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 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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    Mama Luxe July 2, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    I think I “get” your point but I have to disagree on a few things.

    Before I do, I want to 100% agree that name calling is just unproductive. And I always get frustrated when I see comments about a woman’s appearance used to put her down.

    1. But I also want to point out that the name calling on Twitter was from Sweetney. Call it “biting” or an efficient use of characters or whatever you like…but I think it was just plain nasty. Whereas Alli/Fussypants neither initiated nor, to my knowledge, participated in the name calling. Her commenters did, and I suppose she could have deleted those…but I don’t think that was necessary in this case. In fact, I think Alli took the high road, acknowledged she was hurt (yes, women CAN be tough, but we can also have feelings, too), addressed things calmly, and did not (to me at least) have a “poor me” attitude asking people to come to her defense. She seemed quite capable of defending herself.

    I’ll take your word that there are lots of posts out there that are unproductive. I just read Queen of Spain and Fussypants’ posts and clicked yours because I have a lot of respect for your writing and intellect.

    2. I want to ditto Julie about how Alli solicited a LOT of advice in improving her blog. I was thinking about this as the “controversy” began. No one mentioned Fussy and I think suggesting she should of just looked across the street is overstating things. No matter how HUGE someone thinks a mommy blogger (or any blogger) is, chances are most people, even a large number of bloggers, haven’t heard of that person. Doing due diligence is one thing, but “Fussy” is a fairly darn common word to search. When we started Mamanista, I search and (ironically) came up only with your post using it as a critical term… which almost derailed my use of it but for the fact that almost every other term seemed to have even bigger issues. And even if she had searched and found someone else is using it, it is something that (as she explained) had a larger meaning to her with a past.

    3. The original “charge” rings false for me. Which doesn’t mean Sweetney shouldn’t make it. It is her own reaction, to which she has a right. However, I think all the analogies here have missed the mark. Really, the only commonality here is the name…a fairly common word at that…and that she is also a mommmy blogger who posts pictures, like others before her. That’s derivative? Then so are a lot of us. How many of us are classy, bad, red, queens, or whatever. I hadn’t posted or commented before to the original “point” of the tweet because I think Alli handled that quite well all by herself. She acknowledges her inspirations. And she is also an original, to the extent anyone can be. No one would have become as popular of a blogger as she is without offering something interesting.

    4. I don’t think you can rule out the nastiness of the comment by calling it “criticism.” Simple name calling is not criticism…even if it is followed by some supporting evidence (also delivered mockingly). And the original comment was low on content, so I don’t think it is entirely unfair that the delivery became the issue. It is unfair to expect that tweeting out some small snarky remark is going to start an issue like that. But I guess people like Sweetney have a bigger reach than she imagined.

    5. Alli wasn’t just hurt by an off-hand comment on twitter…she was flooded by hatemail. For which you can’t blame Sweetney, but I think it helps explain why this was then addressed in a different forum. If I was flooded by hatemail, I would want a chance to address that, as well.

    6. I also agree with Sybil Vane that there is a power dynamic here at play. If we want to talk about women being raised to “play nice” and how that messes with our abilities to assert ourselves, then I think we also need to address the ways in which women “at the top” seem to sabotage those working their way up. I certainly don’t want to guess at Sweetney’s motives (conscious or not) or attribute this in any way to her, as I do not know her. Even if I did, I would hesitate to do so. However, if we’re going to start applying a broader feminist context to this discussion, I don’t think that can be left out.

    And finally, to Sweetney:

    You may see your blog as a work separate from you as a person, but you are aware (by your comment) that others do not. Although some are consciously crafting a “work,” others are blogging for different reasons. A finished film, a novel, etc., is a whole ‘nother creature. Of course, blogging and marketing your blog puts you “out there” and I appreciate a little better where you are coming from thanks to your comment here. However, I don’t think you dismiss those who see things differently and declare that this is an inability to understand your point or a problem. Everyone blogs for different reasons.

    I’m sure you are a lovely person with just the one head. If I weren’t 8 months’ pregnant, I would be looking forward to perhaps meeting you at BlogHer.

    Sherry July 2, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    I did see Tracey’s comment, and, while I’m almost certain I’m in the minority, I did find it a bit, well, much.

