I don’t personally like to see the concept of “free speech” invoked in this context; the government needs to worry about censoring people, and so might especially powerful corporate actors, but HTMLGiant is neither. It’s a blog. If people want to post dumb shit to it but can’t, that doesn’t constitute a form of censorship, anymore than Zambreno’s initial deletion of Strickland’s comment on her Facebook page did. They can go get a blog of their own and write dumb shit there. I think a lot of privileged people, maybe including you and myself, and maybe not, have an unfortunate tendency to confuse the freedom to speak with the freedom to be heard when, where, and how one chooses.
This is not to say that I disagree entirely with your stance re: letting people post objectionable material here, and I’m glad you took the keys from Strickland. I used to say that HTMLGiant didn’t deserve its reputation, and to an extent I would still say that: misogyny is allowed here, but so are posts against misogyny, should anybody choose to write them — and so are wholly unrelated posts about books, video games, and whatever. Back in the days when more interesting writers like yourself and Roxane wrote here more often, there was a sort of joyful chaos to this blog. The controversies were often annoying, but there was a lot of fun to be had here, too. I liked it here then.
These days, the better writers have largely abandoned this site. As a result, the remaining content is usually 1) pretty boring, 2) well intentioned but voiceless, i.e., boring, or 3) ugly and stupid. The ugly, stupid shit is still a minority of the content, but it’s the only thing that really demands attention at this point. That’s partly a result of the way the Internet works, sure, and people could choose to ignore the ugly in favor of the decent stuff, as they probably should have done more often in the old days, but at this point there’s very little reason for them to bother.
All of which is to say, if we want this blog to be interesting again, I think two things need to happen: 1) More interesting writers need to write more enjoyable posts. I was trying to do this for a while, but recently I’ve lost all enthusiasm for the project, as it seems hard to see the point. 2) I would suggest that boring, ugly shit needs to be more aggressively discouraged. Oelbaum’s writing is ugly and boring, and we don’t need it here, just for instance.
Which is not to say that anything needs to change. My plan has been to pretty much forget this place, as most people I know have done, or pretended to do. But if you don’t like people talking trash about HTMLGiant — and I would understand why — I think some balance of encouraging interesting new posts and rooting out the boring shit is the way to go.
Maybe HTMLGIANT could keep that kind of “open” posting policy without the environment getting toxic if the contributors were balanced differently. The thing is, chauvinists and trolls will always shout the loudest, so you need like 2x to 3x Leigh Steins to balance every one Garret Strickland.
We’ve been in a holding pattern for a while, and I understand a lot of the criticism. It’s not unfair.
Htmlgiant has finally reached a place where it can pay people to write for and edit the site on a consistent basis, but we have been slow to implement changes.
A redesign is coming soon, and a new structure. The details haven’t been fully set, so I can’t speak specifically, but we will hopefully address many of the issues you have, especially in regards to “boring shit.”
A better site will happen when people can devote more time to it, and properly paying the people involved will go a ways towards that.
I agree with you Mike. I used to really love reading this site and wanted to be included in the “club.” Many people have told me to just ignore/boycott, but I think it’s possible to take back the site, if enough interesting writers sign onboard, as you suggest.
Gene — appreciate the reply, and I’m glad to hear changes are on the way. I’m happy to wait and see how things turn out, but if there’s a way I can be of service, please do let me know. I used to want to write for this site so badly, and have been really sad to see it diminished, would be glad to help it improve.
i find this far more of an active force that Chris “i’m totally privileged and apolitical but i admit that so it’s okay” Higgs posting a gross comment that just basically says “look i’m a good guy too!” and then getting 50 up-votes.
a similar sort of “headsmack” occurred when virtually 12 hours after the week’s hooplah began Janey posted Stephen Michael McDowell’s review of a lit journal dedicated to showcasing trans* writers and instead of applause from these commentators, so appalled with HTMLGiant’s “misogynistic & male-oriented content,” it went, not surprisingly (as it was a review instead of link-bait polemic), almost without comment.
i’ve almost entirely refrained from posting anything this entire year other than book reviews because i find the culture that ends up becoming most visible in the comment section on anything that generates a lot of comments hyper-toxic, or just invisible–which is not to say, of course, that people aren’t reading, but when the overwhelming majority of non-silent voices are the cries and pleas of anonymous trolls, it makes it really hard to think that writing anything radically charged has a place here whatsoever–which, i feel like maybe is why jackie has been mostly absent? i don’t want to impose any opinion on her, but that’s just the impression i’ve gotten (feel free to correct me, jackie :) )
roxane had it good for a while, and was getting a lot of support and positive comments and interesting conversation was happening–but i would assume she realized that writing what she was writing on here, she was really never reaching any audience beyond what was already here, and as such she’s clearly moved on to more visible venues, which is great, because it’s a way to make more people hear what’s being said.
i do admit that whenever new contributors are announced i always kind of roll my eyes upon the realization that they’re white and heterosexual. i was briefly excited that another homo had started contributing with seth became a contributor, but his project is too wrapped up in some sort of esoteric post-irony that, unfortunately, it seems like that decision has become contrary to any hope i could muster.
anyway, this is not really a “response” to anything here, but as i’ve been toying with this shit without actually wanted to make a post about it due to reasons mentioned above, leaving a comment here seems like the thing to do.
