Community Is Hard. Deal With It.

July 2, 2008

DISCLAIMER: The contents of this post may not be agreeable to every reader. Reading this post may cause disagreement, hurt feelings, discomfort, frustration, boredom and/or anal leakage. The Author will not be responsible for any feelings of dissatisfaction, unhappiness, existential malaise or gastro-intestinal distress that might be caused by the reading of this post. CAVEAT LECTOR.

Here’s something that I’ve been feeling badly about: I have, in recent months, been a terrible blog citizen. I have only sporadically wandered out into this virtual neighborhood and checked in with friends and neighbors and kept up on the goings-on and the what-for and all the stuff that keeps this community humming. And I feel badly about that, because the neighborhood – you – have been so good to me, constantly dropping in for visits and bringing me pies and casseroles and bunches of flowers and keeping me surrounded with so much company that (oh shame to admit this) I haven’t felt that I needed to go out. Which is wrong, and I’m determined to change that as I feel better. Because I love this community.

I love this community even though it sometimes undergoes paroxysms of indignation that sometimes render it just a teeny bit intolerant. You can be cute when you’re indignant, oh internets, but when that indignation turns into sour judgment and hand-slapping, I get a little frustrated. Do we never learn? Why do we, as a community, find it so difficult to maintain our bearing when the road of social life gets bumpy? Why does every conflict, big or small, turn into a harbinger of our destruction or decline oh woe is us? Why do we get so fucking cranky?

Many of you know the current story, even though most of the posts and tweets and hand-to-ear whispers about it played coy with the details. I won’t be coy. Here’s the story: Sweetney twittered a comment about Fussypant’s blog, criticizing the similarity between the name of the latter and the name of another longstanding and very popular blog – Fussy – that many of us know and love. Sweetney’s tweet – which I did not see firsthand because, as I said, I’ve been hiding in my virtual kitchen, only peeking out from behind the curtains occasionally, which causes one to miss stuff – was on the snarky side. Sweetney – or, as I know her (this here would be a disclosure of bias) mah beeyootiful beeloved Traceyis snarky. She is opinionated. She is straight-talkin’, don’t mince words, don’t hold back, got-somethin’-to-say-gonna-say-it honest, and sometimes that honesty comes with a bite. (She is also an all-around awesome person with an honest-to-goodness good soul, and I say that as a person with very discerning taste in souls. Mmm, souls.) Because that’s who she is. And that’s how honesty is, more often than not, if we’re really honest about it.

The judgment from the internets was, from what I’ve seen and heard from behind my kitchen window, swift and merciless: Tracey’s Twitter comment was deemed bad. It was – everyone said – mean. It was nasty. She was mean and nasty. How dare she? How dare anyone say something like publicly? Who was she to criticize another blogger for emulating another? Who was she to call it copying? NOT NICE. BAD TRACEY.

Ironically, but not unexpectedly, much of the judgment passed on Tracey has gotten pretty mean itself. In the posts and comments that I skimmed last night, I saw statements to the effect that she was nasty and arrogant, that she’s just another mean girl, that her own blog is derivative, that she’s like totally stuck up because she’s popular omg and it’s totally obvious that she’s like threatened because that other blogger is like totally nice and omg you can just tell that she’s mean because she doesn’t follow as many people on Twitter as follow her. Also, she’s singlehandedly undermining the spirit of the community because, did you know? SHE WAS NOT NICE.

Which, okay already, I get it – feelings got hurt and nobody likes that – but people? CALM THE FUCK DOWN. Because you know what? The furor over Tracey’s comment is, I think, doing way more damage to the community – and says way worse about the community – than the comment itself. Because the blanket condemnation of Tracey for tapping out 140 characters into a Twitter box – characters that spelled out something critical of another blogger – amounts to a kind of censoriousness that I find a bit discomfiting.

There are a few issues here, as I see it, in considering that fateful Tweet: 1) was the criticism expressed in the Tweet wrong or inappropriate? 2) was it wrong that the Tweet was quote-unquote not nice? and 3) do either of those two issues, if confirmed as wrong, warrant censoring criticism?