    Let me see if I can explain…

    I absolutely, 159% believe anyone and everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. However. Those opinions sometimes come with consequences. Tracey made some hefty accusations in what she said, and others responded just as passionately and intensely as Tracey’s first Tweet. She basically accused another blogger of total plagarism. A copycat. As a writer, THAT is perhaps the worst insult you can lob at a fellow blogger.

    My parents always taught me, it’s not WHAT you say, it’s HOW you say it. I happen to think this instance falls into that category.

    NES July 2, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    I’m not sure what moves me to post here; I’m a long-time blog-lurker and a relatively new blogger. I didn’t know Fussypants before this but I’ve followed Sweetney for a while, originally because I heard she lives not so far from me and writes about that sometimes. I kept following her because she has a great, original POV. But I imagine anyone who is a fan of Sweetney knows she’s not one to mince words, and (I’m guessing) one who blurts out what she thinks. Take it or leave it, that’s part of her package, right?, the same package that makes her voice so enjoyable to read. I saw her tweets as they went out and felt bemused in an “oh, she’s at it again” sort of way. I don’t want to comment on ANYBODY’S behavior, but I’d like to offer an observer’s opinion. Watching the big-leaguers move around the blogosphere, being fascinated by the interrelationships, but being outside of them– there are so many of us watching you! I’m not sure what I’ve learned about blogging from this whole series of exchanges except to see more of the blogosphere infrastructure, so to speak. Not the intended consequence, obviously, but it’s great primer material for a newbie.

    sweetney July 2, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    I thought you all might find this amusing: people are actually emailing me, asking me to insult them. hilarious.

    i just want to add one final statement, and i add it only because i feel this discussion is spirited but fair, and because i love catherine, and if there is to be a complete record of this event i think she deserves it to be here.

    that statement is: i’m not a heather. a mean girl. an A-List Evil MommyBlogger, hellbent on crushing those beneath me. i think all of that is, pardon my french, fucking bullshit.

    the truth is — and this is known to many reading this, ‘A-list’, ‘B-list’ and ‘F-list’ alike: i just plain don’t believe in that shit, and i have good friends from what people would consider to be every level of that hierarchy. homey just don’t play dat. period.

    if i resent anything about how all of this has gone down, it is that. the accusations that i’m a Big Bad Popular Blogger, and that my opinions are somehow tied up with that. WRONG. i’m ME. take it or leave it, but ME. and if you’ve read Sweetney at all, you KNOW beyond a shadow of doubt that i could give a fucking shit about hierarchy. again, pardon my bluntness, but i have to call plain old fashioned BULLSHIT on that.

    call me a mouthy broad. call me snarky, critical, biting, opinionated, and judgmental. GRANTED. but i’m not a snob, or a Popular Girl in any way you would conceive of it. it’s just not my world. i won’t let it be. THE END.

    Her Bad Mother July 2, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    MamaLuxe – I didn’t mean for the McDonald’s analogy – the ‘across the street’ part – to be taken literally.

    And my whole thing about the meanness – even if one regards Tracey’s comment as just 100% plain old meanness masquerading as criticism, as opposed to snark, I still think that it doesn’t serve the community for the response to devolve into vicious name-calling (again, I saw some nasty names.) If it’s wrong for someone to be mean to begin with, then its wrong to hit back with nuclear-strength meanness. My whole point was that as a community, we missed an opportunity for discourse by having it become all about degrees of meanness. There’s only so much that can be said about how much snark is too much snark in a community like ours before it just gets bitchy and pointless. There were other potential issues here, and my point is that we missed them.

    I take your point – and Bea’s, and others – about popularity, that it does affect how a blogger’s actions/words are received. My thinking had been – and still is to some extent – that few bloggers self-identify as popular and so don’t plan their actions or comments with their ‘popularity’ in mind. Tracey wasn’t thinking ‘oh hai I’m popular I can say this,’ or even contemplating how far her words would travel. She was a private person tweeting a thought in a semi-public forum. Should she have thought more about that? Maybe. But many or most of us often aren’t thinking that far ahead when we blurt out a tweet.

