Thursday, June 26, 2008

I have clearly been living in the midwest for too long.

This will not be my last post because I have promised to blog about the Bailey panel - and I will. But after that, I am not sure.

I have been involved in - not directly, but present for them, often commenting on the threads where they explode or on second-tier-out threads - quite a few blogwars. And I've been present at quite a few IRL wars. It used to be that the rage from these things could fuel me for several days. It used to be that I'd jump right in with the best of them, so anxious to prove that I was right about whatever it was (and I'm sure some of you are thinking, "WTF? PF, you did that just yesterday!").

But I'm back now from an annual conference I've been attending for a decade, and this time, I saw it with new eyes. I saw people treat each other so shittily that one of my students was sorry she had come. I saw students and faculty, both, leave rooms in tears. And mostly, what I saw was a complete lack of willingness to communicate honestly, to give the other person any room or benefit of the doubt whatsoever.

What distresses me is not so much that I saw this happen at one particular panel. What disturbes me is that I saw this happen repeatedly - at a panel, at a business meeting, in a social setting.

What the hell are we doing to each other? Is this what feminism/Women's Studies is supposed to be about? This is not productive. It sure feels good to vent, but if what we want to see happen is a change, then this is not the way to do that.

The result that I see is that those who were present at some of these events will not be returning - and this group of non-returnees is a diverse group that cuts across race and class and ability. (And several others I know, also a diverse group, who did not know about these events, had a grand time and will be back, and that's great - I'm happy they had a good time.)

This is one thing that is not the fault of the NWSA as an institution. This is the fault of people who come to the organization expecting it to meet their emotional needs.* And I know this, and I have been one of these people, and we cannot expect all of the practitioners of our discipline to meet our emotional needs.

Somewhere in the past week, I lost the stomach for all of this. I don't think fighting each other is getting us anywhere, not anywhere at all. And I can't seem to find any feminist discussion online that isn't, at some point, about the fighting - even dependent on it.

I'm tired, and I feel like I'm wasting my time fighting with people who I ultimately have more reasons to agree with than not. I'm wearing myself down instead of using my powers for good. So I'm not sure at all that I want to continue this blog in this incarnation.

Maybe tomorrow or in a few days I'll get over this funk, but for now, I expect to begin a serious blog hiatus after one or two more posts.

*Thanks to my airport buddy for pointing this out to me.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

remember when you asked me if I was going? Now you know why I don't.

bobvis said...

But it feels like I just got here!

I'll be sad to see you stop blogging. One of my favorite bloggers, Megan, had to stop too. The comments just got too antagonistic at some point.

It would be sad to lose my two favorite feminist bloggers.

Plain(s)feminist said...

Anon,
Yes, you are not alone in this. But it extends over into blogland, where I see the same behaviors.

Bobvis,
I don't know what I will do (I appreciate the support). I may try changing the focus of the blog, or I may try blogging under my own name, which at least will force me to be more accountable than I've probably been. But first, I think I will need a break.

Danielle said...

I know how you feel.
I like the word, "Shittily".

andi said...

I hope you don't stop blogging, you do a lot of good and start conversations that most folks don't want to. You are also open to listening to all sides in any argument - and often you can see merit in more than one way of thinking. The world needs more of that. Hang in and let me know where you start blogging again - please.

Daisy said...

YOU BETTER NOT QUIT!!!! (((stern, mean, grandmotherly look)))

Your voice is one I have not encountered often, a "liberal" voice in feminism but very reasonable, open and inclusive. In short, YOU ARE NEEDED!

This is also why these rifts seem so weird to you. You see both sides of issues very well. That's a real gift, and I hope you develop it further. Most people who can do that (like Octogalore) become lawyers, since that's the lawyer mindset--one side gets its turn, then the other side.

I had a few teachers who were like that, and they were shining lights. Most teachers equivocate, they go uh-huh, they don't really give EQUAL TIME (with the implication that all POVs are VALID)... I hope I am making sense here.

Until everyone understands what you are taking for granted (all sides are valid POVs), there will continue to be strife in feminism, and it has been ever thus. The unresolved, hot-button issues (i.e. head-scarves, surrogate motherhood, sex work, abortion of fetuses judged "defective", religion, stripping, etc etc) are like a conflagration, BOOM. People almost "can't bear to listen" to the side they don't agree with; it challenges everything about their feminism.

So, we need people like you!

Hang in there, and don't quit. (((second stern look))) But yes, I'd love it if you'd cover some of these arguments in detail, using your "equal time" superpowers. It would be as cool as sitting in your classroom. :)

Plain(s)feminist said...

Thanks, Danielle and Andi and Daisy. I really do appreciate the support and kind words!

Green said...

I hope you don't stop writing. I doubt it was your intent to teach via blogging, but I have learned a lot from reading here. Not the boring (to me) shit about the history of feminism or whatever, but I've learned about new ways to look at things, and you've given me new ideas to think about.

There is nothing I like more than someone or something that gets me thinking. If you're one of those people who is all, "If I reach just one person, it will all have been worth it," then hi, I'm your one person.

And if you're not, then I will just ask that you keep writing, and let me know where, so I can keep reading.

Maybe your conference needs to address the hostility angle - more than just saying "Please express your views respectfully" - by detailing how delivery of a message affects whether or not a message will be heard at all.

Plain(s)feminist said...

Thanks, Green.

Your suggestion re. that conference is intriguing...that might be an avenue to explore. It wouldn't change everything, but it might help.