There are certain commenters on feminist and other social justice blogs that I keep wondering about, or rather: whose behavior keeps baffling me. These people (most of them self-identified men) are no “trolls” in the usual sense, i.e., they do not linger around comment threads with the need for petty recognition; the people I am talking about would probably argue that they are honestly interested in feminist and other social topics, that they do value the writing people provide on it, and that they are here to argue in good faith. Still, despite all these seemingly benign intentions, even lower-level moderated feminist spaces can’t be bothered publishing or even replying to their comments. But despite the fact that about 90 percent of these commenters’ ideas never see the bright and shiny light of comment thread day, they feel the need to give bloggers the benefit of their opinion on every other post.
Can I just ask… why? What do people think they (or the ones they are confronting with this kind of behavior) have to gain from tactics like these?
Why would you continue to comment (most redundantly) on a blog that has not acknowledged your last ten posts? Why would you think that a feminist blog is very eager to learn your spectacular insights as a white, heterosexual, able-bodied cis-man on every topic imaginable (and why would you think that you actually have the knowledge to talk about all of that)? Why do you think it is appropriate to force your half-assed analyses on every feminist blogger you can get a hold of?
This curious behavior is nestled somewhere between critical commenting, mansplaining and trolling, so I personally find it harder to handle (…engage yet again to repeat the same basics one more time? Ignore? Delete? Spam?). It is, however, quite similar to good ol’ trolling in certain regards: people who have little knowledge on feminist/etc. issues (although they most certainly think they do…) feel the ever-growing need to educate you about either very basic feminist 101 ideas that they’ve just recently learned somewhere and now need someone else to validate them, or about long-refuted hypotheses on, well, The World ™ and how it works. The other possibility (that I find particularly charming) is the devil’s advocate role where some random dudes just start throwing stuff at you (because it’s just the internet, right, don’t take things so personally, you
hysterical oversensitive misandrist radical ball buster), even though paying lip service to actually agreeing with you “more generally” – Melissa McEwan at Shakesville has written about that many times, and why it is not only exhausting but privileged and disrespectful behavior in the first place.
Some of the latest examples for this kind of conduct were some of the reactions to Charlott’s post about the Oscars, over at Mädchenmannschaft. In reply to her pointing out the misogyny, anti-Semitism and racism of a show that centered around jokes about topless actresses, domestic violence, JewsControlTehHollywoodz and WeCan’tUnderstandLatin@sAmIRite?!, some people found it necessary to tell Charlott that this is just “the entertainment industry,” and what do people really expect from that? Yeah, thanks for that groundbreaking insight… In reply to Charlott stating the obvious, namely that the Academy Awards are given out by a jury of predominantly elderly white men to predominantly elderly white men, people thought it wise to interject that both in the categories of leading and supporting actor/actress, the same amount of Oscars have been awarded. No shit, Sherlock… When Charlott problematized the racist and misogynistic treatment of Quvenzhané Wallis, people found it appropriate to “remind” her of Django Unchained and its oh-so-clear “anti-racist” message, and that this ceremony clearly was all about racial harmony. Have you been staying under a rock recently…? I’d rather publish another response (ironically) praising the beauty of this “coal black child” than those trying to school feminist and anti-racist bloggers about, well, feminism and anti-racism with the most ridiculous assumptions and a bare lack of knowledge, all while thinking they have a key insight to contribute to this discussion – over and over again.
And yet, magically, this happens with a large percentage of the posts on feminist blogs, and it is almost exclusively done by the same handfull of people (mostly men*) in seemingly endless loops of redundancy. So, let me give you a quick service announcement that other bloggers are too polite to give you (…and we all know that subtlety isn’t for me): please shut up already. No one cares about your ill-informed “information” you think is pivotal to the success of someone else’s blog’s content or their writing style. This is not debate culture – this is simply draining resources from people who have to deal with you and full-fledged trolls on a daily basis anyway. If you have questions about feminism and/or racism, take a look at a 101 and then come back. There is no responsibility to answer every single douche canoe comment to make people happy, and there certainly is no benefit to having to repeat day in, day out, why feminist bloggers on feminist blogs care about feminism so much or why criticizing pop culture makes sense in a critical post about pop culture.
When you realize at some point that none of your comments (or very few) ever make it through, it might be time to step back from the hard and cruel comment game and start reading and listening a bit more. That’s how most of the feminist bloggers (surprise: including this loud-mouthed one) started out, by the way: shutting up and educating themselves in other feminist spaces, for example – not drowning everyone everywhere in a flood of useless comments. If you don’t have anything else but rudely phrased banalities based on superficial knowledge to add to the conversation (which, by the way, can be quickly determined by people’s reactions to your posts or the fact that your posts are never actually answered or never even appear on the page), you might want to reconsider your actions. You know, the basic common decency approach has proven quite popular here and elsewhere… Because right now, the thing you’re doing is essentially online harassment. You’re the guy who is “just not getting it,” no matter how pronounced one signals you to back off. It’s not sexual harassment, but it is gendered harassment – and No means No (including the “No” that is conveyed when ignoring you).
Now: step away from the keyboard, and try to keep it down.