I am a creature of enormous privilege.
Like, it’s pretty big? I get that. I’m not just a white dude, I’m a white dude with a pretty big social media footprint. And sometimes I think I can use my privilege and my social media to do Good Things™ and instead I’m like Wreck-It-Ralph who just breaks the building and shits up the cake instead and then nobody can have the cake or the building. Or something. Think Godzilla stomping on a city not because he hates the city but because he was trying to help someone who dropped their phone on the sidewalk —
“HERE I WILL GET THAT FOR YOU OH GOD I JUST CRUSHED A BUS FULL OF CHILDREN.”
Today I peeled back the Internet curtain and looked into that #AskELJames hashtag and thought, “Well, there’s some ugly stuff going on there and it’s against a woman,” and, man, I dunno, I thought I’d speak truth to power but I think I actually am the power? And maybe EL James is the power, too? Some folks pointed out that I was punching down and ignoring a lot of the really awful things James has done and it became increasingly clear that I am speaking from a place of ignorance and that runs the risk of doing more harm than good. Like, my goal is not to use my privilege to take over conversations that aren’t mine. I’m not here to police people. Particularly women. I think of myself as feminist, but maybe I’m not a particularly good one.
And it feels like if I want to be a better one, then it’s more appropriate for me to take a backseat instead of clumsily pawing at the steering wheel and driving us all into Mansplain Gulch.
In other words, I’m going to stop talking about stuff like this because I don’t own this space, I don’t own this place, and I’m reminded of that somewhat regularly. There are better, smarter people who can talk about this stuff, and I’ll signal boost them, instead. Far better than than me being all like I’LL FIX THAT FOR YOU WITH MY LILY WHITE MANSTICK HERE JUST LET ME EXPLAIN SOME THINGS LITTLE LADIES. I hate to think I’ve been that guy.
Instead, I’ll focus more on the whole writing-advicey, pop-culturey, kid-havingy stuff. I’ll cop to that some of this is also a little self-care-related. Like, I know I’m out there pissing people off — I foolishly vanity-search myself on social media, so I see that folks think I’m sea-lioning and mansplaining and all the things I hope I’m not doing but, shit, maybe I am? It’s not my intention, but again: see earlier reference to Godzilla. Some folks think I get some kind of special mileage out of this (sales, maybe, or attention, or cookies or whatever the slang is), but mostly, I think I’m just stressing people out, and then that stresses me out because I feel like I’m not achieving my goals. I’m trying to be a good ally, whatever that means, but I fear it’s making me a worse one, instead. A fellow author exhorted me to “butt out, dude,” so —
This is me, butting out.
163 responses to “In Which I Learn To Talk Less And Listen More”
Wow… I was surprised to read this. I thought the earlier post was spot on and forwarded it to several friends. One of the things I love about you is that you recognize your privilege and try to use it for good. With that said, if you need to “butt out” do what you think it is best. Just know that I’ll miss your hilarious voice of reason on the hot button issues.
Yeah =) I also fwd’d the earlier post. The underlying (content-specific) critiques of James aside, I’m frequently made very uncomfortable by the vitriol that permeates most discussions about her & her work. I’m so uncomfortable that i don’t feel i *can* express an opinion. I usually deflect & make a mkting comment or refrain entirely. And i do believe you explain in your post, in part, why i feel that way. And i really like your posts about women’s issues. They frequently express, more clearly than i would myself, my feelings & opinions. I say speak. Your online persona is a pretty damn nice, even-tempered person. Wish there were more of that around.
Wow. I think you may just be the all time crow-eating champion.
You’re a writer and a reader – a member in good standing of both communities. Plus, you’re human (unless and until you confess otherwise), which entitles you to have an opinion and express it.
FWIW, I’ve never thought you were condescending or mansplaining, and definitely not about the #ELJames debacle. I’m not blowing smoke up your derriere; I didn’t agree with everything you said in your “Online Is IRL” column but I think you said it very well. You always do.
As a woman, I’ll vouch for you on that post. I may be ignorant as well of what EL James has done, hasn’t done. I haven’t read her stuff and have no intention to. But what you said about how people behave online, very true! People are beyond rude when there’s no one to hold them accountable for it.
So please, feel free to continue to speak your mind. No matter what you say, you’re bound to piss someone off. But just know, there’s those of us who completely agree!
Sometime retreat is the bravest thing you can do, most especially in social media.
I didn’t get that impression at all. Quite the opposite: I think you made some good points about our social media world. I’ve come out quite publicly against 50 Shades of Grey, largely because of how poorly researched and written it is. That’s on E.L. James for making such a poor attempt at such a noble job.
However, that doesn’t give us the right to act like bullies on the playground and assholes. We have a responsibility to be civil to each other and have the conversation. To share our grievances without destroying each other.
James should be accountable for her work–but we shouldn’t lambast her or be cruel.
You were absolutely right in what you said, and I didn’t get the impression you were “mansplaining” at all. Quite the opposite. You were an author in the social media world sharing his view. That you happen to have a larger footprint of influence is a privilege, but I doubt it’s one that you walked into without effort and hardwork. 🙂
All the best,
Soooo …. your whole post is invalidated because the woman you were talking about may or may not have done some shitty things? (I don’t know, and I don’t care enough to find out).
It’s OK to be horribly abusive to someone because “they started it”?
Excuse me, Mr. Wendig, I’m going to ignore this mea cupla and have no regrets about all the places I shared your previous post.
People who complained: The more allies you attack, the fewer allies will be comfortable speaking up. I, for one, LIKE to know that the people that have my back will go “Hey, wait a minute now, jerk” when I’m being bullied. No matter how “nice” of a person the bully TOTALLY IS.
There is nothing wrong with telling people to stop flinging poo at each other online. I thought your previous post did that pretty well.
