Tell us about a time when you didn’t bend to peer pressure, and you swam against the stream. AND Write about anything you’d like, but make sure that all seven colors of the rainbow — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet — make an appearance in the post, either through word or image.
Hello. My name is Sue Kerr and I’ve been writing a lesbian blog for over 8 years. I’ve got all the colors covered.
Peer pressure is intense when you write about things political, electoral, and well anything. It can take the form of comments as in this intense response to my opinions on a cupcake eating contest (in 2008.) I was soundly chastised for having an unpopular opinion about a cupcake eating contest and for criticizing an LGBTQ owned business. And someone wished I would die.
There’s pretty much nothing you can say about cupcakes that warrants a death wish. Or there shouldn’t be.
You might note that my sister bloggers (all straight) acknowledged that I should able to be crabby about something and not receive a death wish. And that it was mostly self-identified LGBTQ folks who were nasty to me. This has been my experience for most of my 8 years – it is LGBTQ people who bring an extra dimension of personalizing their critique, everything from the “hope you croak” wish to speculating about my mental health, questioning my motives for blogging, insulting my appearance, etc, etc, etc. A year or so ago, I implemented a comment registration system to address the spam and most of the nasty comments went away.
My numbers haven’t gone down, but the commenting has.
People feel free to bully and harass others in the cloak of anonymity. We all know this. That’s why I exert control over my space – especially on social media. I delete comments, warn people to “let it go” and so forth – just as I would do it someone were being disagreeable or rude in my home. I tend to leave comments on my blog – with a few exception for true asshattery – because I feel it is a bit more of a public space than my Facebook page.
I wasn’t intending to swim against the stream when I criticized a popular gay owned establishment. But I also wasn’t going to shut up about it simply because other people disagreed with me. I had no wish to perpetuate the original critique – it happened, I stated my opinion, we all moved on to consume baked goods. But I left the comments up to remind myself of what I might face when I tackled more serious issues involving LGBTQ people.
Folks cheer me on when I blog about the bad guys – the Rick Santorum posts, the Ricky Burgess posts, even the Chelsa Wagner posts (because she’s now on the outs.) But when I try to hold “our side” to the same level of scrutiny, I am admonished. A lot. No one actually tells me not to blog on certain topics, but they have sidebar conversations with me that feel nuanced. And I second guess myself.
I don’t have strong feelings about the cupcake post so it is hard to say if I would do things differently and not swim against the stream. Probably not because being contrary is part of being a blogger. And I believe encouraging people to stuff food in their face at a rapid pace is ridiculous and gross. It was a visceral reaction. Ask Ledcat how I respond to “news stories” about hot dog eating contests.
Why did I use this example? Precisely because it is so silly. It wasn’t silly when the topics involved dead people, drugs, fraud, corruption, or tight political races. It wasn’t silly at all. I don’t like being told what I can opine about on my own blog. And I bristle at the idea that I owe some sort of greater level of loyalty to an LGBTQ owned business or an LGBTQ ally holding elected office – that’s ludicrous.
This is just one example where my being a grumpy curmudgeon brought to light the larger issue that progressives (and minority groups) can be just as “let’s keep this hush hush” secretive as the most dysfunctional nuclear family.
“If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, Whitney v California, 1927.
Political blogging is a dying art in Pittsburgh. There are less than a half dozen of us left, but even in the heyday – most were anonymous. A blogger pulled the plug to expose Ravenstahl years ago; a blogger exposed the transphobia and anti-LGBTQ leanings of KDKA’s Marty Griffin.
The amount of peer pressure is a big overwhelming at times – pressure from other LGBTQ folks, pressure from politicians and their staff, pressure from other bloggers. They all want me to stop saying things. They don’t want to start their own blogs or address these topics to create more speech. It is insidious and often well-intended, meant to protect people. But that doesn’t make it right.
And if I remain silent because important people or anonymous lesbians pressure me to do so, what would that say about all of us? All of us, not just me? We can find ways to get along – over the past 24 hours, I had perfectly civil conversations with two elected officials who do not like me and whom I’ve soundly criticized repeatedly. No fake kissing, but no overt rudeness.
Let me end with one thought. If someone has a direct conversation with me about an issue and asks me to consider or reconsider my point of view or my coverage, I respect that so much more than the subtle, implied and anonymous shots people use to achieve the same outcome. And it is more likely to work.
Or send me some cupcakes. 🙂