1) Was the criticism wrong or illegitimate? Queen of Spain’s was the only post I saw that actually tackled that issue directly. The analogy made in her post on the subject was to hamburger joints: McDonald’s enjoys robust business on its street corner, and then one day another burger joint, Burger King, opens up shop on the opposite corner. Mickey D’s might not like it, but it shouldn’t criticize BK for just doing what it already does, right? Criticizing BK for just wanting a piece of the action is, like, a hallmark of hegemonic market domination, no? And anyway, there’s enough room in the market for everybody so don’t be a hog, McD’s, ‘kay?

Which is fine and good as a point of comparison except that in this case: a) it was not BK, but Mr. Mickey Donald’s Burger Emporium that opened up on the opposite corner, and b) it wasn’t McDonald’s that criticized Mr. Mickey Donald’s name and enterprise – it was a hamburger-loving (veggie-burger loving, in this case) observer who, between bites of crispy fries, said, oh hai, whaddup with Mr. Mickey Donald’s and its Rainbow Arches over there, yo? Isn’t that, like, not cool? So it’s not like this was some obvious turf issue, as has been charged – the observer in this case has nothing to gain from making the observation. She was just expressing an opinion. A trenchantly critical opinion that rubbed some people the wrong way, and that was undoubtedly hurtful to the proprietor of Mr. Mickey Donald’s Burger Emporium (who I’m sure is a lovely person who just thought that the name she chose was awesome and maybe didn’t look across the street), but still. It was critical opinion – and entirely fair comment, regardless of whether you agree with it or not, because no matter how you slice it, a blog called Fussypants that is written by a blogger who signs off as Fussy begs comparisons to the longer-standing blog called Fussy that is written by a blogger who is widely referred to as Fussy – critical opinion that, it seems to me, has been dismissed outright simply because it was plainly critical (and, also, that it was made by someone quote-unquote popular, which is an argument that I cannot for the life of me fathom. What does Sweetney’s – or Fussy’s – popularity have to do with the legitimacy of the critical observation? Seriously? Do we all need a lecture on Nietszche and herd morality? DON’T MAKE ME.)

Is the suggestion here that we should not, in this community, be critical of each other? Bullshit. A community that proscribes criticism within is not a community, it’s a cult. Or is it that we should not be critical of each other in public or semi-public forums? Also bullshit. We’re bloggers – everything that we say and do as bloggers occurs in media for which the lines of public and private are well and truly blurred – a proscription of ‘public’ criticism is a proscription of all criticism, full stop. And a community in which open criticism is proscribed has no foundation for robust discourse. It is, as I said, a cult.

So if we allow that we are, as members of a community, allowed to criticize each other, and that the critical observation under dispute here is not an outrageous one – indeed, that it is, arguably, entirely reasonable as an observation, regardless of what conclusions you draw from it or how contentious you view it – where’s the problem?

2) The criticism was ‘not nice.’ Tracey’s critical observation of the similarities between Fussypants and Fussy (and other bloggers; I’m not going to address those broader concerns here) was not articulated delicately. She was up front about the fact that she was criticizing someone, and not just gently pointing out a social faux pas or a small green piece of parsley between their teeth. She made it plain that the conclusion she drew from her observation of the similarity between Fussypants and Fussy.com was that such similarity was, in her books, not cool. And that plainspokenness was, unfortunately, hurtful to the blogger known as Fussypants.

Of course it was. I would find it hurtful. I, in fact, find most criticism hurtful. I don’t like have it suggested to me that something I’ve said or done might be wrong or inappropriate or in need of improvement. I want everyone to just love me and think that I’m awesome. Even the best intentioned criticism, the kind that is usually called ‘constructive,’ carries a bit of a sting. I is imperfect? Oh noes!

Criticism is almost always uncomfortable. Criticism, indeed, kinda sucks much of the time. Even when it turns out to be really helpful and promoting of growth yadda yadda blah, it’s just not the funnest thing, you know? And of course, criticism that comes in plainspoken – or snarky – terms is the least funnest thing of all. But here’s the thing: if we condemn anyone who utters criticism or makes critical observation – again, Tracey’s supposed crime here was not name-calling or general nastiness, it was the making of an (albeit stinging) critical observation – we silence ourselves, to our detriment. Criticism keeps us, and our community, self-aware and self-reflective. Yeah, it stings, but that’s why Socrates referred to himself – the greatest and most uncompromising of critics – as a gadfly: because no meaningful criticism fails to sting.