Mike you nailed a lot of the reasons why my personal involvement/commenting etc has decreased so much. I still read mainly for the authors I enjoy and the book reviews but at times there is (for me naturally) a feeling of discomfort.
You said a lot of what I’ve been thinking for months.
werd re: “Janey posted Stephen Michael McDowell’s… ”
i read the post, searched/linked to/read a few other things, and was reminded by it of several recent ‘local’ news items – discussions at Mills College about use of non-gendered pronouns (‘They’), and the lighting on fire of Sasha’s skirt (horrible incident) on an AC transit bus in Oakland – even tho i didn’t comment to the post
also specifically had a lot of respect/support for your response to Leigh Stein’s post & then the… outraged? responses your comment got itself, but refrained from commenting due to being male-bodied & knowing that that shit is not my specific fight to make, big-ups to that, wish it had seen more visibility/thought other than “well i have to support the dominant capitalist ideology if i want to ever have a book published…”
the stupidity of this situation is that HTMLGiant/alt lit/whatever– this tiny little scene in which even the “big players” are selling, at best, in the low-to-mid thousands (and that’s a generous estimate) has managed to recreate the kind of insular bullshit of tangled webs and networks and secret alliances and unspoken vengeance which mirror, almost exactly, the tangled webs and networks and secret alliances and unspoken vengeance of people in “real” publishing
what’s more disturbing is the way in which people who are COMPLETELY OUT OF THE LOOP of the behind the scenes stuff (which involves, generously estimated, 50 to 75 people) react to things without any idea about the tangled webs and networks and secret alliances and unspoken vengeance. If you think that Leigh Stein’s (and this has nothing to do with her) post appeared without its own backstory that 99% of the readers/responders will never know about it, then you too have proved your own gullibility and are just dancing through the six known emotions available to the outraged liberal intelligentsia in the furthering of other people’s personal needs
let’s imagine, for instance, that on a site known for its “wide range” of intellecut “discourse” that a sacred cow is inexpertly interrogated by a clueless simp who ends up unable to inexpertly interrogate sacred cows in the future; do we really believe this removal of further interrogation manifests from an offended weapons based sensibility or is it perhaps the result of fairly obvious but consistently unspoken business relationships?
FOR THE RECORD, a formal apology was sent to Blake Friday morning for consideration. Since it’s not gone up, I’ve subsequently sent it to the editor and chief at BITCH magazine. We’ll see what happens. It’ll get seen regardless.
I don’t understand why you felt the need to take a swipe at me, Mike. If there was any doubt, I now know where you and I stand. Too bad, really.
As for my “gross” comment, I presume the reason it got 50 upvotes is because I was one of the only contributors to speak up. Furthermore, I believe my “gross” comment conveyed the complete opposite of “look I’m a good guy.” It conveyed my attempt to take responsibility. To say: I know I am part of the problem. I am not a good guy. And I’m sorry for that.
But your comment is basically indicative of why I tire of participating in the comment section here. All the vitriol. All the nastiness. All the meanness. Not sure what you gain by it, Mike. Not sure what other commentors gain by it either. But I am sure that’s why I resist commenting in general.
also, just as an aside, this does not indicate where i stand on “you” as a person, i’m sure if we were put in the same room a conversation could be had over drinks that was pleasant and enjoyed by both parties. regardless of this, there are certain things that happen on the internet that i feel are frustrating and worth calling out, that’s all that’s happening here.
“So this is an apology to both Zambreno and those who hold her example dear and worship at her altar.”
wow, great tone there.
I am also unsure what blake’s posting of a facebook thread is supposed to accomplish in terms of a mea culpa or statement going forward. why not just write the statement as a blog post?
for a long time now, i and many others i know have considered htmlgiant little more than a gaggle of privileged bickerers and trolls, remarkably adept at hitting tone-deaf notes and swarming anyone who calls them on it. i see little to indicate that will change.
speaking strictly for myself, i didn’t “think that Leigh Stein’s… post appeared without its own backstory” – in fact i was damn-well pretty sure it had a very interesting and possibly quite enlightening backstory – thus my questions & comments –
The Strickland shit was gross in so many ways, obviously. I’m also glad he is gone.
“Free speech” aside, Mike, are you a contributor to HTMLGiant right now? Or are you one of the “better” who have “abandoned” the site? This kind of language seems counterproductive to me. Why don’t you blog harder instead of insulting the people who actually do contribute to the site?
Brooks — I would describe myself as a pretty marginal contributor (I think I did decent posts, but I didn’t do very many) who has mostly lost interest. And, I apologize, you’re right that my language here is a bit insulting, though it’s not meant to be cruel or mean; some people here are doing fine work in and of itself, but the majority of the work coming from regular contributors is pretty marginal stuff.
