Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Blogging Wish


I sincerely despise that word.

Perhaps that's because I've never been anywhere close to popular. At least, not until I was in my 30's when popularity had finally become laughable rather than hurtful whenever various snubs and slights were doled out by mean "kids" who ignored me or, worse, tormented me. Then, all of a sudden, I was popular. Irony strikes when I'd finally stop caring.

My intention with Jane In Her Infinite Wisdom was to begin deliberately writing for other people - namely friends and family if I could convince them to read. I didn't have any expectation that my blog would be a beautiful, popular, money-making blog. In truth, I didn't know such blogs existed. I still don't expect that (I am an ad-free blog). What I care about - then and now - is writing - flexing my wordy muscles and honing my chops. I wanted, finally, to be read and, if it came to it, to receive constructive criticism. Prior to that, I'd written because I felt good when I wrote... but I kept it hidden, squirreled away in boxes or, at most, available to a dozen pairs of peeping eyes afraid of what people might say. Bullying and judgments from an early age will create that fear in a girl.

I suppose one could say blogging was my way of publishing without the pain and suffering of rejection by publishers or nasty criticism from my peers *laughing*.

Two-ish years ago, I had NO idea there was a network of women who blog - women I could consider my peers. A consequence of being friendless as a child and of experiencing consistent rejection whenever I'd attempt to make friends, I'd developed odd blinders to my peer group. I could seem present when I had to but, never knowing when a leg might be stuck out to trip me, in reality, I'd wrapped myself so firmly in a blanket of defense, it never occurred to me to expect anyone else was out there doing it...doing it way better...and making a living off of it.

When I tripped and fell over Crazy Aunt Purl while looking for knitting patterns and then She Just Walks Around with It when searching for relationship advice *ahem*, I was so excited to find women - women who, from the sounds of it, were just like me - out in the interwebs blogging...just like me!

WOO HOO! I had something akin to a peer group! And they didn't even have to know I was hanging out with them! I freely admit, I lurked and only got up the nerve to comment once or twice on each of their blogs.

My joy was short-lived.

It was because of Kristy (She Walks) that I discovered BlogHer. She worked for BlogHer for a time and, most importantly, spent much of her time organizing the annual conference. In her archives, I was dismayed to find a post about the BlogHer 2008 conference - the conference during which there was, apparently, some crazy drama between Dooce and The Bloggess. Up until then, I'd never heard of either one. Up until then, I thought Purl and Kristy were the pinnacle of blogging success.

Don't worry. I'll wait until you finish laughing and wipe the tears from your eyes. Yes, I really was just that naive.

When I read Kristy's post and then followed her links to what Dooce's husband had to say about the drama that was BlogHer 2008 and then actually went to the blogs of both Dooce and The Bloggess, I got really mad! So mad I wrote about it here. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't mad at either of them and I certainly didn't pick one over the other to like well enough to follow because of the incident (that would happen naturally as I read each one and then, ultimately, began following The Bloggess because I identify with her anxiety. I laugh at her. She has James Garfield, y'all. Who can compete with that?).

Honestly? I was angry at all the hateful things women were saying about both of them! I was thoroughly disgusted over the fact that googling "Dooce sucks" returned thousands of search returns. Why does she suck? WHY?! Because she's successful? Good on her! She's a successful, gracious woman doing what she loves in a dog-eat-dog man's world.

When I understood that, just like junior high, blogging could be a popularity contest, a gnashing of embittered and jealous teeth, a circle of the "it" girls and the ever-widening concentric circles of snarling women who wanted to be a part of the inner circle but were merely surrounding those who had MADE IT, I wanted no part of it. None. I retreated. Even though I'd joined BlogHer - because I loved the concept of a large network of women blogging, I didn't participate at all and only added a half dozen blogs listed in the directory to my reader after I joined. None of the bloggers I selected seemed to be backbiters or drama llamas. Fortunately, they weren't.

You see, Jane, in her infinite wisdom, is decidedly a Drama Free Zone. Jane has learned that, with a day-to-day existence of a high level of general free-floating anxiety, she's better off doing whatever is necessary to stay away from drama, as high drama she's exposed to has a direct correlation with the amount of anxiety she feels (see how I switch to 3rd person when I get uncomfortable?).

Enter NaBloPoMo.

This is my third year participating in NaBloPoMo. I (generally) love it! Granted, the first year was really rough as I'd never challenged myself to write every single day and coming up with blog fodder rendered itself difficult. After the first year though, I found it rather difficult NOT to post every day.

That first year, I didn't know (surprise) that there was an established, organized community of other bloggers who were participating. I heard about NaBloPoMo and just...started blogging daily because I see if I could. Last year, when I stumbled upon the website for NaBloPoMo (when it was on Ning - uh, I think that's what the platform was called) I was excited to join and participate - mostly because I was overjoyed to find other bloggers who were just like me...not the top 1% "making it" but the other 99% (heh, see what I did there?) who were writing because it felt good and participating because it was a challenge.

