I found this and the koolaid site only yesterday. Totally obsessed having mostly forgotten about my own throwdown with Melissa.
On a post about the Golden Globes.
My comment is now Guest since I deleted my Discus account after the kerfuffle. Before commenting, I had read some People magazine article at the hairdresser about how Jodie Foster left her partner/wife for another woman. Yeah, it was People, so I admit my primary source is sketchy. Still, I made this seemingly innocuous comment:
Claire Danes speech was very gracious. I like that she honored the rest of the women nominated in her category for being such “kick-ass” female characters. Also like the camera cut to Michelle Dockery who looked genuinely happy for Claire Danes. Class acts. And yes, the whole show could have used twice the amount of Fey and Poehler. Just not sure what to make of Jodie Foster. Maybe she owes Mel Gibson money, or he had some dirt on her or something. I also don’t terribly respect how she left her wife so uncermoniously for another woman.
Melissa was all over the Jodie Foster thing. Anyone still interested can read her pile on via the above link. My comments are still there (for now) because I did NOT apologize like some people do. I fought back and Melissa’s minions also came to her defense. Then I stopped. It’s probably not been deleted because on the surface it looks like she won.
What was weird is that in this post, she and MANY other people openly criticized Jodie Foster for all kinds of things. I say that it was shitty she had an affair and I’m reamed. Other people commented that she was basically a bad lesbian for not being enough of an activist all her life, but that was A-Okay. Just don’t say you don’t respect her.
At any rate, I deleted my account and immediately sent Melissa an email telling her that denying her commenters personal experiences and dog-piling on them is crap, and my innocuous comment did not deserve the shitstorm she produced. My husband cheating and dumping me was nothing like her and Ian’s origin story. I told her she did not need to get all defensive and why she thought I was personally attacking her is a total mystery.
Then she posted this the next day .
I take it as a compliment that I got to her that much it earned its own post.
She’s a really good writer. And that’s about it.
I suppose I should respond to the fighting that’s going on between Shakesville Kool Aid and Melissa.
For those that missed it, on Monday 7/21 a journalist from a reputable news outlet sent out a request via the Help a Reporter Out (HARO) organization for a psychologist who could discuss abuse and toxicity among online social justice activist communities and leaders. The journalist cited Shakesville and Hugo Schwyzer as examples. Melissa wrote about the incident here, dismissing this still unwritten article as an armchair diagnosis and “disableist garbage.”
Despite the firm, terse tone of the post, it’s clear Melissa was shaken by the incident since she immediately took a week long vacation the next day, from Tuesday 7/22 until Monday 7/28.
On Monday 7/28, Melissa wrote a lengthy post ”pushing back” against Shakesville Kool Aid, a series of tweets under the #NotCriticism hashtag, then a follow up post the next day reiterating her main points. She said that the reason she finally decided to address SKA was that its contributors and commenters were harassing her husband and friends. She wrote, “I do not and cannot ignore when people decide to go after people about whom I care, in order to get to me.”
I think Melissa is being disingenuous here. I believe the HARO inquiry and the prospect of having some of her bullying depicted and dissected in a national forum frightened her. She felt an urgent need to take control and reframe the conversation. She was bracing herself and her few remaining readers for whatever attention the article might bring. This is speculation, of course, but I grew up in an abusive household and watching this whole thing play out feels really familiar. It’s predictable, almost boring.
SKA has written extensively in response to Melissa, and I recommend you read her other posts since this conversation is largely focused on the content of that tumblr and not my own. I don’t condone any form of threatening phone calls or emails if they are coming from participants of that blog, but I haven’t seen evidence of any such behavior either.
