Let me start this out with a disclaimer: I don’t watch local news. Like, ever. My parents watched it somewhat regularly when I was growing up, and I’ve often found shows like 60 Minutes interesting, but I’ve never been a news-watcher. I also don’t regularly read any newspapers or news publications. I very selectively read the Times and the Boston Globe online, mostly for technology and education stories, and I occasionally read an article or two from Time or Newsweek when they come in at work, but they’re not really on my radar most of the time.
I get the vast majority of my news from blogs I frequent and, perhaps most importantly, from Twitter. (And I now try to share alike–anything that I read that strikes me as interesting or important gets tweeted.)
So it was sort of like major culture shock to look at the recent local news coverage of various proposed non-discrimination legislation.
Now, I don’t make the mistake of thinking that online comment threads are representative of the general population. But it’s still pretty hard to read some of the venom that gets hurled toward queer folks, trans* folks, people of color, women–basically any minority group gets its share (and then some) of online hatred when it comes to these kinds of comments boards.
Queer Today (a site I have some problems with, but that’s pretty much neither here nor there) put out a call to the community to respond to local news coverage of the New Hampshire non-discrimination vote–widely misrepresented and maligned as the “bathroom bill”–and sent out a list of links to local stories, many of which have comment threads. I went to the first one, read maybe three comments, and decided I just couldn’t keep going.
But it begs the question–if I don’t have the stomach to respond to people who believe I and those I love are perverts and criminals, who will? And is it even worth it? Is there value in continuing to engage people who are only engaging in bad faith?
On a related note, voz_latina has a post up calling for a boycott of Feministe and Feministing:
Both blogs have a history of mistreating and disrespecting trans women, and exploiting us for their own ends.
We tried reason. We tried engaging. We tried talking. We went off to r own spaces to heal.
I’m very torn on this.
I’ve taken breaks from reading both blogs (indeed, blogs in general) because of major hostility in comment threads. I’ve since stopped reading Pandagon entirely for the same reason (and because I’ve always found the comments there to be very in-jokey and members only, and because Amanda Marcotte’s responses to criticism of her latest books went from bad to awful).
And I’d be foolish, and just plain wrong, to try to argue that either blog has been just peachy on trans* issues. (Or, for that matter, race issues, queer issues, class issues… the list goes on.)
But I do get the feeling, even in the most frustrating and painful of threads, that there is still a glimmer of hope there. And I can’t tell how much of that hope is real, and how much is just my own privilege talking.
It’s far too easy (and way too common) for folks to say, “Well, we can’t get mad at our allies.” Or, “At least they’re talking about us–everyone else is ignoring us.” Or, “They’re not as bad as our enemies.” I want to make it clear that I’m not saying this. (And, as voz_latina and others have pointed out, allies aren’t really allies if they’re actually consistently mistreating and disrespecting you.)
But I do think it’s important to tie this into my larger question–who’s worth the fight? With whom do we engage, and when do we decide to sever ties? Do we try to educate those who seem like they may have potential to learn? Do we make it clear we won’t engage with the ignorant until they’ve done their homework?