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October 10, 2010 / Katie

Saying “ouch” to Shakesville

Update 5/6/11:
This seven-months-old post is still drawing in new comments, some of which I am leaving in mod.  If you want to comment, especially if you are disagreeing with me, and you want your comment to be put through, you need to follow these guidelines:

1. If you’re commenting to “defend” Melissa (who I don’t, frankly, think needs defending, as I haven’t attacked her but have simply told the truth about my experience there) then you need to demonstrate that you have the most very basic empathy and compassion for me as a human being. Treating Melissa like a human is very good. But I am one too. And in this space I demand that my humanness be respected, and by that I mean specifically that my experience and my feelings are just as important as Melissa’s.

2. If you’re commenting to tell me my interpretation of what happened or my experience is somehow flawed, you probably want to think twice (or thrice) about whether to comment. If you still decide to do so, you better damn well be able to back up your assertions with actual quotes. (Similar to how I did in the OP! Not that hard!). Saying that I broke the rules? Demonstrate that, with evidence. Saying Melissa was totally calm and didn’t say anything to me out of line? Demonstrate that.

3. Please, make it clear what your purpose is in commenting. If all you’re doing is basically adding to the defend-Melissa pile-on that I got in the post I’m referencing here, then ask yourself, what is the point of your comment? Especially on a post that is seven months old? I’ve already been sufficiently chastised and no longer read Shakesville. So what, exactly, are you hoping to accomplish?

Okay, onto the post:

—————————————————-

TW for violence and homophobia.

Note: Yesterday I posted about a painful experience I had on Facebook, and today I want to talk about another one that I had at Shakesville.  I don’t normally like to engage in anything that remotely looks like “blog wars” or unnecessary drama, but something happened at Shakesville that I don’t feel is resolved for me, yet the post it happened in is now locked to comments.  My only choices are to just let it go and ignore it, or to address it here.  I just posted yesterday about the importance of saying “ouch,” and so, I am going to address it here.

I want to begin by saying that I am a huge fan of Shakesville and I deeply respect Melissa McEwan, the main blogger there.  Anyone who knows me well enough to know which blogs I’m reading knows that I frequently talk about it in “real life,” reference things they have said in blog posts, link to them on Facebook, and recommend the blog heartily to anyone interested in responsible feminism.  I have even gotten counseling client referrals through their “Bread & Teaspoons” posts.  I rarely comment there, but it’s because I don’t tend to do a lot of speaking if I don’t think I have something important to say, and often I have so much I want to say that a whole new blog post is more appropriate than a comment.

On Friday afternoon, Melissa posted the day’s Conniving and Sinister strip.  It’s a strip that I really love reading; I find it often times hilarious and almost always incisive.  When the strip was new, I was so excited about it that I posted about it in my Beauty from Ashes series.  But on Friday, that particular one threw me off, because it referenced violence toward Fred Phelps.  And while I admit I certainly have violent feelings toward him at times, I tend to think that a culture of violence is not the answer.  And, in the past, I’ve experienced Shakesville as being of that same mind.

You can click the link in the previous paragraph to see the strip, but the comic shows an image of Fred Phelps holding signs that say “God Hates Fags” and “Fags Die God Laughs” and Melissa and Deeky looking at each other disgustedly.  Melissa says, “You know, the fact that god hasn’t smote that fuckhead is either evidence that god doesn’t exist or reason why I want nothing to do with him if he does.”  Deeky responds, “totes.”

I commented, saying,

I have to say this one kind of surprises me, since you folks usually don’t resort to calls for violence against others, no matter how reprehensible their actions may be.

I received immediate pushback from regular commenters and both Melissa and Deeky.  I immediately regretted using the terminology “call for violence” since clearly they hadn’t actually called for others to do violence.

But it turns out that the pushback wasn’t really about my wording, because it didn’t seem to matter to them when I clarified that.  What ensued was some seriously confusing back and forth which left me completely baffled as to what was even going on.

In one comment, Melissa says,

The piece of this that you are missing is that I’m not saying I want nothing to do with a god who hasn’t visited violence on someone; I’m saying that I want nothing to do with a god who IS IN AGREEMENT WITH FRED PHELPS.

But I look at the comic, and I cannot make heads or tails of how the comic is supposed to be saying that. After literally days of examining and trying to think about it, I cannot see how the comic says what she is saying here that it says. I am no genius, but I’m also not unintelligent, and I am not approaching this in bad faith.  I am making a serious attempt to understand where she is coming from, but I’m not seeing it.

The comic said, “You know, the fact that god hasn’t smote that fuckhead is either evidence that god doesn’t exist or reason why I want nothing to do with him if he does.”  I believe the meaning of that is crystal clear.  But in case it needs to be clarified any more, we can easily—and with sound logic and grammar—extract the following statement from the original: “you know, the fact that god hasn’t smote that fuckhead is … reason why I want nothing to do with him if he [exists].”

A recent post on Sociological Images discusses a cartoon that some believe is quite racist, while others say, “we never intended it to be racist!” You can see the whole post here. But the quote from that piece that I find relevant to this entry is this:

One could argue that cultural producers are at least somewhat responsible for the  myriad of ways that an item could be reasonably interpreted.

And while I’m still open to a lightbulb moment in which I’ll realize I’ve been completely missing something, I am pretty darn convinced that my interpretation was completely reasonable and you know what, I’m just going to say it, I think it’s the most obvious meaning of the comic.

And yet, I was getting hammered by commenters and Melissa and Deeky.  I was told I was acting like a jerk.  Talked to as if I was being deliberately obtuse or acting in bad faith.  I got the message loud and clear: I am just a nobody around there, and a jackass nobody at that.

Ouch.

I was starting to get upset, because not only was I intellectually confused but I also began to feel emotionally defensive and hurt.  For that reason, I stopped replying after that comment and decided to sleep on it before commenting on it again.  I think it is very important to say “ouch” when you get stepped on, but I have found that for me it’s usually a good idea to take some time to think/meditate/pray it over.  It helps me get clarity about the situation and figure out how I want to proceed.

Alas, by the time I came back to the post, comments had been closed down.

Melissa had the last word on the comments, and I believe the really misrepresented what I had been doing.  And since I can’t respond to her there, I’m going to respond to her here.  Emphasis is hers:

Accusations of bad faith are explicitly prohibited by the comment policy, and commenters in this space have been repeatedly asked to approach concerns with the assumption of good faith, yet kataphatic approached me with an accusation of bad faith, accusing me of calling for an act of violence and implying I’m a hypocrite, despite noting that would be out of character for me,

First, I did not approach the comic in bad faith.  Behaving in bad faith, essentially, is behaving in a way that is inauthentic.  I was being completely authentic when I first expressed my surprise at the comic and later apologized for my poor choice of words.  I authentically believed that I was interpreting the comic correctly and reasonably, reading it at face value.

So, Ouch.

Second, I do things that are out of character for me from time to time as well.  I hurt people.  I don’t live up to my own values.  That is true of everyone.  To equate that with bad faith just doesn’t make sense.  I pointed it out because I felt it was out of character, and because I had a good faith reason to believe that Melissa might want to receive that feedback.  In a different case, say with someone who talked about violence all the time, and/or didn’t try to set up a community in which people are open to critical feedback and the possibility they have messed up, I likely would have rolled my eyes and let it go.  Was I wrong in thinking Melissa might find my feedback valuable?  I don’t know; this is part of my confusion.  After all, Shakesville’s comment policy says that:

We’re all going to make mistakes occasionally—and for that, we need to make allowances. Everyone trips up now and then, even with the best of intentions, which is why we are resolved to endeavor always to be aware of our privilege, and, in moments of failure, remain open to criticisms and suggestions, think twice before responding defensively, and apologize when we fuck up.

Anyway, back to Melissa’s comment:

instead of simply (and politely, and assuming good faith) asking me to explain the comic, because it seemed like it might mean X. Instead of banning someone for an explicit violation of the commenting policy, I addressed those concerns, though perhaps not in the precise tone some people would have liked them addressed. To call that an “inappropriate reaction” is not only wildly unfair, and an implicit criticism of the commenting policy laid out for this space, it’s nothing but a tone argument, which is a classic anti-feminist silencing tactic, which has absolutely no business here.

Okay… this is a bit rich.

I wasn’t polite enough?  And yet criticism of her tone is anti-feminist and in bad faith?  Talk about a double standard.  (I would also like to point out that I never criticized her tone; she’s referring to other commenters).

So, again, ouch.

Plus, I’m not sure why it was my responsibility to ask what the comic meant.  It was/is pretty damn clear to me what that comic meant.  It may truly not be what she meant, but it’s what she said.  And as we all know from feminism 101, what we actually say is more important than what we mean; i.e. that if what we mean and what we say are two different things, we are not above reproach for what we said just because we didn’t mean it.

And the fact is, if this subject had been broached in the first place from a place of good faith, instead of a hostile accusation, the entire exchange would have been fundamentally different.

I already addressed the accusation that I was acting in bad faith but I also want to say that I unequivocally do not believe I was being hostile in any of the comments I posted on that thread.

That’s why accusations of bad faith are off-limits — to avoid exactly this kind of shit. And when someone flagrantly breaches that policy, no less to make an unfounded accusation, at the very end of yet another long week where I have been at the blunt end of being called all manner of failure in threads here and in my inbox, and then I’m told I didn’t respond with enough grace and patience, that’s just exhausting. I’m tired of it down to my goddamn bones.

First, I wasn’t making an “unfounded accusation.”  My comment was very much founded on my entirely reasonable and “face value” interpretation of her comic.

Second, and importantly, I want to acknowledge the weariness in Melissa’s comment.  I have no idea what it’s like to be her, to deal with rude comments and emails day in and day out; all kinds of abusive and hateful speech directed at her.  I don’t, and probably won’t, ever know exactly what that is like.  And I cannot talk about this without acknowledging that Melissa is certainly under a heck of a lot of pressure.  I absolutely never meant to add on to that, to make her job worse or harder, and if I didn’t truly believe that she would want my feedback, I never would have bothered posting it.

With that said, I can only speak to my own experience.  And my own experience is that last Friday I felt like I was treated like just some asshole nobody, and I don’t believe for a second that my comments justified me being treated that way.  I never expected that sort of thing to happen at Shakesville, which I have found to be a place that reacts firmly to truly bad faith comments and bigoted asshole-ishness, but which is otherwise safe, compassionate, and respectful.  I am still quite confused and frankly, a bit upset.  I don’t know exactly how to proceed in terms of my interaction with the site.  Do I want to continue to recommend it to friends, colleagues, sometimes even clients, if they may have an experience like this?  Do I want to keep commenting?  If I choose to stop commenting, do I even want to read a blog in which I am unsafe to comment?  Not having Shakesville in my life would be a real, tangible loss for me as a person, a blogger, even a therapist.  But I feel stuck.  Dialogue has been cut off and I’m left with only my own little blog in which to say ouch.

I want to close this by saying that Melissa may not have the time or desire to engage this.  Her blog is huge and mine is tiny; compared to her I guess I am a “nobody blogger.”  But I’m going to email her the link to this post and should she wish to come here and talk with me about this in good faith, I would welcome her warmly with the respect that I still have for her.

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89 Comments

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  1. Noname / Oct 10 2010 7:27 pm

    I had a slightly similar experience at Shakes not long ago. I hate being a part of a community and then being treated like a troll because I disagree with the author a single time.

