Recommends: A Moment of Sympathy for Jen McCreight

Jen McCreight, of FreeThought blogs, is suspending her blogging indefinitely.

Here is an unrelated, and yet terribly related blog post that I was planning to recommend anyway: The Girl's Guide To Staying Safe Online.

3. Don’t Be Good at Your Job.

In our e-mail exchange, former Shapely Prose blogger Sweet Machine told me that “the beginning of the end” of her career as a blogger was the moment blogging became unsustainable. I knew what she meant, but I’d always regarded it as one of her blog’s biggest successes.

Since its publication in October 2009, Schrodinger’s Rapist,” by Phaedra Starling, has become a part of feminist blog canon. Its explanations of street harassment, rape and doubt have been widely cited and echoed, and the phrase “Schrodinger’s Rapist” itself has become shorthand for threatening encounters. The post garnered 1,216 comments before Shapely Prose shut them off.

Those comments had to be moderated. And, as Sweet Machine puts it, the post “attracted so much positive attention from women that it drew incredible hostility from men.” Moderating comments began to take up the majority of her work time. When Sweet Machine’s mother died, one commenter said that she must have been ashamed of Sweet Machine’s weight–and signed off with “you fucking cunt.”

“Reading the mod queue started to feel like being slapped over and over by strangers,” she says. “The more successful [Shapely Prose] got, the more we got attacked.”

This is the game, for feminist bloggers: the more recognition you receive, the more dangerous the job becomes. Other writers may be able to nurture ambition, and pursue goals without ambivalence. Feminists, on the other hand, live with the fear of Schrodinger’s Promotion. Every step we take toward recognition might be the step that makes blogging itself an intolerable risk. I’ve spoken to other bloggers – one of them male – who have changed pseudonyms or deleted blogs once they got an unacceptably large readership, just to avoid it. Those who stay put have paid a high price.

In an also unrelated phenomena, the comment policy here has been updated again to be intentionally cranky. Not because I like being cranky, but because I think it's important to acknowledge to myself and others that, well, I am.

Here is my intentionally cranky comment policy. I have written it in an intentionally cranky manner so that you, Dear Reader, will not be caught by surprise when someone breaks the rules and I respond in a genuinely cranky manner. Tone Consistency!

Here is the backstory: I am the only writer-slash-moderator here, and I am dealing with a massively demanding schedule of Day Job, Blog Writing, Book Writing, Book Reading, Book Reviewing, Blog Moderating, Chronic Pain, Chronic Sleeplessness, Chronic Infertility, Chronic Tummyache, Chronic Cranky, and about three separate-and-distinct family members who need full-time medical and/or emotional care from me. Every moment that I spend interacting with people here is a moment that is either fun-and-worthwhile or not-fun-and-contributing-to-my-stress-levels. If you are being Not Fun, then I am going to say so -- probably in a cranky, sleep-deprived, chronicy painy, kind of way. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

This is my personal blog. Everything I write here is based on my personal opinions, most of which are strong, and at least one of which will be offensive to someone on this planet. I've made peace with that statistical probability. If you find something I write to be offensive to you personally, you may express that, provided you can do so in a clear, calm, concise way, preferably with examples of how I can Do Better. If, on the other hand, you express your offense in a burst of fiery blazing aggro, you may be asked in a very cranky manner to not let the blog door hit you on the way out. That's just how I roll.

I run this site as I please, because if I didn't, I would have to take my blog ball and go home and then no one would get the shiny blog posts here. If you find that participating in this community is not right for you, then subscribe to the rss feed and for fuck's sake stop commenting. If even the rss feed is too much for you and my words are giving you the rageies, for your own health and mine, stop reading my blog. Really. There's really awesome stuff out there that I can't read either, and the world keeps spinning.

Here are the rules, which I am intentionally keeping very simple.
  1. If you do something you shouldn't, I will say something in as nice a manner as I can manage. 
  2. If you piss me off, you may get one or more spoons as a warning because you are taking mine
  3. If you piss me off badly enough, you will be banned.

See? Simple.

Here is a longer list of rules for people who like longer lists of rules.

