Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Jay Rosen Inappropriately Uses the "T" Word

Terror in the Blogosphere?

Jay Rosen seems to think so...or at least that was his impression of what some of us were projecting when we were asking cogent, curious questions at Blogher.

I'm kind of sorry I didn't get the chance to go up to Jay after the conference and give him an earful. I was sitting next to Debi Jones of Mobile Jones when the comments about "terror" came out of Jay's mouth. She, myself, and many at are table were stunned that someone would come away with that impression, and thought it something of a cheap shot way of tying Blogher in with the terrorist bombings in Great Britain.

Even after I've read Jay's post on what he meant when he said what he said, it still doesn't wash. Not with me. Jay knocked us down a peg by using the "T" word. It was a low blow, a kind of passive-aggressive way of putting the women in their place by telling them they sounded like a bunch of frightened Little Red Riding Hoods.

I'm disappointed and angered by this. Jay should have listened more keenly and without judgement.

I do not understand how women asking questions about how to do this or that, or whether or not they are infringing on someone's copyright, or whether it is wise to post pics or speak about certain topics, constitutes experssions of terror. That's the kind of attitude I would expect from male bloggers and is probably why those questions never came up in other male-dominated blog conferences.

And why Jay's use of the "T" word felt something like a betrayal.

It would have been interesting for him to sit in at the Birds of a Feather session on Identity blogging. Then again, perhaps he would have taken some of those comments as the comments of a "terrorized" group...but they were hardly that. Many of us were discussing how we feel about putting ourselves out there--that it is wise and judicious to disguise the names of people in our lives not just to shield them from stalkers, but to protect them from possible ramifications in the workplace or in other aspects of their, and our, lives. That it might be wise to not post pics of one's children--or at least be discreet about revealing where one lives if one wants to do so.

In the BOF session, I metioned that I do not blog in gory detail about my personal relationships--considering some of those gory details might involve BDSM (I did, however, mention the "D" word and got much kudos for my guts for that). I know a particular young author, male and submissive, who does talk about many gories and uses those as fodder for his fiction. He, however, is far better placed--academically and professionally--than I am. I mentioned that I consciously choose not to expose myself in that way because I know that if I were to do so, it would be perceived as in bad taste.

Being able to take the heat for exposing oneself was also a big part of our conversation, and our abilities to take the heat were subjective. Someone mentioned that I should blog more freely about my escapades because males can get away with more. Yet I am very aware that I do not have the clout to withstand any heat that might come my way for being so frank. I live in a conservative area. I could, conceivably, suffer some professional fallout from it.

But I am, emphatically, not "terrorized" into blogging silence. I don't believe that being aware of consequences for certain actions is tatamount to being terrorized. It's just the way things are, and I, personally, at this point in time, do not have the professional nor economic clout to be the iconoclastic proof of a lack of terrorism in the blogosphere.

Who knows...maybe when I finally get that plum position, and a steady income, and an employer who doesn't think it's a big deal what I blog about, I just might blog about it. Then again, maybe I'll still enjoy the mental exercise engendered by the subtlely turned phrase and the challenge of euphemism.

But asking questions, being respectful of other people's space on our blogs, and being discreet when necessary, certainly does not amount to being terrorized. It's the all-or-nothing mentality engendered in Jay Rosen's use of the "T" word that could have serious consequences for all bloggers, not just women, somewhere down the line.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, Liz Ditz here, from I speak of Dreams.

I saw you at the conference, but didn't come up and introduce myself.

I agree with you about Rosen's comments. What I heard was a lot of the commenters wanting to have their anxiety lessened--to be reassured that there was no real risk of

*bad people coming to take their children away
*unwanted attention.

Some of the anxiety I heard was about disclosing too much -- how can you use this tool (blogging) without betraying others' confidence? That to me is a reasonable question.

Another anxiety was about loss of control over one's public image.

Another sort of question seemed to have the subtext, "What mistakes have you made that you can share with us?" -- mostly about too much disclosure, or unwanted repercussions.

I mean, if you ask Dooce, who was fired for her blog, that's a reasonable question!

Maybe the title of the noon talk is in part at fault "Flame, Blame and Shame" -- catchy, but presupposes shame, after all.

I wish that part of the conf. had been, well, more didactic. For example, I have a rule that I do not allow the 7 words on my blog, so if someone uses those words, I edit the comment. I also edit--restate-- comments that are potentially actionable (libel and slander). Amy Geren ( has a good taxonomy of "vermin" -- people who have bad internet manners. It would have been more helpful, I think, to have someone talk about how to manage your own reactions to this type of behavior.

In short, I didn't hear "terror" -- I heard anxiety, appropriate anxiety, seeking some reasonable reassurance.

Anyway, hello, hope to meet you in person some time.