  2. vesta44 / Oct 10 2010 7:32 pm

    I can see why you took it the way you did. What I got out of reading that, after reading it several times, is that if god exists, he probably would smite Phelps, Old Testament style, for his bigotry (or the way Jesus did the money-lenders in the temple), and if he exists and doesn’t smite Phelps in that manner, then they don’t want anything to do with a god that lets people get away with that kind of bigotry and hatefulness. That’s just my opinion, and I’m not saying that’s what Melissa actually meant, but that’s how I read it.

    • Katie / Oct 10 2010 8:00 pm

      ohhhhh, maybe now I see it. So it was saying that if the kind of hateful god who smites people exists and doesn’t smite phelps, then I want nothing to do with it.

      Not just if god exists at all.

      Thank you. If that’s what she meant, then I am way less confused.

      • Shiyiya / Oct 10 2010 10:45 pm

        That’s what she explained in comments that she meant… That Phelps believes in a god that smites people who don’t agree with him/act how he tells them do, and that if such a god exists he must therefore condone Phelps, by virtue of not having smote. Maybe because I’ve made similar points in the past, I understood that immediately….

        (Sorry if this comes off as piling on, I can’t figure out how else to word it. I barely comment at Shakesville because they’re not so great at not lauding abusive people.)

        • Katie / Oct 11 2010 9:25 am

          Hmm… I’ll be the first to admit that when someone is brushing me off and/or shouting at me, it is hard for me to truly listen to what they are saying. Maybe others have mastered this better, but when I am treated that way my heart rate increases, my adrenaline starts pumping, and I’m not exactly thinking clearly. So if she did say that in the midst of all those comments, that is probably why I missed it.

  3. Kathy / Oct 10 2010 8:04 pm

    I seem to have gotten something very different from the strip. “You know, the fact that god hasn’t smote that fuckhead is either evidence that god doesn’t exist or reason why I want nothing to do with him if he does.” Because if he DOES exist (and doesn’t smite) he must AGREE with “that fuckhead”. Anyway, that’s what I got.

    • Katie / Oct 10 2010 8:20 pm

      Kathy, I got that too, from the first half of the comic, not the second :)

      But, the more salient point of my post is about how I don’t tolerate being insulted and accused of bad faith when I haven’t been behaving in a way that warrants it. That’s why the thrust of the post isn’t, “I’m right and you’re wrong!” but rather, simply, “ouch, that hurt.”

  4. J.S. / Oct 10 2010 8:37 pm

    I read Shakesville frequently, and often find the writing there insightful. But unfortunately there’s a tendency toward extreme defensiveness to challenging comments that keeps me from reading them or commenting. Your experience is not unusual, nor is it warranted. But do, if you can, try not to take it personally. It’s them, not you.

  5. Elizabeth / Oct 10 2010 11:17 pm

    I agree with JS. I read Shakes, but almost never look at the comments for the same reason. I will say that I got a bad feeling from that strip and read it exactly as you did. I think other readings are quite convoluted, even if more accurate to the intention. But as you point out, intention is hardly the only thing that matters.

    • Katie / Oct 11 2010 9:26 am

      I think other readings are quite convoluted, even if more accurate to the intention.

      That’s exactly what I think too.

  6. datura / Oct 11 2010 12:21 am

    I’ve had a similar experience there. I disagreed with a post that Melissa had written, and was basically shat on from a dizzy height. Unfortunately, it seems to be one of those places where very little disagreement is “allowed” in the comments…. because if you disagree then you’re a “bad feminist”.

  7. Katherine / Oct 11 2010 5:04 am

    I did not find the comic strip offensive at all. I still don’t. But sometimes, other people don’t find things offensive that I find offensive. On such occasions I really appreciate it when those people engage me in calm, respectful discussion about our relative points of view, without resorting to childish defensiveness. They don’t have to end up agreeing with me, but just recognising that I have a valid point of view and a right to express it can go a really long way. I found the dismissive and belittling manner in which Shakesville responded to your point of view disheartening, especially as a large proportion of the population automatically dismiss many of the views presented on Shakesville as resulting from oversensitivity or deliberate misinterpretation.
    I don’t know if that made much sense, it’s late and I’m sleepy.
    In short, I found the whole thing really disappointing.

    • Katie / Oct 11 2010 9:27 am

      yes, this makes sense, and it basically sums up exactly how I experienced the situation, so I appreciate your comment :)

  8. meerkat / Oct 11 2010 6:18 am

    Yeah, there are a number of bloggers like that (including Melissa) whom I admire immensely but I don’t know if there are any who I’ve never once thought was dismissing a commenter unfairly after missing their point, and they have a lot of fans so they always get shouted down.

    • Katie / Oct 12 2010 10:12 am

      yeah, I mean, no one’s perfect, right?

      I certainly don’t expect perfection, which is why I’m not writing off Melissa as some jerk. I don’t think she’s a jerk, I think she is an amazing, strong, compassionate woman.

  9. SamantaG / Oct 12 2010 6:27 am

    I read Shakesville regularly. There are a lot of great discussions. But I have determined that I do not feel that it is a safe place to discuss being a Christian. I get the feeling that there often is no assumption of good faith if one admits to being a Christian. I freely acknowledge that it might just be me, feeling picked on. But I know that I veer sharply from the culture of the site on that one point in particular, and it’s better for me if I just stay away from anything pertaining to religion on Shakesville.
    I’m sorry you got caught up in that.

    • Katie / Oct 12 2010 10:09 am

      I find that really depressing, actually, because I was getting that vibe too and I was really hoping that it was just my own stuff. Sounds like maybe not…

      I realize that Christians have some amount of social privilege in the US. But I am not only a Christian, I am also a queer fat woman with a chronic illness and more than one invisible disability. It’s really depressing that I may not be able to find Shakesville a safe space because of a religion which is so much part of my identity I cannot give it up, which confers privilege upon me that I attempt to be mindful of, and and within which I actively work to dismantle kyriarchy.

  10. Orodemniades / Oct 12 2010 7:19 pm

    I got banned from Shakesville and honestly, my life has gotten a lot better for it. What did I get banned for, you ask? Well, I, the mixed race black woman married to a foreign national, who lived in said foreign national’s homeland for 11 years, got banned for being a racist. Because a nice upper class white lady from said homeland got upset when I made a comment, made further comments explaining my position after she hurled abuse at me (as did other commentors). Then I got banned.

    At first I was really upset, then I resolved to ask someone I really respect (one of the members of FWD/Forward – Feminists With Disabilities) if I was being an utter asshole or if, just maybe, they had lost their godsbedamned minds. She thought the latter and suggested I write to Mel. I did, never got a response (not that I expected one), and soon after I decided to stop reading Shakesville. It’s a pity, I really looked forward to reading it every day.

    But y’know what? It was sucking up a lot of time I could have spent doing other things. And I don’t need a site like that to make me feel bad about myself in the process. And while I hope Shakesville continues with its Feminist message, I remain bitter about my ending there.

    Which is my story, and an incredibly long winded way of saying that I understand where you’re coming from with regards to getting slammed. I hope you feel better. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I also really hope you take my story and your experience as a warning to be cautious when posting there.

    • G / Oct 17 2010 10:35 am

      I remember the discussion! On one hand I understand the need for certain rules like don’t say X Y Z. I don’t necessarily like the way it’s enforced, but I also don’t have to moderate and would never ever want to. I can’t imagine the shit they have to put up with.

      That said, I was sorry to see it go down. I don’t think you deserved the treatment you got, but I could also see the point they were initially trying to make (although how it ended up as you being racist I don’t know.)

  11. KitG / Oct 13 2010 8:45 am

    I don’t comment there at all. I still read the comments though, because they’re fascinating in respect to the policing that goes on. I do find that sometimes Melissa falls down in the clarity of her writing and often refuses to clarify what she “really” meant and I’ve seen her be offended at someone suggesting that she tweak her grammar a bit to make her meaning a little more explicit.

    But I don’t find it to be a safe space at all if you are explaining that your experiences or response to a post is different than what the post sets out, even allowing for cultural differences.

    Yet, I keep reading it, because there are many posts that make me think about my own attitudes to some of the issues they post about and I do value that, even if I don’t always agree with their line of thought or conclusion.

  12. Hel / Oct 13 2010 10:31 am

    It could be, because you believe in God and she is an atheist, so when she says something about God she is speaking more hipothetically than you. I don’t know if i am making any sense, but it seems that for you God is real, and for her not.
    If a fundamentalist is praying for the death of Obama, he really believes that he can hurt Obama, he has the intention and the desire. If I pray for the death of someone, or hope that God hit him with a thunder it is a kind of stupid pose because I don’t believe in God, and I don’t think that my praying can have any consecuences.
    Anyway, she knows better what she was trying to say.

    • Katie / Oct 13 2010 2:33 pm

      Hi Hel, welcome to my blog :)

      I thought about that point, but I don’t think that it’s actually what’s going on here. For one thing, my argument isn’t predicated on god’s existence. Saying, “I wouldn’t want to believe in a god who wouldn’t smite Fred Phelps” isn’t dependent on whether you actually believe god exists or not. For another thing, I will say again, intention doesn’t trump actual action. What Melissa was “trying” to say doesn’t trump what she actually said, and how a reasonable person (e.g. me and other reasonable people who’ve expressed they read it the same way I did) read the comic in good faith.

      Finally, I do think that those “pray for Obama” shirts are an interesting comparison. I mean, what if someone who is an atheist or a hindu or a wiccan thinks they’re funny? Is it okay/not offensive for someone to wear that shirt even if they don’t believe the god the shirts reference exist? I personally say no, because whether you believe in god or not, it is offensive to wear a shirt that implies calling on/wishing for god to kill/smite/otherwise do physical violence to someone else.

      Perhaps to Melissa it matters that she doesn’t believe in god and I do, but I don’t think it matters at all. The God I believe in is not the smiting kind (I believe that was a misunderstanding of ancient peoples) and therefore not the kind of god that she’s referring to anyway. In essence, she and I both believe the same thing about that god; i.e. that “he” (her use) doesn’t exist.

      But I don’t believe that “it’s just a joke” or “I don’t really believe in it” makes it any less vile.

      If someone made a joke about the Flying Spahetti Monster raping someone they don’t like, I don’t find that any less offensive than someone making a joke about a dude raping someone they don’t like. Ultimately, jokes about rape aren’t funny.

      And I also happen to think jokes about violence of any kind aren’t funny. I think Melissa agrees with me on that, but her comic did not read that way to many people reading it in good faith. That is a problem that should not be explained away and it sure as hell shouldn’t be cause to ridicule the person bringing it up.

      • Noname / Oct 13 2010 3:54 pm

        Sometimes it really seems that at Shakesville, not seeing things the same way as the mods = bad faith. Melissa intended one thing, you saw another, and somehow you questioning that became about bad faith and “silencing” tactics. I don’t know, I love Shakesville and I have tons of respect for the work Melissa does but I wish there could be more of a back-and-forth in the comments. I also wish the rules about assuming bad faith would be extended to commentors, as in “let’s not just assume that kataphatic’s comment was in bad faith without clarifying first”.

        • Katie / Oct 14 2010 8:44 am

          yes, I really would have appreciated an assumption of good faith myself.

          I never accused Melissa of bad faith, yet I was accused of bad faith AND of accusing Melissa of bad faith.

