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Message -v- Messenger

June 26, 2011

Two different men have been unmasked as the bloggers behind two separate lesbian feminist-identified blogs.  This has caused outrage, from what I have read in brief, but I am neither familiar with the specific blogs nor the content of the same, so am unsure what exactly they wrote.  However, from the outraged reactions, I can safely infer that it is the falsehood of their identity which has caused the pain to those readers, who before the unmasking had assumed the identity of the bloggers was as the blog gave – that of women who identify as lesbian feminists – and that the blog posts did nothing to cause the reader to question the identities of the bloggers as given.

I understand the anger of the readers – the labels ‘lesbian’ and ‘feminist’ cause many to be discriminated against and/or misinterpreted, misquoted and misunderstood, and to learn that two blogs which have been a source of support and understanding for many have in fact been written by members of the oppressive sector of society (white heterosexual men), whether these men were writing supportively or not, is a wound.  The voices of lesbians and feminists are so frequently silenced, when two of the voices which had been heard turn out to be lies it is a wound which cuts deeply.

But what exactly is it that people outraged about?  Does the message as perceived by the reader alter because the identity of the writer is not that which the reader believed to be true?  Certainly, any factual biographical information used within those blog posts can now be refuted – a male heterosexual cannot give life experience facts as a female homosexual for obvious reasons.  But any other forms of facts remain the same; statistical information, researched testimonials, all remain as factually irrefutable as before the identity of the bloggers was discovered to be false.  Facts given in blogs, especially if not source-cited and seemingly independently verifiable, should always be taken with a pinch of salt.

If there are facts detailed in a blog, then they should be verified if possible.  Libraries (vital to any society to enable all members to self-educate and self-inform in an independently verifiable manner in an egalitarian way – but that’s a different blog post), alternative websites such as news sites or encyclopaedias (even Wikipedia needs its facts checked), etymology sites and so on, all can be utilised to verify the truth of the data given as facts.  The life-experiences can only be verified insofar as the reader perceives the experience to be truthful to their own experiences.  The internet is a source of information, not the source.

You are reading my blog.  Unless you know me personally in real life, then there is no way which you can verify the personal information I have given in my ‘Who Am I’ biography.  I can assure you it is all true, but again you can only take my word for it.  My written word, as given in this blog.  How very Catch-22!

In a blog, it is the message which is written which is all the reader can perceive.  So it is how it is perceived, the resonance with which it chimes and the truth it speaks to the reader, which is important.  Did the message of the bloggers confessing their lies change as a result of the reveal?  The people who were outraged would seem to say it did.  But the words don’t change, only the truth of the people writing those words.  The perception originally gleaned from the articles when first read by the readers doesn’t change.  The bloggers were not ‘caught out’ in their lies, they confessed the real identities behind their blogs.  So the perceptions of the readers were as if those messages were written by lesbian feminists, and were believed to be true.

Blogs are read for many reasons.  Fiction, poetry, life-experience, political and/or social ‘truths’ (to a given value of personally-experienced and blogger-understood truth), all reasons for reading particular blogs.  But the only truth that can really be taken from a blog is that which the reader perceives.  Even if the blogger (such as myself, I again attempt to ensure you) is telling the truth about how they personally identify themselves, it is the reader’s perception which informs the reader.  Misunderstanding abounds; cultural and life-experience mean even individual words let alone entire passages are comprehended in a variety of ways which make blog posts mean different things to different people.

Ultimately, in a blog, it is the perception of the words which matters.  It is the message, not the messenger, which is strong.  It is how the reader perceives the written word, not the writer who writes it, which gives strength and the understanding to a post.  Message, not messenger, is the word.

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From → Ideology

3 Comments
  1. Tina – this is the real comment and can, if you like it and would like to approve it, be the one I want to express as my views.

    Although I don’t know the specifics about the blog you are referring to or the subsequent comments that caused such a reaction, I do agree that the readers of the blog have a right to be pissed. As a straight female, I may be the LGBT’s biggest supporter and advocate, however, I am not gay and representing myself this way is fraudulent. When I comment on people’s threads or their blogs, I am quick to say, “I am a straight and married woman. I’m not gay, don’t pretend to know everything you experience, but I got your back!”

