My Life Is Good*

On the culture of hate reading.

My life is good.*

*good but some days my job makes me crazy.

*good but I’m so tired because Eric and I had an argument last night that went on for a few hours.

*good but really stressed about money.

*good but I acknowledge it’s because of my privilege.

*good but let me tell you some bad things because I don’t want to be accused of bragging.

*good but not that good. My life isn’t perfect. 

When I saw APW’s theme for April, The Good, my first reaction was to shudder. Not because I don’t know what’s good about my life, but because… well… you want me to talk about that? On the internet? Are you nuts?

A New Niceness?

Despite the ubiquity of the Like button, the dominant culture of most major blogs and websites is overwhelmingly negative. They (we?) find a way to hate pretty much anything. In fact, finding people who hate the same things you do is often what makes the internet so amazing. The hot app at SXSW this year? Hater, an app that is all about the thumbs down button. While the founder claims it’s just a place to vent and to be authentic about the things you don’t like, I’m not sure why he thinks we need a separate app for that. It’s happening on every major social network already.

Recently, Nathan Heller wrote an article in New York Magazine claiming that the web has gotten nicer. “For those of us who learned to love the web best as a hostile, predatory, somewhat haunted place, this kindness is startling—but not as startling as it might once have been,” he writes. “These days, life online has become friendly, well mannered, oversweet. Everyone is on his or her very best behavior—and if they’re not, they tend to be quickly iced out of the conversation. The sweet camaraderie that flourished during Sandy isn’t just for terror and crisis anymore; it has become the way the internet lives now.”

To which the women on the internet replied with a collective snort.

“Yo dude, what websites have you been surfing?” one commenter wrote. “I want in on some of them. All the ones I’ve been in are flourishing with rape threats, death threats, people who genuinely think I deserve brimstone and hell fire—well, I’d run out of characters if I enumerated all of them but you get the point. Unless, maybe you haven’t got a vagina. Then yeah perhaps the internet has gotten nicer. For you.”

Katie J.M. Baker echoed these sentiments on Jezebel. “A new niceness? More like the same old bullshit. The virtual world isn’t really separate from the ‘real’ one, in which, to reference just one depressing statistic, one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. We can’t ask ‘when did the internet get so nice?’ without also asking to whom, exactly, the internet is nice—and why?”


Contrary to what Heller writes, in the past few years, a wide swath of the social media world has gone from criticizing the terrible shit that needs to be challenged to hating… everything. Apparently, we ran out of bad things to hate (I guess? I’m pretty sure there’s still some racism out there that we didn’t catch), so we started hating the good things, and the earnest, hopeful, without-a-trace-of-irony moments that people once felt safe sharing on social media. Those people being hated are often women, and those moments are often emotional ones. Women who just met a career goal. Women who just got engaged, or who are planning their weddings. Women who are pregnant, or whose IVF finally worked, or whose adoption finally went through. Women talking about hobbies that make them feel confident, happy, and fulfilled.

This commentary on women’s bodies, choices, careers, and families started with celebrity culture, and it certainly hasn’t ended there. Anne Hathaway and Lena Dunham are two of the most recent examples of celebrities to get an over-the-top amount of hate sent their way. Here are two women who are experiencing huge moments in their lives (Dunham is writing and starring in her own award-winning show on HBO, Hathaway took home Oscar gold and just got married) and the public refuses to be happy for them, or simply leave them alone. If you ask one of the rabid, anti-fans why they hate these women so much, they grasp for reasons. Eventually, they say they are “annoying,” and then use a few throwaway comments that made it into the public discourse to support the idea that these women are terrible people who don’t deserve their success.

Attacks on female celebrities are so pervasive, we didn’t even notice when the internet made the jump to hating less-famous and more recently well-known women: bloggers. Most women writing on the internet for any semblance of an audience have found themselves subjected to harsh criticism and deeply personal attacks from total strangers. Those of us who experience it don’t talk about it much, because to be honest about how hurtful it is only makes people pile on. It’s a classic playground situation; someone pushes your buttons until you cry, and then makes fun of you for crying.

Jon Stewart recently asked Lena Dunham how she deals with everybody’s anger over how much she’s accomplished. “I like to say I don’t read it,” she said. “That’s my sort-of token line: I don’t read anything. But if I’m being honest, I read a quarter of things… I like to say I don’t read anything and that you can’t let it get into your artistic process but what you actually do is read half of it and then try to force it out of your artistic process.”

I haven’t achieved her level of fame and success, or even the sort of success that would bring me anything near the kind of criticism that some of my blogger friends have received, and yet…I get it. I know that once you’ve let it get in your head, it’s damn near impossible to get it out. I took the brunt of criticism during a time when I was completely happy and confident in all other areas of my life; instead of feeling proud or excited of what was happening, I spent weeks feeling incredibly ashamed. I was unable to stop thinking about the sentiment spewed in blogger hate forums that I had ruined my blog and my writing career because I “settled” for Eric. I couldn’t tear myself away from it, and I couldn’t stop writing my blog in a way that tried to address every bit of criticism…which led to more criticism, this time for not being strong enough to just ignore it.

Right after Eric and I picked out my engagement ring, a particularly nasty thread about me appeared. Eric couldn’t stand to watch me punish myself any longer; that was the day he shut my laptop. I quit reading everything cold turkey right then, something that was surprisingly easy once I gave myself permission to tune it out. But the things that were said about me, and the things I know are still being said about me, are never far from my mind. Every time I hit “publish” on a post, I’m second-guessing myself. Did I come across as arrogant? Was I completely inclusive? Did I make myself look bad? Did I try to make myself look good? Did I use the right tone? Will this post make anyone feel bad? Did I talk about stereotypically feminine things too much? What will they say about Eric? Answering these questions takes a lot of time and mental energy and often leaves me feeling so bummed out that I just don’t hit “publish” at all.

Author Jessica Grose, author of the book Sad Desk Salad about a protagonist whose blog is plagued by hate-followers, chatted with Gawker’s Adrian Chen on The Awl last year about the topic of hate-blogs. As for why we hate-read, it seems like there’s some twisted sense of doing it for the greater good. Grose says people do it because “they claim they actually want the person they’re blogging about to change (be less narcissistic, write about things that are less frivolous, etc.).” While there are certainly things that bloggers write that make me feel icky, the kind of criticism happening on hate-blogs is hardly an elevated discourse about blogs, nor is it a reasoned discussion of substantive disagreements with an author’s position.

Chen adds that the more one’s internet persona is about being a “real person,” the more likely they are to attract hate-followers. This also seems to be the case; the notion that these women deserve criticism because they are not as authentic as they claim to be is one of the most common excuses used by participants in hate-forums. But my suspicion is that most bloggers don’t keep things offline because they are trying to trick anyone into thinking their lives are perfect; it’s because they don’t want to subject themselves and the people they care about to more attacks. After each positive post, there are claims bloggers are too perfect. For every negative post, the same women are derided for complaining about first-world problems. Just like in the real world, we are damned if we do, damned if we don’t. I’ve watched a lot of bloggers quit rather than deal with it. I think about quitting every day.

She Deserved It

As we observe these constant aggressions toward women in the public eye, we try to convince ourselves that no one would ever say those things about us because we aren’t like those women. We aren’t famous. We aren’t rich. We aren’t well known. We haven’t made it big. Not us! We still struggle. We are humble. We know better. But eventually, after we’ve spent enough time immersed in a culture where the things we once considered to be the good (or simply harmless) parts of life are just more fodder for some caustic blogger, commenter, or Facebook “friend,” we realize, no, we’re not safe. So we put up our asterisks, online and off, because we don’t want anyone to mistakenly believe that we deserve that kind of negative attention.

“She deserved it.” It’s the exact excuse used by the people who hate-read when they rip apart successful women of all stripes. They defend their behavior by saying that the subject is the one to blame. They say, “She put herself out there.” And you know who would agree with that statement? The guys who take “creepshots” (sexualized photos that are taken of unsuspecting women’s bodies—mostly their butts, legs, and breasts—while they are out in public) and then post them on Reddit. Or your friendly neighborhood street harasser. “Why would you put it on the internet if you didn’t want attention?” sounds a hell of a lot like, “Why would you dress like that if you didn’t want attention?” to me.

Defenders of creepshots believe that by being attractive and in public, a woman is asking for attention, and therefore she has no right to be upset about what kind of attention she gets. And similarly, we believe that when a woman shares her good news or talks about her life in a positive way that she’s doing it for attention, to show off, or because she wants commentary from everyone. But women don’t post on social media for attention; we post because we have something to say. Because in so many other areas of our lives, we’re denied a platform. The internet feels like a godsend for those who can’t get past the gatekeepers and be heard in real life. But we can’t believe a woman would be posting for herself, or for the attention of a select audience. And even if we can believe it, we don’t care; we buy into the idea that she’s a woman, so merely existing in public is enough to make her public property.

And it really is “we” who buy into that idea. Women are the biggest users of social media, which means we are the most likely targets…but we’re also the most likely perpetrators. While much has been written about the way misogynistic men harass women who write about feminism or social justice online, most of the vitriol that is directed at lifestyle bloggers (those who write about fashion, food, family, healthy living, or weddings) comes from other women. If we see men harassing women online, we’re disgusted; if we see women doing it, we shrug and move on. We say, “Just ignore it,” and, “Don’t feed the trolls,” putting all of the responsibility on the person being attacked, and none on the attacker. And we say nothing to our friends who are proud of their hate-reading habits. But why would we? Both men and women have been conditioned to believe that women are objects, so both men and women are going to treat them as such. 

Much of the time, when a woman is harassed in a public forum, her “crime” or the thing for which “she should accept some responsibility” (another go-to defense) is simply doing something that women aren’t supposed to do: wearing a short skirt, enjoying sex, putting her work out there, talking about herself, or being proud of her life. Just like street harassment isn’t really about the way she’s wearing that dress, complaining about the way women talk about their success isn’t really about the way she said it. It’s about power.

Don’t Be An Asterisk

This isn’t just hurting celebrities or bloggers; it’s sending a clear message to other women who are reading, commenting, and observing these toxic messages. The number of newer bloggers who ask me how I deal with criticism is really upsetting; their expression always says, “I’m afraid if I share my life or my opinions online that will happen to me too.” I’ve watched all my blogging friends water down their content, and everyone reading knows the reason why. And so it’s no longer bloggers who hesitate to be heard; now we see it on other sites. On Facebook or the comment section of websites, women put up their asterisks, or just lurk in the shadows, not saying anything at all out of fear of being torn apart. Considering the number of privately shared emails or photos or videos that go viral after being taken without permission, we have good reason to believe our safe zone is shrinking.

If we speak publicly against this kind of negative attention, we’re told we should get over it, that it’s a compliment. It’s not a fucking compliment. Having people you’ve never met rip apart your life is no more a compliment than having a stranger say filthy things to you while you’re walking down the street. Having vitriol spewed at you and those you love isn’t a sign you’ve “made it.” It’s a sign that our culture is toxic toward women. Telling women that they should be flattered is just another way of saying that we only exist for attention and therefore should appreciate any attention that we get.

So we put on a longer skirt, we don’t send the status update, we don’t start the blog, we don’t leave the comment, we don’t ask for the promotion, we don’t stand up for ourselves. Instead, we put up the asterisk in conversations and hope that it will protect us from those who are bothered by our audacity to exist—to have bodies and voices and the courage to aim for contentment or success or a happy life. We apologize in advance.

