What do we, as writers, owe other writers?
I’ve been thinking about this in the context of my “talking while privileged” argument. In general, when making arguments about privilege and power, I try to be gracious when people with less privilege don’t like what I say. I thank them for reading. I listen to their critique. I think about what I might learn from it.
What might I learn from this, other than to be angry that another writer decided to reduce my prose to this little la-la-la insult and send it out to her thousands of twitter followers?
1.Sometimes, it’s ok to be angry. I don’t know where Kelsky and I lie on the spectra of power and privilege. She has a much bigger profile and a big business weighing in on academic matters. On the other hand, when writing about gender, I try to accept criticism from women with grace (much as when writing about academic labor, I try to accept criticism from adjuncts with grace). But this is a mean little dig, it’s not seeking me out with a mention, but I know my article and it’s from a fellow writer for the Chronicle. I get to be angry.
2. I am a man writing about feminism and fatherhood. It’s going to raise hackles, people from both the left and the right are going to have visceral, quick, reactions and it’s important that I don’t get angry.
I actually think Kelsky might like my essay about using my privilege as a father to help dismantle my privilege as a father and yet create a better working environment for both men and women. You cannot make someone read you closely, so I am going to have work on my early sign-posting to derail this gut reaction. When you’ve been dealing with sexism, as I’m sure Kelsky has, when you dwell on the internet with its misogyny and mansplaining, it’s little wonder that readers like her have a gut, negative, reaction to my writing. I believe, though, because I’m an optimist, that I can win some people over by just writing better.
I also know this. This little barb stung. It stung much more than the endless parade of homophobic comments from right-wing trolls, the cries of gender betrayal from MRAs, or the clueless, “everything’s fine for me!” from other straight white dads. It stung because I think we’re on the same side here, but I am coming across as the enemy.
But then you pluck the barb out, put on a bandaid, and get back to writing. It’s going to be a busy day of essay writing, working in the yard, and playing with my son. Enjoy Friday.