Prefacing Disclaimer: I have no special knowledge of what is happening amongst the Shakesville team, and to re-emphasise the post title, I don’t feel that I am owed any communication from anyone on the team.
UPDATE: As I was posting this, an explanatory post was put up on Shakesville by Melissa’s co-bloggers! It might help to still read this post before going over to read theirs, if you’re already here.
Some Shakesville commentors have been expressing their concern over the sudden blog hiatus (no new posts since Friday June 5th from any contributor). While this mostly consists of kind thoughts for Liss taking a break, and some curiosity is natural, some of the comments have started to read a little needy, as if Melissa or another Shaker mod owes all Shakers an explanation in a dedicated post. Someone even suggested that it was inconsiderate, as if not posting new articles for blog readers is equivalent to disappearing without informing one’s family/ friends. Does anyone really think that Melissa’s nearest and dearest don’t know where she is?
I can understand that an explanation would be an appreciated neatness, and is perhaps in the style that Shakers have come to expect from a meticulous blogger, but none of us is owed any special explanatory post. Indeed, that whole “in the style that Shakers have come to expect” thing may be a large part of the problem, because Melissa has made the point that a growing minority of Shakers are not holding themselves to the same meticulous standard that is expected of her:
It’s that kind of thing exactly which makes me feel like this isn’t a safe space for me. I’m not a commodity; I’m not a specter; I’m not an entity lacking agency and substance. I’m a real person who leads a community in which there are not an insignificant number of people who have no compunction about expecting perfection of me while themselves carelessly commenting without a passing thought for whether they trigger, make an unreasonable demand of, communicate conflicting expectations of, or dehumanize me, nor about alienating me from this space by talking about me like I’m not even here.
I don’t mind being held to high expectations; I hold myself to high expectations. What’s getting to me is the constancy of demands and the expectations of flawlessness (despite my constant reminders that I am a deeply flawed person) coupled with what feels like an increasing portion of the commentariat (though still a distinct minority) who doesn’t hold themselves to nearly the same standards they hold me.
I am meant to think carefully about every one of the 10,000+ words I post on the main page and in comments daily (which I think is fair), but cannot expect in return that I not be triggered and insulted in my own space, because apparently asking people to remember not to make rape jokes and speak to/about me like I am a real person and not a brand and/or slave is unreasonable (which I think is unfair).
The next day, Melissa did write of her intention to take a break as she closed comments on the trainwrecked PETA poster thread:
I’m tired to my fucking bones of this nonsense. I’m thisclose to hitting the delete button on the whole thing.
I’m closing this thread, and I’m taking a break.
In response to some of the questions on another thread about the lack of new posts, Paul the Spud posted a comment which references several other threads in which people have posted comments that contain violent imagery and even (on Shakesville!) rape jokes. Despite being pulled up by mods and Melissa herself making strong objections, other people kept on doing the same thing. In a blog designated as a safe space.
It’s not just the faux-progressives blithely posting violent imagery without any consideration for others, of course. It’s a general uptick in concern-trolling and sniping as well.
I know that I am only one of many old-school Shakers who rarely comments there these days, and having commentors who know the history of the community go inactive doesn’t help with the shaping up of the newbies that needs to be done in order that they think before they post. But anyone opining that they are owed any explanation should think very hard about this: if I’m feeling, just as a reader, that I don’t have the energy to wade through the keenly clueless comments any more to find the meat of the discussion, how much more draining must it be to be a moderator there? All long-time Shakers know that maintaining Shakesville has taken a great toll on Melissa. We should all know that having supposedly progressive Shakers posting comments that are triggering to others is not fucking acceptable.
Nobody should be surprised if dealing with this shit just gets too much. In fact, avoiding dealing with this kind of shit is exactly why the moderation on Hoyden uses a heavier hand – to make it absolutely clear that such shit is unacceptable. I admire Shakesville immensely for being more open to the combative and the clueless, because I understand just how much energy being dedicated to patrolling that shit takes. Nobody is owed all that effort. It was a gift, and if that effort is now too much of a burden then it’s time to just say thank you for what we’ve had in the past.
The other Shakesville bloggers are sticking to “no comment” on their own blogs about the future of Shakesville. Petulant has posted a short note on his own blog about taking a break from Shakesville, but it’s only his own story about being fed up with politics for the moment.
Like any other Shaker, I would be thrilled to see a new post pop up in my feed reader. Even a short one telling us that she’s decided to close all comments, sod off and go on more holidays with Mr Shakes. But I’m not owed one.
A final note: because of my own curiosity about the posting hiatus, I went and read the latest threads on Shakesville, followed some links in comments, and put all the above together. In less than half an hour. Anybody else who posted “tell me what’s happening” comments that only add to the burden of expectation could have done exactly the same. If more readers in the blogosphere were willing to do their own homework instead of expecting spoon-feeding from the bloggers this whole devolution of the Shakesville comments threads wouldn’t have happened in the first place.