Love Your Haters

Hello lovely readers. I’m sorry for my long absence. Partially sorry. I know there are blog readers who hate those kinds of apologies–you’re not waiting on tenterhooks for my next post! no one cares if I take a break! just get on with it!–and that’s fair, but I’ve yet to find a better way to begin a post after a long absence. Think of it as filler, like “how are you doing?” or “did you watch the superbowl?”

So I’m sorry for the long absence. This winter has been a succession of things that interfere both with sewing and with taking pictures. Car troubles–I got sick–my daughter got sick–our beloved little Simba passed away quite suddenly. I have lots of posts written up and waiting just for photos, but who wants to see my bleary-eyed, tear-stained, red-nosed face on top of a sewing project? Not me and, I’m guessing, not you. It will pass, eventually, as will this interminable winter which felt two years long on December 27th and by now feels like the winter in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. As if it will never end and I will be shoveling my driveway every three days for eternity.

So I thought, what better way to ease myself back into blogging then to write a non-sewing post that is sure to piss off everyone?

I mean, if you thought the fitting post was bad, or if you were offended by my feelings about the white supremacist sexual assaulter bigot who currently occupies the Oval Office, just wait.

I used to write for publication a fair bit. Mostly small pieces in mostly small publications, and it all ground to a halt a few years back for reasons that are largely incidental to this post, but which you may hear about the next time I feel like alienating my readers with a non-sewing post.

One piece, an essay about being a single mom and a type 1 diabetic, I placed in Brain, Child magazine. I was pretty thrilled. I wrote about how hard it was to take care of my chronic illness when meeting the needs of a small child without any in-house assistance, and how often what I needed to do for myself took a backseat to what I needed to do for Frances.

I didn’t think this was particularly controversial, but it inspired my first ever hate-reader.

My boyfriend at the time found her blog post, and for reasons that will remain unknown forever sent the link to me. He was very concerned for my state of mind on reading it.

This blogger–who was neither a mother nor a diabetic, by the way, let alone a type 1 diabetic single mother–took extreme issue with my prioritizing my daughter’s needs over my own. She’d never had to do it, but she was sure that if she did, she would definitely be able to make her diabetic care needs a higher priority than her daughter. I was doing it all wrong.

“Are you ok?” boyfriend asked. “You know she’s wrong, don’t you?”

“Are you ok?” friends asked. “You don’t deserve this!”

“ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?” I replied. “I wrote something with a big enough audience that I got a HATE READ! This is amazing!”

I didn’t enjoy what she had to say, and I still think she was wrong. But good lord, if there’s one thing that divides the successful from the try-hards, it’s that the successful have very large audiences, and in that very large audience is *guaranteed* to be someone who thinks you are the worst.

Some people hate Shakespeare.

What kind of hubris does it take to think that in a world where people hate Shakespeare, every good person of sense is going to love you?

There is a landmine directly under my right foot, and here I am, about to step on it. Ready? Here goes.

GOMI:

There is an undercurrent of internalized misogyny to the site as a whole that really gets under my skin. And no, it’s not because “women need to support women, always, in every circumstance, no matter what.” Women are humans and have the inalienable human right to like and dislike anything they please for any reason whatsoever. What bothers me is that it’s almost exclusively women who come in for criticism on GOMI, and much of it is incredibly sexist. “She’s a terrible mom because I saw a picture of her kids eating cheetos” and “she’s too fat to wear that” etc. I tried to start a thread once on the execrable “dating coach” and noted misogynist Evan Marc Katz (wisdom includes: sure rape is bad, but don’t let it bother you so much!) and basically no one posted in it. They were much more interested in whether or not a mom-blogger’s kids were allowed to play in an apartment hallway unsupervised for a few minutes one afternoon.

But I’ve found that undercurrent largely (though not entirely) absent in the craft section. Intersectional feminism is a Very Big Deal to most of the regular posters there and there is little tolerance for fat shaming or racism, for instance. Generally–though not always–if you’re being criticized in the craft section on GOMI it’s not because the women there are awful sexists who hate other women.