Let’s do something radical. Let’s stop putting up asterisks, and let’s stop expecting other women to do it and getting pissed off when they don’t. If you tell me you had a great day, or only post good things on Facebook, (no asterisk), I’m not going to assume your intention is to trick me into thinking your life is perfect. I don’t need you to tell me all the reasons your life isn’t perfect; I’m just going to think that you, like everyone, deal with enough shit in your life and that today you wanted to celebrate the good things. I’m not going to tell all my friends, “OMG SHE NEEDS TO STOP ACTING LIKE HER LIFE IS SO PERFECT BECAUSE I KNOW IT’S NOT.” Because, well… duh. Of course it’s not perfect. It should go without saying. So let’s stop saying it.

My life is good.

Featured Sponsored Content

  • Kristen

    Thank you. For me, this is one of those things I’ve known or understood, but have not been conscious of. Thank you for bringing it to the forefront for all of us.

    A few years ago, I made some big changes in my life and for the first time, I felt joy. I wanted to share it, so I did. A good friend began to chastise and heckle me for publicly declaring my happiness, happiness that was effing hard won. I thought about shutting up. I grew up in a family that makes fun of everyone for everything, so my buttons on this are quite sensitive. Instead I decided to take a stand because I was afraid of being afraid for the rest of my life. So I told her to her face and on Facebook, so all could see my new attitude, that if she didn’t like the way I was, she should defriend me because I’d finally found happiness in my life and I wasn’t going to shut up about it. She never mentioned it again and even better, she’s currently going through an extremely similiar life change and is freely sharing and expressing her new found joy with everyone. And we all applaud her for it, because as Rachel said, we all have problems in our lives, but we also have happiness and joy and sharing it, spreads it.

    Thank you Rachel for spreading a little happy into my life today by reminding me how good the support of our friends can feel.

  • Rachel you nailed it. *Applause*

    • Lauren

      I reported this comment by accident, trying to ‘exactly!’. Sorry! Because really this post is incredible. Thank you Rachel!

  • lily

    This is SO YES. Thank you for writing/sharing/thinking this!

    This is my favorite: “But women don’t post on social media for attention; we post because we have something to say.” Easy to forget, even when we’re the ones posting.

    • Colorado Laurel

      Exactly this so much.

  • Excellent post, Rachel. I’ve found it’s almost an instinct to self-censor the good things I’m doing or that have happened to me so as not to sound like I’m bragging. I’m glad you’ve gotten to a place where you can ignore that kind of criticism and keep writing!

    It actually took me a few weeks of reading APW before I realized that the comments section was a huge part of the site. I’m so used to skipping them elsewhere because they’re so rarely thoughtful, interesting contributions to the article. It’s one of the many reasons I love this site – the people who comment are smart and respectful (and often hilarious).

    • Mountaindoozy

      I have received so much positive information and support in the APW comments that sometimes I forget that not every network is as positive and supporting. I finally gave up reading comments at many of my favorite technical blogs/sites because the comments turn into a giant hater-fest. I support bringing facts and criticism to discussions as they can be powerful tools to enlighten and shift perspectives, but not every discussion needs it. Sometimes we just want support. I also was blown away by this line: “we buy into the idea that she’s a woman, so merely existing in public is enough to make her public property”
      I mean, damn! It’s like the perfectly succinct prose version of so many thoughts I had struggled with for so long. Rachel you are amazing!

    • Class of 1980

      And if they’re not respectful, Meg will put the hammer down. ;)

      I find that sites without moderators usually don’t function too well.

      • The best blogs I read (APW, Making Light, Whatever, etc.) all have well moderated comment sections, and don’t let the asshats take over. Generally, those comment sections are a joy to read.

        • Whatever’s comment policy is amazing. Nice to see a fellow reader!

          • “The Mallet of Loving Correction” makes me laugh every time it is mentioned.

            I am also a fan of TNH’s “disemvoweling” on on Making Light.

          • Just read Whatever’s comment policy, which rocks. Kayjayoh and YouLoveLucy, thanks for pointing me toward something new to read and love.

      • em

        Agreed. Also, I’ve noticed that well-moderated sites (like this, and TNC’s blog) build a community of readers and commenters who self-police that kind of nastiness even before moderation shows up.

  • kgoesgallivanting

    Whenever I update my Facebook status or talk to acquaintances, I almost always only tell the good things happening in my life because I do not want to seem like I am complaining. We all have positive and negative stories to tell, but I find that we revert back to what’s comfortable (which for me is complaining) when we could be celebrating all the great things going on. Thank you for this post Rachel, highlighting the ways we bring others down, perhaps without realizing it.

    • Jashshea

      YES. I’m a natural complainer so even semi-“bragging” seems like super-bragging to me (at least when I’m the one doing it). Which is weird, because when someone else tells me or posts good news, I’m typically overboard happy for them. Gotta work on my hate-following, though. I have some people whose FB feeds I won’t block because I apparently enjoy being annoyed at their updates. Why do I waste my time?

      • Having done this to many, many people myself (there are some real train-wrecks on the internet, at least my corner, who only post about REALLY bad things, like intimate details of their doctor’s appointments or how their third marriage is crumbling) I can say, you won’t miss them, and if you really want a good dose of schadenfreude or hate-reading you can always just go to their profiles and catch up on the scandal.

      • KB

        Too much self-deprecation also leads to the thing that I’ve recently noticed (and been annoyed by) – the “humble-brag.” I feel like we’re so conditioned to downplay success and not draw so much attention that when we DO want to celebrate the good, it ends up being in this passive-aggressive, awkward-laugh sort of way, like “Just found out I’m going to have to shell out $500 to get my dress altered because I lost 15 pounds, ugh.” I think being more straightforward about our milestones and our $h&$%y moments would go a long way towards having a more authentic conversation.

        • Humble brag is the worst. I am pretty self-aware of everything I post on Facebook and much of what I post is sort of a commentary on trends I note such as The Humble Brag, the Woevershare (DON’T NEED TO KNOW THE DETAILS OF YOUR ABNORMAL PAP SMEAR), the Ambiguous Sad Post.

          Call me a hater (haters gawn’ hate) but these were details that we once upon a time only shared with our nearest and dearest on the phone or in person. While sharing the pain level of your menstrual cramps with 700 of your closest friends might be a more authentic conversation, that isn’t an authentic conversation I want or need to hear (hence my comment above about blocking people’s posts, one of the best tricks I ever discovered).

          So, I guess, I agree with much of what Rachel said above in her typical, well-written way, but I disagree with some of it too…

          …which, you know, means I’ll be thinking about it for awhile, so well done.

          • shhhhhhh

            This is how I feel too. But I think the difference between haterz and me (possibly you too) is response. I just don’t ever respond to positive OR negative news in a way that tears people down. Even if I do feel it is TMI. Why ruin somebody ‘s day?

          • Pretty much. Unless I know the person well I am just going to hit the “like” button. If I know the person well odds are I have already heard the good news from them, either in person or on the phone, so on Facebook I’ll probably just go “EEEEE MAZEL TOV.” And *then* hit the “like” button.

  • Sam A

    ****Awesome post****
    *Asterisks for decorative purposes only.

    • Cleo

      I found this comment freaking hysterical. I love it.

      Also, agreed. Awesome post, Rachel.

  • Rosie

    This is a brilliant and insightful article. I almost never post on Facebook, even though I’m quite careful about who I have as friends, out of the fear that if I say anything worth saying I’ll attract criticism. I could probably count the number of YouTube videos I’ve seen that do not have abusive comments on one hand. Reading this made me realise that APW is one of the few places where I feel happy sharing my opinions: I know that if someone disagrees with me they will not express it as a personal attack. Thanks guys!

    • kgoesgallivanting

      That is one of the beautiful things about APW. Commenters try to explain their views without attacking those they disagree with. I think of this blog’s comment section as a happy and authentic place to read and share ideas (much like Diagon Alley), but comment sections on other blogs/websites are seedy, dirty places where good things rarely happen (more like Knockturn Alley).

      • jlseldon7

        I totally agree, and love how we manage to talk about hard topics without cutting each other down. Love the HP reference.

      • Rosie

        Very true, and extra points for referencing HP!

        • I stopped commenting on Slate when I got my feelings hurt. It was a wedding related post too and I chimed in to defend the “bridezilla” and wow did I get attacked. I took it really personally and realized I needed to step far far away. I pretty rarely read Slate now, but b/c I find it less and less insightful, and more and more inciteful (trying to get everyone riled up to up their clicks).

  • Jenna

    Great article.

    I think this same tendency exists off the internet as well.

    Deborah Tannen’s book “You Just Don’t Understand” talks about how women are socialized to use language to connect and to make themselves be on the same level with other people. It can be socially unacceptable to share all the good things in life because it means you are bragging and you think you are better than everyone else.

    In contrast, many men/boys are socialized to one up each other.

    This makes for a catch 22 in the workplace where women don’t share their accomplishments enough to their bosses or their peers, and it affects their careers. It’s a hard line to walk.

    We have to be proud and happy for ourselves and other people on and off the internet.

    • Granola

      I want to go read that book! Also “Women Don’t Ask” is a book that looks at how women’s patterns of negotiation and asking and self-praise are different than men’s largely because they’re treated differently, so the tradeoff calculus changes.

      • I haven’t read that book yet (though I probably will) but I have read some of the commentary on it. One main criticism of “Women Don’t Ask” is that it seems to be blaming the victim, yet again.

        Women don’t get because women don’t ask, but women don’t ask because they have been shown over and over that asking directly often leads to some kind of punishment, either direct or indirect. Women who ask get called aggressive and bitches and demanding and nags. Woman see that and learn what behaviors get the least amount of negative pushback.

        Yet (according to the critiques) the book seems to lay the blame for women not getting ahead on the fact that they don’t ask, rather than on the forces that press them not to ask.

        • Granola

          Actually, I found the book to do the exact opposite, which is why I liked it so much. My sense was that they were saying “Women don’t ask because there are lots of really good reasons for them not to ask and they’ve learned that they’re often punished when they do.” And then they did tackle “Given these realities, are there ways in which women can speak up that work better for them, in addition to structural change.”

          It was nice to hear some balance. I’m willing to work a little harder to advocate for myself, as long as it’s acknowledged that it’s often way trickier.

          I’d love to hear what you think after you read it.

          • Good to know. That info may move it up my to-read list.

  • BB

    This section really resonated with me:

    “So we put on a longer skirt, we don’t send the status update, we don’t start the blog, we don’t leave the comment, we don’t ask for the promotion, we don’t stand up for ourselves. Instead, we put up the asterisk in conversations and hope that it will protect us from those who are bothered by our audacity to exist—to have bodies and voices and the courage to aim for contentment or success or a happy life. We apologize in advance.

    This is so powerful. Thank you for writing this article!

  • Karen

    This piece was brilliant. It should be required reading for everyone (note that I had to go back and forth on that: feminists? females? no: everyone). We have something to say. We should not censor ourselves from saying it!

    Last week I got contacted by the editor of the local newspaper where I live. He asked me to write a short piece on the Supreme Court cases on Prop 8 and DOMA. My first inclination was fearful because I didn’t want to be slammed in the comments section. I decided to face my fear and (in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt) do it anyway.

    It turned out to be a really good thing. Many people thanked me for what I wrote. It’s given me courage to step out even further. It was risky but it was worth it.

    One of my heroes is Audre Lorde. She was a powerful poet, writer, mother and activist. This is one of her quotes: “When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” May we all dare to be powerful!