Part of being responsible with one’s privilege is encouraging the world to be a better, less poopy place, and I think you work pretty hard at that. But if it feels like you need to step back, then do so in order to take an objective (as much as possible) look at what you’re doing.
As a woman, as a feminist, as an author, I tend to think your opinions on this social stuff are thoughtful and smart, and I not-infrequently share your posts on my social media. Frankly, the fact that you’re even thinking about all of this at all and evaluating your part in the debate suggests wholesome things about your intentions.
Chuck, I’ve got to say, you brought up a good point. Your comment made me sit back and ask myself whether I was allowing my desire for schadenfreude overwhelm my objectivity, and, to a degree, I did. I think it IS important to criticize her because of what she glorifies in this case, but it’s ALSO important to remember that we are talking to actual people. That’s something that’s so easy to forget, as was pointed out in the last comment thread. Golden rule and all that. And I thank you for reminding me of that. We can highlight the awful nature of the content without lashing out irrationally. In fact, due to the gravity of the issue, it’s even more important to make a considerate objection rather than simply lashing out.
Also, an important question: is raising the social aspect of this only feeding the Big Publisher monster that puts sales above the crap they spew? Is it really helping to create the biting satire that points out the egregious nature of this work in a way that draws media attention yet again–but media attention that will undoubtedly ignore the actual objection and only comment on the volume of vitriol? And does it just feed the fans who rise to defend her without thinking about the vile nature of her work? Is it just drawing people CLOSER to her crap and not teaching anything?
Yeah, this line of thought is making me somewhat nihilist. However, sitting back and thinking BEFORE leaping to action…realizing that rolling in the schadenfreude is a natural response, but rarely is it the most useful response (and almost never is it the compassionate response)…these are vital considerations.
So thank you. A lesson learned. A consideration made. And yeah, I think I’m a bit more thoughtful for it. A vital (and seemingly rare) character trait in the world where knee-jerk responses reign all too often.
Thank you. The best thing you can do with your privilege is boost marginalized voices and listen to what they say.
I don’t think you’ve been ‘that guy,” and your earlier blog post made me think, which is often why I read your blog. (I also really enjoy the images you create, although I wish ‘lily white manstick’ wasn’t now burned in my brain). 🙂 In my opinion, you’re being too hard on yourself.
Hey, Chuck, I appreciate this attack of “I am not worthy (in this particular area)!” Thank you for expressing it. That said, somewhere around 99.5% of your posts inspire me and give me enormous relief from a lot of what’s out there. I come away from reading your rational insanity refreshed and, well, just plain happy. I’d rather you never butt out of any conversation. But naturally you must do what suits your conscience best.
(The .5%, by the way, is when you mention genre romance, which seems to be a lacuna in your vast knowledge of popular entertainment. But I haven’t read all of your posts from Day 1, so perhaps I’ve missed some brilliant and accurate comments about genre romance fiction and the gap in knowledge is, instead, mine.)
Thanks for what you do. Please keep on doing it.
I don’t know, I think there’s something to be said for standing up to the dogpiling snarkshow that was the EL James hashtag. Maybe you’re not the one to be saying it, fine. Still, treating a woman like shit (which was a lot of what was going on with that hashtag) even though she made a lot of money off fantasizing a man treating a woman like shit is still shitty. It’s all shitty. Which is exactly when someone needs to say it stinks, ya know?
But a straight white man is not the one to make that call in this case, which is what Chuck finally realized.
Mr. Wendig was not “making a call”, he was telling people that maybe they could stop being shitty to each other. Even if you think that the person you’re shitting on “deserves” it. You really want THAT to be a good reason to heap abuse on someone? Because as a person who was convinced of that at one point, that’s not a good direction to be headed.
I’m OK with someone telling people to stop being shitty regardless of who they are. However, given that there were women who were echoing the sentiment in Chuck’s first post, it might have been better to point to them than shoot out a quick think piece on it. I still don’t think publicly shaming/mocking a woman (no matter what she’s done) sets a great example for anybody.
Weirdly enough, I think being a straight white man is EXACTLY who should be saying this stuff.
Think about it.
The reason the internet seems to hate STRAIGHT WHITE MAN-MONSTER is because, for far too long, those were the people that said: “Huh? What? Me? I’m not doing anything wrong.”
This is why the whole privilege blergh-ness exists! Traditionally, it’s been straight white males ALL THE WAY DOWN. Their way or the highway. They were right, even when they were wrong. They ran the show for us silly little womenfolk.
That’s changing. You know how it’s changing? These same men are opening their eyes and saying: “Uhm, wait a minute, this is fucking crazy, STAHP!”
Those assholes who haven’t seen the light yet are much more likely to listen to him than they are to listen to me.
Maybe we should stop tearing down those trying to help, just because they are technically the same demographic as those we’re working against.
Chuck isn’t wrong just because of his LILY-WHITE MANSTICK (Thanks for that. That’ll be with me forever, I hope you’re proud). He’s a person, like you’re a person, like I’m a person, like E.L. Fucking James is a person.
Can we all keep that in mind please?
P.S: ….. I’m sorry, the original post actually had nothing whatsoever to do with feminism. We should keep THAT in mind, too.
How about “decent human being” then? It’s not a function of privilege to step up and call out universally bad behavior. It’s a function of being a decent human being. I’m the last person to defend the delicate flower of EL James’s books (or her lack of ethics), but personal attacks serve no one, and dilute the original criticisms. When was the last time somebody yelling, “You’re a worthless piece of shit” made you seriously contemplate your life choices?
I have to say that while I don’t always agree with you 100% (I have little stake in this particular issue), I have found that your posts and the discussion they generate is literally the only place I’ve found online with actual civil discussion of issues, without degenerating to the extremists on each side hurling insults and party-lines nor one side completely quashing the other with sheer mass. I will miss that.
