On taking quotes out of context

In one of our threads, commenter atheistwoman cited an article I was quoted in, writing that I said I “don’t post more serious stuff because no one commented.” I’ve seen this repeated elsewhere, so I just wanted to set the record straight – because it drives me insane when people take my quotes out of context. (And this is not a jab at atheistwoman at all, just the nutty game of telephone that is the blogosphere sometimes.)
From the Utne Reader:

Jessica Valenti, executive editor of Feministing, says she’d like to see some of the “less trendy issues,” like poverty and international concerns, get more space in the feminist blogosphere. “But what happens with us is we put that stuff up and no one comments,” she says. “You put up a blog on abortion, and people do.”

I never said we don’t post on an issue because it’s not “trendy” or because it doesn’t get a lot of comments. I was expressing my disappointment in how posts dealing with more serious issues weren’t commented on as much as lighter posts. I was criticizing how so-called trendy issues get all of the attention and talking to the reporter about how we could change that. (In our case, we post on everything we think is important, whether we think it will get traffic and comments or not.)
In any case, thanks, and back to your regularly scheduled blogging…

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18 Comments

  1. sunburned counsel
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    I couldn’t agree more.
    Every week I read the interviews with fascinating women, and there are never, ever extensive comments threads. I’m sure that I’m part of the problem- but I’m so glad you all keep posting them, because I love reading them.

  2. norbizness
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    I was just checking the Salon letter count. An article on toxic ice which could endanger entire regions and drinking water supplies for tens of millions: 8 letters.
    Whether Madonna’s new album proves she is relevant: 50 letters.
    Give us all fiddle lessons, ’cause it’s only proper when Rome’s burning.

  3. firelili
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    I read many different blogs and news pages and I find that it’s *much* easier to comment on lighter pieces and on more polarized pieces about which I have a specific stance. Sometimes when I read about more complicated subjects I may not comment, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a valuable post. The number of comments doesn’t necessarily reflect the number of readers or the amount of interest a post generates.

  4. Jessica
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    firelili, I think you’re totally right. For example, I really think our Voices of… series is some of our best content – but it rarely gets commented on.

  5. atheistwoman
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    lol, I had better say something useful here.
    What is funny is that I believe I was essentially agreeing with your initial quote. That it was disappointing that more people do not comment on the more ‘serious’ stuff.
    What isn’t funny is that no one realizes when they see that quote (taken out of context over and over) that you were criticizing the practice, not saying that it affected how you posted. It just ended up making you look bad on the massive blogosphere phone-line.
    It is good that you posted this and hopefully it will clear up the confusion for some people.

  6. Posted April 30, 2008 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    I’m really glad you post on whatever you think is important regardless of “trendiness”. I actually get tired of reading post after post about abortion and rape – not that I don’t think those issues are important, but it often feels like the same thing over and over again. It is easy to get depressed by so much negative news on these two topics, and by the same trolls showing up in the comments every time. It sometimes feels like the same comment thread gets repeated over and over too.
    I agree with firelili. It is easy to post a comment on something that you have a definite stance on and just gets you angry and worked up – “this is so awful!”, while it takes more thought and energy to post on other topics that are not discussed as much.

  7. Posted April 30, 2008 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Firelili, I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s difficult to find talking points for certain issues beyond “well, this is terrible”. I find posts on poverty and immigration interesting and think they are needed but its hard to start discussions about topics that most will agree are terrible and need to be changed, so lots of people don’t comment. I haven’t figured out how to draw people into these discussions myself.

  8. Persephone
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to go out on a limb and assume no one actually meant to categorize abortion as “trendy”. Perhaps poor phrasing though.
    But I totally agree with the point being made. When you wade into murkier territory people back off pretty quickly. I’m hoping that that isn’t because they want to shut all the bad stuff out, but because it’s perhaps more thought-provoking. Sometimes the reason I don’t take a particular stance is because I’m just not sure what the solution is.

  9. Posted April 30, 2008 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    The length of the comment thread also isn’t necessarily reflective of the depth of commentary. The longest threads often become that way because of trolls or non-feminists, so many of the comments are not necessarily on topic.
    IOW: Size doesn’t always matter ;)

