Sour Duck’s Take on Inhibited Writing, Anger, and Brutal Women

Sour Duck had some thoughts on my Intelligent Blogging post. Cool, right?

She disagreed with some of the things I said, and got all riled up to write, and then:

I initially felt very charged and excited by the prospect of writing about some of the issues Kameron inadvertently raised for me through her post; however, as I was mentally formulating responses to it, I also became very aware that I should be careful not to tread on her toes. In other words, I became concerned that if I disagreed with her, she might come on over to my blog and leave a hostile or semi-hostile comment, or post one at her blog. This concern/fear/anxiety, as you can imagine, greatly inhibits your writing. I have no idea how much of it has to do with the fact that she is a well-known blogger, but certainly that has something to do with it.

Dude, if I ever show up on anyone’s blog and personally attack them and tell them they’re a flaming freakshow, please delete my comment, OK?

Disagree with me, please! Conversation is what this is all about.

Some of her other comments in the post also bring up that funny fear of hostile comments. Apparently, fear of trolls was a big topic of conversation at the Blogher conference. There is a desperate fear that speaking one’s own opinion will… make people angry with you.

Well, yea.

Yea, it will.

If you haven’t pissed somebody off, you’re not trying hard enough.

I haven’t had much of a problem with trolls, because I adhere to Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s advice about trolls. She’s consistently got comments numbering in the hundreds, and the conversation stays civil, intelligent, and relatively on-topic. They’re always worth reading:

9. If you judge that a post is offensive, upsetting, or just plain unpleasant, it’s important to get rid of it, or at least make it hard to read. Do it as quickly as possible. There’s no more useless advice than to tell people to just ignore such things. We can’t. We automatically read what falls under our eyes.

10. Another important rule: You can let one jeering, unpleasant jerk hang around for a while, but the minute you get two or more of them egging each other on, they both have to go, and all their recent messages with them. There are others like them prowling the net, looking for just that kind of situation. More of them will turn up, and they’ll encourage each other to behave more and more outrageously. Kill them quickly and have no regrets.

This is one of the problems I have trying to read comments over at feministing, because they’ve let a lot of rather useless assholes propagate, and comments often become off-topic and unreadable.

I know they’ve got a great hit count there: there’s no reason they shouldn’t be having consistently great conversations with comments in the hundreds. Unfortunately, one or two assholes are hijacking threads and pissing people off, and a lot of great threads devolve into off-topic pissing matches.

As said, I haven’t had much trouble with trolls. Comments like, “Feminists give the best head,” and “This is just a FUCKING STUPID POST. U R STUPIDDDD!!!” get deleted outright. Stuff like, “I completely disagree. You’re killing babies,” might get engaged with if they’re willing to get teased out into having an actual discussion instead of just screaming, “U R KILLING BABIES!!!!” over and over again.

I had one persistent heckler whose post I had to delete two or three times. He was a right-winger who tried to start pissing matches at other blogs, and ran in here and guerilla-posted about homosexuality being a “birth defect” and felt it neccessary to give me his permission to go “muff diving” with the nearest “homosexual” I could get my hands on.

Assholes like that aren’t looking for an intelligent discussion. They’re looking for a fight. And I’m not going to give over any of my time or attention to them.


This is my space. I own and control it, and it’s my job to make it a place where my readers can come and engage in a discussion without feeling like somebody’s gonna be able to get away with calling them a “cunt” or an “angry feminist.” I don’t tolerate personal attacks. Attack the issue, not the poster. You may very well get somebody telling you your opinion omits certain facts, or they disagree with your take on things, but when we get to the “you’re fucking stupid” place, I step in.

As for anger, and disagreeing with me, I’ll steal my response at Sour Duck’s blog wholesale:

Oh, lord, please disagree: goodness knows the boys have no trouble doing it. Disagreement does *not* mean you hate a person, it just means you think differently about their ideas. That’s a *good* thing. A place without dissent is a place without conversation, and that sort of place stagnates.

