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A note about my purpose and process:
I began this blog as a joke, one day in 2013 when I wanted to get some things off my chest.
As many have guessed, I wrote the first DTFM post in about eight minutes one day back when I was a grad student, and back when nobody ever ever read my blog. There was this news site I liked, The Media Coop, and an editor there mentioned one day that they like when members use the blog spaces because it kept the site feeling loved, so on a lark while finishing a PhD and working on more ‘serious’ academic articles, I also started messing around with thinking things over by writing to myself online. It wasn’t even trying to be a public blog. The idea had actually not occurred to me that I could even be a public blogger. And I wrote about some things I was figuring out that I was experiencing in organizing spaces, and I shared them with a few organizer friends, and that was that. And that was all I expected or could have imagined at the time.
I had posted maybe four or five things up on there when the first post went viral. And I mean I went from no readers at all to, suddenly, thousands. It was all quite enjoyable, if puzzling. The very first Dating Tips for the Feminist Man post was written very, very fast, mostly just me talking to myself in my head to one a specific guy who had been unwilling to examine his relative privilege. In retrospect, looking back on it with everything I know now, there had been elements of gaslighting in his actions. But I didn’t even have this word yet, let alone this concept.
Many of us are so trained to accept being treated in reckless, un-empathetic, and irresponsible ways, and these are actually not ok at all, and I was trying to come to trust myself. This one person had acted in not all that self-aware ways while calling himself very publically and very loudly a feminist and cultivating a public reputation that was a big part of how he had gained my physical and emotional trust. Now I know that this is a pattern, but this was my first exposure to it and at the time I was confused and scared. Writing the post was just a way to help me get my head clear. I thought maybe three friends and my cat would read it. (OK, I don’t have a cat. But then, cats don’t read so it doesn’t matter? Then again neither could my actual rabbit George, who I guess would be the real-world equivalent of the cat in ‘three friends and my cat?’ if we were being really specific.)
In any case, thinking no one would ever read it, I slammed the first post out, gave it a sarcastic title (‘dating tips for the feminist man?’ like, really? recognize your own emotions? communicate honestly and act accountable? these are what we still need as ‘dating tips‘? like why don’t you already know this shit?) took about two seconds to pick the most ridiculous picture google gave me for search term ‘feminist man,’ posted it, and went off to do other things.
Unbenownst to me the internets really likes five word titles, anything to do with dating, and bright pink pictures of whatsisface, the dude in the picture.
The friend who moderated the Media Coop got in touch a few hours later to say ‘hey did you know your post is going viral?’ and I had the WHAT? of discovering you write something just for yourself to think things through and discover a lot of other human beings on the planet are thinking through the same things you are. Guess what, when you’re experiencing structural violence, well so are lots of other people. I guess that’s why they call it ‘structural.’
In the meantime, life went on. I finished that degree, got a job, and got on with life, and it looked like that would be the end of that – the proverbial two seconds of fame that the internet age gives a lot of us. But that wasn’t the end! Turned out the DTFM joke post was just tapping the mic: ‘Cough cough, this thing on?’ – an opener, not the goal of the blog or whatever the purpose was of this thing that was writing itself through me.
The big-v viral post, in February of 2016, went bigger than anything I would have imagined from this one-off blog written at my kitchen table. It’s still small potatoes in the publishing world, but I’m used to academic writing, where you work on one thing for 2 or 3 (or 5) years and then fifteen people you really respect in your field read it if you’re really lucky and that’s a good read. (And I still love that kind of writing – but this kind is also kind of amazing.)
The reverberations of the Nurturance post have gone around the world and come back with echoes that, like a strange and terrible sonar, have begun to reveal the ‘contours’ of patriarchy and white supremacy to me. Contours that have long been visible to the millions of directly affected people who have been doing this work for generations. I have also gotten a better picture of how the depths of the harm that folks face has many deeply interlocking layers that have long been invisible to me, because there are things I do not face that I have to choose to perceive and actively educate myself about. This is like stumbling into a series of hidden rooms in which those who have seen and survived the edges of oppression in our world and who are living to dismantle them are all talking. Some of these edges of oppression hit me in the most frightening of ways, where I have been hit at different times with poverty, and over the course of my lifespan with very serious and sustained gendered violence, with the erasure and deep silencing of my voice; and some pass me by or actively position me as the oppressor, who is morally required to develop deep empathy and political awareness in order to live in integrity within the self and in relationship with others.