  10. david
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    I cannot agree more with what people are saying. A few months ago Samhito posted this:
    Prisons and STDs
    Check out my latest at the Nation. It is about the connection between rate at which STDs spread and its relationship to the rate of incarceration in communities of color and how prisons are a feminist issue and should be on the agenda of the feminist movement.
    Posted by Samhita at 01:03 PM | in Feministing | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (0)
    For me prisons are a huge topic of concern and I was absolutely thrilled to see this post because I care so much about this issue, and then I couldn’t believe that in grand total it only got three posts, one of which was mine. I am forced to wonder if talking about men in prisons and the issues they face isn’t trendy, or if people just don’t care. If people think that it should be a feminist issue, then I feel like there would be more posts, and if people think that it shouldn’t be on the agenda, then I feel like people would have said that, but virtually no one said anything, and I cannot help but feel that people just don’t care one way or the other about people (men and women) in prisons. To be fair and not sound like I only care about men on this issue, Samhita also wrote a post called “Women’s Life Behind Bars� and that post also only got 3 comments. So it looks like prisons are a topic that either isn’t trendy or that we just don’t care about.
    People keep saying that the number of comments doesn’t matter, I will agree that most post that get 30+ comments usually have a small number of people arguing back and forth, but when there is a post about a important and possibly controversial topic, and there are only 3 posts?
    I am just so grateful that we have people like Jessica who post on so many topics. It is important to bring up issues that don’t get talked about very often, like what was pointed out in the “Quick Hit: The “Orâ€? versus the “Andâ€? – Women of Color and Mainstream Feminism” post a few days ago. I just wish that people could be as expressive and communicative of these issues as they are about things like rape and abortion. Obviously they are more difficult issues to have a stance on, but doesn’t that mean we need to discuss them that much more.

  11. marileec
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Honestly? I refrain from commenting a lot because it’s so difficult. It takes forever to sign in, and then it takes ages for a comment to post, and half the time it times out.
    If I don’t have something … important to say, I just don’t bother.

  12. Faerylore
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Firelili and Outcrazyophelia, I will admit that I read most everything on here but don’t comment on a lot of the stuff I find interesting.
    I don’t know a lot about many different issues in feminism, so there’s a lot of threads where I lurk, read the comments, but don’t have anything worth adding.
    On the other hand, I will admit that on some of the more heated threads I also lurk bc I don’t have anything to add that won’t just fan the flames. And sometimes some of the comments (esp when there’s a troll about) make me really angry, and I stop reading that thread all together…

  13. Posted April 30, 2008 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    I was surprised to see so many people glom on to that part of the quote. What you meant by it — that Feministing posts on a little of everything even though “lighter” issues generally attract more comments than others — was clear to me.
    But then again, we’d been chatting about it for a while, so I knew that was where you were coming from.

  14. mjane
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    “The length of the comment thread also isn’t necessarily reflective of the depth of commentary. The longest threads often become that way because of trolls or non-feminists, so many of the comments are not necessarily on topic.”
    And sometimes people don’t post because they are afraid to get accused of being a troll or non-feminist if they don’t agree with the loudest posters. Or having their comments taken out of context…

  15. jfaustus
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    and sometimes people traffic in anti-feminist memes on a feminist web site then complain when they’re called on it.

  16. david
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    You said it Danielle,
    On the controversial/difficult/complicated issues it is very possible to have lots of differing opinions, and it makes the whole let’s band together and yell very difficult to do. I am sure that that is why people don’t comment, everyone wants to be heard, and no one wants to be ridiculed, it really is a catch 22. It is something that we all need to work on.

  17. Anna
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    I very, very rarely post on here, so I’m certainly not qualified to “speak” for the community, but this post actually made me think a lot.
    Basically, I agree with Jessica that “it’s a shame” that this happens, but I also think the bloggers here are in a position to try and change this. You guys are writing here, and writing books, to try and get people to think about feminist issues in new and more interesting ways, so it seems premature to say “no one cares about this stuff, it sucks” because it seems like part of your mission is to try and GET people to care about this stuff. I don’t have the answers, but I’d just like to point out that it would be worth thinking of strategies (that go beyond just posting the stuff) to get people to see past the trendy.
    It also seems that overwhelmingly, people say they don’t comment on less “obvious” stuff because they’re afraid to wander into the dynamite-laden blogosphere with anything less than a sure, sure opinion. I feel this too–it is a REAL challenge to run a blog in which discussion is productive at all, which is something I always find unfortunate about this medium. One of the reasons I rarely post is that it seems fruitless–even in the most “clearcut” topics on here, like stories about children being raped, things devolve into nasty arguments. For those who love to argue, this site is awesome. If people want to talk things out, collaborate on finding answers and solutions together, etc, it’s not so much. I think, again, that I have never seen a blog that succeeded in actually being a truly productive place for discussion, so it’s not picking on your guys, but I do believe that if you set yourselves the challenge of making that kind of space happen (and I have no idea how you do this!) then you’d be way more likely to see more engaged participation, and on the scarier issues.
    And feminism loves to subvert a medium, doesn’t it?
    While there is some truth to the idea that the number of comments shouldn’t matter, I think they also can. Afterall, there is a reason you are a blog, and not a magazine. Blogs are all about the interaction between users, and again, they are ideally about interesting exchanges. So I think it IS important to fix this, because the whole POINT of this medium is to get a discussion going.
    Good luck!

  18. faerietails
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    Comment count doesn’t necessarily reflect that the posts aren’t being read, though. I’ve never commented on the “Voices of” stuff just because…I don’t know, “keep up the good work” sounds kinda trite or something. But I always read love reading those posts. It’s cool when there’s a lot of commentary, but I read mainly for the initial content of the posts.

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