Feminist writers often talk about the emotional labour they’re compelled to perform, an additional layer of expectation and to-doing. Often, it’s comparable to what most people do in their jobs – we network, we engage in professional development like reading, conferences and courses.
But it gets an added layer – we have to spend an inordinate amount of time sorting through abuse, supporting each other through each wave, all the while trying to earn some semblance of that 81c per dollar women earn in Australia.
This layer takes a toll on most, though some rise through it like the Morrigan they are. For the rest, perhaps we end up cagier about going out in public, or perhaps there’s an added defensiveness to our online communication waiting for the slap of a hand, or we tire of the op-ed cycle that capitalises on this stress and fatigue for cheap churn.
I’m one of those people – I’ve only weathered a few crises but I’ve watched others face worse more often. Amazingly, sitting shotgun on crises and going through them personally have the same impact. I develop huge anxiety, get angry at what gets said and published (as though the act of publishing gives an added credibility) and who takes part, all the while spending hours with others affected by it all.
The impact is that I don’t want to write op-ed because all I end up seeing is a publishing system that sets out a strawman and then charges money for the matches.
A website will publish a piece about how feminism (and a particular feminist) is doing things wrong – this will often be written by a man, though god knows we have enough pigs sitting at the table with the farmers discussing Marx.
Then comes the outrage of clicks – always directly linked so the publisher gets the views and potential revenue. This is outrage that weighs profit above the wellbeing of others, like publishing ill-thought screeds of a juvenile writer and his target. It’s a model where the publisher looks after one entity: the publication.
And you fuckers fall for it every time. A flurry of rebuttals fire up like arrows and, just like most arrows, they miss the mark. Publish a piece with the originating publisher and you can be certain there will be no criticism of the publisher, just more bland arguments grabbed from women who might not have been published there otherwise. Publish it elsewhere and you’re contributing to another publication’s attempt to cash in on the cycle.
Meanwhile, more clicks and insults are traded online. MRA’s feast like scavengers while allies go rat-king and attack each other in ever-increasing levels of lateral violence (another fantastic distraction technique to distract from work).
The only entities that are looked after in this exchange are the publications.
There’s a reason op-ed is so popular these days – it has a low barrier to entry and promises relatively easy money for those who write often enough and are backed up by a day job. It’s the sort of writing work that is incredibly profitable for sites looking for spikes in hits that other writing can’t bring – it’s low investment, quick turnaround and people will prioritise opinions and personal experience over all other communication.
But its rise is wholly predicated on exploitation – of readers, writers and everything in between. Individual people are treated like objects, endlessly autopsied rather than discussed. Writers get paid less to do more with less time. Then everyone gets attacked or mocked by the lazy affectations of disaffected-libertarian-manchild memery.
Yet more jump into the fray – watching the industry for three years I can pinpoint the cycles, where new writers are brought in, new insults are developed and more people lock themselves into the cycle and others disappear. Everyone is so earnest about their participation – even the disaffected-libertarian-manchild memers – and no one watches the impact it has on readers and writers and ponders their personal accountability. It’s like watching a hurtling train as its passengers dismantle it from the inside while screaming “yay! I’m helping!”
This isn’t about victimhood and feminism – that’s a trope that is all too often misapplied. I’m as dubious of feminists saying “I just got a death/rape threat, that must mean I’m onto something!” as I am of MRAs or the mindless trolling from people looking to pile on and try abusing a feminist, like it’s a new online attraction.
What this is about is that we face an added workload, and all the financial, physical and psychological impact that carries, because of this work. And there are people out there who capitalise from our free labour, distracting from the work we’re actually trying to do and silence any sort of scrutiny about their part in this exchange. We’re dodging our accountability and the accountability of those who profit.
There’s a reason this was a blog and not a published piece – I could literally give zero fucks for our current media model that does this to women. That’s the same total of fucks I have for women who enter this cycle to profit on attacks of other women – you’re not standing up, you’re not standing alongside, you’re sitting down and counting the money and bylines. In short, you’re part of the problem.