Last week, after the bombings at the Boston Marathon, that quote from Mr. Rogers about looking for helpers amidst tragedy saw a lot of circulation. During tragedies we are inspired and comforted by the willingness of others to be kind and generous. I lost track of how many articles were popping up, celebrating common decency. I absolutely support this kind of media attention- we should celebrate good people way more than we do! But I was surprised by how surprising we all seemed to find our own humanity. There was an amazement that played out in my mind like a nature documentary on public access television narrated by an enthusiastic man with a British accent, “Look there! Shh, now, don’t startle them. We’ve just found something quite rare: a tribe of humans being NICE to each other!”
I’m going to make a bit of leap here and argue that the reason we’re surprised by displays of kindness is… the internet. The internet has made us mean; it’s exposed and enabled our nastier sides. The internet is culturally pervasive which has resulted in a normalizing of anonymity, cruelty, and the absurd schoolyard idea that name calling is an effective form of argumentation. Maybe all of that is too much of a leap, but I really feel that if Blanche Dubois were around now, she certainly wouldn’t be inclined to rely on the kindness of strangers.
I launched this site a few hours ago. I’ve provided several pages worth of discussion around my own positionality and the scope, limitations, and hopes for this project. I think I made my desire for productive discussion and willingness to hear opposing opinions clear. I have one gentle introductory post in which I barely touch on Serious Feminist Issues, focusing on basic social and gender injustice issues instead. And, wouldn’t you know? I’ve already received some aggressive (though largely nonsensical) messages. My feelings aren’t hurt by the stereotypical names that get thrown at people who identify as feminists. Yes, I am a bitch! Bitches get stuff done! But attacking me personally isn’t productive for any of us.
If briefly ascertaining that the gender dichotomy our society embraces is problematic incites such cranky reactions, I can only imagine what will emerge as we progress. With that in mind, I’m going to establish some house rules. I’d like to note that I’m incredibly annoyed that I have to publish these obvious statements at all. We can do better than this, folks. These rules may change as necessary over time. I reserve the complete right to remove any content from this site, at any time, without explanation or justification. Of course that shouldn’t ever be necessary if we can all agree to observe the following rules:
- We will observe tenants of basic human decency. The Golden Rule, y’all: treat others as you would have them treat you!
- We will not take advantage of the anonymity the internet affords us. We are not cowards. We will conduct ourselves in a manner that reflects our best selves.
- We will question the ideology, not the individual. “Feminism makes me uncomfortable because…” instead of “I hope you BURN you cunty bitch whore hairy legged lesbian man hater!!!111!!!”
- We will call out the action, not the individual. “That is racist because…” instead of “You’re a racist!”
- We will not respond to opposing viewpoints until we have a) taken several deep breaths b) reread for clarity and c) formulated a response to the ideology/action, not the individual.
- We will address issues at the local level first, avoiding sweeping generalizations. “Religious extremism is…” instead of “Everyone from that religion is a terrorist!!!!!”
- We will educate each other gently, remembering that we are all doing the best we can with what we have. “Have you considered…” instead of “You’re an incompetent, ignorant, ingrate who is not worth a moment of my time.”
- We will all do the best we can with what we have. “From my perspective and experiences…” instead of “I don’t know anything about this but I will shout my opinion loudly!”
- We will do our best to act as humans worthy of participating in the miracle of conscious existence.
- As participants, readers, and casual observers of this blog, we all agree to follow the above rules to the best of our ability.