Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Policing Bloggers and Language

Yesterday I wrote an article about megadouche Dan Savage, which predictably brought his sheep out of the woodwork to infest the comment section. I was later to learn that part of the strong reaction was because Joe, of Joe My God, decided to feed me to his readers like raw meat, for daring to criticize the great gay, fat phobic, disableist, sexist, transphobic,White hope. The wonderful thing about blogging is that everyone has a voice, except of course when they use their platform to disagree with you. Frankly, there are posts in the archives I would dearly love to erase, because I am embarrassed by the pure fail in them.  Part of accountability means owning your mistakes, and that is why I resist this urge.  Over time, I have really come to learn that criticism is not important, but good faith criticism is imperative. 

Regular readers know that I will occasionally publish some of the hate mail, or vitriolic comments on the blog.  I feel it is absolutely necessary that I not bear the burden of what it means to run a progressive site alone, and it also serves to bolster the ideas that I regularly try to communicate. If we eliminate the typical "make me a sandwich bitch," and look deeper at the insidious forms of discipline in this medium, what we will find is that the language is attacked, as often as the ideas presented.

 Blogging is often an individual activity and largely done without pay.  This means that the average blogger does not have an editor proofing their work for spelling or grammar.   The moment a blogger makes a mistake like using there for instance, when what they really mean is their, a commenter will use this as justification to ignore or attack a point that was clearly understood.  Capitalize something that does not need to be capitalized, and clearly you are dolt, thus making everything you have to say irrelevant.  This is policing, as surely as those who claim that marginalized people are being too sensitive, is a form of silencing. This position is also classist, because it means that people who have not had the education to communicate in a very specific way, are excluded from the conversation, though their lived experience could serve to educate many. It is also oppressive to those who intentionally flout norms with the purpose of directly confronting hierarchy.  One commenter at Joe's, had the nerve to complain that ze could not read bell hooks, because she didn't capitalize her name.

Then there is the repeated claim that a writer is unnecessarily academic or overly dependent upon jargon.  The thing about blogging, is that it is a long term conversation.  Each article that is written, is based on something that is already in the archives and this becomes especially true, the longer one blogs.  It becomes redundant to repeat concepts for those that are seeking a 101 conversation.  How many times have I written that racism equals privilege plus power?  How many times have I had to explain the difference between Whiteness and White people?  Every few months, I am forced into this position by an inundation of people who refuse to familiarize themselves with what are truly basic concepts.  In the comments of the Savage post alone, many claimed unfamiliarity with the term cis gender.  At Joe's, someone even had the nerve to refer to it as a slur.  Nigger is a slur; it has no alternative meaning.  Cis gender simply means same as.  How bogged down would the conversation be, if every time I wrote the word cis gender I explained its meaning?  At some point it becomes necessary to assume knowledge on the part of the reader.

So, the bifurcation in blogging essentially comes down to a failure to use an acceptable form of the english language, or a failure to repeat concepts that are essentially basic, thus making the writing opaque to people who have failed to challenge their privileges. The effect further becomes intensified, if it is applied to a person who is a marginalized body. In either instance, it amounts to a form of policing. In each example, the reader is attempting to control how I communicate, thereby centering their concerns on a site dedicated to marginalized people.   I am not so ignorant, that I cannot see the ways in which my race and gender, influences the ways in which people interact with my work.  That people believe they can divorce themselves from their privileges, when we are all born into a very specific discourse, is representative of the ways in which a single narrative corrupts and oppresses.

Whatever language I choose to communicate in from day to day, is reflective of my personal complexity and my life experiences.  I will not write by the numbers to soothe the insecurities of the small minded, nor will I be pressured to conform, given that such action would mean a clear capitulation to those who have a history of erasing people like me. So, if tomorrow I start a post with words for fuck sakes, it is no less a form of valid communication than relying on certain theoretical terminology to express a larger point.  The point of language is to communicate an idea, and if you understood the essence of my argument, then its purpose has been fulfilled.