Community Note

Here is something you need to know about me: I care about this community and the people in it.

This is not a flippant statement. Its brevity does not subvert the enormity of its meaning.

It is also not a passive statement. I actively care about the people who spend time here, and I do the business of caring on-blog and off. I mentor Shakers just starting their own blogs and seeking advice; I commiserate with Shakers who are established bloggers and share ideas; I communicate privately, in email threads that can last for weeks, with Shakers who have lost a loved one, have lost a job, have suffered an injury or trauma, are going through a relationship crisis, are having surgery, have just come out, have just had a baby, have just gotten engaged, are considering an abortion, a divorce, self-harm, need advice or just a sympathetic ear on any one of a million different subjects. I have reviewed résumés and served as a reference. I have found local (to them) psychiatrists, victims' advocates, a gay-friendly wedding planner, a trans-friendly doctor, a tax attorney, plus-sized clothiers.

Caring about this community is not an abstract concept to me. It is concrete and it is personal and it is an active practice.

Here are some other things you need to know about me: I make mistakes. I feel shitty, really shitty, when I make a mistake that hurts someone in this community.

I convey all of the above as preface to this: Because I care about this community as I do, it is singularly infuriating and hurtful that I am repeatedly accused of acting in bad faith when I make a mistake. Or just do/say something with which someone disagrees. The overt accusations or veiled implications—deliberate or otherwise—of bad faith, deliberate cruelty, hidden agendas, indifference, etc. are profoundly demoralizing.

And I am demoralized.

I, and the other contributors, are axiomatically assumed by many Shakers to be acting in bad faith if we err (or even if we are perceived to have erred, but haven't), even as we are simultaneously expected never to err at all. Shakesville was founded by a person, and it is managed and nurtured by people. And the continual proclamations that "I can't believe this would happen at Shakesville, of all places!" every time I, or one of the contributors, makes a mistake, necessarily implies that perfection is expected of us, as if Shakesville is a magical kingdom created of pixie dust and not a virtual space made possible by the hard work of people who are flawed and fuck up just like any other people. Our charter specifically provides room for us—and everyone else to inhabits this space—to fail, as we inevitably will. If you won't support the provision of that room to fail, then you're not providing a safe space for us.

I understand the impulse to react viscerally to something one of us posted, especially if it's hurtful. And I also understand that no one thinks it should be a big deal if they comment before thinking, just this once. But you are not alone. And if only an infinitesimally small percentage of this readership reacts viscerally by making the accusation that I was deliberately hurtful, that still makes about 20 times every single day I am being told, on the blog and in my inbox, that I act in bad faith.

It is eminently possible to bring to my attention a mistake, or register a disagreement, without engaging in ad hominem attacks, using silencing tactics, jumping to unfounded conclusions about allegedly reprehensible motives, or in some other way accusing me of acting in bad faith. Failing explicit evidence I have acted to the contrary, I expect to be afforded the benefit of the doubt that I move and act in this space with good faith. I believe I have earned that after five years.

The other contributors have earned it, too.

We are here in good faith, and that is not an opinion and it is not up for debate. Those who make accusations to the contrary are fundamentally undermining the safe space for me and the other contributors. That is not to say that dissent is prohibited or that our mistakes should not be noted or that we don't expect to be held accountable if we have erred.

It is only to say that we are expected by this community to think extremely carefully about every post, every comment, every image, every link, every word we post (and we do), and I am asking that our readers who communicate with us hold themselves to the same standard.

And, you know, that's really just a fancy way of asking people to be a little nicer, a little more thoughtful. Which I don't think is a totally unreasonable request.

Moving forward, if and on the occasions that doesn't happen, threads will be closed. (Which, as an aside, is not an invitation to take the accusations of bad faith to my inbox.) Shakers who are rightfully angry that legitimate debate is then quashed should direct their anger in the appropriate direction—at the bullies who decided it was more important to be hurtful and undermine the safe space for the people who make this space possible, and not at me and the other mods who sometimes need to protect ourselves from unfounded accusations. This stuff takes a toll.

I am flatly not going to, I can't, continue to allow myself (or any other contributor) to be endlessly berated as someone who doesn't care about this space or the people in it anymore, or I'm going to flame out.

I'm taking the rest of the week off. See you Monday.

[Commenting Note: If you have the inclination to use this thread to provide examples of something I did once upon a time that makes you totally sure that I am acting in bad faith, you have seriously missed the point. And if this thread turns into a referendum on how much I suck, it will just be closed.]

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

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