My last post has 97 comments at the time of writing. While I did think a post with the words “rape” and “James Bond” in the title might get more attention than I’m used to, this was unprecedented. And, as I do not write and put things on the internet with the intent that nobody shall see them, I’m very pleased about this! Thank you, to everyone who linked it around and almost everyone who commented. However, it does raise some issues that I haven’t had to think about much before. As far as is possible, I want this not to be a “don’t read the comments” kind of place, and I am distressed that to some extent, last week, that was the kind of place it became, with people who would like to discuss sexism without being subjected to sexism reporting feeling tense, saddened and excluded from what was in many ways a great discussion, and a minority of obnoxious and denialist comments getting more attention than the thoughtful, knowledgeable ones.
So, although I am a sporadic blogger and thus unlikely to be able to host a regular commentariat here, and it may well be that nothing I write explodes like that again, I think I need a comment policy. So here is one.
All comments will continue to go to moderation by default. Nothing gets though unless I approve it. This way, people can comment and discuss (albeit not at high speed) and if anyone does anything particularly ghastly, it’ll quietly gather dust in my inbox, unseen by anyone else, rather than sitting there on the page upsetting people until I can nuke it.
For the most part the rules here are pretty standard. You can’t be racist, sexist, homophobic, biphobic, transphobic, generally a bigoted bastard here. You can’t be abusive. Very egregious examples may get kittenhammered because kittenhammering looks like fun and I would like to try it. On this occasion I let every comment through, (until one gentleman decided that being asked to modify his behaviour in my space was an outrageous imposition on his liberty and therefore chose PRINCIPLED DEFIANCE, it was a little like the last hours of Joan of Arc) because I didn’t think anyone had overtly broken the letter of those as-yet-unspelled-out rules, even if some strained the spirit. No one actually lapsed into hate speech. But going forward there’s going to be an additional rule, and commenters will have to pass a slightly higher bar than “not actually and obviously abusive”:
Here it is: You cannot attempt to substitute condescension for an argument. There are areas of my life where I can’t stop people patronising the fuck out of me, or out of others, at least not without having a lengthy, energy-consuming argument. But here I have this beautiful “trash” button, and I am going to use it, and I am not going to waste time justifying it. You can go to your own blog or anywhere else that will have you, and sigh and tut and fume. But you can’t do it here.
I’m talking about things like this:
“Secondly I think that you don’t understand the concept of ‘realistic fantasy’” (I have published three books that could quite reasonably be described as realistic fantasy).
“Maybe you want to re-write this piece now after doing a bit of actual research.” (I did plenty of research, and you don’t set me homework, thanks.)
“Its the “Nights Watch” in ASOIAF not the “Black Watch”. If you can’t get a very simple fact about a book series then how can you expect people to take you seriously?”
(All right, this one was sort of adorable, and I would let it through again, but it’s probably not a kind of adorable we aspire to be, is it?)
In summary, if you find yourself tempted to address me as if I’m a disappointing student and you’re a professor I’m anxious to please, unless you are in fact Dr Sally Mapstone (who can talk to me however she wants) spare us both the time. If your absurdly condescending comment is unintentionally hilarious it is possible I will let it through to hold up to public mockery, but you can’t count on it. And if you have got through, but I warn you to stop doing something, take it seriously if you want to go on posting here.
The same principles apply to other users, and other forms of “’splaining” — If you want to explain something to another commenter that you don’t think they understand, be very sure you’re neither lecturing them on their lived experience nor assuming you have greater expertise when what you actually have is more maleness, whiteness, straightness, cisness or other form of privilege.
If you don’t think you broke any of these rules and can’t see your comment it’s probably just that I haven’t got to it yet, or conceivably that it got mislabelled as spam. If it’s been a while, you can try reposting or ask me to look for it.
With all that understood, welcome, please have at it.