I added a few bloggers - both men and women - to my RSS feed because of it.

This year, when NaBloPoMo switched platforms to BlogHer, I was reticent. I mean, it didn't really impact me as a NaBloPoMo blogger because I'm a woman and I felt as though I fit somewhat in with the established community (I mean, as much as a single, childless, non-niche blogger can feel anywhere). However, I was anxious given what I had already witnessed - albeit third hand - regarding some women bloggers in general.

Additionally, I was worried about all the men out there, blogging their own hearts out during NaBloPoMo and whether or not they could possibly find a comfortable spot in a community designed for and populated by women...a place whose very name - BlogHer - excludes them.

Please note: I am not, under any stretch of the imagination condemning, dissing, dogging, or otherwise smack-talking about BlogHer. The spirit and camaraderie of the site is a lovely thing and I truly appreciate why it exists. Neither am I condemning, dissing, dogging, or otherwise smack-talking the organizer of the official NaBloPoMo for moving from a clunky platform to a more user-friendly platform with a much higher profile and traffic.

But, I must confess, tonight? I'm disheartened and a little angry.

I'm disheartened because I have discovered only one man (there may be others and, if there are, would you all please PLEASE share their links with me) blogging on BlogHer specifically for NaBloPoMo this year and it's a man - Michael's Fishbowl - who I've been following since last year's NaBloPoMo (who may, in fact, be participating only because I encouraged him to by telling him men were totally welcome).

Not exactly a huge field of testosterone to be mined for my feed reader. And there is something to be said for a lovely balance of both testosterone and estrogen in daily life.

Mostly though, I'm disheartened and angry because, in the first 15 days of NaBloPoMo, I've born witness to a number of silly, childish, clique-y, junior high school BS that makes this woman, Jane, want to throw up her hands and not be associated with my own gender.

I can't even point it makes me too mad to go back and re-visit some of what I've read.

But it's not just the NaBloPoMo or BlogHer bloggers doing it.

Today, as I read through my feed, I was spoon-fed a post from Jen McCreight - the Blag Hag. If you don't know Jen, she was the one who unwittingly went viral when she posted a little blog entry on her personal blog about an experimental event she created in response to an Iranian cleric - Hojatoleslam Kazem Seddiqi - who had blamed women who dress immodestly for causing event she called Boobquake. Jen is a PhD candidate, an atheist, a skeptic, and a feminist. Since Boobquake, she's become an internationally known blogger and a sought after speaker who is asked to present at several conferences and workshops. She's all of 24.

This post - A Bully, Plain and Simple - was Jen's response to another blogger - A WOMAN - who had been shredding her publicly and privately calling her a "loser" and a "bitch"...because why again?



No really, I ask you, why? Why are women so hateful, so...spiteful to one another when one of us is successful?

This isn't about constructive criticism. This is women being...ARGH!!!!...(I want to swear...drop f-bombs and c-bombs and every other kind of bomb) MEAN?!

Why do we continue to be so mean to one another? Why do we continue to strip one another down? Honestly, does it make anyone feel truly better to be snarky and self-righteous? Does it make any of us feel truly closer to the top?

Do you think Dooce or The Bloggess pay attention to the sniping, back-stabbing, and unabashed jealousy of other bloggers who, in a desperate attempt to be accepted, stab and stab and stab their peers, and then say to themselves, "Hey! That woman, the one being downright ugly, is one of us" and then magically elevate that person into the 1%?

No. They don't. I think, in this case, the 1% would be appalled to know what other women do in the name of trying to be popular. I think the 1%, in the case of blogging, are likely surprised, grateful, and unduly pressured to find themselves where they are and, when asked to speak at conferences, likely convey that gratitude to their legions of readers - most of whom are bloggers like themselves who haven't yet made it. Who probably never will. I suspect that they are, in fact, humbled to be where they are...even though they've worked hard to be where they are.

I am angry tonight. I am disgusted tonight. I am sad tonight.

I've uncovered a plethora of bloggers - wait...WRITERS - in the last several days who are now filling me with a lip-smacking satisfaction as I feast upon their words and photographs. And yet, there are a few people who are, ridiculously, still stuck in junior high school mode and who, because of their own insecurities and petty jealousies, seem bound and determined - in their pursuit of becoming the 1% - to cast a negative light on the rest of us in order to futilely attempt to elevate their sub-par selves to elite status.

I ask myself why.

Do we really live in a world outside of junior high school drama and back-stabbing? At what point do we stop passing self-serving judgment and start supporting one another?

NaBloPoMo isn't about how we look...what clothes we wear, how our hair is cut, or what we say, or even how we've said it.

It's about the fact that we've come to say it at all...woman, man, nerd, or potentially popular.

