Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why?

Why do women so rarely leave comments?

14 comments:

ab said...

the master/slave structure of comment boxes. the tiresome and utterly regular use of sexist rhetoric and strategies against women who do comment. stalkers. threats of sexual violence. threats of other kinds of violence. the perceived dangers of an intellectual sphere with the liberal protections of an institution. the extra need for legitimacy to combat institutional/ social barriers and the comment boxes perceived illegitimacy. a massive, unorganized protest against the massive, unorganized hate-machine. allergy to entering a discourse whose methods and obsessions are so often clumsily defined by a small, loudmouthed & absolutely energetic group of men. the way women will also sit quietly while the men talk in living rooms, restaurants, and academic conferences. reluctance to add more labor to our already disproportionate share of already unpaid labor. the reality that we will in most comment boxes we will be ignored and/or called emotional and/or our gender will be noted rather than our thoughts.

probably a million things I have forgotten. I have an informal list of frequent-commenters whose presence will guarantee my absence. I'm sure I'm not alone in this.

Nada said...

Yeah but... I like to think of Ululations as a relatively sweet and exciting space, if not exactly a "safe" one. I'm always putting stuff out in the world for people to respond to, and I know lots of people are coming here to read my report on the conference, but almost no one is commenting.

I like to deposit my eggs in comment boxes all the time, so I don't totally get it. Maybe people just don't feel moved enough by what I've written? But I try to be engaging, or at least to transmit a sense of my engagement with things art ideas and people.

I do control the comment boxes here and will not tolerate hostility or aggression, so if that makes anyone feel better about commenting I would be happy.

ab said...

Nada I know people who for the reasons I've listed don't comment in any comment box ever, even if they very much appreciate what is being written.

I let you know that I am grateful for your write up of the conference -- though I am terribly jealous that I wasn't there.

Nada said...

Well, that is their prerogative, of course. It just seems to me that that strategy only allows space to be unequally occupied by unpleasant aggressive people.

That's like not going to some wonderful cultural event because you might run into an ex with whom you had a bad breakup, or so and so who tried to steal your lover, or your ex-best friend who betrayed you. These things happen all the time, but my personal philosophy is that one should not let one's life be ruled by these personal difficulties, and should claim one's right to be present in a space.

I'm pretty proud of myself for persisting for seven years now in the endeavor of Ululations, which I started not just because I wanted to but because I didn't want the boys to do all the talking.

To sit back demurely or think we are above or below or outside of participation is, I reckon, a kind of perpetuation of old ways of behaving. That doesn't mean everyone needs to come HERE to talk, although, gee, I wish they would, because I like a party, but you know?

I don't see the master/slave paradigm in the comment box dynamic. I mean, I see how you can see it that way, but I don't see it that way. To me, it's really more like a party. This is the party in my room, and do let's chat! I'm thrilled to bounce off of other people's conversation starters at their parties as well. You know, it's nice to go to people's houses and admire their interior decoration. You learn a lot about them that way, and also get ideas for decorating your own rooms.

I don't know, maybe there's something wrong with me for always wanting to be engaged in searching conversations: correspondences. And something pathological about my liking to have those conversations in public? Yet it seems also that my quickness to pathologize my predilections is yet another symptom of how women think of themselves in public spaces.

Come to think of it, it isn't only women who decline to enter these comment fields. I suppose if people don't like the dynamic, they just don't like the dynamic. Me I just get high on the ping-pong and stichomythia...

shanna said...

i comment less on things now that i read via google reader, and mostly on my stupid phone.

but also, what anne says. tho certainly not here.

AND i am always behind by several days if not weeks on people's posts. so my comments are often too late to be part of any conversation and the blogger has moved on.

ack, gotta get my eyeballs back on work now, for instance.

Lemon Hound said...

Ditto, Nada. It's been about six years of LH, and mostly to silence. Boys, it must be said, talk amongst themselves and women partake, but tend not to publicly address each other...tend I'm saying, not giving absolutes.

Recently a few women have begun to comment on LH, including Vanessa, who drops by regularly, but largely over the years most of the feedback (and to some extent, support) I have received has been from men.

I do gets notes, emails from women on the other hand. Not often, but I do. Do you?

But as I said, this is changing now, not fast enough for me though which is the reason I continue to hammer away at the idea of women taking up, thinking up, creating up, public space with thinking and/or discourse...

Thanks for the report, and the photo. It was a pleasure to panel with you.

LH

Bhanu said...

Er...I love to read your blog, which is "costume AND valence." Thank you for making it: something that moves. -- BK

Annandale Dream Gazette said...

Yes, I too love your blog and really appreciate your posts, especially your reports and reactions to events like this conference. These Adfempo posts are wonderfully long--- but that may make them harder to respond to, i.e. it's a lot to take in and process. I have many responses that come up as I read, but I'm hesitant to post every little thought because....well, I don't know why really. Somehow it needs to accumulate into something coherent that I think needs to be said in order to elicit a written response. But I can definitely see how it would be frustrating to so generously put things out there and have little response.

