Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Reflections on the comments section

 A few weeks ago, I submitted a piece on provincial outsourcing policies to an editor.  She responded in a way that made it unclear if she was going to buy that piece.  Instead, she asked something like, 

"Honestly, I'd be more interested in hearing from you in terms of your observations on COVID-19 and anecdotes from the world you are living right now."  

I responded with this piece which an editor bought quickly. It went live over the weekend.  I received multiple private notes and thank you comments from women. Meanwhile, the comments sections of the CBC article (and its facebook repost) were roughly the equivalent of dumpster fires, in another friend's words.

 Multiple surveys and media reports have shown the employment/career issues with the pandemic when it comes to inequality in women's lives. I saw no reason to rehash that. Instead, I provided anecdoctal evidence of the pandemic's effects on women's careers--anecdotes from my life and 5 or so other women's lives (I described them vaguely and with composite vignettes, to preserve their anonymity).  These stories "from the front lines" weren't good enough for individuals who wanted to comment on all aspects of women's personal lives, bodies, marital and reproductive choices.

Nobody commented on my professional work credentials or education -nothing about book publications or degrees, but rather on my reproductive choices and personal blog posts! There were questions on why I'd bothered with graduate education (My undergrad advisors at Cornell thought I should?! It helped me teach at community colleges and universities in the past?) and rude comments about the rug I wove for Sadie's water bowl. It's sort of amazing what people feel emboldened to say online.

This is one reason why I like to write more on ideas/policy...but until then, I need to write what sells, and what I know.  It's not always the most intellectual stuff.  My articles on knitting, canning, baking, etc. sometimes sell faster than more academic or political critiques. People ask more about my children  than about my work...and all this is a sign of how women's work is valued in our society. (This isn't really a measure of my skills, it's about society's priorities for women.)

I'm going to keep posting here about my writing life as well as my 'home/making/creative life.' For me, they aren't really separate professional/personal spheres right now.  (I loved getting comments on the blog when folks used to leave notes!  It was a great way to build bridges.)

Many writers don't ever read the comments on their articles. I hold out hope that the feedback would be on topic and relevant so I read them. (...Although it often feels like self-flagellation.) Then I take a moment to remember something.  If these folks wrote opinion pieces and submitted them rather than filling up the comments section, they could also share their experiences and ideas.  Better yet, I think about the rug I made, or more generally, the work of my hands. I wonder if they are all capable of making rugs by hand when they need them. If not, there's no room to belittle others for their labours.

We can all talk about ideas and agree to disagree in a civil way.  Commenting negatively on people's bodies and choices doesn't push your views, ideas or agenda forward. It casts a shadow--but it's not a reflection of my work.  It reflects on the commenter's character..not mine. 

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