Support each other as we would WISH to have others support our infinite wisdoms.

Is it that hard to look outside ourselves and give kudos and support, generously?

Please. Just...stop being mean and start putting yourselves into the shoes of the one you may heartlessly judge because they aren't in your shoes.

Please. Be polite...and stop being mean.


Teresa said...

YEAH.............What Jane in her exquisite Infinite Wisdom said.



alienbody said...

Wow. I had no idea. I don't think I've seen this meanness, but maybe...*maybe*...I'm used to it and just accepted it? Gawd, I'd hate to think that. I'm also going back to look at my posts to make sure I have not been mean - that would totally suck. Great post and a very great reminder of how people can use the internet, the lack of face-to-faceness, to be hurtful and exclusive. *will try my damnedest to not be THAT blogger*

Lucy said...

You know, I understand what you are saying and I think when jealousy strikes it causes us to behave badly. I do believe we all, and I did not use a qualifier because I believe we all judge, as much as we know that we should not and we should remember 'walk a mile in someone's shoes' we tend to get caught up in judging. I do believe there is a difference though between judging when we are basing it on our beliefs, meaning we truly feel something has gone against something we believe and then the flat out meanness led by jealousy, they are different and typically jealousy leads to very mean behavior. If that makes any sense.

Oh, but goodness, I had no idea that Dooce and Blogess got into a scuffle, wow, not that is so juicy!!

Oh, and I have been reading Michael too, I like him, that is so funny we both found him.

You know I found Blogher from NaBloMoPo because I do it NaBloMoPo every year. I had heard about Blogher but never checked it out and I am still a little confused, I was thinking of going to the conference in August!

Now, I am off to read about Dooce and Blogess!!!

Oh, and I like your wish, I WISH like you that human beings were way more supportive of each other, why can't it be a WIN-WIN world!!!

Elizabeth said...

Right before BlogHer got off the ground, I was on another blog-ring (Cre8buzz) place and it was so fun to have the community and to share posts and to get those lovely COMMENTS we all want to validate our sharing of ourselves. Then, it closed and I tried BlogHer and could never find my niche. I'm a 20-something who isn't religious, a mom, "single in the city", a photographer or a health nut. I write about live and trying to improve myself and it just doesn't stick with the blogging community. It was frustrating and I felt just like I did in junior high when, as the chubby curly haired choir girl, boys liked my friends and not me and I didn't get invited to parties. hah. It just itches at those insecurities, of fitting in. I still feel that way sometimes, but now I just write because I know I love to write and I'll probably never be popular and that is OK.

Ernie Hendrix said...

Well, I had a nice, long comment all typed up while viewing your blog in IE8 but Blogger said I'm not authorized to comment on your site. So when I get time I'll re-write it (I'm now on Firefox). But wanted to let you know I tried to comment - and will do so soon.

(Ms) Ernie

Ernie Hendrix said...

First of all, I want to say that I don't think that meanness and ugliness on the internet is limited to women. BlogHer is a woman-centric group so it is natural that the drama there would be between women. And It's also natural that men wouldn't have a large presence in a group named BlogHer. And, no, I'm not a member of BlogHer.

I was never one of the "popular" kids myself. I was always on the fringes between the insiders and the outsiders. For various reasons, I was a charter member of Insecurities R Us. But one day (long after high school) I found out that most of the kids who were the popular kids were also members of that club, I just didn't know it. Because they had the good looks or the money they were able to hide it. And they beat us outsiders up emotionally just so they could salve their insecurities. I'm not trying to say that there are no genuinely mean people in this world. There are. And I've met my share of them.

If you think this internet rudeness isn't also prevalent among men, then you should read some of the comments sections of almost any article published by the major news organizations such as CNN. The first few comments usually stay on topic but then the conversation, if it can be called that, takes a dramatic turn and the posts become filled with invectives, vulgarities, name-calling and personal insults against other posters. For no reason. "If I don't agree with you then it's ok for me to call you incredibly nasty names and try to singe your face with the fire I'm breathing over my keyboard." Things that would never be said face-to-face become easy when you're sitting at a keyboard and no thought is required to fire off a zinger. That lack of civility would, I think, eventually carry over into the rest of your life.

I try to keep the drama level in my life to a bare minimum. My mother lives with me, has advanced dementia and is under hospice care for cancer. I don't need someone else's drama. I don't hang around with Energy Vampires, I don't need their stress. I am the person I am today because of the things that have happened to me in the past, including "meanies" and "populars", and I'm reasonably happy with the person I've become. I try to treat people with kindness and compassion. And I am the only person in the world that I can control (and sometimes I don't even succeed at that). So my advice (like you really asked for my advice, right?) is to keep your kindness intact, your civility at a good level and let the rest of the world go by. You can't change people.

Ok, I'm climbing off my soapbox now. Just my two bytes worth.

(Ms) Ernie
Gypsy Gold Studio