Brute Reason is Going Comment-Free

I am closing comments on this blog until further notice.

I’m not writing this because I think that needs justification. I’m writing this for the sake of my own clarity, to help me decide if/when I want reopen comments, and to empower other bloggers who are considering a similar decision.

Otherwise, I don’t have to justify my decision because I don’t owe you a comments section any more than I owe you access to my living room. I don’t owe you anything other than I owe anyone else: basic kindness and respect.

I’m sure you’re wondering what awful harassment and rape and death threats I’ve gotten recently that made me come to this decision, but the reality is a lot less dramatic. I rarely get harassment and threats these days. When I did, it was horrifyingly unpleasant and scary, but it ultimately did less long-term damage than the actual reason: boring everyday online negativity and nitpicking.

Much of this is probably coming from people “on my side,” as it were–although I don’t know how “on my side” you are when you’re all but driving me away from the work I love. And to be absolutely clear, I am not referring to social justice-related call-outs. People call me out on being unintentionally oppressive about as often as you’d expect, and it’s never been a problem. Sure, it doesn’t always feel good, but it doesn’t leave me feeling like my writing and I are both worthless.

Here’s what does: the fucking pedantry. The nitpicking of one word and its exact meaning out of an article of 2,500. The “but you didn’t cover [my pet issue].” The “but based on the headline I thought this would be about [topic] so why isn’t it about that.” The “but what about [extreme hypothetical that could theoretically disprove your argument if it were at all likely to happen].” The “but my experience with [mental illness/sexual assault/polyamory/being queer/etc] was different so why didn’t you write about that.” The “but this advice doesn’t apply to my situation so why are you making me do it?” (Y’all: I’m a random writer with a blog. I can’t make you do anything. Take it or leave it.) The entitlement, the presumption that in return for the immense kindness you do me by reading my work, I should do it exactly the way you want it. The constant condescending and passive-aggressive implications that I should state my points less confidently, with less certainty, with even more hedging and disclaiming than I already do. (Would you say that to a fucking man? Would you?) The devil’s advocates offering their unsolicited coaching on how I should argue my own opinions.The ageism. Oh, the fucking ageism. Yes, I’m young so I know nothing. Joke’s on you for wasting your time on my blog.

I don’t like to be this bitter. It’s not who I am. I believe that even disagreements can be collaborative, and it’s that spirit of collaboration that I look for when I choose who to interact with and who to avoid. Outside of private, curated groups for friends, I don’t see that much online. So I’m done with comments for the time being.

The nitpicking and entitlement and condescension I experience from commenters has wrecked my confidence in my skills, my excitement at finishing new pieces, and my ability to discern genuine constructive criticism from ill-tempered, crotchety whining masquerading as such. I’m sure I’ll miss out on some of that good criticism by closing comments, but right now I’m not in a place to take much criticism at all and that’s not right, and needs fixing.

I’ve always run a tight ship in terms of comment moderation, so nobody saw the worst of what I got. But this low-level stuff has damaged me much more than the worst of the threats I ever got. It’s death by a thousand cuts. Taken in isolation, each nitpicky or condescending comment is not in and of itself such a bad thing, and could be a perfectly appropriate thing to post on someone’s blog, except that you only wrote one or two of them and I have read hundreds of them.

Recently I’ve been berating myself for not writing more, and then I finally realized a few days ago that of fucking course I don’t write more. Why would I, when every time I write I get a fuckton of negativity shipped right to my digital door? It’s basic operant conditioning. If doing something reliably leads to unpleasant consequences, good luck getting yourself to do it.

Things had gotten to the point where every time I sat down to write, it was a constant struggle to drown out the voices of these low-level trolls. “Why didn’t you cover this?” “But what about my experience?” “But doesn’t your use of the word ‘the’ actually imply the opposite of what you’re trying to say?” “Yeah well this isn’t useful to me because it’s about polyamory and I’m not poly.” (Y’all, I’m barely exaggerating. I’m barely exaggerating.)

I have some good news for those of you who are so salty about the fact that my blog isn’t about your lives and interests that you feel compelled to comment and let me know: starting your own blog is free on WordPress.com. Try it. It’s how I got started years ago, a long and productive run that came perilously close to ending recently because y’all have frankly driven me so far up the wall that I’ve crossed the ceiling and come down the othe rside.

And on that side is: no more comments, at least not until I’ve healed from this enough to try reopening them. If you want, you can discuss my articles on their posts on my Facebook page, but I won’t be checking those often. If you are seriously concerned that something I’ve written is doing harm, please let me know. But “this doesn’t fully address the nuances of my own personal experience” is not harm. That needs to go on your own blog, not my inbox.

From now on, the only comments I commit to engage with are those made by my paying Patreon subscribers, over on that site. If you value my writing enough to pay even a dollar per post ($3-$6 per month), then I will value your critical feedback. Because engaging with comments is such a massive expenditure of emotional labor for me right now, I think that’s fair.

Thanks for reading.

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Brute Reason is Going Comment-Free