Thursday, March 10, 2011

Did You Know That Bloggers Who Act Like Men Do Better?

I subscribe to Pro Blogger, because it occasionally has interesting tips, when they are not trying to sell you something.  This morning, I came across a piece entitled, He's a Rogue ... That's Why He Blogs So Well. Can you guess what's coming?  Far too many are quick to ignore the fact that ISMS feature prominently in the discourse that occurs everyday on the internet.  Many spaces are simply not safe for marginalized bodies, and few can be bothered to take the time to adequately police their comment section.  The hierarchy of bodies also determines which blogs are successful enough to earn a living for their editors in chief, as well as which bloggers will be considered credible.  It also determines whose blogs lead to mainstream success.

No matter which niche you examine, you will find that it is lead by dominate bodies.  Many of these how to blogs, have a tendency to ignore this fact, to attempt to sell a one answer fits all solution.  I have asked Darren via twitter, if he has any suggestions for social justice bloggers, and he has honestly said no. I can absolutely respect that; however, the continual suggestion that there is a simple pattern to follow to suddenly become an A list blogger, continues to appear on his blog.  Here are a few tips from  Graham Phoenix of the blog male eXperience:

You need to be focused

Any successful blog dominates a niche. Most blogs fail because they wander around the mind of the writer. They often start as musings and end as a no-show. We all have a few good posts in us, but we need to sustain that over a significant period of time.

You need to be mad

Really: why else would you do it? As a blogger, you expose yourself, day after day, to an unforgiving world only to have people knock you down in the comments. You spend all your time on it and earn precious little.

You need to kill the competition

At the very least, you need to kill them with kindness. Supporting your competition is a great way to get noticed out there. You do, nevertheless, need to dominate: readers need to see yours as the blog to read, the one that’s hot.

You need to be opinionated

How many blogs have you read, and returned to, that don’t have anything to say? Blogs are about opinion. In the world of men’s issues, the blogs that stand out are the ones that are most outrageous, such as Citizen Renegade. They may not be the best, but they get the visitors.

You need to be like a man

You need the qualities of a man. You need to dominate, be tough, and be true to yourself and what you believe. Being compassionate, open, and receptive are great qualities but in blogging, like in business, you need to shine and stand above the rest.
Does anyone see anything wrong with these suggestions?  How about we start with a glaring one, which suggest that bloggers need to be "like men"? This trope includes the essentialist suggestion that male bloggers are "dominant, tough, and true to themselves." It reads more like an advertisement for True Grit, than a statement that includes all people -- and by people, I mean women, and people who identify as gender queer.  Why even bother to acknowledge that these people exist, when we all know that men are all that count?

I also love the fact that he cites focus as an issue.  I will grant that thousands of blogs are started everyday that never make it past the first few months, because people don't have the staying power to continue the work -- but what he fails to recognize -- is that class is an extreme impediment to blogging.  Imagine for one moment, that your only access to internet is at the local library. The first thing you have to do is get to a library.  If the library is beyond walking distance, you have to consider if you can afford the bus fare there an back regularly.  If you are disabled, the trip might even cause you physical pain. When you finally manage to get there, you may not be lucky enough to find one the computers free for your usage -- and if not, you will just have to wait your turn. Even as you start writing, you are only all to  aware of how quickly the clock is ticking away the time.  Think of the the difficulties involved in writing a good blog post, with sufficient links to prove the point that you are arguing.  There is also the issue of moderation.  How can your commenters engage in conversation, if you can only moderate your blog once a day?   With limited access to the internet, how will you be able to promote your blog via other forms of social media?  Sometimes, a lack of determination is based simply in factors like class and disability, rather than some form of personal failure.  I suppose that is easy to ignore in a world that worships meritocracy. We don't all have an equal chance to succeed.

I am also enamored by his suggestion that we need to "kill the competition with kindness".  Is he even slightly aware of the various ways in which marginalized bodies are silenced everyday?  Every Saturday, I try to link to smaller blogs, because I believe that marginalized bodies need to help each other to get ahead.  There has been a terrible history in the feminist/social justice blogosphere, of silencing and attacking marginalized people.  Entire blogs have been created, because of the silencing and yet we are expected to make nice with our oppressor and hope that they throw us a bone.  Power must be wrested forcefully. No dominant force in history, has ever willingly ceded power.  I suggest that this blinding ignorance, is yet another example of Phoenix's unchecked privilege.

Phoenix also suggest that bloggers need to "get mad".  From this, I can tell he has never gotten the tone argument that has become all to familiar in spaces that are run by women of colour, or where women of colour read and actively comment.  Social justice bloggers are often told that we are looking for a reason to be angry, even when we are arguing against some form of inequality that is clearly harmful to an oppressed group.  The "tone argument" is something that happens to me quite often.  Black women are often told that if only we had registered our issues nicely, more people would be inclined to listen.  This by the way, is silencing 101, because it suggests that we have no right to our rage despite a history of sexism, racism, violence, slavery and rape.  Rage has always been the preserve of White men, and in particular White, straight, cis gender, able bodied men.

Finally, I need to be opinionated.  Really? As a Black, disabled woman, I can tell you that I have a lot of opinions, but the chance of them being listened to and weighed as important, is directly related to the degree of marginalization I negotiate the world with. There are plenty of people who are more than happy to disregard anything that I say, because it directly challenges their privilege.  People don't want to be called out. They want to live in a imaginary world, where everything is equal, while those of us who are the bottom of the social hierarchy continue to suffer.  You are damn right that I have opinions, but anything that suggests that historically devalued people be given things like accommodations if they are disabled, same sex marriage or ENDA, an end to trans phobia, the legal recognition of polyamorous marriages, domestic labour being paid, socialized health care and daycare, actual gender parity in pay etc, is soundly ignored.  Dominant bodies don't want to hear what the marginalized need or want, because society does not believe in challenging issues from the bottom up.  It is far more concerned that the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor.

I completely get the point of Phoenix's post, but I am seriously tired of seeing these one size fits all solutions offered at blogs like Pro Blogger, because they simply are not relevant to the majority.  Sometimes, it doesn't matter whether you are a good writer or not.  More often than not it only matters how well you fit the dominant paradigm.  Nothing is outside of discourse and instead of erasing the masses, it is time that these how to bloggers acknowledge that marginalized bodies exist, and they are doing us a disservice by pretending that any of this crap is useful in building a successful blog.