I understand what you’re saying. I know posts from, say, 2009 vs. posts from 2013 are just not the same. But I also think it’s a measure of worth that people are “yearning for the golden years.” An artist has to matter for someone to “prefer their early work,” etc.
So it just puzzles me that you would publicly talk shit about a website that you ostensibly write for, instead of doing something to make it better.
I don’t think you can recreate past successes, and I wouldn’t want to try. I do have like 200 blog ideas though, so maybe I’ll try to do a few of them before i get even more jaded about it myself.
most of the people commenting here are also some of my favorite contributors. ya’ll probably need to quit bitching and just post more. glad simmons is starting to post more. nothing lifts my spirits more than a chen piece (one of you assholes with a press, publish a book of his shit please?)
idk, probably need more talented+interesting women posting more often. I miss Roxane and Lily. Broder is killin it though.
i don’t gotta problem with seth o if he’s writing about the intersection of fashion with other things. the baby talk stuff just loses me though. it’s not writing I keep reading. but at least I notice him.
I’m glad that this conversation has been had, sad that it hasn’t happened before and annoyed that I’m even paying attention to HTML giant.
Dena did a tremendous job writing up her response on Luna Luna and, as the site’s editor, I’m happy to say a lot of people are commenting. A lot of women. If you’re interested in actually talking about everyday sexism in literature, the Luna conversation and Leigh’s initial post really are open to more male opinion.
This dialogue gets Reposted here (I almost feel there could have been a thoughtful response and not a seemingly lazy paste) and that’s great, but I wish more people–males–took part in the dialogue at hand as a whole.
This thread, while necessary, became a now me! Now me! “what I think about HTML giant” chat. I think that’s sort of reductionist, but whatever. Since we are on the topic, I’ll say my two-cents, of course if you’ll hear me out- I’m not a “cool kid.” Nor do I want to be.
We need open-minded, creative, thoughtful people to stop literature from becoming a joke. I don’t wanna say “alt-lit” because it has so many definitions according to who you talk to, but just ugh. Honestly, just no more shitty blogger permissions. Even if they’re “popular.” Shudder.
I think the idea for HTML is great, but I wish there was more attention to literary thought and less to random gurgling of pseudo-theory and masturbatory la-di-da here. I never read it because I never felt welcome. I had a review here once, but, you know, it wasn’t about my clothes or being a princess.
In ending, agree with this comment: “All of which is to say, if we want this blog to be interesting again, I think two things need to happen: 1) More interesting writers need to write more enjoyable posts. I was trying to do this for a while, but recently I’ve lost all enthusiasm for the project, as it seems hard to see the point. 2) I would suggest that boring, ugly shit needs to be more aggressively discouraged. Oelbaum’s writing is ugly and boring, and we don’t need it here, just for instance.”
Leigh, Dena, yes. Blake, thanks for getting involved.
I’ve been somewhat absent the past few months due to school and working on my geek cinema book. I’ve also been mulling over what kind of posts I want to write here. My movie posts get a lot of readers, but I don’t think this is really the best venue for them. I’ve been intending to write more about literature and related issues—I tried doing that over the summer, with those posts on how I went about writing my latest novel, but I lost the momentum there for various reasons.
But I’m teaching a fiction writing class next semester, so my thinking is I’ll be able to use that opportunity to think and write more about fiction as craft. Assuming that’s something people would like to read; I guess time will tell.
the freedom to be heard when, where, and how we choose
No one has made an argument for this preposterous “freedom”.
HTMLG is one place where one can mostly be heard or ignored, not every place where one can say anything.
The site publishes blogicles from its contributors and comments from the public with little interference. Not no filtration: there’s no absolute freedom of speech anywhere and no perfectly open platform.
Sure, somebody can put their stupid shit on their own blog, where they delete anything they don’t like or want to understand. If some ‘fan’ wants to devote a blog exclusively to castigating another writer (?), well, sure.
But if somebody wants to, uh, raise issues in an insulting way by posting a blogicle or comment here, anybody can tell ‘that guy’ what a piece of shit they think that person is (as well as saying so on their own blog, if that’s worth their time).
Publicly and in the same place those issues were offensively raised.
Except for (to my knowledge) two banned commenters, I don’t think anyone has ever NOT been included at HTMLG. It’s that kind of club.
That’s the ‘free speech’ invocation: you’re already in! Speak!
–or if you don’t, also cool. But either choice is your property.
Mike, it’s dismaying to me that people will misconstrue the value of this privilege here, even as they arrogate it to themselves.
Higgs has posted arguments to the effect that one can “read” without interpreting or understanding, and that an irritable clutching after ‘meaning’ is undesirable (to him) and can willfully not be indulged.
Commenters with no (wide) reputation for being “trolls” – one example: AD Jameson – have, in many comment threads, asked Higgs how he can be against, oh, “misogyny” without understanding that some piece of writing is misogynistic.
(This is a common charge levied against postmodern epistemology: if you’re ‘against’ essentializing, how can you take any position? Can you be coherently against essentializing itself? Rorty, for example, responds – with maddening circularity, but there you go.)