    Karen July 2, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    managed to miss this whole damn thing – guess a person can’t actually spend too much time at the beach, even if she comes back slightly burnt, at least it is only by the sun.

    but, I do think that in general, women like to give the smack down to other women aren’t deemed “nice,” and somehow if they are doing that they are off to hook for being “nice,” themselves. It is the strange way our society lets women get their aggression out, by being all bitchy one some else’s behalf (in this case the second fussy blogger – have I got that right? still slightly confused on that score…)
    Anyway, it’d be nice if we, as women, could reject that as our outlet for our aggressive energy and instead, you know, fix the world, run a marathon, bake some brownies and go out on the town for drinks.

    crazymumma July 2, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    ick. fucking girl politics.

    well. usually girl politics.

    oh nevermind. it’ll be forgotten in no time. the politics that is.

    Veronica @ Toddled Dredge July 2, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    After all this furor, I’m wondering how I can piss off Tracey. It must be great for the stats.

    Mrs. Chicken July 2, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    As a former newspaper reporter who worked for a very small community paper, I have a slightly different take on this.

    I had to write things – with my name on them – for many years. In a small community, sometimes people got their feelings hurt by my words.

    And they reacted.

    When you are a public persona – and we all are, in the blogosphere, popular or not – and you say shit, you take a risk.

    The risk is hurting or being hurt. Period.

    This is a public forum and Fussypants put herself out there.

    Was the word “parasitic” necessary?


    Have I found her to be derivative?


    But the point is this: Fussypants has a blog. She is a vocal blog citizen.

    Sweetney has a blog. She is a vocal blog citizen.

    They are both essentially public figures. So, all bets are off.

    I agree that this should open a wider debate about intellectual property and persona.

    But that said, might I add? There are no new stories under the sun, folks. This too shall pass.

    Kristine July 2, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    Very thought provoking post HBM. I have to disagree however, that no one addressed the true issue in any of the comments. I read a comment on Sweetney’s high school post last night by Backpacking Dad that addressed some of this. My comment on the same post addressed it, although minimally, as well.

    I’m not a new blogger, but I’m definitely a small blogger. It’s just recently I’ve started to get traffic to my site and am really working to make something of my blog. I’m not a great writer, but I enjoy writing.

    Frankly, after all this I’m a little worried. What if someone thinks my blog is parasitic? Maybe my blog name Mommy Needs Therapy is similar to another blog that I don’t know about? I’ve seen things I like on other blogs and tried them on mine. Will I be called to the carpet for that? I think it is unlikely, since I’m not big time, but now I’m left wondering.

    Yes Tracey has every right to speak her piece. I think perhaps it would have been more appropriate had she addressed it with Fussypants herself, rather than in a forum like Twitter. Or even as a post on her own blog, where she could explain herself fully. It certainly appeared to me that she felt passionate about her opinion on this. I find her use of Twitter to express this interesting, especially since she herself in an earlier comment said she used the word parasitic because of the character limit of Twitter. It did come off us hyper critical and yes, high school. That is my opinion.

    I think what disturbs me more though, is how she has handled the fall out. Clearly she is hurt and upset by how people are responding to her, whether she will admit this or not. I would have far more respect for her if she acknowledged that how she addressed this on Twitter may not have been appropriate, or that she never meant for it to be taken as an attack, or that she could have worded it differently, better. She acknowledges being biting and critical, but I still have not seen her express regret for that. I also find it hard to believe that saying she was addressing a THING and not a PERSON makes any of this OK. And I absolutely agree with Sybil Vane’s comment discussing the Titanic analogy.

    I do hope that some of the real issues that this has brought to light are addressed. I for one, as a minor blogger, would like to better understand “the rules” as I try to grow.

    Mrs. Schmitty July 2, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    Everyone just needs to move the fuck on. Let’s get back to poopy diapers, sex, and rock and roll! ;)

    verybadcat July 2, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    Holy shit-storm, batman!

    1. Interesting.I was talking with a fellow female manager at work today. We’re frustrated because our employees want to hold us to these impossible standards of not being snarky or having bad days or being exclusive. They want us to love them unconditionally, as a mother would, but the fuckin’ hate us. Our power and authority make us the Mean Girls, even though we are *hardly* the Mean Girl type. We acknowledged that the male managers are judged by the same standards, but no one has the nerve to accuse them of being catty when they fall short. People don’t become flawless idols because they’re successful. Why do you care so much what I think if I’m a stark ravin’ Mean Girl bitch? It’s enough to drive a girl to drink.