3) The problem, then: there’s been almost no real critical commentary about the substance of Tracey’s comment – almost everything that I’ve seen posted has condemned the fact of the observation-slash-criticism, and not addressed its substance. Everyone seems up in arms about the fact that there was a criticism, and that the criticism did or might have stung – the problem, apparently, being that Tracey dared say something that somebody might find hurtful, not that she was incorrect in her observation. Whether the argument implied in her comment was flawed or sound has, for the most, been left unaddressed, and this, I think, represents a missed opportunity – we could, instead of worrying about whether or not Tracey was too mean (a seventh-grade concern if I ever heard one) or whether her comment belies a vast Mean Girl conspiracy to preserve the mamasphere as the domain of some Trilateral Commission-like cabal of popular bloggers (which omg pleez), be discussing the ethics of propriety over blog names and blog personae and the relationship of this to the integrity of our community. Should we be trademarking our noms des blog plumes? Do we have any right to claim variations on names as our own? Do we have proprietary claims on innovations on style or content? How do we negotiate community when so much of our identities therein are associated with the brands – yes, I said brands – that we’ve (many of us) created? In the context of this community and these identities, am I Catherine, or am I HBM, and how would I feel if someone were going around calling themselves Her Bad Mommy or even Her Big Marmot and using the HBM acronym? Would I care? Would it matter?

The thing about these kinds of questions is, there’s no way to discuss them meaningfully without stepping on toes and hurting feelings, at least a little bit, because discussing them meaningfully means discussing them critically, with reference to each other. Talking about the ownership of our identities and our spaces means drawing lines between you – me – us and asserting our independence from each other. Our is not a wholly cooperative social compact – we do not pursue and articulate a General Will – it’s a network (a densely and intimately connected network) of individuals who work hard to make and define identities and spaces for themselves. We love and share and connect with each other – but we also define ourselves against each other, as distinct from each other. It’s what makes our community so vibrant, so NOT mommybloggerdrone-like.

So why are we not asking these questions? Why, instead, do we all have our collective tits in a knot about whether or not someone in our midst was less than kind in raising a criticism about someone else? Are we not, as a community, so much bigger and better and more interesting than just are we nice enough? Was someone not nice enough? LYNCH THE PERSON WHO WAS NOT NICE ENOUGH. Seriously. By all means, let’s endeavor to be kind, but let’s not sacrifice inquiry and discourse and criticism at the altar of kindness.

If you honestly think that Tracey was wrong or misguided in her observations concerning Fussypant’s blog, then address that issue. Argue the point – there are, after all, points to be made here. Say that you think it’s perfectly fine for one blog to adopt a name that is very similar to another. Say that you think no writer or artist should have proprietary interest in variations on names or innovations in style or content. Say that you think that such things are contrary to community, and that community is key here. Those arguments are interesting, they really are. But fussing and bitching about whether Tracey was being mean in making a criticism to begin with? Not interesting. Not interesting at all. Demeaning, actually, to all us, because it suggests that we’re not so much interested in critical debate as we are in making sure, above all else, that no-one’s feelings get hurt.

We’re a community. We live and love and learn in this space together. Feelings are going to get hurt, and they’re going to get hurt all the time (if you don’t believe me, do an archive tour of post-BlogHer posts for the last two years. Every year people write pages – pages – about feeling hurt and excluded and ignored.) That’s community, always has been, from the beginning of recorded time: it’s messy and ugly and rewarding and frustrating and thrilling and painful and fascinating and hard. That is, it is those things if we’re doing it right. If we come to a collective stop – if we attack and persecute each other instead of engaging each other, if we question our very integrity as a community – every time someone’s feelings get hurt, every time someone disagrees with someone else, every time things get a little uncomfortable, we’re doomed.

(Go on – disagree with me. But don’t call me a mean girl. I can be a pissy beeyatch, but I’m not a meanie, for reals. More to the point, neither is Tracey. Please to remember that.)

Comments to this post are now closed. It’s been a productive discussion, but seeing as Sweetney and Fussypants have – YES – hugged it out and put it behind them, I think that it’s time that we do the same. There’ll be plenty of time for further debate about community, identity and the ethics of criticism at a later date, I’m sure ;)

Peace, ya’ll.