I can certainly see your point about how your large (and vocal!) following could mean you have to refrain from some discussions based entirely on how visible your posts/opinions/tweets/whatevers are. Just remember not to refrain too hard, because you are a good ally to a lot of groups, and everyone can use a good ally!
The only comment I’ll make is to keep in mind that if you’re not part of the community having the debate/fight what looks like cruelty could be satire. If you don’t know the entire history of the situation, it’s better to stay away from it. I know nothing about video games which why I don’t comment on them. Not my circus, not my monkeys, yanno?
Tiffany Reisz, Who Still Thinks You’re Rad
I *am* a reader/fan of the community, and it didn’t look like satire to me, either. Maybe it is indeed, but there that doesn’t mean that satire can’t be used to bully someone. If the target isn’t one of the ones “in the know”, then it’s still bullying, in my opinion. I know it felt like that when I was the target. “Oh jeez, we’re joking around” doesn’t make it feel better.
You always have something insightful to say, Chuck, so I’ve never viewed your opinion that way! But I also think taking periodic breaks from this frustrating viper pit of crap we call the Online World is super necessary too.
And sadly, another reasonable and informative voice, lost to the New Rule of “Only Certain People Should Be Allowed To Talk About A Thing That’s Happening.”
Fuck a BUNCH of that.
Please google privilege before you say anything else.
Let me guess: 20-something, middle-class, and totally just discovered Betty Friedan, right?
This has nothing to do with privledge, it’s relevant commentary on current events. People on Twitter are shitty, and it’s not out of line to say something about that. Talking about privledge has it’s place, but swinging the privledge stick too widely runs the risk of silencing voices with relevant things to say.
Thank you, Jennifer! I think when people become too trollish with these terms it takes AWAY the focus on the topic. People who have valid points and reasonable voices to add to an argument are scared to speak up.
Flinging poop at a pile of poop isn’t going to make it go away, it’s going to make the pile bigger.
Exactly this, yes.
NO ONE is saying that Chuck isn’t allowed to talk about a thing. His post, because he’s outside of that certain part of fandom, was made without the background in why #AskELJames went the way it did and so people informed him that it was more than just a random dogpiling.
It’s not sit down and shut up, it’s sit down and think a minute about your reaction and where it’s coming from and if you have all the information, especially when you’re on the outside of that community.
Funny, if nobody is saying that. You might want to look at the majority of comments to this point, because people sure seem to think that’s what’s been said. So perhaps it’s time to “sit down and think for a minute” about how demands that commentary only come from “inside the community” might appear?
It’s not about only coming from inside the community it’s about having the information before you go barging in.
The background of why the hashtag went that way? Nope. Just no. It doesn’t matter what she wrote, it doesn’t matter if she was shitty to people on the internet. NO ONE deserves a pile-on like that.
Sure, there may have been legitimate criticisms of her work and portrayal of BDSM, but there were also people saying horrible things about her TO her. Just because she’s been awful does not make it okay for others to be awful.
I don’t take anonymous phrases for names seriously, anyway, so whatever.
I can’t really judge about your post on #AskELJames. I do know that you were right about one thing: she needs to fire her media team. The whole hashtag has become a sh*tshow and social media disaster.
That said, there’s nothing wrong with saying the equivalent of “Hey, there’s this thing going on and it’s kinda bothering me.” Nothing mansplain-y about going “Uh, is it just me or can everyone else see the Emperor’s wille?”
This right here is being a good ally, because it shows that you listening, hearing, and aware. I don’t think your previous post was mansplain-y or egregiously stepping on feminist toes, but you didn’t necessarily have all the information about what what going on in that tag (some of it *is* gross, most of it is justified, though possibly rude, questioning) and for you to take the time to recognize that and acknowledge it is great work.
Man, I’m a privileged white dude too so it’s hard to support you without looking like I’m piling on, but you made some very valid points about Internet rage and the humanity of social media user that was relevant to all genders and really needed to be said.
This sort of stuff depresses and angers me because The Stick Of Internet Judgement is wielded so carelessly by a wide variety of folks without regard to consequences and it’s a shame to see someone called out for suggesting that maybe even someone who has been awful to other people doesn’t deserve the level of hatred being spewed her way.
I’m so confused. What I read in your first post: don’t be mean to people. What this post is telling me: I was mansplaining and I’m going to shut up now.
Huh? I mean,seriously, what? I don’t think you talked down to anyone. I don’t think you “called anyone out.” And I certainly don’t think you “mansplained” (a term that is getting way too much usage, just like “bully” did a couple years ago).
Please, Chuck, can you explain your crime to me and why you should “butt out?” Because my only take away from your first post was “Maybe don’t be a dick online.” I was glad to see you take a stand against public shaming. Now I’m kinda dumbstruck that you’re backpedaling.
This. And I’m a woman and very much a feminist. I read the hashtag post as 1) Chuck giving his opinion (and not claiming to speak for any group, organization, or movement) and 2) him basically saying that he wasn’t thrilled with EL James for various reasons (as many, legitimately, aren’t) but that 3) you can criticize or bring up serious issues online without getting mean about it.
Please do explain what was the problem with that? I also don’t understand some of the comments here (“Glad to hear this”) – Twitter is a public forum. Which community is the only one that’s allowed to comment on the hashtag or the controversy that is and always has been EL James. Many feminists don’t like her. Many in the BDSM community are not happy with what she’s written – but I’ve met others who love it. So… who gets to weigh in?
It’s a mistake to say that only people within a given group can discuss issues regarding that group. Case in point: a Black scholar on NPR the other day saying, (paraphrase) “We need white people discussing white privilege more often, so the discussion gets wider and the perpetrators and the observers start to question and understand current social norms.”
I haven’t always agreed with Chuck, but I respect his right to have an opinion (whatever his gender, skin colour, or sexual orientation). Especially as he clearly TRIES (none of us always get it right) to speak with empathy and understanding, and generally preaches same.
So why the mea culpa?
