A Note On The Site

I’ve been having a discussion with Porpentine about the site and what we publish and why. I’ve also been reading reactions on Twitter, etc. I would like to make it clear:

  • Someone once said that you are only as good as your worst [insert thing here,] that these things define you. I agree inasmuch as people will remember these things the most, I don’t, however, think that overall (arguably) Good Work is erased because of a stumble;
  • Stumbles–I own to them. I also recognize them for what they are, which is to say, not indicative of an overall “site philosophy.” The site largely functions on my judgements, and these will not always be sound. I’ve tried gathering the help of other editors with mixed success, I’ve tried reaching out to people who I think have better judgement than me, but people do not have the time and inclination–a site is a lot of work. The best I can do is to listen and learn;
  • I am always open to talking about things, provided that the conversation actually tries to make me understand why you have an issue with something–not simply that you have an issue.  I can’t make decisions based on the fact you have an issue–not ones that I can learn from so as to make sure I don’t make the mistake again in the future. I need reasons: not because I don’t think you have a point, but because if I made the mistake, then it follows I don’t understand, right? Okay, help me understand. I’m listening.

Anyway, that’s all based on Adam Ruch’s latest article. Do I think there were problematic bits in there? Yes–much in the same way I think there are problematic bits in just about anything I publish (which is to say, that alone doesn’t disqualify something from appearing on the site BUT, again–my judgement will fall short.) I also think there are some worthwhile things in there which admittedly have gotten muddled amidst tone, gatekeeping, and so on.

I know there are things that are invisible to me that may not be to other people. I wish I was better at recognizing them, and, hopefully with your help, I can. I hope I’m not overstating my blindness to issues (or even that this is a big constant, because overall I think the site errs on the side of being a good one!)–I’d just like to make it clear that no, I don’t always catch them. There’s a reason so many issues persist even when they affect the people who uphold them: they’re insidious.

I know people realize this, but when you come with the pitchforks, everyone gets thrown under the bus: someone was silenced, a person becomes not just responsible for it but victim, tensions rise between those affected as if they’re on different sides…I don’t want that to happen.

The easiest thing, were it possible, would be to nip these issues in the bud–but in situations like these, where that’s not an option, the next best thing I can do is listen and learn and do better next time. I’m sorry that perhaps in my adjusting to making the site better someone else might be a casualty, but it’s not done on purpose, nor do I want that to happen.

I’d like to apologize to anyone I’ve made feel unsafe, unwanted, antagonized, and so on. Intentions don’t matter, so I’ll save telling you I didn’t mean it, and will simply close with the reiteration that I hope you understand I am willing to listen.

For now, I hope we can recognize this as what it is: growing pains.



  1. RudeGirlfruit

    @patriciaxh aside: your site design is SOOOO slick

    • patriciaxh

      @RudeGirlfruit You can thank @aliendovecote

  2. Chewblaha

    @patriciaxh Uhhh.

  3. Chewblaha

    @patriciaxh Oh you’re not following me anymore. Thank God that I can stop being polite and finally take you off the timeline.

  4. The Assmen have weighed in on the conversation

  5. Just because the article has worthwhile things in it, doesn’t mean the article is worthwhile. We’re better than a few nuggets of gold buried in shit. I like hearing new voices on NM not an article that’s the exact equivalent of someone women have to block every time they want to use the Internet.

  6. Dylan Holmes

    I’m not sure I do recognize this for what it is. What, precisely, are the growing pains? Are you saying, as Porpentine is, that Adam’s article should not have been published? Are you simply apologizing because those whole spate of articles has inevitably offended people? I’m all for transparency and mea culpas, but I’m legitimately not sure what your conclusion is here, or what lessons have been learned.

