March 18, 2006


Right now, the feminist blogosphere is undergoing one of those panoptic moments where everyone is hypercritical over whether everyone else is really and truly, deep down, a feminist. In particular, there's a lot of argument over whether Hugo has done some moderate to highly shitty things. The biggest grievance seems to be that he lets anti-feminists say very stupid and often sexist things in the comments, but there's also concern over whether he's more lenient in letting anti-feminists say rude and insulting things about other commentators than feminists. In my experience, Hugo doesn't come back to his comments much -- maybe welcoming a de-lurker or appreciating a particularly insightful point, or telling people to get the discussion back to the topic of the original post, but little in the way of actually participating in the dialogue.

So here's what I see: a busy man who lets people use his blog as a Jeffersonian marketplace of ideas. So long as flinging rhetoric doesn't turn into flinging invective, he wants his blog to be a space where people can come together to compare and contrast their different points of view. Ideally, this would be done rationally and charitably, but of course that's not the way it goes, so sometimes he'll have to ban someone or close a thread, though he'll be very reluctant to do that.
If he has been giving anti-feminists more latitude than feminists, then that's a problem, and it's good that people are pointing this out. If he needs a stricter moderation policy to keep the discussion from degenerating to the same shit within the first half-dozen comments on every post, and it's just a waste of time and aesther otherwise, then it's good that people are pointing this out.

But then we have things like this (not work-safe):

It seems like two of the male "feminist" big boys have taken to chastising wimmin and attempting to define the parameters of their rage as these wimmin head-on engage with some not even perpetrating "feminist", actual dyed in the wool anti-feminist males. It seems that the male "feminists" don't think the wimmin are playing nice. :)

Sound familiar? Some of the "big girl club" feminists, those higher on the blogosphere food chain than yours truly are outraged and surprised that their male "feminist" comrades in the struggle would attempt to dominate them rather than deal effectively with other men by curtailing their oppressive advances into what are supposed to be safe spaces set up for "feminist" men. :)

To which I can only say "wha?" Let's suppose that Hugo has been chastising his feminist commentators, telling them they have to be polite and civil while letting the anti-feminists get away with all variety of personal insults; I haven't seen any evidence of this, but let's just suppose.

Does this mean that Hugo has done this out of a patriarchal motivation -- to control his women commentators? If my sense of the situation is right, then the answer is no, and Hugo simply wants everyone to be civil, but needs it pointed out that he's not been moderating fairly. Or that a random spot-check method of weeding out the nastiest commentators isn't working.

Does this mean that Hugo has chosen not to "deal effectively" with anti-feminists, where that means chasing them away from "safe spaces set up for wimmin"? This question seems ill-posed, as Hugo's blog is not intended to be a place where feminists can talk amongst themselves without worrying about anti-feminists; I'm sure Hugo would agree that feminist-only spaces are valuable, but that's not what he's trying to create. You can't have a totally safe, for-feminists-only space that welcomes anti-feminists; that's just absurd. (I'm also unclear why it's Hugo's job to debunk all the sexist crap coming from the anti-feminists, as some commentators have said he should be doing.)

It's one thing to insist on equal treatment. It's another to insist that other people privilege your point of view over others (in fact, it's probably the opposite). While it's true that "courtesy is a mask and an evil, deadly weapon [when] wielded by some", this does not mean that it is always brought forth as a patriarchal cudgel. Nor does courtesy require stifling emotion. It's simply one way folks with diametrically opposed points of view can interact -- and for the purpose of sharing ideas (*not* bringing about justice), it's probably the most effective.

Should feminists always be civil, polite, and suppress the bile that rises at the recognition of injustice? Fuck no. But is rage always the best and most productive means of destroying injustice? Fuck no. Unless you really do want the totalitarian matriarchy anti-feminists are always worrying about, you are going to have to learn to get along with people who disagree with you at least some of the time.

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