Words Stuck In My Throat

By Cassie, AP contributor

If you follow my blog, you’ll probably have already noticed this, but I’ve hardly been blogging at all lately. For the last couple of years, blogging was my outlet, my passion – I would write something new every couple of days not because I felt obliged, but because I had something I really really wanted to get out there. There was a burning well of words in my chest, and I felt compelled to let them out on a regular basis otherwise I found it impossible to concentrate on anything else. But lately that well has burned down to warm ashes, and the flow of my words has all but dried up.

Instead, I’ve been crafting for my Etsy. This project has taken up a lot of my time partially because I’m attempting to really get it going, and as anyone who has started a small business can tell you that takes all your time and then some. But it’s also partially because I find it so much more relaxing than writing these days. I make things that I think are pretty, and people either buy them or they don’t. People order a thing, I make a thing, and I send it. It’s all very…straightforward. Sharing my words online, however,  has become something I’ve learned to fear rather than enjoy. The excitement I used to get from sharing something I had a burning need to share is tempered with trepidation, and I find myself censoring my words more often than not.

It’s not any one thing that’s given me this deep-seated trepidation about opening my mouth in a public forum – for the record, it’s nothing from anyone here that has been contributing to my trepidation – you lot have always been the kindest, sweetest audience I could hope for.

Part of my issue is the cumulative effect of years of watching amazing women – women that are undoubtedly smarter, wittier, and tougher than I am – being driven into social media breaks or offline entirely. Every time I see someone have to step away, I wonder when it will be my turn. There are some topics I know will rustle some jimmies, and I can be prepared for that when I step into the conversation. I know that if I bring up feminism in all but the most general way, someone somewhere won’t like what I have to say and won’t hesitate to tell me. I know that if I put a post on Tumblr referencing “male tears” I’ll get a slew of people telling me I’m all that’s evil about feminism. That’s cool though, because I can predict and prepare for that. But sometimes I step into a conversation, thinking I know how serious it’s going to get, and I am so, so wrong.

For example, a friend was recently driven offline because she made a downloadable mod for the game Dragon Age that changed the romance options for one of the characters, meaning you could have a gay romance with them. Among other choice phrases, some people called her a rapist – a RAPIST – for making a game mod. An OPTIONAL game mod, that you would have to specifically download to play, or that you’re free to entirely ignore. I wouldn’t be shocked if some of you thought I was making this up, because it’s so absolutely outrageous. Who gets that upset over an optional mod? And they didn’t just send one insult and be done with it – oh no. The abuse went on for DAYS, until my friend was forced to delete her account just to get a break from it. Who does these things? Who decides to devote hours and hours to abusing someone for making something they thought would be fun? Who then turns that vitriol on the target’s friends, having successfully ousted the original target? The whole thing baffles me, but I see it happen all the time for the most random reasons.

Naturally, this kind of thing makes me afraid. I’m not even surprised anymore when I see outspoken women taking a break from social media – I’m honestly more surprised by the ones who manage to get by without having to burn it all down periodically. But it’s not just the fear of external hostility that’s kept me so quiet lately, it’s also the fear of irrelevancy.

When I started my blog, I was one of a small group attempting to blend feminism, intellectual discourse, and pretty things. The more I look around at the blogosphere, the more I see people joining this little group. For some people it’s just a little mention of feminism here and there – for others it’s addressing questions of intersectionality as they apply to cosmetics advertising. As someone who started writing this way because I wanted to read more of it, I’m thrilled. I feel like I was in on the ground floor of something that’s become so much bigger than me, and I’m delighted so many people are thinking in new ways about cosmetics, and feminism, and style in general.

But I also wonder what more I have to add to the conversation. I wonder if I’ve said all there is to say about how anything coded as femme is considered less, and how much that bothers me. I wonder if the world really needs my hot take on…well, anything. I wonder if I have anything to add to the ongoing discussion between white and black feminism, and whether I would ever have anything worth adding to such a huge, complex, and important conversation. I wonder if it’s worth speaking at all, or if I should just stick to my trinkets.

