I have already rewritten this article five times, yet I still don’t find it short or concise enough. I’m struggling – my mind is full of opinions I long to express, but I’m bumping into the First Rule of writing for the Internet: KEEP. IT. SHORT.
While, in general, I am not opposed to snappy, to-the-point text, the First Rule still takes a toll on my willingness to write and publish my writing. This is not only due to me telling myself to keep it short; I am concerned with the assumption underneath this rule: that people don’t read long(ish) texts on the Internet or alternatively, that they don’t read at all. After all, what text is a long one?
No matter how short or interesting, I do therefore worry my writing is never going to be good enough for the intended audience. This could be me being overly anxious, and it could also be the truth. The assumption of “people don’t read” seems to be held by most creators on the Web.
Why write if people don’t read?
From the curious invention of the “longform” article, which suggests people have to be warned they’re about to encounter a long text, through the announcements/warnings that appeared at the top of articles (remember the “This is a five minute read” announcements?), the Internet is swarming with inventions intended to solve the issue of ineffectual articles.
Ironically, the reason why people don’t read on the Web, is caused by the Internet itself. How could you focus on words, when the developers constantly overwhelm you with notifications, ads, gifs, pop-ups, instant messages, self-playing videos or music?
To top it off, why would you give your precious attention to an article, when you’re aware there is unlimited information just a click away? The whole Word Wide Web is a sort of Tinder, only not for meeting people, but for information: why would you commit to a text, if maybe there’s a more important or interesting one just a swipe away?
When you write articles with the purpose of educating people about a feminist issue, you then face a barrier: people’s inability or unwillingness to focus. This is one of the Web-created barriers on the side of the reader. In addition to this, the Web puts up barriers for us writers.
As I’ve mentioned above, we may be dealing with anxiety connected to “keeping it short”, or as consequence of asking ourselves “will they even read it”?
Abuse waits around the corner
Another of these blocks could be caused by excessive worrying about online reactions to our writing. I am NOT using the word “excessive” meaning we are stressing out over nothing. I believe these worries are justified.
Never in history did feminist writers have to face this sort and volume of reactions to their writing, coming at them with such speed. It has never been as easy to hurl abuse at feminists as it is now, thanks to the supreme technology of the Internet and of its enfants terribles (really terrible kids), the “social networks”.
If one felt interested in abusing feminists in the earlier days, he had to find a paper, locate a functioning pen, write a letter, buy an envelope, buy stamps, physically leave the house, face the weather (winter used to be colder), and go to a post office. Then one had to wait for an answer, not even knowing if his object of abuse opened the letter.
Because of this, I suppose it was also harder for an abusive mob to form in reaction to a feminist writing. Compared to the age of social networks, when any comment section can become a festering pustule of escalating abuse, these must have been tame times.
Now the abusers can cheer each other on, to the point where threats of punching feminists seem to be vanilla pudding. Because of the Internet technology, we’ve already faced people making online threats of killing us, “slaying” us, hanging us, raping us with broken bottles, selling us into sexual slavery and forcing us to undergo a sex-change.
Freedom of thought
Probability of such vile abuse, combined with the question of “will anyone even read it” can constitute too big a barrier to a feminist writer. One of the things we have been doing, or I have, in any case, is to just bear it. That is until guardians of the male social networks decided to throw us out.
I am NOT saying we should stop having courage and speak out online. I am simply asking a question: what are some of the consequences of this situation? As a person who puts her thoughts into sentences, it is important that I can think. That is, to think at least as freely as possible within the unfreedom of being a woman in patriarchy.
I am convinced that the social networks have had negative effects on my thinking, cutting snippets off my “radicalism”, making my feminism tame and relatively non-threatening to the status quo.
This is not related only to the trans topics. Anyway, to illustrate my point, I am going to use my experiences with the ongoing trans- gender critical controversy.
Taking a break from Facebook
Before I “came out” with my gender critical opinions online, I have been quite active on Facebook, although never with too much enthusiasm.
When abuse, Facebook censorship and smears against my person drove me into hiding from the online world and I spent more time reading books, I realized something very pleasant: my thinking changed.
I stopped ruminating about the “trans issue”, I stopped doubting myself – asking if maybe I’m wrong about this. I stopped obsessing about what people are saying about me online. I also stopped spending my time coming up with ways to persuade the public that the “trans issue” is in fact anti-feminist backlash. My mind cleared of all this rubbish and I could fill it with the treasure trove of knowledge I found in radical feminist books.
Alternative social networks?
You may be asking: what about Spinster? Do you also think it has had some harmful effects on your feminism? I’m still on the fence about this. I’ve found out that limiting my time on Spinster has been helpful to my thinking, general well-being and my ability to focus on reading and writing.
This could be because Spinster, although not censoring or abusive, suffers from the same thing most other socials do – it does overwhelm one with information.
Also, as much as I appreciate there is a place where you won’t be harassed for not applauding to men’s sexual entitlement, I consider many discussions about the “trans thing” to have an unwanted validating effect on the issue we’re all trying to fight.
It is good that there is a place where we can say “apples are not oranges” as that is the reality. Stating “apples are not oranges”, unfortunately, gives a certain validity to the argument we are trying to oppose, making unreality appear as something that, if it can be discussed, could be possible.
Example: there exist groups of people, who truly believe and claim that the Earth is flat. Yet others don’t create websites to refute their argument. That would be ridiculous. I know it is not 100% comparable to the trans situation – no one is currently outlawing statements that the Earth is round.
And again, I am not asking anyone to stop saying apples are not oranges. What I’m saying is, staying away from these discussions has made me see how ridiculous, insulting and abusive it is, when patriarchs are forcing us to deny reality.
For all the reasons stated above, and probably some more of which I’m not yet fully aware, I am now searching for alternative ways of feminist educating and organizing as I believe it is essential that women read with focus, think freely and have the courage to write.
Quoting Adrienne Rich: “You must read and write as if your life depended on it!”
Also, as Audre Lorde said:
“I feel that we make integrated life decisions about the networks of our lives, and those decisions and commitments lead us to other decisions and commitments – certain ways of viewing the world, looking for change. If they don’t lead us toward growth and change, we have nothing to build upon, no future..”
The quote by Audre Lorde comes from the book: Against Sadomasochism: A Radical Feminist Analysis, edited by Robin Ruth Linden, published in 1982 by Frog in the Well