  • This is incredibly well written, powerful, and strangely well-timed. I just updated my relationship status on Facebook to “engaged”- to reflect the engagement that happened on March 9th. I’ve been so terrified to post it out there- because I know some people will be happy for us, but others will be snarky, sarcastic, or “funny” and I’ve been terrified of having to deal with that. I’ve also felt incredibly guilty- here I am on Facebook posting my happy news while others are stressed about employment, talking about politics, or dealing with family illness. But he’s wanted to put it out there for the past month, and I guess it’s time, despite my fears. (Seriously, I think I’m going to cry if anyone in his family makes the “finally, it’s about time” comment…) Thanks for the article, it’s made me feel a bit better about this step.

    • Mountaindoozy


      • Keakealani

        And that, my friends, is the only thing you say to an engagement announcement. “Congratulations!” (Or maybe “you’re under no obligations, but let me know how I can help you out.”) No snark required :)

        • Congratulations!!!

  • holy crap, I love this post.

  • Granola

    One thing that I think should be acknowledged (and we may need the APW powers that be to weigh in here) is how much moderation goes into these comments? Is APW just a safe space because all of us take the time to be thoughtful, or is there a parallel gatekeeping effort that goes on to delete and not approve comments that are unwelcome. I think both phases are important to talk about.

    And along those lines, how do you moderate comments in your personal online spaces? Sometimes I just want to let someone make a fool of themselves, but sometimes I’m afraid to challenge them because I don’t want to open that can of worms. Do you have a policy that guides you to deletion and how do you decide what crosses the line? Speaking up is only half the battle, deciding what conversations to host is also important and also feels very fraught to me.

    • Liz

      I’m going to try to respond, but our West Coast Mods may disagree or have something to add once they wake up (slackers).

      APW is really, really lucky in having generally great commenters. Really. There is a slim percentage of comments that we even consider for removal, let alone remove. I served as moderator for Meg years ago, before being real-deal staff, and it was true even then. I think that’s where it’s a bit of a cycle. Because APW readers know that this is a safe space and want to keep it that way, and also know that comments that don’t abide by the comment policy will be deleted, usually commenters police the comments for us! I’m sure you’ve noticed from time to time a reader stepping in and saying, “Hey, I don’t think I appreciate your tone,” or, “I don’t know if this comment is necessary.” Which is pretty cool of itself- that people respect the space enough not just to avoid making terrible comments, but to also try to help everyone respect it, too. I think the two go hand-in-hand: the community respect and effort, with the moderators in turn trying to facilitate that respect.

      • Granola


      • BB

        APW is the only site on which I read the comments because I can rely on them being thoughtful, thought-provoking, and respectful. Thank you for helping to create such a space!

    • The amount of moderation that goes into APW is one of the many reasons I love it so much. I used to spend a lot of time getting my nerd fix online at aintitcool news, which has pretty much zero comment moderation. Most comments just turn immediately to unchecked vitriol, rants against the creators of things people love, rants against the writers of the posts, mysogony, racism-pretty much the worst in humanity all on display.

      When I first started reading APW and found that there were explicitly stated rules for the comments, and there were moderaters who would enforce those rules, it hit me all that much harder how awful it was to see the hate comments on other sites. It was the first time I realized the internet doesn’t always have to be that way. And it makes sense. Why would you want to create a community online and then let people come in and trash it?

      It seems (and the “APW powers that be” would have to weigh in on this) that the constructive comments section and the moderation are symbiotic. The fact that the comments policy is enforced makes it a safer space, so more people are willing to be vulnerable by leaving a comment that could open them up to attack other places, and as as more people see that those kinds of comments are happening and the conversation is constructive, more people are willing to comment, and the community grows. Occasionally, people try to test the waters and push against the comments policy, and comments might be moderated or debated, and then the community and constructive commenting grows even more.

      • Keakealani

        I absolutely think this is the case, about the life cycle of comment spaces. I think of it like the first time you walk into a new restaurant (or whatever establishment). You look around and see how people are ordering/doing their business, and you mimic them, because that’s the way it’s done there. Sit down? Order at the counter? Take-out? We develop these ideas about what to do and how to do them, based on what other people are already doing there.

        So it follows that people will read vitriol and hate comments on a site and think “hey, this is what I’m supposed to do there!” and begin feeding more into the vitriol and hate. But, you look at a site like APW and you see “hey, people are having authentic, thoughtful conversations and avoiding personal attacks or overly critical messages, I think that’s what I’m supposed to do here!” and feed into the mindful, honest discussion that’s already going on.

        Of course, moderators have to kick start that process by offering up (and enforcing) clear-cut commenting guidelines, and then there is always a constant need to continually be on the lookout for any stray comments that aren’t good fits for the tone and style of the community in question. But it definitely does start in large part with the vibe of the community in the first place – other than a few random trolls, most people don’t take it upon themselves to insert hate where there isn’t any.

        • meg

          That’s totally true. The one thing I’d add, as the person who’s been running APW for half a decade as of this week (!!). The comment section is no accident. It was built up by YEARS of encouraging the kind of discussion I wanted, and basically chasing away the people who didn’t want to have that discussion (and when you start a wedding blog, if you don’t want comments of the “OMG I love robin’s egg blue!” variety, you’ve got to do a lot of leg work to make it clear what kind of comments you do want).

          Once the tone is set, and the community built, moderation becomes lower key than you’d think. It’s never fun, exactly. The debates over “Did this person mean well but misspeak, or are they just being a dick?” never get more clear cut. But it’s worth it.

    • Having boundaries in the form of a well-worded comment policy also helps facilitate truly meaningful debates on these topics, rather than having them derail into personal attacks.

      I think it’s interesting to note that we have very clear moderation rules or codes of conduct in many “real-life” areas where debates flourish – think of codes of conduct in courts of law, or using Robert’s Rules of Order to move through arguments in various group settings, etc. In my mind, comment policies exist to give us the same type of structure, and as Liz said it’s up to the moderators to make sure the structure is followed.

  • Angela

    Loved this post! I’ve read your blogs for a couple of years now, and for the record, your writing has done nothing but grow & get better & better. Keep it up!

  • Moe

    Hot damn that was a fantastic post!

    Women-on-women bashing is so hurtful and cruel. Going against the grain of popular culture in this area is hard. I experience it all the time in the workplace. Why can’t women just be happy for another’s success or good fortune? We don’t need society to hold us back or diminish our worth, seems like women are pretty good and handling that for ourselves sometimes.

    • Granola

      I’ve been thinking about this idea a lot recently in light of the media coverage of Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer. And I’m not sure that I really feel like I have a responsibility as a woman to refrain from criticizing a person I disagree with just because she is also a woman. When two male CEOs take shots at each other, no one criticizes them in a similarly gendered way. Not every disagreement is “women hating on other women.”

      • Very true- you don’t have to like everybody (and women are so pressured to do so!)

        However, you DO have to be kind and respectful.

        I was just having this discussion with a friend of mine in law school who ran into a fellow student who wanted to criticize the management of an event and ended up just criticizing my friend’s personality. My friend professionally and respectfully guided the conversation back to the topic at hand, and the other student hadn’t even realized that she had gotten off track. (and thanked my friend for the insight!)

        So while I agree, not every disagreement is being a hater, I think we do need to be careful of whether we are criticizing an idea/decision/action or just criticizing the person.

      • Karen

        I was just thinking about this, and I’m wondering if the key here is the same as in any type of debate: disagreeing with a woman’s philosophies and actions can be done respectfully without getting personal or attacking choices.

        • Moe

          This! Yes.

        • The other half of this is not taking one woman’s choices and making it a reflection on all women and talking about their choices in terms of the context. Maybe a CEO is making executive decisions or advocating opinions that seem like they are backwards or are going to hurt other women and feminist advancement. Our responses really shouldn’t be all that much different if it’s a woman or a man making those choices, it should be more about the action and positions themselves.

          • Granola

            I wonder if there is a limit to that though Given that Sandberg and Mayer are women, I expect that fact to have informed their life experience to some degree. So it is disheartening to see them make the same or similar decisions as men in their positions because, and maybe this is unfair, I kind of think that they should know better. Or at least I hope they they can be more empathetic given that they are members of the same group that’s often marginalized, and it feels like a small betrayal when that solidarity is shrugged off.

      • Emilie

        “And I’m not sure that I really feel like I have a responsibility as a woman to refrain from criticizing a person I disagree with just because she is also a woman.”

        Yes! Yes! Yes!

        I work at an elementary school and couldn’t tell you how many times I hear little boys say something along the lines of, “You can’t hit girls!” While I think it’s absolutely essential and healthy for us to teach young men to avoid violence (towards women AND men), typically these comments come from a belief girls are weaker and more prone to injury. It is not helpful for us women to perpetuate a narrative that women can’t handle criticism or that women just aren’t tough enough for the public eye. Because the fact is, we’re here to stay. Why can’t I comment on a female politician’s career? Why can’t I critique a film just because it’s directed by a woman? They’re pros– they can take it! I think solidarity goes to far when it demands I can’t express myself.

        That said, a lot of bashing out there is completely irrelevant and unhelpful. Primarily I’m thinking of the emphasis on women’s bodies, when their appearance has no impact on their success or contributions to our world.

        The issue for me isn’t an attack on choices or getting personal (because men definitely experience that too, though on a different scale), it’s holding women to a standard of femininity that prevents their liberation.

      • meg

        I agree. We shouldn’t not disagree with other women. But the TONE of the way we do it is key. The media has set up Sanberg and Mayer as a conversation not about them as CEO’s or thought leaders, but about them as women. They’ve done the same thing making the Sanberg/ Slaughter conversation into “Catfight!” That’s not helpful. Substantive disagreement is always a good thing, however.

        • Emilie

          Well said!

  • Martha

    I love Rachel.

    The end.

  • js

    I have to comment on this, but I’m not sure how. All I could think about, the whole time I was reading this, was our upcoming trip to visit my husband’s family. They are the haters, the mean girls, the people jealous of your happiness and success. What makes it all the more difficult is they are family, the people who are supposed to have your back and be happy for you. I am already thinking of ways to protect myself from the constant stream of passive aggressive comments I will endure while we’re there. This is not to say that my husband is without a backbone or doesn’t stand up for me; these comments are like air for his family. I don’t even think they realize what they’re saying. The worst part of this is that I have come to accept it, knowing it won’t change much , just like women bloggers or celebrities and the criticism they get for just being themselves. Standing up for myself doesn’t make it better; it just makes me a bitch or a troublemaker. Nobody likes a victim and we are often told to develop a thicker skin. However, sometimes you can’t. Sometimes it just hurts. I love this post Rachel. Thank you for putting a voice to what I still don’t know exactly how to say.

    • Granola

      I’m really sorry, this sounds very hard.

      Can you take a page from your husband’s book in how he deals with it? Like if he leaves the room to go watch TV, because that’s how he avoids the comments, maybe that could be a strategy you also use.

      In moments when I’m really hurt by something someone else says, I remind myself that just because they said it doesn’t make it true. And once I realize they’re just totally wrong, it seems easier to ignore it.

      • Or just take a page from my favorite queen on Drag Race this season, Jinkx Monsoon: “Water off a duck’s back.”

        Look, some people are going to hate (hater’s gawn hate). And when hater’s do hate I say to myself: “Just think about the sadness in these people’s lives and in their minds that they need to spend their time tearing other people down. This is what makes them happy, and this makes me sad. And now that I am sad for them their comments don’t impact me any more.” 95% of the time this does the trick for me.