The thing is, I’m not particularly interested in engaging with Melissa. I don’t collect these stories for her. I’m not trying to convince her or her devotees of her abuse. That’s a hopeless cause. I’m here for the regular commenters and contributors who have lingering, sometimes gnawing suspicions that something is rotten in Shakesville. The ones who self-harm after one too many emotionally manipulative flounces from Melissa, who suffer from anxiety attacks before posting, who sob relentlessly after an undeserved pile-on, who are asked to sacrifice their family’s well being to donate to Shakesville, and who feel a deep sense of despair because of Melissa’s cruel disregard. This blog is for the people who are just beginning to realize that they have fallen into the same walking-on-eggshells behavioral patterns at Shakesville as they did in their abusive homes as children, and that they have come to define their self worth by Melissa’s ever-moving goal posts and sunk deeper into depression because of it.
I’ve been a member of various online communities since I was twelve or thirteen, and I have never witnessed anything so perverse and disturbing as the dynamic at Shakesville. One or two survivors’ narratives can be easily dismissed by Melissa’s sycophants, but in aggregate all these stories paint a very telling picture that no amount of gaslighting from Melissa can hide.
I’m here to tell you that you are not alone. It’s not you. It’s Shakesville.
I can’t speak for why everyone else is here,of course. But the reason I’m here is simple: McEwan, Mardoll, Deeky, and the rest of the Shakesville staff hurt people. Some of the people here are people that they have hurt, former commenters, contributors, even moderators. Other people here weren’t directly hurt by them, but care about those that were. That’s why it’s important to stand up to McEwan and co., to show others that they’re not alone, that they don’t deserve to be treated as badly as they were at Shakesville. That’s why I’m here, and why I think many of the rest of us are here: to support the people that McEwan and co. have hurt. If you want evidence that McEwan has hurt people, many former members of the Shakesville community posted their testamonies on why they left on the Circle Time page (http://shakesvillekoolaid.tumblr.com/post/88568874129/submission-circle-time). Again and again, people describe how they wrote, sent money, provided emotional support, and did all they could to support McEwan until she drove them away with her bullying, her hypocrisy, or her gaslighting. This is why we’re here. McEwan likes to claim that she’s not harming anyone, that she just enforces a comment policy. But even if her taunts, her mockery, her dismissal of all expertise and experience that isn’t hers, and so forth is part of the policy, it is still harmful. Chewing out an expert on the Holocaust when they say that McEwan is wrong about why Mein Kampf is suddenly popular is harmful, both to the expert and to actual Jews for whom the issue is more than academic. Shouting down lawyers who explain the legal and ethical problems in McEwan’s proposal to bar jurors from writing books about their experiences is harmful. Castigating a commenter for saying, “I wish your life was easier” is harmful. Appropriating Jewish and queer identities is harmful. Lying about having a disability, such as when McEwan argued that she was unable to sweat and thus was in genuine danger when her air conditioner broke, only to later post that she liked a particular bra because of how it felt when she sweat, is harmful. McEwan harms people. This site is here because some of us aren’t okay with that.
I admit that I used to be an active Shaker until early this year. I found some of the commentariat very nice and supportive, and at one point I was a fan of Melissa. I even used to defend her for every other thing, although I certainly had problems with her as well. But I always feared being confronted by a mod. I used to post in open threads, hoping that no mod would confront me because they seemed so unforgiving and mean at times.
And eventually, I had internalized the various mores of Shakesville to the point that it was having a harmful effect on my own emotional health. I felt that, every time I made a comment, I risked being angrily confronted by a mod – even when I was sure that I was following the rules and that I was making completely innocuous comments. These fears made my self-hatred even more difficult to cope with because there were times I posted an innocuous comment and then started worrying about the entire community telling me I’m a horrible person. That didn’t actually happen, but I really couldn’t feel safe in a space in which I’m almost constantly fearful. And so after being there had started to exacerbate my anxiety in addition to my self-hatred, I left. Now I just read some of the articles there from time to time – the ones that aren’t problematic, at least.
It’s been a while, but today this happened at Shakesville and I had to comment.
Let me first restate why I do this: because I believe Melissa McEwan is harming people both by emotionally abusing her commenters and encouraging the moderators to do so. I also think she is deliberately preying on…
Flawless and thorough breakdown.
