I spent a great deal of time last night acting as the piñata at a Plurk costume party.
They screamed at me, called me names (some of which I’d never heard before, which is always welcome and novel), and basically did everything internet trolls do. Gosh, they even followed through on their threat to escalate their discussion of my loathsomeness into the vast public square of (no, no, anything but …) Tumblr. Here it is, for what it’s worth. In the ten or so hours since then, I haven’t gotten one threatening email, not one comment in this space, not one nastygram on my Tumblr account. I guess they have as much suasion out in the wide world as they do in their own little echo chamber on Plurk.
Which isn’t to say they’re wrong. Not about everything. They’re wrong about how they characterize me, and they’re wrong about who the “creep” or the “coward” is: the person burrowing down deep into the cybersphere’s lowest chambers to talk anonymously behind someone else’s back, or the person they’re slandering who finds their little troll-hole and drops by to say hello at the risk of his own name and reputation.
(My favorite part of the Plurk/Tumblr exchange: “Makes me wish someone takes him up on his offer and gives him exactly the review he deserves.” Oh, and these are not the droids you’re looking for.)
But they are a hundred-percent right about one thing:
I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about.
I can’t tell black radical feminism from free radical oxidation. I was reaching for a catch-all term, and clearly over-reached. In doing so, I broke one of my own cardinal rules: Don’t skimp on the research. I did, and spoke out of ignorance and, for that, I am truly sorry and deeply disappointed in myself.
I’m not sure how much better informed the members of the Plurk pecking party are. Maybe they all got Ph.D.s in feminist theory, but you couldn’t tell from our exchange. They kept telling me “do your research,” but not one of them could recommend a starting point: an author, a book, a web site, any reference at all. One helpful soul posted a Google link with “feminism” as a search term, so I got to see the Wikipedia entry and the last nine things anyone on the Web had to say on the subject.
Well, I started there. I looked over the Wiki. The first thing that surprised me was that there are at least 41 different “variants” (Wiki’s term) of feminism, they don’t all agree, and they are sometimes hostile to each other or feel betrayed by one another.
Now that’s something I can understand. I’m not just a white guy, I’m a funny white guy, which in a lot of cases (including the current) means I’m a Jew. There are only 15 million of us in the world (Jews — there are even fewer funny white guys), to give the broadest number. Fair to say, for every one of us, there are 10 people who want to see us all dead. Not converted, not kept in our place, but taking a big, permanent, ethnic dirt nap. And yet we have at least 41 different variants ourselves and spend a lot of time talking straight past each other. They say the only thing you can get two Jews to agree on is what a third Jew should give to charity.
So it is with feminists, I surmise. It would be a mistake for you to assume that the hardcore Satmar Chassidim speak for all Jews, are the most devout, or express the purest form of our faith. Likewise, it was a mistake for me to posit that “radical, black feminist” opinions are the only ones worth soliciting. And for that I sincerely apologize with all humility and without reservation.
To take this one step further, let me open up the invitation. If you have a literary review blog that takes any feminist theory or racial theory as a primary position, please let me send you a free PDF of Mighty Mighty for your critique. I feel the need to re-clarify: I’m not looking for a favorable review necessarily (take it if I can get it), but an honest one so that my next book can be better.
I remain convinced that true feminists, true people of strong racial identity, and true people of good faith throughout the world have a sense of humor that seemed absent from last night’s chats. I also challenge that gang’s premise that “we’re not here to help you.” Yes, you are. Just as I’m here to help you. Otherwise, why are we all here, and why are we all so unique?