In the Blog

Privacy, Blogging and the (gendered) lines we draw

August 8th, 2007     by Stacey May Fowles     Comments

Via her personal blog, Ami McKay, Canadian author of the wildly successful first novel The Birth House,  has politely asked strangers to stop coming to her house.  Up until this point, McKay’s been famous for being really available, both online or in person.  She’s written a very long, earnest blog post explaining herself, and my initial reaction is: why the heck does she have to explain herself?

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Perhaps this issue is a gendered one. There’s been a lot of talk lately in “blog land” about what privacy and safety mean when “blogging while female.” The Nation has written a short piece about “the long-lost idea that gender was of no consequence on the Internet—that voice and content were all that mattered.” While McKay (as far as I know) hasn’t been a victim of harassment in the traditional sense (although I would argue that having strangers coming to your house all day long would qualify) her online prescence has created a perceived accessibility that I believe falls squarely into this debate.

Anyone who has been to You Tube to check out a video understands that vile comments online are nothing new, and some women bloggers are creating a forum to share some of the particularly heinous, harassing and gender specific comments* they’ve received. (warning, the link is very disturbing so viewer beware*) Together, female bloggers are investigating the harrassment and what it means in terms of safety and legality. Whether you’ve simply got a Myspace to connect with friends, a personal blog to jott down some thoughts, or you’re out in the blogosphere writing about hotbutton issues, there’s a certain vulnerability attached to making yourself public. In the spirit of piKe’s post, is this a matter of “ladies beware?” Is blogging while female more dangerous than blogging while male?

Some of you might remember a PSA campaign called “Think Before You Post,” which included ad spots specifically geared towards teenage girls that made statements like once you post your image online you can’t take it back and anything you post online, anyone can see. The videos are very much “teen girl, beware” and in my view, again blaming the victim- a new sort of “if you hadn’t worn that short skirt” tactic for the online world. They certainly don’t get to the root of the issue in terms of finding and punishing online stalkers and harassers, but instead tell women “maybe you shouldn’t have posted that cute photo of yourself.” (Click here and here to view the videos: interestingly enough many teachers who viewed the videos took offense to the fact that the janitor was being depicted as a predator, an angle I didn’t think of initially.)

Back to Ami McKay,  who has been known and praised in the literary community as being extremely approachable, via her online blog. Heck, she’s even a friend of mine on Myspace even though I’ve never met her.  In her post where she’s very politely asked people to stop coming to her house she had this to say: “By the end of last summer, the drop-in visits to the house got to be a little crazy. On sunny weekends, we’d have several carloads a day. Well, it seems that the by-chance knocks on the door are ramping up even more-so this year, and they are coming right as I’m trying my best to pull myself away from the world to write the next novel and my first stage play.”

Why does she have to use her work as a reason for privacy? Isn’t privacy reason enough for privacy?

I can’t even believe she has to ask this, let alone politely ask this.  McKay does a good job of explaining why she feels the need to be so nice about asking STRANGERS not to come knocking on her door all day long: “I hate disappointing people. More than that, I’m really squeamish when it comes to being mean. (Mean people suck.) While, I’m not going into complete hiding (there’s the website, email, the blog, facebook, etc.), I desperately need some solitude.” QuillBlogs opinion of her request?

“Ami, Ami, Ami – if you really want privacy, the answer is dogs, not blogs.”

My question to readers is whether or not they’ve experienced online harrassment or any other discomforting complications of blogging while female and whether or not the current online climate changes the way they blog?

Tags: bibliothèque, in my opinion...

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