    2. You mommybloggers take the love for granted. I’m a member of a formal community- twenty something bloggers- and there is love and camaraderie, but we’ve got nothing on ya’ll. Of course, part of that is because you have more in common than an age bracket. How I long for a long-time-married-career-driven-but-also-babysick-but-still-too-poor-and-too-scared community like the mommybloggers have. You won’t know what you’ve got till you’ve paved paradise and put up a parking lot, for Chrissakes.

    3. Some loverly lady has the cattails wordpress address. I covet that address. Some other loverly lady has registered What a pisser! If someone popped up as verybadcat, I would not have the luxury of wondering if they were trying to ride my coattails. I would have to make contact with a gentle, friendly request. It is my opinion that the bloggers who do have the luxury of suspecting coattail riding activity should approach the same way I would. In accounting, we handle collections. In handling collections, we always leave the other party an out. “We haven’t received your check- could you see if it’s cleared your account? It could have been lost in the mail.” This, by virtue of being polite and gentle, instills the desire to please. When one does not have a legal venue, one must rely on persuasion. This would all only relate to the situation, of course, if the original Fussy were raising the issue.

    4. Sweetney is a great blogger. I’m almost sure she deleted one of my comments, and I haven’t read her since. It wasn’t because of any ill will- I figured she mistook or misunderstood or flat out did not care for what I had said, and I took that as a sign that perhaps a better connection could be nurtured elsewhere. Life was so simple back then.

    5. Isn’t it rude to point out when others are rude? Isn’t it mean to call someone else out for being mean? Doesn’t that mean that we should really just all move on, and maybe realize that life and people are rude and mean, and most of the time it isn’t even on purpose, it just happens, and it’s a lot easier to know what people think than to try and guess and maybe we could find a big girl panties sale?

    I’ve wanted to tell you this for three thousand years, but there never seemed like an appropriate time (as in, not creepy). My first name is Catherine. You are the reason that I will not ever use my full first name in the blogosphere. Cat will do. Partly out of respect for you, but moreso because I deserve an identity of my own- my very own- and that means not being the “other” Catherine. If I were to ever become “popular enough” to be compared to you. One can only hope! :)


    zoot July 2, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    I’m feeling really shitty right now b/c I’ve been so out of touch in the blogosphere since my son was born that I didn’t even know this was going on.

    Other than that? I don’t have much to say because it’s kinda dumb for me to chime in on something I didn’t even know was going on. Just wanted to make you feel better for being out of touch, you are obviously more in touch than I am.

    Miscellaneous-Mum July 2, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    What I find interesting – or potentially interesting – is what we all take away from this once the dust settles.

    Yes, didactic as it is, I think we can all learn some significant pointers:

    1) We write in arguably the most contestable medium there is.

    2) This debate opens up a whole can of worms of what is ‘worthy’ or ‘criticisable’ (not a word, I know) in the blogging community which many people, as they come to formulate their own voices and identities, just have no way of processing yet, if at all. The ‘silence’ which this was initially met with may be a) fear/indimitation to ‘be the first’ to speak out OR b) confusion. I myself, as I’ve been out of the loop, don’t know where to ‘enter’ this discussion properly, and even by doing so here don’t know where I stand. I have no locus, no back history I can reference and say, “okay, so this is the timeline of these debate(s).

    [This is exactly the FOURTH comment I've sat down to write today. I've deleted all the others before I've hit 'post'. Even now I don't know if I've said what I wanted to say, even.]

    sweetney July 2, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    kristine, i have said i didn’t mean it be a *personal* attack, and that this wasn’t meant in any way personal whatsoever.

    however, i also have no regrets, other than regret for people’s responses, which in my view have been fairly hysterical and visceral, and generally not very objective, logical, or thoughtful.

    i am a critical theory English MA/PhD major — this formed my adult perspective on the world. i just think different than many of you — at least that is what i surmise from how some people are responding. you take harsh, untempered criticism as Meanness and Rudeness. I take it as par for the course and impersonal. this is where we part company in terms of our basic perception of things. i’m not sure how that can be mended. toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe?

    you may continue to pound away at my perception of things, if that is what you wish to do, have at it. you will not pound regret out of me, however. sorry kids, i yam what i yam. i never claimed to be perfect.

    sweetney July 2, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    ps: verybadcat wins for best comment evar.