  7. MarijnLems

    Man, I’ve just found Nightmare Mode (through a link to Ellison’s beautiful “Romero’s Wives”), and already we’re right in the middle of a shitstorm. First up, I’d like to thank the entire staff and all the contributors for this amazing website – it really fills the Kill Screen-shaped hole in my life (after that website made itself irrelevant by focusing on shorter, “newsier” pieces).
    Anyway, I really have a problem with the tone of this entire ruckus. Now, I’m aware of the concept of privilege, and the last thing I want to do is delegitimise the problems some people seem to have had with the article. Still, I don’t think it could ever be a solution to say things like “this article should never have been published”, and Anna Anthropy’s comments on how Ruch is really silencing Moss and how that’s as bad as outright censorship ring really, really hollow. If we’re ever going to root out sexism, we can only do it by tirelessly dialoguing with anyone we consider an offender, not by calling for their heads (and I realise that in itself is a privileged statement, and it’s not an especially fair thing to ask of people who have been confronted by this sort of thing all their lives, but them’s the breaks). And that goes double for cases like this one, where there seems to be some reasonable disagreement about the author’s offenses.
    So more power to Mattie Brice for welcoming discourse. The way people like Porpentine and Auntiepixelante reacted, it seems like they don’t really want any discussion, they’re much happier wallowing in sarcasm and aggression. And Tobi Hill-Meyer’s comment was probably the best one: though also pretty harsh, she at least makes the effort to explain everything that’s offended her in the piece (as well as deconstructing some of the wrongheaded underlying assumptions of the writer). Though I certainly don’t agree with all of her points (again, she closes with the accusation that Ruch is trying to shut Moss’ critique down), she made me understand the hostile reaction to Ruch’s piece a lot better.
    TL;DR: I’m with Dylan Holmes in wondering what you’re apologising for, Patricia. For insensitivity? Sure, okay. But I’d much rather read a website that treats an article like this as the basis for a spirited and intelligent discussion than as something to apologise for.

    • Kim Marx

      @MarijnLems Two people talking to the same audience but never each other isn’t really discourse, or conversation, or any form of discussion. It’s an absolute lack of communication if it is anything.
      Plus, the idea that the only solution to sexism is convincing sexist people to not be sexist is absurd. You fix sexism by not allowing sexists platforms to teach spread their sexism to others. Bigotry isn’t rooted in reason or understanding. It’s an absolute lack thereof. The responsibility of not being bigoted falls upon the bigoted, and they’re far more likely to realize, “Oh, I am actually being bigoted,” if they suffer constant, inescapable consequences for their behavior than if they’re constantly treated as though the garbage they spew has any actual meaning or value. If that isn’t enough, the alternative is to let them die in obscurity. And nothing of value was lost.
      That second bit has actually nothing to do with whether or not Ruch was sexist or anything. The idea that there’s an obligation to teach bigots to not be bigots is just incredibly disgusting.

      • MarijnLems

        @Kim Marx Okay, so what do you propose? If we don’t try to educate people about sexism, its roots, its insidiousness, etc, how can we ever effect change? You say it’s by not giving a platform to sexist ideas, which is certainly part of the solution, but you’re absolutely wrong when you think you’re going to stamp it all out by simple polarisation – even if that would work in the short term, it also leads to social resentment and further problems down the line. Education and aggressive opposition have to go hand in hand (this article on this very site is a good example: http://nightmaremode.net/2012/11/gaming-the-system-oppression-play-23338/).
        Take myself as an example. I have no way of proving my feminist credentials, but please trust me (at least for the sake of argument) when I say that I’m not the least emancipated guy in the world. Still, when reading Ruch’s piece, I had no idea that any of it could be construed as offensive. Sure, its tone was somewhat academically condescending, but that didn’t strike me as particularly gender-based. The point is that I had more learning to do, and I learned nothing from Porpentine’s and Auntiepixelante’s comments, nor would I have learned anything if the article had not been featured on the site (besides which, I would have missed some of the valid points that Ruch made). On the other hand, I learned a lot from some of the other commenters (especially Tobi-Hill Meyer, like I mentioned).
        Now, why is it so important that I (and others that read this site) learn? Because we can all be agents for change. This whole episode has made me more perceptive when it comes to some of the less visible manifestations of bigotry, and so I can be more critical of this kind of thing in all my endeavours. So no, I don’t think it’s disgusting to think that we all have an obligation to teach bigots not to be bigots – not being a bigot is, for most of us, a constant learning process and we can use all the help we can get.

        • Kim Marx

          @MarijnLems Have fun with your victim blaming. I’m done with this.