I hope to embrace these echoes, in all the pain that they raise, and do justice to the work, for all of us who want to grow as human beings and be good to the ones we dare to stand with and those – friends, lovers, family – we dare to love.
What I have since understood is that the way I approach this blog may not be the standard way. I really am not “a blogger” except by complete fluke, and I began this to meet healing needs and in a particular way, and as the blog has grown I have realized I really like and need the process to continue the way it began. I am a survivor of multiple kinds of violations of my body and of my mind. I began the blog to have a place where I decide what my boundaries are and no one else is in control here but me, in part in order to learn how my edges work and where my boundaries are. As a result of having begun it in this liberating way, and with an eye to accountability in relationship, I view the blog as a an entirely autonomous space, almost like my own body, in which I and only I have full autonomy over all decisions. The lining of a cell both connects and distinguishes that cell from the others around it, and the membrane that divides this blog from the rest of the thinking world is akin to the boundaries of my body, my mind, and my spirit – they are mine to determine, in relationship with others.
The thinking here developed as a means to conceive of my own body, my own mind, my fundamental self, as boundaried and within my discretionary zone. As a result in this space I revel in taking full decision making authority over every single thing that happens here – I feel free to edit, revise, add, and to decide at whim what goes up and what does not. We get so few of those kinds of physically private places, and this one is mine. This absolute decision making authority in this place has been absolutely vital as a container and boundary around my mind as I have been healing from significant sustained psychological abuse, and discovering what the boundaries of my mind and body are.
Quite simply, I do things the way I want to do them here. The way I decide who can enter my home, who gets to shape what I believe, or who can enter my body, I have generated a space here that is entirely and only mine to discern the edges of and contain. The way that I have chosen to use this space is in a very self-trusting way, honouring the freedom of conceptual play that has shaped what brings me joy all of my life.
In practice, that shapes the writing process. From the blog’s inception, I have always posted half-formed pieces before they were done, or even began by posting one line or one word, and then actively and visibly revised in public as I went, because this is what brings me joy, and because I am trying to come into words about things that exist, that many of us know and feel, but that often have no words.
The posts go up only partly formed, as I struggle to come into words, and they send out that sonar ‘ping’ – and then I feel out what that ping reveals, the patterns of culture, thought, and belief in the world, and in response I hone and write and revise until the truth of what I want to say comes clear, like a statue shaking itself out of the sand.
That means that posts continue to be edited long after they go up, as new knowledge, awareness, or sometimes just the right words finally come available for things that I could not say when I began.
That means if you come back to a post, looking for a specific word or phrase, and find it’s gone – you’re not imagining it! They continually change. They will continue to change, because I use this space as a relaxing oral-narrative-influenced autonomous place to figure out what my body is telling me, to catch what I hear in the sonic echoes around me, in a free and very liberating way. Coming out of an academic setting and three years into burnout and after experiencing sustained psychological abuse that took away my agency, my voice, and my trust in my perceptions, this freedom to write my own way has felt tremendously, tremendously necessary, more than I can say. And it may all be slowly honing towards a book, which would of course come out in more of a ‘fixed’ form.
So honestly, this blog – the title, the image – it all began as a joke. As a joke to myself, thinking no one else would be reading along. Turned out the universe has a sense of humour. Thanks for reading everyone! I’m floored. And incredibly honoured to know you.
Dating Tips for the Feminist Man was originally housed at the Media Coop, and is archived here
Do you love speculative fiction and social justice? Cipher is a speculative fiction novella that deals with the transformations our planet is undergoing, and the inverting and undoing of cultures of domination. It calls for ‘turning inside out’ the rigid walls of white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, and colonization. Learn more about Cipher here.
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