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    { 133 comments }

    Pbear July 3, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Damn…when you are done with your soap box, can I use it? It will do wonders for my marriage. :)

    Long-time lurker…too impressed to only lurk on this one. Gotta take my hat off to something that good.

    By the way, your children are adoreable.

    Anonymous July 3, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Sweetney was right from what I can tell and I will tell you my reasons why.

    I don’t visit either blog (Fussy or Fussypants) because FUSSYPANTS left a NOT NICE comment on someone else’s blog that left a really bad taste in my mouth one time. I am smart enough to know the difference between the two blogs, but now the whole “Fussy” name feels funny. I REALLY don’t like fake nice. I highly doubt the original Fussy would really gain anything from having me as a reader, but I think this does demonstrate a problem with a perceived “rip off”. I have no idea if the two blogs are similar or not, all I need to know is the name.

    Is it lame on my part? Definitely, but if some place that looks a lot like McD’s sells me a hamburger that gives me Salmonella, I’m going to think twice about going to anything that resembles it.

    Yes, I’m a wimp, I’m anonymous because this might be a NOT NICE comment.

    Anonymous July 3, 2008 at 10:46 am

    This discussion, fuelled by the situation here described, highlights one of the many inherent paradoxes of this virtual world, and principally the concept of community.

    The common African proverb, one that’s passed into frequent usage, refers to a community raising a child, and one would be hard pressed to imagine any other but a solidified, close knit, physically close group of people assisting in this most awesome of responsibilities with balm that’s most soothing and as here, traditionally defined: cooking for the mother, offering food, companionship, taking the child, looking on it as one’s own, as part of a much larger whole; a vertitable pillar of support and comaraderie.

    In our increasingly fragmented, Western society, we are drawn to communication in whatever guise it comes, reaching out over vast spaces which can be certainly soothing, but is ultimately flawed. Behind the gossamer veil of anonymity, however, discussions can degenerate, harshness unleashed, aspersions so easily cast, names appropriated. Ultimately, the sense of community, of a group of people having similar goals, visions, interests, breaks down too easily and in ways more easily checked and balanced by real, social interaction.

    And it is in this sphere, as the Africans and other cultural groups would remind us, that real, social adhesion occurs, in these very streets where our children now seem so eerily absent, and the community pulse beats ever so faintly.

    Don Mills Diva July 3, 2008 at 10:48 am

    I can’t get into any of this – just can’t.

    If you’re a good writer, people will read. If you’re not they won’t.

    That is all.

    SO GLAD I took a pass on Twitter – blogging is narcissistic enough – tweeting just over the freaking top IMHO.

    lavandula July 3, 2008 at 11:09 am

    i have no idea what that twitter said.and i only read 3 mommy blogs.not any of the moms mentioned here.my question is how do fussy and fussypants feel about sweetneys twitter comments?and umm i’m guessing if i want to start my own blog i shouldn’t use these 2choices of name-sweet knees or her bitchy mama(just kidding in case anyone thinks i’m being serious) well now i am going to read all those other comments

    heartfull July 3, 2008 at 11:18 am

    I have been reading Fussy for a long time – it is one of my favorite blogs because she is an awesome writer.

    I had never read Fussypants until a few minutes ago. I liked what I saw and will go back, not because I think her writing is of the same caliber but because I think I would like her as a person.

    The idea that anyone would think that Fussypants is trying to gain something by having a similar name is ludicrous in this instance. The blogs are so dissimilar that there is no comparison.

    It is quite obvious that Sweetney the blogger would dislike Fussypants the blog. In high school? Fussypants would have most certainly eaten in the cafeteria.

    And so, I think the Twitter comment was mean spirited, a small way to get back at the cafeteria-eating, trend-following, average-skilled segment of the population.

    But whatever. If you blog, you set yourself up for public scrutiny and must develop a thick skin. If being known for a sharp tongue doesn’t bother Sweetney, then I think the rest of us just have to shrug it off and avoid her if it bothers us.

    That said, I like Sweetney’s writing, so I definitely won’t be avoiding her.

