Posted by: Ophelia | April 8, 2008

Conversation Enders

Alternative opinions in a blog can be interesting and provide new perspectives to readers and the poster alike. However, alternative opinions don’t really extend to the realm of the conversation ender that I’ve seen applied several times today in a post on Female Impersonator.

I don’t really understand the logic of commenting specifically to say that the issue at hand isn’t worth discussing. At what point does this seem like a useful exercise? I mean comments are meant for thoughts, but “this is stupid” isn’t a thought so much as an attempt to cut down the poster for bringing the topic up. It can easily be an attack or an innocent question. I mean this blog is dedicated to the intersection of feminism with race, sexuality, and well all the other isms, and I’ve had people ask “what does this have to do with anything”. That’s fine if they don’t understand and are genuinely asking, however “find something new and relevant to complain about” isn’t a query. Not only do they attack the validity of the post, but go so far as to lob ad hominem attacks at the poster, claiming that she’s too easily offended and needs better things to worry about. This does not foster discussion at all. It is entirely disrespectful and is meant to be so, it’s as if they’re trying to shame her into submission or something because really–what does that add to the post?

You don’t think it’s an issue and aren’t trying to listen to any reasons why it might be. Bully for you. I also notice that they fail to articulate why it isn’t an issue beyond the fact that they don’t feel it is one. This is likely because there’s no way they can try to outright define the experiences and appropriate feelings for others without coming off entirely as trolls. It is appropriate to disagree with a post, it’s appropriate to question how big of a deal the whole thing is, but it is in no way appropriate to declare a topic unnecessary for discussion. If you don’t want to discuss it, you do not have to, but it is not your place to tell others what they can and cannot discuss let alone how they should feel about incidents (something about that whole attitude seems rather patriarchal in its condescension “oh I’m sure we can find better things to discuss”).

As if feminism itself isn’t subject to the same well meaning condescension from those on the outside who think we should find better things to do and that since they don’t see the problem, it doesn’t exist. Do we really need to extend these ideas to feminist discussion as well? And again, who are you to decide what someone else should find important? Ever consider that their lived experience makes it more important to them than to you? For example, living day to day as a black woman, I’m more sensitive to issues of race than others for whom race is not a salient part of their day to day interactions might be–do they then have a right to tell me not to worry about it, pat me on the head and direct me towards more important things? Please. I mean I think safe space is silly and a pie in the sky concept, but really, one would think that in feminist blogs, feminists have the right to have their feelings and opinions respected and not poo pooed by those who think they should have better things to do. (I’ve also noticed they never have any suggestions for these better posts, just that they’re out there, you know).

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Responses

  1. Thank you so much for posting this. Many, many thanks. Some of my readers have been incredibly frustrating for the reasons that you stated above, and I didn’t dare write a post about it because they ARE reading a feminist blog, and I feel like that is some sort of…progress for them? I didn’t want to alienate them, even though I had the same feelings as you.

    I love having readers who disagree with me, but only when they can make productive conversation out of their disagreements. That doesn’t happen very often, sadly.

    I think you make a great point about it being “patriarchal” to try to shoo people away from certain discussions. “Now, now! Let’s not get any silly little IDEAS into that pretty little head of yours!” ugh…

    Thanks again for bringing attention to this problem on my blog.

  2. It’s a difficult position to be in. You don’t want to shut people out of the conversation and experience but if they aren’t adding anything, at what point do they become disruptive? I just felt I had to say something, you have a solid blog but there appear to be a lot of people who don’t really get it. Maybe they’re coming from a newbie feminist perspective, but they don’t seem to have a grasp on the concepts your or I take for granted in our postings. Maybe they genuinely don’t know how off putting their constant attempts to deflect attention from the issue at hand are. (I got my first one of those on the most recent McCain post, and I’m interested to see where it goes).

  3. Unfortunately, I find that I get comments like these not just on the internet, but in the ‘real world’ as well. When I say I write for a feminist blog, for example, the type of condescension you mention (why don’t you choose something important to write about) is a common response.

    I also find that “feminist” has be so effectively redefined as a slur that even many liberal women are reluctant to own it, saying things like “Oh, I don’t call myself a feminist because I’m an Obama supporter, not a Hillary supporter” or “I’m not a feminist because I’m married and want kids.” It’s depressing.

  4. Pobre haladora,
    I saw a lot of that in this intro to gender and women’s studies class I took a while back. These women swore that they were offering a non traditional viewpoint because they shaved their legs, wanted to get married, and wanted to have children. Oye. Feminists aren’t a monolith, and feminism doesn’t have to be a dirty word in the first place. This is something it’ll take a while to convince people of.

  5. […] this post on conversation enders? I’ve been meaning for a while to expand it to be more comprehensive, […]


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