Friday, June 19, 2009

on the sadness of lost things (or death by implosion)

Let me start off by saying that it is unnecessary to follow the links in this post, and perhaps an immense waste of time. It is more a chronicle of the train of thought that has led me here.

Since I am now reading blogs more frequently than I have in a few years, I have noticed the passage of time impacting some of the stuff I used to read. Nowhere is this more evident than with the Shakesville blog. This is a blog that I used to absolutely love. It taught me a lot about what feminism is, and what it means to be feminist, and why that is something worth standing up for.

I would not start reading it now. Not that there aren't still some excellent posts and some insightful commentary, but the tone has changed and it makes me really and quite viscerally sad. The comments section is an incredibly hostile environment, where it seems to me that people have become so used to trolling that any disagreement is read as trolling and the responses are unmerciful. Perhaps not always, but often enough that it makes me feel ill to see people shot down in the way that they are, or to hear commenters echo the points of the original post using the exact words of the original and trash anyone who doesn't use those words. Or, and this one hurts the most, to see people use terms like "safe space" and "trigger" as ways of minimizing commenters who aren't seen as socially progressive enough.

It turns out that I am not the only person who feels this way, and that just as I have started to read it again the blog is disintegrating under the weight of its own comments section and losing a fair amount of its readership. In fact, it is at the center of a huge internet controversy about what it means to be a "safe space" and an "online community." Perhaps the thing that struck me the most was the blog entry of a former contributor at Shakesville, a contributor whom I liked, essentially trashing what it had become. I hadn't even realized that she no longer contributed, and have to wonder how bad that must have tasted for the creator (Melissa McEwan) to have heard or read.

Here's where I acknowledge that probably nobody reading this actually knows or cares anything about Shakesville. However, I would liken it to the sadness of being disillusioned by a favorite teacher who you find out is racist, or an old TV show that takes a terrible story-arc, or a book series that goes sour (I'm looking at you Terry Goodkind). It's the sadness of a progressive who thinks of change as inevitable and wants that to be a positive thing, but sometimes it isn't. I want something back that I will never have, and its current incarnation only reminds me of that more painfully. A minor thing to grieve, definitely, but still grief.

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