  • Remember this is a Safe Space community for ALL of us, including me, so be nice
  • Remember that this is an Advanced Feminism space, not a Feminism 101 space.
  • Remember that a post about problematic art is not an attack on you for liking the art. 
  • Remember to watch your words. Intent is not magic
  • Do not invoke the MST3K mantra. The topics covered here matter, even if not to you.
  • Do not accuse me of bad faith when I have erred.
  • Do not use preemptive accusations of bad faith here as a silencing tactic.
  • Do not dictate opinions or interpretations. This space is about sharing, not about consensus.
  • Do not generalize. "Every Wiccan believes X" invisibles the Wiccans who don't.
  • Do not essentialize. "Every woman is Y" invisibles the women who aren't.
  • Do not otherize. There's enough normalization of straight, white, cis, male experience online.
  • Do not speak for others in this space. "My disabled friend thinks Z" appropriates them. 
  • Do not dispense unsolicited advice. There are emoters in this space who teach by sharing.
  • Use trigger warnings unless the trigger is already covered by the post Content Note. 
  • Use spoiler warnings unless the spoiler content is already covered in-post.

A note on language. In general, the following language is prohibited (subject to the caveat below):

  • Hateful / Phobic language that harms and otherizes people, particularly marginalized people. This includes (but is not limited to) language that is hateful and/or phobic of QUILTBAG people, queer people, intersex people, lesbian people, trans people, bi people, asexual people, gay people, otherkin people, religious people, atheist people, people with-or-without children, people with disabilities, and people of color. Language that is racist, sexist, ableist, or predicated on a hatred and/or phobia of a sexual orientation or gender identity is not up for discussion when pointed out in-thread. The appropriate response to correction is any variation of "oops, sorry" or "whoops, didn't realize, thank you". 
  • Ableist language deserves a special mention because is so heavily entwined in our culture that even advanced feminists are not always aware of what is and isn't appropriate to say in a Safe Space. The following words are not allowed in this space: Blind, Crazy, Cretin, Crutch, Deaf, Dumb, Hysterical, Lame, Idiot, Moron, Retarded (and "-tard" variations), Spastic, Vegetable. That's a lot of words, isn't it? Do you think it's totally unfair that we have so many ableist words in our cultural vocabulary to the point where communication is sometimes difficult once they have been declared off-limits? I do too! Get mad at our culture for making us reliant on them, and not at me for banning them from this space. Here is a nice list of alternative words.
  • Caveat To The Above: Potentially triggering language is allowable in this space for purposes of deconstruction or reclamation. Language deconstruction generally seeks to show why slurs are not legitimate; here is an example that focuses heavily on misogynistic and ableist language. Language reclamation generally seeks to reclaim words for non-slur purposes; here is an example of a magazine named after a well known misogynistic slur. If I can't clearly tell from the context of your post that you are deconstructing or reclaiming a word, and especially if you are not a member of the affected group (i.e., neurotypical people do not get to 'reclaim' words associated with mental illness), then you are using it wrong. Note: When reclaiming or deconstructing triggering language, your post should have an appropriate trigger warning.

A note on Feminism 101: This is not a 101 space.

There are a lot of reasons for that. One, there are a number of 101 spaces on the internet already and so I don't feel particularly called to fill that gap. Two, there aren't as many advanced feminism spaces as I would like online, a place where feminists can go chill and talk and enjoy without having to keep explaining the same basic concepts over and over again. Composition 101 is a nice course, but Advanced Shakespeare was where I really had the most fun, you know?

Three, doing Feminism 101 tires me out. Imagine if you will all the work that goes into house-training a puppy. No matter how adorable and cute and sweet and silky soft that puppy is, I still don't find the process fun: cleaning up poop, standing in the rain waiting, having to remember to grab the clicker and treat-bag every five minutes before heading out in the Texas heat. And no matter how rewarding it is for me when that puppy finally learns to ring the bell by the door and head out alone to do business, I would not personally get any net enjoyment from a lifetime of training puppies over and over again.

We have feminism posts here, and a number of them do touch on 101 material. We have completely open threads, where people are free to ask questions. But we do assume a minimum competency in feminist concepts before posting here and if you aren't meeting that bar, the onus is on you to go educate yourself. Any training you receive here is incidental and because someone is being nice and trying to help. And if you find yourself being resistant to basic feminist concepts, like refusing to accept that Consent Matters, then you may be asked to leave. This particular dog park may be open to the public, but that doesn't mean you get to leave your whoopsies anywhere you like.

Genuine questions and comments about this policy may be sent to

What have you been reading / writing / doing this week?


Brin Bellway said...

CN: Mental illness terms sneaking in where they ought not to be

After a break for the summer, Daily Planet is back on the air! Part science-and-tech-focused news, part collection of mini-documentaries, all awesome! Will make you feel pride in being a Canadian in particular*, but mostly in being a Terran. Especially great when you feel the need for a dose of optimism, but any other time as well.