    Her Bad Mother July 2, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    verybadcat – may I call you Catherine, between us, as friends? Because, what Sweetney said.


    Chag July 2, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    If you’re out at a bar with friends and someone talks smack to you, your friends get your back. That’s what happened here. Fussypants’s friends believed she was wronged and they piled on (albeit some very meanly and harshly).

    Sweetney had every right to state her opinion. Fussypants (and her fans who felt wronged) had every right to respond. And really, that’s where it should’ve ended.

    Personally, I feel that post after post on the subject where each author shares his/her opinion on the brouhaha does more harm to the community than the actual brouhaha itself. I would’ve never known about this had I not read it about it here and elsewhere.

    And yeah, I realize that by commenting on the subject I am not helping it go away any sooner.

    Her Bad Mother July 2, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    Chag – guilty as charged. But I felt strongly that the level of discourse had gotten out of control and – partly as a measure of defense on behalf of Sweetney – I wanted to say something to the effect of EVERYBODY TONE IT DOWN PLEEZ KAYTHXBAI.

    And in any case, the discussion here has been pretty civil and productive, for the most part, and that’s something good. But yeah, I’ve perpetuated the whole thing, and for that I should be denied liquor for one whole day. As penance.

    Sybil Vane July 2, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    I have a PhD in English, knee deep in teh theory, and I am not sure that can itself account for the perspective difference, babe. The author is dead, la di da. I’m an admirer of yours and certainly this is Too Big of a Thing, but it is hard for me to believe that a you think power networks/hierarchies on the webs don’t exist just because you don’t personally value them.

    sweetney July 2, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    sybil vane — oh you want to go THERE, do you? mwahahahaa!! heh.

    listen, i can’t control how people perceive me. clearly people think of me in terms of an imagined hierarchy… how is that conceived, though? longevity? yes, i’ve been around a while. granted. but if you want to talk about cliqueyness, you’re barking up the wrong fucking tree, man. at the very least, some of you can back me up on THAT. i am not pro-clique. i am pro individuals having individual relationships. that is all. believe it or don’t.

    my friends are people whose writing i respect and who i connect with personally. that’s it, simple as that. easily half of those people are practically unknown (gasp!). so who am i? tell me, really, i’d like to know, since everyone here seems to have an idea.

    keep cramming me into your boxes, people. i know it makes it easier to do that, to believe those things. it doesn’t, however, make it right or true.

    sweetney July 2, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    PS: i’m going to depart this thread now… i don’t wanna bogart the discussion, frankly, and i fear i might be. y’all feel free to email me privately, with questions, however.

    peace out, betches.

    andi July 2, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    OMG, just re-read my comment and noticed I wrote “piece” instead of “peace”. Not that anyone will notice or give a flying fuck, but I’m ridiculously anal-retentive about these things.

    I’m loving the discussion in the comments! Even though there is some obvious disagreement, I’m loving the thoughtful arguments. :)

    Cathy July 2, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    Sheesh. I take a little break from blogging, drop in a few places and holy shit — the drama!

    I think what I find disturbing isn’t that Sweetney expressed a strong opinion — it’s that she didn’t address the person “charged” directly.

    I’m a journalist. I hear frequently from people who question my stories or don’t like the way I covered something. Point is, they call or email me directly.

    In this case, an opinion wasn’t directed TO the person being criticized. That’s my impression anyway.

    And because of that, yes, the twittering is going to be perceived by most as petty and snarky and mean.

    I have no problem with someone who’s outspoken and opinionated. But if you can’t express your issues or concerns to the person who upsets you and decide instead to rant behind that person’s back in the locker room — well, that’s just petty, snarky and hell, downright cowardly, particularly when the critical person is a popular A-list blogger who’s slamming one of the littler guys.

    The fact that Sweetney didn’t say anything directly to the other Fussy is the crux of the issue.

    If she did, fine. I take back what I’ve just said. If she didn’t, perhaps those strong opinions should be offered in a classier fashion.

