledge that you've messed up it seems like you want to pretend the whole thing never happened.  Nothing to see here, folks!  But something did happen.  You furthered a harmful idea.  You promoted the patriarchy's very hurtful agenda.  You made an otherwise ordinary post into a hostile space.  Whoever commented on it, and whoever read it before you got around to editing it, had to deal with that.  We had to trip over your bullshit and figure out what to do with it.  Some of us commented on it, some of us tried our best to ignore it, some of us closed the browser and cried or yelled or let it roll around in our thoughts all day.  You're responsible for that.  The least you can do is acknowledge it.

I'm not demanding abject apologies.  I'm asking for a note: "Edited for gender essentialist wording."  Strike through the offending part and add in a better explanation.

If you think that you've done nothing wrong and the people pointing it out are pedantic, demanding jackasses, leave the post as it is.  Post in comments, "The post stands, I don't care about gender essentialism, I'm not interested in making this an inclusive community."  Let us know where you stand.

Watching your language can be annoying.  Sometimes you have a great, descriptive phrase in mind and you realize that it's ableist and you think, "Ugh, come on, it's just this once!  Everyone says it!  Any other wording will be too awkward!"  Well, too bad.  Being considerate with your language and not alienating readers with your ableist terminology is more important than coming up with a nifty metaphor.  Is being a good writer important to me?  Absolutely.  Is being a good person important to me?  Yes, even more.

Does a "good writer" rely on ableist phrases and sexist turns of phrase and racist slurs?  I would spend more time on that thought, but I'm drifting from my topic!

Stealth-editing your sexism away indicates that you want to pretend it was never there in the first place.  Which leads me to believe that you'd rather sweep it under the rug than actually work on it.  Which makes me wary.  We're all sexist to one degree or another, because we all live in a sexist culture.  We're steeped in sexism throughout our lives.  That's why we have to examine our ideas and consider our words and at least try not to make it worse.  Maybe we can even make it better.

Sometimes you don't want to do your self-exam in public.  I get that.  But you fucked up in public.

Admitting that you messed up isn't fun.  Admitting that you hurt or disgusted or angered someone is hard, especially when you didn't mean to do it.  But please make the effort.  In the long run, it builds a better community, and that's what we all want.

With love,
Frank Lee

P.S. Trying to turn it around and blame the commenters for pointing out your shit is not the way to go.  If they approached the issue bluntly or impatiently instead of sweetly, there's good reason for that.  As I've said before, some commenters are assholes.  Some commenters are great people who don’t have a lot of patience for someone thoughtlessly tossing out sexist remarks.

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