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March 08, 2008

Hey, How About Some Open Blog; Plus, Blog Drama

I've got cabin fever. It's been raining and cold here for two weeks and I don't think I left the apartment for three days before yesterday.

So I'm going to hang out with some nonline people tonight. Yeah, nonline. I just made that up. I'm on the internet so much that "online" is the new normal and it's the "nonline" people who are unusual.

I made a reference to some gender-war blog drama the other day. Villainous Company has a recap. And as this seems to be percolating, I guess, against my wishes and better judgment, I should address it.

The reason I didn't address it is that I know, being Blogger of the Year and all, that this is an incendiary issue that gets comments threads closed. It gets very ugly, often very quickly.

It's great for traffic. 500 comments, easy. But bad for the blog. A lot of pissed off people and even some lost readers.

This is why I'm going to be a really, really condescending schoolmarm about suggesting rules to follow if you're going to comment on this at all. I'm not being bossy. I just have seen this goddamn argument before and it always winds up the same way. I'd like to avoid that.

It's like this.


Men believe that this is a personal issue for women, and that women get defensive whenever the issue of looks or sex appeal is brought up out of personal insecurities, etc. They get angry when women insist it's not personal but rather some utterly abstract principle about "objectification" or "dehumanization" or, I don't know, "whatnot."

Women often dispute that it's personal and claim that it's almost entirely an impersonal question of decorum, taste, and good behavior. They wig out when men suggest there's any personal dimension to the complaint.

That's where a lot of the problems start, because (from my experience) men tend to be hell-bent on demanding that women admit it's got a strong, if not overwhelmingly so, personal element to it and women tend to be hell-bent on insisting it has nothing at all to do with personal insecurities.

And then both sides get mad at the other and increasingly personal insults start to fly.

I've had two (I think) big knock-down drag outs on this blog in the past and both times I shut down comments as it had become too ugly. I can't be 100% sure of this, but I think I lost at least one longtime female reader and commenter partly because of the nastiness from the discussion.

So, having thrown this out there, a couple of cautions:

Women: Do not get too upset if guys assert that what you claim to be simple respect and good comportment are animated largely by personal insecurities. We all think that. We're all going to continue thinking that. We are never, ever going to believe you that this is impersonal. Ever. I know women wig out when they think a guy is "psychoanalyzing them" or "putting thoughts in my head" and the like. But just go into this knowing exactly what we think, and will always think. I'm not being a douche. I'm being candid. You always want to know what guys really think; well, I'm telling you: This is what we think. You will never convince us otherwise, ever, so don't really put too much effort into the, um, effort. And don't have any illusions about making us see the light. Part of this is your own fault; you never say what you're really thinking, so why would we assume you'd chosen this moment to start being direct? Take your medicine.


Men: Do not push this too much with women. For some reason men are absolutely infuriated when a woman says "It's not personal" and will resort to aggressive argumentation to prove what is, at its heart, a fairly trivial point. I don't know why, but a switch turns on inside men's heads when a woman says "It's not personal" and they -- we -- go a little batty attempting to demonstrate otherwise.

Let's not have that, please. Please. Because I know where this will go if people aren't on very respectful and polite behavior.

One point I think is fair: Whether this is personal or not -- it doesn't matter, really -- women are far, far more scrupulous about not bruising the fragile egos of men than men are of reciprocating in turn. There are very few women who will publicly declare this or that male physical flaw to be ugly or unattractive, and even when they do so, it's not aggressively and usually not stated as an absolute bar to attractiveness.

On the other hand, we dudes -- including me; I include myself in this, I don't claim to be Simon Pure -- are much more thoughtless on this subject and will tend to freely offer our opinions as to why girls who look like x are unappealing and not at all hittable.

I guess on this I agree with the wymynfylk, even if I disagree as to the predicate for their conclusions: Guys really need to be a little bit more mindful that there are always women reading. Women are pretty respectful of guys online, generally. They do not go trashing every dude's looks and deeming broad swaths of the male population sexually undesirable. We could afford to reciprocate on this point a lot more.

And I guess the offer I'd offer is write as if you have a female friend reading your comment, because, after all, you do. You have lots of female friends here, some of whom you actually know in a fake pretend Internet friendship relationship, and many more you don't, but you actually do, in the sense that we're all mostly sympatico here and, politically, want in our hearts what's worse for the world.

The blacks aren't going to keep themselves down, you know. We're going to have to present a united front if we're going to reclaim this country for evil.

I don't know what firm rules should be for this, but I definitely think "I'd hit it" and "Bunk" are perfectly fair comments, and if someone has a problem with that, well, sorry, but maybe just don't read the comments.

I also don't think plainly over-the-top sexual language is off limits. "She's so hot I'd like to duct-tape her and stick her in my trunk" isn't offensive, or shouldn't be, because, I mean, come on. What are the odds any of the guys here could actually afford duct-tape? It's plainly a sexual fantasy, and a very, very hot one, but just a fantasy.

Unless I get my hands on some fucking duct-tape. But I think that's obvious.

The danger area is in comments which are perfectly serious and direct and strongly stated. I would just caution guys that whenever you knock a certain flaw in a woman's beauty, you're insulting at least 10% of your fellow female readers, and perhaps even 80% of them, as women tend to be far more self-critical about their looks than guys are. For every woman who's overweight there are four more who think they are.

And everyone older than 25 is concerned about aging. I don't know about you, but every day since I turned 25 has been worst than the last, so any day you see me it is, as the guy said in Office Space, the worst day of my life.

And I'd just say: Proceed with caution. Temper your remarks a little bit, ask yourself if you'd feel comfortable writing that if a female friend were reading right over your shoulder, because, again, plenty are.

I am a moron and incredibly inept women but I do actually understand them (it's a gift; and a curse) so dudes, just trust me when I tell you 1) this is absolutely incendiary to them and 2) often personally hurtful to them even if their own sensitivity over the matter prevents them from admitting it.

If they won't admit it, I'll do so on their behalf: It can get personally hurtful to them when there's too much "she's too fat/too old/too this/too that" stuff.

So, I guess I wound up addressing this whole drama, kinda-sorta. And I think it's probably a bad idea to drop this out there as I'm heading out and unable to monitor the comments, because honestly, this usually turns into a dreadfully ugly argument with lots of predictably angry insults.

But I'll take a chance that maybe this time everyone can just be mindful of everyone else's feelings and bear in mind, seriously, one errant statement or one hot comment can make everything go to hell quickly.

Please try not to go nuclear in trying to win an argument which frankly can't be won.

It's like WarGarmes, man. You've seen WarGames. WOPR. McKittrick. Tic Tac Toe. And a very, very hittable Ally Sheedy.

Hot chick.

Could afford to shed about thirty pounds, though.

Wouldn't mind if they'd cast her when she was four or five years younger, either. Like at 12. At her sexual peak.


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posted by Ace at 06:40 PM

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