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Pre-2008 Posts

On Comments, Moderation, Links and Woman-Only Internet Space

Radical Women Symbol

In response to a number of inquiries, I am posting a few words about the Women's Space comments, moderation and links policies.

My website, Women's Space, formerly The Margins, actually began as a series of woman-only threads on the old bulletin boards at the Ms Magazine website.  There were such great, woman-centered women on the Ms boards, but it was frustrating and infuriating attempting to have serious discussions of feminist issues with them over the ongoing din of huge numbers of random men cruising through (or just cruising), anti-feminists, trolls, misogynists, racists, homophobes, libertarians, women's husbands and boyfriends, and sociopaths of various kinds.  So, I started the first "Radical Feminist Womyn's Space" thread on the Ms boards, designed to be woman-only space for radical feminists or women interested in radical feminism.  Although the first thread was controversial and many opposed it, enough women wanted it that it ultimately became good and productive feminist space.  Over the course of a couple of years, from 2000 to probably 2002 or 2003 there were something like 50 lengthy RFWS threads.  

Some of what we discussed in the Ms boards RFWS threads seemed better suited to a private venue of some kind, so from time to time, women created what became a series of internet boards, one of which was The Margins.  The Margins was at first private space, visible only to those who were invited.  As time passed, I made the Margins public.  Always, from the beginning, the Margins was woman-only space.  Men could always read, but they couldn't post.  The Margins is now Women's Space and is still woman-only and always will be.  Registrations have to be approved, and I have to be reasonably certain that the new applicant is a woman in order to approve someone's membership.  There are plenty of ways to ensure that new registrants are women. 

I love woman-only internet space.  My experience is that where a space is woman-only, it is possible to have really good, undiverted discussions, and to create women's communities which spill over into real  life to become real life feminist women's communities as well.  I have met many to most of the long-time members of the Women's Space community in real  life and a few have become my very good real life friends.

By contrast, men in feminist spaces, with a very few notable exceptions, in my experience mostly cause problems.  They divert discussions, cause distractions, conflicts and divisions, make issues and threads about themselves, or men in general, create ongoing choruses of "what about me," and "patriarchy hurts men, too," and "women do it, too," and "not all men (or women) (fill in the blank)," interfere with relationships between women, and always, always, always, take up WAY more than their fair share of space in the cyber "room," just as most men, in real life, take up way more than their fair share of space wherever they share space with women.  That's what male privilege is all about.  That's what being male is all about.  That's the battle we are fighting, as feminist women:  it's, among other things, an ongoing battle for "rooms, looms and brooms" of our own, as Mary Daly puts it.  Sharing discursive space with men won't work until enough women  have found their own voices and  enough men have achieved real feminist consciousnesses, that real mutual respect is possible.  That day has not arrived yet.

There are times to discuss issues with men, and I sometimes do discuss issues with them– but not in my own spaces, because of the effect they tend to have on my spaces.  If I want to talk to them, I go where they are and stay only so long as I feel it is productive to be there.  My experience is that when men get invited into women's spaces, too often they don't know when to leave, when to be quiet and when to speak up.  They get into pissing matches and turf wars with one another, they defend their girlfriends, they defend other men, they defend themselves, they are offensively defense-IVE.  They talk too much, too loudly, too overbearingly, and too disrespectfully– even when they are apparently civil and courteous.  There is usually plenty of misogyny which can be hidden beneath the veneer of civility.

In general, I've continued my woman-only policy in this space, on this blog.  Once or twice I've approved a man's post, if I thought there was a good reason for it, or if I thought the post, or my response to it, would help women, would benefit women.  Otherwise, I don't approve men's posts to this space.  If I did, there would definitely be more comments and longer discussions, but more, in this instance, in my experience, would not be better.  I am not willing to provide space and bandwidth for male foolishness, however well intentioned the foolishness was (and usually it is well-intentioned), not here, not anywhere, not anymore.  It's a game to way too many of these guys.  Let them play it elsewhere, on their own turf, where I don't have to waste any energy at all even thinking about it much less reading it.  I know what they write– and who cares?  I can hear that, see that, read that, anywhere any time.  Here, and on my boards, I want to hear from feminist women, woman-centered women, women, period, who are interested in what is being written here.

This is all to say, men and anti-feminists who have posted comments here have not seen and will never see their comments approved.  I have thought about this and discussed this for years now and I have never come up with a single good reason to provide bandwidth to internet trolls or to men, just in general.  My feeling is, they should count themselves as fortunate that they are able to read what feminist women write.  That should be enough.  If they really are allies to feminists, they'll do their own work elsewhere, preferably with men.  Talk about a pressing need!  :/ 

There actually are a couple of guys I do appreciate online.  I have a soft spot for Rick, Lorenzo, Harun/Metal Prophet, Rich and Stripeface of Rich's old boards.  My number two son writes amazingly when he writes; I love what he has to say. But I know where to find them.  I can read what they write elsewhere.  And I usually feel happy when I read what they write, because I can see that even though they have been excluded from boards and venues where I and other radical feminists have posted, they've been reading, they've paid attention, and their posts reflect that.  They have also occasionally moved forward to make their own good theory out of what they've read, and when they've done that, I've learned from the theory they've made, and I appreciate that quite a lot as well.  Bottom line, all of this is possible for men without the sacrifice of women's space. 

These sensibilities are also reflected in my links, which are also woman-only.  Most of the bloggers on my blogroll allow for men's comments or occasional guest blogging, yet they are woman-centered, usually because the woman whose blog it is is a force to be reckoned with!  Which I love.  Go my wims!  If in my view a blog is too often dominated by men or male voices, if men's voices are too prominent, receive too much attention, or seem to be overly valued, then I do not include their blog in my blogroll. I think feminism is about women, and that it is feminist women who ought to be leading and speaking for the movement.  Men, in my opinion, ought to be providing support and following women's lead.

Heart

Discussion

4 thoughts on “On Comments, Moderation, Links and Woman-Only Internet Space

  1. i love what you say, heart, and i feel privileged to be on your blogroll. it makes me feel like i’m doing something right.🙂

    i learn so much from you and the other rad fems i’ve found recently. it seems like life tends to get harder and more painful the more informed and feminist one becomes, but it’s deeper and richer and more rewarding too. knowledge is power, but it’s also painful. you know what i mean? but knowing there are other women out there like me makes it less frightening. gives me more courage to take a risk and say what i mean and follow through.

    anyway. i just wanted to say that i really appreciate your space and i always feel like i learn something new or at least a different way of looking at things, so thank you.

    xoxo, jared

    Posted by ms. jared | May 28, 2006, 2:19 am
  2. Your website was my introduction to the feminist blogosphere. I came across it somewhat serendipitously whilst searching for something else. Previously I never knew that spaces such as this even existed !

    It is so important to have these spaces. Even though women are perfectly capable of arguing and dealing with men – why should we have to when we don’t actually want to ?

    I also read feminist blogs that give men space, and would post comments if I wanted. But there is still something different and absolutely vital about women only.

    So, agreeing with jared as well – thank you.

    Posted by anon99 | May 28, 2006, 12:02 pm
  3. Heart,

    For the very reasons that you state above, your blog has become my favourite place on the internet.

    Thank you.

    Mary

    Posted by Mary Sunshine | May 28, 2006, 11:25 pm
  4. All I have to say is this: Thank you, Heart!

    K

    Posted by Kristianna | May 30, 2006, 12:12 am

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