One of Autostraddle’s core values is community – specifically, creating a space for a new generation of kickass lesbian, bisexual & otherwise inclined ladies and their friends. For now, the main tool we have to encourage community is comments on posts. We have really funny readers, and we love getting to know you and hearing your opinions. Dialogue with readers is so important to us, in fact, that we are working hard to make sure that Autostraddle remains a safe place for discussion as we get bigger and better.
A. Things Autostraddle Will Do:
- Respond to you and think you are awesome. We encourage conversations between the team and our readers. So when you post a comment, don’t be surprised if a team member responds. Seriously, we love your comments; we read every single one of them. We even talk about them amongst ourselves when you’re not around because they’re hilarious, and we wish we had written them. We might even call you out for a good comment on Did You See That Comment Fridays!
- Encourage respectful debate. We understand that not everyone agrees with us. A diversity of viewpoints is good, and discussing those differences often leads to more intelligent opinions. So please, if you think we (or other commenters) are wrong, tell us. Let’s talk it out!
B. Things Autostraddle Will Not Do:
- Reveal the identity or personal information of a user. Ever! Even if their comments are really mean.
- Allow a comment to remain on our site if it’s deliberately abusive or hateful. We welcome debate and discussion, and we are interested in hearing your opinion. But we do not allow hate speech or slurs of any kind (ethnic, gendered, based on sexual orientation, trans* status, etc.), ad hominem attacks aimed at our writers or readers or any type of body-shaming or body-snarking or negative assessments of a woman’s physical appearance (this means ALL women). We want Autostraddle to be a safe, fun place for readers to interact. So be respectful in your reactions both to our pieces and to other readers’ opinions. We really do not want to delete comments, so please don’t be mean!
- Entertain off-topic derailments: The topic of a comment thread is that post. Our writers are volunteers who write for fun, for their portfolios, and because they enjoy the community. We’re totally interested in meaningful conversations on topics raised in the post, but please send concerns, complaints or criticisms of the site as a whole — even if you find a way to tie in your broad-level complaint to the topic of the post — to the editors who have been hired to field such concerns. Please send concerns, complaints or criticisms of queer women as a whole to Santa Claus.
- Respond to concerns, complaints or criticisms of the site as a whole in comment threads. (Yes, this is a new rule.) If you wanna talk to the editors about the website, e-mail them.
If you see an error in a post, please email us [laneia/at/autostraddle/dot/com] so we can make the fix! If you comment to point out an error, we will delete the comment after we make the correction, for your sake and for ours — it’s confusing to readers when the change has already been made and corrections aren’t a part of the thread’s conversation, either. If the correction is only one line of the comment, we’ll just delete that one line. This is a policy we’ve come to after doing this for three years and speaking with users.
Also: If you can comment on a thread without reading the post the thread is about, probably just don’t leave that comment. This also means that personal fights between commenters, or disagreements carried over from other posts, will be swiftly removed.
C. On Truths We Hold Self-Evident
We’re really sick of having the same fruitless debates over and over again. So, if you’re commenting on this website, please keep in mind that the following facts are not up for debate here (anymore):
- There is no such thing as “reverse racism.”
- Queer trans women belong in the queer women’s community.
- Bisexual and other non-monosexual women belong in the queer women’s community.
- There is nothing wrong with being fat, nor is there anything inherently unhealthy about being fat.
- A member of the oppressor group is not qualified to tell a member of the oppressed group that they’re not entitled to feel oppressed, offended, discriminated against, bothered or threatened by something or someone. (Or empowered by something or someone, for that matter.) A cis person cannot tell a trans* person that the trans* person’s assessment of transphobia is wrong, a white person cannot tell a person of color that their assessment of racism is wrong. Listen.
D. On reporting vs. responding
If you see an offensive comment that should be removed, flag it, or email bren, chelsey, laneia or carrie [at] autostraddle dot com, or respond to it simply with “moderators please remove this comment.” Responding to the content of the comment with your own comment, especially responding to it at length, is the best way to ensure it’ll stay! It’s weird to delete a thing but not the responses to that thing, especially because deleting the OP makes the rest of the conversation come unthreaded and re-position itself. If you engage in conversation with an asshole, that suggests to the moderators that you think a conversation is worth having, it doesn’t suggest that you think the comment should be removed — because why bother responding to something that won’t even be there in ten minutes? Don’t feed the trolls. When you do, it makes it harder for all of us to get rid of them.
E. On Accusations of Bad Faith
The community blog “Shakesville” lays out the problems behind “accusations of bad faith” in this impeccably perfect “community note.” We recommend all commenters check it out, but here’s an excerpt:
Caring about this community is not an abstract concept to me. It is concrete and it is personal and it is an active practice.
Here are some other things you need to know about me: I make mistakes. I feel shitty, really shitty, when I make a mistake that hurts someone in this community.
I convey all of the above as preface to this: Because I care about this community as I do, it is singularly infuriating and hurtful that I am repeatedly accused of acting in bad faith when I make a mistake. Or just do/say something with which someone disagrees. The overt accusations or veiled implications—deliberate or otherwise—of bad faith, deliberate cruelty, hidden agendas, indifference, etc. are profoundly demoralizing.
And I am demoralized.
I, and the other contributors, are axiomatically assumed by many Shakers to be acting in bad faith if we err (or even if we are perceived to have erred, but haven’t), even as we are simultaneously expected never to err at all. Shakesville was founded by a person, and it is managed and nurtured by people. And the continual proclamations that “I can’t believe this would happen at Shakesville, of all places!” every time I, or one of the contributors, makes a mistake, necessarily implies that perfection is expected of us, as if Shakesville is a magical kingdom created of pixie dust and not a virtual space made possible by the hard work of people who are flawed and fuck up just like any other people. Our charter specifically provides room for us—and everyone else to inhabits this space—to fail, as we inevitably will. If you won’t support the provision of that room to fail, then you’re not providing a safe space for us.