        • KC

          *percentages may vary wildly for thinner-skinned portions of the population

        • KC

          This may be totally off-topic, and mods, feel free to delete if so, but I’m now wondering about the similarities and differences between “haters gonna hate” and “boys will be boys”.

          Obvious differences: one is gendered, one is not; one is specifically disparaging the group (as I don’t think being a “hater” is seen as a good thing) whereas one is neutral; “boys will be boys” is often used to minimize acts, whereas “haters gonna hate” is only minimizing things if expressed hate (comments or actions that may harm the person being targeted) is substantively different from unexpressed hate and if the assumption is that hate will not harm people.

          Similarities: both speak to a reality where sometimes harm reduction, avoidance, or after-the-fact therapy is basically all the control a target can wrest from the circumstances; both seem (to me) to let off the group for “hating” or for “being boys”, that being what is apparently natural to them; both seem to fail to say that this state of things is Not Right.

          Any thoughts?

          • Good point. I think “haters gonna hate” is okay interpreted as- you can’t control what other people do, or you can’t please everyone.

            You’re right in that the trouble comes when we say”hating” behavior as inevitable, so why bother confronting it, rather than demanding people’s behavior follow a higher standard.

          • I say “haters gonna hate” because there are just some people you cannot please and who will be angry at you and who will throw vitriol (a lesson well learned from my days in retail). Period. No amount of rational talk or explanation or push back will change these folks.

            Some people are just not going to be happy people. Some people will always complain. The irrational few will always exist. You can either let them bring you down, or you can plow through life and be above it all.

            I would not equate boys will be boys (or girls will be girls) with haters gonna hate myself.

          • meg

            YES. THIS. KC, YOU ARE SO SMART.

            Right, “Haters gonna hate,” maybe, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. “Boys will be boys,” what, no one bothered to raise them right? (Actually, the raise them right comment applies in both instances… ;)

          • Rebecca

            I feel like “haters gonna hate” can easily be replaced with another truism “there’s no pleasing some people,” which expresses a similar sentiment that you can’t control another person’s reactions, without implicitly condoning the idea that hate is an appropriate means of expressing your disagreement with someone.

    • Oh, that’s such a tough situation! I’m usually argumentative, so I have to remind myself sometimes when it’s not worth it just to start a fight. But it’s so, so hard to determine when to make a stand, and when to let it go.

  • christina

    As of late, I’ve noticed that “hating” and “negativity” also produces the biggest reaction and an influx of do-good compliments. When you’re feeling slow, low, and glum? Get on Facebook and let your friends know – the feel-good comments and inquiries about your state-of-mind will come flowing in. Feeling great and want to share it? Doesn’t get as many likes. It’s an ego thing to tell others we are hated.

    • KC

      What gets me is that yes, “down” status updates often get the most positive response to the person, but if there are a number of them, then that person is sometimes criticized elsewhere for being too negative/whiny/self-absorbed, even as people continue to respond positively to their updates. Sometimes people have the to-someone’s-face “niceness” knee-jerk habit fully established, but don’t have that properly regulated internally, and jealousy (most commonly, of the positive feedback *this* person is getting when *my* problems are also bad and/or much worse) or irritation (when someone feels manipulated into saying nice things they didn’t really mean [see: ingrained “nice” habit and how people often respond to “how do you like my new haircut?”]) can come into play and result in some pent-up shredding coming out elsewhere.

      But I’m a thin-skinned one, for a variety of reasons, and really hate to see people shredded even if they’re never going to know about it. (and I don’t think it’s healthy for anyone else, either; the people doing the shredding are harming themselves and the good parts of their humanity; and everyone around them gets doubts put in their minds as to whether they really like them, or only like them to their face)

      (note: I’m totally fine with qualified annoyance that does keep the “why” connection – “It’s so hard for me to see her get X when I feel like I deserve that level of success more than she does!” – or “I hate opening up my Facebook feed in the morning and only facing down a barrage of misery or of things to be jealous of.”, partly because it tends to attack the people less, partly because it tends to stay on-topic more, rather than going to “And her shoes! so ridiculous.” sorts of personal pile-ons, and partly because it’s open to constructive response.)

      • A lot of this comes back (for me) to that whole self moderating thing. If someone mostly posts positive, happy facebook updates and has the occasional glum update yes they’ll get a lot of positive feedback on that sad update. On the other hand if someone has a lot of more complain-y and negative stuff going on they’re not getting same positive result and they’re almost certainly having people complain about their attitude behind their backs. Can’t win either way, really.

        • Yeah, I think eventually you don’t get that positive response to your complaints.

          If I see someone who posts a sad update, I want to comfort her.

          If I read complaints from her seven posts a day every day for weeks, I am tired of comforting her. I want her to pull it together and work on fixing whatever is not going right!

          Maybe I’m wrong for this, but I know I find constant negativity to be exhausting and I’m not going to say supportive things if all I ever see from that person is negativity.

          • KC

            That makes sense – for me, it’s still hard not to do the “can this situation just be fixed already?” but my attempted response shifts depending on the type of complaints:
            a) parent going through cancer? this is going to suck, long-haul. I feel like this should be *allowed* to suck, long-haul.
            b) chronic illness? ditto
            c) moving to a new place and having a hard time building community or adjusting to a new job? definitely takes a long time (at least for introverts?)
            d) I broke my nail/my coffee was cold/they were out of the juice I like at the grocery store/woe is me/I will talk about the one bad or kinda-bad thing that happened to me today, only/all the time, despite having good things also happening that they do not choose to note or balance the bad things with? harder to respond to.

            I also find that the fewer negatives and the more positives I’m exposed to in other places (news, etc.), the more tolerance I have for peoples’ lives being “bad news”. Not sure what that means.

    • meg

      Oh, disagree. I don’t think it’s an ego thing to be vocal when you’re being treated badly. I think it takes some serious bravery to do so. The nerve it took for Rachel to write this was incredible, and there is no way she would have put it out there without me pushing her to do it. (Nor, for the record, is she reading the comments).

      • em

        1. agreed.
        2. yay, and right on, rachel
        3. props to the mods today. job well done.

    • meg

      Actually, let me back up. The whole set up is the classic abuser set up. “You would never tell anyone what I was doing to you because people wouldn’t believe you/ people would think you were weak/ people would think you were stuck up/ more people would do the same thing to you if you told.”

      And we’ve adopted a classic victim blaming attitude about it. “Haters gonna hate, get a thicker skin.” “You don’t want the attention, stop writing.” “Telling people you’re hated is an ego thing.” As Rachel points out in this piece, it’s all bullshit. The blame always lies with the perpetrator, not the victim. Even when it’s easier for us to blame the victim.

      • KC

        I agree that “telling people you’re hated is an ego thing” is generally false, but there is a small percentage of people who love/profit from drama (see: editorial wars, most teenage poetry, and other horrors), which can make it hard to deal with the topic cleanly/tidily.

        I know two people IRL who wear “someone hates me” as a publicity badge of honor/sympathy and who go out of their way to stir things up (or fabricate things) if the attention is going off them, and it drives me nuts. I don’t get how it could possibly be worth it for people to deliberately antagonize others or lie maliciously. Both currently appear to be improving, though; one apparently because of therapy (yay!) and one because of a belated realization that the “all publicity is good publicity” schtick isn’t necessarily accurate if you’re trying to convince people to support your cause.

        But that is two people, compared to the vast multitude of people I know whose response to being disliked or hated by strangers ranges from mildly apathetic (I don’t know how the guy does it!) to deeply, deeply hurt (actually, all the way to break-out-in-hives-from-stress damaged). I don’t know how the percentages break down for other individuals’ networks.

        And this article could not possibly be mistaken for a drama-filled “people should pity me and give me attention and flatter my poor wounded ego, someone made mean comments” – that this incredible piece of writing could be responded to *poorly* hadn’t even occurred to me as a possibility before your comment noting that the post was submitted with great trepidation (and fortunately, I don’t see anything negative about the post AT ALL in the comments – I could be wrong, but I think the person above is referring to the general Facebook trend of people replying more, and more sympathetically, to “sad” posts than to “happy” posts).

        I do 100% agree that the variants of “everything’s fair game once someone puts something out there” are hideously wrong and all the victim-blaming scripts are false. And even people who do deliberate or semi-deliberate drama-hunting can end up being more of a target than they bargained for, which is also not their fault (wanting attention from guys at clubs vs. wanting to be groped: not the same thing; wanting to get pageviews vs. wanting to get your site DDOSed: also not the same thing). Just noting that drama llama-ness does exist sometimes, which complicates the conversation on negativity generally (except not here in APW comments! yay for civil discourse!).

      • Okay regarding the “haters gonna hate” thing. I do not thing that it is a blame the victim stance at all. What I think it is is a control thing.

        You can tell people everything that Rachel said above. You can speak out against vitriol and hate on the internet (and elsewhere). You can react to it anyway you want. But you cannot *control* how people are going to behave on the internet (or elsewhere). You can do all you can to change things and that’s great but ultimately some people are just going to be lame.

        What you *can* control, however, is your response to all of that negativity. You can let it get to you, or you can say “Screw this, I am above it all. Haters gonna hate. I can’t control how people respond to what I do on the internet or elsewhere, so I’m just going to shrug it off and move on.” Or you can do as Rachel (and Meg above) do–just ignore it, don’t even go there. Haters gonna hate, so why even bother reading their hate?

        • meg

          While this is true, it’s also the dominant cultural narrative, “Well! Just don’t read it.” And as Rachel so eloquently points out, it’s A) Not that easy, and B) It’s an overly simplistic response that makes us avoid dealing with the central issue.

          Sure, it’s easy to say “Haters gonna hate, don’t read.” Everyone has said it, it’s been done. But what NEEDS to be done is to talk about why this sort of toxic environment for women exists and is so roundly ignored (and even fed) by smart capable women, who have the power to do something to fix it.

          As ever, I’m not particularly interested in the easy, protect the status quo, ignore what’s really wrong way out. If I were, I never would have bothered with starting APW. Instead, I’d rather start a dialoge about what’s wrong, and how we can start to change it.

          Have I ever, will I ever, waste a second of my time reading garbage like this? Nah. But do I still have to deal with it every day in comment moderation? Yes. Do I want to just ignore it, and let the bullies win? Nope.

          Haters gonna hate, sure. But not on my watch.

          • Precisely! Sure ‘haters gonna hate’ but that doesn’t mean we should accept their behavior as if it doesn’t effect us. Yes, some are better at having thick skin, or whatever it takes to deal with the hurt or out themselves out there. I know I’m not one of those people who has thick skin and I know that I have shyed away from putting myself out there for fear of even the smallest amount of hate. The trouble is, what Rachel more eloquently stated, is why is this even acceptable? No line has been drawn to make the situation better (except here of course) and instead we go on attacking each other as if this is the new and improved norm. Often, when we put ourselves out there, we need praise yo

          • Precisely! Sure ‘haters gonna hate’ but that doesn’t mean we should accept their behavior as if it doesn’t effect us. Yes, some are better at having thick skin, or whatever it takes to deal with the hurt or out themselves out there. I know I’m not one of those people who has thick skin and I know that I have shyed away from putting myself out there for fear of even the smallest amount of hate. The trouble is, what Rachel more eloquently stated, is why is this even acceptable? No line has been drawn to make the situation better (except here of course) and instead we go on attacking each other as if this is the new and improved norm. Often, when we put ourselves out there, we need praise to keep going. This is an incredibly brave and honest post. And I am so thankful to have been able to read it. Thank you Rachel and Meg for allowing us to start the conversation in a positive and constructive way.

