Goodness gracious, it is a pleasure to be here. Been following this blog and its community for years now (even wrote part of my college thesis about it!), through many changes in my own feminist life. I’m super thankful for the opportunity to participate as a guest writer, exploring a bit of Klonckedom outside of my cozy lil’ blogging home, and I hope that many of us will find something useful in what unfolds over the next two weeks.
My own Feminist Vital Stats (race, gender, class position, etc.) will follow tomorrow, but for today, in order to start crafting a container for our conversations (which, for a discussion lover like me, is one of the best parts of blogging as a medium), I wanna talk a bit about comment guidelines. And comment guidelines is a topic that leads beautifully into one of the main themes of my own blogging work: dhamma (a.k.a. dharma).
Dhamma, as a praxis, has probably impacted me the most out of any consciously/voluntarily adopted system of thought so far, besides feminism. (Not that they’re mutually exclusive! Lots of intersections. But. You know what I mean.)
So how does this relate to ‘crafting a container’ for threads? Are you gonna, like, only allow Buddhist comments or something?
Well, kind of….but not really.
Don’t worry — I’m certainly not about to impose some sort of Buddhist requirement for comments! In the first place, dhamma is not totally a Buddhist thing. The word (with its slippery, multiple translations as “teachings” or “the way things are”) is largely associated with Buddhism, insofar as it is what the historical Buddha taught. But one can also be a student of dhamma without being a Buddhist [raises hand], or even while being a devout Muslim, Wiccan, Hindu, Jew, Christian, Jain, atheist, etc.
I’m not here to force any part of my spiritual praxis on anyone, but to invite everybody to test aspects of it for themselves, during this brief two-week period. I think it’ll be a great chance to experiment together, as a community, with some dhammic practice principles, and see where there might be resonance — and dissonance — with our feminist discursive modes.
Some of you might be familiar with the Eight-Fold Path of dhamma, one aspect of which is “Right Speech.” (Also called Noble Speech, Wise Speech, or my personal favorite, Ennobling Speech.)
Ennobling Speech can be described in positive and negative terms. In the negative, it means avoiding lying, gossip (“divisive speech”), harsh words, and idle chatter. Positively, it means choosing speech that is (a) truthful, (b) useful, (c) timely, and (d) kind.
Now, I gave a lot of thought to whether and how I might try to incorporate an Ennobling Speech practice into comment moderation here at Feministe. It won’t be easy — these are tricky waters to navigate, for various reasons.
For example, take kind speech. How many times have people tried to shut down our feminist criticisms because they didn’t like the tone we were using? People oppressed in myriad dimensions — class, race, gender, physical appearance or ability, etc etc — are constantly getting told: Maybe if you didn’t sound so angry/loud/shrill/mean, I would be able to listen to what you have to say. For women in particular, society often demands kindness (or, we might say, palatability) at the expense of truth.
So how do we establish guidelines for dhammic speech without bolstering these messed-up ‘tone arguments’?
Here’s a start. In these comment threads, we can all do our best (and I tend to be very active in threads, so I’ll be in on this, too) to observe the following:
1. Abstain from snark. Without condemning snark or sarcasm, we’ll leave them aside while participating in these discussions. We might also try to notice the moments when we get the urge to be snarky, and just observe the qualities of that feeling.
2. Prioritize the positive. No need to ignore the negative, but we don’t have to feed it, either. Not a hard-and-fast rule, but we can actively seek out the points on which we want to build, or to which we want to offer another perspective. Ideas we want to question openly, and understand more fully. Again, we can notice the times when we feel drawn to straight-up, intense criticism, and observe what that’s like.
3. Honor our bodies. Bringing awareness to our posture, to our physical interaction with our computers, is so, so key. We’ll try to stretch, to take breaks and rest our eyes, to notice our breathing, to relax our shoulders, and to treat our bodies as kindly as we can. It’s super-difficult to stay conscious of our bodies while we’re consuming media, particularly on the Internet. And the ‘usefulness’ of speech is diminished when we sacrifice our health — even in minor ways — in the process. So for purposes of these threads, whenever possible we’ll make a special effort to notice and care for our corporeal experience.
4. Be honest(ly). We can be truthful in communication, and we can also try to be precise in our honesty with ourselves, outside of (or underneath) speech. Are we feeling defensive? Frustrated? Uncertain? Insecure or vulnerable? Lonely? Livid? Compulsive? All of those are fine to experience. Same goes for feeling inspired, joyful, sexy, bad-ass, calm, numb, curious, sympathetic, satisfied. These states are subtle, with many layers and contours — and are also always changing. Returning to #2 and #3, we can acknowledge our own negative states (along with their physical manifestations) without acting them out, staying patient and returning again and again to cultivating our positive qualities.
5. Get friendly with silence. When we look closely, we begin to see that much of our speech (and thought, for that matter) is habitual, not deeply intentional. Bringing mindfulness to commenting might mean taking more time to slowly digest what we read, rather than immediately filling up mental space by composing a response the instant we reach the end of a post. (Or even midway through!) Quiet, relaxed alertness in the mind, on the other hand, can make room for more organic and creative insights.
Obviously, there’s no way for me to enforce most of these. I don’t have some kind of secret omni-meter for measuring your mental and physical processes! (Though sometimes you can just kinda know.) So for moderation purposes, snark will be the main point for practice, along with all the standard rules against derailing, oppressive language, and so on.
Let the experiment begin! 🙂 Please feel welcome to join in — I’m eager to hear what you think. How do these guidelines sit with you at first blush?