In which, yet again, Lindsay blogs about blogging.
Last Friday afternoon, I was sitting in a silent, near-empty office, overcome by the undeniable physical sensation of stage fright. It was like that proverbial dream in which you’re on stage in your underwear, but if the seats were filled with Gawker commenters tapping furiously at their iPhones.
What had happened was that something I’d written for this blog had been reposted on Jezebel. I was at my “real job” when the post went up, and as I sat mute at my desk for the next hour, I went through a whole cycle of strange sensations. I was happy when friends g-chatted me about it or when someone posted an encouraging comment about it on Facebook; I was anxious as I debated whether or not I should even read the comments that began piling up instantaneously, picturing the always-shrewd Jezzies ripping me apart for a factual or grammatical error unchecked; and I was, finally, relieved when I saw that the comments on the piece were generating thoughtful discussion. And yet, all of this was happening solely online. Very few people in my office know about my blog, and there was certainly no one around who would understand how surreal a moment this was. Never before had the gulf separating my “real life” and my “Internet life” felt so wide, and yet, beginning in this moment and developing even further as the week went on, I felt that they were suddenly conflating into a more singular identity.
I’ve written here before about my mild sheepishness when it comes to calling myself a blogger. It’s a term that’s come to take on a dubious connotation, especially in the professional realm: every organization wants to employ one to show that they’re keeping up with the times, and then the organization will hire that blogger with a sigh meant to insinuate that blogging is indeed the opiate of the masses and we’re all going to hell in an SEO-friendly handbasket. I certainly value the work that my colleagues and I do on this blog, but I’m also haunted by the sentiment of that Debra Dickerson quote I wrote about a few months ago — “Today’s feminists need to blog less and work more” — and the familiar, chastising tone in which it’s phrased. Given the ubiquity of statements like that, I’d imagine that I’m not the only one with a blogger’s identity crisis.
But something clicked in me this week. Part of it had to do with the Jezebel post, and the way the comments it generated acted like a 360-degree mirror, allowing me to see the weaknesses and strengths of my own argument in ways I never had before. I was left pondering the feminist statement of Kathryn Bigelow’s decision not to make, as I put it, “a film that gave a refreshingly truthful representation of women” and with a renewed respect for female filmmakers who seek a place outside of what’s traditionally seen as “women’s cinema.” I thought more about the unique situation of female editors and the historical reasons why their place in the industry isn’t quite as dire (though still by no means equal to men’s) as that of female directors. And of course, I’ve had time to reflect on this statistical nugget from a Jezebel commenter: “More women have been married to James Cameron than have been nominated for Best Director.” Guerilla Girls, can we get that on a billboard in LA like, now?
For me, the dialogue generated by my Oscar piece strengthened many of the convictions I initially expressed, and it also gave me the opportunity to reconsider a few of them too. I’ve come to see that as one of blogging’s biggest strengths. A blog is a living document. It can be a space to work out questions that don’t have simple answers. I’ve been thinking back to Sara Marcus’s book Girls to the Front and a particular quote I loved about a reader’s response to riot grrrl zines: “One of his favorite things about the zines was that the writers weren’t pretending to have all the answers; they were making visible a process of figuring things out.” I want Canonball to be like that too.
Perhaps the most profound shift I’ve had recently concerning social media and Internet culture, though, is linked to the protests in Egypt and Tunisia. Much has been written about the role that social media played in the organization of these events — which, of course, has been answered with Debra Dickerson-style skepticism and requisite mockery. But my connection to Annie, Kelsy and all our Cairo contributors has helped me to see the ways that this dynamic can also play out on a smaller — and no less meaningful — scale. Reading Annie’s mom’s comments on our post last week made me feel so happy to be able to provide a space where our community of readers could share such important information. Combine that with the news that Annie is “missing Canonball,” Max’s thoughtful post from yesterday, potential new readers, Melissa Silverstein’s terrific Women and Hollywood blog, the great information that Annie’s mom is providing on her own blog, a letter about Canonball I received yesterday from a friend in India (Kara, I’m working on my reply!), plus overwhelmingly awesome support from entire Canonball community — and yeah, I’ll say it: never been prouder to be a blogger.