    Theresa July 3, 2008 at 11:51 am

    Wow, what a lot of drama for a virtual world!

    fairytalesandmargaritas July 3, 2008 at 11:58 am

    I agree with a lot that’s been said here, on both sides. I guess it all just has me uneasy though. When I first started blogging I had only read a handful of my friend’s blogs. I didn’t know about the “community”. I never in a million years thought I should research my name or anything. I started my blog and slowly reached out to others. Well, lo and behold there are others out there that have a _____ and Margaritas blog name. I’ve gone to some and commented saying, “Great minds think alike.” but, I wonder if people think I copied? One of them is much more popular than I am and I wonder if she’s upset or if one day someone (a third party no less) is going to humiliate me in front of a bunch of people and call me out? What do I do? Should I change my name now? Should I search high and low to make sure I’m not stepping on anyone’s toes? Some of us are really innocent little bloggers that don’t know a whole lot about this. But, I do know that if I was called out publicly in front of hundreds of people I’d be upset and embarassed and feel the need to explain myself. I’d just feel shitty. And I’m sad that this happened to someone else.

    Vicki July 3, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Ok, I’m gonna be the bouncer here. Everyone just leave it alone. Its like that stink in the air when someone farts. If no one says anything eventually it all goes away and no one gets embarassed.

    Angela July 3, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    So, I’m pretty out of the loop, here. I didn’t see the original Twitter post, and with the exception of Tracey, I don’t think I follow any of the other people involved on Twitter. So this is the first time I’m reading all of the details about what happened.

    Since I’d be talking out of my ass if I said anything about any of that, I won’t. But I will say this: Tracey is one of the best friends I have ever had. She was the first person I called this very morning when something went horribly awry in my life and I needed someone to listen to me freak out and remind me that I’m not alone. I’ve been friends with Mean Girls. (Tracey and I have been friends with some of the same Mean Girls, in fact.) I know how to spot a Mean Girl. I know that Mean Girls do not provide the kind of loving, unwavering, sisterly support that Tracey has for me. Not only is that assessment of her (by virtual strangers, no less) upsetting, it’s false and ridiculous.

    So: my dear, close, loyal, GOOD friend who is a good person said something that hurt someone’s feelings. Fine. I’m not denying that person’s feelings were hurt. It can be true that a person says something that hurts someone’s feelings while simultaneously being true that she isn’t a bad person or a big meanypants or whatever. If someone has something to say about what was SAID, they should say that. If someone has something to say about who she IS, they should probably research it a little better before saying something that’s patently false and stupid.

    Elaine July 3, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    I would just like to say, Amen. You say things I think (sometimes) but generally more eloquently than I ever could. Thanks for helping focus on the issue, and for your comments.

    sweetney July 3, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    The degree to which people have taken two sentences as a license to dehumanize me is honestly blowing my fucking mind. These people who would, of course, in the same breath decry my “meanness” apparently don’t think I’m an actual real live human being or something. My feelings and my tears, it seems, just don’t count.

    Oh hi internet, I said some critical shit. I own that. But I said TWO SENTENCES. *TWO FUCKING SENTENCES.* Now reading about 500 statements about what a fucking evil whore bitch I am, written by people who’ve never read my blog and clearly haven’t the faintest idea who I actually am AT ALL, is not just upsetting — it’s getting genuinely frightening at this point. I have never, ever seen a lynch mob of this sort on the web, and I hope never to again.

    Anonymous July 3, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    I’m glad to see that this nonsense goes on in other places besides my kids’ PTO. And I thought I was missing something by not being a blogger. Now I know I’d just be missing the same old crap that happens in real life (sorry, IRL).

    About blogger names, it’s my understanding (and I could be wrong…someone feel free to shed some light)that if you don’t copyright them (or whatever it is you do…did I read about someone buying a name?), then I don’t think you can really claim them as your own. I’m not a copyright lawyer, but I do have experience with it, and while the U.S. Copyright office says something to the effect that whatever you do is basically copyrighted, it’s best to register it officially because otherwise it’d never hold up in court.

    And for what it’s worth, I plagiarize all of you (okay, really just your writing styles, which are quickly becoming identical) when I send e-mails to my friends and they all think I’m hysterical. I am different and funny and creative because they don’t read blogs so they have no idea that I’m emulating all of you. I do read some blogs, I love the few that I read, and I’m glad you all write them because they’re really great. I just don’t have time or interest in writing my own.

    lilmomthatcould.com July 3, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    In life a little acid rain will fall on our heads- carry a steel umbrella.
    This is a weird world- I can say to you “Hi you suck” and we will have a good laugh because you know I am a total bitch and you love me. I can write “Hi you suck” and peeps will be offended. Next time I say meet up mono-e-mono and duke it out. Blogher cage match!
    I like Fussypants and through this uproar I met alot of other bloggers including Sweetney- So some good has come out-well for me.

