Monday, April 20, 2009

The EW comment policy: safe space and open discourse

In the past few weeks, the feminist blogosphere has been buzzing with controversy about transphobia after blogger voz_latina called for a boycott of Feministing and Feministe due to their marginalization of transgendered people. Since much of this discussion was about comment moderation and the responsibility of blogs to maintain a safe space for oppressed classes, I think it's important that we turn to our own comment policy here at Equal Writes.

As it stands now, the comment policy is this:

Equal Writes is a place not only for discussion among feminists and allies, but for reaching (rational, not hateful) people who may not agree with every word we write. However, we require that discussion in comments should be respectful and be directed toward the ideas and argument, not the person. All comments with hate speech, personal attacks,or offensive language will be deleted immediately, as will any comments that contain anti-feminism or misogyny. We require that you use your own name when commenting on posts; everyone who joins our discussion should be prepared to be held accountable for what they say here. If you don't use your name, we will not publish your comment.

Basically, we require a name (theoretically a real name, but this is all but impossible to enforce on the internet), and we reject comments with hate speech, personal attacks, offensive language, anti-feminism, or misogyny.

Although hate speech, personal attacks, and offensive language are reasonably straightforward, anti-feminism and misogyny are more problematic. Here at Equal Writes we have worked under the assumption that there is more than one feminism; thus, what seems antithetical to the core principles of one feminism may be a legitimate argument from another viewpoint. What exactly does anti-feminist mean, besides the rejection of feminism simply for being feminism? Misogyny is a legitimate concern on a feminist blog, yet sometimes the line between misogyny and a crudely worded complicating critique of feminist ideas is blurry. I'm wary of accepting too many mildly misogynist ideas by casting them in some vague light of poststructuralism, but I also think that sometimes a closed attitude towards certain criticisms of feminist thought merely drives people to profusely self-identify as feminists or grossly overuse apologetic and contexualizing phrases; the discourse of offense that sometimes descends upon issues as important as those that we discuss here at EW can stifle interesting conversations.

On the other hand, I understand the demand for a safe space. The communities that I have been a part of have always placed a high value on absolute intellectual freedom and free speech. Even if 'absolute intellectual freedom' is an idealistic fantasy, I still believe strongly that open dialogue is essential to empowered citizenship, and feminism is no exception. However, I realize that open dialogue is a consistently positive experience for me because, as a heterosexual white male who attends Princeton University, I can expect to be taken seriously almost all the time. I accept that the experience of oppressed classes can be filled with deep suffering, and it seems more than appropriate to accommodate that here on EW.

I want to bring this up now so that we can start a discussion about the kind of community we want EW to be. Writing almost exclusively as Princeton students, we present an idiosyncratic viewpoint characterized both by a bias towards academia and the myopia of our relatively privileged experiences. Nevertheless, I think that it is possible and necessary for us to work towards developing an understanding of a broad range of experiences, thereby contextualizing and enhancing our awareness of gender in our own lives.

So I want to leave this as an open question: what do you want EW to look like?

1 Comments:

At April 20, 2009 at 10:52 PM , Blogger echomikeromeo said...

I'm going to disagree with the non-anonymous comment policy. The internet has changed how we think about "holding people accountable" for what they say; blogs expect that readers will comment under pseudonyms or anonymously. Many people who comment online have legitimate reasons for writing pseudonymously--take a blog like sm-feminist, for example, where being out can be a major life risk. The internet has allowed this type of freedom, which I think is a wonderful thing. Pseudonymity does not impair the ability to hold someone accountable for their words or actions.

 

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