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?
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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