Silence owes no explanation

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).

It’s getting to me.

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.

Categories: ethics & philosophy, relationships, Sociology

Tags: , ,

21 replies

  1. I was dealing with some intensely personal crap for over a week, so while my feeder piled up w/ unread posts I missed the train wreck of events. It took me a while to even catch up on that…
    But you are more than right. No explanation is due anyone.

  2. @ Chally:
    Well, how’s that for timing. That must have published just as I was writing this post.
    And how about that first comment? What an arse.

  3. I hope you don’t feel the value of your post is diminished by the timing, tigtog. 🙂
    The first comment is quite something. As is one involving violent imagery down the thread. But I live in hope that Shakers – including this one – will get into gear. Melissa deserves better than she gets.

  4. I really appreciate what you wrote. I am guilty of not following all the comment threads, so I was surprised when the blog petered out, and I was one of the many commenters who were clueless and may have exacerbated the situation by wandering around and saying “where did everybody go?” And, being a relative newbie to Shakesville, I did not know of previous issues or breaks. It wasn’t impossible to find out what happened, like you said, and I was really sad for Melissa when I saw what had happened on thread after thread.
    Sometimes it is hard to remember a space is more than our own participation in the space. I did not expect but was happy to see the explanatory post. I hope Shakesville continues because of what it means to me, but I fully understand that it may not be what Melissa wants or needs right now.
    MomTFH’s last blog post..Reply turned post, why not one more Tiller one style

  5. Hiya MomTFH, true newbies should be cut a little slack. As I said in the post, curiosity is natural.
    I was targeting people who are more what we used to call on USENet a “second-stage newbie” – someone who is very loud about their expectations of community mores from members who have a long relationship with each other without having truly absorbed a community’s zeitgeist. You don’t seem like a SSN to me.

  6. Awww, thanks. I still will expect more of myself. And I will never, ever ask where the pub is again.
    MomTFH’s last blog post..Reply turned post, why not one more Tiller one style

  7. Many thanks for this post, Tigtog!

  8. No worries, SKM – just waving the teaspoon a little.

  9. Word to this entire post, even though I’m not a very regular commenter at SV.

  10. I was glad to see this post.

  11. I don’t think Melissa owes anyone an explanation, but am sad to see how this all devolved.

  12. I was thinking some very similar things yesterday when I saw how things were developing. I failed to take it on though. Thank you for doing so.
    emandink’s last blog post..The third sign of the simacrulum.

  13. I have recently been through quite a bit in my personal life and had to stop reading/and or listening to the news. The torture discussion here in the States and the attitude toward women that I’ve seen in some decisions of the Obama administration had become too much for me. Then they killed Dr. Tiller. I bring this up because I acted to protect myself all the while worrying that I was being irresponsible. And all I was doing was staying informed!
    I’m commenting here instead of Shakesville because I started to read that comment thread over there and couldn’t face it. I truly cannot imagine what it must be like to try to moderate that.
    What I wanted to say to Melissa the last time this happened is that while it will be a great sorrow for me if she stops blogging, a great sorrow, I would rather she stop than be hurt. Not only does she not owe me an explanation, she owes herself space, support and healing.
    I also completely understand that what is hurting so much has nothing to do with trolls. It’s hearing triggering things from people you thought you knew that can suck the air right out of your lungs. It doesn’t bother me when conservatives say sexist things, it bothers me when I have to stop reading blogs that I’d read for a long time, just because Hillary Clinton was running for president. I guess I should post this over there, if I’m “all in” it’s probably the least I can do.
    Does it sound like I’m telling her what to do if I say, “Go ahead and leave if you need to?” Or does it sound like I’m urging her to go as if she wouldn’t be terribly missed?

  14. @ OlderThanDirt:

    Does it sound like I’m telling her what to do if I say, “Go ahead and leave if you need to?” Or does it sound like I’m urging her to go as if she wouldn’t be terribly missed?

    It doesn’t sound like either to me. Perhaps tweaking your wording to take out the imperative “Go” would get rid of any hint of either? e.g. If you need to leave, I will miss you but I’d rather miss your writing than see you hurt by keeping going. ?

  15. I have the opposite worry, wondering if the size of the thread at Shakesville will act as pressure for her to come back.

  16. Da, SunlessNick, a little of that here too. On the other hand if the thread ends up too upsetting it might push a decision not to come back. Well, all I can do is trust her decisions as an autonomous adult.
    There are some really dreadful links in that comment thread, it’s quite upsetting to follow some of those. I feel that we are in the stage of that thread which is “air all old grievances, because *we* identify this post as nonsense and drama, and one drama stands for all.”

  17. Well, all I can do is trust her decisions as an autonomous adult.

  18. I just feel awful about the whole situation.
    Melissa deserves to be happy. Whatever it takes to, not just preserve her health, but to have a good life — that is what should be done.
    She has been an incomparable force in the feminist blogosphere, and an incredible person. That doesn’t mean she should stay. It means she deserves to do what she needs to do for herself, and we should be happy that she does it, because we care about her wellbeing.
    (It bears saying that of *course* we would, and do, miss her, and would be glad if she could reasonably stay. And no one should feel bad for having those appreciative feelings. But we should be more than happy if she “leaves,” as well, because it means she is doing what is necessary to live a life that makes her happy.)

  19. Tigtog, I think your suggestion is great. I looked at the thread this morning after I read your comment and the recent posts had started to sound just like the kind of posts that made her need to take the break. It made me decide to just leave the comment here. I know she reads Hoyden, so I expect she’ll see our best wishes for her life and health.
    As an aside, I’m 55 years old and I’ve learned more about privilege and silencing since I’ve been reading Shakesville (and Hoyden!) than I have in the previous 50 some years. I’ve changed my language and my attitudes more than once and been brought up short by criticism on both. It’s hard to take criticism, even gentle criticism, but it’s a great gift to be given. I’ve been very lucky to have participated in this, even a little, these past few years.

  20. Liss has posted a Blog Note (with comments closed) that offers some more explanation of her need to take a break, and a longer apologetic for fighting for safe space and exhortation to keep up the fight:

    There have been criticisms of the post published by my colleagues exhorting members of the community to active participation in the maintenance of the safe space for which we strive. Some of the criticism, familiar in its implied allegation that activism is a pathetic, contemptible waste of time, is along the lines of: There’s no such thing as a totally safe space, anyway.
    As if we didn’t know.
    The safest place in the world for a privileged, white, straight, middle-class American teenage girl should be her own bedroom in her happily married parents’ home, but it was the place where I was raped by a boyfriend who supposedly loved me. I knew then that there are no totally safe spaces. And I know it still.
    I know it because I’ve fucked up and made this space not safe for people before, and I will undoubtedly do it again.
    So call it something else, it has been suggested—to which I can only reply: No. Talking about this space as anything else, calling it by some name other than the concept to which we aspire, is like talking about freedom by another name. There is no whole, perfect freedom, either, but no one fights for freedomish. The objective serves as inspiration to get as close as we can.
    Audacious ideas are a compelling muse.

    The bolded emphasis is mine. I think it’s one of the best lines she’s ever written.

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