AND. You guys, I am supposed to be writing my counterterrorism law final. I can tell you, 1750 words per question is NOT ENOUGH WORDS. Gayle has some Thoughts on Things, let me tell you.
Anyway. This was sent to me by a friend, and hoooboy (is that one word or two?) did it make me angry enough to write a fucking blog post about it. It was a debate in the Guardian's Comment is Free about whether internet commentators (is that me, guys? I think that is me. Although, I could also be described as an internet "ne'er do well," "whinger," or "hellcat." Whatever.) should be anonymous, and this is what some lady named Rachel Cooke had to say on those terrible anonymous internet bandits:
No one can pour out all that rage online and emerge from their office calm, kindly and reasonable – or not unless they are Patrick Bateman types, two-faced to an almost sociopathic degree. I find that my face grows hot just reading it. As for cowardice, yes, of course anonymous posters are cowards. It's pathetic. The honourable thing to do is to put your name to bad reviews and all the other stuff, and if this makes your social life awkward – as it sometimes does for me – the upside is that, in future, you will think rather harder before you begin typing.Seriously, Rachel? FUUUUUUUUCK YOU. There's my sociopathic rage, right there.
So, apparently Rachel Cooke got some very mean comments made about a piece she had written, of the kind of awful vitriol that women writers on the webbernets often get. Women bloggers have in fact discussed how much it sucks to get terrible comments like that and how they can be used to try to shut a blogger down. Some lady bloggers hold contests to make fun of the worst comment offenders so they can laugh at such nastiness and douchebaggery, because what the fuck else can you do? In fact, women have even gotten death threats and then have to go cancel appearances and then get snide things said about them by men about how they can't handle heat then get out of the kitchen, which really, anyone with two brain cells is gonna use that phrase in regards to women???? This is what happens, unfortunately, and we should all be working on changing an internet culture that allows such things. But then, Rachel Cooke uses this example of how ladybloggers get terrible shit thrown at them by anonymous commenters to argue AGAINST ANONYMITY.
Which, ok, given the maliciousness spewed at ladies, it's KINDA UNDERSTANDABLE some ladies would opt to blog anonymously. What with the death threats and all. I get Rachel is upset at the shit she is getting from commenters who feel brazen in posting anonymously, and I am not saying she shouldn't be upset, but that doesn't mean anyone who posts should be not anonymous. There are some really stellar reasons some people would like to remain anonymous. None of which merely make their social life "awkward." Many of which have to do with the fundamental right to, you know, bodily safety, or maybe keeping a job. With some healthcare. Finding a job is kinda like hunting for the mythical griffin* right now, I hear.
So one of those excellent reasons for anonymity could be mine, which is that I would really prefer my rapist not find me. Or Harriet J., who was trying to remain anonymous from her abusive ex-husband and other terrible former friends when Google Buzz may have given them access to her. Or I have read of a professor who blogs anonymously because he doesn't want his students to know his political leanings, and then write everything for his class taking into account his beliefs in an attempt to please him. Or anonymous bloggers in Iran, who are trying to get information out about what is going on in their country, and know if they use their real names, they could be subject to imprisonment or worse. Or I am thinking of Chez Panzienza, who blogged about cable news and all its terrors, until CNN found out about his blog and fired him, depriving the rest of us of a really stellar insider look at the brokenness of our "news" industry. And some of us have homophobic office environments, and we don't want everyone at work to know we are gay, and we need paychecks, because we like food and eating; or some of us need to find a job, and do not want the first thing our employers knows about us to be all our most personal thoughts and experiences.
Look, I get really shitty anonymous comments, mostly of the kind that are trying to shut me up, mostly by telling me I am stupid and a terrible writer and have nothing at all to share, so just shut up already, GOD. Because there are folks (other women included!) who don't like mouthy women, who don't like women who challenge their privilege or insult their favorite comedian or point out that fucking Boobquake is really fucking stupid. But I blame this on misogyny, not anonymity. Anonymity doesn't make anyone a douchebag. Racism and sexism and all kinds of other things make people douchebags. And anyway, if I didn't have anonymity, I wouldn't have ever spoken at all. I couldn't have written about my rape, which was the entire point of starting this blog.
I have a bunch of new readers (Hi new readers! I love you! Welcome!) so let me kinda explain how this goes. I started this blog at the urging of my therapist, as a tool to release some of the sadness and anger and hurt and pain of being raped. It takes me a couple hours to write every post, this one included (well, obviously not the cat posts). This is usually because I will read it over neurotically. I will go line by line and evaluate how honest I am being, how clear I am about what I trying to convey, whether I am being honest with myself, or am I glossing over this bit to make the post sound less depressing or upsetting to me and others. I suffer from serious disassociative disorder, and so every post is an effort to try to put myself back together again by being as open to myself and what I am going through as possible. This is hard for me. And sometimes it is painful. It means sometimes I will not let myself push whatever bad feelings there are to the back of my brain, and I will confront them, so they do not become monsters under my bed that haunt me later.
This, Rachel Cooke, is usually what we would call "brave."
Also, tell me again how I need to think harder before typing?
Not only that, to assume the internet is lawless and there is no accountability is silliness. I am held very accountable by my name. Stuff that Gayle says will be linked to, or not, or derided, or applauded, all based on the quality of my writing and the importance of what I have to say. I am building a reputation. And while it's not my "legal" name, I take everything that I say here and put out into the universe very seriously. I love when I am linked to - it's like this tremendous joy that I have written something useful maybe other people will like.** And if I want anyone to listen to me or keep reading me, I must continue to write good posts. If I were to start running around on other blogs making really transphobic comments, let's say, then I would lose readers and credibility. In fact, my reputation is all I've got here on the internet; I can't go by charm, or looks, or persuasive skills, or anything else other than the substance of my writing and the quality of my prose. I never aimed to have an audience, but I have one now, and I really, really love the community that has sprung up here, and I continue to find this all a gift. My anonymity does not change anything.
In fact, I get to play in person with a couple of stellar, lovely ladies whom I have met through my blog shortly (I. Am so. Excited). And I will probably be Gayle to them (not because I don't want to tell them my real name, but because Gayle is how they know me). So Gayle is about to be essentially a real person in the real world; still me, just with another name. And that almost makes my head explode, theory-wise, but mostly: those nasty comments to Rachel Cooke were not because of anonymity. No, they were rooted in something much worse, something which is more insidious, and requires us to all fight against to change. Anonymity may allow people to show the symptoms, but it's never the disease; how could it be a disease when I could not be writing to you without it?
OK, and finally, Rachel Cooke? THINK. Dude, who the fuck is gonna run around making sure everyone who registers for comments is registered under their legal name? Are we gonna require licenses or personal identification to sign up online to comment? Are we fucking Arizona? Who is gonna regulate this? For fuck's sake.
* Griffin update! Readers, they've never managed to catch ANYTHING in my ceiling. The thinking is it has moved out now - it's been very silent up there (although, up until last week, it would still manage to eat all the food, including the food in the trap, and spring the trap, but NEVER be caught in the trap). All holes have been patched that access that attic space from the outside, and they are now going to just replace our insulation and fix the giant hole. The griffin was always too wily for us, and while he scared the crap out of me by scratching at the air vents at 6 am, I wish him well, wherever he has gone.
** You guys, recently I have been linked to by other really, really amazing blogs, and I squealed in happiness both times. Literally. Aloud. I still kinda feel like I am too new to be linked to by the Big Kid bloggers and all that, and it's a little intimidating (read: PETRIFYING), but it's still such a tremendous compliment. I'm totally honored.