What’s wrong with having an opinion? Or hoping for a little decency? Reads a little like you’ve been browbeaten into biting your (digital) tongue. I’m not sure this is a good thing.
I read your earlier post and decided to take a pass on reading what was going on with that hashtag, so I can’t speak to this particular issue (busy Monday!). However, I’d put money on the fact that you’re probably being too hard on yourself. Your heart was clearly in the right place and you were trying to help. The lovely Internet tends to kick the shit out of people for that, so bravo for speaking up. I’d hate to see you trim down the subjects you tackle. *Vocal* allies are good and helpful and necessary. You’ve said some very good things for and about women in the past. Don’t stop just because you may not have been perfect on this one.
Please don’t. There have been so many times I have wanted to thank you for being the voice that some people might actually hear (when they would have been deaf to others). I haven’t been able to thank you because you’ve had to close comments on those posts when they have become hostile and harassing. That you take the risk to be harassed is important. It matters to those of us who scream at the top of our voices, only to be told we’re overreacting. You do it well, and you do it humbly. I’d like to think you make people think. It matters.
Alright, I’ll be honest. The idea of flinging poo at EL James was so deliciously enticing to me. I was climbing on that bandwagon with a bag full of steamy throwable shit on my shoulder and very much looking forward to the occasion when I hear this tiny voice from afar and it’s chasing the bandwagon yelling WAIT, THINK BEFORE YOU POO. Or throw poo. Whichever. The point is, you were right about the ouroboros. I want to fling poo at EL James and her work because I have watched her almost single-handedly glorify abusive relationships to the point where I’ve heard girls say “I want a boyfriend like Christian Gray.” And that upsets me, because I work personally with women and men who HAVE had boyfriends like Christian Gray and they have been irrevocably scarred by their experiences. So I was all about throwing some shit and blowing up other shit and screaming at this author for the crap that she’s calling literature.
But I won’t. Because luckily I checked the terribleminds blog first, and you’re right. Throwing my poo won’t erase her poo. In fact, it will double the poo. Two-fold poo. Poo fold. And we can’t change dialogue by using anti-female slurs to make this author feel like shit. We can’t change minds by descending like a pack of vicious and hungry wolves on authors who write from an uninformed and damaging viewpoint.
So, Chuck. Chuckey boy. Chuckey Bo-Peep. Even if you’re not feeling like you’re informed enough to touch feminist issues, and you’re being a good ally by avoiding the yawning chasm that is Mansplain Gulch, you know a thing or two about what promotes dialogue and what derails it. You’re absolutely right; EL James is (presumably) a human. A real life human who will be reading her real life Twitter feed and maybe not feeling so great. She did not do a kind thing when she published her trilogy. She really derailed discourse. She really hurt a lot of survivors. But if all we do and kick and scream, we won’t get anywhere. So we can put forth the effort to sit her down and kindly and explain why her work has not been received well among its better-informed readers and we can articulate what we would like to see from works that tackle abuse and BDSM and the sometimes fine line between them.
But on the other hand, now I have this bag full of poo and no one to throw it at.
SO MUCH THIS.
Yes, Kaidan. Yes yes yes!!! As a survivor who had a VERY hard time coming to grips with her BDSM fantasies, I know it can be a murky, confusing world; a world that doesn’t need authors who don’t know the difference making it murkier (as did Twilight – men/non-men sneaking in and watching you sleep IS *NOT* ROMANTIC!).
But that’s no right to be abusive toward anyone. Telling someone “well, you deserved it” is something we should all want to avoid. 😉
I think maybe the lesson to take away from this is that it’s hard to try to jump in and break up a food fight without catching a bit of mashed potatoes on your shirt.
Well-intentioned or not, it’s hard to jump into a big ol’ mess like this one without getting a lot of people jumping back on you. Kinda like catching a stray punch in a bar fight.
Standing against the howling mob? How can that be bad?
Chuck, I can only echo the above commenters raving about your insightful posts and general awesomeness. I’m a female and bi (Tumblr points!) but this shouldn’t matter. Your being a straight white male should have no impact on whether or not you can say something, especially if it’s a well researched opinion. I didn’t actually read through the hashtag but you were perfectly within your rights for that post. What’s the point vilifying people for stuff like that?
I don’t know, Chuck. I totally get where you’re coming from. I’ve written a post almost exactly like this one where I realized I often need to listen more and speak less, especially about things that I’m only nominally involved in, but the thing that bothered me about the #AskELJames twitter fiasco was that there were a huge chunk of tweets bashing the author rather than the work, and that makes me uncomfortable. I get the hate for the books, but we should be criticizing the books not the author, right? For me, I just don’t get it. If people hate EL James so much, the fastest way to get her out of the spotlight and her books off of the shelves is to stop buying them. Stop going to the movies based on her books. For me, that’s what I read in your previous post, and I think there’s value in that. Of course, I could be missing something, so my opinion may not mean much.
I never thought you were mansplaining or occupying spaces which aren’t yours. Your posts on certain subject always seemed to me very pertinent and smart, with careful wording.
Speaking as a woman feminist who read and did not like (nor appreciate) the first Fifty Shades of Grey book–though I know nothing about E.L. James herself–I wanted to comment that I appreciated your “don’t be a jerk” post quite a bit. In fact, I’ve always appreciated your voice on the topic of respecting people as people no matter who they are.
I’ll miss hearing your voice on subjects that need bold, yet gracious words from people like you, but whatever you believe is right. I look forward to whatever you focus on posting in the future.
Speaking as a gay woman, aspiring writer, and user of the interwebs, I can tell you that there is definitely a line between being a feminist and a mainsplainer, but I would not want you (or anyone thinking like you) to be deterred by that uncertainty! Here’s why:
First: the assholes will NOT “butt out.” They don’t give any f—ks about the impact/relevancy of their speech and they WILL keep speaking – loudly – with ALL CAPS – for all of eternity. If the sensible folks, the well-meaning and compassionate advocates, are silenced because they are worried they might be barely pushing a line in error, then all we are left with are the pure asshats. Please don’t abandon us!