I didn’t see what Kitchell had written (that he scrubbed) that provoked this claim about avoiding “vitriol, nastiness, meanness”, but I think Higgs is sifting two different things together here as a tactic.
To speak “in general”, I think Higgs strategically takes reasonable questions about his philosophizing as personal attacks, and that he avoids philosophical blogging and BTL commenting at HTMLG in the interest of concealing his difficulty with those inoffensive questions – and this avoidance has nothing to do with either personal attacks or revulsion at misogyny, racism or any genuine identity persecution.
i like zambrino’s writing quite a bit. i like how it expands and complicates my understanding of gender/society/feminism/etc. i read strickland’s piece with interest because–the obviously petty, puerile stuff it contained notwithstanding–it presented an opportunity that, in more capable hands, might have challenged, expanded, and complicated zambrino’s ideas in particular and my ideas of gender/society/feminism/etc in general. i guess it seems to me that more than calling for an end to misogyny on htmlg–however necessary that might be–that a call for writers that would challenge and engage and complicate my ideas of these things in a interesting and meaningful way, from varying sides of the aisle, so to speak, would be for me an ideal situation. as i said in an argument/discussion the other night regarding this whole situation, as someone who supports feminist-style thinking i find it exciting when someone can challenge me in those thought patterns. that’s “free speech.”
Here’s the thing. What’s missing nearly entirely from this conversation is discussion about how it took two women nearly totally unknown to this site’s regulars to stand up and say something. There’s no discussion about how no one really stood up for Leigh in the comments to her post here and neither did anyone really stand up for Kate. It’s taken women to come out and stand up for each other after hate speech and threatening comments including one by Strickland where, apparently, he posted an image of himself with a gun and wrote, “This is for my haters.” I am waiting for an ally – a man – to stand up to this issue here or anywhere. I am waiting.
Editor in chief of Bitch here. I just wanted to state for the record that we had no intention of publishing Garett’s response, and Garett reached out to me because we are acquaintances from a former job.
I am glad HTMLGiant is publishing well-deserved criticisms of Garett’s original piece, but I do not think it should have been published in the first place and I believe the editor should be the one taking responsibility. Let’s just say that’s one of MANY reasons why we would not publish this.
Let’s give credit to the rational, intelligent people who HAVE spoken up (here, in the comments on the Zambreno doll post, and in the comments on my post). I’ve also received many private messages of solidarity and support. I didn’t send that letter so I could get a round of applause; I’d rather have contribs who’ve voiced their support put their money where their mouth is and work to make this a space where people of both genders feel safe to share ideas.
I know a lot of people are tired of talking about this. A lot of people have decided to boycott the site altogether. I’m a stubborn optimist, so I’ll wait to see what happens. Meanwhile, I’m not sure what else there is to say here.
my not thanking people here, on this site right now, who have come out privately is not meant to dismiss that support, or to dismiss support Leigh has gotten. Blake is great to be concerned about the concerns of his readers. I am grateful for that. And Jerome – I certainly did read the comments – thanks for your input. I’ve had a lot of great conversations about this issue, and the need for us to be our own VIDA, but so far not here, and I am going to bow out because at this point I am not sure I ever will. I don’t mind that people are tired of talking about it. I am looking forward to see what will be done here as a result of this conversation and in place of this bullshit. long live the htmlgiant – I am glad it’s here. It’s important to a lot of us in many ways.
Because men tend to listen to other men. Ten women can say “hey, that’s sexist” to a man, he will scoff, you know, cause they’re whiners or bitches or just need to get . . . But when one man says, “hey, that’s sexist” — the man tends to at least consider the possibility.
I’ve observed the same thing with racist comments/situations. When it’s not the “other” pointing it out, but someone like the person making the comments/situation, it tends to be given more validity.
Also, if we’re going to talk about how we’re all just humans and these distinctions are simply being conflated–then why wouldn’t a man point out a wrong, even if it didn’t involve his gender? And why wouldn’t a white person stand up against racism, even if it didn’t directly affect her?
Why is it such a big deal to ask men to take off their blinders and stand with women against sexism? Why do so many men not consider this their problem too?
I’m going to say this and then peace out from the comments. If people spent a fraction of the time speaking against sexism as they did defending their fellow human being’s “right” not to have to face the consequences of his/her sexism, WE WOULDN’T HAVE TO TALK ABOUT THIS ALL THE TIME.
