In defense of not being cute.
I had a conversation with a friend once, about activism. My friend, someone whose opinion I value, asked if there was any merit to the work of blogging. We went a few rounds about whether or not blogging served any real purpose in activist work, and my friend maintained that it was boots on the ground work, physical work, that was most important. I was taken aback, and I passionately defended the importance of thought work. Of reasoning through the arguments and having the conversations. I didn’t, at the time, see the trap I was building for myself.
We discussed people who blog. We discussed the difference between academia and personal blogs, and I gave ground. I said that I thought the work of people like bell hooks and Ta-Nehisi Coates was important, while admitting that my own blogging (and the writing of the women I know) is not “at that level.” I let the argument be positioned in a way that sold myself out, creating an aura of respectability around the academic writers. I sold myself (and the women I know and love who write online) out, though I had no idea I was doing it at the time. I positioned blogs as less important if they didn’t cut to the meat of the issue.
There’s a story about Amy Poehler, relayed in her book (though it is recalled by Tina Fey). She was in the writer’s room at SNL, and using “blue” language, and Jimmy Fallon said, “Stop that. It’s not cute. I don’t like it.” Amy turned on him, not a second lost, and snapped, “I don’t fucking care if you like it.”
It’s not cute. It’s not nice. Again and again those of us who write (whether it be a small personal blog like this, or a large, well recognized outlet like Pandagon) are told that we are not nice enough. We’re not extending enough charity to those we write about. I enter conversation after conversation where I am told that feminists are too angry, too blunt, too loud, too mean. I have been called on the carpet myself for defending the right of women writers not to be nice or cute or sweet or kind.
The funny thing about that though, is that the people who suggest that angry bloggers aren’t helping, the people who suggest that I should be charitable of thinking or kinder and more patient in discourse…are always men. It is always a man who asks me what the point of writing a thousand words about sexist Magic the Gathering art is. It is always a man who wants to tell me that I’d change other men’s minds more readily if I didn’t say fuck so easily, if I didn’t allow myself to become passionate in response to the hurts I am illuminating.
I have been told that since I post publicly I have invited this discourse. More than once, it has been suggested to me that I should engage with the bloodless arguments, that I should be on. Performing. That I owe some kind of niceness and gentility to the cause of feminism, lest I be the reason someone turns away. And while no single person saying these things intends to mean that I should return to the traditionally feminine roles of niceness, cuteness, gentility…the weight on the scale becomes pretty clear after the third (or fifth, or fifteenth) time I’m told that I should be kinder in assuming the intent of those who engage with me.
But it’s all just kind of a fancy concern trolling, isn’t it? “Don’t write angry blogs, you’re pushing people away.” “Don’t respond angrily to people who are really trying, can’t you see they’re working so hard?” “What point is blogging anyway, you should be supporting the movement on the ground.”
Over and over it’s a devaluation of the work I’ve chosen, and an attempt to push it back into an obviously feminine box.
The point of angry blogging isn’t to change hearts and minds. I’m not actually here for that. It’s a happy accident when something I write helps someone who didn’t understand, or shows someone that the opinion they were laboring under is actually faulty. And don’t get me wrong, I love the days I get emails from people telling me that I’m part of the reason they’re open to feminism. It’s a nice counteraction to the hate mail and ugly comments. But I’m not here for that.
I’m here to make space for other women. I’m here to be visible, in all my real self. I am here to write angry blogs because there are other women out there like me. Queer women, Jewish women, feminist women, who think they are alone. I’m here to tell them they’re not. To validate that their existences are real, that the things they think are hurting them are hurtful. I’m here for other women who have been told they have to be cute, nice, pretty, quiet, gentle, understanding, empathetic, charitable.
So consider this a correction. If I’m ever called on again to argue the importance of blogs, to defend the angry blogger (funny how that reads kind of like code for “that bitch,”) consider this my response. Because all I’m going to do is look the argument in the eye and say, “I don’t fucking care if you like it.”
It’s not fucking for you.
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