You don't even need access to Canadian television. Recent** episodes are available online in an entirely un-shady manner, on the official Discovery Canada website. You see the legend at the bottom, where it says the videos only available in Canada have little flags on them? You see how the Daily Planet videos lack said flags? I tried playing one using an American proxy so convincing it fooled Pandora Radio***, and it worked (in said extremely laggy way).

Note that they often (probably multiple times an episode) use "crazy" and "insane" as intensifiers or to mean "strange in an awesome way", so be warned. If you can deal with that and can see and hear them (the videos unfortunately don't include captions, as far as I can tell), they are otherwise fantastic and I recommend them.

*Restrictions may apply.

**On November 1st, all of the September episodes will be taken down at once; on December 1st, all of the October episodes will be taken down, and so on. (Assuming they do it the same way as last year.) Also, a given episode is not put up until the next episode has aired on TV.

***But its connection is so slow Pandora can't do anything with it.

Ana Mardoll said...

That's awesome that they make an online version available.

Isator Levi said...

I suppose I've been spending a fair amount of this week missing My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

I should check if a date for the next season is out yet...

Also, watched the second half of the second season of Breaking Bad.

Smilodon said...

Yay for the list of replacement terms! I've been thinking about some words that need to be replaced in a vocabulary, but I can't just remove them without a replacement word. And it inspired me to think of some situationally funny replacement words that don't make fun of oppressed groups. (I'm a grad student - so I'm now going to use "First Year" as my ultimate insult.)

Ana Mardoll said...

I'm glad to hear you're getting/keeping health care. I hope your course load is manageable and pleasing. I worry about you.

chris the cynic said...

I hope you don't worry too much. For one thing you've got enough on your plate. For another, surviving is kind of what I do. Even when all else fails. So don't worry about me too much.

Silver Adept said...

Well, I managed to finally get through my backlog that developed from basically not sitting at a keyboard for the last three weeks and produce a larger-than-usual linkspam-and-commentary. I also got seeds for some standalone posts that I will hopefully have time to develop. Past that, much of my reading has been dryly professional - trade publications, related trade publications, and creating marketing slides for Banned Books Week at the end of the month. They include challenges to books like To Kill A Mockingbird, on the grounds that it's racially insensitive, and a lot of books being challenged because it's teenage girls talking about teenage girl things, like sex, relationships, and puberty. As well as the one book challenged because it gives actual practical information to kids about what to expect when their parent is pregnant.

So, not much for input, and not much for output from me.

I hope that you stay well, chris.

Mary Kaye said...

I just got back from a 24 hour Zombie game in the woods. I am happy to say that while it was one of the scarier things I've ever done, I was given no cause to feel concerned for my safety *as a woman* despite 100+ players skewed about 8 to 1 male. This morning I was woken up at 6:30 am by the crunching of someone approaching my sleeping hideout. I woke in a total panic because I assumed it was a zombie, but I didn't consider for a moment that it might be a problem that it was a *guy*. Bless him, he had hunted me down specifically to warn me that the zombies had overrun Bravo Beacon and it would be fatal to go back to camp, so I should hunker down and wait for the evac.

It was a great experience. I think it helped that about half of the organizers were female. And I was totally delighted to find that despite being 49 and overweight, I can still run around all day, find my way back to my hidden camp without showing a light (that was bloody difficult), and sleep under a tree. I didn't survive to the end of the game, but I did much better than I thought I would. I also really liked seeing players of all sizes and degrees of athleticism--I heard no one dissing the fat players, and a lot of compliments for a plus-size guy who made a particularly terrifying zombie.

Asha said...

I love boxes, and have collected several charming bento boxes over the years and have decided to try making an effort to take my lunch to work again. Acquiring a lot of traditional bento box stables is difficult, so I've decided to focus how the food is arranged instead of the more traditional rice+main dish+sides, meaning a main dish, a salad and sides in more western foods but mini. The pay off is portion control which has helped me lose weight in the past, I feel a sense of accomplishment because I made something pretty and I get to look at my pretty pretty boxes.

And, for a person who is very much a creature of habit, I walked down a few new roads on a lark. That was fun.

Ana Mardoll said...

Don't worry too much about me worrying too much about you. :D

But seriously, I just ... you know. Depression. Sucks. I worry for all the people on the board who struggle with it. And I'm glad you're so good at surviving.

Ana Mardoll said...

Update: Thank you to the person who asked for clarification re: Blind and Deaf.

