Friday, January 7, 2011

And a Happy New Year, Too

As always, my husband read over the draft of my post before I put it in queue to be published. "Um, Aimée?" he began, delicately, "I think people are going to fight with you."

It might surprise you to know that I have actually written an article on conflict management in personal blogging (under review! At New Media and Society! October 2010!) and that I'm an expert on the building and maintenance of trust relationships online (Volume 4, Issue 2! Cyberpsychology: A Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace!). Because, inadvertently, I started a minor flame war. Now, in the new year, I don't want to rehash or re-light, but to consider the process of how we frame our ideas, and how we can disagree with each other with goodwill.

In hindsight, I can see that including the phrase "wanna make something of it?" in a post title is obviously a little combative, but I imagined that readers would see me as I saw myself, comically swinging my oversized red mittens in useless little circles and saying 'pow! pow!' while dancing about on my tiptoes. And commenters who know me in real life picked up this tone, probably because they know me in real life: that's how I speak, and they have the context for that. (In this category, please include SC, Joanne Wallace, and Claire, as well as, of course, Heather.) To others I can see that the text may read aggressive. That's my bad. Arianna's comment helped clarify that for me, and I appreciate the holiday wishes with which she closed her comment--thank you, Arianna.

Some commenters prompted me to become more subtle in my thinking. Geetabix offered a useful and interesting personal story: thank you for that. Jana distinguishes between individual and institutional practices, in a way I didn't do, and she's right: thanks, Jana. I feel that I have benefited from the thoughtfulness each of you exhibited, and I'm grateful.

Other people outright disagreed with me, but not unpleasantly. SC supports my own practice, while articulating one totally different from it: I appreciate the care that you have used in respecting my position, SC, while disagreeing with it! Thank you, also, to those other readers who couched their negative comments in careful wording: thank you jroselkin for noting that what you read in the post might not be what I have intended, and for noting as well that you mostly like the blog. Jordana did this too. You all modeled a generosity of spirit I want to bring with me into the new year.

Heather, using conflict management strategies I discourse on at some length in my article, deflates the conflict with humour: how do I find time to bake? (Easy: my sister and I do it together--multiple batches of 7 recipes, over one 12 hour day, where her oldest kid minds my only kid.) Claire, too, focused on the baking, probably to cool things down. Humour and re-direction are time-honoured mommy-blogging conflict containment strategies, you should know! We must be becoming a community! Joanne just offered hearty well-wishes, probably to raise my spirits. From my hear, I appreciate the emotional labour you each expended to raise my morale, to maintain relationships and to build community here.

A couple of comments, though, attacked me personally. I have received emails from my friends, commiserating, and asking after my feelings. Let me be perfectly honest here: these comments made me cry. After a couple of weeks of dread whenever a comment popped up in my email, I've regained my equanimity and can only say: ad hominem is a logical fallacy. I would let this go unremarked but this space is really important to me so I ask: does vituperation maybe prevent other readers, perhaps more marginally situated than I am, but members of this community nevertheless, from feeling safe to participate if participating might mean disagreeing with a prevailing view?

In any case, let me close with this: Happy new year to all of you, and best wishes for a continued, various, multivocal conversation here at Hook and Eye. I hope we all feel safe and respected in articulating our ideas and our beliefs: I do. We may not always agree with each other--God, I hope we don't always all agree with each other--but this blog has by and large been a very positive experience for me, and, I hope, for you.

3 comments:

  1. I came to this post through your more recent one and I just wanted to say that I am very sorry for the anger and hostility you met with in trying to express the importance of this particular cultural tradition to you. I completely disagree with J-Dub - political correctness silences everybody, not just feminist voices. I appreciate your willingness to say (and yes I got the humour) lightly your views on wishing people a Merry Christmas. As a Christian, I have no problem respecting that December is a time of many cultural celebrations - I only ask that I am treated with the same courtesy and respect that I extend. As for seperating 'individual and institutional practices', as clever as that sounds, we /are/ the institution - academia is comprised of the people who serve it. That you were met with such anger and hostility from fellow academes and - dare I say friends? - is, to quote JDub "beyond inappropriate and beyond my comprehension" and a shame. I hope you have a Merry Christmas Aimee.

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  2. I'm looking forward to reading the conflict management article!

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  3. I think (though I am too lazy to check) that the most vituperative comments came from those who disagreed with your vegetarian analogy. Perhaps the strength of those reactions came from people who are fed up with having their choices ignored or ridiculed (especially during meat-heavy holidays); their reactions might reflect a need to express those frustrations (in a fairly safe environment). I know that when I, a plus size woman, see or hear size bias and fat phobia, I become a frothing, irrational tower of rage such that my husband and dog suddenly find they have to be elsewhere until I'm finished stomping and ranting. Sure, you playfully picked a fight, but I think you may have accidentally jostled some open wounds that prevented your respondents from responding as playfully. Personally, I appreciate your honesty and willingness to share your perspective. Without that kind of openness, we can't have a discussion at all.

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