Jereme, by way of example, here’s a thing that’s been happening for months: i play pick up soccer with my wife every sunday. we’re playing in spartanburg, sc, so it’s not like we’re the most amazing athletes in the world, but it gets pretty serious. most of us played at some point in school or other leagues, so we know what we’re doing. there’s usually twenty or so people, mostly men, and a few women, including my wife. invariably, when men complain about a foul, an offsides call, whatever, there is an argument, a moronic debate, and then the game continues, with everyone apologizing to everyone (unless shit gets really heated, and even then the apologies eventually come); invariably, when my wife makes a similar call, whatever, it is literally questioned why she is even talking. the dudes out there will call each other asshole, and then someone will say, Hey, calm down, he’s not an asshole, and things get resolved. My wife has gotten called “woman, bitch,” a variety of other names (she’s a redhead, so that one was popular for a while) and i’ve heard people mutter “why is she saying anything?” but nobody speaks up for her (she had asked me, specifically, not to because i’m her husband and she could handle it, etc). until she decided she was going to quit, it was just too insulting, she felt alone, isolated, unwelcome, inferior – though of course at the time after one game all she was saying was how bad it sucked and those guys fucking suck. so it started happening pretty much every weekend. she’s like one of the most talented players out there, and she’s my wife and i love her, so i’m pretty biased. and it wasn’t until i spoke up (and i’m not painting myself as great here; i was an asshole, i got more angry than i should have, i stooped down to their level, etc) that anyone realized, even recognized, they were being, not just assholes, but sexist, seeing her not as a person, but as this gender, this neat little role that she had to fill and that that was all she was.
i realize the situation here is much more complex etc, but still, yeah, sometimes we have to say some shit, as males, sometimes we have be an ally or whatever stupid term, but really, just be a person and care for another person – it’s not sexist at all; it’s one relative personality (a man) accepting and confirming the universal that we all are through the defending and understanding of another relative personality (a woman).
You don’t help your cause, which I generally support, with this kind of hyperbole and gross misrepresentation. This is the kind of stuff that makes people roll their eyes, this paint-by-numbers identity politics template that assumes that because something is generally true, certain facts can be glossed over or exaggerated. Like, for instance, the fact that the Strickland gun post was live on the site for less than an hour, then, uh, removed by a male by the name of Blake Butler. Like the fact that a poster, Matthew Simmons, told Garrett to “calm down” minutes within the post. Like the fact that several men on the Zambreno doll thread did stand up for her and spoke out against Strickland. One of the first posters to do so was named “Don,” I’m assuming “Don” is male. In fact, I’m almost certain Don is male because I recognize his posting style and have seen his website and pictures before. Don sports a shaggy bear, IIRC.
Has misogyny been a problem here before: Absolutely. Do you misrepresent facts to prove that point? Unfortunately, you do…and it’s completely unnecessary.
But many men did in fact stand up for her on that thread. Does this not fit the general narrative you’re trying to force down our throats? Yeah, I think you are “generally” right but that doesn’t mean you get to misrepresent what actually happened on those comment threads.
Are you directing this question to me? I never said men didn’t stand up for Leigh in that thread. Several men certainly did. I was responding to Jereme’s question: “why an ally–a man– is needed to validate/condemn the issue.”
But I’m sorry if my responding to his question and speaking publicly on this topic is FORCING SOMETHING DOWN YOUR THROAT. I hope you receive a lozenge for your pain.
Oh, okay…you just completely avoided his point that men did indeed stand up for her on that thread, a point he made in the post you responded to, one related to his question, then proceeded to launch into a sermon about what men need to do better despite the obvious fact that men showed up to support Kate and condemn Strickland on that thread; seems like you would at least acknowledge that progress for us race of cavemen.
It appears that we’re not tracking the same thread within the larger conversation. I began with Dena’s post, which did in fact misrepresent what happened on the comment threads. Some of the most passionate posts in defense of Kate were written by Don, and he didn’t wait to jump in after everyone else already got in their licks. Silly me for thinking that it actually hurts one’s anti-sexism cause to misrepresent facts and ignore or gloss over the deeds of “good men.”
I would never kick a puppy. I do apologize, however, for being a stickler for details. Some people seem to think that holding a position that any sane, reasonable person would agree with–e.g., sexism is bad–inoculates them from any criticism. I agree wholeheartedly that sexism is a problem in the writing community, but that doesn’t mean that a poster in support of that same position should be given a free pass to misrepresent facts and events to prove her or his point.
If you were such a stickler, you’d direct your comments towards the person who stated the misrepresentation and not project comments I didn’t make onto me or insinuate I was trying to gloss over something because I haven’t responded to every single point brought up in these comments. But again, very sorry for your throat, my brother in the good fight, Guest8954.
Thanks Dena and Leigh for launching speaking out/up and launching this discussion. And thanks Blake for posting this clarification of HTMLGIANT’s structure/vision. As I’ve been reading and “lurking” (a pretty common/calm word in internet parlance, but it’s a funny word in the context of conversations like this, right?), I’ve felt bummed/exhausted about how this particular round of this ongoing discussion has gone down, esp. by the ways in which it has involved same ol’-same ‘ol annoying institutionalized/privileged shittyness against Leigh (whom I’ve gotten to know through liking her work, and whom I’ve hyped and published and tried to support and ring the good bell about for a long while now—and who most importantly is a human being deserving of simple empathy and respect) and Kate Zambreno (whom I don’t know but who seems great—and who most importantly is, duh, a human being deserving of simple empathy and respect).