I understand the impulse to react viscerally to something one of us posted, especially if it’s hurtful. And I also understand that no one thinks it should be a big deal if they comment before thinking, just this once. But you are not alone. And if only an infinitesimally small percentage of this readership reacts viscerally by making the accusation that I was deliberately hurtful, that still makes about 20 times every single day I am being told, on the blog and in my inbox, that I act in bad faith.
F. Moff’s Law
As we’ve said, we like conversation and debate here. But we would like those conversations to be productive. With that in mind, we’d like to share this comment (via Racialicious, originally left on io9) on how to properly critique an argument. It sums up everything we think about unproductive criticism, so keep this in mind when you’re commenting. Thanks, Moff!
Of all the varieties of irritating comment out there, the absolute most annoying has to be “Why can’t you just watch the movie for what it is??? Why can’t you just enjoy it? Why do you have to analyze it???”
If you have posted such a comment, or if you are about to post such a comment, here or anywhere else, let me just advise you: Shut up. Shut the fuck up. Shut your goddamn fucking mouth. SHUT. UP.
First of all, when we analyze art, when we look for deeper meaning in it, we are enjoying it for what it is. Because that is one of the things about art, be it highbrow, lowbrow, mainstream, or avant-garde: Some sort of thought went into its making — even if the thought was, “I’m going to do this as thoughtlessly as possible”! — and as a result, some sort of thought can be gotten from its reception. That is why, among other things, artists (including, for instance, James Cameron) really like to talk about their work.
Now, that doesn’t mean you have to think about a work of art. I don’t know anyone who thinks every work they encounter ought to only be enjoyed through conscious, active analysis — or if I do, they’re pretty annoying themselves. And I know many people who prefer not to think about much of what they consume, and with them I have no argument. I also have no argument with people who disagree with another person’s thoughts about a work of art. That should go without saying. Finally, this should also go without saying, but since it apparently doesn’t: Believe me, the person who is annoying you so much by thinking about the art? They have already considered your revolutionary “just enjoy it” strategy, because it is not actually revolutionary at all. It is the default state for most of humanity.
So when you go out of your way to suggest that people should be thinking less — that not using one’s capacity for reason is an admirable position to take, and one that should be actively advocated — you are not saying anything particularly intelligent. And unless you live on a parallel version of Earth where too many people are thinking too deeply and critically about the world around them and what’s going on in their own heads, you’re not helping anything; on the contrary, you’re acting as an advocate for entropy.
And most annoyingly of all, you’re contributing to the fucking conversation yourselves when you make your stupid, stupid comments. You are basically saying, “I think people shouldn’t think so much and share their thoughts, that’s my thought that I have to share.” If you really think people should just enjoy the movie without thinking about it, then why the fuck did you 1) click on the post in the first place, and 2) bother to leave a comment? If it bugs you so much, GO WATCH A GODDAMN FUNNY CAT VIDEO.
G. Tinkerbell’s Law:
H. A Note On Language: Ours and Yours
The people who read this site go by a variety of labels — lesbian, queer, bisexual, gay, pansexual, dyke, homosexual, sexually fluid or none/all of the above. Although many humans believe that queer is a catch-all, it actually isn’t — lots of women ID as “lesbian” or “gay” or “bisexual” but not “queer” (and vice versa, of course). Until we can get that meeting we requested with the Oxford English Dictionary or those dead white men who created this language, we’re in quite a conundrum when it comes to picking the “right” words to use on this website.
Because the word “lesbian” is the only word specifically defined as a descriptor of female homosexuals, that’s the word that makes our content easiest to find on search engines — queer, gay, bisexual and LGBT can all turn up a bunch of male-oriented results. So we use “lesbian” in a lot of headlines, but also we often use it as an adjective describing a thing rather than a person. For example, a lesbian storyline features a love story between two women, regardless of either women’s chosen label. When we say “lesbian sex,” we’re talking about sex between two women, regardless of those women’s orientations. Furthermore, we can’t list the actual sexual orientation of every person in an article in the headline, because headlines can only be 12 words long. The relatively recent launch of Buzzfeed LGBT and HuffPo Gay Voices have killed our search engine referrals (in a roundabout way, big companies can essentially pay for higher search rankings), so making our content as easy to find as possible is really important to us.
Mostly, we switch it up! We use gay sometimes, queer sometimes, other words at other times. All our writers are free to use whichever words feel right to them in their writing. Most of us here don’t really care which label you use to describe us, and for that reason and many others, we aren’t interested in spending our finite time on earth on intracommunity debates over language choices, especially debates that condemn female pronouns or involve fictional characters. If you wanna do that then that’s cool, just do it somewhere else.
We hope y’all can trust us that we’re not attempting to “erase” anybody, we’re just human beings doing the best we can with the words we have. When readers police us or each other for not using the “right” words, that can be very alienating to readers who aren’t privy to the generational attitudes or the academic communities where “queer” is considered a catch-all. We want this to be a place where you can be proud to rock whatever label you want (we do!): lesbian, queer, bisexual, bananasexual, awesomesexual, and we will never tell you that you’re using the wrong word to describe yourself, intentionally mislabel a real human being in context (for example, if you’re included in a list post headlined “Top Ten Queer Politicians Rocking Our World” and you identify as bisexual, we’ll identify you as bisexual when we talk about you specifically in the post itself) or invalidate your own freedom to identify as you see fit.
Any questions or complaints about this situation can be directed to e-mail, as they will not be entertained on the site itself (see B3).