Guest author, Alegre, recently posted this excellent blog on www.womensmediacenter.com. Founded in 2004 as a non-partisan, non-profit progressive women’s media organization by the writers/activists Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem, the women’s media center strives to make women visible and powerful in the media.
About That Writers’ Strike at DailyKos … by Alegre
March 25, 2008
I work full time, but my evenings are spent writing about and promoting Hillary Clinton on the Internet. Sometimes well into the wee hours of the morning. I may be just a volunteer, but I’m one of millions who is in her corner and working hard to help her make it to the Oval Office.
I’ve been a fan of hers and the remarkable work she’s done over the past 35 years for many reasons. I’ll mention one that’s at the top of my list—her early work with the Children’s Defense Fund after she earned her law degree from Yale. My son was born with developmental delays and has benefited greatly from the programs and laws Hillary helped fight for and put into place that require our public schools to accommodate children like my son. If he had been born 35 years ago he would have been written off as retarded—special education didn’t exist in our public schools. Not so today, thanks in part to Hillary’s work. He’ll start kindergarten with his peers this fall only because of the years of physical therapy and early intervention he’s gotten thanks to people like Hillary Clinton.
I’ve been posting to discussion boards and web logs since the mid-90s, and joined the progressive political site DailyKos nearly four years ago. When I posted my first diary in support of Hillary last June, I thought I’d get my head handed to me by other members of our online community. Surprisingly, my post generated some much-needed discussion about her record and her plans going forward. Since then I’ve been posting on a daily basis, at times challenging something her rivals have said or done. It wasn’t all that bad for the most part—we had great discussions, and I gave as good as I got in the back and forth of it all.
Until about two months ago that is. Things started to go downhill fast. I really can’t put my finger on a cause, but the level of sexism and hostility toward Hillary and her supporters got to be too much.
I’d been tolerating abusive language, hate and anger for months because I thought I was helping my candidate get her message out. And it did for a while. I guessed that people in the press and the media read the things posted on the site and they were my real audience—not the haters. But I realized I was having less and less of an impact there—the comments and abuse posted as response, the way the bullies tried to push me around, only made my write ups look pointless to anyone in the press who might have been reading. And fewer of Hillary’s supporters posted diaries or even commented on the site. I’m sure it looked like a really sad and futile effort on my part.
Something snapped when I saw the way they trashed my diary about International Women’s Day, reminding me about abuse the women at DailyKos took during another conflict a few years back—something we called “the pie wars.” Markos, creator of the site, had some ads up with pictures many of us found offensive: busty women in tight shirts ready to throw pies at each other. Anyone who objected to the ads was automatically tossed into the “women’s studies group.” We may not have made up a huge percentage of members of that site but we DO make up half the population of this world. And as such, we deserve the same respect as the guys there. But the attitude was, how dare we ask for the right to expect a hostility-free place to post among other progressives? How dare we expect to be treated as equals?
I felt then as if we were we expected to go get coffee while they planned their next assault on the Bush/Cheney cabal. Now, it felt that way again. The fact that people quickly decry comments about Obama as racist while completely ignoring the sexist tone that’s been injected into the campaign is one of the biggest double standards I’ve ever seen. I’ve had it up to my eyeballs with guys telling us to wait for our turn.
So I decided I’d had enough. I didn’t intend to make a statement; I simply wanted to explain why I wouldn’t be around for a while and maybe let other supporters of Hillary’s know where I was going to be posting. Then I began to think about how students would call a strike to protest their schools’ investments in companies doing business with governments committing genocide, as in Darfur, or with South Africa during apartheid. I know my protest wasn’t on as grand a scale, but I could take a stand against the sexism and hate that had been allowed to flourish in the DailyKos community. I needed to tell someone that I wasn’t willing to contribute to a site that so disrespected women and the people who supported Hillary. And I needed to ask others to join me. If enough of us walked out then maybe our message would be heard.
Once I posted my thoughts at DailyKos, I felt released. I knew I’d get clobbered in the comments but I didn’t care. I was more than surprised to see that many actually posted supportive comments. I heard that 300 people recommended my post to others. Several big name bloggers I notified, such as Marc Ambinder, Jake Tapper and Ben Smith, wrote about the strike. The AP picked it up from there. The Huffington Post and countless other sites have cross-posted what I’d written. Requests started pouring in from people hoping to join the Yahoo discussion group, Hillary’s Voice, people beyond grateful to find a place where her supporters could share information and discuss the issues as we try to get Hillary’s record and story out onto the blogs. Those comments helped to remind me that there are thousands of bloggers out there who are doing all they can to help her make it to the Oval Office.
It was an interesting week to say the least. I walked away from an online community where I’d been an active member for nearly four years and caused quite a dust-up. My post generated more than 1,200 comments and would have gotten more if the administrators hadn’t shut down the opportunity to comment. Any more and it would have crashed the site.
A lot of people joined in on my writers’ strike, and it was good to know I wasn’t alone in thinking it was time to walk away from DailyKos. The New York Times, Bill O’Rielly, Stephen Colbert and the Washington Post covered us. Hillary’s Voice has grown by more than 100 new members, and a few of us are in the process of building up a new web log to visit and post to. In my wildest dreams, I never in expected all this to come from a simple post calling for a bit of a reality check and civility at DailyKos. And I certainly never expected to get this kind of attention just because I walked away from some blog. Me—a working mom who blogs late into the night on behalf of a Democrat she believes in.
I’ve often wondered why some of Senator Obama’s supporters felt the need to get so abusive. A friend pointed out that many of them are younger than Hillary’s supporters. Those 20- or 30-something men grew up with the computer and are used to dealing with people in an anonymous manner. They’re invisible. They have no way of knowing whom they’re verbally attacking in those exchanges. We could be their mother, neighbor, teacher or friend—or their boss. They don’t know and they clearly don’t care.
Since I and others have left DailyKos, things must have gotten pretty boring for the haters there. Some seem to have followed us over to our new blog-home, MyDD. When we post, they’ve taken to jumping in with the same tired talking points and abuse. We try our best to ignore them.
Some of the inquiries I’ve gotten from the press ask whether I think our online community can regroup once the primaries are over. I can’t speak for all of Hillary’s online supporters, but personally, I’ll follow my candidate’s lead and do all I can to elect a Democrat dedicated to fixing our disastrous healthcare system, bringing our troops home from Iraq, reversing the damage we’ve done to our planet through years of neglect, repairing our economy after eight years of cronyism—the list goes on. And that means working together as a team on line using all the resources at our disposal—even DailyKos.