    Let’s face it, lesbians and all gays in general, along with minorities are marginalized in bigoted America. Show your support of folks or don’t talk out of your a$$. That’s my feeling. I can be supportive, but that’s all I can be. In this same manner, a white person can lend support, but can’t know what it’s like – unless perhaps married to a Black person – to live with the day in and day out racism we experience.

    I wrote an article for a gay publication in which I compared two gays raising kids in today’s bigoted and homophobic society to when my parents (mom was black and dad was white) were first married in 1960 and trying to raise a family in undeniably racist America. I stated up front, I am a straight African American female, but I can’t help but draw comparisons. To do anything short of that has me coming off as a condescending person.

    I loved your piece. May I share it on my wall?

    Cheers,
    Sarita

    • Yes of course, please share away! A friend of mine made similar points to yours, and I agree – when being an activist I try to be led by those working in fields I can never experience, and not impose my own experiences and views onto them. I am of the white privilege group (save for female and actually, if not visibly, disabled), and any imposition of my ideals is unnecessary and entirely counter-productive (of course that doesn’t mean I should be entirely silent, as we know members of oppressed groups can also be oppressive in different ways – this comment is getting a bit long now!).

      Anyway, the responsibility of the blog writer is different to that of the reader, and it is the reader about whom I speak. I feel another post coming on about how I feel such lying is irresponsible, cruel, can further oppressions and silence peoples voices… but as my point is above, we as the readers can only perceive based on our experience and be responsible for that perception, and can never have control and therefore responsibility for what is written.

  2. The trouble here, whilst I do have some sympathy with what Sarita says, is that it is human nature to be linguistic chameleons in whatever form, in order to give currency to our arguments by appearing to blend in. A great many people’s accent changes depending on the demographic of the group with whom they are speaking. (My London accent turns into a cross between received pronunciation with a hint of Oxford when I am talking to my Mother for example.)

    The nature of the written form is not so divorced from this if you are trying to get a message to be read by people. If you are just posting because you wish to air views then it is more likely you will have a specific authenticity, even if this by its very nature is subjective. However it is the commercialisation of the words that necessitate a tailoring to the audience, or a perception of this requirement. Authors do it all the time, and have done for many years, take George Elliot for instance. Journalists do too, it would be seen quite often as understandable if your salary depends upon it, even if it may be objectionable. Allegory can also sometimes be used in order to say something with a subtext of something else usually to disguise the identity or motive of the writer. Writers like Gunther Kunert in East Germany used fairy tales to get their message across because this was a way of getting message through censors. Now I grant you what the bloggers did is not exactly the same but isn’t the message strengthened by the numbers of people out there speaking up? Does it not also help convince others in the majority faction that they should do so too? Perhaps what the bloggers were guilty of was insecurity thinking that their message would be diluted if they were seen to be arbitrarily part of that “ruling elite.” (this stigma can affect all of us in many areas). It might have been better if they had declared themselves to be male and been able to convey the same message for as Tina says the message is the important part and some who feel strongly a sense of injustice may wish to be supportive and not to seem patronising. Would their testimonies have been as widespread and as respected, no almost certainly not, who’s to blame for that, them or the rest of us?

    As a final postscript it is sometimes possible to obtain some insight into certain areas of bigotry, when I lived in Germany all foreigners were treated the same in my workplace regardless of creed, ethnicity or gender, it was a very inclusive racism! It was also the first form of racism I was ever on the receiving end of and extremely uncomfortable not to mention unexpected. Sure it was only for some months and not my whole life but it lent a much greater understanding than I would have had otherwise and strengthened my conviction to speak out against it. On the outside though I remain white, middle class and and with blue eyes the very picture of the perpetrators down the generations, does this make my message less valid, or does it only do so if I do not declare myself to be white middle class etc?.

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