Bah, This Crap

I’ve been trying all morning to figure out how to respond to this. It really bugs me that the response to finding out that people have devoted months, if not years, to focusing solely on the ways that someone has failed is to argue over whether we agree or disagree with them, not to wonder what the fuck kind of asshole would do that?

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23 thoughts on “Bah, This Crap

  1. Yeah, I mean, I think that people should make legitimate criticisms in whatever venue is appropriate. And, though I like Melissa and think she does great work, that doesn’t put her beyond legitimate criticism. But it seems like most of the criticism is really gendered–and I’m paraphrasing here, but it seems like the majority of stuff she’s being accused of being hysterical, not-nice, thinking too highly of herself, being silly, and basically not doing things properly–all the shit that women normally get. Like, basically, she’s being accused of genuinely fucking up a little, but she’s being indicted mostly with the things women always get accused of.

    And the fact that people devote months and years of their lives to documenting all the ways they disapprove of Melissa? It’s fucking creepy. And I’m taken aback that so many people are reading that shit not as evidence of what fucking creepsters those people are, but as evidence of how terrible Melissa is.

  2. I haven’t commented at Shakesville in years, and even then it was usually on Deeky’s music posts because we have similar taste, but from the number of people who’ve complained that they’re afraid to comment because, I don’t have an issue with criticizing the way she runs her site, particularly the way discussion is often shut down. But I think the anti-shakesville sites should stick to that, and not delve into which of her disabilities are legit (I spent an a chunk of my afternoon reading the site linked), or her “queer-brained” comment, which is, yes, kind of silly and could be interpreted as appropriative (is Liss straight?) but judgments of someone’s sexuality or gender make me very prickly.

  3. I know I’m over-identifying a little bit, but I will say this, too. The comments at Pith, when I used to read them, fucking wore me down. Even if 2/3 of the comments are positive, 1/3 of them are people nitpicking my word choices or making weird references that make me wonder if they’re stalking me or calling me stupid or just in general trying to get under my skin. And SouthComm is really good about protecting me from whatever emails or phone calls they get about me. So, literally, all I have to do is not read the comments over there. And the list of people whose doors I want to knock on so that I can say, “Fuck you, you mean jerk,” is unhealthily long.

    Melissa can’t not read her comments. And she sees all the comments. The times I guest-posted at Feministe and saw even a little bit of the shit that doesn’t make it onto the site? It was unsettling. So, I don’t know what it looks like on Shakesville’s back end, but I know that Melissa and her moderators have to see all the comments and I know Melissa reads her email.

    And everyone thinks “Oh, well, that just comes with the territory. You’ve got to learn to be tough.” Well, yeah, fuck it. Anybody can get over one person yelling “Shut the fuck up, you cunt” at her, once. But you’d have to be some kind of goddamn superhero to be able to let every analogous comment roll off your back. Or I’ve even had it happen here (though it’s been years) where I could see that the same IP address commenting at the same time under two different names was saying both how great I was and saying how much I sucked. Seeing those sock puppets and knowing that someone who’s all “I’m just trying to have a good faith discussion” is also like “you suck, you suck” but only you know it is crazy-making.

    if I had to read the comments at Pith and engage with the readers, I could not do it. I couldn’t read the terrible things and somehow respond with an open, generous heart to the good things. The terrible things would make me respond shittily to everyone and it would be very hard for me to engage with the legitimate criticism in good faith.

    I find it commendable that Melissa is able to be as engaged with the commenters as she is with as open as she is. I could not do it. And I’m willing to overlook a lot of prickliness on Shakesville’s part because of it. And, if I don’t feel sure about commenting, I just don’t. No big deal.

    And, I don’t know. I’ve read Shakesville for years. I’ve commented over there some and I’ve guest posted and I’ve found it to be supportive and engaging and, like I said, I like Melissa. That being said, like I said, everyone’s free to criticize and to disagree.

    But I also know that a case can be built against anyone with enough time and energy. And the people who run those tumblrs seem to have a lot of time and energy to devote to building a case. And that fucking weirds me out. Because, literally, everything bad they want to say about Melissa? They could say it once and it’d be out there on the internet forever and people would find it and the discussion could be ongoing. But no, they want to go and look all the time and sift through and illuminate all the things she’s doing wrong all the time. And to what end?