As for the anger bit: don’t get me wrong, anger is an absolutely fantastic tool. The problem with blogging while running on sheer anger, however, is that you often don’t pause to think over the particular issue you’re discussing, so your thoughts are more likely to come out disjointed.

When I blog angry, it tends to take the form of linking others’ thoughts without commentary, which often implies that I completely agree with those thoughts (and, again, *completely* agreeing with everyone is the first step to stagnation. If you do agree, try a, “I thought this was interesting, but I had another take on it”). It also leads people to assume what I’m thinking about the subject, since I’ve just left a link and a curse word and not much else…

Anger is a potent tool. It has the ability to get you up off your ass when the shit hits the fan. It also can cause you to flail wildly and smack anything that comes near you while gnashing your teeth in a feiry, but ultimately, unproductive, rage.

The trick is to channel the anger into something more constructive. Have your anger moment, step back, feel it, and then engage the topic again with the anger running just beneath your rational thought so that what you end up with in the end is a biting, intelligent criticism instead of incoherent screaming.

Lots of people get turned off by incoherent screaming, and they just tune out. My goal is to be read. If I’m not speaking in a thoughtful, intelligent, entertaining way (and the anger can add entertainment value, particularly when irony and sarcasm are involved), then people will go elsewhere for thoughts and commentary. Not neccessarily a bad thing, but talking to myself (as noted in Burningbird’s post) can get kind of dull.

What drives me is getting mail from readers who’ve changed their lives or looked at something differently because of what I’ve written. Beyond self-expression, that’s what I’m in it for, and if I’m unreadable, I’m not reaching anybody.

The issue of the suppression of women’s anger is a big one, and an ongoing discussion that’s been around forever. It’s been around so long that I’m still startled to see both men and women all over the net still use the “You’re just an angry woman” brush-off. The first insult you’ll get in any forum if you don’t tow the party line is that you’re being an angry feminist (I was recently taken to task for being “an angry white feminist” at an SF criticism blog, of all things).

I admit that when I get pegged this way, it pisses me the fuck off, and the best retort for something like that is irony and sarcasm. Getting into a bitching match with the offender just ends up devolving the thread into a pissing match about who’s got the most degrees and/or life experience, and that doesn’t get anybody anywhere.

Please don’t ever feel you need to apologize for disagreeing with anybody (especially me – I’m really not all that “well known” a blogger!). That’s the pure joy of the net, particularly for those who blog anonymously.

I *want* people to disagree with me, intelligently. I get into huge arguments with those around me all the time about things I blog about, and my take on issues. One of my best real-world friends was actually one of the people who e-mailed me about my lazy blogging style, and I was so pissed off with him for a week that I could barely speak.

In the end, since he certainly wasn’t the only one who’d brought it up, I read and re-read his comments and looked at my blog again and realized there was a lot of truth to his comments. I was losing myself to the feminist blog “community” and becoming part of a thing instead of being an individual.

That’s not something unique to feminist blogs at all; it happens within many, many communities, usually because of the concern you noted: you start feeling like you “know” these bloggers, and feel that if you disagree with what they’re saying, you’re attacking them. And who wants to attack people whose opinions they respect?

I remember taking on a post of Amanda Marcotte’s (now of Pandagon) just before she won the Koufax Award and being a little leery of doing it, cause I knew she read me.

In the end, I posted my criticism, and she and some others hopped on board, and there was a conversation going on that hadn’t gone on before. Doesn’t mean I hate Amanda: she’s superkewl and I respect the hell out of her, but sometimes I’m going to disagree with what she says, and that’s OK.

I love that people disagree with me, and so long as it’s well-thought out and worth engaging, I’ll totally engage with it. That’s the great fun of blogging.

Sitting around with a bunch of people who tell you you’re perfect and superkewl all day is a great pat on the back, but ultimately not terribly constructive.

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