The comment policy has been updated to (hopefully) clarify that those are banned here as metaphors ("blind leading the blind") and not descriptors of a condition ("my blind friend", "legally blind", etc.).

Asha said...

I wish you luck with your university's mental health services. When I was a freshman I went to mine, and the psychiatrist wound up upping my dose of paxil to the point, that when I went off, I had truly awful symptoms. Later, he was found to be stealing medicines from his practice. However, the counseling I received helped a great deal. It was a mixed bag.

chris the cynic said...

Don't worry too much about me worrying too much about you. :D

I worry about you anyway.

(And, for an overlapping but not at all identical set of reasons, about TBAT at the Slacktiverse.)

For all of the reasons listed in your updated comment policy, I just feel like you've got enough to worry about enough of your own. Worrying about me seems to add to what is already too much.

But I'll make you a deal, I'll try not to worry too much about you worrying to much about me, if you try not to worry too much about me worrying to much about you. (There would doubtless be a smiley face here if I used them, which I don't.)

Ana Mardoll said...

I worry about TBAT too. I think I would have had a breakdown if I'd received some of the letters they were getting. Or I suppose "are" getting, not "were". I guess it never really lets up.

I'm doing better emotionally, but am more strapped for time these days, both for the same reason: I'm very happy to be back at work. I didn't expect that, but staying at home so much REALLY was not good for me. Husband would get home, I'd want to talk about my day, and I'd have ... nothing. Except what happened on Friends, I guess. That was really, really, really bad for my mental / emotional health. So going back to work has been a HUGE uplift in the sense of "doing stuff that can be talked about later". On the flip side, though, I have less time and more pain, so I guess there's no free lunch.

I thought about metaposting some/all of this, but lately I feel like I talk about myself too much on the blog in a "OMG DOES ANYONE EVEN WANT TO READ THAT, ANA" kind of way, which is probably just me being weird, but lately I just listen to the weirdness rather than spend forever analyzing it. "Okay, weirdness, whatever you say. Would you like to go watch Buffy instead?"

Your delightful wordplay sparked in me the notion that we should do, like, round-robin worrying. I can worry for you, you can worry for someone else, they can worry for another person, and all the way around in a circle. LOL.

Steve Morrison said...

Indeed, I immediately thought of what TBAT has been through when I saw Blag Hag’s signing-off post.

Anthony Rosa said...

It's deeply unfortunate that Jen felt she needed to quit. It gets ridiculous, the amount of hatred people feel. Why do they think it's appropriate? Why do they find harassing women who say their mind such a good idea?

Yes, those are rhetorical questions, and just me expressing frustration. I like Jen and her blog. I think she has great things to say, and it's a shame people are making that so difficult... and for no good reason, either. It's senseless and cruel.

Well, Ana, I'm still reading here nearly every day. So you've done something right to keep me here! I definitely still appreciate the kind and supportive words from last month... and in any case, I hope this blog keeps on trucking for a good long time to come. (You know, should you want it to!)

Elodieunderglass said...

This hit really close to home; I was really upset to read about Jen. Before I started to think about blogging for myself, I had this idea that people like BlagHag or Sweet Machine were these popular, shining, aggressive towers of feminism that the dark armies would SURELY surround, you know? Like, they were putting themselves out there, they were Combatants, they were talking about science and feminism and fat, some pushback was expected. And then scary comments started to hit my own blog because of a comment I'd typed up in ten minutes on Captain Awkward.

Suddenly I realized that it wasn't that BlagHag had INVITED the negative attention - of course I knew that on some level, but I had internalized this message that the Loud Woman is somehow attracting the attention, dressing herself in neon lights as she sings the truth, attracting trolls like moths to a flame? That's really what I thought, somehow. It turns out, of course, that anybody - any woman - speaking the truth in a way that becomes popular and praised by women, that makes people uncomfortable, that challenges the status quo, has painted a target sign on herself. It wasn't that she spoke loudly - it was that she spoke.

Anyway, that being said, I love your comment policy and I hope that you're okay. Take care of yourself first.

This weekend I made a small stained glass panel of an apple in sunlight; it came out well but looks more like an abstract; I re-soldered another panel that had developed a fault, cooked six meals, baked and cleaned, as Dr Glass hasn't been able to walk for two weeks, and without his civilizing influence the domestic side of things sort of collapses into dark matter and entropy. This is a big deal for me though, and I'm telling everyone in the hopes of getting a gold star. I discovered your blog after you left a comment on mine, and after tearing through your Narnia analyses I had a hankering to re-read "Over Sea, Under Stone," so I did. Then I went on to "The Box of Delights," a 1935 English children's cozy-fantasy novel that is extremely similar to Narnia, but it has teeth and bite, and the young women are vivid. I'm enjoying it; Maria in particular is really enjoyable, fierce and funny by turns. I'm reading Catherynne Valente's "The Orphan's Tales" to my husband every night. I recommend doing all of these things.