          I honestly thought the rule about assuming good faith did apply to commenters as well as authors; I always read the community rules as applying to everyone in the community equally. Somewhat ironically, THAT was an extremely good faith assumption on my part, that turned out to be incorrect :(

  13. silentbeep / Oct 13 2010 4:57 pm

    From your initial Shakesville comment, I didn’t even get that you were especially “offended.” It seemed to me that you you were just surprised that the topic of violence was brought up in regards to it being done to Fred Phelps, in whatever context, considering that Shakesville is so explictly, vehemently anti-violence. Was this even really about God or atheism? Or was it? I didn’t get any “religious overtones” from the comment you made really, at all. I thought it was the “violence” aspect of the strip that felt “off” to you.

    • Katie / Oct 13 2010 6:06 pm

      yep, absolutely. My comment was about the violence and nothing else.

      I only started talking about religion when Melissa brought it up in a comment to me.

      • silentbeep / Oct 13 2010 11:41 pm

        O.K. the whole religion thing was what I found really confusing. It made sense to me that you brought up the violence aspect, so I totally didn’t get where Melissa got the God stuff from. O.K. I think I’m a little clearer now.

        • Katie / Oct 14 2010 8:39 am

          yeah, that really contributed to my confusion as well. I was like, why does everyone keep bringing up whether I believe in God or not? I don’t see how this has anything to do with what I’m saying.

  14. TRK / Oct 18 2010 9:53 am

    I hope you don’t mind, but I delurked once again at Shakes in the midst of another anti-religion pile on, and linked your post, which I thought was brilliant.

    I don’t know why I keep going back there when it’s become such a culture of bullies and condescension. I guess I just don’t want to believe that something with such positive intentions of providing a safe space for discussion of current events and our deeply problematic culture could turn into what is essentially a community of the bullied turning into bullies themselves.

    Well, perhaps someday there will be enough Shakes refugees to start anew.

    • Katie / Oct 18 2010 10:11 am

      No I don’t mind! I still wish Melissa would come and talk to me about this.

      Did you post it at the thread about the church sign that said, “you’re wealthy!”? Because if you did, it looks like they deleted your comment… I don’t see it there.

    • Noel Veva (@NVeva) / Mar 31 2012 11:53 am

      I’m new to this place, and wasn’t planning on commenting, but this particular post struck a chord. Not sure if I was explicitly banned or not from Shakesville (under completely different circumstances), but I was, in a sense, ‘bullied off the boards’, and have noticed (and fallen prey to, in every sense) a general bullying-type atmosphere on both Shakesville and other widely-read mainstream feminist blogs (as well as some that are not as widely read…this shit is pervasive).

      It’s a nasty, cliquish, hierarchal dynamic that always, always, ALWAYS develops/rears its petty head in almost all social groups of any kind…unavoidable, really, in a culture that reifies power and dominance in the way that specifically American culture does.

      And yes, it is unfortunately especially prevalent in communities of people who have been/continue to be bullied by others online/in real life. ‘We become what we fear/hate the most’ kind of thing. Or, maybe, ‘we become that which we do not know better than to become’. There isn’t/hasn’t been a viable alternative social model created to build on yet, at least not one that’s compatible with big-time, paid blogging/pop-culture/political analysis of the sort that Melissa/others like her engage in.

      (*Shakes head* It’s a fundamental inconsistency, a paradox, the pairing of social justice with pop culture/mainstream consumerism…like matter and anti-matter, they cancel each other out…leading at best to more status quo in a slightly less offensive package, and at worst, to ever-increasingly resistant viral variations of suckitude that further and further undermine the struggle for evolution/equality)

      I try to remind myself that Shakesville is, in a way, a mainstream commercial enterprise like any other. That Melissa’s literal livelihood depends on remaining ‘relevant’, ‘hip’, ‘cool’, ‘fun’, authoritative and palatable to a large audience of primarily white, male-identified, middle-to-upper class, educated, relatively conservative, mainstreamed people with little to no real understanding of class/race/ability/power analysis or critique who would probably not be terribly interested in her blog/her writing/her presence/voice in any way were she not communicating/conducting herself in a manner that most of them find familiar/comfortable/’normal’/non-threatening, etc.

      So, Shakesville is essentially a business. And Melissa runs it as such…clean, tight and efficient. With little time or tolerance for complaints/concerns…often relegated immediately, as they tend to be, to the circular file of the banned list.

      She’s most certainly aware of this, and as principled as she endeavors to be, it’s probably a pretty complicated and at least somewhat painful reality to negotiate for her…which is why (among other reasons), I sort of let the incident that lead to my not posting there anymore go with little more than a long, ranting, venty-type blog post at my old place and a shrug, and haven’t said much about it since.

      The bottom line is, it’s her party, it’s her bread-and-butter, it’s her baby and it’s her world. She can ban anyone she wants to. And she’s demonstrated on many ocassions that she’s willing to do just that…to keep the machine running smoothly, to manage the multiple contradictions within and without that she must navigate every day, to keep herself sane, to keep her business productive and profitable.

      Who can blame her? We all do our own versions of the same. My blog has not, does not, will not ever get 1/100th of a percentage of the traffic hers does, and even the comparatively little disparaging/exasperating/otherwise unwanted commentary I’ve been exposed to over the years has caused me to nix commenting completely at my place, never to be reinstated. For me, it’s not worth the headaches and misdirected energy. Productive, enlightening and ethically admirable as dealing with direct, and unrelenting, public scrutiny of one’s writing/worldview may be, I’d really just rather spend my time doing other things.

      Can scarcely imagine how that dynamic/quandry plays out on the scale of something like Shakesville. Truthfully, I don’t want to try. My head and heart pulsate with pain at the thought.

      All this to say that I absolutely agree that there’s bullying going on at Shakesville. There’s hierarchy, there’s elitism and there’s double standards. Just like everywhere else humans congregate.

      Ultimately, you pick and choose either which bullies/hierarchies upset you the least, which validate you the most, or opt out of the game entirely.

      For me, it’s mostly the latter. Hierarchy/bullying is never not-bothersome for/to me, and (thankfully!) not much validation is required for renegades loyal primarily to themselves. :P

  15. GiniLiz / Oct 31 2010 5:46 pm

    Hey there, dear friend, I am sorry I have not kept up with your writings here. I just read this one and wished (yet again) I lived close enough to give you a hug. Sometimes bigger-name bloggers become playground bullies, and I have seen and heard enough (online and off) from this particular one to avoid reading her blog on a regular basis. I only read when people link to it, and even then, I avoid comments. Your concern about somebody saying God must do violence to a person in order to prove God exists and/or is worthy of our worship is – no shock here – one I very much appreciate and I think needed to be said there. You did so with gentleness and respectful call to integrity. Who knows what baggage Melissa and others were bringing to the thread. I’m so sorry you were the target of their issues.

    For a lighthearted and not-entirely-comparable story — I was recently targeted by some students for allegedly proselytizing. Why? Because they overheard me saying in frustration that I was going to have to have a “come to Jesus talk” with another person on campus. ;) It’s so energy-sapping when folks with shtuff of their own to work out are just itching to find fault with you and turn your words against you.

  16. None / Nov 5 2010 9:49 am

    It’s a frustrating thing – Shakesville is getting trolled regularly so to an extent I understand the abruptness of the modhammer. They intend for it to be a safe space.
    The problem is there are no safe spaces. It wasn’t safe for you and it hasn’t been safe for other people. I’ve been hurt there, and my logical conclusion is that the fault lies with me.
    Christians of any stripe are more likely to be shunned without any further evidence because of the wonders of modern white American Evangelism. The argument I see most often is because the majority (the kyriarchy, fun word) is already oppressing people, aligning yourself in any way with them, however minor, means you’re promoting their oppression whether or not you want to. Which means you’re not allowed to question the shunning or the angry rhetoric, because it’s justified and you, as a member of the mainstream, never will be.
    It’s frustrating that the tribalism persists. But they’re still human. Humans do that.

    • Katie / Nov 5 2010 10:45 am

      I think that your comment makes complete sense, and it seems to be what’s going on here. But I still find it really depressing, because in multiple places Melissa has expressly said that she wants a community of multiple voices, assuming good faith, admitting when we mess up. Because yeah, we’re all human, and we get tribalistic or trigger happy or make wrong assumptions and act in hurtful ways out of them, but she expressly states in multiple places that when this happens she’s open to discussing it. That’s why I was hoping that she’d be willing to have a dialogue with me about this.

      As for the Christianity thing, I do acknowledge there is privilege in being Christian. But there is also privilege in being white, and male, and heterosexual, and other groups with which Melissa interacts just fine or is one herself. So if Christians are so different, then maybe they should say that somewhere, you know? Just be honest about it. Because as silentbeep points out above, my comments had nothing at all to do with me being Christian–they could have just as easily come from a Hindu or atheist.

      • None / Nov 5 2010 11:21 am

        But because they didn’t, it was ascribed to the privilege. Hence-

        • Katie / Nov 5 2010 11:48 am

          right, but if that’s what’s really going on, and I was assumed to be in bad faith because I’m a Christian, then I want them to have the ovaries to just say that. If you’re Christian, you’re not welcome here. I’ve been reading some radical feminist/lesbian separatist blogs lately and they just say outright–if you’re male, don’t bother commenting here, we don’t care. Shakesville is ostensibly a place for everyone to come with their complicated mix of prejudices and oppressions under kyriarchy, to learn and grow and challenge one another. If it’s really everyone but Christians, fine, but please, have the ovaries to admit that.

          Anyway, I do want to say that while it seems that is likely what’s going on, I’m not going to be able to really decide that’s the case unless/until Melissa or someone else admits that it’s so. I have this tendency to always assume good faith and remain open. That doesn’t mean I’m able to read the blog right now or possibly ever (triggers my anxiety too much), and it doesn’t mean I’ll keep recommending it, linking it, etc. But ultimately there’s a whole side to this story I can only guess at because Melissa has not replied to either of the two emails I have sent her about this. I may never know what that side of the story is.

  17. Cinnamon Girl / Nov 9 2010 6:48 pm

    Hi, I just found this blog (via shakesville, ironically). I loved the strip, due to my own baggage as a recovering catholic. But I wanted to say I was surprised and uncomfortable at the reaction to you; I interpreted your comments as being respectful and in good faith and thought the reaction was unwarrented (although I thought melissa’s initial response to you was respectful, once other people jumped in it deteriorated). You used the term ‘call to violence’ initially, then immediately retracted it as inappropriate and stated that there was no call to violence. But then half dozen comments appeared repeating that there was no call for violence, insinuating that you didn’t understand that and implying that you needed to state it again. It looked to me like they were assuming bad faith on your part by that point (although again, I don’t think Melissa was initially) but the reaction seemed a bit disconnected from what you actually said.
    Sorry you experienced that.

  18. Rachel / Feb 4 2011 8:38 pm

    I had the exact same reaction as you. I really dislike the way Melissa and her group treat people who have a different point of view. There’s trolling, and there’s offensive, and then there are people with different viewpoints.

    There’s a community I’m on where a lot of people who have English as a Second Language say they don’t feel comfortable posting at blogs like Shakesville, because they are afraid that their language will be incorrect. People make mistakes with their words all the time. If someone has good intentions, then I think we owe them respect.

  19. diane / Feb 6 2011 10:10 am

    Greetings!

    I happen to come across this post and I realize it’s rather old now as the last comment was in Nov 2010, but I just wanted to say I remember reading that thread and the conversations that ensued over your suprise at the comic calling for violence against another person. I have another point of view which you may or may not be interested in.