    The Other Laura July 3, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Catherine, It’s all I could do to stop myself from shouting “Hell, yeah!” as I read this…

    You so often manage to articulate things that leave me sort of stammering. Thanks.

    Anonymous July 3, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    99.99% of the time I totally agree with HBM. This is the first post that I have read from HBM that I was disappointed to find here.

    HBM you did exactly what fussypants friends did. You stuck up for your friend Sweetney – while it was not the only goal of your post it was woven throughout your post (DAMN HBM YOU CAN WRITE)

    Sweetney – i dont know you, I dont read your blog – I did read a few of your posts today. You were wrong. What you did was mean and it was an attack on fussypants – you could have got your point across in a post or twitter without naming names – but you didnt.No one says your tears dont count – they count just as much as the tears you caused fussypants.

    I found the fact you feel the need to mention that you are an MA Phd major quite patronizing.. of course you can separate the self and the blog.. because you are educated!! BIG Fu^&en deal. I know a ton of people with PHd’s while many are brilliant just as many have to be some of the dumbest people i know.

    I do blog – I always comment anonymously – I have few readers.. I am still honing my writing skills and I fear the rejection from the blogging community.. I see the cliques from anonymous land and I want nothing to do with it.

    fidget July 3, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    i’m so glad that ive been a shitty blog friend and been totally lax in poking my head out of my cave. Sometimes it’s nice here in my bubble.. even with a baby screaming at me 22 hours a day

    Sybil Vane July 3, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    No one is decrying you as an evil bitch whore in this space. That’s not to say that people aren’t, but here at least, there are a range of perspectives, none of which is excessive.

    People are being shitty to you, for sure. It sucks. It’s not your fault that people are being so shitty and excessive. But you are a factor in their response, I think. Your blog response invokes your being disempowered in terms of high school hierarchies. It is, in other words, a tacit response to the fact that many of the shouts against you involve discussions of popularity.And the defense it creates is, i said what i mean then, i got shit; i say what i mean now, i get shit. Which is fine enough, except that one has almost nothing in common with the other and the people decrying you in this situation don’t perceive you as an outsider. Thy perceive you as that chick in the cafeteria.

    And to that, let me say: you ask what are the criteria for this imagined hierarchy people want to perceive you in? It’s not that hard, really. You have been featured at major events for the community, you have been profiled by other media sources, and you have public relationships with other “famous” bloggers. It’s not a mystery. It’s laudable for you to not give a shit about these dynamics, which I believe you don’t, but they are absolutely undeniable. When people are emailing you requesting that you insult them, I think the issue is pretty much resolved.

    Then there is this questions of whether it was a personal attack. You didn’t intend it to be, fine. YOu analogize it to critiquing a film or other piece of art. Except that we all know that personal blogs are successful in proportion to their establishing a distinct personality. I am hard-pressed to believe a critique of a personal blogs output is not a critique of the personality. Further, in both your and Catherine’s defense of your critique, your own personality is invoked: you are a person who tells it like it is, is honest and unflinching. In other words, evaluations of your output need to be contextualized with respect to the fact that this is who you are. And yet your critique of others’ output is impersonal? It’s a bit contradictory, no?

    All that is, btw, a different matter than the fact that people are being shitty to you, which is a shame.

    Her Bad Mother July 3, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    Anon – I’m sorry that you were disappointed. I did defend Sweetney – I wasn’t trying to hide it, it’s just that it wasn’t the larger point of my post. I defended her because regardless of what anyone thinks about what she said, she’s a lot more than those 140 characters and that needed to be said. That, and I really do believe that all the sweetney-bashing was not only hypocritical (people calling her a bitch and a douche for being mean – the discussion was descending into a hate-spiral) but also counter-productive. There are real issues at stake here – what we say and how we say it, who we are and whether we should or should not be territorial about who we are – that have gotten lost in the frenzy of bitch-slapping.