          • Rachel

            Eric and I were talking about this last night and we kind of settled on the idea that it’s OK for the person being attacked to say “Haters gonna hate” if that’s the coping mechanism she chooses, but it’s when everyone ELSE says it to the person who is feeling attacked that it sucks. I think a better thing to say is, “Wow, that person is really awful. I’m so sorry you have to go through that.” Because “haters gonna hate” can feel super dismissive, or like it’s now on the victim to suck it up.

          • meg

            WHAT RACHEL SAID.

            You can’t ask a victim who’s still in a position to be re-victimized, to forgive. It’s actually a form of furthering the abuse.

        • KC

          I think one place where “haters gonna hate” can bleed over into blaming the victim is that latter part – where the victim’s only socially-approved option is to “choose” to let it roll off them.

          *That is not a choice that everyone is physically/mentally capable of making.*

          Shrugging it off and moving on without taking damage is a personality trait plus talent plus experience plus effort, a lack of the haters hitting you right where it hurts right when you can’t take it, a combination of factors and who knows what, really. If you can’t shrug something off, even though you are pre-warned that haters are gonna hate, are you weak? Broken? Wimpy? Oversensitive? Girly? Not cut out for this? Shouldn’t have put it/yourself out there? Can’t take the heat?

          Yes, the slogan can be a triumph or a good reminder that you can’t please everyone so you probably shouldn’t contort yourself or shut up just to make one troll “happy” – but it also hauls along some baggage, of “this is the way things are, period, nothing can be done” (which, as you point out, is only half true – we can improve things, but we can’t totally eliminate jerks) and of “this is *the* acceptable way to respond to injury”.

          Note: I do totally agree that it’s a wise choice to not seek it out, but anyone who has to moderate anything is probably going to hit some nasty stuff along the way, even here. If you stand up tall enough, you cannot just dodge all the mud. (besides, loving relatives/friends will sometimes let you know, aghast, when you’re being slandered on the internet)

          • Exactly. Outrage, disbelief and standing up for yourself when people spout toxicity and nastiness against you is expressly discouraged by the sentiment. It implies that the reaction is worse than the original hate that was shared.

          • Rachel

            “That is not a choice that everyone is physically/mentally capable of making.” YES. I love this comment.

  • Amen. You hit the nail on the head. I’ve enjoyed that I’ve been able to post what I want on facebook and my blog without thinking too much about negative feedback, but there’s always a bit of subconscious revision that happens – just because of the fear that someone may write something negative or critical about what I’ve shared.

    I also appreciated what you said about hating celebrities – I was guilty of saying I hated Anne Hathaway simply because I find her public persona annoying. Thanks for calling me out on this and reminding me that feeling annoyed is not the same thing as feeling hatred. Hate is a strong, loaded word.

    • Aubry

      I totally agree with you. My mom always ingrained the deep meaning of the word hate, and all the negativity it bring to you. I was taught to not use that word unless I really meant it, which I have thankfully not had the occasion to experience. I try to be mindful of that, and not use it frivolously, as society seems to like. I don’t “hate” my hair, I’m just frustrated that it isn’t cooperating with me. Nor can I possible “hate” any celebrity, I don’t even know them!

      Also, dwelling in negativity is so bad for your mental health! All these people who are saying the nasty things I read online must be suffering the effects of all that bad energy.

      I also never read comments anywhere online except APW. Like others have posted, it took me a while to start reading and discover how wonderful the whole community is. I avoid comment sections everywhere else because of the rampant nasty behaviour.

  • Betsy


  • Karen

    I simply do not understand the idea of hate-“anything”, like hate-watching or hate-reading. I barely have enough time in my life to read, watch, and interact with the media I love. Why in the world would I waste that time on something I don’t like? If I disagree or dislike a blog, I just stop reading it. If a TV show seems terrible, I don’t watch it. Sometimes that means I end up missing out on a cultural zeitgeist (I have never seen a single episode of anything with Honey Boo Boo in it), but I feel that’s a fair trade for focusing on the things I actually enjoy engaging with.

    Which includes, deeply, A Practical Wedding.

    • THIS, so much. I feel the same way – so little time for all the good things, who has time for the negativity? If you don’t like something, find something else rather than sticking around to tear it down. It’s also my go-to excuse when people ask why I don’t watch any reality TV shows (“there’s enough meanness/shallowness/stupidity in the real world, why would I spend my down time engrossed in it?)

      • Lauren

        My fiancé has a show he hate watches with his bros. it’s probably the most annoying thing about him.

  • SusieQ

    This is so thoughtful and well written, with so many good points – thank you.

  • Word. Like, seriously. I water down a lot that I’m sharing publicly because I don’t want to deal with hate, and at the same time, I don’t want to be humble-bragging or vague-booking.

  • KB

    I totally agree with the substance of this post, but I just wanted to voice the need for a fine-line distinction – I feel like it’s totally ok to hate something or someone. Too many women are taught to “be nice,” “play nice,” “insert-verb nice” (seriously, next time you see someone interact with a small female child, note how often they reprimand her for being loud/boisterous/active with the adjective “nice” – it drives me up a wall). In fact, I think more people should be able to voice their disagreement in public forums without it turning into a Lord of the Flies-style pile-on.

    But that also doesn’t mean that one has full license to be rude, insensitive, vitriolic, bullying or badgering. I feel like the openness of the internet has given way to a total erosion of just plain good manners that EVERYONE should observe. Men and women need to figure out a way to voice disagreement or dislike in a polite, arms-length way, especially online because it leads to better and more productive interactions in the “real world.” Hopefully we’ll get to the point some day that we see that being well-mannered isn’t some arcane oppressive Victorian system – and it doesn’t mean sacrificing your authenticity or your opinions – it means that your “freedom of speech” shouldn’t stomp all over someone else’s thoughts and feelings.


      The Internet has made us RUDE. I think it is fine to dislike (or even hate) something openly has long as you can provide a well-written, well-reasoned argument. Vocabulary and grammar and reason rock, guys, I just wish people felt the same way about these things that I did.

      But, of course, there is always this great, wonderful, XKCD comic:

      • Granola
        • Awesome (also I think I just accidentally clicked “report” on my own comment. Did not mean to do that, sorry moderators).

      • KC

        I might adjust that to “as long as you can provide a well-reasoned, etc. argument for disliking it that *is the real reason why you dislike it*”. This might seem odd or unnecessary, but there have been many reasonably coherent and grammatical internet screeds which are taking apart everything that they can find to take apart about someone or something, yet not addressing the actual reason it gets their goat (which sometimes becomes clear when you look at a combination of posts and go “oh. Troll.” or “oh. This guy is attacking every woman in [insert industry] whenever a mention comes up on the site.”, etc.).

        I think honestly saying “I dislike so and so because I feel they’re misusing their platform” or “I don’t think X deserves the level of fame he/she has” or “I wish I had the life portrayed on her blog” or “I am an unemployed male and no women should be employed while I’m unemployed” (aaaargh!) is more constructive in its way than a coherent, grammatical, technically-logic-containing statement of concentrated dislike that leaves out the core reason that someone has spent the time hunting up whatever “supporting” logic they’ve constructed for the dislike. Something like “I feel guilty because on her blog she’s always feeding her kids organic food and my kid just snarfed some month-old froot loops mixed with dust bunnies from under the sofa cushions while I was in the bathroom… so I’m going to super-snark on her photo filters because they’re so fake-hipster” does not help anyone long-term, even if the photo filter usage on a blog could indeed be considered a bit excessive.

        But I also tend to really just not like most insult/snark/teardowns (with the exception of Shakespeare and some of the zingers attributed to Churchill, the possible difference being that they’re fictional/dead now?), so that might be a difference there – I don’t like it, so I don’t see a reason for it to exist, which is perhaps unfair to people who do enjoy People of Walmart or most reality TV or other bash-y/snark-heavy entertainment. I don’t know.

        • meg

          While I have no problem with constructive criticism (though much of what you see on said internet boards is “her baby is ugly” which is neither constructive nor criticism), on much of this stuff, I just feel like, if you don’t like it, ignore it. The internet is FULL of crap I hate, which I duly ignore. (Also, the idea that I’d have time to read it AND write hateful screeds about it points to the need to a hobby, perhaps?)

          Which also leads to the point that smart and sassy snark looks nothing like hate.

          • KC

            Yes; if you just don’t like it, or if it’s not your style, ignore it. If you feel it’s harmful or problematic, then it can be a valid option to respond with constructive criticism in the appropriate venue. (read: not “her baby is ugly”, not I’m-secretly-jealous-so-I’ll-insult-her-educational-choices, but “I feel this way about this and this is why, in as clear and constructive of a fashion as I can manage”)

            And this may or may not be snarky (I’m still a little fuzzy on where the lines are), but I’d love to trade hater-forums for a bunch of Giant Balls of Twine or something. That would be pretty awesome.

    • Maddie

      Interesting point. And I agree. The interesting thing is that a lot of what happens with hate-reading, particularly what I see in response to women’s online personas, is it isn’t even of the vitriolic nature that you see on, say, YouTube or elsewhere. It’s the sort-of smart commentary wrapped in snark that gets me.

      There’s something really poisonous about snark, and I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I think it’s what takes what you’re talking about and turns it into a bad thing.

      • KB

        True – it’s the difference between “I don’t care for that shirt because it’s not my taste” and “Only a blind idiot from 1973 would wear that kind of shirt, pfft!”

        • JackieD

          That’s the thing though isn’t it? Why not just not say anything at all??

      • You’re right, Maddie. Unfortunately, I think intelligent, sassy people can mistake snark and caustic sarcasm for actual cleverness, which is a shame- because like you say, it takes a great idea and turns it into an insult.

      • em

        You just reminded me of that book by David Denby about snark that has been on my to-read list forever! It was such a brave thing to put out there (and, predictably, got some pretty snarky reviews) and I forgot that I’ve been meaning to read it for myself…if you want, I’ll get back to you in a few weeks and give you my verdict. Maybe he managed to get his finger on exactly what’s so insidious about it.

      • Although not all snark is bad–just check out the queens on Drag Race, their readings and shade throwing bring me so much joy on a weekly basis. Sometimes a person is just begging to be read, just begging.

        (I love snark so I don’t entirely agree with Maddie’s statement, but most snark is bad snark so I think, like all things, snark is best taken in moderation. I love ice cream too but I’m not going to eat it for every meal).

        • I wonder what your definition of snark is? To me, I think of snark as personal insult wound up in what otherwise may be a sound opinion. Like KB’s example above.

          • Maddie

            To me it’s about intent and context. If the intent is to bring someone else down, I have no patience for it. If snark is part of something where all parties have agreed to be both the giver and recipient of snark, I think it can be OK. But the idea that something is begging for snark is what concerns me.

            A lot of what I do could be fodder for snark. I’m pretty earnest, sometimes a little naive, and I put myself out there in a pretty obvious way (not just online, but in real life). Do I deserve snark just for existing outside of the realm of what others deem acceptable? I don’t think so. On the other hand, is it OK if my friends and I snark on each other as part of agreed-upon banter that is in good fun? Probably.

            I guess where I draw the line is that just because it’s entertaining doesn’t mean it’s OK. And there has to be a level of consent that’s not just “putting yourself out there.”

          • I agree on the level that “just because it’s entertainment doesn’t mean it’s okay.”