    I mean, they can claim all they want that Melissa is invoking an abusive dynamic, but she’s not the one devoting months to scrutinizing someone and pointing out all her faults and questioning her sanity and her honesty and calling her by the wrong name.

    And I guess I’m a little shocked at the number of people who seem to not notice that the creepsters are being fucking creepy.

  4. I think how it looks depends on which parts of the story you’ve seen. For someone like me who saw some truly shocking shit happen there (often edited out and covered up after the fact), the attempt to provide a resource that gives anyone on the receiving end some recognition that this shit is not okay is a legitimate undertaking in concept — I haven’t kept up with how it is executed over time.

    But I also think it’s worth noting that Melissa has kept up a high-profile feminist blog for a very long time, something which few people can do without burnout over the sheer abuse lobbed at them. I think that discussions of how it “should” be done need to use that reality as a starting point — that it’s almost impossible to do it at all and survive.

  5. Yeah, Helen, that’s kind of the gist of my complaint. I have no problem with the legitimate criticisms and people talking about the problems they encounter. But if you’re running a tumblr devoted to hating someone or complaining she’s not doing feminist blogging how you’d do feminist blogging, that’s really a different beast.

    And some of the criticisms lobbed on those tumblrs against Melissa are just straight-up traditional complaints against women in general–she’s crazy, she’s a liar, she’s mean, she’s rude, etc. etc. etc. Those types of criticisms and the “she’s not doing it how I think she should do it” criticisms are, at best, useless. At worst, it’s the same old misogyny, different day.

    Which, again, is not to say that Melissa is perfect or off limits to criticism. But I find the ratio of nitpicking to legitimate criticism to be a lot of noise for very little signal.

  6. Well, it gets tricky at that level too, because a lot of the objections to the complaints are the standard silencing that abused people get when they try to speak up about a person in relative power. One of the big ones is that people try to force you to consider every incident in isolation — you’re never allowed to describe a pattern. Describing an ongoing pattern is “nitpicking”, “creating drama”, and so on.

    Here’s an example — many years back she used some turn of phrase I invented in a post. I was tickled that my cleverism was appreciated enough other people were using it, that it might become part of a vocabulary on feminist issues for a minute or two, then immediately forgot all about it.

    Then I got emails from a couple of friends saying that people were praising Melissa, both in the comments and in linkback posts elsewhere, for “inventing” that turn of phrase, and they felt weirded out and uncomfortable that she wasn’t speaking up and saying who really invented it, or at least that she had gotten it from someone else, but simply accepting all this praise for her wit and “invention”.

    I wasn’t seeing it as more than, “Well that’s not quite right, but oh well,” because I’m privileged enough to be able to shrug that off and I’m not a feminist writer — it’s not IP of value to me. I wasn’t clued in enough to get what others were trying to tell me about patterns, that they were waking up to plagiarism of women of color being a big problem in online feminism, that maybe if a privileged white woman spoke up and took some inevitable heat for “nitpicking” and “creating drama” over a small offense against herself, that it would help raise the issue so that it would be more heard and a little bit of heat drawn off, spreading the load, so to speak.

    I wasn’t seeing it — I was not harmed, and I knew i would get flamed for nitpicking if I brought it up.

    I looked over a couple of these tumblrs and saw more complaints of plagiarizing commenters. Nitpicky? I’m sure they all sound that way in isolation. But that’s the only way to describe a pattern. It doesn’t mean it’s not real and substantive.

    And even that one issue isn’t straightforward — Melissa started insisting on calling WOC bloggers by name and speaking about plagiarism from them as an issue when other prominent white bloggers were refusing to hear it as something that matters. She did good work on that.

    Which paradoxically makes it harder to be heard if someone thinks she plagiarized something.

    A point worth making is that you don’t like that people are devoting separate blogs to this — but that’s another standard complaint people get when they try to speak up about a person in relative power: Why are you making this separate brouhaha? It’s mean. Talk to the person.

    Except talking to the person didn’t work. The separate blogs are there because if you raise a substantive objection on Shakesville, you get banned and your comment deleted.

    I’ve run into this with other big-microphone bloggers too, both in the feminist blogsphere and elsewhere — they tell you they’re tired of whatever your point is and tell you to shut up “here” and go take it elsewhere if you want to talk about it. Then when you do exactly that they point fingers about how you’re being “mean”. The clear message is that you should not be allowed to talk about it at all. Standard person-in-power stuff.