Second: this is actually how the conversation is supposed to go! If we are LGBTs, WWOOs (women with opinions online), or abuse survivors, then our viewpoint is natural. We are on our side, we live it and understand it, and (usually) we know what words to use. But then there are the allies – those who are new at this, those who care but don’t know what to say, those who despise injustice in general and are just decent people looking for someplace to be decent and we (the LGBTs and women and POCs, etc) have LITERALLY NO PROBLEM helping you learn the words. We want to have that conversation. We want to share, educate and welcome you. Don’t be afraid to ask us: how can I help?
It is precisely the moment when you stop considering your words that you become one of them. It is exactly what “they” want if you stop speaking as an ally. Don’t presume, but don’t be afraid either, because we need you! Take the SCOTUS ruling last week – none of the 5 Majority Justices are gay, and they didn’t always use the right words, but they supported us the best way they could anyway – even knowing they had to argue it out with the King of White Privilege, Justice Scalia!
Sorry such a long post… But it is scary to think that good people like you might “give up” talking just because you might not always say it the right way. You don’t always have to be right to be on the right side.
***the more you know***
I hate that I feel like I have to post my credentials to contribute to these discussions. I’m female! I believe in equality for all! I am this high and can ride this ride!
Mr. Wendig, what you said originally was spot on, especially about the social media shamey-go-round. The truth is, not even all feminists agree on what is right, or wrong. What makes a good ally and what is condescending mansplaining doom. That some people have made you retreat from speaking your mind, and doing it well makes me horribly angry and sad on a lot of levels.
When you post about these issues, I learn. Your posts make me think. Whether you’re right or wrong, they give me fodder for considering my own positions. There’re reasons I read you, and Scalzi, and others when I could be reading “smarter” people on the topic.
You’re me, in a way. Imperfect and still learning. Not afraid to talk about it and be wrong sometimes. I inevitably feel like these “smarter” people are talking down to me. They’re often women, they’re studied and learned and “authorities” on the subject – and I want nothing to do with them. They’re theoretically standing up for my rights, and I respect that. They’re also alienating me and not speaking to what I feel.
Please don’t let the turkeys get you down. I really enjoy what you have to say. You make me think, and that’s a blessing. Mistakes will happen. It doesn’t matter if you get it perfect. It only matters that you earnestly try.
Stop eating crow, dude.
Mainly because I like crows but mostly (does that adverb go with the first?) because as a social media icon (I’m call you that, not you), you had a right to note what was happening. Maybe you went a bit too far…but hey! We writers put ourselves out there…we have no choice unless we want our stuff wrapped up in virtual pink ribbon and discovered when our kids try to erase all the searches for poisons and such on our hard drive before the funeral.
But I digress. Actually I didn’t see anything wrong with that post and, in fact, shared it to the brave, the few who follow me.
But, gee, thanks for all the white, male privilege angst. Good to see it sometimes.
Just another “little lady”
Chuck, please don’t quit commenting because others tell you you’re “too privileged”. I don’t always agree with what you have to say, but I like the way that you remind people it is an opinion. Besides, if only people who come from “non-privileged” backgrounds in a sense, comment on things like feminism, then we would only have their perspectives. Therefore, we would never be able to have an honest conversation about what the world thinks about these issues. Everyone needs to participate in society in order for us to figure out what needs to be done, what direction we are going in, and what those of us who are not so “privileged” need to begin doing to help others see from our eyes. There is a terrible trend growing out in the world right now – the idea that you cannot speak on important matters unless you come from a difficult past, or situation, etc. We need everyone’s voices!
Besides, I honestly think it is the duty of those who come from “non-privileged” situations to be open to questions and help those who are trying to understand. If people are so concerned about the “privileged” not understanding, then those people should HELP THEM TO. You are obviously trying to see things from a broader point of view, and even though I know I will not always agree with your deductions (although for the most part I do), I will always applaud you for trying to do so. We need people in society to look past their own lives, and see life from another point of view, even if their first thoughts aren’t in the right direction. This goes for privileged people, and non-privileged people. And honestly, I hate those terms – privileged, non-privileged – everyone has struggles! Everyone has barriers! Some are larger than others, no doubt, but in the minds of the people experiencing barriers (however small, however large) every one of those obstacles feels terribly intimidating, because it is what those people are used to. I loathe it when others hate on people for being “better off”. Nobody can know the full map of another’s life, or how their mind perceives their world. Who am I to say my difficulties are harder than yours?
And as for the E.L James thing, I think people are being foolish. What I got from it was that important questions can be asked about the value/nature of someone’s work WITHOUT trying to break their soul. I feel like what you are saying, is that it’s important we are respectful in addressing our concerns to someone regardless of whether or not they have been respectful of others. I do personally believe E.L. James has created a lot of negative ideas with her book – and that she should have researched BDSM more. But those opinions have to be addressed to her in a way that is respectful, and dignified, regardless of how she acts upon receiving them. I see that as my duty as a decent human being, and if others chose to dump their unfiltered hatred on her, or you for commenting on the situation, then that is on them. Their inability to address their concerns – however right, however wrong – should only reflect their lack of decorum, not yours.
Keep commenting Chuck, and thank you for being here. I value your thoughts, and opinions. And as a woman, thank you for doing your best to advocate for us.
I understand your position, but I have to say I’ve been relying on you a lot to bring me a lot of deep, important and contemporary issues in a way I could be sure would be insightful and confident and rational and creating a save space to have those discussions in the process. I don’t feel like you occupy spaces that aren’t yours, I feel like you’re making space for people who get way too little in the way of a platform to be heard or at the very least heard about. So, if you feel like you need to take a break, I support that, but please don’t give up the space-making entirely, kay? Because for every emancipated person (from gender, race, sexual identity, social standing, and so on) we need a handful of allies who reflect on their privilege like you do and still put out their what they’re passionate about to the best of their ability. Take care!
