Why I Didn’t Write About (X)

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“If you’re such a feminist, why didn’t you say anything about this particular incident? If you care about social justice, why weren’t you willing to debate that guy? A major news event happened this week — why were you just writing about pop culture?”

It occurs to me that this is just another way to trivialize and silence. The expectation that every writer address every topic that’s even vaguely in their wheelhouse — it’s ridiculously burdensome. If that’s the bar for participating in public discourse, it’s so high a kangaroo couldn’t jump it. And it’s another way to control the conversation. Privilege includes getting to decide which topics are important and which ones aren’t — whether that’s telling people to calm down about things they’re upset about, or telling them what to aim their anger at instead.

So because I’m tired of answering this question, and other people are tired of answering this question, I’m writing this all-purpose reply we can link to any time it’s asked.

Why didn’t I write about (X)? The reason could be any of the following:

I was busy writing about something else.
I was on deadline writing about something else.
I was recovering from the really hard work I put into writing something else.
I’ve been writing about that topic a lot lately, and decided I needed to change it up a bit.
Lots of other people were writing about it, and I didn’t feel a need to add my voice this time.
I didn’t hear about it soon enough for my contribution to be timely.
My ideas about it are complicated and still developing, and I didn’t want to think out loud on this one.
I knew it would spark a firestorm of controversy, and I didn’t have time or energy to handle it that week.
I was sick that week.
I was taking care of personal business.
I was on vacation.
I was taking a mental-health break from heavy topics.
I was writing about some other heavy topic.

Finally, and most importantly:

I was writing about cats or chocolate pie or Steven Universe, and it’s none of your damn business what I write about. I am not a public utility: I am not a fire hydrant of insightful commentary for you to point at any issue you’re interested in. The people who get to do that are the editors who pay me money. And I am not the New York Times: I don’t even pretend to write all the news that’s fit to print. I write all the news that catches my attention at a moment when I have time and energy to write about it.

If there’s an issue you think I might be interested in, by all means send it my way: just don’t do it with a sense of entitlement. If I have a pattern of missing a particular issue that would normally be in my wheelhouse — like there’s a form of marginalization I consistently overlook when I write about social justice stuff — please do let me know about it. And if a writer or publication does aspire to be the Progressive Times, the Feminist Times, the Atheist Times, it’s worth looking at holes in their coverage. But even the Feminist Times couldn’t address every single incident of sexism and misogyny. It’s transparently laughable to insist that this makes everything they say irrelevant.

If you like my writing and are interested in what I write about, read it. If not, don’t. But do not try to shame me out of writing by setting an impossibly high bar and berating me for not clearing it. I write about plenty of weighty topics, and you don’t get to tell me which ones. My voice, my right to decide.

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Greta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

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Why I Didn’t Write About (X)
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12 thoughts on “Why I Didn’t Write About (X)

  1. 1

    “If you’re such a feminist, why didn’t you say anything about this particular incident? If you care about social justice, why weren’t you willing to debate that guy? A major news event happened this week — why were you just writing about pop culture?”

    It occurs to me that this is just another way to trivialize and silence.

    Agreed. This criticism comes up all the time, and is sometimes naive but more often disingenuous; often, a person is simply annoyed about being refuted or disagreed with on their pet topic. Your multiple answers I think can be summrised as ‘because I am one person and time / energy is finite.’

  2. 4

    Well said, Greta. Hopefully, this will enlighten those who engage in the unreasonable behavior, and now those who see others making such demands on bloggers will have an all-purpose reply to which they can link.

  3. 6

    Also, when people ask “why don’t you cover topic A instead of topic B”, it has very little to do with topic A. What they want you to do is to stop talking about topic B. Usually because, unlike topic B, dealing with topic A doesn’t require them to engage in any sort of self reflection.

  4. 8

    My first thought after reading this: excellent! A blogger is not a public utility, indeed!

    Then I remembered PZ’s post “A Slovenian disgrace”. I imagined how I would feel after receiving such an email and … disregarding it because “I was writing about cats or chocolate pie”.

    Sigh. Life is rarely simple.

    My final thought: I do not envy you. I do not envy the choices you have to make. Not at all.

  5. 10

    Ariel @8, regarding “A Slovenian Disgrace”.

    Can you expand on that a little? I don’t actually see how it’s relevant to what Greta is saying here. PZ got a letter, it moved him, he posted it. Nobody was asking “How come you never post about Slovenia?” Greta says

    If there’s an issue you think I might be interested in, by all means send it my way: just don’t do it with a sense of entitlement.

    Which as far as I can tell is exactly what happened with the Slovenia post. Am I missing something?

  6. 11

    This reminds me of the all too common “how you dare complain about X when there are children dying in Africa!” thing, where whenever you do something to solve a bad thing, people complain because you didn’t instead do something to solve a ─strictly speaking─ worse thing. E.g. when Femen girls make a demonstration or something, these people complain that they didn’t make a demonstration in Saudi Arabia instead; and if they do make a demonstration in Saudi Arabia, the complaint is that they didn’t make one in a Daesh camp. Sigh.

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