Mostly everything has all seemed more depressing than even the already depressing winter! I mean, the winter is really who we should direct our weirdly human/humanly weird capabilities for violence and terrible destructive energy against, like kicking all this ugly gray slur that has never and won’t ever care about us. When other people are around, it seems to make the most sense to check our violence and be mindful and compassionate and attentive and historically/socially aware and acknowledging of what we can’t ever know about another’s experience through the world.
As a boring straight white dude who isn’t even as cool as my professional wrestler aunt, I always feel uncomfortable with how exactly to express solidarity in a way that doesn’t feel solicitous or “ally-trolling,” which is a phrase I feel like must already exist. If it exists, I think maybe it means waving a flag of allyhood solely for ally points in the mis-interpretive game that can result from treating “radical politics” as something you do on jetskis of rhetoric rather than via concrete actions. Which is totally a strawman slam re: this particular conversation. In other words, I’m not trying to subswipe or disrespect any straight white dudes’ genuine expressions of allying that have already taken place in this conversation—it’s just that I agree with a comment Dena made somewhere along the line that it’s not really about “us” or “our” relationship to the site, being a contributor, not being a contributor, grandstanding about former contributions, etc.
But even saying that feels dumb. Reb Livingston says in a comment on this thread that if we spent a fraction of our time speaking out against sexism as we do defending folks’ “right” to not face the fact other people exist and can speak too, we wouldn’t have to talk about this all the time—and I agree with that. And I think the same goes for how poisonously easy it is to fall into the trap of reductive/defensive feelings because our brain thinks it will be easier to deal with smaller petty bullshit than it is to deal with larger real shit. And I want to try hard not to bring negative/exasperated energy toward this conversation. Seems petty/small/unfair/shortsighted/defensive/narcissistic, none of which are particularly fun or useful ways to be. None of which seem like routes into that wacky human capability to use communication to open bridges of understanding/insight into the lives of others and give our terrifying echo chamber heads a few air holes.
Like I’ll give you an embarrassing personal example: If I’m reading through the comments on this thread, and I feel personally insulted by Mike Meginnis saying that “the majority of the work coming from regular contributors is pretty marginal stuff,” I really need to do a self-check and be like “Mike Young, is this conversation really about how one Mike with a British-ish last name feels about something another Mike with a British-ish last name said, probably without even thinking about you? No way, dude. You’re not in third grade, you’re not the king of the world.”
I’m embarrassed to admit I even had to have that conversation w/ myself! But it seems relevant b/c it really does take constant work—especially for straight white dudes who are not as cool as their aunts!—to beat our sick brains back with the sticks of self-awareness from the comfortable swamps made by a shitty world whose oppressive dominant murmuring is that every conversation/feeling/feeling-felt-by-another is secretly about us.
And I am trying to work on a longer post that clarifies what I find interesting about HTMLGIANT and how I see one kind of role to be played in contributing to it. Like, I have conflicting feelings about “posts” and “commenters” and “contributors,” and mostly when I post here I like posting things that invite people to have private experiences with interesting concrete projects elsewhere that people have put a lot of hopeful sweat into, like online magazines, small presses, The Volta, Flying Object, Mellow Pages, APRIL, etc. In doing this posting, I try hard to be self-aware and mix my kneejerk aesthetics (which are always a cocktail of inherited blinders and considered choices) with a searching attitude of “Who can I use this platform to give attention to that might not normally get attention in a world full of shitty George Clooney Mad Men nostalgia and anonymous white-haired white men wearing cow shoes declaring that water should be a private resource and movies venerating evil-ass Walt Disney and whitewashing the complicated women he bullied into giving up their stories.”
In other words, I like sharing and using HTMLGIANT to share, and I think if that’s done with some mindfulness and consideration, it perhaps represents a concrete model of “being about it,” but I’m open to the idea that maybe nobody is reading HTMLGIANT anymore for links to online magazines, or maybe nobody trusts what some straight white dude shares with them to read on a platform they have given up on for other reasons.
So even though I don’t really think I’m all that important/interesting, and it feels uncomfortably self-regarding to think that anyone would care what I think, I do see my name listed in the contributor list and I know a little bit about how much my mirror cost and whose field-of-kale beard is staring into it and who made it vs. who uses it vs. whose blood is outside its frame of reference, so I wanted to say that I’m listening and trying to learn from all y’all. It seems like this is, as always, a good opportunity for self-reflection, listening, and vacuuming the lint off the blinders of privilege.
If people are interested in what HTMLGIANT can do besides annoy you, I’d recommend (in addition to the many many thoughtful/interesting/varied/wild reviews that Janice Lee curates) the following recent posts:
This is why I didn’t “like” Chris’s post. If someone else had written it, I would’ve immediately “liked it,” but I couldn’t reconcile his post with his avowed anti-interpretation stance, a stance that ironically enables the Garrett Stricklands of the world. That said, I’m beyond the point of disliking Chris the person. I’ve accepted the fact that he means well and is a good dude IRL who is, for whatever reason, scatter-brained online. I’m not sure that it’s “strategic” for him, at least consciously.
haha, it’s kind of a long personal/private/messy family history story, but i only really met her a few times as a kid, so unfortunately it’s not like she calls me up every saturday to offer me advice on chokeholds. she is, however, pretty amazing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mae_Young
I don’t know how you, or me, can speak for all men. If a man is blatantly sexist, he’s sexist. Another man pointing out his sexist nature isn’t going to do anything, really. That type of person will think of the other man as a “bitch” or “fag” or whatever.