Hi Chuck! I am glad to read this post… and appreciate the re-evaluation of your priorities and your goal here.
Reading about the EL twitter chat made me sick. I enjoyed the books well enough, and I can’t disagree with a lot of the comments, but these people attacked her. I can’t imagine being on the other end of that.
I thought your Online is IRL blog was perfect. I’ve been a fan and a blog follower for a few years. Recently… the blog has had a different feel. I’ve typed a response a couple times but then I think to myself… if I post my opposing opinion to this blog, Chuck is going to destroy me, OR his other followers are going to destroy me. And I erase my response and decide to just forget about it and let it go. I’d rather avoid making Chuck-zilla my enemy, thank you very much.
It’s good to remember that we’re all humans behind the screen. And I look forward to your next writerly posts. 🙂
– Sorry, the King of White Hetero-Male Privilege, Justice Scalia. Gotta give him his full due.
Now I want to make him a tiara that says that!
I felt that there were some great points in your last blog post on the effects of internet shaming (no matter who the person is). And there are so many issues floating around in that particular issue that it’s hard to tease out just one. If we put a microscope on public shaming as a problem, it gives validation (or in this case makes it seem like we’re being apologetic toward an issue) to another argument about domestic violence that is also an important issues to address. So it’s hard to tease out these two conflicting important discussions.
I was just following Sam Sykes’ comments online about public shaming and as a writer who was once a psychologist (I worked with kids) the topic really fascinates me, because I’ve seen all the studies and I’ve applied the tools that work best for changing behavior and shaming is so far down on the list….it has the opposite effect in changing behaviors.
I want social change. I’d love to see it happen and I’d hate to offer critique of some ways we do things on the internet to bring education of a problem. I’ve been following a lot of the discussions about race, particularly what it is like to be Black in America (because I’m not Black, and I want to know and understand what *I* can do to bring positive change into our society). I see a ton of people showing the problem and offering ways to make it better in the right way that will bring about change and those positive posts are the people I favor and retweet, post on Facebook, etc. They change my mind and open me up to new perspectives that ultimately are changing the way we think as a society.
First order of business on bringing about change is to reward people who are doing it the right way. Participating in public shaming will not bring about the kind of change in individual behaviors we want to see and sometimes (a lot of the time) we reward shaming. Even though there is a lot of psychological evidence that shows it actually makes a person’s behaviors worse.
I’m not saying we have to let people walk over us when we point out women’s issues, but there are ways to do it to make the point be heard better. I think shaming E.L. James might blow off some steam for a while, but a snarky comment on a twitter convo will probably not bring about positive change. The issue very important (domestic violence, rape, etc), I want others to see it as important, too. Public shaming is not as effective as it might feel.
I know this is a touchy subject for a lot of people, because sometimes complaints bring about change, but I’ll say it’s usually the complaints that lay out the issues, the problems, the disservice we’re doing that bring the change. Not the snarky pile on.
I wrote this post fairly quickly and I’m dyslexic and I talk about this way better in person, so I apologize for any tone issues that might arise in this comment. I don’t mean to make anyone feel terrible for participating in this behavior, just would like people to consider another way of instigating the change they’d like to see.
Arrrrggghhhhhh I’m sympathetic to not always having the fight in you, Chuck, but you’re an amazing ally and I beg of you not to stop talking about your thoughts on anything ever. Just because one person or some people think you’ve overstepped or misstepped doesn’t mean it’s *true*. And even if you HAD (and from where I sit, you hadn’t!) it is still better to think through these issues in public than to just sweep everything under the rug and ignore them. Grar. GRAR. I want to ride up the pirate flag on the RMS FEMINAZI and come riding to your defense.
Very well said 🙂 Its an exhausting battle, and sometimes taking a break is warranted for self-preservation. But I’d hate for anyone to feel like they can’t step back in anytime – even if there’s risk of making a mistake, I’d rather have a bumbling ally than a silent audience… Ermm… not that Chuck is “bumbling”… Bah, you know what I mean. Cheers.
Hah, thank you.
The thing is, am I an amazing ally? I get enough people saying I’m a bad one, or that I’m an ally doing more harm than good (which is to say, a non-ally), and I start to get squicked out.
I get squicked out because:
a) omg what if they’re right because man that would be bad — I know I’ve got a big bullhorn and sometimes maybe I can’t see beyond it and I keep accidentally thwumping people in the head with it.
b) omg even if they’re not right, I get myself into that spotlight and suddenly people are saying occasionally scary things about me — like, I’m abusive? To women of color in particular? And I have no idea where that comes from or why anyone would assert it — I mean, it’s not just “mean” things people are saying (though it goes that way, sometimes), because I can handle mean. I can handle “wendig sucks.” But when people begin questioning my motives or worse, actually suggesting I’m willfully causing harm all in the name of… what, clicks? Man, I don’t want to be seen as that guy. That was never my intent here. DO NO HARM is my hope, so if I’m doing harm — or if I’m giving the impression of harm — then, whoa, shit.
Chuck: You’re overthinking…stop it. As a writer you had the “write” to stick up for a fellow writer. That’s all..no gender or genre about it. It was writer to writer. I would definitely want you in my corner.
So there will always be a school of thought that a man can’t speak for women, that a Christian can’t speak for Muslims, that a cis person can’t speak for trans people. I think that is bullshit. “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist,” etc. etc. People need to stand up for one another, even the people not-like-them-personally, to build a healthy society.
And there is that fine line between signal-boosting the things affected people are saying vs. just broadcasting what you think those affected people should say. But you’re not stomping around all “Well *I* think women should worry more about pay equity and less about some dude whistling at them!” You listen! And look, I’d rather have men speaking for women than NOT DOING SO, because we had a good long time of only women speaking for women and it didn’t get us very far, did it?