“Over the past 10 to 15 years in particular, feminist spaces have been concerned with and consumed by an Ahab like quest for building and enforcing “safe space.” As women of color, who live under white supremacy, settler colonialism, heteronormativity, capitalism and more, we know that such a place doesn’t actually exist. More importantly, what we have seen over the years is that “safe spaces” usually mean excluding us. They sometimes mean using “safety” as a substitute for “never uncomfortable spaces.” In this conceptualization, safety is often used as a cudgel to silence and to further marginalize.”
I am an autistic trans woman with major depression and other un-fun mental illnesses. For the longest time, I was afraid of coming out, afraid of losing my family (which, at the time, was the only support system I had). Thanks to the Internet, I could at least attempt to search for a place to belong, and at one time, I thought I’d found it in Shakesville.
That blog, as you may have noticed, is deeply unsafe. Not just in the sense of feeling unsafe, but in the sense of being unsafe. If you have any sort of PTSD, you can expect to have it (sometimes deliberately) triggered multiple times a day, with no apology (but heaven help you if you even so much as annoy the blogmistress, of course). If you’re oppressed in ways that the blogmistress is not, you can expect to be told that you’re fighting your oppression wrong. If you’re autistic or otherwise neurodiverse, good god, you’re in for a nightmare.
I mean, people complain about Tumblr social justice, but at least Tumblr hasn’t require me to become a mind-reader overnight. (Well, not yet, anyway. I’m aware that it’s happened to others, and I remember seeing some of those incidents go down – but would it surprise anybody to know that some of the more abusive “SJ” people I’ve seen got their start as Shakesville commenters?)
Shakesville is a blog that engenders despair – not the kind that’s rooted in legitimate anger at the oppression of oneself and others, but a much more insidious kind: an all-surrounding hopelessness that drowns you in the understanding that this particular brand of feminism, which is ostensibly rooted in the notion that you are a human being, thinks you are an exception. That not only do you not have a seat at the movement’s table, but you don’t even get any scraps, and you’ll be punished for trying.
Its blogmistress, contributors and mods continually repeat the messages you’re already so used to receiving from the rest of society: that your very existence is an unreasonable expectation, because your expectations are making trouble for the white, cis, allistic people who actually matter.
Shakesville doesn’t fight that oppressive idea. It reaffirms it.
Thus, every time someone greets my firm-yet-frightened demand for humanity with amazement that I would even dare ask for such a thing, I am tempted to (and, sometimes, still do) respond the way Shakesville taught me: No no, I’m sorry, I expect nothing, and I’m sorry to have even asked. I expect nothing. Sorry.
Do you really expect people to accept you as a woman when your face looks like that, when your voice sounds like that?
No. I expect nothing.
Do you really expect that, in this capitalist society, you’ll ever be allowed to access the healthcare you need?
No. I expect nothing.
Do you really expect comedians and pundits to stop using you as the butt of their jokes? Do you really expect them to care about the systemic violence you face?
No. I expect nothing.
Do you really expect anti-trans radfems to see you as anything other than a pathetic joke at best, and a violent stealth patriarch at worst?
No. I expect nothing.
Do you really expect ostensibly-feminist bloggers not to deliberately trigger your eating disorder just because they think it’s funny?
No. I expect nothing.
You’re expecting far too much of a blogger who tirelessly gives her time and energy for you and hasn’t seen a penny from you in return. You’re expecting far too much when you expect her not to lionize a “feminist shero” who wanted you and women like you dead.
I’m so sorry. Please don’t hate me. I expect nothing.
That is the kyriarchal lesson that Shakesville reinforced: that it was wrong, wrong,of me to expect to be treated as human.
I stopped identifying as a feminist because I learned, through Shakesville, that feminism does not want people like me. I’m too trans. I’m too autistic. I’m too crazy (and I’m also a bad person for having even typed the word “crazy”). I am too much of an inconvenience for the Normal People, and I must be punished for that. That is the true message of Shakesville: that “expecting more” is a privilege, and that, if you are not one of the Normals, expecting anything at all is expecting too much.
