Strange Email

I received a rather strange correspondence from feminist blogger Ampersand a few days ago:

I’ve decided to ignore feminist critics — —–Inline Attachment Follows—– Hi there! This is a private email, not for public consumption, quotation, summary, or discussion. I’ve decided I won’t be reading “Feminist Critics” any more. As long as the blogging roster includes Daran and TS, the level of hatred directed at me at FC makes it unhealthy for me to hang out there. (Even if, as I know you’ll say, I am perceiving hatred that isn’t there, to subject myself to perceived hatred is unhealthy.) You have the right to blog about and link to whomever you want. For whatever it’s worth, however, my preference would be that you no longer link to my blogs or mention me on FC. Daran, I particularly wish to sever contact with you. For that reason, I’d prefer that you not email me or use the contact form on “Alas.” Best wishes, Barry

Before moving on, allow me to state that I am posting this without the expressed approval of my fellow bloggers. I am posting it here to avoid any issues posting it on Feminist Critics might cause. Just to clarify, none of the bloggers from Feminist Critics wanted me to post this. However, I think what follows will explain I decided to go public with this.

For those not in the know, along with this blog, I also co-blog on Feminist Critics. The blog is centered about critical analysis of feminism and feminists. Although much of the analysis challenges feminist theories, hypocrisies and inconsistencies, some of the posts acknowledge the achievements of feminism. Recently, a new commenting policy was instituted and up to this point it has seemed work without any major issue. In fact, one of the first feminists to comment on FC in support of the policy was Ampersand, which makes his above email all the more peculiar. Peculiar not only because he did not seem to take issue commenting on the threads just a few days prior to sending the email, but also in the terms of the tone of the email and the claims he made. I expressed my opinion of this email in my response:

To be honest, I find your email odd and quite manipulative. If you do not wish to read Feminist Critics, then you can simply not read the blog. There is no reason to inform the bloggers about your decision, particularly not via email, nor is it appropriate to dictate who may use public information. The comment about my and Daran’s presence comes across as an ultimatum: “Either both those guys go or I won’t post on FC.” I have little issue with not posting at FC if that will facilitate Daran’s goals for his blog. However, to suggest or imply that Daran, one of the people who owns the blog, should not be on the roster steps far beyond voicing concerns about your treatment on Feminists Critics. I am not inclined to keep this email private as you are asking for very public responses to your requests. This email seems to be a reaction to gwallan’s comment about feeling unsafe “around” you and Daran’s criticism of your defense of the feminist tenet “all men are potential rapists.” I would not go so far as to say it is inappropriate, but I do find it, again, quite manipulative. I am even less inclined to trust the sincerity of your complaints and your requests given your past response to people expressing the same issues about their unfair treatment – perceived or not – on your blog.

I stand by those comments. In a reply to my co-bloggers I further explained my reason for not wanting to keep Ampersand’s email private:

His request would be akin to Fox News sending a letter to NBC telling them not to use clips from Fox’s broadcasts on Countdown and that they do not want to be contacted by NBC, Keith Olbermann in particular, all while continuing to report issues Fox finds with NBC and its reporters and commentators and then requesting that the letter never be discussed. No news organization would abide by such a request and neither would any blogger, including Barry.

Whether these sort of things occur behind the scenes frequently among bloggers is outside of my knowledge. I would imagine, given the propensity for flaming and hostility on the internet, that it probably does not. However, even if it did, it would still be completely out bounds. As I stated in my response, Ampersand’s email comes across as manipulative, presenting both an ultimatum and tarnishing the character of the man who owns Feminist Critics.

It is the latter that I take the biggest issue with given that Daran has been quite civil even when being attacked while posting on Ampersand’s blog. Nothing in their public exchanges suggests that Daran has been anything more than on occasions irritated by Ampersand’s responses. There certainly is nothing to suggest that he hates Ampersand.

Being such, it would appear that email might have been a response to Daran’s criticism of Ampersand’s defense of the feminist tenet “all men are potential rapists.” Daran, while civil, did not hold back in expressing how that made him feel. Likewise, a commenter, gwallan, on FC expressed his concern about Ampersand posting on threads given his past experiences on Alas, a blog, with which Ampersand apparently had no issue. While these may seem like inconsequential reasons, I cannot honestly think of anything else that would prompt the above email.

That is a major issue because the negative reaction is to someone else’s negative reaction. Some people are hurt by what Ampersand says and the feminist positions he supports and while I understand no one likes to be distrusted or told that their words hurt, it seems terribly unfair to get angry that a person would voice those concerns.

Regardless of Ampersand’s reasons, the other important issue the lack of professionalism shown by sending the email. I do not know exactly what Ampersand sought to achieve by sending it. However, I do know that I found it manipulative and triggering. It reminded me of being a child and being told not speak about what happened outside of the house.  It is, of course, entirely possible that this public response was what he sought, i.e. something that would allow him to justify whatever it is he might intend to say about who knows what.

It is, however, worth the risk because the intent of Feminist Critics is for people to be able to voice those concerns. It would have been better if Ampersand had stated these things publicly or at least responded to Daran’s post. While I doubt it would have swayed posters’ opinion of him, it would have facilitated the type of discussion that ought to happen on Femnist Critics. A certain level of general respect and decency should exist between bloggers, even those who vehemently disagree with each other. Sending an email like the one above, mischaracterizing the people involving while barring them from responding and then telling them they are not allowed to speak about it is as far from respectful as one can get.

Again, I do not profess to know Ampersand’s intention. However, I do know the affect of that intention and it is quite hurtful and harmful.

3 thoughts on “Strange Email

  1. Pingback: People should be tolerant, respectful to feminists, too « Toy Soldiers

  2. That’s a weird e-mail. And he has no standing to ask you not to publish it.

    I just don’t get Amp, sometimes he seems sympathetic and open minded, he may not agree with the types of things at FC, but seems able to consider them reasonably – but the atmosphere at Alas can often be unbearably toxic (often due to his angry and bullying co-mods, true).

    And to characterise you and Daran as hateful? That’s just… weird. It’s the only way of describing it, I know things always look different to different people … but … I can very often see what other people see, once they tell me, even if I think they’re wrong*… but here I can’t. Unless criticism is considered hate. But I don’t think Amp’s like that.

    Though some of the commenters on FC can get a little strident, in the manner of people at Alas but mirror imaged (particarly in the past, w/ Aych and Byrdeye)

    *(Yes, largely anyone, be they ALF, PETA, any radical religious group, radical feminists, right wingers, radical leftists, Nazis, Commies etc etc)

  3. p.s. I initially wrote “due to his strident co-mods”, but changed it as it seems harsh to use that word as criticism of women, particularly feminists, when they don’t like it so very much, and there are other words that do the same job – like angry and bullying.
    Ironically I then used strident to describe some of the commentators on FC. (Being largely men and not feminists it doesn’t have any negative connotations beyond the ones I actually want, i.e. the dictionary definition) Now in contrast it looks like I think much worse of the Alas Mods behaviour than some of the comments on FC. That’s not actually true. The Mods are worse because the power they have is used to silence dissent or disagreement and in a rubbish unbalanced way too – but I’ve seen harsher things written by FC commenters. They have no mod powers though, so cannot affect anyone who’s still willing to brave the harshness – unlike Alas, where you can get told to GTFO or banninated by the Mods.

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