Anyways, this has nothing to do with the question I raised.
Dena said “I am waiting for an ally – a man – to stand up to this issue here or anywhere. I am waiting.”
In other words, she’s trying to shame/guilt a man/men for the sake of validating her cause, which is empty validation–in my opinion.
If a person wants to speak out against something, they will. Forcing such a thing is bullying.
Dena also denies the fact that men already have stepped up and condemned Garrett’s post.
It’s just difficult to embrace someone who implements the same methodology they’re allegedly against even if their usage is less aggressive.
Personally, I don’t know if I consider what Garrett did as misogynistic. It isn’t that I agree with him or what he did, just have a difficult time thinking a person *hates* an entire gender for using gender to attack a single person.
To me, Garrett wasn’t attacking women, just a woman.
Now, i’ll admit, his Kate Doll post was my introduction to him. Maybe he has a long history that I’m not aware of.
“Also, if we’re going to talk about how we’re all just humans and these distinctions are simply being conflated–then why wouldn’t a man point out a wrong, even if it didn’t involve his gender? And why
wouldn’t a white person stand up against racism, even if it didn’t directly affect her?
Why is it such a big deal to ask men to take off their blinders and stand with women against sexism? Why do so many men not consider this their problem too?”
I don’t think it’s a big deal. Why people don’t speak out more is a mystery to me. Like I said in a different thread to you, if this was purely about Garrett being a petty dick, then you wouldn’t have me here arguing certain points.
I mean, seriously, what man read Garrett’s post and took something positive away from it.
Derailing tactics? Not me, sir/ma’am. I am firmly opposed to Garrett Strickland’s post. Doesn’t mean that I can’t criticize an element of someone’s argument that I generally agree with…it’s not hard, trust me. The human brain is capable of mutitasking.
Hey micahelfi or whatever your “name” is. I don’t know how the fuck to work this comment system so I don’t know if this is going directly to you. I apologized for being dismissive of effort and I will again but I said nearly entirely. Nearly. Not all. Don’t tell me what I said in quotes and then respond like I didn’t say it exactly that way. I patted no one on the head – least of all you . I made an apology. I’m sorry I was being dismissive. I’m not sorry for anything else. I’m not sure how to type slowly enough to make you understand that.
Hi, Dena. My name is indeed “Michael.” I changed it so you couldn’t make a big deal out of my previously anon handle as a “derailing tactic.” As for the rest of your post–and I swear I’m not being sarcastic–I have no idea how to respond. The passage I quoted–one that was written by you–very clearly suggests that no men on the site did anything. I’m sure I’m an asshole for pointing this out, but it’s definitely a problem when numerous men “on this site” did speak out in defense of Kate and against Strickland. I can say this while still acknowledging your point that this site hasn’t always treated women well.
yeah, or i mean, no: she spoke up repeatedly. sorry thought that was clear, like, she didn’t want me speaking up for her, so, you know, she could for herself – thought that was implied. sorry it wasn’t clear enough.
“Here’s the thing. What’s missing nearly entirely from this conversation is discussion about how it took two women nearly totally unknown to this site’s regulars to stand up and say something. There’s no discussion about how no one really stood up for Leigh in the comments to her post here and neither did anyone really stand up for Kate.”
You applied “nearly entirely” to the conversation about the discussion, not the original discussion itself–at least that’s how I read your post. It doesn’t read as, “what’s missing from this conversation is the near entire absence of male voices” or whatever. The other use of “nearly” is obviously used in a different context. I’m sorry if this comes off as cherry-picking, I really don’t see it that way; it’s not like I’m the only who noticed the same thing.
Think it’s super shitty that you had to make your concern heard before people took it seriously.
I’ve been thinking about what Reb and you said, and came to the conclusion why a man speaking out might be beneficial. I think some men feel a certain way but are afraid of the backlash from men with dissimilar views, so when one stands up, then the weaker spirited men will too.
Also, came to the conclusion that some men are put off by the tone of the women speaking out (because those women are almost always emotionally invested when doing so), and may not feel the same way when the same conversation is delivered from a man.
The latter realization was a result of both Reb and your comments.
Which I think is what Reb was alluding to.
I still don’t agree with shaming/guilting people into speaking out though. At all.
I have a great deal of experience putting men off with my tone. I’ve gotten really good at it. I don’t mean to brag, but tens of sensitive man-poets have unfriended me on Facebook. I’m saving those details for my memoirs.
Yeah, I can see the benefit of men speaking out. It’s all in how it’s handled, and–let’s be real–the kind of men we’re dealing with. The elephant in the room is, of course, how the men who would react with “bitch” and “fag” if challenged in front of their peers might be working class men…men who might have to act tough as a reaction to economic inequalities. I didn’t come up under great circumstances and most of my friends are not literary dudes. They are working class dudes who will sometimes act completely different in a crowd vs. one-on-one. There’s a reason for their posturing, and it’s rooted in economic disenfranchisement.