    I have to admit that while I’m a fan of Shakesville it’s not a place for me as I’m a feminist liberal Democrat but I think sometimes the so-called “progessive left” have lost their freakin minds and I believe the current so-called “Democrat Party” has abandoned any semblance of democratic principles. The proverbial last straw for me was when they engaged in a thread about the recent shooting of the Congresswoman by an unstable person. They immediatley blamed the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, etc.. without one shred of evidence that the killer even listened or went to their websites, etc. To me that kind of lack of critical thinking is dangerous.. that guy could’ve been a stalker who was in love with her—anything.. we just didn’t know. So I pointed that out, not as concise as I should have, but I was slammed and called a troll for having that point of view. So it’s time for me to refrain from posting there and be a silent memember of their worthwhile community once more.

    I preface with that because from my perspective to distill down what the problem was that they had with your comment is that it derailed the conversation away from how christian fundamentalists, such as the jerk mentioned, hates homosexuals and how that impacts on peoples and Society as a whole when such behavior is/isn’t tolerated. The thread was not meant to be about calling for a fictious diety to kill someone…although the humor of the post was the irony that someone who devoutly believes such a thing is possible, by their own god-belief, should then be a victim of their own hateful rhetoric, and if not then what does that say about their god and the beliefs being spouted? That’s just my pov and while your interpretation of the text is correct it’s not taking into account the irony of the situation. But yes, in the comic it is saying that if this so called god existed, by it’s own rules it should kill that guy, if not then god agrees with it, which makes him just as big a dickhead to stay away from.

    I have noticed though how the violence of mulsim fundamentalists get a pass at Shakesville, Christians are slammed on the site all the time, but I’ve not seen many posts on the evils of an all encompassing religion that forces through violence it’s dictatorship. But that’s another problem I have with the site.

    Also, I realize that the same could be said of my response to the thread about the Shooting and how the overall rhetoric of violence contributes to that kind of outcome… except that, to me, once again I have no evidence that anything the Right-wing said or did had any actual impact on the actions of that killer. If it turned out he was an avid member of their sites, then yes, absolutely, but it seemd the so-called “progressive left” had already decided that was the case and I just can’t accept that… Oh, and so far they haven’t found anything on the shooters computer etc. that links him in anyway to the Tea Party and the GOP in general, but that doesn’t seem to matter to those at Shakesville. It matters to me though. If the thread had been about how violence is tolerated in our Society and the problems that creates, then I would’ve been in support and agreement, but it wasn’t.

    Apologies for the length of my post and I hope I haven’t offended in offering my perspective on something that happened so long ago. I also beleive the responses to you were immature and unnecessary. If they took the time to explain why your comment was being dismissed and seen as a derail, you may not have agreed with them, but it would’ve put the matter to rest.

  20. Megan / Mar 7 2011 6:44 pm

    This is purely for cathartic purposes, considering how old this post is.

    I was just banned — began with an angry (and rather ignorant, I must say) comment of mine that I posted thoughtlessly criticizing a post from Womanist Musings (which was criticizing another blog post about the lack of female roles in movies by saying that those male-centric movies dealt with other forms of oppression (which is funny, no?)). Commences ‘polite’ condescension from moderators. I apologize but say that I am disappointed to be treated in such a dismissive way. They tell me to shut up (paraphrasing). I make a pithy comment like “Yes, I ignored your rule, and the world didn’t end”. I am banned for this.

    I make no claim to rightness, and often I regret the things I write.Yet for them to deny my mutual personhood and refuse to engage at all, and then *ban* me *permanently* from commenting when I was clearly not a troll? Harsh.

    Who do they expect to reach? Who is their audience? Certainly not people who still have things to learn, if my treatment was any indication.

    • Katie / Mar 7 2011 7:03 pm

      ugh, I am so sorry to hear that you went through that too. I wish there was some way I could help stop this ridiculousness, but I tried with multiple emails to Melissa that never got replies. Apparently the fact that every human being is deserving of compassion and that there is a HUGE difference between a privileged person insisting on continuing to be an ass and someone admitting they messed up is lost on them. Except when it’s them–Melissa and the mods state in multiple places that they expect to be given grace when they mess up. Compassion only goes one way there, I guess.

      Anyway, I’m glad you found my post and I hope that your comment helped with the catharsis!

  21. GiniLiz / Mar 7 2011 8:03 pm

    I’m glad this post is out there and still getting some notice by those who go searching for empathy. Since you posted it, Katie, I have had 2 other friends be publicly bullied by Melissa after disagreeing with her. And I’m extremely picky about my friends, so I can vouch for their sincerity, depth of understanding, and non-trollishness. :)

  22. Pat / Mar 22 2011 3:01 pm

    I’ve just discovered Shakesville today (after a friend got banned). I’m in awe, and not in a good way. It’s a horrific perversion of what “safe space” is supposed to mean. And between their Feminism 101 section, Comment policy, their (in)famous All In post and the general bad faith in which they handle comments and commenters (see the anti-XKCD post), their disingenuousness is stunningly clear. Not to mention their cultish approach to feminism, which is dishonest and self-serving.

    Melissa does not want your comments. Not really. She wants your donations, though.

  23. DX / Apr 15 2011 1:29 pm

    I’m someone who found you through searching to find a space to share with others how I was, just today, bullied by Shakesville and Melissa because I asked for clarification on what I found to be a very transphobic turn of phrase. I read through everything and still saw no explanation for the transphobic usage of the phrase nor any explanation that Melissa was only using the language put forward by the misogynists. I did not even accuse her of anything in bad faith, simply asked for clarification of the phrase and its usage.

    Then I got accused of “secretly editing” my comment and that they hoped I wasn’t trying to be “an asshole.” Man, I left after the entire “All In” thing but returned and now I’m gone for good. I was abusively bullied as a child, am a suvivor of other forms of abuse, a queer woman, and mentally ill, and I can’t call that space SAFE in any way.

    I’m sorry to read that you’ve also shared my experience. Thank you for providing the space to not be alone in this.

    • G / Apr 16 2011 1:27 am

      “I read through everything and still saw no explanation for the transphobic usage of the phrase nor any explanation that Melissa was only using the language put forward by the misogynists.”

      (And that is why you need to read Shakesville for months before you actually comment. Just a friendly reminder to all of those who don’t know.)

      Have you been a reader at Shakesville for long? Because having read Shakesville for years now (and only left a few commets so far) I would never take what Melissa wrote; Take our boobs and go home – as anything other than a jab at those who think women are less than, oh, and boobs. Lets not forget the boobs, because in the status quo world women = boobs, dontchaknow?

      Melissa wasn’t saying that real women have boobs, or that trans women aren’t women because they weren’t born with boobs (srsly. Babies aren’t born with boobs and about 50% still turn into women.) She was most definitely using misogynist language to highlight the ridiculousness of, well, misogynists.

      But that is the thing about Shakesville. They get so much shit from people who are anti-women, anti-gay, anti-queer, anti-colored, anti anti anti (and we, the readers, never see those ugly comments because the place is moderated for our safety.) And then someone who is on Shakesville’s “side” comes in (possibly never having read anything from Shakesville before) and questions whether they were being sarcastic or just really stoopid with their wording in a post, when you would KNOW it, had you been a regular reader for quite some time.

      So, not only do Shakers have to stand up against mainstream bullshit, they have to put up with people, who usually are the ones Shakers are so adamant in fighting social justice for, wandering into their threads and then questioning their sincerity, without knowing anything about Melissa and the other Shakers (which includes one trans woman contributor, I am fairly certain.) I would get pretty damned incensed too. Because once they allow that kind of questioning it ceases to be a safe space for them (and those of us who also find it to be a safe space.)

      So, I understand that it’s awful to get such a rude brush off, but know that they can’t tell the difference between you and someone who just wants to stir the pot, and pot stirring is shoved out the door immediately, for everyone’s sanity. It is not a place for discourse. It’s not a place for exchanging ideas.

      And that is why it is so important to know Shakesville well before you comment. I always have second thoughts if I get the urge to comment, because you have to choose your words carefully, and I just don’t always have the mental energy to do that – but I still benefit from reading Shakesville.

      It just saddens me to see Melissa keeping Shakesville running, getting threats for doing so, and then have people complain that the comment they left on Shakesville was misinterpreted or the question they asked was rudely answered, and oh how mean those Shakers are – when Shakers ask readers to please don’t misinterpret what they write, please don’t be rude to them in assuming bad faith.

      And I know I wrote this whole comment under the assumption that you’re a new Shakesville reader. Sorry if I’m totally mistaken. Assume; ass, you, me and all that.

      • Katie / Apr 16 2011 2:29 pm

        That may be how it is at Shakesville, but that doesn’t mean it’s as it should be. It doesn’t mean that it can’t be better. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be able to expect more.

        There is a name for the behavior that you have described, and that behavior is abuse. Taking prior frustration out on someone else? Abuse. Having a double standard for assumption of good faith (i.e. commenters must always assume good faith of them but they assume bad faith of commenters)? Abuse. The idea that a person would have to read the blog for months to learn all the sometimes-arbitrary rules, to find all the ways that you have to tiptoe around the eggshells for fear of getting attacked?

        There is a name for this behavior.

        The name for this behavior is abuse.

      • Katie / Apr 16 2011 2:36 pm

        Also: if Melissa and the other mods have been so beaten down by the trolls and the shit-stirrers that they can’t tell the difference between an honest question in good faith and the shit-stirrers, then they need to take care of that. To take a break. Get therapy. Punch a pillow. Whatever they need to do to take responsibility for their mental health. I am not responsible for their mental health, and neither are you. They are. And yet here you are, arguing that it is perfectly healthy and acceptable that not only are commenters responsible for the content of their comment, but for the feelings that may arise out of a misinterpretation of their comment (as in my case). Which is crazy-making and basically shuts people up. It silences people. You yourself admitted to being shut up by this behavior.

        Violating boundaries and using silencing techniques. There is a name for that behavior, and the name for that behavior is abuse.

        • G / Apr 16 2011 11:02 pm

          Katie, has it completely escaped you that you’re talking about commenting on a site as if it’s your right to do so and drawing parallels between that and abuse?

          There is a really big difference between abuse and bullying and being told off on Shakesville. You get told off on Shakesville you can surf away or shut your computer off. They are not seeking out YOU, you go to THEIR space. THEIR safe space, not YOUR safe space. If the idea of reading Shakesville for months before commenting is torturous to you, then I suggest you just plain decide that Shakesville is not a place for you – but it is for plenty other folks.

          And I’m not saying that this is how it SHOULD be at Shakesville, I’m stating that that is how it is. And because of the shit storms they’ve had to weather I can see WHY it has come to this.

          Think of all the things that Melissa and the other Shakers write about on a daily basis, the things they highlight.

          Then take what you wrote;
          “To take a break. Get therapy. Punch a pillow. Whatever they need to do to take responsibility for their mental health. I am not responsible for their mental health, and neither are you. They are.”

          And it reminds me exactly of the “Take our boobs and go home” post I was just discussing yesterday. You are basically saying that, because Shakesville is not run the way you think it should be then they need to go take a break or something – you know, take their boobs and go home. Because you’re not being treated the way you were expected to in a space that isn’t yours?

          What do you call that? That is exactly the opposite of a safe space for Shakers. It may be a safe space for you, but not for them – not if it means Melissa having to explain herself to every new (or old) reader.