My particular little corner of the blog world has gotten so much more crowded, and it’s hard to convince myself that I have anything to say that hasn’t already been said by someone wittier, better educated, and more influential than I am. When this concern is already whispering discouragement in my ear, and I see yet another woman being driven out of the online space for speaking, then my fear becomes paralysing. Why would I take the risk of being attacked for wrestling out words that no one else will want to read anyway? It seems better to leave it to smarter, hardier folk than me.

I know that I’m rusty, and my words are clumsy. I have to kind of choke them out, like when you’ve got something stuck in your throat. My hands freeze, my mind wanders, and it’s just easier to go do something safe, practical, something quantifiable. I can hold my jewellery in my hand, and say to myself, “I did that.” I can judge whether it’s how I imagined it would be or not. Words are so much harder. Even at the best of times, as a writer you never really know what people have taken away from your words. Right now, when my words are halting and choked out, I fret that my point doesn’t even come across at all, let alone my worries that people might or might not like what I’ve tried to say. When my fear gets the best of me and I forget any self confidence I had, writing can feel like I’m spilling nonsense into a giant void, that occasionally spews a wave of monsters – and who in their right mind would want to do that?

So, my question for the writers and bloggers out there is this – how do you keep going? How do you ignore all the reasons not to, in order to keep making that next post?

_ _ _ _ _

The author of Reluctant Femme, Cassie is a queer thirty-something Australian who thinks too much, reads too much, and has way too many pretty things. Her writing revolves around exploring concepts of femme and femininity, feminism, and just how much glitter you really can fit into a polish before it’s unusable. You can catch up with her in shorter bursts on Twitter , look at pictures of her favourite pretty things on her Tumblr, and browse her handmade accessories at her Etsy store

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12 Responses to “Words Stuck In My Throat”

  1. mendotawaves

    Because of bloggers like you and Already Pretty and others, I have added to my knowledge of and empathy for my fellow humans, and I thank you.

    Blogging is a personal choice not a duty and many reasons can factor in to the motivation for writing publicly and what subjects are chosen. It takes time and energy to create a piece, and more time and energy to deal with the reactions that come back from a piece. There can be rewards of self-growth and satisfaction in sharing, and there can be depleting negative effects.
    Trolling/internet harassment is real and it hurts people. It is wrong and it is not being prevented enough by internet hosting. It is reasonable to consider the price that might be paid.

    I hope you will consider what is your healthiest, safest, and most beneficial use of your time and energy when deciding to modify or end your blogging. Do not feel guilty if you choose to abstain from activist involvement for a period of time or forever (and contribute to advocacy in other ways).You have made a valuable contribution already and need time to recover strength and energy and a safe balance in your life.

  2. Cleoxymore

    Dear Cassie, I unfortunately do not have any answer to your question, but I just wanted to extend a hand – a comment, really – because I have lived through what you are describing. For my part, it made me stop, so I can’t answer your initial question about how to continue.

    When I stopped, it took me months to realize that the stopping was neither a tragedy nor a failure, but what I truly wanted to do. The struggle was not what I thought it was (how to get over the fear of reception?), it was over my guilt at stopping what had come to its natural end. Now, the circumstances were very different. I was not an activist for a cause I believed in, at least not consciously so, and I am not trying to tell you “perhaps the situation really is that you want to stop and feel guilty about that.” What I want to tell you, however, is that it takes bravery to write this post (I couldn’t write it; I should have), that you are not alone, and mostly… to listen to yourself with kindness and patience as you figure it out. Perhaps it is time to change, to evolve the project, to join up with other, to experiment, to take a break, or to struggle over that hill: I don’t know. Deep down, a part of you knows, I’m sure, but it will probably be easier to reach that part of you with understanding and compassion than with “shoulds” and exhortations to just push through. Your previous balance no longer seems to be working for you; time to find another one, and I wish you all the best in looking for you. To evolution!

    [Oh, and… If you find out this is really about blue thoughts and internalized censors… Can you use that as motivation? Talk to these censors, take them on, write as fight against them… And if your truth is that you’ve said your bit, and that others are now saying more interesting things–why not talk about them, then? Support and spotlight them, lend them your voice?]