    That doesn’t mean that those separate tumblrs are all good either, of course.

  7. Yeah, listen, I’m not trying to say “You have to talk about your problems in this way, or I’m not going to listen to you.” Because what I’m expressly trying to say is this: If your problems include how Melissa looks or whether or not you believe that she’s sick in the ways she says she is or how she says she is or whether she’s rude, then I don’t give a shit about what you’re saying.

    Those tumblrs could have a million good points. So what? Spending months raking over someone’s output–blog, comments, posts other places–and putting “Here’s what she looks like” at the same level as “and here’s where she said this fucked up thing” is making equal two things that are not equal.

    Jumping into the comments at Feministe, where people are talking about actual concerns in order to parse whether Melissa could have been nicer to a commenter? Again, it’s fucking weird, at best.

    To me, it’s like this. I can say that I disagree with Stacey Campfield’s ideas about how to run our state. I can show you a million and one examples of all the ways he’s wrong. And I’d be right. But, if you discover that i have the interior of my closet lined with Stacey Campfield photos and I go into my closet and write about all the things Stacey Campfield does wrong and all the ways I find him unsettling and all the ways I can’t believe that people can’t see that we’d be better off without him, because he’s basically just running a cult, and if I know all about his medical conditions and whether he’s properly displaying symptoms, and so on, you should back the fuck away from me. You don’t have to like Stacey Campfield. Thinking that what I’m doing is creepy as fuck doesn’t mean that I a.) don’t have some good points about Stacey Campfield and b.) that he shouldn’t be wary of me (obviously, this is a fictional scenario, but I think you get my point).

    And, I’m sorry, but nothing is going to convince me that this isn’t where we are here. Those tumblrs cross a line and the line they cross is “Should Melissa be concerned about her personal safety?” For me, as someone who’s been stalked? I look at the time and attention they’re paying to a person they ostensibly hate and massive red flags go off.

  8. It’s possible I’m not understanding how tumblr works. From what I’m seeing, they’re not single voices or any single stalker being anywhere as obsessive as you’re saying — they’re conglomerations of a whole lot of things written by a whole lot of people and the owners don’t seem to be spending more than a few minutes a week/month on them.

    I’ve been through the stalker nightmare worst than most, and way back I got freaked out over Melissa’s safety when I saw a commenter cross the line, even when mods were telling me I was overreacting (I will never agree with them on that one). I could be wrong about these tumblrs, but that’s not what I’m getting off them. What I am getting off them is “a place to discuss that which we’ve been told must not be discussed” with a big side helping of overly-pissy due to including posts from people who are more just mad rather than having complaints with substance.

    Should Melissa be concerned about her safety? FUCK YES. WAY BEFORE THESE TUMBLRS. She has had a lot of scary-ass freaks go after her and I have no reason to think they’ve slowed down.

  9. Well, that’s a good point. Maybe I’m not understanding how the Tumblrs work either. If they are a couple of hubs where a bunch of different people’s experiences are being collected, then that’s completely different than one or two people obsessively monitoring her blog.

  10. I’m totally with you that this all is weird as fuck. No arguments there whatsoever.

    I think we differ in which parts of our direct experience of it, therefore in where it looks to us like it started, therefore what it’s even about.

    From my perspective, the weird-as-fuck nature of all this started on Shakesville, with choices made by Melissa and some specific moderators. I was there at a time when some really weird and startling shit went down and a lot of people were really, really astonished.

    Then we quickly got variations on “you can’t talk about this here”. So naturally, you get well-meaning people who don’t know what the fuck just happened asking each other elsewhere, “Uh, I think I must be totally wrong because I don’t understand what is happening and I do want to understand and apologize if I’m at fault so can you tell me if and where I screwed up?” “No, you were fine, but I TOTALLY must have fucked up because they’re mad at me.” “What? No you were fine, it must be me.”

    And meanwhile things just go weirder and the mods went ban-happy.

    So you’re never going to convince me that people talking elsewhere about Shakesville and Melissa isn’t an upshot of how Shakesville and Melissa run. And there is no way that people can do that without someone saying they’re being stalker-ish and weird by even having the conversation.

    That in no way negates that there are appalling creepy horrible people who target her. There are. Always have been. It is terrifying beyond words.

