Thursday, 7 April 2011

The New Statesman, an online row and some clarifications

[this post has been edited to mention the names after a comment i received. please read the comments for further info]

This week I have found myself embroiled in a row that seems to have stretched across the blogosphere but had its focal point on Twitter and the New Statesman. Anyway, last night I discovered there was a whole dimension to the row that I didn’t even know existed, and I felt quite upset that people thought I may have defended or endorsed or supported things that I didn’t know about and would never have thought to be appropriate. So am going to write my side of the picture as it were, because if you can’t clear things up on your own blog, then where can you?

If you weren’t following the row then this post will bore you to tears so I recommend reading the last para and then skipping to the next post to sign a letter to the government protesting the cuts to domestic violence support services.

Right – are you sitting comfortably? I’ll begin.

On Tuesday, Steve Baxter wrote his weekly blog on the New Statesman about the closure of the Daily Sport. He welcomed the soon-to-be redundant staff to the ‘clean world’ and blogger and tweeter Quiet Riot Girl (QRG) extrapolated from this that he was saying sex was dirty. I posted something at that point about how the Sport was to sex what it was to sport. Anyway, the sex is dirty post wound Steve up and he wrote a sweary, angry tweet which popped up on my feed. I replied:

‘uh-oh! what a nightmare. so ridiculous, but just try and ignore her, easier said than done. i know i always feed trolls!’

I then popped over to the NS blog to see that QRG had made an insinuating and rather unpleasant comment about a blog post I had written. It didn’t name me, but just as she felt that Steve’s angry tweet was about her, I understood this comment to be about something I had written.

I was pretty angry. Very angry. And there were a couple of things I could have done. I could have ignored it (prob the best course, but I am me). I could have challenged it on the comments thread, but felt this would derail a post that was already veering off the rails. So I did the silly thing and went and whinged on Twitter, tweeting Ropes to Infinity who had written a similar blog post to the one being bad-mouthed in her comment.

@stebax her second comment seems to either be alluding to me or @RopesToInfinity what do you think RTI? You or me? Or both? either way, it

... @stebax @RopesToInfinity COMPLETELY misrepresents my post and makes either you or me sound pretty unpleasant. Ugh. what a pain.

@stebax @RopesToInfinity i am not going to comment, i am not going to comment, i am not going to comment...but really! so bloody rude.

In the meantime, Steve and RTI made some amusing tweet jokes about what-about-ery and soup, which I thought rather amusing. Something about how if you liked cream of chicken then you were oppressing minestrone. Or something. Remember this – I come back to it later.

So, got it off my chest and that was the end of that.

Or so I thought…

I then got an @ message saying I’d be outraged if the tweets going round had been written about anyone else. Deciding that I should really stop talking about another person on Twitter behind their back, I sent a DM in reply saying that I felt QRG had written untrue things about me and that I was putting this in a DM because:

‘i have been guilty of talking about her online before and i recognise that was a bit mean and immature of me’

Bored yet? I wouldn’t blame you if you were. But I am putting the record straight.

In the meantime I noticed on the NS thread that the commenter was writing a complaint to the New Statesman about Steve’s tweet. Now, I like Steve and I respect him. I commented that I didn’t think you could complain about something said in a personal capacity on Twitter to a publication. I said that because I think it’s true. I might be wrong. My boss wrote a rude tweet about a Giles Coren article once. In response, Giles Coren tweeted ‘@*** suck my dick fat boy’. I don’t think my boss could have complained to the Times about it. It doesn’t mean I was defending either tweet. 

And that was the end of that.

Or so I thought…

A while later I got an @ message saying:

a well made point from *that* NS article: "@Sianushka you're a FEMINIST defending MEN who've dragged a woman through the mud as a troll...

This comment really upset me.  And it made me think. Actually, venting on Twitter is immature. It is something we all do, but perhaps me bitching about that comment online with other people did come across as me ganging up on QRG. I felt bad, and I was sorry that I had behaved in an undignified and petty manner.

So I did what all right-thinking people would do. I apologised. I went on the NS comments thread, virtually stood up and said sorry for being immature and talking about someone behind their back online, and making jokes at their expense. I really hope that my apology was accepted because it was and still is sincerely meant. I was behaving a like a numpty and an apology was called for.

And that kind of was the end of that. But because I am nosy and can never leave well enough alone, I popped over to QRG’s blog which was linked to on the NS comments thread to see what she had to say about the whole debacle. And then I saw these nasty, horrible tweets that made unnecessary, personal and offensive comments about her sexuality in lieu of arguing with her, for example, political or theoretical views.

That’s why I am writing this post. Because I do not want anyone to think that I was defending or supporting or endorsing those tweets. I’m sure people don’t, but because people were upset by some things I said, I was concerned I had been grouped with the people who were slagging off someone’s sexual preferences.

It is never ok to use someone’s sexuality against them as a way to undermine and criticise them. I say this because it should just be a basic truth, and also because I have been on the receiving end and know how stupid it is. I have been called a lesbian online, (I’m not), have had people ‘joke’ online that because I have an anti porn and sex industry stance that I must think that you should only have ‘vanilla’ sex with someone you love, and have been asked publicly online what I use to ‘get myself off’ seeing as I don’t watch porn. All pretty stupid, all pretty unpleasant. And just three of the reasons why I feel very strongly that a woman’s or man’s sexuality should not be used as a tool to mock or criticise them, or even be speculated on by complete strangers, or friends, or anyone, online or offline.

So I hope that clears that up. I never saw those tweets before last night and I utterly, utterly condemn them.

Also on her blog she quoted a tweet Cath Elliott sent to me and Steve saying:

@stebax @sianushka Haha, just caught up. *salutes @stebax* for tweet of the year ;)

Now, I thought that this tweet was about the soup jokery. QRG thought it was about the sweary tweet. We could both be wrong, one of us could be right. But it does show how easily things can be misinterpreted on Twitter to cause upset  (I told you the soup tweets would return!).

That’s that anyway.

Now part 2: derailing, banning and nonsense

It has come to my attention that someone has been tweeting and posting on blogs that they have been banned from my blog, and that I only want to be surrounded by ‘yes men’. Seeing as this is a post about clearing things up, I would like to clarify that this is not true. I didn’t publish two comments on my blogpost regarding the Daily Mail’s reporting of gang rape as I felt they were derailing and possibly triggering. The comments ended up on another blog and an interesting debate happened there. I have a moderation policy that I use as a guide, because I went through a period where I got a lot of abuse and wanted to make it clear that on my blog, I write about what I want to write about. However, I regularly post comments that break my mod policy, and don’t have anything on my mod policy that says ‘you will not be allowed to post if you disagree with me’. So unless you’re the person who physically threatened me, or informed I would burn in hell for having a gay mum, no-one is banned. And seeing as I can’t remember their names, those people aren’t really banned either.

Right, that is all. Lets draw a line under this whole silly out of hand debate.

Thank you and good night.

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