How To Say The Opposite Of What You Meant To Say And Look Like An Asshole On The Internet

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 6.03% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

A long time ago, I wrote an essay over on FetLife called Dear Wives: You May Be Incompatible With Your Husbands, which was a rebuttal to a blog post I thought said some marvelously toxic things.  And the writer of that essay wrote me, distressed that I had misunderstood her – and so I added this addendum to the essay:
(EDIT: The author of the original piece says that there’s a history behind that piece that’s not coming through in the way she’d intended. I’m willing to believe that; as a blogger, I’ve written some bad pieces where I meant to say X and instead said Y, often to much hullaballoo. At the same time, all I can judge are these words on the page, and what I wrote here is a response critique of those words and the philosophies seemingly espoused therein. Which may not be her intent, and her blog piece is certainly not her entire life, and y’all should be so lucky as to have every piece land the way you intended it.)
One of the recurring themes of this blog is that blogging for a large audience is easy to screw up, even for experienced bloggers.  You mean to say X, and you say the *exact opposite* by mistake.  Which is why I cut people some slack when they accidentally show their ass in public and go, “…that’s not what I *meant* to say!”
Welp, I fucked up yesterday, and I think it’s helpful to examine how I came to say the exact opposite of one of my core philosophies.
I wrote a piece yesterday called Why I Don’t Have Enemies On The Internet (But Maybe You Should), and talked about how I don’t give the people who hate me any power.
That was inspired, in part, by stumbling across a thread of Men’s Rights Advocates discussing what a creeper I was.  Which is why I started out by discussing Gamergate, which is still super-fresh in my mind as a toxic stew of machismo assholes that caused a woman to flee her house in terror.
So to my mind, I’d set the stage properly: When I’m talking about “enemies,” I’m discussing the kinds of guys who believe that rape threats to a woman are pretty damned cool.
But I hadn’t.  I’d merely discussed the people who hate me, without framing who those people were beyond a handwave to events that affected me intensely – I was outraged so much by Gamergate that it felt like the entire world was watching, which it wasn’t – and hadn’t taken the time in the essay to go over the reasons they hated me.  (I could have – there was a section where I said, “[they] feel that I am everything that is ruining men/women/culture/ponies,” but I totally handwaved that opportunity to clarify.)
And I thought I had framed this as an MRA issue even further when I referenced the Anita Sarkeesian incident specifically, and discussed how “being a guy” is like a superpower on the Internet.
…but I didn’t.
At all.
So when I reached the climax of this botched essay, and said, “They’re the opposition, of course.  They’re racist, misogynist, backwater scumholes who I will work to my best extent to stop in their goals,” I had a couple of comments from people who went, and quite rationally:
“So everyone who disagrees with you is a racist misogynist backwater scumhole, Ferrett?  Nice work, bro.”
Aaaaaaaand that’s where you can hear my logic collapsing.
Now, if you’ve read my essays for a while, obviously I don’t believe that anyone who disagrees with me is an asshole, for I go very far out of my way to account for differing opinions.  I mean, shit, if you leave a comment on my LiveJournal page, you have to click a link that says “Tell me I’m full of it.”  Hell, I’ve written whole posts over on Fet on how some people find my polyamory creepy, and one day they’ll write essays to rebut me, and how I sincerely hope they do.  My blogging history is rife with points where I’ve said how people can disagree with me and remain good people, and I think if you’ve read most of what I wrote over the past three years you’ll see that it was a simple misstatement.
But you know what?
People should not be obligated to read my entire history to figure out my fucking intent.
All anyone should have to go on is the words I wrote on that fucking page, now.
And I gave them the wrong words.
So there you have it: I fucked up.  I believe, and honestly, that most people can disagree with me in good faith.  But thanks to a couple of assumptions I casually assumed you shared with me, I accidentally painted anyone who disagrees with me ever as a waste of human flesh.
That’s why blogging is really fucking tough sometimes.  You’re in one headspace, and forget that not everyone’s sitting in your skull with you, and in the absence of context then whoop, there goes the baby.
(That does not mean that there aren’t misogynists and racists out there who disagree with me, of course.  The sort of dudebro who’d go, “Well, Zoe Quinn is an untalented slut who deserves everything she got!” is someone I feel is really beyond interacting with.  But despite the asshole way I came off in that essay, it takes a surprising amount of what I’d consider to be complete idiocy for me to write your opinion off.
(Though, I should add, if you think you should never write anyone off entirely, I’d wager the chances are good you haven’t run a blog that gets even the mild audience that mine does.  There are some people who are pretty vicious and irredeemable, and they show up ten times as often if you’re a woman.)
What do I pay for with my fuckup?  Well, I have a couple of people who took me at my word and now believe that I believe that anyone who disagrees with me should suck the barbed cock of Satan.  Will they believe I spoke poorly?  Will they even read this followup essay?
Probably not.  And so someone will walk away with their opinion of me dramatically lessened.  They’re incorrect about who I am… but given what I told them about me, they’re not necessarily wrong to think less of me.
And that’s not to say that the essay went over poorly in all places, mind you.  There were people who found it as heartwarming as I meant it.  But they found it heartwarming because I think they correctly picked up on the hidden Gamergate subtext, and put the proper frame around it – one that I did not actually add myself, I’m ashamed to say.
In retrospect, I would have framed it much more as “The Men’s Rights Advocates generally think I’m a creepy gamma rabbit, and sometimes write some seriously nasty shit about me, but here’s why I don’t think of them as my enemy.”  Which would have been understood better.
But I fucked up.  It’s good to analyze these things.  Because I think what we often forget whenever the Stupid Blog Post Of The Day hits is what someone commits to the page is not necessarily a complete or accurate view of what they really feel.  Not that they didn’t write something stupid, but that they may have intended to write something entirely different and fucked it up.
Fuckups happen.  If you fucked up, acknowledge it.  But more importantly: if you’re angry at someone who appears to be an asshole on the Internet, recognize that a single blog entry may not reflect who they are.
Words are tricky.  Context is tricky.  And when you get either wrong, you present the wrong impression.
Best you can do is clean it up and move on.

1 Comment

  1. M. Minion
    Oct 3, 2014

    Just a fan-girl post about how much I enjoy reading your blog.

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