  11. Yeah, I guess I just think that, once you’re in the position of posting pictures of her–since what she looks like has nothing to do with whether she’s doing right–it’s not just a matter of me saying they’re being stalker-ish and weird, they are being stalkerish and weird.

  12. Hey, I run the shakesfail tumblr. I don’t know my exact timeline here, but I used to read Shakesville semi-regularly six or seven years ago. I wasn’t a regular commenter by any means, and my interest in the site waned and waxed over tiem. But I backed off Shakesville after the all-in post, and from that point on I started to see a really creepy and disturbing dynamic in the comment section. I stumbled across a few posts and comments in other blogs (like the one here) where people would confess their discomfort with Melissa’s behavior. I became more and more convinced that Shakesville preys upon and manipulates a very vulnerable set of people. Deeky asking the single mom to donate her last five dollars, the girl who started cutting again after being dealt with harshly by Melissa… I just wanted there to be a space for people to realize that the problem is with Shakesville, not with them. Like Helen said, it’s about identifying patterns of behavior instead of talking about one particular incident to death. I honestly don’t read Shakesville regularly *at all*. I get tips in my ask box about certain posts, but I’m usually too lazy to even take screen-shots. I just reblog from other users, and repost other people’s comments. I’ve gone months without updating the tumblr at all.

  13. Hey, I kind of want to let you have the last say, but also don’t want it to seem like I’m ignoring what you’re saying. So, I’m just leaving this awkward comment here.

  14. Hey, I know this post is a little stale now, LOLSHART, but it was highlighted on one of the creepy hate sites, so I just wanted to hop over and give my two [child support donation] cents. First, THANK YOU for hosting this conversation because this insultuous craptornado has been making me BAHSMASH since the beginning of time. MESUS!

    Secondingly, it seems like there’s some ambivalence in this thread, but I’m not sure why. It is absoclearly super fucking creepy to point out abusive patterns in a blog that caters to marginalized people and trauma survivors. I mean, no one is fucking perfect, so…? What do these fartholes really hope to accomplish? Clearly these HATE bloggers are just petty, racist, stalkery trolls with no legitimate criticisms and nothing better to do.

  15. So we can’t critize her? Even if she’s mean and triggering. Even if she makes people uncomfortable? She’s made TWO people at least HURT themselves! I was never comfortable there and got banned for NO REASON and then she used my question. Is LIs so above criticism cuz she has a vagina? That’s all your complaint’s are, so some people, somewhere make some complaints about Lisses fXing PUBLIC FORUM, BLOG and SAFE SPACE for SURVIVORS! You start a blog, you host a public space, your open to Criticism. Doesn’t matter if your liberal or Conservative or any other option..

  16. No, see, I was feeling sympathetic to the argument that this kind of criticism was warranted and should be respected, but ha ha ha. No. Sorry, after reading that, absolutely not.

    So, let me be clear–I’m not the internet police. I can’t stop you from criticizing her. But y’all are just trying to incite an internet pile up and nothing about how this conversation is now going is convincing me otherwise. You’ve decided Melissa deserves an internet shit storm (as if she’s not in one at all times?) and you’re going to try to rally people around bringing it. Go right ahead. I’m just not going to pretend like I don’t think it’s stupid and mean.

    Plus, the ways in which you guys are criticizing her are, in part, just the usual bullshit problems people have with women–she’s mean, she’s a liar, she’s unreasonable, she’s literally hysterical. Yes, every woman in this history of the world who has ever come to public attention in some way gets accused of those things. We fucking get it.

    Sorry some stranger on the internet isn’t perfect and fucks up in ways that bug you. You’re not actually being betrayed by her not being perfectly exactly what you need in a web personality.

    And this idea that some stranger on the internet, on a website you could just choose, at any moment, to stop reading and visiting, has such a hold on you that she makes you hurt yourself? This isn’t an argument for how “evil’ she is. It’s an argument for how you need a therapist.

    We’ve now had this discussion as far as I care to have it here.

  17. Yep, this is exactly what I mean. I say that this is as far as I care to have this discussion. But y’all are on the side of right. You’re justified. You know all the lingo and have deep insights into strangers on the internet. So, it’s fine if you cross boundaries.

    How does this make you better than the things you accuse Melissa of, again?

  18. Lis crosses boundaries too! Asking people on dole and child support to give them their last 5 bucks!

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