Exclusivity (and my mistakes)

So I wrote my post and people got mad. Really mad. And as I read their comments I felt awful and I tried to keep an open mind and heart and I attempted to respond both honestly and respectfully. And I thought I was understanding what people were trying to say and I while I tried to explain myself I was also trying to be really open, to really hear them and why they were upset.

As the comments kept coming in, and I read and re-read each one, and my own responses, I started feeling confused. Then I re-read my own post and I was even more confused. Because honestly, I thought I did a really good job of making that post about me and not about the other person. I thought I was writing from a place of curiosity and interest and not from a place of hurt or anger.

Except everyone insisted I was just writing this because I was pissed I didn’t get the password. And everyone was telling me, but you can’t say X about you without also implying Y about someone else. You can’t say you felt like you were walking up to a group of people who stopped talking until after you left without extending that metaphor and making the bloggers who use PWP the people who stopped talking in your comparison (therefore suggesting that said bloggers are rude and insensitive). And you can’t say that you think password protected posts foster exclusivity (even though, by their very nature, passwords EXCLUDE people from reading a post) while reiterating that you want to avoid that atmosphere of exclusivity on your own blog without criticizing people who use passwords as mean and exclusive themselves.

And as we were walking around and around in circles, I realized something, these are the same arguments that I use when I get frustrated with Natural or Attachment Parenting articles that promote one way, calling it natural, so that I immediately assume they are suggesting that the other way in unnatural. And then they tell me, “no, you misunderstood” and I counter with “no, you misspoke.”

Now I get it. Now I’ve been on the other side and I see what it’s like for someone to take what you meant to say, even when you think it seems so clear, and actually read something totally and completely different. What a humbling experience, to be on the other side. And what a helpful and important reminder that yet again, you can’t have it all, not when it comes to making yourself understood.

I want to reiterate that I did not mean to cause anyone hurt or harm. That was not my intention, but it is clear that I did cause pain to not just to the one specific blogger who had something to do with the post, but also her many friends. I hope I made it clear in my responses to comments that I take full responsibility for my actions and their consequences and that I’m deeply sorry.

I’ve read everyone’s comments countless times. I’ve read my responses to them over and over as well. And I’ve returned to the original post, trying to read it again through the eyes of those who were hurt. I have to admit, I don’t necessarily understand why everyone is so upset, I don’t think I could write that post again without hurting someone’s feelings in the process. Obviously I will never be writing a post about anyone else, anonymously or otherwise, because I just can’t gage what will or will not hurt people. I recognize that weakness now and I will make future decisions with that in mind.

But I also hope that those who came here with the expressed purpose of defending a friend, can take the time to read the comments of those who did not come here with that purpose, who saw something else in my words, who saw that which I intended to write. I hope they can see that maybe their connection with the blogger I spoke of is making it difficult to read what I was hoping to write, just as I have admitted that my own insecurities as a parent have twisted the way I read certain NP and AP related posts, causing me to read much more than is actually on the written page.

I have also learned something else in all this: I try to avoid exclusivity. This has been a theme on this blog before, when I expressed my concerns that PAIL might be seen as exclusive days before that whole debacle went down. I dealt with it again when I first created the PAIL book club and asked that anyone be able to participate (a practice that is still honored today). I don’t like people to feel excluded. I know there are all sorts of groups that exclude people, that by their very definitions some groups are only for certain people and therefor exclude others. And I’m not saying that exclusivity has to be bad, but I don’t understand why it can’t be acknowledged and why it can’t be acknowledged when that is possible.

It’s true that password protected posts exclude people from reading, from being a part of a conversation. That is just a fact. If people want to assign judgement on that statement it is their own judgement and has nothing to do with the simple truth of it. If someone password protects a post they know that they are excluding people from reading it. That is their purpose in doing it. And it’s true, what Julie said in her comments, that blogs can be exclusive. Each blog belongs to its author and they can include or exclude whomever they please. There is no rule, even in this community, that every blog must include everyone who wants to read, that they must make everyone feel welcome. No blogger owes another blogger inclusivity. We can’t all be a part of everything, it just can’t be done and it would be insanity to suggest otherwise.