            I’m really a lot more self-aware when I use snark for banter with my friends, and the more I notice it, the less patient I am with it both in my own conversations and in entertainment at large. I think it’s a slippery slope from “all in good fun,” to “come on, can’t you take a joke?” when it’s really not funny.

            Consent is important for so much :-)

          • Christa

            Consent is sexy, for snark or sex.

        • Sara

          I also love snark. But I’ve had issues with people that can’t do it right (is that a thing?)

          My family is full of sarcasm, as are most of my friends. We do snark – like watching Lifetime movies and MST3king it. And we do make fun of each other – but honestly, in a loving way. We/they are not afraid to draw a line in a sand and say if something is off topic or too far.

          But a few times in my life, I’ve had friends that don’t GET sarcasm. They insult someone and then laugh, like its a joke. My poor college roommate B got harassed by our suitemate for being too skinny, but the other girl found herself hilarious. And she didn’t understand when we gently teased B for her ditziness, it wasn’t the same as saying over and over again that “B needs to eat a cheeseburger ’cause she’s just too damn skinny!”

          So I guess I see both sides. But I do love some snark/sarcasm. And I non-guiltily love trashy movies and tv, so there’s that too.

          • KC

            Anne (of Green Gables) had moments of mild or extreme snark – but knew well enough to apologize for one when it hurt her friend, which I think is key to “good” snark – both not intending to hurt, and being willing to apologize, rather than defend yourself, if someone *is* hurt. (personally, I think Anne’s comment is hilarious and that would be totally fair game on some topics between some of my friends although, um, doilies seem to be less of a Thing now – but it does point out that there are potential difference in senses of humor and expectations even between good friends!)

            From Anne of Avonlea:

            Diana: “But three years isn’t any too much time to get ready for housekeeping, for I haven’t a speck of fancy work made yet. But I’m going to begin crocheting doilies tomorrow. Myra Gillis had thirty-seven doilies when she was married and I’m determined I shall have as many as she had.”

            “I suppose it would be perfectly impossible to keep house with only thirty-six doilies,” conceded Anne, with a solemn face but dancing eyes.

            Diana looked hurt.

            “I didn’t think you’d make fun of me, Anne,” she said reproachfully.

            “Dearest, I wasn’t making fun of you,” cried Anne repentantly. “I was only teasing you a bit. I think you’ll make the sweetest little housekeeper in the world. And I think it’s perfectly lovely of you to be planning already for your home o’dreams.”

          • meg

            I’m actually a smart snark fan. (Get me at a dinner party, you’re welcome.) But to me it’s about intent and context.

            Television Without Pity has always been a great example to me of internet snark at it’s best. It’s funny, it’s clever, it’s not mean-spirited. It’s tag line is “spare the snark, spoil the networks.” The writers love TV. The people who read the recaps tend to love and watch the shows. It’s all good fun. Intent, good, context, good.

            Then there is context. Say, the kind of snark that happens in my living room on Oscar night. Funny fast flowing banter… in private. Sure, someone might say something cutting about some actor, and everyone will gasp. But we’re being funny with friends in private. We don’t actually mean it, we wouldn’t say it publicly. But the same things, if said online in a way that the public or the person the joke was about could see it… that might be VERY mean-spirited. But again, it’s about intent. Is your intent to make four friends laugh, or is your intent to mock a real person in a public way?

            And then, of course there is email and g-chat. That, my friends, is where snark properly belongs. NOT where you secretly hope the person you’re mocking will read it. Then, your intent is shitty, and upon your head be it.

          • KC


            Thank you for explaining what your definition of snark is!

            I’d note that some people don’t seem to realize that the people they’re shredding online are, in fact, real human beings with feelings *and* access to the internet, and hence don’t draw that line between dinner-party-gchat vs. public. With many people, there’s also a bleed-over between how they act in private and how they act in public, so a pattern of relying on hate (not “good snark” but the take-no-prisoners kind) as a connector in private can translate to public, and also internally harms the person doing it and those around them. So… I agree that there are different conversational levels, but I think it’s smart for people to watch the level o’ vitriol even in the most private of settings. I wouldn’t suggest that it’s okay for people to be racist as long as it’s only in private and someone of another race won’t ever hear; it’s just plain not good for human beings to diminish other human beings, like smoking is not good for human beings.

            But there’s a difference between snark and vitriol – but the line sometimes gets blurred. So I don’t really know what to do with that.

          • meg

            Though, to be honest, hate forum participants are DYING for the people they are shredding (not in a snarky way, in a cruel way, lets be for real) to read their shit. It KILLS them when the celebrity/ blogger/ etc. can’t be bothered. KILLS them, and makes them meaner.

            They’re not funny people making jokes after a glass of wine. They’re bullies who feel terrible about themselves. (Though they might fool themselves into thinking they’re the former.)

          • Sara

            @Meg – I love Television Without Pity. That was the first place that popped into my head when I read the word snark.

          • meg

            TOTALLY. And I now know some of the original TWOP writers personally. They are among the nicest and politest people I know, so there you have it. Being funny and being mean are actually not the same thing. At all. (Hint: if you wish the person ill, you’re probably not being funny.)

          • KC

            I would note that I think most people are capable of crossing over the line into bullying given the wrong circumstances, so I try not to imply there’s always a big fat chasm between “bullies” and “us (being clever and possibly a little tiny bit mean)”.

            But yes, from the extremely limited exposure I’ve had to deliberate hate-forums/sites (because I generally try to avoid raw sewage when possible, thank you), if there *is* anything insightful/clever/witty/useful/not-just-straight-up-bullying there, it is buried too deep to bother looking for. And it’s hard to not come to the conclusion that the creators/frequenters are, at the very least, a bit confused in their motivations. Yikes.

          • meg

            But as you put in such a lovely way above, one of the real differences is, when you realize you hurt someone trying to apologize. Not just saying “Good. That was my goal.”

          • KC

            Yes, that’s definitely a solid distinction of intent. I liked what Maddie said above about intent (with the right intent, if you hurt someone, you wouldn’t go “Good.”), consent (all parties are snark-willing), and context.

            (although the apology thing also gets at one of the weirder branches of the insidious always-nice-always-liked-never-hurts-people good girl thing. Because my gut response when I accidentally pushed someone too far [non-snark-related, just something social they weren’t interested in doing and I wasn’t paying attention to “no, I really mean it” cues enough] once and they got upset? Was to be mad at them; it can’t have happened; I can’t have pushed you so much you got upset, because I’m just not that sort of person; that’s not who I am; I’m better than that. But I totally did push them too far. I guess, I understand one of the places where the “it was just a joke!” no-apology people can be coming from. Sometimes you really aggressively don’t want to believe that you did insensitively hurt someone else – and worse, that you *could*.)

      • Emily

        I agree with you that snark is poisonous; and somehow it seems to have become attractive. Why?

        I tend to think that snark (and its brother sarcasm) tend to come out when a person doesn’t want to delve deeper into a subject in an honest way. In my mind, snark hides laziness or fear. I’m sure it can hide other emotions too. I don’t like how “snarky” has become associated with witty or clever.

  • Another Meg

    Excellent post! This in particular stuck out to me:

    “So we put on a longer skirt, we don’t send the status update, we don’t start the blog, we don’t leave the comment, we don’t ask for the promotion, we don’t stand up for ourselves. Instead, we put up the asterisk in conversations and hope that it will protect us from those who are bothered by our audacity to exist—to have bodies and voices and the courage to aim for contentment or success or a happy life. We apologize in advance.”

    I feel like this is life now, and one on of the reasons that I
    a) Don’t walk around in my neighborhood after dark by myself, and
    b) Don’t have Facebook.

    I’ve so internalized the victim-blaming that happens in our society (and many others) that I live very carefully. I am starting graduate school in the fall, and one of the questions I asked of a current student in my program was how safe the city was, as the campus is in their downtown. She advised that as long as you “use common sense” then it was fine. But what is common sense to a guy is not the same as for me. That goes for my internet persona as well as in real life.

    And it pisses me off that it’s necessary.

    APW, thank you for creating a space where we feel safe to comment.

  • Liz

    Right on, sister! This is part of the reason why I don’t promote my blog. The bigger the blog, the more likely you are to attract haters. It sucks that that’s the case, to your point. Do I get annoyed by my friends who only post overly positive things? Sure. It looks like bragging and recent news stories have said that Facebook makes many people feel worse about themselves. But I get equally as annoyed by my friends who only post negative things. The world is already full of negative things. It’s why I don’t watch local news. I can’t handle it. I just try to keep a few things in mind when reading/commenting:

    “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”


    “Remember, everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

  • APW Lurker

    Cripes, reading this has made me so aware of how I’ve become the Hater and the Asterisk. I roll my eyes and groan every time I see a wedding planning post on Facebook (“Just found my Wedding Shoes and they are under budget!” Or, “I’m so lucky to be marrying my best friend” ) from my recently engaged friends. All I can think is “Oh isn’t life just grand for you! I’ve done all of these things and you don’t see me bragging about it!”

    But therein lies the rub. I wish I could post about how I found my shoes (over budget but worth it!) or how my fiancé and our engagement puppy are two things in life right now that consistently make me smile. But then it feels like I am bragging. And I think well who wants to hear about that? When people ask about how my life is or how wedding planning is going my response is always “Meh, decent”. Why share “The Good” when it might just et thrown back into your face?

    • Catherine B

      Engagement Puppy!!! (Want to hear about it)

      • APW Lurker

        ARGH this is why you don’t use your iPhone to comment (accidentally hit Report!!)

        Ah the story of Maverick! We got engaged last year but because we were in different cities it didn’t really feel like it was real. I finally got an opportunity to move and relocated from NYC to Houston 8 months later. My fiancé has always wanted a dog, I was pretty indifferent (also I’m a cat person) but I realized that hey I got a fantastic ring! He needs something too to celebrate US! So we go and visit puppies at a foster home and fall in love with a little Aussie/terrier mix pup. And after submitting our application and after two stressful nights we got chosen to take him home. And I told him that this little puppy maverick is my “engagement ring” to him. This is my commitment to him. And that’s when everything actually started feeling real. Not the large sum of money sucked out of our bank accounts to make the deposit to our venue months earlier but this little puppy! Like AH WE ARE SPENDING THE REST OF OUR LIVES TOGETHER!!!!

        • Catherine B

          Love it! Thanks for sharing.

        • NB

          Pleaseohpleaseohpleaseohplease submit a post about your engagement puppy.


          Also, that is awesome. Similarly, it was adopting our own little furry hoodlum that really made it sink in for me: yep, we’re married. This is our baby family now. Not the ring, not the wedding planning, not even the buying-of-houses—the insane dog who poops on my floor and wakes us up at 5:45 am. Love her.

          • meg


            Come on! My goal is that when you google Engagement Puppy, you’ll get APW. Because, yes.

          • Mira

            APW is already the second hit when you google Engagement Puppy…I feel like a couple more clicks would put it over the top.

    • Sam

      Oh so familiar. I have been engaged since June and have not posted a single iota to fb (except the occasional exceptional APW article). The reason I tell people when they ask why? Because I don’t want all those people I barely know and/or haven’t spoken to in years to offer up [fake] congratulations. How backwards is that? Who says ‘Pshaw, I hate when people are happy for me!’?? Despite what they may or may not know about my life these days, why do I want to hide from these people I have given access to?

      But part of it is that I don’t like being in the spotlight. And like Rachel pointed out, I know lots will roll their eyes (as I often do) at my narcissistic post. But in all fairness, where is that line between sharing your life experience and being narcissistic? I sure as shit don’t know. But I guess that’s what we are all here to discuss.

