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Race & Identity

LEIA: You Are What You Write

Photo on 20-02-2016 at 11.36

I feel like this week in particular there have been a number of problematic posts and comments flying around that present a lot of backwards, harmful and upsetting views. Everytime this gets pointed out there is an inevitable backlash from the author, normally along the lines of “Why are you getting so crazy at me?”, “I meant it as a joke, everyone knows that” or “lol you need to chill out”. This is wrong, damaging and irresponsible. Failing to acknowledge the problem is avoiding accountability for your words.

If you’ve started a blog, or a Twitter account, or any other kind of PUBLIC social media account, you need to accept that anybody can see your posts, thoughts and views. You are what you write. You need to accept responsibility for your own words. If somebody takes issue with them, they are allowed to disagree and discuss it with you. In fact, I would hope for it.

If you’re going to make a joke to a personal friend that could normally be deemed offensive, don’t do it in a public space. Nearly all social media channels offer you a private message function. If you’re going to write a blog on literally any topic you need to be ready to stand behind your words if somebody comments to disagree. You Need To Be Accountable For Yourself. If you can’t do that, don’t publish your thoughts on a public forum.


Here’s a few things we should take into account.

Don’t Shame

Stop shaming people. If you want to have sex on the first date and get drunk every night, that’s fine. Go for it. If you want to stay at home and hold onto your virginity for 20 years, that’s fine too. Knock yourself out. If you want to change your name, grow a beard, move to Mexico and open a tearoom for unicorns, that’s fine too. What’s not fine is making somebody else feel bad about their choice – you’re entitled to do whatever you want to do and so is everybody else. See also: this.

Switch Off

This brings me to my next point: if you don’t like what somebody is doing then quite simply don’t engage with it. If somebody has written a blog about something you don’t want to hear about and you don’t want to read it, then don’t read it. Switch it off. Unfollow them. You don’t need to attack or shame them for sharing their views. If they’ve actively shamed or used hateful language towards somebody else in their post and you find it problematic and unsettling then start a discussion, don’t attack them. More on that later.

Balance

It’s fine to write a blog post about why you should or should not do something, but let’s try and retain some balance in there. As a BASIC MINIMUM you should not shame anybody else. That’s base-level human existence. Shame is not a tool to garner views. Shame is not a channel at your disposal to seem powerful. Shame is not an argument that strengthens your case. You can write a post celebrating one thing without shaming all other options.

Misusing Feminism

Being a feminist does not mean stomping all over everybody else to get where you want. Being a feminist does not mean supporting all other women blindly. Being a feminist does not mean blindly blanketing all men as “the enemy”. Being a feminist also does not mean you are going to “make” supposedly moronic and useless men do your bidding through cunning and feminine guile. And being a feminist really does not mean you are a stroppy cow who wants to cause “drama” on Twitter. Being a feminist means you want to define, support and achieve equality, and equal rights, for women. End of.

Don’t Attempt To Stir “Controversy” For Views

Here is a direct screenshot from a blog I really don’t want you to visit, from a post about how to get more views.

This deeply angers me. It is wrong and irresponsible to knowingly post problematic material in order to get views. How desperate are you? Do you want to look at your stats and know the majority of people are only there because they find you deeply questionable? Because they are dumbfounded by your views? Because think your words are grossly misguided and uninformed? No. Of course you don’t. You’re better than that. You want to inspire and inform people, not infuriate them. And if you’re spreading harmful views to others who might read and accept and take on these views as gospel, that’s downright wrong.

Secondly, “pissing people off” is not the same as causing controversy. Controversy may be based in misunderstanding, but often has a root in an underlying problem, debate or offense. This means the source and need for controversy is quite often validated; controversy can often lead to related debate, discussion, resolution and strength. Spewing backwards views or shaming others is not controversy, it’s thoughtless. The author is correct in that you should write about things you are passionate about, but you should be able to do this without bringing down anyone who feels differently. The author is also correct in that it can open up conversation BUT THIS IS A GOOD THING. Conversation is a multitude of differing opinions, not a one-way street of right or wrong. People with differing opinions are not automatically trolls, and a discussion is not “drama” to be written off.

Call It Out

The last time I talked about #callitout was here in reference to people making racist comments. Calling it out is not limited to race. You should call out anything that is offensive or harmful. Don’t let it stand. Calling it out does not mean you are being unnecessarily antagonistic. Calling it out does not mean you hate everyone. Calling it out does not mean you are some crazy angry person whose views are moot because you take issue with everything. Calling it out means not letting harmful, toxic, bullsh*t stand when you see it. Too many people stay quiet on the issues that matter; don’t be one of them. Disagreeing with somebody is NOT bullying or trolling. It is disagreeing and it is allowed. It’s not ok to immediately make yourself a victim, plead ignorance or outrightly dismiss others if somebody challenges you.

Photo on 09-12-2015 at 23.45

Tl;dr? BE ACCOUNTABLE. If you make an absurd or offensive statement you need to accept that people are going to challenge that: not because they are bored bullies or random trolls, but because they don’t want hateful or harmful views to exist and potentially reach others. There’s a distinction. You are what you write.

