I’ve thought long and hard about whether to engage in the debate of the hate directed towards Dooce. The fact that she’s on my blogroll should give you some idea of where I stand, but something else has emerged that I can’t help but believe demands that we, people of the Internet, speak out.
Heather Armstrong, writer of Dooce.com, gets a lot of hatemail. She has said so many times, and I’ve always read it and gone, “jee, sucks, oh well” and forgotten about it. She’d occasionally publish some of the best crackpottery sent her way, and it would be a laugh. Only recently have I come across websites apparently primarily devoted to Hating Dooce. It’s like a hobby. Except, I’m completely baffled as to how grown women might engage daily in ripping apart someone they don’t know personally. These aren’t comments along the lines of “meh, boring” or “that blog sucks”, these are deeply specific vitriolic judgements of Heather and her family.
How is that OK? How do other women, mums even, think it’s OK to berate Heather’s children? If you think she is setting a bad example, how is berating someone a better example? I cannot for the life of me fathom how one can cross that line and feel like a just and moral person, a cruisader of All That is Right, an example to ones children. Calling a househusband gay because… actually, why? (I won’t even go into why one might even consider using that as an insult.)
I don’t understand how it is OK to go from a perfectly acceptable position of disagreement (because of course you don’t have to love Dooce) to outright attack. No one has that right, no matter how convinced they are of their own opinion. You can respectfully disagree, emphasis on respectfully; you can set out a well-argued piece on why you disagree with what Dooce does. Of course you can. There are people out there who are honestly concerned and that’s fair enough. I don’t agree with every decision Heather Armstrong makes, but I respect her enough to realise she is a grown woman who has a right to live her life the way she chooses to. The fact that she chooses to write about it does not mean her life is fair game. It doesn’t give you a right to tell her how to live her life, or worse, to try to take her down. If you are so thoroughly convinced you are much, much better, for the love of all that is good and true, focus your energy on taking the top spot, not on taking her down. There is a difference, and it bottles down to dignity.
Do you honestly feel justified trying to ruin someone’s life? Is that something you are OK with? Because if it’s something you enjoy spending your time on, there’s a long list of murderers, paedophiles and rapists you might want to send a comment or two first.
The snarkiness is unparalleled. Amusingly, Heather decided to shrug it off as best she could and have a laugh: she’s now “Monetizing the Hate”. In a move of astounding unoriginality, the anti-crowd have now started a site to Monetize the Love. Sadly, love isn’t nearly as amusing as misguided angst, so I dare say I know who’ll be raking in the cash here. I suggest Dooce bathe in it while claiming to be snorting coke off both her children’s bellies. Because she can. And because no amount of high school bullying will change the fact that Heather is doing the best she can. I think she has made a brilliant life for herself. You don’t have to agree: you are free to quit reading her website at any time. Isn’t that a better option than taking the choices she makes regarding her life personally? No matter how much you disagree or despise her lifestyle, parenting choices, aesthetics, language or luck, there are certain things you do not get to say about other people. Not in public. Yell at your kitchen counter, if you must.
Yes Heather fights back and ridicules. But she’s not stooped to such lowly attacks on people’s family members or mental state yet. She appears to be trying her best to laugh it off, and given the sheer amount of rage out there, I think she’s doing admirably. Don’t like her blog? Hit the little red cross in the top right corner and live blissfully ever after.
Please, can we stop the name-calling? Can we cease ganging up on people like it’s high school? Can we discuss disagreements respectfully? And as an umbrella question of sorts: how can we as women demand respect and expect to be taken seriously when this is how we choose to publish ourselves online? I just hope the blogging world can find some way to be much more than this.
PS. This made me laugh. A lot. And yes, the Leonie in the comments at the bottom is me. I signed on with my actual name, e-mail address and website address [edit: or I did until they deleted the website info and “unlinked” my name – don’t want to be sending any visitors my way now! That one referral in 24 hours really sent my stats through the roof!]. I guess my point is that you can be angry or sarcastic, but there’s no need to be vile, and if you’re not vile, you don’t need an alias. Want to fight? Fair enough. But fight fairly and use rhetorics, not retardics.