Lately, I’ve also thought about the tensions between upper class feminists lecturing blue collar, working class men about how they should behave “properly,” like those men are overgrown versions of Huck Finn or something. I’m not dismissing feminism at all–I’m a feminist myself–but it is an interesting point to consider
I just wanted to say thanks for this list. I just read the first two articles, and I was impressed by the quality of the thoughts curated, and the analysis performed upon them. I think it says something about the quality of content currently on this site that articles like these actually escaped my notice the first time around, while so many others, posted contemporaneously, drew me in and inspired engagement and reflection. Maybe this says something about me, also.
I’ll admit that I have more often been drawn to articles by some of the regular male contributors on this site, which engage in some way with what might be called “mass” or popular culture (ironically, in both a sincere and, yes, a punning way, the only article on this list which I read previously was the one on “Mass Effect,” a popular video game series). I feel, at this point, tempted to “sanitize” this admission by listing a couple of female contributors whose work I have similarly engaged with, but, since I could not, honestly, come up with names (other than Roxanne Gay and Melissa Broder, the latter of which I have also often skimmed over, despite finding her posts–those that I have read–interesting) without “cheating” by looking back through articles, I feel that it is more honest–more in keeping with the spirit of “radical openness,” which has been used as of late (wrongly, I think) to justify some of the knee-jerk bloodletting which instigated this particular “scandal”–to pursue along a course of self-interrogation, and–I think, possibly–castigation.
Specifically, I ask myself, if there is a “bad” kind of HTMLG reader, am I of that sort? Admittedly, I haven’t been reading this site since the beginning and when people speak of the site’s “Golden Age” I often feel that it is something I have only experienced in fragments. I have also, in the past, dismissed easily the suggestion that HTMLG is–or has become, or is in danger of becoming–a “boys club,” confident that, if I were to scroll through the various contributions, noting the (assumed) gender of each author, I would find a comfortably even distribution by gender (to be clear, I haven’t done this, so I am counting this “assumption” against myself as well).
I’ll also admit that, perhaps as a result of my reading habits, I may have become desensitized to writing which is “sexist.” I put in that term in quotes not to deny or minimalize its existence or impact, but because I tend to feel uncomfortable in most cases admitting it as a category–that is to say, I can recognize that certain writing and other media exists which is worthy of condemnation on this grounds alone, yet I often find myself making excuses for why a particular piece does not cross that line, probably due to an almost instinctual identification with writers whose background mirrors my own, and a corresponding alienation of the concerns voiced in opposition as minor or abstruse. It is that identification that tempted me to defend the Strickland article, not on the merits, but rather because I “didn’t understand” the criticism. I don’t know–nor have any opinion pre-dating this debate of–Garrett, but I stronly suspect that it was a similar identification which led him to comment on Zambreno’s facebook post concerning James Franco. Franco, in addition to being of, presumably, similar heritage as myself, shares my first name and even attended, at a different time, the same school that I did. Dude even directed and starred in an adaptation of one of my favorite (white, male-authored) books and is apparently preparing to adapt another one. Consequently, as far as he might overreach (and underperform), it is hard for me to see him as other than a “cool, funny bro.” Even when he and Seth Rogan do a shot-for-shot parody of Kanye’s “Bound 2” video, I feel like the joke is targeted directly at me because, man, isn’t it funny to see two dudes who look like me acting like that?
So, is my interest in seeing any content related to “bros being bros” “bro-ing out” or any sort of “bro-down” inherently oppositional to the idea of HTMLG as a welcoming and inclusive forum? I’d like to think not, although maybe my own reading habits have been, at times. After all, HTMLG can only continue to function, at this point, by behaving somewhat like a “business” and I know all too well that, in the age of electronic publication, that translates directly into “clicks” and “shares.” If there’s quality content on this site being written by people outside my comfortable circle of “identification”–moreover, if I’m actually USING that content’s existence, rhetorically, to refute the site’s detractors–without my personally engaging with it, then am I contributing to making this environment less than it could be?
I don’t know. I feel like we are all on this site, to a certain extent, to read/be open books. We are all raging against machines, even if they are different machines. The day I stop being an open loop is the day I start being a closed loop, and the day the loop starts shrinking. Even though this reply is largely off-topic and mostly self-obsessed, it started as a “Thanks for showing me some things that I was, for whatever reason, unable to come to on my own” and a sincere wish for anyone, everyone, in this community to show me more new things.
“As a woman” I feel offended by the idea that people are rallying behind here that I need women and men to “stand up” for me when others say sexist things about stuff I’ve written or soccer I’ve played.
cats420 you rule thanks for putting up such a valient fight in the face of unrelenting bullshit html giant should be honored to have a reader like you. i have not been such an avid reader of this site for many of the reasons discussed above but i would love to buy you a beer and support you on all social media platforms.