Generally it’s because they have very high standards. And I’ve gotten to know many former and current posters there, online and in the flesh; they’re not basement-dwelling life-ruiners. (I realize that all associates of basement-dwelling life-ruiners would say that.) Most of them are exceptionally skilled sewers who are very, very irritated at seeing sewing bloggers become renowned seemingly because they’re pretty young white girls who take good pictures, rather than producing clothing of actual merit. And obviously there are pretty young white girls who take good pictures and also sew well; this is the one and only time I’m going to come close to #notallmen-ing in this post.

Before you get huffy and unload on me: I don’t post there anymore. Now I hate-read it, and how’s *that* for irony? I didn’t stop posting because they’re So! Mean! though. They’re not (most of them).

I am going to suggest an alternative way of looking at GOMI to those who receive criticism there:

For god’s sake, how arrogant do you have to be to think that everyone is required to like you, love your blog, and if they don’t, never mention it where you can see/hear it?

No, wait. That’s not the tone I was going for. Let me try again:

Otherwise good people dislike each other ALL THE TIME.

Do you know which films get the worst reviews?

The big ones. The blockbusters. Because they get the most reviews.

And which books get the most negative reviews?

The bestsellers.

Seriously.

Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing was nominated for the Booker and the Women’s Prize for Fiction, won the Giller, won the Governor General’s Literary Award for English Fiction, and more. It has 51,394 adds on GoodReads as of today, with 277 one-star reviews. And another 687 are two-star.

Naomi Alderman’s The Power was one of the most-recommended, most-buzzed books of 2017 (and I personally loved it). 111,136 people have added it on GoodReads. 562 of the reviews are one-star, and another 1,701 are two-star.

Twoism, a book of poetry by Ali Blythe, has been added on GoodReads by 89 people.

There are no one-star or two-star reviews.

(I did enjoy it. This is not a criticism of Blythe’s book, only a demonstration of scale.)

Now tell me: which of those books would you prefer to be the author of?

The ones that won prizes, were written up all over the world, discussed endlessly, and sold tens or hundreds of thousands of copies?–and which also garnered hundreds or thousands of bad reviews on GoodReads, some of them probably quite mean.

Or the one with no bad reviews and 89 readers?

And can you imagine, really, either Madeleine Thien or Naomi Alderman reading those one- and two-star reviews, and going on their websites to complain about basement-dwelling meanies or haters?

Like it or not, when you write a blog, you are creating a cultural artefact, like a book or a movie, with an audience.

I can’t imagine deciding that the only reason a person might not like your blog, and might say so publicly, is because they are composed of 100% hate with no good thing to recommend them.

Yes, of course that happens sometimes. There were a lot of reviews on The Power by white boys absolutely outraged by a portrayal of a world in which they were systematically disadvantaged, and who spectacularly missed the point (that being that power corrupts whether it’s held by a man or a woman). But not all of them. Compare these two one-star reviews, both by women:

“It all sounds ok, right? Well, it isn’t. I don’t care one bit about Alderman’s link with Atwood, her ability to write a good sentence, or the fact this book has sold and sold and sold, been broadcast on BBC radio 4, and will probably end up as a movie. It’s sick. I get that the world would alter considerably if women became the big kahunas. I get that things could go wrong. I also understand that there could be a real backlash against men if women suddenly became so strong that they could do whatever they wanted to a man, but I don’t believe women would become so feral and so insanely cruel.”

And this one:

I think the beginning of The Power was a lot stronger than the middle and the end (minus the last few pages, which I actually really enjoyed). I think with some more editing, or perhaps a few stronger or harder hitting scenes, the book would have been better. Unfortunately it kind of drifted off into a sea of blandness and I stopped caring about any of the characters and their shenanigans.”

These two reviews were written about the same book. It’s hard to believe, isn’t it?

I understand the first reviewer’s reaction, though I didn’t share it. I frankly don’t understand how someone could ask for harder-hitting scenes in a book that describes rape, torture, genocide, and the slaughter of children, but that was the second reviewer’s reaction and she’s entitled to prefer books composed of 99% atrocities if she wants. Both of them are entitled to share their opinions on GoodReads, which does not exist to reassure authors and sell books but to help readers find books they’re more likely to enjoy reading, and critical and negative reviews are a part of that.

