Once upon a time – or, two years ago, on January 31, 2011 – I wrote a post called “Easy A: A Fauxminist Film.” In this post, I alleged that the film Easy A was not very feminist, despite having an on-the-surface feminist message. This post was featured on Bitch Flicks and re-blogged in different places.
On December 14, 2012, I received this comment on the Easy A post. The poster identified herself as Tess. This is what Tess wrote:
“Would have been nice if you had discussed the extreme lack of POC in the cast. Apart from Olive’s younger brother, I can’t think of any other POC in the entire film.”
This comment rubbed me the wrong way. I was put off by the beginning of the sentence, the “would have been nice if you had…” I pictured the commenter, this Tess, clicking the “post” button while sniffing haughtily. I responded with this:
“Well, fortunately I have people like you to tell me what I should write on my own blog.”
I clicked “post comment,” and then thought, “Oh, shit, did I just start a flame war?” I thought about deleting the comment, but realized that Tess would be able to read the comment whether I deleted it or not, and the damage was already done.
Surprisingly, Tess did not comment again. I did, however, receive a comment from Lisa, on January 24, 2013, a full month after the comment from Tess:
“Well that was unnecessarily rude…It seemed like more of a suggestion than the previous poster “telling [you] what to write on [your] blog.” And it’s a good suggestion, at that! But I guess there will always be some self-proclaimed ‘feminists’ who only care about ‘oppression’ through their white/cis lenses.”
This comment irked me even more than the original comment from Tess for two reasons: one, the inappropriate use of single quotation marks, and two, the mention of “white/cis” lenses. I never mentioned cis/trans issues in the original post, and Tess never mentioned cis/trans issues in her comment, so I don’t know why Lisa felt the need to mention “white/cis lenses.” What does my being cis have to do with Tess’s original criticism about my lack of commentary on racial issues?
Anyway, I was still irked, so I responded like this:
“Sorry, I don’t take kindly to people who read a post and then leave a comment addressing nothing I actually wrote and instead snottily inform me that it ‘would’ve been nice’ if I had written about THIS instead of THAT. Had the comment been phrased as a question – ‘What do you think about the lack of POC in the film?’ – I would have responded differently.
As for you, when you came to the conclusion about what I do and don’t care about anyone but white women, was this before or after you perused the 10+ posts I’ve written on racism and racial diversity? Or is standing up for people in comments sections just a hobby of yours?’
Again, I expected Lisa to respond to this comment. She never did. However, on February 8, 2013, a poster who identified herself as Anne responded to Lisa’s comment:
“I agree with you. The original commenter actually made a valid point and the op responds with a tone argument. She might have made racism and racially diverse posts in the past but missed the mark in this particular post. Intersectionalism is part of feminism and critiquing the lack of poc in media is a feminist issue. If anyone has a problem with that then maybe they’re not as much of a ‘feminist’ as they think they are.”
And again, with the improper usage of quotation marks. Sigh.
I thought about responding to Anne’s comment, but instead, I decided to write a new post about this mini-kerfluffle. (Though really, it’s so mini that I can’t even call it a mini-kerfluffle. It’s more like a mini-kerf.)
To begin with, I was not in a very charitable state of mind when I received Tess’s comment. The comment popped up in my email while I was having an exceptionally rotten day, for personal reasons that I won’t get into, and my patience was already running thin.
It’s possible I made too much of the “would have been nice if” comment. Maybe Tess did not intend for that comment to come off as rude and challenging. I’ve had my share of Internet trolls, and maybe I was oversensitive due to past experiences. Thanks to the benefit of hindsight – and a conversation with a friend – I have come to the conclusion that I was unnecessarily harsh in my response to her. Tess, if you’re reading this, I apologize for snapping at you.
However, I still think it’s weird for someone to leave a first-ever comment on my blog, on a post that’s almost two years old, say nothing about the content of the piece, and only comment on what I didn’t write about. Weird, and a little rude. Probably not intentionally rude, probably not malicious, but a little rude.
Here’s the thing: I wrote that post on Easy A in January 2011. In October 2011, I started writing posts about race, diversity, and racial stereotypes, and tagged those posts “white girl talkin’ about racism.” I used that tag because I realized that my feminist criticism was pretty white-centric, and I wanted to write more about racial diversity and how stereotypes affect women (and men) of color.
Does this make me a perfect person who wins the Little Miss Intersectionality Pageant? Absolutely not. But I make an effort to be conscious about racism and other feminist issues that might not directly affect me and other straight, white, able-bodied, cisgendered women like me. I try (oh my GOD do I try/I try all the time/in this institution/and I said hey-ey-ey-ey…).
So to receive a comment about how I didn’t mention the lack of POC in Easy A when that post is two years old…well, it got on my nerves. My feminist philosophy and my understanding of racial issues have developed and matured since January 31, 2011. The proof is on the blog itself. It won’t take long for people to find that proof.
That’s why the two followup comments annoyed me much more than the original comment. “She might have made racism and racially diverse posts in the past but missed the mark in this particular post.” In the past? I wrote the posts about racism after I wrote the Easy A review, after.
This is how I read articles on the Internet. When I read an interesting blog post that I feel misses the mark on an important issue, I check the post’s publication date. If the post I want to respond to is two years old, I refrain from commenting until I’ve read a few recent pieces by the same author, because I want to see if the person has developed in his/her thinking since writing the two-year-old post. If a person wrote a post in 2010 called “Why Rape Jokes Are Awesome,” and then wrote a post in 2012 called “Never Mind, Rape Jokes Are Terrible,” I’m not going to waste my energy commenting on the 2010 post.
However, let’s say the author wrote a post in 2010 called “Why Gone With the Wind is a Feminist Classic” and wrote 2,000+ words about the awesomeness of Scarlett O’Hara and Melanie Wilkes, and never brought up the racist portrayals of Mammy and Prissy. I probably wouldn’t feel inclined to comment, because that post would be three years old, but if I did comment, I’d probably say something like this: “You raise a lot of good points about the characters of Scarlett and Melanie. I wonder what you think about the portrayals of black women in the film, though. I think the racist portrayals of Mammy and Prissy undermine a feminist message in the film, if there is one. I also think that the movie’s sunny depiction of slavery undermines any social justice message.”
That takes a little more time to write than “I guess you only care about feminism through your white/cis lenses,” but it’s worth it, because I believe in one rule when commenting on another person’s blog: be polite.
Let’s also consider the fact that, in my Easy A review, I said nothing racist or objectionable or anything that reinforced stereotypes. The lack of POC in the film was just something I forgot to bring up. It happens.
But since that post has now attracted unwanted attention from the social justice 101 crowd, I’ll make this statement: Easy A, like many Hollywood films, is very white. It could stand to have more people of color in the cast. Also, the actor who played Olive’s little brother seems like a charming kid, and I hope he gets more work.
Look, I expect to be held to task when I screw up. I don’t expect to be held up to a standard of perfection. And I have no patience for people who think they can determine my entire character, or determine what I care about, based on one post I write. That is what we call trolling.