Isator Levi said...

"So going back to work has been a HUGE uplift in the sense of 'doing stuff that can be talked about later'. "

I can sympathize with that. I never feel more horribly distant from my friends then when I'm around them and I don't feel like I have anything to talk about. And in the context of occasions where I've spent the entire week thinking of things and feeling "oh hey, that would be something nice to talk about", only for me to be unable to recall it at the pertinant times, it carries a sense of "well, aren't you useless".

Still, I think it's been getting better lately. At least I feel more comfortable with listening to them (although I'm still trying to balance that against inappropriately soliciting them to talk about themselves for my sake).

Ana Mardoll said...

I really do not know why people think it's appropriate. I would assume that at least some of the Death Threat Trolls do not actually believe their words will be taken seriously and instead just want to "shake up" or frighten someone they feel deserves it. But even that mindset seems wholly alien to me -- I can't imagine wanting to put someone in fear for their life just because I was angry with them.

We're seeing this in the review community, too, which is also worrying:

Ana Mardoll said...

And, ye gods, Elodie, I'm really horrified to hear that you're getting pushback from that ONE COMMENT. Because, as you say, when you sit down to comment on a blog, you don't expect that. Why should you? That's such a hugely disproportionate out-of-the-blue WTFery. I'm so sorry. :(

I don't think I've read any of those books, though I do OWN "Over Sea, Under Stone" (and I watched the movie they kind of sort of made from it, but I understand The Seeker was Not Representative of the book so much) and it's on my list. I'll keep an eye out for the others, because they sound lovely. :D

chris the cynic said...

I thought about metaposting some/all of this, but lately I feel like I talk about myself too much on the blog in a "OMG DOES ANYONE EVEN WANT TO READ THAT, ANA" kind of way, which is probably just me being weird

That's how I generally feel about posting anything about myself, especially posting something depression related. Does anyone want to read that? Haven't I talked about this too much already?

Then Fred recommended was was, at the time, my most recent depression related post. Apparently he found something useful in it, as did others based on it quickly becoming my most viewed post in the history of ever. (Leaving the previous post Fred linked to, which has had a lot of time to grow, in the dust.)

None of which is to tell you what to do.

chris the cynic said...

Missed this before, I'm actually already working with the University's mental health services, the question is staying on them. Also, over the summer, they weren't as available. But they seem to be good, the psychiatrist and psychologist both. So I have some hope.

Thank you for the wishing of luck.

Rakka said...

I love the new comment policy. Go go cranky!

Chris, good to hear your experience with the uni's mental health service has been good. Best of luck to you, and Ana too.

I'm currently reading Snuff, and am very disappointed. I am actually contemplating not finishing this one. There's just too much gender and sexuality fail and I'm not sure if it'll be rectified. The gender fail won't, that much I already know but... enghgh. Please don't say anything about it one way or other, I want to sort of keep a good memory of the man and I'm worried that if I read the book and find it horrible it'll stain everything. Knowing it sucks without reading would have the same effect. I mean, he's not been that great feminist ally earlier either but the gender essentialism is just so grating in large portions.

Pqw said...

I got Snuff from our local library and read it in January. I was underwhelmed, and also contemplated not finishing it. I haven't liked the last 3 of his books I've read, so I probably won't even bother with whatever comes out next.

His gender essentialism does ruin a lot of stuff of his that I want so much to like, but ...

Unfortunately, that is true of a lot of male authors I used to like a lot more. So much so that I ... rarely read fiction by men anymore.

Most of the science or science/tech books our local library has are written by men. I am always rather disturbed when all (or even most) of the colleagues, mentors, best pals, inspirations, etc., are fellow men, rather than any women anywhere. Dudes - leave the bro enclave occasionally! Women are doing important research too! Try citing it!!

Timothy (TRiG) said...

At least some of the gender essentialism in Snuff is a parody of Pride and Prejudice. Not sure whether that makes it better, makes it worse, or has no effect.


Asha said...

I have tried, repeatedly, to get into Snuff. Most Pratchett books draw me in immediately, but this one has not. :/

Rakka said...

Finished it. Underwhelming is the right word, indeed. Sigh. Ah well, there's still the other books by him to read.

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