    It’s fine to be blunt. It’s not OK to snark to other people about someone if you don’t have the balls to confront the woman you’re harshly criticizing.

    I’m pretty sure that I’d prefer to be called a parasite to my face, rather than to hear from other bloggers that someone’s accusing me — on freaking Twitter, no less — of being an unoriginal copycat.

    All Adither July 2, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    What the world needs now…is love, sweet love…it’s the only thing, that there’s just too little of.

    Anonymous July 2, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    It all seems a bit ridiculous to me and very much like the in-crowd vs. the outsiders. We are mommy-bloggers – we are all derivative of each other to some extent and that isn’t a bad thing.

    Major Bedhead July 2, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    Oh. My. God. Who cares? Seriously. Read who you want to read. Don’t read who you don’t want to read. Why does this have to be a competition? Why does it have to be about who has more readers or more commenters or more support on friggin’ Twitter??? God. Who. Cares.

    I read who I want to read. Some of them are A-listers. Some of them are D-listers. And y’know what? I don’t really give a flying fart which list they belong to, I’m going to read them anyway and if I’m not in with the in crowd, well, I’m sort of fine with that.

    Maybe this is why I’m not in with the in crowd. I just don’t get it.

    Momily July 3, 2008 at 12:05 am

    I feel like I am in the Dark Ages as I’m still not really sure what Twitter is and what the point of it is. . . .

    Anyhoo, two years ago a friend of mine sent me a link to HBM’s blog. She is friends with someone who knows HBM and she suggested to me, “hey, why don’t you blog about being a mom and stuff for all your friends to read.” Had it not been for that suggestion and reading your big and thoughtful blog and learning about mommy-blogging, i never would have started my very small and unimportant blog that is pretty much the best therapy ever for me. I kinda thought that was the point of the “the community.”

    Anyhoo #2 – perhaps we should look to our kids on how to best handle this – bite, shove, hit one moment, forget about it the next and move on to being friends again after that.

    Danielle July 3, 2008 at 12:10 am

    Keep Blogging Lame.
    That’s all I’ve taken away from this experience.

    Rachael July 3, 2008 at 12:14 am

    I don’t have a ton to say about this, except that every guide to blogging and how to start out for people like me reaching out desperately to figure out what the hell I’m doing includes doing a search for the name you want to use to make sure that no one else is already using it. Having said that, maybe Fussypants has had that nickname for years. Who knows? In any case, the whole brou-ha-ha is sort of pointless and sounds like five year olds tattling. It was just an opinion – one person thinks the names are too similar. It’s a fact that one existed first, and it’s a fact that if Fussypants refers to herself as Fussy it could be confusing for some people who are not familiar with her.

    In the end, I think we should all just try to get along. No one said anyone was BAD or DISLIKED. It was just an observation. We need to support each other – so many women and other people look to their fellow bloggers for community and support, and there’s no reason that we need to make it all icky. SPREAD THE LOVE!

    kittenpie July 3, 2008 at 12:24 am

    Yowza. I missed this whole thing. I guess that’s what happens when you don’t tweet and don’t know any of the so-called big bloggers but you?

    I will say this about naming, though:

    I have twice had bloggers that were newer than me or who only just discovered me note the similarities between the blogonyms we’ve given our children and acknowledge that it might be awkward and in one case, even apologize. Me, I know I’m not the only one who calls their kid pumpkin as a nickname, so that bothers me not a jot.

    The fact that someone else owns Doesn’t make me angry at them, only wishing I had gotten there first. Which I didn’t. Ah, well, maybe some day I’ll come up with a variant that I like enough to buy. So far, I haven’t thought of one, so maybe I’ll just wait it out. C’est la vie, n’est-ca pas?

    Then again, if I was a big enough blogger that it was likely others knew about me, and someone came along and named themselves something really similar? Well, I might feel a little annoyed, but I’d have to trust that the things that made me in the first place would keep me in that same status, no?

    And finally, I do hate when the momosphere turns itself inside out and on itself like this, but it seems to happen a couple of times a year, as if we need some sort of good culling or a break from all the togetherness, or maybe just a good nap. I have to trust it will blow over as it has the other times. It’s just a shame there has to be damage in the process.