          There is a reason I self censor when I comment at Shakesville. Because they ask me to. There, I said it, and it doesn’t bother me – it’s not my space to write whatever I wish, they are allowed to censor me, but for the sake of me not getting banned I censor myself.

          They are asking, for the sake of everyone, that you are very, very careful with what you say, because your words can hurt others and if you’re told off for saying something offensive and then try to explain away or defend yourself, yup, you’re so not going to go away from there with a warm feeling in your belly.

          I don’t know.. I just feel like people walk into Shakesville expecting to be welcomed with open arms, then they open their mouth and a frog hops out and instead of apologizing they start explaining away.

          Take Oro, for example. She made a sweeping statement about Scotland and fried foods. The more she tried to defend the statement (it’s not negative, I used to live in Scotland etc.) the worse it got. And this defending thing, yes, it happens when people haven’t stuck around long enough to see other n00bs get told off for making similar comments and being shut down.

          Or someone like DX coming in and assuming Melissa was being transphobic.

          Now imagine 20 new or newish people coming in every day making assumptions and saying inappropriate shit in the comments. It would turn into Melissa Defending Herself instead of Melissa Shedding Light On Social Injustices.

          I know Shakesville is not perfect, but I know which Shakesville I prefer.

      • silentbeep / Apr 20 2011 1:16 pm

        “It is not a place for discourse. It’s not a place for exchanging ideas.”

        That above quote, is the perfect reason why I only read occasionally, and have rarely commented there – I’m not that interested in places where discourse and exchanging ideas is not allowed.

        • G / Apr 21 2011 6:36 pm

          I definitely go somewhere else if I want to debate anything.

        • silentbeep / Apr 27 2011 1:12 pm

          @G

          Debate is not what I look for really, not very often. Debate has the connotation of arguing for argument’s sack and that’s not what I value very much. But I do look for open discourse, questioning, and just generally being allowed to explore ideas. I don’t find those things at Shakesville. So i don’t go there to comment or read very often. Which is odd, because I agree with them about 80 – 90 percent of the time. Just not my community, I don’t feel safe there.

      • blondie / Apr 21 2011 4:42 pm

        G says:
        “So, not only do Shakers have to stand up against mainstream bullshit, they have to put up with people, who usually are the ones Shakers are so adamant in fighting social justice for”

        Omg, melissa is fighting for you! Why aren’t you grateful! /sarcasm

        yawn.

      • DX / Apr 23 2012 6:45 pm

        G:

        I have been reading Shakesville from the days when it was Shakespeare’s Sister, so you can take your “fauxpology” and leave. I am not a newbie and asked a question regarding transphobia because you know what? To respond to this comment: “Or someone like DX coming in and assuming Melissa was being transphobic.” Considering McEwan’s track record with trans issues; I’m not going to give her the benefit of the doubt that she isn’t transphobic. She has cis privilege and has had some obvious fuck ups (i.e. Mary Daly, etc) So yeah, I’m going to interpret the boobs thing in a negative way.

  24. G / Apr 16 2011 11:20 pm

    “Also: if Melissa and the other mods have been so beaten down by the trolls and the shit-stirrers that they can’t tell the difference between an honest question in good faith and the shit-stirrers, then they need to take care of that. ”

    That may be because sometimes there is an overlap. Some people are complete shit stirrers, but others come in thinking Shakesville is a good fit for them, but they’re not quite “there” yet – they may have a few kinks yet to iron out (MY rights are important, but the rights of those other people is not so important) – but see, Shakesville is NOT a 101 place, and so is not a place where people will help you get up to speed, they don’t tolerate lagging behind. And displaying that in comments can make you look like a troll. So, that is where the zero tolerance comes from, I think. They don’t have the time or effort to spend on n00bs. There are 101 n00b safe spaces for that, where asking questions is ok.

  25. Katie / Apr 17 2011 10:14 am

    Katie, has it completely escaped you that you’re talking about commenting on a site as if it’s your right to do so and drawing parallels between that and abuse?

    G, has it completely escaped you that I’ve said nothing about “rights” whatsoever? Has it occurred to you that maybe I agree with you that no one has a right to post on a particular blog? We’re not talking about free speech here. Blog owners get the final say in what comments get posted. This isn’t rocket science.

    There is a really big difference between abuse and bullying and being told off on Shakesville.

    I know what abuse is, thankyouverymuch. And I have clearly demonstrated how Shakesville’s commenting policy, as enacted, is abusive.

    You get told off on Shakesville you can surf away or shut your computer off. They are not seeking out YOU, you go to THEIR space. THEIR safe space, not YOUR safe space.

    So, honest question. I’d been commenting at Shakesville for years when I was abused. Just WHOSE safe space is it if it wasn’t MINE? Just the mods? If so, then why is it a political blog? I mean, this is an honest question. How does this work? If they want a safe space community where they can set all their arbitrary rules and only interact with people who pat them on the back, then why don’t they create a private community for that? When you put something out there publicly, you invite PUBLIC comment. And no, that doesn’t mean publishing or being nice to every douchey commenter. But there is a middle ground between letting douchebags abuse them, and turning around and abusing commenters who don’t follow all the magic rules of posting.

    If the idea of reading Shakesville for months before commenting is torturous to you, then I suggest you just plain decide that Shakesville is not a place for you – but it is for plenty other folks.

    ding ding ding! I did. So did a lot of the other people commenting on this thread. So why are you seeking US out and telling US there’s something wrong with US?

    “To take a break. Get therapy. Punch a pillow. Whatever they need to do to take responsibility for their mental health. I am not responsible for their mental health, and neither are you. They are.”

    And it reminds me exactly of the “Take our boobs and go home” post I was just discussing yesterday. You are basically saying that, because Shakesville is not run the way you think it should be then they need to go take a break or something – you know, take their boobs and go home. Because you’re not being treated the way you were expected to in a space that isn’t yours?

    Uh, are you serious? Saying “ouch, that hurts. I don’t appreciate being spoken to that way” constitutes saying “take your toys and go home”? In what bizarro-English universe?

    What do you call that? That is exactly the opposite of a safe space for Shakers. It may be a safe space for you, but not for them – not if it means Melissa having to explain herself to every new (or old) reader.

    I am not saying what you say I am saying. What I am saying is that if they cannot stop themselves from abusing people who are not being assholes, because they are so triggered by all the assholes, then they need to take care of that. Words. They mean something. And I am very clear about my meaning. It is not okay, anyplace, anywhere, anytime, to take out anger and frustration towards one person or group onto another person or group. That is abusive. If someone’s safe space requires abusing someone else, they need to rethink that “safe space.” Noone’s safe space requires abusing anyone else.

    They are asking, for the sake of everyone, that you are very, very careful with what you say, because your words can hurt others and if you’re told off for saying something offensive and then try to explain away or defend yourself, yup, you’re so not going to go away from there with a warm feeling in your belly.

    Okay, one, I did apologize and clarify my comment that got me jumped on, not “explain away” or “defend.” Did you even read this OP and the post and comments it linked to? I didn’t say anything offensive. I was projected upon (by them and now by you, weeee!) as being an asshole when I wasn’t, and as a result, abused.

    And two, why should commenters have to be “very, very careful with what you say, because your words can hurt others” then why the double standard? Shouldn’t they also be so careful? Who gets to decide who is in the “in group” that can project all over people and heap abuse at them, and who is an “outsider” that has to spend 20 minutes on every single word lest it ruffle someone’s feathers?

    I don’t know.. I just feel like people walk into Shakesville expecting to be welcomed with open arms, then they open their mouth and a frog hops out and instead of apologizing they start explaining away.

    Yeah, believe it or not, I see that too! But there are other ways to handle it. There are assertive—rather than aggressive—ways to deal with people like that. Shakesville leadership chooses to abuse rather than assert.

    Take Oro, for example. She made a sweeping statement about Scotland and fried foods. The more she tried to defend the statement (it’s not negative, I used to live in Scotland etc.) the worse it got. And this defending thing, yes, it happens when people haven’t stuck around long enough to see other n00bs get told off for making similar comments and being shut down.

    Okay, this is an interesting example. Last I heard, Scottish people weren’t exactly an oppressed class. So a person who lived there makes a comment about the food. And other people disagree. Why is she treated the same way as some douchey frat boy who comes in and says some really homophobic shit?

    Or someone like DX coming in and assuming Melissa was being transphobic.

    I read the post in question. DX didn’t assume, zie asked. Zie did exactly what Melissa ostensibly wants people to do.

    Now imagine 20 new or newish people coming in every day making assumptions and saying inappropriate shit in the comments. It would turn into Melissa Defending Herself instead of Melissa Shedding Light On Social Injustices.

    Ah, now we get down to brass tacks. What this is really about is that you don’t think what DX said (or what I said?) was “appropriate.” So, if someone says something you personally think is appropriate, that justifies any behavior in response? Once someone has said something that can in any universe possibly be interpreted as being even remotely offensive, that ethically allows for an unleashing of any type of abuse in response? If that’s true, wow. I couldn’t disagree more. But if you really believe that DX, and I, and all the other people commenting here about being abused at Shakesville were all being offensive douches, then what are you doing here? Honest question.

    Okay, here’s where I get down to my own brass tacks.

    Blogs are public places, yes, but that doesn’t mean that Melissa and the other mods get to do whatever they damn well please there and not deal with the consequences—either at Shakesville or in other places. If I walk past a dorm room (this is NOT a perfect analogy for a blog but it’s the closest real-life scenario I could come up with) with the door open and they’re all having a conversation, and I come in and start talking to them, it may be “their” space, but if they abuse me in that space then I have the right to speak up for myself (look, now I AM talking about rights!). Say they’ve regularly experienced jerks coming into their space and being jerky, and they’ve got all this pent-up frustration toward those jerks, but instead of releasing that frustration somehow in healthy ways, they project it all on to me. Even if it’s their space, they have invited me in by having a public conversation, and I have the right to say, “hey wait a minute, I don’t deserve to be treated that way.” And just because it’s their space doesn’t mean what they are doing to me doesn’t constitute abuse. If they don’t listen when I ask them to stop, I have the right to leave. But I still retain the right to tell people about my experience there! I can go back to my own dorm room, and be like, “wow, you know what those folks in 403 said to me?”

    And here’s where I really get down to brass tacks.

    In your comment, you are projecting onto me things that I didn’t say. Actually, you’re doing the same thing to DX. I don’t appreciate that; in fact, I don’t tolerate it in this space. You are on moderation now, and any comments where you don’t respond to what I actually said or to what DX actually said will be ignored.

    See, I managed to do that without bullying you, without projecting anything onto you that you didn’t say, and without making you out to be some kind of troll or douchebag. Weee! Magic!

    • Pat / Apr 27 2011 2:14 pm

      Kudos to everything Katie said. (And sorry I’m so late to the party saying so—the updates were vanishing into my bulk account. PS: The dorm room analogy was spot-on!)

      To add to the reality check, in what other Internet space is a learning curve of several months (“a friendly reminder for all those who don’t know”?—gag me) demanded? In what other space—safe or otherwise—are users treated to almost daily lectures in how to behave? In what other space is the safe space of some users—shades of Animal Farm—more equal than others? (An attitude which, having been active in my school’s BGLTU and worked to make my classroom safe, galls me to no end.)

      But let’s set aside the misappropriation of safe space the Shakesville engages…the double standards for commenters…and the blanket contemptuousness that is, at time of writing, actually featured on the site’s masthead.