Now, intersectionality has always been a rough thing, because sometimes two equally valid causes directly conflict with one another, or have very different frames of reference. Middle-class white women going after the “right to work” where poor women and women of color have been working the whole damn time, for example. And your post yesterday was such an intersection: the glamorization of abuse is, yes, a serious problem that deserves calling out and examination; and at the same time, the free-for-all public stoning/shaming of an individual and the widespread acknowledgement that that’s just how things are on the internet is ALSO a valid and important problem that deserves calling out and examination.
These things are BOTH problematic, and talking about one of them instead of the other is going to inevitably annoy or upset people who are focused on the other axis. But that doesn’t make you wrong or bad, and it doesn’t make them right. (It doesn’t make them wrong, either.) It just means you’re looking at a different topic than they are. And it is TOTALLY POSSIBLE for people to pursue good causes in bad and unethical ways. You can argue sometimes it’s even necessary to do so — see Edith Rigby — but I think it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that we shouldn’t normalize those behaviors as a way to treat everyone you happen to disagree with or have contempt for.
To reiterate: Chuck, if you tell people maybe they’re not behaving in a 100% saintly and virtuous fashion, of course they’re going to tell you you don’t get it, that you’re a bad ally and etc. etc. etc. That doesn’t mean they’re right and you’re wrong. It might mean that they’re right but you are ALSO right and these truths are hard to fit together.
Srsly please keep talking. Please. We need you.
This was a really helpful comment, thank you. I think we’re so used to seeing things here as RIGHT and WRONG that — man, I was literally just about to make a “shades of gray” comment without any self-awareness at all, but let’s just say sometimes we forget the gradient. Thanks, Andrea!
We will never have “allies” if we become more exclusive than the exclusionists.
Keep speaking, Wendig. You have a platform and you can use it for good. And for frack’s sake, stepping up and saying, “Hey, don’t be shitty to people with shitty personal attacks” is not rubbing your privileged parts all over people. It’s being a decent human being. Keep doing that.
Stand by what you wrote. Freedom of speech is a writers version of the holy grail. Never apologize or make excuses for your opinion, no matter what Author tells you to “butt out”. I am a female who has read all of EL James books, and enjoyed them for what they were, fictional stories. However, I am also intelligent enough to know that while I walked away from the books and immediately erased their content from my mind, there are young impressionable women out there who have read her works and are basing future relationships on them . This is scary. I know this was not EL James intention, she is innocent in this regard, but the fact still remains, her books can be seen to condone domestic violence. She also has incorrectly represented the BDSM community (of which I am not a part of), but still, can appreciate their outrage at being incorrectly portrayed. Even in a work of fiction an author still has a responsibility to do their homework and ensure they are fully aware of the impact their work may have. Pablo Picasso said it best, “We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.” I believe this is where she has failed. For a start Miss James did not do her BDSM research, and then went one step further by offending victims of domestic abuse. She sugar coated the violence and possessive stalking by selling it to millions as nothing more than gestures of romance and love. WRONG WRONG WRONG, no matter which way you look at it. Like I said, I enjoyed the books but refuse to read the new one titled “Grey”. Why? Because I have watched enough episodes of criminal minds and real life documentaries to know the sick thought processes a of psychopath, and Mr Christian Grey is definitely one of them. If it was being sold as a crime thriller, I would read it, but as a romance, seriously, get the fuck out of here.
Please don’t self-censor. If your POV is a little skewed because you’re a privileged white guy who doesn’t write romance or erotica, then acknowledge it and learn from the dialogue that comes from it. It’s the dialogue that provokes thought, and we all learn from it. Learning doesn’t happen when only Approved People Who Matter are allowed to speak.
Even great people can be considered assholes to somebody. I believe in the freedom of speech thing a little too much that, even when I see the not-so-great people that I’m totally convinced really ARE assholes spouting off with their hate and their bigotry and their privilege and so on… I still have to feel like they’re allowed to do it. Yes, secretly I want the Earth to yawn beneath them and swallow them hole and blow them out the planet’s rectum Vesuvius, but there’s a simple truth in “I get to say what I think, so you get the same.” That way of thinking is what gets us marriage equality so I’m not going to backtrack on it ever.
Your blog, your pedestal, your voice. That’s what it comes down to. If you mansplain sometimes (don’t think you did here), if you go off on a topic that you’re not the most authoritative spokesperson for, doesn’t matter. You pay the upkeep, you post what you want to post. We all decide to click or not. Reason most of us are here is because we either dig what you’re saying or we’re shitstarters looking to come at you, bro. In either case, it means you’re doing something right.
By the by, telling people it’s okay to hate the game without so much hating of the player is solid advice. That’s what I took from what you had to say. I doesn’t take any inside baseball to see that can apply to this situation or pretty much any other one. The concept is without race, gender, privilege, and, most of all, malice. Some Zen shit there.
What most folks here have said. I don’t like having to show my qualifying cards at the door to able to make a point, but I’ll do it today. I’m a black, female writer who is a feminist and has Christian inclinations. I try not to judge anyone elses’ ideas or opinions because I’m also an unwavering supporter of freedom of expression..of course, with all the accompanying costsr that this expression brings, because responsibility. And I believe that injustice for any ultimately means injustice for all, in some form.
I show these cards at the door to tell you that I really REALLY hated I couldn’t make it to my alma mater, Seton Hill, to hear you speak this past week. I would have tried my best to get the opportunity to chat with you to tell you how much I appreciate your viewpoints about life in general and the fact that you use your position of privilege to bring about awareness of those of us whose reality is not rooted in that same privilege, especially to those who have no idea what privilege even is or deny that it’s real. I like to give credit where credit is due and you’re fighting the good fight.