    Laura July 3, 2008 at 12:52 am

    I just started a blog called HER BAD FUSSY MOTHER…is that wrong?!!!!!!

    honestly, I am new to this community and have NO idea what you are talking about…

    but glad you are back from your mental break…look forward to hearing more about you…

    carrie July 3, 2008 at 1:22 am

    Okay, fresh from viewing the movie “Untraceable” about an internet killing spree that is egged on by the number of views the site gets . . . I was not going to touch my computer for a whole day. Not that anyone is dying, but the responses to this are through the roof – just like in the movie, which was 2 hours of my life I’ll never get back (I know, I’m not the first person to say that either). Yikes!

    But I did write about this here, And seriously, I think all of the reactions speak for much more than the original intent of the twitter or the post in mention.

    If we simply let it be, than it would be. But we, as humans, seem incapable of letting it be and that is sad. That isn’t why I blog and I doubt that’s why Mrs. Fussypants or Sweetney blog either.

    carrie July 3, 2008 at 1:23 am

    Oh, and I forgot to say Wow! Catherine, this is the best thing I have read in a long time.

    Wish you didn’t have to write it, but you did and you did it well lady! :)

    Mojavi July 3, 2008 at 1:26 am

    ok I honestly think my head just exploded…

    i don’t read any of those others, but doesn’t it all come back to if you can’t say something nice….

    but then who the hell am I kidding, I was called mean on my blog last week and it hurt, it stung, and I am not even popular LOL

    Lara July 3, 2008 at 1:27 am

    some people will always believe that “snarky” and “mean” are synonyms. that snarky comments are, by their very nature, mean comments. those people should stay away from sweetney.

    and yes, i get that you can’t “stay away” from someone who’s calling you out in a public forum, but frankly, i agree with those who’ve brought up that mrs. fussypants placed herself in the public forum, and that allows for criticism – whether that criticism is kindly phrased or not doesn’t change the fact that it’s allowed.

    that said, i’m sad that the conflict ever came up. i’m sad that it’s shaken people’s faith in the community – a community that has always made me feel welcome, even if i am a mommy-in-waiting with no kids as of yet. i’m sad that we can’t just let well enough alone.

    and since i’m here, i’m also sad about the person who came to my blog to call me “psycho” and tell me that only desperate guys will ever want to be with me. snarky? or mean? you be the judge.

    Marilyn July 3, 2008 at 2:07 am

    I wrote a post about compassion the other day. I mentioned, offhandedly somewhat, this incident as an example but there was a greater picture at play (as this incident wasn’t the impetus behind my post, but rather a story I saw on The Today Show). My issue (which sounds silly because it didn’t involve me at all), was how the comment seemed to serve no greater purpose. Of course, in your excellent words HBM, it makes sense. :) But still. I guess the prose stung me a bit, and it didn’t even concern me.

    That said, I read and enjoyed Sweetney before this whole thing went down and I will continue to do so. I realize that her personality is just not lending towards “gentleness” in such matters. That’s fine, for her. If it works for her, then so be it.

    I would never want to censor anyone, or suggest that they should be censored. I would urge caution, which is what my post essentially was about, but in the end we all have the right to talk about whatever we want to, right?

    Loralee Choate July 3, 2008 at 2:10 am

    After reading about this all day long, I now have the phrase “The drama goes on and ooooooon…” running on a loop in my head to the Celine Dion Titanic song.


    Backpacking Dad July 3, 2008 at 3:48 am

    I said it over on Sweetney’s blog a bit more eloquently, but here’s a re-hash:

    It isn’t the content of the comment that gets hackles raised in many cases; it’s the, apparent, lack of motivation for the comment. It seemed to come out of the blue, as some random piece of criticism. Sweetney did respond to this, and even if her explanation is not also a justification I was satisfied with the explanation. It made sense of the act, which before had been off-putting in its sheer randomness and inexplicability.

    The content seemed irrelevant to me; as did the A-list blah blah blah. In fact, what seemed important for the comment to be generated in the first place was that this other blogger did indeed have readers, and without an explanation for the comment it seemed as though the fact that she had readers was the only thing that accounted for the comment being made.

