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
More Shitville drama and abuse.Bear in mind Sanacrow is a WOC, and her children (and other children) have been bullied and harassed by this sameself church.
But noooo! That’s not good enough for Liz!! http://www.shakesville.com/2013/07/three-things.html
Sanacrow obviously didn’t read Liz’s thoughts on the term I’m Not Surprised. Horrors!
Sanacrow is properly chastised, and (hopefully!!) her evening was ruined.
I think the most obvious reason for all the blogs about Shakesville is that if you say something critical at the blog, you usually wind up banned. You can’t criticize Shakesville at Shakesville…but there are a lot of people out there who want to talk about the bizarre and upsetting things that go on there. I was an avid reader and faithful commenter for years. People talk about it being cult-y (or having cult tendencies, I like that way of saying it.) With Questions of the Day and comment threads where people talked about deeply personal details of their lives (like the rape survivor thread), we were encouraged to become personally invested in the community. So we did. (At one point, Melissa agreed to be listed as a character reference on my resume.) But things changed. Why? That’s what people want to talk about.
I started to mentally check out when I realized that when I visited the website and saw a long comment thread, I knew it was probably another drama with Melissa at the centerpiece and she was going to threaten to shut down the blog. It’s exhausting and bewildering. You don’t know what’s going to set her off next, and you’re constantly told that Melissa is permanently at the end of her rope because of how very thoughtless all the commenters are toward her feelings all the time. She selflessly, to the detriment of her health, continues writing and modding the community that doesn’t appreciate her.
I remember “vintage” Shakesville dramas like the Mary Daly thread (which was handled very, very poorly) and the Christmas/Hanukkah “Open Thread Host” images.
I don’t necessarily like everything about the Shakesville critical/hate blogs, but of course they exist–people want to talk about Shakesville, and they can’t do it honestly at the blog.
DonnaL, as one of the people who participates regularly on an anti-SV blog, I thought maybe my story might be of interest to you, given your comments about how “astonishing” it is to see anti-SV blogs.
Several years ago I was a regular on quite a few feminist blogs, Feministe and SV included, but the now infamous “all in” post at SV along with some Amanda Marcotte issues put me off blogs for quite some time. When I returned to commenting on SV about a year ago, I quickly felt I had to walk on eggshells, I was feeling tentative and unsure of my own opinions. Without going into TMI, my parents were abusive and taught me that they and other authority figures were always right, I was always wrong, and it’s exceptionally easy for me, even nowadays, to fall into the same childhood patterns.
When I realized that was happening regarding my reaction to SV, I started watching more closely. What I saw mirrored what others here have already discussed, and I won’t waste space repeating it. I do want to add that, to me, the SV mods said things to female commenters that sounded far too much like “behave yourself” than I felt a feminist blog should really indulge in. And I find Liss to often do things that feel like deliberately “grooming” a commentariat designed to defend her at all times, which she then relies on when she goes to use the banhammer on someone she dislikes. (I see this quite a bit with other bloggers, too, especially in the sci-fi/fantasy fandom which I frequent. I’m not saying she’s unique on this, not at all.)
Having an anti-SV blog to read and react to has helped me tremendously, because it lets me know I’m not alone, that others see the same things I do. For some people, I’m sure it seems like nitpicking, but for me I see it very similarly to how one moderator recently explained: It’s uncovering patterns of behavior.
Now, there are indeed members of the anti-SV blogs who pulled some ridiculous crap on SV and got rightly banned, but so far they seem to have been eventually caught and called out. Also, there are some snarky habits that I find troubling, though I’ve seen at least one mod of an anti-SV blog directly apologize when the issue has been brought up. (Not on the “Liz” thing but other issues.)
I’m a feminist, and personally I agree with about 80% of what Liss writes. My concerns are made in good faith and without some anti-feminist, hate-based bias. I’ve publicly discussed probably two dozen big name blogs over the years which had moderation I found troubling, or transphobic/racist/sexist/homophobic/etc. issues, and I admit to being a bit puzzled why saying the same about Shakesville causes such a backlash.