      The real issue is one of form. If it’s a private blog, fine, let it be private. But once you open it to a certain number of contributors, it becomes a community—particularly if you then actively solicit comments and contributions. It’s no longer private. It is a place for discussion—even if Melissa, G. and others don’t want it to be. You’re asking—whether you realize it or not—for a different level of engagement from readers, and to still regard it as your own private fiefdom and try to run it as such is asking for a nightmare. This is Melissa’s curse: as she explicitly states, she wants a feminisT’S blog…and thus she and her minions must spend every day (wo)manning the battlements so it doesn’t become a feminisTS (no apostrophe) blog. But the moment she went from Shakespeare’s Sister to Shakesville, she crossed that line—and crosses it doubly so every time she asks for donations.

      And the fact is, you create the kind of community you want—usually by example. (Webcomics artists have learned this well—Dave Kellett of Sheldon and Webcomics Weekly, is really eloquent on this point; definitely worth checking out.) Melissa, everyone in her circle, and many commenters have created a site that is hypersensitive, trigger-happy, and has its knives out for any misstep. The posts are often insightful and inviting…but all that serves to do is lure people into the lion’s den of the comments section. The end result is a mockery—instead of being subtly and silently self-policing, it’s a blatant police state.

      Melissa and the mods would be right to ban truly odious commenters and trolls, but they ban willy-nilly, and often for a first or second offense*—especially if the commenter has a male-sounding name (one of my friends quickly learned to post with as feminine a moniker as possible).

      *(Which as an audience-builder is just nuts. People who comment are more likely to be engaged, active, and loyal. They’re also more apt to repost, open their wallets, and evangelize to friends. Why set them up to be punished and driven away? But where was I? Oh right…)

      But Melissa and the mods would be happier—and have a more fulfilling blog experience—if they just let the discussion go. Make their posts and move on. Why not act like the content creators they are and move onto the next creation rather than waste their time being hall monitors? They already have the most important voices—they make the posts, they have avatars, they have identities, they have fans and followings—so why the strident obsession about comments (that the user has to click through to get to anyway!)?

      And it’s this obsession that is, for me, the revelatory thing about Shakesville:

      Melissa and her gang don’t really want community. They don’t really want a safe space. They don’t even seem to want readers, given what they do to drive their most engaged ones away.

      Shakesville’s tragedy is that what they want—more than safety, more than page views, more than anything else—is The Last Word.

      In a world sometimes seemingly dedicated to silencing women, I can understand that desire. But I can’t condone or respect it. Because nowhere is that more impossible than on the Web—even with a ban button. And that is why Shakesville will always be an unhappy place to visit for too long—even and most especially for Melissa herself.

      • Katie / May 6 2011 9:08 am

        Pat, you just totally hit the ball out of the park with this post. What an excellent summary of what’s going on.

    • DX / Apr 23 2012 6:49 pm

      Thank you for sticking up for me, Katie. After reading G’s comment last year I couldn’t face coming back because I was triggered that I was only going to be piled on by someone defending the abusive commenting policies at Shakesville. Thank you for your words and for this space.

      • Katie / Apr 23 2012 8:14 pm

        Hi DX,

        I am so sorry to hear that you experienced that kind of hurt in this place, and I am glad to see that you came back to find that I didn’t allow any more comments attacking you (or anyone else) without being answered.

        I am surprised that even today, 18 months after original posting, people continue to find this post and comment on it. Of course some of them defend Melissa and Shakesville, but I have made it clear from about a year ago forward under what conditions I will post such comments (with the edit that shows at the top of the post). Since then, I have not had any comments defending Melissa or Shakesville that have managed to meet my (fairly meager and reasonable if I do say so myself) criteria for post-worthiness. In any case, I am glad this has turned into a safe space of sorts for people to share their experiences, but I do wish that in that process you wouldn’t have experienced such hurt here.

        Best wishes.

        • DX / Apr 26 2012 12:32 pm

          Thank you Katie. I’m just glad to have found your blog! I’ve been reading back through the archives. :)

  26. Expat / Apr 25 2011 11:00 pm

    Just responding to G’s comment

    A few years ago, before the Shut Down of ’08 and from the beginning, there was much, much more debate at Shakesville. Moreover, the learning curve was broader and accepted. If there was a noob, the mods and community were amenable to lending a hand, so to speak. People came and went. I think that leeway and the time and toll it takes was just to much of a burden especially on Melissa. After the Shut Down, Feminism 101 became required reading, “all in” was the motto, good faith was to be assumed, bad faith was rejected at even the slightest whiff, the mods became more strident, and derailment of a thread was cause for warning.

    The Shut Down was a reaction, the new rules were a reaction, and Shakesville as it currently exists is the final product. Love it or hate it, it still has some excellent writing. I don’t comment anymore, mostly because it would only be redundant. Most of the comments are redundant. If someone new was going to “join” Shakesville,(the site, not feminism) my advice would be to remember that Shakesville , most importantly, is Melissa Mcewan. It rises and ebbs with her.

    • Katie / May 6 2011 9:13 am

      If someone new was going to “join” Shakesville,(the site, not feminism) my advice would be to remember that Shakesville , most importantly, is Melissa Mcewan. It rises and ebbs with her.

      That’s all well and good, but they’re making it out to be a community. And as Pat clearly explained, that is a major contradiction. That’s their fault, not the fault of unwary commenters who take Melissa at her word (assuming good faith!) that she’s trying to create community.

      • Expat / May 8 2011 9:22 pm

        That’s all well and good, but they’re making it out to be a community. And as Pat clearly explained, that is a major contradiction.

        I obviously made my point poorly. I completely agree with the statement above. In my opinion, it’s only a community as far as Melissa and the mods wants it to be a community. They, Melissa especially, are the temper of the place. When it gets dark over there, and that’s the majority of the time, it gets black out curtain dark. I’ve been through enough and I have no desire to draw those curtains with Melissa and her band. I need the strength, motivation and solidarity of women, not solidarity in gloom and cynicism.

  27. Katie / May 6 2011 9:13 am

    Note to potential new commenters, I have updated the post asking that you consider the following before commenting:

    1. If you’re commenting to “defend” Melissa (who I don’t, frankly, think needs defending, as I haven’t attacked her but have simply told the truth about my experience there) then you need to demonstrate that you have the most very basic empathy and compassion for me as a human being. Treating Melissa like a human is very good. But I am one too. And in this space I demand that my humanness be respected, and by that I mean specifically that my experience and my feelings are just as important as Melissa’s.

    2. If you’re commenting to tell me my interpretation of what happened or my experience is somehow flawed, you probably want to think twice (or thrice) about whether to comment. If you still decide to do so, you better damn well be able to back up your assertions with actual quotes. (Similar to how I did in the OP! Not that hard!). Saying that I broke the rules? Demonstrate that, with evidence. Saying Melissa was totally calm and didn’t say anything to me out of line? Demonstrate that.

    3. Please, make it clear what your purpose is in commenting. If all you’re doing is basically adding to the defend-Melissa pile-on that I got in the post I’m referencing here, then ask yourself, what is the point of your comment? Especially on a post that is seven months old? I’ve already been sufficiently chastised and no longer read Shakesville. So what, exactly, are you hoping to accomplish?

  28. Deb / Jun 15 2011 4:39 pm

    Hi! Sorry to hear about your experience on Shakesville…There was no excuse for the dogpile and I get what you are saying…she is violating her own code of being anti violence by writing a comic with violent imagry….I agreew with what you are saying that it is bullying…here is my experience if you are interested!
    I had the audacity to ask why Evolutionary Psychology and its followers shame women for being gold diggers yet don’t shame men for caring about looks…and admitting that yes, there is SOME truth that women care more about status than looks and Melissa banned me even though I spent months commiting there and had a good rep. Oh, and apparently if you ask her WHY that would require being banished, when I obviously wasn’t trolling, I was pointing out something that I thought related to feminism, she didn’t answer me. ater she made a blogpost about someone else asking her why she was banned and basically called her a rape aploogist because it was violating her boundries which she states in her comment policy. She is the only blogger I know of that does this and acts like she should get regular donations from her readers. Most bloggers don;t seem to have boundries like don’t critisize me at all, and only ban trolls and such…not people makign observations they disagree with!

    Thanks for letting me rant lol….sorry if this is unclear…..

  29. Bernie / Jun 30 2011 4:26 pm

    Katie, I came across your blog after doing a search for “Shakesville” and “drama.” I’ve been reading Shakesville for about a month, and I find it ridiculously hateful and intolerant. Most of the time, though, it just makes me laugh.

    I have a few feminist friends who I disagree with many things on, and we have polite, often times funny, conversations about them. You see, the friends who I’m talking about are sane and rational. Unlike how Melissa treats her friends in real life, these women aren’t going to tell me that I’m an awful person for using the word “mankind” instead of “humankind.” Because of that, they’ve actually been able to change my mind about things a few times.

    The hypersensitivity and anger that you see at Shakesville does feminism a disservice, at least from my perspective as a man. I’d imagine that with the amount of attempted trolling there, the Encyclopedia Dramatica page, et cetera, that a lot of other men feel the same way. If THAT’S what feminism is, it’s so easy for most men to dismiss it as a whole.

    I want to thank you for this blog entry. It’s the first time in a month (I’ve been reading things other than Shakesville) that I’ve come across a feminist blog that seems completely sane and rational like my feminist friends are. I might not agree with everything you say, but I’m willing to listen.

    Also, I’m not surprised that ol’ Liss never responded to you. She’s unable to see herself as anything except a victim, no matter how much the comments here seem to indicate that she bullies women all the time simply for asking well-intentioned questions or using the wrong word.

  30. Just Some Trans Guy / Sep 10 2011 6:48 pm

    Old thread, I know, but since it bears repeating (and in case any other Shakesville refugees are hurting and confused and doubting themselves):

    It’s not you, it’s Shakesville. Really, truly.

    In response to a comment above, I didn’t read Shakesville for months before commenting–I read it for YEARS. That’s not an exaggeration. I’m not new to social justice or social justice discussions. And I played by Shakesville’s rules the entire time I commented there and, to the best of my knowledge, I remain unbanned. I just walked away after I’d had enough.

    And I’m not sure if I’d describe the dynamic at that blog as ABUSIVE–that seems potentially too loaded a term–but it’s absolutely unhealthy and absolutely damaging. My own personal example? I commented on a thread about same-sex marriage saying that I wished that more same-sex marriage advocates were also fighting for the rights of poly people to get married, and Melissa chastised me (albeit gently) for not mentioning how poly marriages have historically hurt women. I apologized and backed down, per Shakesville protocol, and did some thinking on the points she’d made.

    Then, a few days or weeks later, on a different thread, Melissa was chastising another commenter for not considering how poly people should have the right to marry. And I was legitimately and sincerely confused, because I couldn’t understand the difference tween the point I had made earlier and the point Melissa was making then. I wracked my brains for weeks over it, no lie, trying to figure out where and how I’d screwed up. I ended up just chalking it down to me not being enough of an Advanced Feminist.

    It was only later, as I’d read through more threads and witnessed the (now infamous?) Mary Daly melt-down that I realized–there was no logic, no rhyme, no reason. I was wrong that day because … well, just because. Because Melissa decided so, for whatever reason. And Melissa had been right because, well, Melissa is ALWAYS right. Even when she’s claiming to apologize for being wrong.