      Awesome post Rachel, et al.

      • Brenda

        I felt a bit odd when I changed my status on Facebook to Engaged too. I felt like I was bracing myself for something bad. However, once we both did it, we had a couple of days of everyone liking it and “congratulations!” and then it receded into the back of everyone’s mind again. I actually found it quite nice getting an acknowledgement from people I hadn’t spoken to in a long time – I didn’t feel it was fake at all, just that they were taking a moment to acknowledge something good for me even though we’re not really close anymore.

        It’s all the in the tone – just changing your status, a “yay, we’re getting married!” is not at all narcissistic. People (generally) want to to hear your good news.

    • I have the same thoughts sometimes, pulling back from posting the little victories (particularly on facebook where no matter how carefully curated the crowd seems mixed) and what’s crazy is that really? These are not huge “oh my god I just found a million dollars tax free and you didn’t” braggy things. These are the everyday happy things that make life worth living. It’s just saying “hey this thing has happened in my life and I’m happy”.

      Sharing that shouldn’t be so much stress.

  • alyssa

    You sound like the older sister I’ve always wanted, and the older sister I want to be. Thank you.

  • Carbon Girl

    Amazing post. One thing if has got me thinking about is how much this happens to men online too. I only really read the lifestyle blogs. Are there blogs run by men with the same issues?

    Part of me thinks “no” given how the media is more likely to criticize female celebrities and run a hundred stories about womens’ choices without similar stories about men’s choices. It reminds me of all of these “when should a woman marry” stories lately. As if marriage wasn’t a 2 person decision.

    I can’t decide if all this focus on women is good or bad. Though to me I think it is happening because we are finally getting more power as a whole.

  • Pingback: Why I’m not on Facebook (and plan to keep it that way) | Having Said That()

    • Samantha

      This is an interesting post and it reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend about “Facebook Depression.” How we look at all these wonderful things posted on peoples Facebooks which can lead to jealousy, or depression, but that these posts are such a skewed view of someone’s life. This particular person is not constantly traveling, going out to fancy restaurants, living free and easy with a handsome boyfriend a room full of friends. She is also paying bills, going to work, having a bad hair day, feeling sick, doing nothing all day on a weekend but watching TV – but she is not posting about that. This is not an true picture of her entire life.

      Just a commentary on the altered reality caused by Facebook and how it affects other people’s lives. We just need to remember these things.

      • Corrie

        Just like yesterday’s post about blogs not being reality…. wedding blogs are the altered, curated version of what people want the public to think was their ‘wedding reality.’ Facebook is often the altered, curated version of what people want their friends to think is their ‘life reality.’ I pretty much take Facebook posts with a grain of salt….except from those friends who rarely post, so when they DO post (whether it be negative or positive), I consider it to be fairly authentic.

      • NTB

        Absolutely. There is another concept called “The Facebook Fear of Missing Out.” I woke up this morning to a feed of my friends and their pregnancy news, and as someone who is not ready to have kids yet, I guess I feel a little left out. I am trying to be more positive and view their success and joy as something that I can also enjoy, admire, and be really happy about. The jealousy factor with Facebook is something that I have had to make a conscious effort to be aware of.

      • Stephanie

        Wow, that was perfect!!! Love the sum up.

  • Jashshea

    Just wow. I’m thinking about all the times I’ve heard “must be nice” come out of my mouth or mouths of others and wincing a little. As I’ve aged, I’ve said it on fewer occasions, but it crops up here or there. See: the friend with the trust fund. See: the friend with the cool sounding job.

    I think someone here said this in the past few month (or Rachel, it may have been from your blog), but I’ve been working hard on not saying “I’m jealous” or “He/She is so lucky” when someone has good news. Most of the time it’s not true – I’m happy for that person and may or may not actually want what they just got/experienced for myself. I’ve definitely been more conscious of saying “I’m so happy for you” or “Congratulations” in place of anything else. {Except for when someone is sitting on a beach with a fruity drink while I’m drudging around the office. Then I AM both jealous and happy for them.}

    This isn’t a very me word, but I’m pretty freaking blessed. My hilarious & kind husband and I have challenging but well-paying jobs that allow us to live the life we want i.e. dinners out, vacations, nice things if wanted. Our supportive and encouraging parents are still with us. We have many friends and acquaintances who share our varied interests. My life is good. Fuck asterisks.

  • Stephasaurus

    This post blew me away because of how powerful and relatable (and so freaking SMART) it is. This piece of writing is absolutely the perfect example of why I read APW even though I’m not planning a wedding.

  • Wow Rachel. This post is so, so good. I want to quote the whole thing but especially the “She Deserved It” section. You nailed it. Thanks for putting into words all the things that I have been thinking about but was unable to articulate!!

  • amandanoel

    re: the she was asking for it/ deserved it mentality, I give you this brilliant piece of satire:

  • Meg

    Bravo! *applause applause* Thanks for the reminder that we women need to be supportive of each other. A rising tide raises all ships! And why is it men don’t face the same kind of criticism? Are we more comfortable with their success, or do we just hold them to lower expectations?

    • Melissa

      I think men don’t get the same sort of criticism from other men because they aren’t pitted against each other like women are from a very young age. Women are conditioned to compete against each other. Whether it’s to weigh less than your friends, to have better clothes or the more attractive boyfriend. Some women even get this from their mothers (I’m one of them). Mothers jealous of daughters relationship with father, etc… I find this women’s competition thing fascinating. I read a great book last month called Catfight by Laura Tanenbaum. It made me rethink some of my own behaviors and those of my friends. A great read!

      • meg

        Exactly this.

    • KC

      I would note that some men do face the shred kind of criticism. I’m not sure, but I think this is primarily when they’ve gotten more (money/fame/popularity/etc.) than certain other people think they “deserve” (or when they’ve gotten things other people want), especially in creative/artistic fields. (see for a particularly sustained and ridiculous example)

      I don’t know exact proportions, but it does seem that women generally have to do a lot more ludicrous contortions to be successful and not come in for massive attack than men do. And their personal appearance usually gets called in pretty early in the “fight”, especially by men, irrespective of the actual topic of disagreement, in a way which does not seem to generally the case for men (unless it’s tangentially connected to the point of contention). Women’s lifestyle choices also seem to get called in much earlier and in a much more detailed fashion (especially by women), again despite any irrelevance to the topic (and, sometimes, lack of information).

      But men in some fields definitely get hit with some of this trash/jealousy/nastiness. And, indeed, a rising tide lifts all boats. So everyone should benefit if the tenor of internet conversation can be improved. :-)

  • Let all flowers bloom!

  • Good. Gravy.

    If there was a magic superlative to the “exactly” button, it would be pushed with gusto for the entirety of this post. Until we wrap our heads around what’s happening, we’ll be unable look this phenomenon in the face and say “enough!” This post makes enormous headway into putting a fine point on this concept. Bravo.

    I can’t tell you how long it took for me to actually reveal my gender to the readers of my blog for fear of reprisals. More than one of my friends actively questioned, “Aren’t you worried people won’t take you seriously when they find out you’re a girl?” To date, it’s been a non-event, but it gets my goat to think of how much worry went into something that shouldn’t be an event in the first place.

  • Oh my gosh, you guys! Stop posting! It keeps refreshing and I’m losing my spot in the comments :)

  • NTB

    Two things:
    1. Rachel is awesome.
    2. This post is awesome.

    I maintain a personal blog for the purposes of keeping track of recipes I make up and share with friends, so that I don’t find myself in that ‘shit…what did I put in that soup?’ situation. My blog has about three followers and one of them is my mom, so I am not going for personal blog fame over here. I admire the women who are great at it and who love to do it.

    However, I am active on sites like Facebook and Pinterest. I have noticed that women attacking one another on those sites is getting out of control. When I got engaged in 2011, I shared some of the exciting details about my wedding on Facebook. One of my husband’s cousins, who is a few years older than me, commented openly to my husband’s family that ‘Natalie won’t have anything to talk about once this wedding is over.’ I fumed over it for weeks and took it real personally until I just decided to not let it get to me anymore. Her comment says more about her than it does about me, and it served as a great reminder of how I DON’T want to sound judgmental or harsh when it comes to other women.

    As women, we have enough challenges: marriage, work, children, gender issues, aging parents. We women should stick together and respect each other no matter which nanny we choose (or not) or if we choose to stay home, work, have kids, not have them, have a career, not have a career…we are all different and we are all free to make different choices.

  • Senorita

    Holy Cow.

    This was behind amazing. I feel like the asterisked good especially applies to any conversation involving one’s relationship. The current culture is seeped in complaining about your significant other and if you’re crazy enough to simply be happy in it, then you’re annoying.

    We try to surround ourselves in models of happy, healthy, positive relationships, but they seem to be few and far between.

  • SarahT

    Love this post and I love APW for the goodness it brings out in us! I’m so sorry you’ve gotten attacked, especially as it relates to a person you love. I’m a business owner, not a blogger, but I didn’t know how mean people could be until I started trying to build something (my male business partner encountered the same thing, so it wasn’t necessarily gender-related in my case). For the first time in my life I had what I would consider enemies, for no good reason. I’m amazed at the vitriol people express toward something that someone else imagined, worked on, CREATED. It’s so easy to sit back and take potshots at people who are doing the hard work of making something new-whether a business or a blog or a life change. To the haters-if you don’t like something, go make something you do like. The creative process will leave you little energy to waste on criticizing others.

    • meg

      This. Building things makes people ANGRY. I suspect it makes people angry because on some level they’re thinking of all the things they want to build but are afraid to, so they lash out at the person doing it.

      • KC

        And, ironically, them lashing out makes them less likely to create, both because it uses time and because it makes them more afraid to create. Not a happy cycle.

        • This is part of why I just quit my job. I was accused of being my coworkers problem. When I asked what that meant exactly, she simply responded “you are my problem.” To me this meant, she was jealous of my perceived success and that she is actually her own problem, not me. It hurt anyway.

  • Jen

    Damn Rachel – the content of this post is awesome but i really wanted to comment on your writing. The structure of this post, your thought process, you references to other sites and your level of research makes this post so much more powerful and enjoyable to read. Great job.

  • I so appreciate this post and the honest and bravery of it. I feel like I could quote half of it back to you just to say, yes! This! You may not read these comments, but I just want to put the positive vibe out there anyway.

    I sometimes think that women are so used to being objectified that we don’t even realize it’s happening to us. This post is illuminates an important topic that needs to be spoken to more and more. It makes me want to use my own voice more.

    Thank you for that.

  • Emily

    I haven’t read the comments because I wanted to share my reactions first:

    Wow. This piece is incredible—strong, moving, and right on! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Rachel, I’m glad to know you are in the world.

  • I’ve now read all the comments… and I guess I’ll point out that I’ve never commented here before, but I’ve now commented three times on this post!

    This powerful post really reached into my soul and pulled up something deep… and angry! In a good way.

    I read my local newspaper (a major metropolis paper) and I’ve had to force myself to stop reading the comments because they are awful, just horrible. No matter what… a child is kidnapped, the commentors all talk about how terrible the parents (especially the mother) is. Constant negativity and hate. Why? Who are these people and why do they hate so much? The comments make me worry about the world more than the news does.

    Thank you to all here who are encouraging critical thinking, respect, encouragement, kindness, and living with grace.