These are just a few thoughts from my buzzing, alert, and yet increasingly weary brain. I feel almost annoyed that I’ve needed to write all of the above because I feel strongly like this is all incredibly basic level stuff and should be deeply ingrained in us as human beings. Perhaps we just need a reminder sometimes. As always, let me know your thoughts. Happy Saturday.

This is part of my “LEIA: Laila Explains It All” series on dating, life, advice and relationships which quite a lot of you have asked about! I hope you’re enjoying it so far. x

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19 Comments

  • Reply egbertstarr

    If you build a bridge, trolls will come.

    February 20, 2016 at 12:16 pm
  • Reply eichellewriter

    Thank you for writing this. I understand your frustration in having to write this at all. These should be things that people just understand, but in the wild west that is the internet it doesn’t seem that as a global community we have codified any set parameters for what is and is not okay. Your talk of shame reminded me of a Ted Talk you might find interesting. http://www.ted.com/talks/monica_lewinsky_the_price_of_shame Thank you for calling out things that are harmful and taking one step closer toward making the internet a better place.

    February 20, 2016 at 12:45 pm
  • Reply Steph (@thezombiesaid)

    Well said and thank you for posting this! It’s disappointing that any of it still needs to be said and it’s been exhausting going through all this same rubbish again. What’s almost worse isn’t so much the people themselves saying problematic things and refusing to be held accountable, but the uninvolved others rallying around them with cries of ‘wow I guess no one can even have an opinion anymore’, ‘so much bullying’ etc. It really shouldn’t be news to people by now that opinions aren’t sacred and can be hurtful and wrong, and that if someone is entitled to share that kind of hurtful opinion, everyone else is entitled to criticize it. Seeing the word bullying get thrown around over calling people out on legit issues and trying to silence people expressing that they’re upset about these kinds of things is worrying, to say the least.

    http://www.thezombiesaid.blogspot.co.uk

    February 20, 2016 at 1:00 pm
  • Reply Everyday Voices

    Amen! If you post/blog/tweet on a public forum. Then you need to own your words. If they offend explain your point. I’d also like to add, just because a certain POV offends some it doesn’t mean you are wrong, most offense can be cleared up with an explanation even if it ends with ‘agree to disagree.’

    February 20, 2016 at 5:43 pm
  • Reply Denise

    Oh, I guess I missed the post you were talking about… I was exhausted because of a “rally” trip (as I call it) and took a break, but here I am again! I must say, I agree with you – and I know many bloggers would write a question or about controversial topics just to get views. I don’t like it, true. And I totally agree that if someone doesn’t like a blog, stop reading it, of course! But people love to hate, just that. Yeees, we are what we write, but I must say that I ted to write quite a few lines, and not about all I “am”, because people seldom read blogs. They go straight to pictures. So I write a few lines about a light topic 🙂 I hope you are Ok, dear Laila, and that you have a nice Saturday!
    DenisesPlanet.com

    February 20, 2016 at 8:46 pm
  • Reply jessthetics

    I never see “drama” on twitter, I must have missed the offensive post, haha! Posting hateful content because you know it will make people angry and they will visit your site is so despicable, that’s basically the Daily Mail’s entire business model. I thought you said some really important things here – it’s okay to be called out (or “called in”, if you prefer) – nobody’s perfect and it’s an opportunity to listen to others, change and grow as a person. Treating an offended audience as if they must all be “haters” doesn’t allow you to have a meaningful conversation about anything. Also – referring to you point on balance – I hate posts about what you shouldn’t wear or what you shouldn’t blog about. Why the need for so many rules! xx

    February 22, 2016 at 10:57 pm
  • Reply Laura

    i think i’ve missed something since everyone’s been talking about stuff like this, but i feel like ignorance might be bliss in some of these cases and i’m better off without drama like this, haha. anyway, great points here. it really must be annoying to have to write about things like this as it isn’t really that hard to be a decent human being. like said above, i also think it’s okay to not only call out others but to be called out yourself – at least i’d welcome any opportunity to hear that i’ve said or done something offensive or incorrect when i know that i (and everyone else) can say some stupid stuff! xx

    February 23, 2016 at 2:43 pm
  • Reply oddsandends

    You got and delivered all the right points. Well served. I salute your boldness to speak out what you believe was right and just.

    February 25, 2016 at 12:18 pm
  • Reply The Oracle Jasmine Kyle

    I think most of the problem is people don’t KNOW that what they are thinking is not socially acceptable. Sometimes it is counter productive but other times we pick on people especially creative types for trying to see the world differently. I am glad you spoke out and showed that you don’t have to live mindlessly!

    February 26, 2016 at 2:34 pm
  • Reply Tara | C&CO.

    Thank you for writing this; I’m going to send it to so many people who need to read this!

    Tara | http://www.cattitudeandco.uk

    March 6, 2016 at 6:25 pm
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    March 6, 2016 at 11:58 pm
  • Reply Finja

    Great read! Soemhow i become more and more aware that we are just characters online, acting to a degree. There is never the whole me on there, not possible because im not even aware.
    Xx finja | http://www.effcaa.com

    February 14, 2017 at 8:08 am
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