  3. Rachel W

    For me blogging is something that I need to do for myself. If it is to please others or gain followers I don’t enjoy it at all. I took a break from blogging after having my two sons and now I am back…it feels great! Sometimes a little break is necessary but I would say if it is something you’ve loved doing don’t go away permanently.

  4. Holly

    I’m new to the blog, so I haven’t ‘met’ all of the contributors. I’ve enjoyed reading back issues like a glutton for a few weeks. So I’d be sad to see anyone leave. But understand if it isn’t fun for you and you are afraid of the online persecution that happens you need to go with your gut. Have a good life. Thanks for the reminder of using my glitter nail polish.

  5. Stephani

    I haven’t read your blog aside from a few posts here and there over the years, so all I can say is this: Your voice is relevant. From what you’ve written here it’s, it’s obvious–and I realize that this is essentially what you’ve already said–that you’ve been made to feel badly about voicing your opinions. Please don’t. Don’t let them win. Do what you need to do to feel safe and happy, but please don’t be afraid to voice your thoughts. Because at its charred little nub of a heart, that’s what all the internet trolling of women speaking their minds is about: silencing us, telling us our opinions don’t matter, because we as people don’t matter. Not everything every woman says is brilliant, simply because she’s voicing her ideas and opinions. But even that is our right. Those who can’t formulate clear, well-thought-out arguments to ideas you’ve posted on your blog and rely on vitriol and name-calling and bullying — I would argue that they are the ones who don’t matter. It is their opinions that aren’t relevant.

  6. marsha_calhoun

    I was surprised to see no comments here, but then I find it very hard to comment on AP these days (maybe it’s my computer). I’m going to write this hoping it doesn’t get eaten up by the ethers. As a writer, you will always be experiencing times when you feel that you don’t have much to contribute to a conversation in comparison with others who are wittier, better educated, and more influential. It’s harder now that we can see instantly what those wonder-folk have been producing, and make instant comparison with our own modest contributions. At these times, remember – sometimes just being a part of a thoughtful, sane conversation/trend/movement, not the most prolific or elegant part, but a part, a voice, is a contribution in itself. It boosts the signal, and becomes a tiny part of an environment that you are helping change for the better, or so I believe. Only you can decide whether it is personally worth it to put up with those who would drive you down – and no writer worth her salt can continue saying anything for long without driving somebody into a tizzy (yes, those tizzies get ugly, but they are still tizzies, and they say much more about the tizzier than they do about you [isn’t tizzier a fun word? I’m proud of it]). You do owe it to yourself to take a break when you need to, and as for just sticking to your trinkets – Voltaire made a large point of recommending that we tend our gardens when the larger world has become too much of a burden, and I’m with him. Personally, I hope that you will continue to contribute to worthwhile conversations, when and if it fits with your personal needs and sense of life balance.

  7. Zaianya

    The messenger is just as important as the message. It’s not just about seeing feminist ideas on the internet–it’s about seeing them all over the internet, from all kinds of people, worded in different ways. Some of the posts on Reluctant Femme have clicked with me when three other blogs just didn’t. They were all saying the same thing; however, not all were worded in the way I needed to hear.

    That said–if you really just want a break (as Cleoxymore says), don’t feel bad. It’s fine to be done writing for a while.

  8. Rebekah Jaunty

    “My particular little corner of the blog world has gotten so much more
    crowded, and it’s hard to convince myself that I have anything to say
    that hasn’t already been said by someone wittier, better educated, and
    more influential than I am.”

    Lady, I feel that too.

    Once, I confessed to a friend that I wanted to be a songwriter. “You SHOULD write songs” he said, “if you have something to say.” He meant to be encouraging, but his remark scared me away from writing— what could I possibly have to say that wasn’t already being said by better writers?

    Blogging needs to be something YOU find rewarding— it’s surprisingly labor-intensive and pays most bloggers next to nothing. If your heart’s not in it for now, that’s fine.

    Trolls predate the internet by thousands of years. Try not to let them stand between you and whatever YOU want from life.

    • Cassandra Goodwin

      Haha, it’s so true about trolls predating the internet. I remember reading things Cicero said about philosophy trolls back in his day 🙂