There are a lot of people disturbed tonight about Kathy Sierra's latest post, me included. Some of it seems too weirdly insider; I don't know anything about the mean kids blog or the people she's talking about. But the experience of feeling threatened doesn't require you to know anyone to get the gist, and really, the problem is the anonymity. People hide behind anonymity to create hate and let their crazy out.
In one of those weird coicidences, an email newsletter from Kore Press came into my email inbox, and it links to their blog, Persephone Speaks. And the post, the "Other Room," provides this other counterpoint.
In the "Other Room," an accomplished female writer weeps (in part because it's safe, she is surrounded by friends) as she finally admits:
"When my turn rolled around, tears poured down my face as I said, haltingly, in a voice that sounded to me quite unlike my own: “I write . . . because . . .I write because. . . because I believe I have something to say that’s worth hearing.” And then I lay my head down on the table and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed, while one of my friends said “I am so damned proud of you, Rob, for admitting that.”
She goes on to talk about how students and teachers in her experience who were female "talk about giving themselves permission to write, about the necessity of giving themselves permission to write – as though in our natural state we are somehow bereft of that permission. "
In my MFA class , which was largely women, this experience is borne out (we didn't weep so much as drink, but it was something we talked about over and over those long nights - the audacity of being creative in the face of nothing in real life that encourages you, but also particularly in the face of that annoying literary critic Harold Bloom).
We are told by our professors to read the English canon (mostly dudes), and while the male writers have the rather Freudian tradition and get to kill their literary father like Darth Vader (again, read Bloom), women tend not to be even reading a literary mother til the last 100 years or so. (Sorry Sappho, but folks tend to read Anne Sexton if at all).
Maybe the kids growing up now won't have that feeling. The youngest folk in my MFA class are now in their 30s. But then, what will they learn from the Internet?
This woman writing for Kore's blog isn't citing violence or anything like that when she talks about how hard it is to take her rightful place. Scary and hard. If it's that hard to feel ok without violence, well, it's not too odd then that Kathy's ready to stop emoting and emitting for a while.
The thing that no one talks about perhaps because we don't look back long enough, is that there's a tradition of women not being able to write, being silenced. Anonymous harassers come out of that tradition; the Internet did not invent it.
But now I think is the time to break with it.