Below the fold, I will attempt the challenge as presented by Greg Laden, to rewrite Comrade PhysioProf’s “Handy Dandy Guide for d00dly Commenters“. The guide was originally presented as a numbered list of suggestions on how to not engender the rage of basically everyone on seemingly any feminist blog, but came off as a list of rules on what would not be tolerated and what would be considered trollish behaviour on Isis’ blog specifically, no matter how earnestly posted, to all but the most sycophantic of his boosters.
Please note that I don’t personally believe in these rules, though many of them are good suggestions on civility in public discourse with people who may have pre-existing hostility to your masculinity for various, and very good, reasons. Also, any number of them should probably be stripped of their gender assignments and applied to everyone equally. The point CPP was driving at is de facto wrong-headed, in that it purports to be applicable to all feminist blogs, when it most certainly is not. This is ONLY an attempt at rewriting the message for clarity, inclusiveness and coherence (though definitely not succinctness), and to explain why each of these suggestions might have been made. Additionally, I feel that they bring out nuances of each point that are missing in CPP’s profanity-riddled tirade.
Compare with the original list, and note that because the numbered format lends itself to being interpreted as hard and fast rules that will be referenced later (e.g., “see #4”), numbers will not be used below. Two points were combined into one, in keeping with my “suggestion then explanation” format.
See, CPP? Was this so hard? I hacked this out over lunch, and revised it on a coffee break later in the day! (It helps that I’m a phenomenal typer, and wasn’t really providing much original thought.)
(EDIT: Plus I’ve made a few more edits, to both the above description and the rules themselves below, as of about 9pm AST — to fix some things that were nagging me, and to clarify my original intent in posting this to begin with.)
You’re male, either self-identified as such or your gender has been constructed for you throughout your life, and you have since accepted that assigned gender role. Everyone since birth has allowed you free reign in sharing your thoughts, opining on topics far and wide, and generally being proactive when faced with problems that can be solved with directed action, specifically by virtue of your self-accepted male-ness.
You have just visited this blog, which has a particular feminist bent; you have read a post and/or some other comments, and have decided that with your unique experience, you have insights to share with the participants in this conversation. Will your comments be poorly received by the readers and bloggers on this blog, considered trollish behaviour, and/or earn you their enmity? Or will you be a tolerated visitor? Not to worry, as Comrade PhysioProf, with a small bit of assistance provided by some Canadian d00d, will share some advice on how to avoid drawing the ire of everyone here!
– If you are leaving the first comment to a post, and have not already posted and earned some measure of respect with the locals, then you will likely be ill received. You’re well advised to lurk a while, get to know the flow of the conversation, then test the waters for a while before posting first on any particular thread.
– If you focus on male gender roles, or refer mainly to masculine figures or use mainly masculine pronouns, you will likely be ill received. As this blog is generally considered a safe haven for women, for whom the male point of view has been thrust upon them all their lives, that male point of view is generally useful only for comparison’s sake, and will only be well received by figures that are already trusted and considered “safe” themselves.
– If you are making prescriptive suggestions or admonitions with forceful words like “should” or “useful”, you are denigrating all other suggestions as being “less useful” than yours, and will likely be ill received.
– If you suggest that people venting about problems is acceptable but demand that they also take direct action in combatting these problems, you will likely be ill received. Not everyone is in a position to take aggressive action, nor is such aggressive action always merited or even useful, and you don’t know the circumstances behind their inaction, nor do you know for sure whether they are actually inactive. Besides, venting about a problem is a different way of being proactive about a problem.
– If you complain that people who are perceived as “mean” might cause potential allies to back away from the cause, you will likely be ill received. Everyone has their own reasons for being “mean”, and your behaviour in this case is generally considered “concern trolling”. True allies will work for a cause no matter how abrasive some of the other combattants might be, and yours is not the place to cast aspersions on others as you are new to the conversation.
– If you post with the intent of asking what actions you can personally take to help alleviate a negative situation or problem, you will very likely be well received. While it is unacceptable to demand that others take action, it is perfectly acceptable to volunteer to take action yourself.