It was only after I left Shakesville, and started processing what had been done to me there — allowing myself to recognize that what happened was abuse, and was wrong — that I was finally able to start my transition. I could finally let my meatspace friends and family know who I really was – and I could do it without worrying about how a certain cis woman I didn’t even know would be judging my every word, judging my coming-out according to her own standards. I could exist.
And I realized, ironically enough, that it was in leaving Shakesville that I finally found the courage to expect more.
Anonymous said: Check out the salaries for her husband's company on Glassdoor. He's making something in the neighborhood of $75 to $100k. The average salary for an assistant VP is over $85,000.
You know normally I’d be like it’s nobody’s fucking business what her husband’s salary is, but when Melissa sits by silently while the mods/minions famously encourage people that ‘no amount is too small’ to contribute, to the point where they encourage a woman down to her last $5 on child support to give money to Melissa, you know what it’s fucking fair game. She’s got absolutely no business asking for money. ‘Feminist act’* or not.
So! You guys pointed this out and it’s a doozy. Liz posts about Mein Kampf’s sudden rise to bestseller on in the ebook charts. She’s skeptical of the explanation that amateur historians might be keen on reading it.
She’s reminded of an “uptick in antisemitism” in Europe. She never puts a theory forth, nothing. Just says it reminds her of other manifestations of antisemitism.
Note, that second link? It doesn’t even go to the article. It’s a fucking In the News post. She’s that haphazard.
Roland (poor Roland) pipes up about the anniversary of the beginning of World War II this year and maybe that’s sparking some interest?* Also some of the other usual bullshit about how it’s badly written.
Note, in her original post Liz actually says “What is up with that?” and doesn’t offer any real reason or theory. No support for causation. Not a thing.
But it’s Liz. So she just fucking bans him. Outright, just bans him because she’s always having to tell him or some bullshit. He’s been commenting there for 22 days and left a total of 15. A lot of which were apologizing to someone at Shakesville.
The Old Hack chimes in as a child of first generation Holocaust survivors and explains the curiosity some have and that the publisher’s rights expired. (Cheap books man) As an anon points out, since Liz can’t really shout down the child of a Holocaust survivor in an argument about antisemitism, she then chastises them for debating the point she allegedly made and says she DIDN’T MAKE IT so she doesn’t have to.
Her responses are so acerbic and ignorant…. well, she proves the ghost of Christmas future didn’t come visit her ass during the break.
*It’s actually the 70th anniversary of D-Day in June.
Thanks to anons
At the risk of sounding like a cultish echo chamber, I’ll say it one more time: it’s not you. It’s Shakesville.
Melissa had a chance to build a little slice of feminist utopia on the Web, an opportunity to model how things *could* be. But those of us who already agree with her on the vast majority of the issues don’t even want to spend any time there! I am Christian, and I’m reminded of the parallels between Christians who try to evangelize through fear and shame and those who try to model grace working in their lives. She is more like those she demonizes than she will ever admit.
I read for years before joining the comments. By my second comment, Melissa called me “anti-woman.” One of the other mods started going on about how I had “walked into Melissa’s blog” and disagreed with her, as if I had no right to post there. I tried to apologize and rephrase my opinion, so that they would understand my good intentions, but the more contrite I was, the more aggressive they became, calling me names and accusing me of trying to stir the pot. I’ve been around on the Internet, but this was the only time I was ever genuinely surprised and upset by an exchange I had there. I wound up walking away from the thread and never posted again.
I used to excuse a lot of Melissa’s behavior because we have had similar experiences related to trauma, and I know that healing can take a very long time. But I don’t have patience for it anymore. Many of Melissa’s readers have the same struggles that she does, but they are expected to treat *her* with kid gloves, read her mind, and take responsibility for her sense of safety and happiness, while she gets to run over whomever and exploit their vulnerability to get the upper hand. Why willingly participate in that? There is no value in Shakesville, except as a mechanism for feeding Melissa’s codependency. I’m out.
via Jane Baxter