Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2013 Year in Review

Welp, as 2013 comes to a close I thought I'd reflect a bit on blogging over the course of the year.

1) Thanks!

Whether you're an "old regular" or a new visitor, thanks for checking in here now and then to read my writing.  And, relatedly, I appreciate that some of you take the time to comment or email me to say hi or let me know my writing has had some sort of impact on you.  For this blog being on Internet, the majority of you who comment here are friendly, reasonable, and funny people and I'm grateful for that!

2) The 2014 Reading Experiment

Secondly, I've decided to go ahead with the experiment to read, for pleasure, only books written by women in 2014. I'll post periodic updates with what I'm currently reading and what's in my queue, and other readers can feel free to chime in with recommendations and what they're reading as well.

I'm starting with:
  • Excluded, by Julia Serano (I've technically already started this book, but I know I won't finish it until January!)
  • The Broken Kingdoms, by NK Jemisin (Book 2 of her Inheritance Trilogy)
  • Kushiel's Dart, by Jacqueline Carey
  • Rape is Rape, by Jody Raphael
Thanks to all who participated in that conversation the other day and who gave reading recommendations.

I've had the Raphael book in my queue for a long time, and actually received a review copy of the book from the publisher.  However, I think the book is going to be an intense rape culture read, and well, sometimes, a person just doesn't have the will to read about sexual assault, even for purposes of writing a book review.

I'm going to tackle the book in 2014, however, because some Penn State fans have harassed Raphael online, including sabotaging her Amazon reviews, because she purportedly made what appears to have been a minor error in her book related to a detail in the Penn State sex abuse scandal. (I say that without having read the book yet and knowing all the details, so Penn State fanboys can just hold off on starting a shitstorm here).

3) Top Fannie's Room Posts in 2013

Here were the most-read posts in Fannie's Room during 2013, by month:
I'd like to add that Melissa McEwan from Shakesville included many of these posts in her recommended reading posts, directing a lot of traffic my way.  Much appreciation to her! *fist bump*

4) Family Scholars Blog and Thoughts on Guest Blogging

Another thing that happened in 2013 was that the Family Scholars Blog (FSB), where I had been a guest blogger since 2012, was abruptly placed on, what the owners of the blog called, a "hiatus."  I still remain mostly in the dark about what all prompted that decision and whether the blog will ever resume again.  

About a year ago, I had actually tried to resign from my stint there, but was talked out of it by David Blankenhorn.  I won't divulge the details of that conversation, but I will say much of the experience has left me with a somewhat-bad unresolved taste in my mouth. I guess that's fine. Not everything in life ends up being resolved, so these days I've thought of the experience in terms of what I've learned from it.

I've guest written at many sites during my time blogging, and with respect to my time at FSB, I learned some valuable lessons about conditions/questions I would need answered before I accepted another guest blogging gig anywhere, but especially at a site run by those with whom I have large, fundamental disagreements about LGBT and gender issues.  These lessons might be helpful to others who might be considering guest blogging, so.

For one, I would ask for control over how my posts were moderated. If a couple people consistently showed up to steer comments in a toxic direction, would I be allowed to ban them from my posts?  Would the owners support me in, or resent for, drawing these boundaries?

Relatedly, I would request a bit of transparency in how comments were moderated "behind the scenes."
I would want to know, for instance, whether moderators moderated conversations under their usual blogging identities or, say, whether they commented under one identity while moderating comments under a different "Moderator" identity.

I would also want to know who is actually doing the moderating and/or running of the blog and what qualifies them for that role?  Are they a college kid, an intern, a paid staff person?  I've been doing this a long time and I've developed a good instinct now for when someone shows up who's likely to be A Problem.  Am I going to be gaslit by less experienced moderators when I recognize problematic patterns?

And, importantly, I would ask the blog owners how much they have thought about the comment moderation policy at their site, and try to assess if the site had a semi-workable one.  I've written several posts over the course of the year discussing how running a site that strikes a reasonable balance between freedom of expression and participant safety actually takes a lot of work and actual resources.  So, I'd want to know, for instance, whether the blog owners had a belief that contentious conversations would somehow end up being mostly civil on Internet, or whether they were fine with their blog being an "anything goes" forum where hostility is implicitly sanctioned.

TL;DR version - I have high standards for guest blogging gigs, especially when I'm volunteering my time and writing skills.

Anyway, a big positive of my time blogging at FSB was having been able to maintain a friendship with Anna, also a former FSB guest blogger, who runs The Feminist Librarian blog.  *waives*   It's also her copy of Excluded that I've been reading for a few weeks now, and I promise I will finish it soon!

5) NOM's Thomas Peters In Serious Accident

National Organization for Marriage (NOM) employee and blogger Thomas Peters was injured, in July, in a very serious swimming accident that fractured his vertebrae.  I knew of Peters mostly through his public opposition to same-sex marriage and LGBT equality.

His family keeps a blog, updating it with notes on his recovery, and I actually have it in my blog reader.  His recovery has sounded arduous and it seems he has little ability to move his body below his neck. In November, Peters was back in very limited capacity, reflecting on his time away from his advocacy work.

I've thought several times about sharing my thoughts on his post, and each time have stopped. A part of me was hoping his experience would have given him greater compassion for LGBT individuals, maybe an "Upworthy" inspirational change of heart about things. But, *spoiler alert* , he's back Tweeting:


Most of all, I'm sad that he'll continue opposing my equality, as he has vows to "come back and fight harder than ever" for all of his beliefs about marriage, a vow he makes while typing with only the knuckle on his pinky finger.

This past year, I had to have a surgery that has a notoriously uncomfortable recovery period.  My partner was with me, similar to how Peters' wife has supported him, every step of the way. She was with me in the hospital, in the waiting room, and when I woke up in the recovery room. She brought me home, made me meals, kept the household running - none of which I would have been able to do on my own.

Perhaps the Peters family would cringe at me even daring to compare our relationships, but Peters' wife sounds similarly wonderful - devoted, caring, and loving.  We do have this common shared humanity, whether they acknowledge it or not.  And, even if Peters doesn't see our commonalities, I do.  I wish he did too. And, I wish him healing and peace.  We disagree about a lot of stuff, so I'll just leave it at that.

6) A Good Year for LGBT Rights!

Lastly, on a more upbeat note, 2013 was actually a pretty good year for LGBT issues in the US (although, content note for the first item on that list - Aziz Ansari doesn't actually "take down" homophobia, he really just makes a fat joke. Not sure why that item is #1 on the list when so many things that were actually cool happened last year and are depicted on the list).

Multiple states, including my home state, legalized same-sex marriage.  And, as soon as same-sex marriage is officially legal this Summer in Illinois, my partner and I will be upgrading our civil union to a marriage so we will be treated equally under federal law! We will have been together 8 years, and will be keeping our civil union certificate just to show future generations what it was like in the "old days."

Also, Laverne Cox, in Orange is the New Black, became the first trans woman of color with a leading role on a relatively mainstream TV show.  And, national organization GLAAD affirmed its commitment to supporting trans and bisexual people, in addition to gay men and lesbians, which is a big step for Gay Inc.

Welp, I guess that wraps up this Year in Review Post.  See you next year (har har har)!

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