– If you are told that something you have said is unacceptable or offensive, and immediately react defensively by claiming innocence or oversensitivity on the part of the reader, you will definitely be ill received. Again, this is a safe harbor, please attempt to respect that the participants in this forum have any number of reasons to avoid overt hostility or offensiveness, and that if you have been informed that you have crossed a line, you should accept that fact and apologize rather than attempting to argue the point. In doing so, you will likely be well received, despite the initial offense.
– If you focus on how important any number of female figures are to your own personal life, without any sort of insight into their lives proper, then you will likely be ill received. The point of the discussion is likely not to focus on what women mean to you unless this is specifically delineated by the original post, or how important it is that you keep them safe as though they were so much chattel — that blog is very likely not an appropriate forum for such self-interested introspections.
– If you focus on the physical appearance of a woman, declaring them to be attractive/unattractive to you, you will likely be ill received. Even in the context of flirting with a woman face to face, comments on their attractiveness are usually unwelcome unless there is a directly correlated attractedness on their part to you, no matter how hard-wired the behaviour might be. This forum is not an appropriate outlet for these behaviours, and in fact most internet fora or social situations are also not appropriate outlets for these behaviours unless there is a pre-accepted norm (e.g., social interactions at a bar). Please refrain from any such comments, as they are unprofessional, demeaning to women as being merely objects of desire (whether your comments are derogatory or complimentary), and will color anyone’s view of you regardless of your intent.
– If you are presenting anecdotes you have collected from women you know, and using those as counterpoints or as a means of debating the experiences of women that have posted on this blog, then you will likely be ill received. You are very likely not in any position to refute or temper the experiences of any other women as you yourself are not a woman, and any information you have gathered from the anecdotes presented to you are likely altered from their real forms by virtue of the human condition, as with the game “Telephone” — you cannot explicitly and in full detail “know” what someone else has experienced and therefore do not have access to the nuance of the situation.
– Everyone possesses unearned privilege, therefore arguing that a particular privilege is unearned is irrelevant and counterproductive. Any civil liberties movement in general concern themselves with equality of such unearned privilege assigned to each social group, as with the feminist movement and privilege assigned to women by the societal constructs in place presently. There’s no point in suggesting that all privileges must be earned, as everyone is born with some degree of freedom or autonomy. When this freedom or autonomy is stripped by a third party, that is when you should argue. Therefore, the only relevant questions regarding unearned privilege are, “what kind of privilege does each party possess”, and “how much?”
– The fact that you are not intentionally exerting your unearned privilege does not mean you aren’t doing so. For instance, if you are paid more than a woman for an equivalent job, or if you are given a job over an equally qualified woman, the privilege is being exerted on your behalf with or without your knowledge. Bear in mind that you do have unearned privilege over women when you post on this blog, and therefore your posts will be viewed through that lens. If that means they are ignored or denigrated, accept it.
– If someone explains to you that your being male provides you with privileges that are not afforded to females, this should not emasculate you, nor should you take offense at the assertion. Accept it as well.
– Ultimately, your input or self-described valuable insights aforementioned, are unnecessary in this conversation, and no insight you can provide is so important that you absolutely have to post it. This blog is considered a safe haven for the women who post here, and as such men will generally only be tolerated in the conversation if they are particularly entertaining. If you are male, don’t enter conversation on this blog expecting to be well received, regardless of your intentions.
UPDATE: I would like to clarify that my use of the phrase “will be ill received” was intended to mean “people will consider you to be a hostile entity in the conversation”. My own privilege prevented me from seeing that my intention was not well executed by virtue of my near illiteracy, and that the original wording had the effect of making this post sound like a guide book for males to navigate the curious, bizarre customs of “those wacky feminists”. I apologize for that. This problem probably comes from the fact that I originally proclaimed these rules as appropriate for all feminist forums or blogs, when really it only applies to this particular forum, and only because its forum members agree with me that it applies.
This post was not intended as a guide to disguising your hostile intentions in order to fool women into believing you are a tolerable person. Rather, it was intended as a partial guide on how to actually be a tolerable person in the eyes of the . Remember, these aren’t really rules — they are suggestions on how not to undermine your own efforts at open dialog with the other participants of this specific blog.