It's Diablogical!
A Collaborative Diablog on Feminist Pedagogy
Devaluing blogs as spaces for gossip or confession?
Categories: More stuff to read

As I was scrolling through a folder on my laptop, I unearthed this “ancient” (as in 2004!) essay from the NYTimes: My So-Called Blog. I haven’t read it too closely yet, but I was struck by a big quote that I found as I quickly skimmed the essay:

Here’s the passage that the above image comes from:

A result of all this self-chronicling is that the private experience of adolescence — a period traditionally marked by seizures of self-consciousness and personal confessions wrapped in layers and hidden in a sock drawer — has been made public. Peer into an online journal, and you find the operatic texture of teenage life with its fits of romantic misery, quick-change moods and sardonic inside jokes. Gossip spreads like poison. Diary writers compete for attention, then fret when they get it. And everything parents fear is true. (For one thing, their children view them as stupid and insane, with terrible musical taste.) But the linked journals also form a community, an intriguing, unchecked experiment in silent group therapy — a hive mind in which everyone commiserates about how it feels to be an outsider, in perfect choral unison (1).

While this article is outdated (as STA said, 2004 in blog years is like halfway back to the dawn of time!), it still made me curious: Which forms of writing and communication should be encouraged on blogs/social media and which forms should be discouraged? Gossip is often dismissed as toxic and harmful (usually uttered by “mean girls”). So is personal confession. Both are often deemed too emotional and unproductive and they are often explicitly (or implicitly) linked with girls’/women’s forms of communication. I am reminded of this line from Kathie Sarachild’s online essay on feminist consciousness-raising:

Our meetings were called coffee klatches, hen parties or bitch sessions.  We responded by saying, “Yes, bitch, sisters, bitch,” and by calling coffee klatches a historic form of women’s resistance to oppression.

How can we use blogs to clear a space for valuing a wide range of ways of writing/communicating/sharing (especially those that are devalued or mislabeled)? As facilitators of blogs, what models of sharing should we promote? How should we regulate comments/posts? What resources do we have to draw from (tools/strategies) for distinguishing between resistant and dissident speech (hooks’ talking back) that is guided by larger feminist/social justice goals and dissident speech that is disrespectful, mean or aimed at silencing/oppressing others? I hope these questions make sense–I feel like I’m not quite able to articulate the connections that I am trying to make between “women’s speech,” gossip, talking back and VCR.

One last note: I recently came across this post about twitter: Twitter is a snark valve. The author argues that snarkiness (sniping, sarcastic comments) on twitter has value in the classroom and that it indicates a “complicated rhetorical dynamic” that needs more critical attention. It might be helpful to think about snark in relation to (or against?) gossip–especially since some good feminist theoretical work has been done on gossip (like this essay, for example–which I have only skimmed so far: Feminist Configurations: Gossip as a Counterdiscourse).

1 Comment to “Devaluing blogs as spaces for gossip or confession?”

  1. SLP says:

    My last link is to a google book: Working the Ruins. While skimming through the table of contents, I also found this chapter:

    Electronic Tools for Dismantling the Master’s House. It might be worth a look (even if this book is from 2000).