    Bah. It’s too late to do this properly. Let me end with “Yay Sweetney!” or similar “don’t take anything to heart” words to that effect.

    Avalon July 3, 2008 at 8:40 am

    Really? A bunch of sniveling babies. All of them. Equally.

    Who are probably secretly overjoyed at all the extra Blog traffic.

    Black Hockey Jesus July 3, 2008 at 8:51 am

    Mean people rock in this facade of glass niceness.

    Your new reader: Black Fussy Jesus

    Cheryl July 3, 2008 at 8:58 am

    I read all the comments on Fussypants blog last night, and while I felt bad that she was upset, I was horrified by the reactions of her readers. I didn’t know it was Sweetney. I was thinking, “Who is this monster? What kind of mean, horrible blogger could ever be elevated to A-list status if she’s a bitch? We wouldn’t let that happen because we only read people who we would want to be friends with!” And then I closed my laptop and played with my kids.

    Now that I know it’s Sweetney, I’m incredulous. I love her. I love her snarky self. She rawks. And wasn’t she criticized a while back of being a wannabe Dooce and a wannabe Amalah and a wannabe Her Bad Mother?

    We all make alliances. I get that. We can call them cliques. Whatever. But I still get the idea that if I were to show up at a BlogHer conference, I would find friendly, funny people who really care about their readers. The end.

    mamatulip July 3, 2008 at 9:16 am

    I missed all this – I, admittedly, don’t read the blogs you linked to and I don’t Tweet, or Twit, or whatever…and I’m kind of glad right now that I don’t.

    zchamu July 3, 2008 at 9:24 am

    So I guess my question now is, have Sweetney and Fussypants actually spoken directly, put the perceived harshness of the words, the hurt feelings on the table, and discussed the underlying issue – that is, the perception by Sweetney that Fussypants is a “copy” of several other popular blogs?

    I guess that’s none of my or anyone else’s business – but it’d be nice to hear that these women actually could sort this out together. All warm fuzzy and community-like and all.

    'That Girl' July 3, 2008 at 9:37 am

    OMG! What a bunch of drama!

    I’m fairly new to all of this, and I’m over here thinking “What’s the big deal?”..maybe they won’t be going to lunch at Mickey D’s anytime soon, but other than that “What’s the big deal?”.. Maybe I just don’t get it.

    verybadcat July 3, 2008 at 9:50 am

    HBM- Absolutely. :)

    Sweetney- thanks!


    TZT July 3, 2008 at 9:52 am

    And here I was all ready to write off the potential for real community in the momosphere. (I even crabbed about it on my blog.)

    Then you just had to go and start what appears to be the most productive conversation I’ve seen about this mess. Cool. Thanks.

    Ali July 3, 2008 at 9:59 am

    haha. i’m pretty sure i left a comment on both fussypants’ and Sweetney’s site…without knowing the drama was about the two of them..haha.

    when you hear on one site that your friend is being called-out…you want to support her. but, then again, when you hear on another that your friend is being attacked…you want to support her.

    anyway…i try to stay away from the drama as much as i can…although i was told off yesterday by a pretty well-known blogger’s wife…apparently, i’m “some lady” who is really dumb and wears beanies that are nine years out of style. holy ouch. and that was all kinds of fun…

    ps. am i supposed to (allowed to) get annoyed when someone else has the same blog name as i do?? and i had it first? just wondering…

    BaltimoreGal July 3, 2008 at 10:04 am

    When I read Sweetney’s comments I thought, “Damn, someone said it”. Because when I first went to Fussypants it was because I thought it was Fussy’s blog. As soon as I got there it was clearly not, but I did notice what Tracey was talking about. She is not the only one who notices. I can understand why FP was hurt- at the same time, if you want to be considered original I suggest you do your homework. You had better believe I made sure there were no other BaltimoreGals out there before I started using the name. We all owe each other that respect. I also believe Sweetney was thinking of Fussy and Bossy (who are probably hiding in a cave right now) when she was talking about this. So she was pointing out something being done to her friends. Was that lost in the translation? That caring? Just because she refuses to play the victim does not mean she is uncaring.

    Laura July 3, 2008 at 10:36 am

    The most laughable part of all of this: that people are actually asking Tracey to insult them. Forget the drama; let’s hear it for the comedy!

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