I believe that, just like in a classroom, people most easily & comfortably respond to a single single open-ended question -- you talked about how the piling up of questions made you feel, and I think it's true for most people. Might seem teacherly, but if you're really wanting responses, asking a single question at the end of a post sort of opens it up, and people might feel more free to speak. But why do women respond less? --- god, that's a frustrating topic that comes up again and again and never seems to have very fruitful results. But like you and maybe unlike Anne, I do think it's good to keep trying to participate, despite the shoddy way women are treated in comment boxes. And too, I do notice and appreciate the civility of your blog and your responses to responses. It doesn't feel like entering a boxing ring to comment, like it does in other places.

I loved that you included your menstruation notes into your Adfempo posts, and that you freely shared when you weren't absorbing things for various reasons, and also that you gave us your recollection of it, rather than taking detailed notes and writing a thesis. I have a hunch that most people at most conferences tune in and out, but you rarely hear about when that happens, and that can be useful information, really.

Also it is hard to repond to your reaction to the event when I wasn't at the event. But I'm definitely reading, and really appreciating your efforts. So, thanks very much.

Roz said...

hi,

i followed a bunch of links here to your blog b/c i was looking for reports on that feminism conference, and you did not disappoint! thanks for these write-ups, so much to process and mull over here (that moldy truffle anecdote is priceless!). i'll be adding this blog to my daily browsing list.

but i was moved to comment here b/c of your question. i def. agree with some of the other commenters about many commentboxes being sexist & male-dominated spaces. i used to always only read blogs w/out commenting on them (except v. occasionally, and then only anonymously), tho the reason why had less to do w/the sexist thing (which turns me off of the blog entirely, so i don't even visit anymore), and more to do w/feeling intimated by the smart-sounding quality of many comments (not feeling confident that i'd be able to keep up or come off as being worthy enough for the club) and the fact that many blogs tend to acquire a regular roster of commenters who all seem to know each other already from other contexts and i didn't want to crash in on someone's party uninvited, y'know? but lately i've been saying to hell with it, the whole internet is really one big open party, so why not let it rip? anyway, i'm not sure yet if this is a girl or a boy thing, or maybe just a shy thing--some people are just more temperamentally inclined to let it rip, regardless of gender.

but i do think there's societal pressure for women to be "nice." i find this a laugh sometimes since the "niceness" is often just put on superficially for show, and there's all sorts of aggression and meanness flowing there in the undercurrents, communicated through body language and glances and innuendos, everything but direct. you talk about this in your thoughts on "chilliness."

at the risk of getting all essentialist here, i think that both women and men are interested in critique and debate, but they go about these things v. differently. when women debate w/one another, it seems like they are less interested in winning or beating the other person at the game, and more interested in getting at something more in-depth. it seems to be more about the *substance* of the topic in question, less about who's on top. i know i'm generalizing here, and i know some men who are also more interested in the in-depth thang (sadly, they are also the ones who are reluctant to comment, sigh), but this is what i see happening. so i can see many women not wanting to put themselves out there in the commentbox, not wanting their desire for in-depth conversation get hijacked by a pseudo-academic hierarchy contest.

~roz

ab said...

"But like you and maybe unlike Anne, I do think it's good to keep trying to participate, despite the shoddy way women are treated in comment boxes."

Oh jeez, hope I didn't give the impression that because I articulated the reasons that some women don't comment means I believe that women shouldn't comment! I have only just attempted to answer Nada's question/ also to state that to not comment is logically & legitimately motivated, even if this is not what I do myself with the exception of comment boxes. I've often been the only woman in the comment box over the years, despite threats, harassment, etc., which means I must have some commitment to showing up in public. I also want to note that many women do comment on my blog (though have also notice as women began to comment, men began to comment less frequently), and that I have engaged in a great deal of critical discourse with other women via blogs/comment boxes (I'm thinking here in particular of conversations at Laura Carter's blog), so it is not absolutely true that women don't comment, don't debate, etc., only that some don't.

Amy King's Alias said...

Mine is a time limitation. Can't focus and organize properly for shite. I make it to blogs so sporadically and rarely, though I comment when I get there. I've visited your blog off and on for years!

konrad said...

From LH:
"I do gets notes, emails from women on the other hand. Not often, but I do. Do you?"

I'm very curious about the answer to this, or did you BC?

Nada said...

I do sometimes get extra-blog messages from women, yes. From this flurry of activity I got two that were really thoughtful and would have made a useful contribution to the conversation.

I wouldn't say that it happens all the time, though. I suspect I get more backchannel correspondence from men, on the whole, although I haven't run the numbers on it.

If Stephanie and Juliana want to do research in my e-mail archives, though, they are welcome to. :-)

mongibeddu said...

This post on John Battelle's Searchblog seems relevant:

http://battellemedia.com/archives/005027.php