        • NthDegree256

          @Kim Marx  @MarijnLems
          Hmm. Can we maybe conclude that there are two distinct sets of people here – the ones for whom any attempt to teach will just bounce off ineffectually, and the ones who actually do want to learn? My experience hitting these articles tracks with MarijnLems’ in that I didn’t notice all of the flaws in Ruch’s piece on my own, and really appreciated seeing them pointed out… but similarly, I’ve seen enough brickheaded people online to accept that some people are not going to give any ground if you try to engage with them.
          The trouble seems to be that what works for one group is completely wrong on the other – trying to engage with the assholes just gives them a platform to continue spewing garbage, but aggressively shutting down the mistaken-who-want-to-learn comes across like that bit from The Simpsons – “You tried your best, and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.”
          Is there a better way to maybe identify and partition out those two groups?

        • MarijnLems

          @NthDegree256  That makes sense. However, can we at least agree that there is no evidence so far that Adam Ruch belongs in the “brickheaded” camp?

        • MarijnLems

          @Kim Marx I’m not blaming anyone, least of all the victims. I’m just trying to explain to you that I think it’s not constructive to deal with bigotry (and especially non-“brickheaded” bigotry) in the way that you propose. In retrospect, I understand why the word  “obligation” might be problematic, but I only meant it to signify that we all have an obligation to try and make the world a better place (and sure, the ones with the most privilege (white guys like me) have the biggest obligation), NOT specifically that victims of harassment have an obligation to rehabilitate their tormentors.

    • Hah, timing. Of course there’s an influx of people *right now.*

      I’m apologizing because I think I could have done a better job to edit the piece such that it focused on the worthwhile ideas and stripped away places where it was possibly antagonistic/offensive. But, mostly just offering the idea that if I fuck up I’d rather people talk to me about it than blow up and assume things are going downhill forever without possibility of change. I stand by Adam because that is what editors do, they stand by what they publish and own up when they falter. Reading people’s concerns made me privy to things in it I didn’t catch on my own–things that didn’t have to happen in the first place. I’m posing that that will happen in the future despite good intentions and that I hope people talk to me about it and help me understand why they have issues.

      What I’m saying is, while I do apologize for the strife that could have possibly been avoided, it’s less an apology than a reminder that I’m open to talking to people.

    • wrong
      no one deserves to have their life turned into a “tireless”, endless education for others

      • MarijnLems

        @Porpentine Come on, like I was even remotely propagating THAT. I’m not asking anyone to sacrifice their entire life for this (though I have nothing but respect for someone like Anita Sarkeesian, who DOES seem to have made education her mission even though she was the victim of extremely brutal harassment). I’m just saying that it doesn’t help the goals you stand for to refuse to really engage with the perpetrators of even relatively minor examples of bigotry (like Ruch’s piece).

        • @MarijnLems you’re exactly the kind of person who makes the world a terrible place for minorities

        • @MarijnLems let’s try an experiment, i demand that you defend your right to live as a white male in a 5000 word essay. if you don’t, heterosexuality is destroyed.
          You’re really doing a disservice by not engaging with me here. *wakes you up in the middle of the night, shines intense light in your face* You’re really hurting your cause with this. *bursts into the bathroom while you’re in the shower* Disassemble your body and be converted into a living textbook for the cause. If you don’t, the world will be destroyed in 5, 4, 3

      • NthDegree256

         Yeah, this is the part that is absolutely true, and that I know I keep failing to intuit because I don’t have to deal with it on a daily basis. It’s easy enough for me to say “we should all try to discuss and educate without getting angry!” because I’m generally lucky enough to not have had to put up with so much bullshit all the time, so I tend to make the mistake of generalizing my opinions across all experiences, which (given more reflection) is obviously wrong.
        And MarijnLems – maybe dial it back a little. I think your heart’s in the right place but it should be obvious at this point that you’re not coming across well, and even if it’s not clear what’s going wrong, stepping back and taking a breather is probably the healthiest course of action at the moment.

        • MarijnLems

          @NthDegree256  @Porpentine Yeah, you’re both right. Listen, Porpentine, I’m sorry that I offended you. I wasn’t successful at presenting my contrasting opinion in a non-prescriptive manner, for which I apologise.

  8. Pingback: Don’t jump to conclusions – we’re complicated » Digital Spirit Guide