    Often, ESPECIALLY when she is claiming to apologize for being wrong.

    I’ve had more than enough mind games in my life, so when it finally clicked in place for me, I walked. I’d fallen down the rabbit hole so far that I was actually convinced that I had been in the wrong when Melissa was the one who was playing Calvinball. And that is toxic, toxic stuff.

    I don’t visit Shakesville much since I stopped commenting. The writing is still frequently quite exceptional and enlightening. But the comment threads … oof.

  31. Erica G / Oct 26 2011 4:28 pm

    I think Melissa has a short fuse because she has to deal all the time with people like these on Shakesville:

    link removed by blog author

    • Katie / Oct 27 2011 9:41 am

      Hi Erica,

      It is certainly likely that Melissa has a short fuse because of the horrible things people are saying about her online, although that is really not a judgment for me to make. It also, if true, would be her job to work out, not everyone else’s job to work out for her (e.g. by walking on eggshells around her). I think empathy for others is certainly important, and we cannot let it cloud the boundaries between what we are responsible for and what we are not.

      I deleted the link you posted because this blog will not be the place for folks to post links to content which is hateful toward Melissa.

  32. Athenia / Jan 2 2012 10:30 am

    Hi Katie,

    I know this post is pretty old at this point, but I just wanted to say thank you for writing it. Recently, I had my own “ouch” moment. I think the ouch hurt that much more because I hold Liss and Shakesville in such high regard.

    Anyways, thank you—it’s nice to know that I’m not alone in how I feel.

    • Katie / Jan 2 2012 1:59 pm

      Hi Athenia,

      Thanks for your comment–it’s nice to know that others have found this piece helpful. I’m also sorry to hear you had a similar experience. *sigh*

  33. rahxephon / Jan 13 2012 6:42 am

    Hey Katie,

    I just wanted to say that I can totally relate to your experiences. I’ve read Shakesville (it was still Shakespeare’s Sister back then) since high school, and it’s actually why I consider myself an ardent feminist now. However, like all things, it may have helped me once but it may be time to move on.

    To echo someone upthread, it does seem like the past year or so has become especially hardline and the moderating has stopped being about banning outright trolls. It’s become very punitive, where even slight mistakes can warrant a mod warning you. I often see mods alter people’s comments without their consent, informing them they were going to do so beforehand, or attempt to explain the issue first and have them do it themselves.

    I realize it’s their space, but such behavior is authoritarian, not authoritative, much like parenting. Disciplining your kid for trying to touch the stove will probably teach them to not do that, but they won’t know why. In the same vein, the moderators are taking stricter and stricter stances with comments, and they’re also unwilling to explain. On the contrary, any attempts to ask for clarification are answered with accusations of bad faith on the commenters’ parts, denial, and outright bannings.

    I used to comment there frequently and enjoyed the community. It was a formative experience for me in my teen years; back then they were willing to put up with someone like me, a young man ignorant of feminism but willing to learn. I don’t see such enlightenment going on there now at all. Instead, the community is becoming more and more insular as readers like me peel off.

  34. T.L. / Jan 27 2012 11:07 am

    The woman bills herself on her site as “Queen C*** of F*** Mountain”, and that is exactly how she behaved when I tried to pitch a blog post idea to her and other Shakesville contributors. Apparently I hadn’t respected THE RULES!!!!!! of submitting ideas when I tried to engage the other contributors. Um, they’re adults; they can choose whether or not to respond to me, right?

    I’m not upset that she didn’t like the idea (it is fairly controversial, after all), but I was so put off by her imperious, brusque attitude that I won’t bother with her or her site ever again.

    I’ve learned something, though – I will never, ever treat another feminist so disrespectfully, even if I completely disagree with them.

    • Katie / Jan 27 2012 11:33 am

      Ugh, sorry you had that experience, T.L.

      Um, they’re adults; they can choose whether or not to respond to me, right?

      As this story has continued to unfold with more and more commenters coming forward with their stories, what you are saying here is exactly what’s been so strongly on my mind. As you say, they (and I think probably all of the commenters here) are all adults. That means we have the power to choose how we respond to others. We can simply choose not to respond, or we can state our boundaries clearly and firmly. What they are doing is neither; they heap abuse on anyone whose comment or email they don’t appreciate. They expect all the readers of the blog to do all kinds of intensive emotional work to try to keep Melissa “safe,” which I put in quotations because their dubious definition of safe space for Melissa involves all kinds of caretaking that is really not any of our jobs. And sadly, it appears that even now, more than a year after I made this post, she has not taken responsibility for things that she is perfectly capable of taking control of herself.

      • T.L. / Jan 27 2012 3:28 pm

        Yup, and it would have been nice if she’d assumed that I acted in the same good faith that she expects everyone else to assume from her. For the record, I approached her on the subject with a great deal of deference and respect, and told her straight up that I wouldn’t take it personally if she decided my post wasn’t for Shakesville. She responded with this:

        “As is plainly stated in the instructions re: guest-posting, potential guest-posters are asked to email me, not bother everyone who contributes to the blog. If emailing everyone to invite a conversation about a potential guest post was appropriate, that would be the instruction…If you want to discuss this issue further, you can email me directly after removing everyone else’s email from the reply.”

        Egads.

        I think the real reason that Melissa irks us so much is that it doesn’t matter to her what kind of feminist credentials you’ve got offline; it makes no difference to her what you’ve actually done to further the cause. She seems to assume that new to Shakesville=new to feminism.

  35. QuesoPesko / Feb 11 2012 5:37 pm

    I doubt you meant this comment thread to become a support group of sorts for those of us who have found ourselves unintentionally on the outs with Melissa or other mods at Shakesville, but I was very glad I found this thread. I don’t feel quite as confused or upset, knowing that I am not the only one.

    I ran afoul of Melissa in a lighthearted thread of Deeky’s yesterday, if I am interpreting correctly (and I probably am not) because Melissa took my opinion of what is polite or impolite on Facebook to mean I was judging Deeky, which I was not, and took care to explain when it became apparent she was angry at me. I moved the discussion to email, and now she’s mad that I emailed her on her day off (hey, don’t check it on your day off). She’s mad that I dare ask for an apology (I didn’t).

    Heck, there’s probably no need to recount what happened. But I’m hurt, and I feel like I messed up, but yet I really don’t think I did anything out of line, and I’m becoming angry. I am human, I am not capable of predicting how every mod will react to what I say, yet I’m expected to, and she can be unbelievably rude to me with impunity. I’ve been a dedicated reader for a long time, I’ve contributed money, I’ve just never really commented much. And now, I feel like I don’t want to go back, if I don’t find myself banned for daring to speak up when I thought she was reacting to something I never said or implied.

    I grew up in a house where there was no way to win. Speaking up was risky, because if someone took what I said the wrong way, or if I picked the wrong word, the yelling would start, and no apologizing or explaining would ever stop it. This feels the same, and yes – it is abusive.

    Thanks for having this post out here.

    • Katie / Feb 14 2012 1:09 pm

      You’re right, I definitely didn’t expect this to turn into a “support group” for folks! And I’m very sad, in fact, that it’s needed. But grateful that it exists to meet that need and continues to do so as new folks find it.

      I don’t read Shakesville anymore but I went to look for the post you were talking about to see what happened, and it brought back memories of what happened to me. Ugh.

      I moved the discussion to email, and now she’s mad that I emailed her on her day off (hey, don’t check it on your day off)

      It is absolutely stunning to me that she would expect readers of a public blog to pay attention to what her day off is and not email her on that day. As you said–she doesn’t have to check it. I mean, really. WOW. This is such a perfect and succinct example of the root of the problem at Shakesville. Somehow, everyone else is expected to go to extraordinary lengths to take care of Melissa’s needs and boundaries, even as she refuses to take responsibility for her own self care and tramples over others in the process. And the mods and many regular commenters enable and support the behavior through their actions, words, and “like” buttons.

      There’s not much to be done, since Melissa has demonstrated over and over to people like you and me that she’s not really interested in dialogue about these things. All that can be done is for those of us who see these issues to welcome and support those seeking refuge after being hurt there. I’ve considered closing comments on this post, but for every jerk that comes here to tell me off and defend Melissa (many of which don’t make it through mod since they’ve violated the pretty clear and reasonable expectations I’ve outlined in the post for commenting here) there are at least 2 or 3 like you who are looking for a place to be heard and seen and affirmed. As long as people like you keep finding solace here, I will leave commenting open!

  36. ThisisMe! / Feb 24 2012 10:38 am

    Oh my gosh! I found this and want to say I have seen the bullying go way too far.

    I asked a simple question in a thread a few months ago and had multiple accuse of me “bad faith”.

    Apparently all “bad faith” really is is simply an opinion different than Melissa’s.

    She truly gives feminism an awful name. People like her scare away other women from the movement.

    I’m saying NO to Shakesville!

  37. Jane Baxter / May 3 2012 7:43 am

    This is an old thread, but I’m new and I have to add my voice to mix. At the risk of sounding like a cultish echo chamber, I’ll say it one more time: it’s not you. It’s Shakesville.

    Melissa had a chance to build a little slice of feminist utopia on the Web, an opportunity to model how things *could* be. But those of us who already agree with her on the vast majority of the issues don’t even want to spend any time there! I am Christian, and I’m reminded of the parallels between Christians who try to evangelize through fear and shame and those who try to model grace working in their lives. She is more like those she demonizes than she will ever admit.

    I read for years before joining the comments. By my second comment, Melissa called me “anti-woman.” One of the other mods started going on about how I had “walked into Melissa’s blog” and disagreed with her, as if I had no right to post there. I tried to apologize and rephrase my opinion, so that they would understand my good intentions, but the more contrite I was, the more aggressive they became, calling me names and accusing me of trying to stir the pot. I’ve been around on the Internet, but this was the only time I was ever genuinely surprised and upset by an exchange I had there. I wound up walking away from the thread and never posted again.

    I used to excuse a lot of Melissa’s behavior because we have had similar experiences related to trauma, and I know that healing can take a very long time. But I don’t have patience for it anymore. Many of Melissa’s readers have the same struggles that she does, but they are expected to treat *her* with kid gloves, read her mind, and take responsibility for her sense of safety and happiness, while she gets to run over whomever and exploit their vulnerability to get the upper hand. Why willingly participate in that? There is no value in Shakesville, except as a mechanism for feeding Melissa’s codependency. I’m out.

  38. Cyndi Lee / Jun 1 2012 7:31 pm

    Like many others, I arrived here via a recent ban on Shakesville. (see: http://www.shakesville.com/2012/05/assange-update.html#disqus_thread).

    I had a feeling that my comments – I’m Judy_Jetson – probably wouldn’t translate well and I was right. Nor did I expect that everyone would agree with what I posted (although I did get 5 “likes”!), but I was surprised by the level of vitriol and name-calling that followed.

    As a 55-year old second-wave feminist, I had to laugh at mod-bitch Apha_Behn’s pompous claim that my call for presumption of innocence was “rape apologia” and her suggestion that Shakesville “is an advanced feminist space, and we don’t debate the basics here”.

    All the photos of cuddly dogs and cats can’t mask the fact that Shakesville is a hotbed of selective victimhood that operates on the level of a schoolyard bully.