And yet, I can say that I want to try to include anyone who wants to read my blog without criticizing those who don’t want to do that. I enumerated all matter of reasons why that is the case for me, but might not be the case for others in my original post (anonymity in my space and my own personal comfort levels surrounding sharing private information among them). So I don’t understand why I can’t just say that on my blog, I want to do things one way without suggesting that others who want to do it another way are somehow inferior to me.

I guess I can’t say that because I told a personal story that included someone else, and people who knew her realized who it was (and people who didn’t know her, found out because she commented on the post). I thought I could write about my experience without making her a part of it, but I couldn’t do that, either because I’m not a good enough writer or because it can’t be done. I thought that I could focus on my part of it, because honestly I didn’t think what she did was bad and needed to be hidden from others. She said she was going to do it in her own post, I didn’t think it would be so awful to discuss it here. But it was awful, obviously. If I had just said my piece without explaining why I was saying it, people might have actually heard me. Instead they read something else in my words, something malicious and hurtful that wasn’t intended at all. I have definitely learned a valuable lesson, to keep other people off this blog, even anonymously, even when I don’t think I’m writing about them at all, even when it means I can’t say what I want to say, or recount an experience that was significant or thought provoking, unless I have their expressed consent, because you never know how someone is going to react to your writing. And if they are involved in any way, they have the right to react to it however they see fit.

It is a powerful lesson, one I won’t ever forget.

10 responses

  1. “I thought I could write about my experience without making her a part of it, but I couldn’t do that, either because I’m not a good enough writer or because it can’t be done.” It’s not that you’re not a good enough writer. It’s because it can’t be done. It’s that simple. Even though all of our lives and blogs are individual, they are also intertwining in many, many ways. It’s a small world and in blogland, there’s a lot of traceability and it’s just really easy to figure out who people are writing about. That’s why I just put in my last post exactly who/what I was writing about – to save my readers time in figuring it out. HA!

    I did know exactly who you were talking about without being told, and before reading her comment. Because I read you both regularly, it was very obvious to me. You are right though – it may not be obvious to others. But it is a small world afterall….

    It’s over. It’s done. Tomorrow is another day.

  2. I had no clue who you were talking about, until she decided to out herself in the comments. And it has left me wondering, if someone announces that they are going to PWP some posts on their blog- are other people not allowed to have an opinion about that? Are they not allowed to write about it, or publicly say that they would do otherwise? As an outsider, it came across to me that a bunch of people tried to come here and tell you what you can and cannot write. And what you DID write, you tried to write throughftully, and without any ill will. Yet people went on the defensive, which was interesting to watch.

    I’m not a part of PAIL, not a part of the ALI community at all, but I found your blog a long time ago, and have continued to read because it is interesting to me, and actually educational to what life is like for people struggling with infertility. I don’t comment much here, but then again, I hardly comment anywhere. I’m mainly just a reader. Bloggers probably hate people like me, because I really do just love to read the narrative that unfolds on a blog. But if you PWP posts, I would be disappointed (as a reader, not as your friend, because I realize you don’t know me)…mainly because the story would not have been continued. And though you as the author own the story, and are not obligated to your readers to hand us successive chapters, it does feel a bit unfair (and yes, exclusive!) for someone to take a book out of my hands and rip out Chapters 13, 18, and 20, hand them to someone else, and hand the rest back to me. As a reader, I’d just find another book.

    Now I realize, most bloggers aren’t looking for “readers” per se- they are looking for friends, for support, for advice, for community. But I would argue that mere readers actually play a role and fill a gap in a community. Just as there are introverts and extroverts, quiet people and loud people, green eyes and blue eyes…some people just come for the fascinating story that appears.

    So, please keep telling your story. If you speak your words in truth, that’s all you can do.