    • I can’t read comments on sites like that (or national newspapers or online journals) because of all the hate. For awhile I was really into it, getting into online fights but then I realized it was a waste of my time, energy, and emotions. I would get really riled up and I highly doubt I changed anyone’s mind. So not worth it.

  • I just realized that immediately after reading this post, I still aw-shucks-ed my way through a blog post about our new house (that I love) to the extent that it kind of sounds like I was complaining about it. Because I didn’t want to sound like I was bragging! It’s not like it’s a mansion in Malibu – we lucked into a townhouse instead of a tower apartment for base housing. I should be able to write on my own blog about being excited about it without feeling the need to downplay in case it bothers anyone that I’m happy about having a nice place to live.

    Clearly this is something I need to do more thinking about. Thank you Rachel for this thoughtful piece. And I’m with everyone else who said that APW is one of the few places where I actually read the comments because I know they’ll be thoughtful and respectful and I really enjoy the conversations. I never would have expected clicking through to a wedding blog to end with finding a community.

  • Kelly K

    “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly…”

    • meg

      HOLY. MOLY.

    • Have you been reading your Brene Brown? Because her work and her insights immediately popped into my head while reading this post and discussion as well. Right on.

      • Brene Brown is totally amazing. I wish I could put her ideas on and wear them like armor. But I’m sure that would be cheating.

    • Heather

      Theodore Roosevelt said this in 1910
      .I shared this my fiance when he was particularly upset after reading the comments section of an article online
      Great quote- thanks for posting it Kelly!

  • Heather

    Thank you Rachel for writing this post. It is well written, well thought out and touches on so many issues that I believe are deliberately oppressed in the dominant cultural narrative. The following quote from your post really spoke to me:
    “The internet feels like a godsend for those who can’t get past the gatekeepers and be heard in real life. But we can’t believe a woman would be posting for herself, or for the attention of a select audience. And even if we can believe it, we don’t care; we buy into the idea that she’s a woman, so merely existing in public is enough to make her public property.”
    This paradigm that women are public property and therefore should not have ownership over their bodies, thoughts, life-choices, etc. infuriates me. This idea is reinforced in mainstream media in such a way that I think that so many people are desensitized to it. There is too much violence in media and the portrayal of that violence towards women is rampant. It happens explicitly in the portrayal of physical violence but happens subtly in comments section on the web and the discourse around the right to breast feed in public. When I bring it up at work, with my friends, or with my family people roll their eyes and say here she goes again and I think they write me off as the angry woman (black woman at that which let me not even go into those stereotypes). My fiancé and I are honestly so concerned about raising our potential future children in a society that perpetuates violence against women. We worry about how we would help our daughter AND son navigate the complexities of social media and fight back against the violence….
    The reason I appreciate your post and APW overall is that we have to keep talking about these issues and continue to bring them up, because the purpose of the hateful comments and the outdated patriarchal laws is to shut us up. When I read posts like this it reminds me of what my mother would always whisper to me on my first day of school and over dinner and every chance she could get: “Speak up. Don’t wait for anyone to give you permission to have an opinion. Not speaking up is what will keep you awake at night” and she was right. The times I regret the most is not speaking up, because even if people hate me for it, at least I know I was true to myself.
    There is a quote that I have above my desk that says:

    “Politicians must be told if they continue to sink into the mud of obscenity, they will proceed alone. If we tolerate vulgarity, our future will sway and fall under a burden of ignorance. It need not be so. We have the brains and heart to face our futures bravely. We must take responsibility for the time we take up and the space we occupy. “- Maya Angelou

    I think this is true not only for politicians but for us all.
    So thank you Rachel for speaking up and for talking about the fact that your life is good. (When did we get to a point in our culture where women could not be happy for other women? Where everything was a competition and we forget that celebrating each other makes us all better in the end)

    I am happy for you and I thank you for challenging the dominant discourse and encouraging us all to change our perspective

  • Loved this post, loved everything about it, but especially how she wrote it/the tone. It immediately made me head over to Rachel’s blog, and I’m already hooked. I love the ladies that APW “introduces” me to – such positivity, such strong, intelligent women. Thanks for enriching my life, Rachel and APW!

  • Ake

    Rachel, this article is EXCELLENT. I absolutely love it, and think it is so profound. I don’t spend a lot of time musing around the internet so I haven’t personally experienced a lot of what you’re talking about (for the last six months our closest internet connection was a hike and a seriously intense one to two hour 4×4 journey away, and even then it was slow), so it also helped me to understand comment moderation, both from the actual moderators and from members of the community. Sometimes I have been frustrated when even slightly dissenting comments have been jumped on, because I love a good debate. Your article helped me understand two things though – firstly, how quickly letting negativity into a comment space can spiral into abuse. In that way ‘haters’ have actually made it really hard for non-haters to dissent because, as Meg pointed out earlier, sometimes it’s kind of hard to interpret where someone is coming from (and as Maddie pointed out, I think intent and respect is so important, but tone is sometimes kind of subjective when reading, right?). Secondly, it helped me understand much better how it would feel to be treated the way you are describing. I’m so sorry that you and others have experienced this kind of abuse, just from sharing and writing and being strong, awesome, brave women. Thanks so much for sharing this piece because it gives a ton of insight into the problem of negativity online as both a personal problem and a systemic problem. You are also, I think, a fantastic writer. Also, Meg I’m not sure if I’ve ever told you this, but I think your writing is amazing and I read whatever I can get my hands on of it, even with limited internet access and even when whatever you’re writing about is not directly relevant to my life. So, nice one ladies.

  • Pingback: Five Things Friday 4.5.13()

  • Novem

    “But we can’t believe a woman would be posting for herself, or for the attention of a select audience. And even if we can believe it, we don’t care; we buy into the idea that she’s a woman, so merely existing in public is enough to make her public property.”

    I can’t say “Exactly” enough to this statement. This post and the discussion it’s created perfectly illustrates why I love APW and read it even though I’m no longer in wedding planning stage of my life: 1) great writing by great writers, 2) thoughtful comments and discussions, and 3) amazing articles on the really-obvious-but-not-widespread-enough idea that women who choose to display their ideas/bodies/self in real life and/or online are subjected to a level of vitriol (e.g., threats of physical/sexual violence) that men on average do not experience because women are often seen as public property and we should NOT just accept that as the status quo.

  • Pingback: My life is good* [Freelance Article]()

  • Wow. That was amazing. Thank you.

  • Liz

    I’m a little terrified to post this comment but I’m punching fear in the face and doing it anyway.

    I started reading blogs several years ago. And then I found out about the forums (through Rachel, actually) a while back. And I have been reading both now; I have only commented a few times – to defend bloggers or point out typos – and have often been disgusted and surprised at what people comment on. But still, i was checking it as often as i was checking my favorite blogs.

    Recently I have felt horrible about myself for spending any amount of time on the forums because WHAT IS THE POINT?! I am not creating anything positive there. I’m not learning anything. It’s not adding value to my life or to anyone else’s. in fact, I’ve been tacitly participating in destruction instead, and as a blogger myself, that is just so counterproductive. The amount of constructive criticism there is hidden by so much snarky pointless commentary, it’s not worth it.

    I am now crying on the plane to the airport! That sort of “wow I’ve been such an asshole” crying. This post is what I needed to push me and quit reading the forums for good. I don’t think everyone there is a horrible, jealous hater (because I actually don’t hate, and really like, all of the bloggers whose threads I’ve read), but i can attest from my personal experience that many of the insecurities that might drive someone to post there are likely also present in their non-virtual life. I struggle with insecurity and fear and jealous feelings while trying to remember that there is plenty of love to go around.

    But really what I need to do is apologize to perpetuating a cycle of negativity that is counter everything I was taught and want to be. Maybe this is coming off as dramatic, but it feels dramatic, because the online negativity was bringing negativity into my real life more and more and that is so the opposite of what I want or need.

    So! With that confessional, I say thanks to APW for giving me a safe space to share this, and thanks o Rachel for being so freaking insightful and awesome for provoking a much needed change in my life.

    • meg

      Hi Liz,
      As someone who’s real life has been really painfully affected by what goes on in those forums—in ways that have been actually scary for my loved ones—I just wanted to say a personal thank you.

      I think it’s really easy for people to excuse participation in hate forums, hate twitter circles, the like (reading or commenting) as something that doesn’t matter, is just an online thing, just a hobby, whatever. What they don’t see is the way that the real world actions they’re taking as they read and type, have real world implications for the people they’re writing about. Even for those of us who don’t read hate forums ever, the after effects can be really bad. It can impact people’s professional lives, their reputations, their families, their feeling of personal safety, and their physical and mental health… just to name a few things I’ve witnessed with friends and loved ones written about. It’s always a bit surprising to me how people can do this, not thinking about the real world reactions. It is a tricky thing, since I’ve learned that at least online, you always get back what you put out there, usually magnified times a thousand.

      So, a personal thank you from me. There is plenty of love and success and happiness and all good things to go around, and sharing it tends to make it grow. So from me to you today, a big old wave of love and goodness (magnified times a thousand).


      PS That’s clearly why I was the editor behind this one. I wanted us to get it out there, with the hope it might start a few small ripples of change. Those ripples can make waves.

  • Rachel, this is FANTASTIC. Good work, girl.

    My asterisks are usually “I’m so LUCKY” and “I was lucky to have a great childhood and supportive parents”… lucky, lucky, lucky, meanwhile I downplay any hard work I have done, as if I don’t deserve any credit. I am deeply grateful for all the privileges I have experienced, but damn it, I have also worked hard to get to a good place and a happy life. I think I need to claim it!

    PS, I’m surprised to find out that hate-blogs are a thing. Who the fuck has time for that? If I don’t like a blog, I DON’T READ IT. Ta da! Problem solved.

  • Rachel, I want to reiterate (because i think ive already commented a few times here) how much I love this article. I was going to tell you on your blog, but your comments are off! I love being a part of this AWP community hoping this is a safer place to appreciate each other.

  • Pingback: Simply Saturday // Celebrate Lessons » Then Heather Said()

  • Pingback: Grown-Up Saturday Morning Cartoons: This Week’s Article Roundup | Seize the Latté()

  • sandyliz

    HOLY SHIT. This is so freaking amazing. I haven’t been on APW in a while, so now I’m kicking myself for missing one word of your writing Rachel.

    And now I need to go to FB to tell everyone ever to read this. A lot.

  • Well said! *applauds!*

  • magnificent post, very informative. I wonder why the other specialists of this sector do not notice this. You must continue your writing. I’m sure, you have a huge readers’ base already!

  • Finding this from the Best of 2013 list, and can’t believe I didn’t read it before. This is so, 100% spot on. Thank you thank you for writing it.

  • I must be living under a rock or completely naive because I didn’t know that this level of hate blogging existed. Sure, I have seen snarky comments on blogs but I haven’t seen more than that. I guess that I don’t visit those sites and maybe because I read blogs in email or a reader and don’t see all the comments most of the time. But I get it. I get nervous to post any of my blog posts on facebook because then people who know me in real life may think I am vain or complaining, dorky, etc etc. But so far blogging has given me a creative outlet and allowed me to “meet” other bloggers and enjoy a new hobby while building my self esteem. So I think that that positive outweighs the negative for me. Well, at least now that I don’t have any commenters who care enough to be jerks

  • Pingback: On A New Year | Colliding With The Earth()

  • Pingback: Friday Finds | With Faith & Grace()

  • Pingback: The REWM:Thoughts on the 'American Blogger' documentary()

  • Pingback: The REWM:The week in review - The REWM()

  • Pingback: Bean Byte 32()