  39. Stella / Jun 4 2012 7:32 pm

    Thank you for keeping this around. I’m glad to see it’s not just me. I just got banned from Shakesville, after months of reading and occasional commenting. Fortunately it was with nowhere near the amount of hurt and drama that other people have experienced; my sin was disrespecting moderation by commenting once too often on a subject which had been deemed off-topic, although it was a direct response to a blanket statement in the post which I was trying to point out did not apply to everyone, and my last comment was just to point out that my previous comments had been directly misinterpreted and to apologize for the unintentional derailing. I’m told I should have written my own post elsewhere. It was all very civil (well, I was civil throughout, the second mod was quite polite, and Melissa was snarky and started swearing), and I’m just sort of mystified how this little conversation turned into banning.

    This has made me think quite a bit more about the concept of derailing and its uses. Clearly at Shakesville derailing means trying to discuss anything other than the topic of the post as defined by the moderators; even a direct reaction to something else in the post that is not meant to be the topic of discussion is off-limits, at least if that reaction involves any kind of disagreement. Well, lesson learned, I think I’m done there. It’s a shame, because I really like most of Melissa’s posts, but the limits on discussion and absolute obedience to authority required are just too much.

    (If anyone want to see what a minor and mostly civil interaction that results in banning looks like, it’s here: http://www.shakesville.com/2012/06/number-of-day_04.html I’m stellamod.)

  40. blueberry_moon / Jun 8 2012 2:27 pm

    I’m glad that other people are commenting about this. I accidentally used the word psycho today on a thread to describe an ultra-conservative political commentator. Almost immediately one of the mods was down my throat, saying I was encouraging “abelist” language and insulting people with mental disabilities.

    It broke my heart! I’m 20 and my generation tends to use the word psycho to describe those who are completely mentally stable but are acting in a way that is offensive and hurtful to others – it’s a part of our vernacular. I understand why some might have been offended but I seriously think that they knew what I meant and that I wasn’t intending to hurt anyone’s feelings, I would NEVER use the word psycho to describe somebody with mental health issues!! I myself am bipolar/ manic depressive and have been hospitalized several times due to it, so like I said…it REALLY hurt to be accused of promoting abelist language/ activity. Also, the mod who got on me was really condescending, I felt like crap.

    I apologized and got no response.

    I don’t really feel like Shakesville is a safe place. Every time I comment I check my message over and over again for anything that could be deemed offensive, and as I said, I sometimes still fail at picking it out. The author is smart for sure but it doesn’t seem like an open place for discussion.

    Thanks for making me feel better (I know this is a super old thread). :)

    • blueberry_moon / Jun 8 2012 2:49 pm

      Whoops! I meant “ableist!” I’m not the best speller and spell check keeps telling me it’s not a word anyway…sorry!

  41. Questioning Student / Aug 6 2012 9:35 am

    Hi Katie,

    I haven’t read through the whole comment thread but wanted to say that I’ve had similar experiences where I tried to share my opinion or point of view on Shakesville and got shut down hard- and I too had that sort of panicky-tight-chest feeling because at the time I really respected Melissa and the community and what they were trying to accomplish.

    My politics have changed since then, and I only read shakesville every couple months, but I find it deeply troubling that any dissent or difference of opinion is shut down. I think it’s crucial to hear all sides and all opinions and humanize them (even Fred Phelps, who I would disagree with on 90% of everything) and while I understand Melissa is going for a “safe space”, it always seems to me she wants a safe space for her and people who think like her. That’s incredibly dangerous- to surround yourself with sycophants.

    Anyway, I wanted to say you’re not alone in your experience.

  42. nucl3arsnke / Nov 2 2012 4:11 pm

    At first I enjoyed this thread, because I, too, have seen some of this bullshit go down on Shakesville. (The mods assuming bad faith from a commenter, that is.)

    But now I’m at the end, and it seems to have degenerated from well-thought-out responses to random n00b complaining about Shakesville. The man who writes about how hateful yet hilarious Shakesville is, compared with his “sane” feminist friends? That’s some classic tone-argument and exceptional-woman stuff right there, with a little bit of potentially ableist language thrown in for good measure. I can pretty reasonably translate his comment as “I won’t listen to Shakesville and they’re wrong because they’re so far from my point of view and they’re also not nice. MY feminist friends are much better. They’re not like those ALL THOSE OTHER feminists, who are just crazy, hysterical bitches. And all feminists should take note, if you want men to listen to you, you should be nice to us.” What a helpful reminder that we oppressed groups are supposed to be completely sweet, neutral, and unemotional when discussing our oppression with the privileged groups who don’t face it, benefit from it, and are often complicit in it! Everyone take note, it’s NOT OKAY to express disdain for someone else’s point of view, even when that point of view is disdainful of who you are as a person!

    And blueberry moon, who’s so hurt that she got called ableist? Wow, I’m SOO SORRRY. The pain of being called ableist must just be horrifying, and SO much worse than actually, you know, having disabilities and facing the discrimination that comes with that. (And it’s not like Shakesville hasn’t made it clear time and again that using “crazy,” “insane,” etc. as insults is NOT WELCOMED in that space.)

    But what kills me is that comments are moderated here, right? And even if those were people who have commented before, and therefore their comments aren’t held in moderation, Katie, you have responded to almost every other comment here, and you have definitely responded to some since that guy (Bernie) posted, and yet you let that stand without reply or response. This, despite the fact that you were a long time Shakesville reader, so you should recognize well-established defenses of privilege like tone-argument and exceptional-woman arguments. In fact, you are clearly are familiar with tone arguments since you discuss them in your original post.

    So why? Why would you let bullshit like that stand on your own blog? All I can figure is that this is just proof of a couple of points that some have raised here, and that is that we (as humans) all tend to enjoy consensus, affirmation, and support, and we (as humans) all eventually violate our principles to some degree in who have as friends and allies. Such is life, as my mother would say.

    • Katie / Nov 5 2012 5:58 pm

      Have you noticed that I’m not really updating this blog anymore, and these comments appeared over a span of more than two years, with several months passing between comments? Some comments I felt like replying to; some I didn’t. Some I thought I’d come back to later but never did, because life got too busy. Some of the comments came in when I had a lot of time, others came in when I had a lot going on in my life.

      If you don’t like something someone else said here, feel free to post a comment in reply pointing out what is problematic about what they are saying. FWIW, I agree with what you are saying about how some of these comments have been problematic. In an ideal world, would I have put the time and energy into replying? Yes. But I didn’t, and I’m not going to make any excuses, or even apologies, for that.

      Shakesville influenced my commenting policy in the beginning, when I wanted to create a “safe space” here and was much more vigilant about what was posted. But times have changed, and I have changed, and my life circumstances have changed. My understanding of the meaning, value, and even the possibility of “safe space” and the responsibility of bloggers has changed. I could write about that, but I’m not in the mood. Maybe I will someday, but probably not. Suffice it to say, you and I obviously disagree about what my responsibility is here. And as it’s my blog, it’s going to happen my way.

      What I will thank you for is reminding me that my “Before You Comment” page is out of date, because I’m no longer behaving the way I describe there. So I updated it. And you can either take it or leave it.

  43. LV / Dec 17 2012 8:32 pm

    Thank you, thank you for posting this. I know it’s over two
    years old, but thank you anyway. I’ve lurked at Shakesville for a
    long time because I appreciate their stance against fat hatred as
    well as some of their other positions. There aren’t many safe
    spaces that I know of, and they’re pretty good more often than not.
    But I don’t dare post anything, not even a comment. Why? Well, just
    like you said – you say one thing that goes against their comment
    policy, and they’re all up in your face. And they’re so forceful
    about it that the offender is backed into a corner and forced to
    apologize. And often times it’s not even a simple “I’m sorry,”
    which is bad enough as far as I’m concerned. It’s something really
    graphic and masochistic, like “Thank you for calling me out on my
    shit.” And when you apologize like that, you’re admitting fault,
    and you become lower in status, and the person to whom you’re
    apologizing gains the upper hand in the situation. And the person
    in power thinks, “Good. Here’s a bitch who will do what I say.”
    And, now that they know they can control you, the next line out of
    their mouth may well be, “Suck my dick” (which is what jerks have
    said to me at my old job, and I will NEVER willingly give a man
    pleasure ever again as a result). You see how things can escalate?
    So I do not appreciate having to see people give these abject
    apologies for minor offenses. I’ve been bullied horribly, and
    Melissa’s “calling out” of other people (and the offenders’
    powerless deference to her will) triggers me worse than words such
    as “psycho,” “idiot,” “stupid,” etc. will EVER do. And don’t get me
    started on the so-called tone argument. She says it’s been used to
    keep oppressed people down? WHAT?! As I’ve said, I’ve suffered
    years of verbal abuse and bullying that continues to this day. And
    a major component of said abuse was/is the tone of voice that
    people use(d) with me. So I strongly believe that when you’re going
    to say something that might knock someone’s ego down a notch, you
    really should be careful of how you say it. You need to be careful
    of other people’s feelings and be aware that “get a backbone” is
    not something everyone can just do on command. Bitch Melissa should
    know this, given her personal history! Yes, I know it’s her blog
    and she can do what she wants. I’m just disappointed, is all. Oh,
    and the bitch has a foul mouth, too. She seems strangely
    comfortable with the F-bomb for someone who purports to be a sexual
    assault victim. Seems like somebody forgot how to be a lady.
    Whoooooooops! Lastly, I’d like to knock The Tray of Comforting
    Things on the floor with a loud crash. The thought behind it is
    good, I guess, but something about that phrase just sets my teeth
    on edge.

  44. GeneralObserver / Feb 9 2013 1:48 am

    I don’t have a serious “Bad Incident” but I do feel extremely unsafe posting anything on Shakesville. I have to trigger warning EVERYTHING and even then I still don’t feel safe enough to actually post on there. I’ve been lurking on there for since about this time last year, and only posted maybe 5 times. Something is extremely wrong in a “Safe space” which is for allowing people who are looked down upon by most of society to still be scared to post, anything, random favourite songs, personal experiences of personal growth, anything at all. It’s sycophantic how they go about saying how it “is”, but not finding a way to get more people to see it there way, to gain fat acceptance, or to create a more safe place for vulnerable people to post in continually and gain new friends. It’s just a case of all gone so wrong, and you can tell!

  45. jenniferslevin / Mar 26 2013 7:06 am

    So late to the party. I’ve been banned twice. Once for expressing empathy for priests and brothers who were abused and live in denial of their own abuse, and so it perpetuates–clearly stating that I work with these men for a living but am not Catholic, and I am talking about psychology and not the law. I was told I was “disappearing women” and “needed to be stopped.” The next time, a year later (a month ago or so), I was banned for requesting that Melissa not refer to her “sick body” as garbage, since as a long time reader of her FA and HAES posts, and as a cancer patient, I found it shocking and triggering that she would debase herself that way and by extension all the sick people who read her blog. I was attacked all day by Liss, SKM and other mods, and several posters, even after telling them I was out of there and cancelling my Disqus account. I was told by her and the mods that I was silencing her–by pointing out that her body is LITERALLY NOT GARBAGE, since we know that she takes seriously metaphors that are not really metaphors but easy insults that dehumanize, and I was advocating FOR HER. I was called a “fucking asshole” who should “feel terrible about hurting Liss’s feelings” because she is sick. That I have commented there for five years, that I have given money, and that I have cancer and am in and out of the hospital were discounted and actually disparaged. I thought I was alone but then found people coming to my blog by searching “Shakesville drama.” I grew up with abuse and cult-like requirements for devotion to my parents. I was shaking for days both times I was banned. So glad to know I’m not alone.

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