The main problem with fighting the good fight is you get really, really weary. Not only are your intentions questioned from every direction but then you carry the burden of still wanting to try and help and not hurt. If you silence your effective voice, the game will still go on, but those folks who previously relied on you for your honesty, goodness, and critical presentation of reality will have to look elsewhere. And there’s no guarantee the voices they turn to will be for the betterment of anyones’ existence.
But weariness I understand. As someone who struggles daily with simply existing in a brown colored body with female features that mostly has a limited voice, I understand not wanting to keep fighting. But it is that very existence and voice that demand that I stay in the game. And just continue to learn more and do better with each passing moment of this “being”.
Rhonda, you are awesome. You shouldn’t have had to lay down your social credentials to make a point, but it’s true we need all voices on a topic. If people who are in a position of power are listening and helping, it’s a good thing.
I admire, Chuck for constantly questioning his position and if he’s the right voice to speak about a topic. When he does this it only re-affirms that he’s a good voice to have on the topic, because he’s willing to look at his own situation and admit it’s not the best person for it to come from. He also has provided a platform for others to make the points, too.
There is a lot of conflicting stuff on the internet on what is the best practices on being an ally, everything from speak up to shut up. It’s hard to navigate when to do which (both are probably important at different times, hard to know when we’ve crossed that line until we do). In this issue, of being rude to another person, *I* think it was okay to point that problematic behavior out (public shaming just doesn’t work). If we lower ourselves to those depths on a topic, then what good are we really doing? Who sees that and listens? Other Twitter users who agree with you? Trolls who like to see internet mayhem? Maybe not the people who are susceptible to abuse.
Sorry, I rambled! Anyway, just wanted to say I loved your comment.
I’ll just chime in with: please don’t sensor yourself. You’re one of my favourite people on the internet precisely because you don’t do that. Sometimes I wish I had the balls to say some of the things you do.
Oh Chuck, don’t start beating yourself up just for trying to be the non-shitty person saying “Can’t we all just get along, kids?” You’ve got nothing to apologize for – NOTHING, y’hear? In fact, anyone who piled on you for saying what you said in your previous post COMPLETELY PROVED THE POINT YOU WERE MAKING –
“RARRRR, who are you, telling ME I don’t have the right to be snarky at complete strangers? How DARE you make it sound like I’m an angry irrational who rants at people online in ways I’d never do to their face…. RAARRRRRR, I’m so flippin’ angry right now..!”
If all those people who argue that it was ‘their chance to make sincere and rational arguments about the romanticising of abuse in her novels’…. REALLY? In 140 characters? On a site riddled with annoying advert-tweets in between the real ones? That’s like saying discussions about sexual violence and abuse can be squished down into snappy little soundbites and still change the world. I agree 100% with you, Chuck – Twitter is too superficial and troll-ridden for that purpose, and was a dumb choice of platform for the job. I mean, it’s not like no-one was aware of the controversy surrounding her and her books. Invite a bunch of strangers into a firework factory and tell ’em they can take their lighters and flame-throwers in if they want – what the heck did they THINK was gonna happen?
I understand you feeling like you need to show a bit of contrite if people have been beating on you, but I personally don’t think you said anything wrong. Don’t let an angry-pants minority stop you flailing your crazy-Kermit arms, Chuck. This world needs more crazy-Kermit arms – and WAY less Miss Piggy ‘Hi-yahs!’
(That last analogy probably made no sense to anyone but me. Translation: you are awesome just the way you are, Chuck. Don’t ever change.)
It made sense, and it made me laugh. Thanks for the Miss Piggy imagery, it’s now forever associated with the kind of people who tell others that their opinions aren’t valid so shut up.
Yaaay! Perhaps between us, we can totally make “throwing a Miss Piggy” A Thing. 😉
Get your ‘butt’ back in here, Chuck.
Ditto to what everyone else has already said about the Great Interwebz Poo-Toss.
I comment seldom, but I read all your ‘ranty-pants’ posts, (and just about everything else you post here) and here’s why. I am a lesbian, disabled, a feminist, and been around the block many times in my two score and sixteen years on this mortal coil, so I have pretty definite opinions on many things, however what I don’t have is a reliable articulate opinionated male feminist point of view.
That’s your job.
You are a gooood peeeersooon. You write smart things. Don’t stop writing smart things and being a gooood peeeersoooon just because you are a man.
People who are in a fight will always find a reason why nobody from the outside has a right to criticise their behavior. But the internet is, as you said, real. It’s public, people’s behavior on it it affects the medium as a whole, and other internet users (like you) have a right to their opinions.
If more people stood up during a shitstorm and said ‘that’s not cool,’ fewer people would be bullied into silence. And folks who try to convince you that they’re only punching up are talking BS. Punching in any direction frightens and silences observers, whether they’re privileged or not.
The silence of powerful bystanders doesn’t just decrease the amount of support the person under attack has. It leaves the target feeling that everyone around her supports the bullying. I’ve seen it before in other forums. The secure people who are not under attack don’t really feel a need to speak up – they may even enjoy how ‘tolerant’ and ‘understanding’ they’re being – and meanwhile the people being bullied, and everyone else watching it happen, learn that the community thinks this sort of thing is A-OK.
being an asshole to an asshole makes you an asshole. Being “right” doesn’t give you the right to treat people like shit. Calling people out for that, even when the woman who was getting the abuse did some shitty things, was the right thing to do. Being abusive to someone who has made money romanticizing an abusive relationship is a shitty thing to do.
I get being concerned about mansplaining etc., but this strikes me as an example as a way that term (and “privilege”) has been weaponized, and is used to silence people. Fuck that. I’m guessing at least some of the heat that came your way were people who were uncomfortable with the fact that you were in fact calling them on their shit.It’s always uncomfortable when you realize that you are the asshole in the situation. Maybe that’s what happened to you, but I think it also happened to some of the people complaining about your post.