  3. I’m purposefully choosing to comment here BEFORE I go back and read the comments of your previous post.

    I read your post and wasn’t the least offended – but I acknowledge that I have never used PWP so therefore I didn’t have that personal connection to what you were saying. I did briefly wonder how I would feel if I was the blogger you mentioned who did not grant you access to her PWP posts and while I acknowledged to myself that I might feel a little, well, uneasy about it, I didn’t think I’d be truly offended.

    I actually thought you were quite careful to emphasise that you were talking soley about your personal opinion and I didn’t think you sounded ‘judgey’.

    In regards to mentioning the situation with the other blogger – you did so anonymously and without malice. I personally think that to write this post without mentioning the situation that precipitated it would have been somewhat disingenious (and I suspect E, that you might feel that way too). And the blogger in question would surely still have realised the connection when she read the post.

    I do grant that there’s a fine line to walk when blogging about other people, particularly in a shared community like this one in which the person in question might be easily identified. In short, I don’t know whether you did the right thing or not, but it is clear to me that you intended no harm.

    Right, I’m off to read the comments!

    • Of course I would have recognized the connection, even if it is unlikely that anyone else would. I would, and I did. I did not appreciate my need for privacy and safety used to illustrate a point, regardless of how “anonymous” it was. My email interaction with E did not lead me to believe that she was stung. In fact, she told me she completely understood. What *I* was stung about, was seeing our private interaction described without so much as a courtesy “heads up”. It stung further to hear that another blogger read it first, and that E considered asking me about it but didn’t. I wish I had been shown that consideration. I feel very uneasy in this community to begin with, and seeing a piece of my story used to illustrate a point felt very disrespectful to me, especially from someone who seems to value respectful discourse so much. I chose to out myself in the comments to illustrate this point. I think a valuable conversation could have been had without mentioning this specific interaction, or involving me in the conversation ahead of time. It makes me feel that I cannot be safe in *my* space, and in my private interactions with people without wondering if I will then see a post about it later.

  4. I continue to struggle with this notion of “exclusivity”, though. And I struggle with the idea that you couldn’t have provoked a valuable dialogue without expounding on your recent personal experience. And I struggle with your description of having made a mistake, while also saying that you do not see that you could have opened this discourse differently.

    I recognize that PWP inherently limits access–there is no question about that. When exclusivity is suggested as your post suggested (likening it to walking up to a group of people who instantly hush at your approach), it sounds malicious and catty and clique-ish. And I stand by my first point in my comment on your previous post–PWP, at least as I have experienced it in the ALI blogosphere, more typically has NOTHING to do with maliciously, clique-ishly excluding people. It is the construction of a protective boundary–it is another way of “safeguarding the delicate places.” And we of all bloggers should honor the spirit of that. Your post, as I read it, did not embrace that spirit. How does *that* serve to promote inclusivity?

    I absolutely believe you could have written a post examining the merits and limitations of PWP without referencing your experience with another blogger. I feel that your mentioning of that matter actually dilutes your message, making your take on PWP sound sour grapes-y. I believe that you ARE a fine and succinct enough writer to have accomplished that. That you felt that leaving out your specific experience with that blog would have not been an authentic representation of your experience makes me feel (as I said plainly previously) that your post was born from a place of judgement and hurt and perhaps a need for validation and affirmation from others.

    I wholeheartedly recognize that this is YOUR blog space to do with what you wish. And I struggle with my own suggestion that you should have or could have used your space differently. But this just doesn’t settle well inside of me, no matter how I try to square it up with your explanations in this second post. I’m stumped.

    • It’s clear we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one. I would like to point out that when I used the walking up to a group of people who stopped talking analogy, I was talking about HOW IT FELT FOR ME TO BE IN THAT SITUATION. I was not likening the whole idea of PWP to that situation, just HOW I FELT PERSONALLY and you’re basically telling me I shouldn’t have said that, that I shouldn’t have expressed how I felt in that way. I think we start walking on shaky ground when we tell somehow how they can and cannot express the way they felt in reaction to something, even if it does involve another blogger.

      It is true that what is said in PWP is not (to my knowledge) gossipy or cliquey. I recognize why bloggers PWP. But that doesn’t change how it makes some people feel. You might think that it SHOULD change the way people feel about it, but it just doesn’t for some people. That was part of the conversation I was trying to have here.