    Anyone who thinks that Sweetney was mean is free to say so – but I don’t see why there needs to be an imperative that the whole community take that line or restrict their discussion to those terms. And I don’t see why I should be identified as being narrowly clique-oriented for not joining in on the bitch-slapping. Sweetney (Tracey) is my friend and a human being, and my standing up and pointing that out does not mean that I’m denying Fussypants her pain, or that I’m sticking up for my ‘clique’, or that I’m picking a ‘side’ It means that I’m asking us all to rise above the anger and get civil already, and turn these energies to better discursive use.

    carrie July 3, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    I think everyone just needs to give it a rest already. Pass out the Midol at BlogHer and leave it between the 2 forces that be.

    Why would we (anyone) want to prepetuate this any longer (and here I am STILL reading the conversation, so I am just as much to blame as anyone) and hurt MORE feelings. These women are JUST LIKE US. They are like YOU and they are like ME.

    I am ashamed that more hurt is happening. We should all be ashamed.

    Still, I do applaud you HBM, for putting it all so well.

    ByJane July 3, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Maybe someone said this before (I don’t have time to read through all the comments), but my two cents are:
    (1) community means different things to different people. Your definition may be a “textbook” one but that textbook is referencing a particular philosopy.
    (2) people come into these discussions with varying abilities to “argue the points.” It requires a specific kind of mind schooled in critical thinking to effectively do so. It’s hard to understand that most people don’t see the issues that rationally. And god knows, contemporary “political debate” encourages insisting on either a pro or a con position with no room for middleground. So when some people get upset, all they can do is blast. Tough for us; tougher for them because it’s not a particularly effective way of communicating.
    (3) I do agree with whoever said it was a gender issue. Girls on the playground fight their battles in different ways than boys. That continues to some extent no matter how Grown Up we are.

    Anonymous July 3, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    HBM – No apologies necessary it was bound to happen just makes you more human to me :) and you are 100% right bigger issues exist.
    The cliques exist, here on HBM’s site we have so and so and so and commenting on Fussypants site we have so and so and so – no one is wining but what must be remembered is someone was hurt in a space she probably felt pretty safe – and no one deserves to be called names like the ones that Sweetney has been called and there are a ton of ways that anger/hurt can be expressed besides calling people a douche or a bitch but not everyone is so articulate.

    nomotherearth July 3, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    I have nothing to say that hasn’t already been said in your post or the above comments. Can I just say, though, that OMG you have a cohesive thought process for a mother of a newborn! I can barely remember everyday words, and my kid is 8 months.

    In awe.

    Her Bad Mother July 3, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    ByJane – I think that ALL community is hard, no matter how you define it. Family? Hard. Neighborhood? Hard. Nation? Hard. Commune/Ashram/Marxist Utopia? HARD HARD HARD. Negotiating social life is always challenging, always has been. But that is, in part, what makes it rewarding. We INVEST in it, with our energies and our take all sorts of knocks but we deal with it because of the reward.

    That’s all I’m saying here – there’s no community I’ve ever seen or heard of that didn’t deal with struggles and conflict within, so any expectation here that OUR community should never witness internal struggle or conflict or incidences of meanness or whatever is disingenuous. That there was a conflict doesn’t mean that the mamasphere is doomed. It means that we’re robust and diverse and pissy. Which is good, believe it or not. ;)

    Her Bad Mother July 3, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    nomotherearth – yeah, I was drunk when I wrote that ;)

    To Think is to Create July 3, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    You all have such a great discussion going here, really honest and mostly civil. I’m impressed. Sorry for this super long comment…

    A few things…

    First, I would not have thought much about Sweetney’s comments until the “parasitic” tweet came through. The others, to me, seemed normal snarky Sweetney that I love to read because of said snarkiness. That one crossed the line, passing just “opinion, and into mud slinging, imo.

    Second, to debate the actual comments, I totally disagree that there are similarities, other than “fussy” being part of the name. It was frustrating to me that Fussypants was compared to Bossy because of her photoshopping, when many MANY have done that before even Bossy came along. Fussypants was also compared to Amalah’s Smackdown, which I have loved forever and ever amen, but said comparison totally perplexed me. I don’t know if this was the implication, but I don’t agree that only one person can talk about fashion or beauty in a funny way or else be considered copying. Then there was the comparison to Dooce, which is weird and maybe I misunderstood and Sweetney was referencing her own comparisons to Dooce by others in the past, but I can’t be sure. At any rate, Dooce didn’t invent sarcasm.

