Monday, May 3, 2010

Let’s Talk: Blogging and Theft

image As I wrote in the post “The Economics of Blogging”, blogging is tremendously hard work.    If one writes a social justice blog like I do, the rewards are few and far between.   I put up daily with enough racist, sexist, ableist, sexist attacks, to make my head explode-- and yet, I keep coming back for more, because I feel that there is honour in what I do.  I have a staff of one – that means I  write, research, and post, most of the articles that appear on this blog.   Each day quite a few will send me e-mails either asking for advice on personal issues, or to request help with what are sometimes very dire circumstances. Almost from day one, Womanist Musings became a full-time job, without full-time pay -- that kind of success is for those that don’t ask the hard questions that we deal with everyday in this community.

Despite being called, “bat shit crazy, bitch, cunt, and nigger” on a daily basis, invariably my work will show up on someone else’s blog.  Most recently, “Oh No They Didn’t”, (a large livejournal) posted my article about Sandra Bullock, in its entirety without my permission.  I assume that because they posted a link to my blog, (which btw sent their disgusting trolls to my site), was meant to hide the fact that what they did was indeed illegal.  Soapzone, which seems to be a community message board, posted the same article, once again without my permission.

You see, my views are controversial, and when taken out of context, to some they may even seem extreme.  The Sandra Bullock post was brief, mainly because inter-racial adoption is something that I have been writing about since I started this blog. The day before I wrote the Bullock piece I had written a post about Black children and Black mothers. There was no need to write anything extensive about Sandra Bullock’s theft adoption of a black child, given what I had written just the day before.

I have seen my Sandra Bullock piece posted at several places across the internet, and this has not been the first time my work has been stolen.  It is copyright infringement plain and simple. It is particularly troubling when my work is painted as extremism to draw in hits for another party. It is even more maddening to find that my work has been posted on a site that is running ads -- because now, not only have they stolen my work, they are profiting from it.  The internet at times feels like the wild west because there are few if any rules; however, theft remains theft, there are simply few real consequences for this behaviour.

WOC have time and time again had their work and or ideas stolen, rephrased and then published by someone else.  Though the practice of copy right infringement is common on the internet, when it comes to women that are socially marginalized, it is also married to a specific history of devaluing our work.  When I look around and see the bloggers that are being recognised, what is quite obvious, is that despite the hard work of WOC, we are not receiving the acclaim and or opportunities that we are our due. 

The internet, just like any other medium which is dependent upon social interaction is not colour blind.  The very same biases that we carry with us everyday, often manifest with even greater frequency online due to anonymity.  When WOC are not being summarily silenced, our work is held up to ridicule for the purposes of devaluing us.  ONTD stole from me, in order to silence and ridicule.

Soapzone chose to steal from me in order to “start a conversation” on their forum.  They could have easily copied a portion of my work, but instead ze used the entire post-- because clearly whatever effort I had put into working on the piece, certainly was not valuable enough to be respected.  Many times WOC have been actively engaged on a particular subject, only to find our work stolen and rewritten and placed in a larger format.  We are not good enough to interact with, or acknowledge, but the moment there is an opportunity to profit, there is no problem stealing out right from us.

I think that what gets to me the most, is that when these incidents occur, our complaints are silenced and not taken seriously.   These privileged people sit up on their pedestals and don’t even bother to acknowledge that what they have done is theft, even as they wait for the pay check to come in the mail.

I think that we need to stop pretending that the internet represents equality and social justice, because silencing and outright theft are daily activities.  If we close our blogs or make them membership only, we stifle our communities and yet the only other option means that we are stolen from daily. I don’t have any solutions; however, I am tired of seeing my work appear in spaces that did not even have the courtesy to ask my permission first.   I am tired of seeing White bloggers get ahead, co-opting and or stealing our work and then claiming it as their own.  And finally, I am absolutely sick of seeing our work get taken out of context to further exploit and marginalize us.

What is certain, is that tomorrow some other blog, forum or livejournal, will steal from me and I will have the choice of expending my precious energy to demand that my work be removed, or simply once again sigh and accept the fact that while I may work hard everyday, it continues to have little social value -- because I blog about people that the world has long since determined to be valueless and because -- I am a Black disabled woman.

It is quite easy to understand why WOC and the disabled continue to earn less, when there is so much invested in silencing us or stealing from us.  Pull yourself up by your bootstraps conservatives say -- but neither liberals or conservatives admit that if you manage to get one boot on, that they will make sure that your other boot is nowhere to be found, if even the most marginal gain can occur from your oppression.

 Editors Note: Dear readers, rather than allow my blog to be trolled by the ignorant “Oh no they didn’t” readers, I am shutting down all further comments until they can find their way back to the bridge from whence they came.  I appreciate all of you who chimed in to support me.  This is our space and I will not allow it to be sullied by their hateful ignorance.