      Everything you say about why people password protect their posts is correct. I didn’t talk much about that here because this is not a post about WHY people use PWP, it’s a post about how PWP affects their readers and how it feels to be on the other side.

      And could I have had a discussion about both those things without including my own personal experience? Maybe. But it would have been chalk full of hypotheticals and not nearly as effective. If my whole point was someone MIGHT feel excluded and MIGHT feel like they were walking up to a group of people who stopped talking, would the point really have been made that someone DID feel that way? And wouldn’t the analogy have been more easily extended to the actual bloggers if it was used hypothetically?

      Oh, and I also wanted to say that when I mentioned not knowing how to write this post without hurting feelings I meant writing it WITH my personal experience, not without. I just don’t think I could have been more considerate to the person I had the interaction with and still explain my reactions to it in a honest way, in a way that is more respectful than I did here. At the end of the post I say that obviously the only way to have avoided this would have been to not mention my personal experience, but then I wouldn’t have been able to have the conversation I wanted to have. And that is what I have taken away from this, sometimes you can’t have those conversations because this will happen.

      I respect that you see this differently than I do, I just wish you would extend me the same courtesy but I understand if you cannot.

  5. Just finished reading this post and the comments on the last…wow I certainly didn’t see that coming, and was quite surprised by the hurt feelings. There is a very valuable lesson here. No one wants to be talked about “behind their backs”, and though I wouldn’t have necessarily thought so before, reading through SRB’s comments makes it clear that posting a specific incident about another person on a blog without asking their explicit permission=talking about them behind their backs. Trying to think of it from both sides, it seems the best course of action is to either ask permission/let the other person read & consent to the post, or to discuss the topic privately. I will definitely keep this in mind!

    This also raises a whole host of other questions about what bloggers & readers “owe” each other, and rules of etiquette in the blogging community.

  6. It’s hard. Invariably we are not “windowless monads” – we bump into each other constantly. Anthropologist Anna Tsing says the “friction” involved in this process is what generates light and heat – both productive and destructive. Our blogs are social creations, ultimately, even those with comments always and forever closed. I suppose a blog that was completely private with no readers allowed at all might be such a windowless monad, but then what would be the point?

    I’m not going to weigh in on should-haves, could-haves, etc. – clearly you’re doing a lot of hard work not just trying to think through these things but blog through them as well. I just want to acknowledge that the whole thing is hard. Because while we are not windowless, we don’t have full access to one another’s “texts” (referencing Mel the Stirrup Queen’s recent post).

    Hang in there. You’ve got a ton on your plate right now…!

  7. I think this does raise an interesting question — one that maybe could unfold in a different post: should we ever write about each other. I’ll start by saying that when I wrote that zombie post last night as a joke, I was first thinking of looking at three people I know who all have about equal amounts of followers. And then I switched to celebrities because (1) it is more amusing to pit Neil Gaiman’s followers against Bieber’s, and (2) there is the fact that those celebrities live their lives in a public forum. BUT those bloggers and those celebrities are ALL humans. And they all have the possibility of seeing what I write. So either all people have to be fair game or no one is fair game, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that just because Bieber sings songs and by default, his job pushes him into the spotlight, we have the blessing to write about him. Whereas we don’t have the blessing to write about the average blogger if we do so respectfully.

    I write about people in the community at least weekly with the Roundup if not daily. So many posts are written jumping off what someone else said or how I reacted to a post. I am careful to address the behaviour and not the person because with few exceptions, I don’t really know the person. I can’t make a statement about them; I can only make a statement about their words.

    But let’s take it a step further: is it okay to write about someone if you’re praising them? Why is that okay but being respectfully critical is not? Is it better to name the person and set it all out in the open, or is it better to leave it semi-anonymous, knowing that while some people may get the reference, not all people will and at the very least, it will not be searchable?

    I don’t think there are clear-cut answers that fit everyone, but it’s one of those conversations that we keep coming back to from time to time because it’s so important to have.

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