    I have heard from other bloggers prior to this whole thing, that they believed Fussypants copied Bossy, but I just can’t get on board. It feels like they are picking on someone just because they don’t like them as a person (because she’s not snarky or because she talks about her faith or because she’s just not like them), which is their right, but I just disagree. Even in Fussypants’ post responding she says that she adored Sweetney. Let’s not discuss the Fussypants commenters, because they made me cringe.

    Also, I actually am REALLY glad that Sweetney came on here saying she’s not a Mean Girl. When I saw the parasitic thing, it rang mean girl-ish only b/c she’s “popular”. I know she doesn’t see herself that way, but she is nonetheless. I was disappointed in the tweet, but I’m really happy for this post and her response.

    For me, the only reason the whole A-list stuff even came to mind was not because of traffic or elite-type attitudes, but because it sometimes feels like bigger bloggers assume EVERYONE must know who the big bloggers are. I haven’t ever read Fussy or heard of her. Bossy is very new to me. I have no idea if I’m copying anyone, because I’m just being me, and no I did not do a thorough search and background check and sniff test before naming my blog. I just picked a name and ran. I think Sweetney’s point was that the “copying” was intentional, hence the parasitic comment, but all it takes is reading a few Fussypants posts to see that any copying (which I don’t think is there) is unintentional. I know our opinions differ. No big deal.

    Finally, I know everyone is saying how this “worries” them, and I don’t know how I feel about blogging anymore blah blah blah, but I don’t feel that way. I know we all would like to avoid drama, but I come from a family that talks/fights/yells it out and we are all closer afterwards. Pretending like things aren’t going on is anything but helpful. As much as I don’t agree with the call out being public, with no communication to the actual person you are calling out, I do think this all can benefit us if we want it to. I hope that people can see that talking about stuff isn’t bad, and that in the future people from both sides can avoid taking things so low. Neither side deserves it.

    I hope you meet some of you at Blogher!

    To Think is to Create July 3, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Oh gawd, my comment looks even longer once I hit publish! Now I’m the girl who can’t shut up…

    I forgot to say that I hadn’t heard of you until Sweetney linked you at the Johnson & Johnson thing saying “Nether Home” on video and I knew I’d found a kindred spirit. Smart girls rock.

    Anonymous July 3, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    Yawn. Get over yourselves.

    Monkey McWearingChaps July 3, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Hilarious.

    Someone who runs a website that basically repackages information found on other celebrity blogs

    and

    Rolls out another tired “mom reviews” website (Cool Mom Picks, Sundry Buzz, Mightywhatever)

    called another blogger derivative.

    Fuck I’m happy I have a real job.

    Rhonda July 3, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    The thing about all of this that is interesting to me, as just a stay-at-home mom reader of blogs, is that it really hit home to me from all the comments that these bloggers are in business. Most of the blogs I read claim they originated out of a desire to chronicle their childrens’ lives, a need to overcome the isolation of depression or a pull to belong to a community. And, although that seems to have once been the case, there is a lot of talk of copyright infringement, goodwill, supporting families, etc. that made me realize, “Of course, these people are self-publishing writers, with writer conventions, who respond to readers in order to foster their web presence and who have contests to keep them coming back and to attract advertisers.” I don’t really care if my favourite authors are jerks in their personal lives — most of them are, but I think the idea of a supportive blogging community is part of the fallacy I’m being sold as a reader and maybe it’s time to call a spade a spade and let it go.

    Rhonda July 3, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    When I mentioned my favourite authors being jerks in their real life, I was talking about Anais Nin, Henry Miller, etc. — not any blogging writers! Oops — see, it’s so easy to do.

    Anonymous July 3, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    I think Sweetney’s tweets and her subsequent posts (not Tracey herself mind you, but her written words) are petty and unnecessary. I have been disillusioned with her lack of insight and defensiveness for sometime…this is not the first occurrence. I will not read her any more. (For the record, I do not read Fussypants either).

    sweetney July 3, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    in case you missed it:

    Fussypants and Sweetney have kissed and made up. Everyone please resume life as usual. Thanks.

    and have a good holiday.

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