It would be completely wrong, in every sense, to say that these two women are “haters” or “losers” who live in a basement somewhere and don’t have lives and are just jealous and like to tear successful authors down. They read a book, they are sharing their opinion, it is a critical opinion.

A blog can be a wonderful tool to build communities and make friends, just like a book.

Like a book, it is intensely personal, a long-term effort by a single person who puts a lot of themself into something that feels like an extension of their very soul.

And also like a book, it is a cultural product in the public domain which people are allowed to have and express negative opinions on–even really stupid negative opinions.

You wouldn’t support an actress going on TV to complain about how all the negative reviews of their last performance hurt her feelings and undermine the cause of feminism.

You wouldn’t support an author taking to the press to complain that criticism of their latest actions or writings meant they were jealous haters who lived to tear others down.

(Atwood tried that recently in the Globe and Mail, and it didn’t go well for her.)

You wouldn’t support a musician posting on FaceBook about how negative reviews of their last album must have been written by trolls who don’t understand the first thing about music.

So please, for the love of god, stop posting on your blog about those awful basement-dwelling GOMI trolls who are anti-feminism because they don’t like your blog. It’s childish, it’s unprofessional, and it’s deeply unattractive.

(Although I suppose if Margaret Atwood got money from the Globe to do that very thing, it is quite likely that there will always be people willing to provide an audience for mindless positivity and uncritical acceptance of every god-damned thing on the internet, so long as the ‘content creator’ is well-known. It’s not like she’s been fiscally penalized for her insistence of her every word being treated as Feminist Gospel by everyone. Yet.)

The only way to avoid negative reviews is by having no readers.

You get negative reviews because you have a lot of readers. That’s a good thing.

Since I myself have almost no readers, no one I’m talking about will see this. Alas.

12 thoughts on “Love Your Haters”

  1. The ending got me! 🙂

    That was a great comparison (I’ll be honest—I never remember metaphor vs all that other stuff. Cause, science and math?? Lolol).

    I was a GOMI’er. When I found the site I was like ohmygoshthankgoodness! Someone who sees the same crappy patterns I do! Not all ohemgeesoawesome. The Fashion and Lifestyle sections are BRUTAL. A little bit of that makes it into Craft and it annoys me. It also became tough when people I had an actual, offline relationship with were being talked about.

    But when people complain about GOMI by name calling, it’s a doh! moment.

    1. I feel a bit sheepish about the ending. It was supposed to be self-deprecating knock about how my post isn’t going to affect the conversation, not a plea for comments. But I am enjoying the comments, so there’s that.

      The fashion & lifestyle sections are brutal and often hugely problematic. But there’s a way of calling out the misogyny there without saying “women have to be nice to each other always no matter what.” And it’s so irritating to see a sewing blogger with a big following who gets some mild criticism like “that doesn’t fit well” or “how does she make so many clothes?” and reacts like someone set her puppy on fire. I wish we had a healthier attitude towards criticism in the community at large.

  2. i always love reading your posts (and then i almost never comment, as it’s always a pain trying to translate my thoughts to english, and sound comprehensive).. anyways, i totally agree on all you got to say here 🙂
    i actually found out about gomi one day couple years back, when all of a sudden my blog had insane amount of traffic.. it’s never easy to read not so nice things about yourself, but frankly most of it was true, plus it made me feel super proud 😀

    1. Your english is fantastic.

      And thank you for leaving a comment! Your jeans are super fun and my first thought on seeing the yellow top was, “Oh! I recognize that pattern. It’s a recent Burda.” They look great.

      I know what you mean. It’s a complicated feeling for sure. But it sounds like you found a good way to process it.

    1. Thank you. 🙂

      If someone’s negative comment–even if angry–has a valid point, I’m happy to take it to heart. I figure they’ve done me a favour. But yes, success brings a lot of both haters and critics.

  3. I have made corrections on people’s blogs from time to time, but the whiners I usually ignore. Thinking, Oh Grow Up! As I skim past. And while I am in awe of your sewing skills, I do rejoice when you do a commenting post.
    Never mind about the GOP spine … I want to know when they will grow a brain. Even one would be good.
    Ps. I am about to get my carpal tunnel thingie fixed. I will, I hope, be able to thread a needle in under ten minutes afterwards.

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