I’m writing this with a fair bit of hesitation for the can I might be opening here.
I beg everyone to approach this topic with some humility, maturity, and a healthy dose of salt because it isn’t just about the folks mentioned specifically here; I think that all of us, at one point or another, have been in these situations.
Lately, there have been some – well, let’s call them unpleasant happenings – in a couple of the blog circles I travel. At one point a week or so ago, Falcon posted an entry that brought up the idea that a great many men like to watch women having sex. This offended Gerry over at TwoBlueDay, and he put up a post about being offended and about removing Falcon from his blogroll. I kind of cringed a little; I don’t like it when my friends don’t get along.
Both gentlemen emailed me to ask if I thought they were overreacting, and my response to both of them was no. To each, I expressed my rock-solid belief that they have a perfect and unassailable right to their opinions and, further, to put those opinions up on their own blogs. I tried to mediate the situation a bit by explaining to each of them what I think I understand of the other, but in the end I hope I managed to get across the idea that I respected their rights to their views, both about content and each other.
I was talking to Auntie about it the other night, and asked her what she thought. She reads both Falcon and Gerry, and Gerry had asked me specifically about whether or not Auntie was offended by Falcon’s post (Auntie is a lesbian, and Falcon mentioned that girl-on-girl sex as one of the things that many men enjoy watching). I told him that I would be mightily surprised if she was bothered by the post; my sister does not offend easily and, in fact, can ride out quite a lot without ever even getting her hackles up. Still, I asked her, and her response was somewhere along the lines of “oh, hell no.”
It was at that point that I thought it might be a good idea to have this conversation in the open; to talk about the edges of blog propriety (if there even IS such a thing) and about respecting one another’s right to say or show what s/he feels is necessary and appropriate for their forum. I thought this might be a good opportunity to discuss tolerance and not taking things personally, and about whether or not a link on a blogroll constitutes an endorsement of all the material found on a blog. I wanted an opportunity to talk about how to disagree with someone – even vehemently – and still respect that person. I emailed everyone involved and asked for permission to put this out in public, got that permission, and started thinking about how best to present it.
As I was composing this post in my head, something else happened. Kizz had written a Ten Things Tuesday about the Olympics, and was heartily bothered by a comment that Gerry left in response. She challenged him, in another comment, to try to word his responses such that they didn’t have the potential to instantly raise the ire of the authors; she found him combative and difficult, and invited him to phrase his comments so he comes off as being a bit more open to conversation.
All of this feels really icky to me, but I’m not one to shy away from what I see as a seriously rich opportunity for growth and learning.
Let me say here, with no equivocation, that I respect everyone involved in these (mis)adventures. Do I always agree with what everyone – these folks, or anyone else – has to say? Of course not; I’m not sure that it’s untrue that there’s EVER been a blogger that I’ve read who hasn’t rubbed me the wrong way at one point or another. Sometimes I engage the writers in my disagreement, sometimes I don’t, but I almost always find that, despite some misgivings I may have, I still respect them.
So, I’m opening this up for conversation – polite and respectful conversation. How do you handle authors whose tone gets under your skin? Where’s the line that defines “offensive” to you? What’s the difference between a spirited commenter and a troll? Have you ever crossed a line with a blogger? How did you handle the situation? How do you navigate the inherent problems with written communication (that there is no inflection or body language to be read along with the words)? In short, how do YOU work the tough spots in this blogging life we’ve chosen?
*Edited to include: Gerry wrote a really good piece about the nuances of language and interpersonal communication this morning that, I think, really adds an important component to this discussion. PLEASE go and read; he said it far better than I… )