Dr. Isis is a brilliant physiologist at an R-1. She is also a married woman with a toddler whom she refers to as Little Isis. Some of her posts talk about Little Isis’s adorable antics, but mostly she writes about science, science blogging, and shoes. Here’s a lovely tweet e-mail she received the other day:
I hope someone does to your baby what you do to your mice.
Isn’t that a great thing to read as you’re settling into work in the morning? Oh, and by the way, you pathetically stupid trolls: Isis doesn’t work with mice.
It seems to me that feminist bloggers, for their own safety and sanity (not to mention, the safety of their families), either have to choose to hide their real life professional identity, like GayProf, Notorious Girl, Ph.D., Squadratomagico, Dr. Crazy, Prof. Susurro, and Dr. Isis, or they have to obscure their personal lives (like your faithful women’s history blogger and Barbie aficionado, Historiann.) Prof. Susurro had a nice post on blog etiquette yesterday. If you truly aren’t a jerk and don’t want to be mistaken for one, you could do worse than to follow her advice.
The advantage to going the completely pseudonymous route is that you can dish more about the world around you–you can, if you so choose, complain about your colleagues, your institution, your workplace directly, and you can (if you choose to) share more details about your personal life. The disadvantage of this choice is that you can’t blog specifically about your intellectual work. The advantages and disadvantages to being an “out” blogger like me, Tenured Radical, and Knitting Clio, are exactly the opposite: you can write from a clear position of being informed by your particular research specialties, but you should probably draw different lines around how much of your workplace and personal life you share. TR and KC share more about their personal lives than I do, and TR has dealt with a lot more personal nastiness in the comments as a result.
Needless to say, incidents like the one Dr. Isis reported just make me even clearer about the rightness of my choice not to say that much about my personal life. I recently told you that I am married to a man, but that’s as much as I feel safe in revealing on the blog. You’ll never find a photograph of me here, and I’ve tried to keep them off line elsewhere. So, it’s not that I’m being coy–those of you who have met me know what the deal is, and I trust you not to make reference to personal matters in the comments. As I’ve learned, there are a lot of misogynist creeps who aren’t above threatening someone’s young children or using details about their personal lives in aggressive attacks in comments on their blogs, or on other blogs. As Tenured Radical once wisely said to me, “the mere fact we have blogs and readers is a provocation to some men.” I know a lot of you think I’m irrationally hostile to social networking technologies–but the ugly twitter e-mail from some animal rights nut that Dr. Isis received is an important reason why. Isis might “friend” someone who turns out to be an animal rights absolutist, and then that guy finds out exactly where she lives and what her family looks like. That’s not information that needs to be shared with random a-holes on the internets.
Of course we can’t know for sure in all cases, but in my experience the people who feel the need to push their way onto feminist blogs and/or make nasty, hostile, and demeaning comments present as men on-line. But, it doesn’t really matter what the chromosomal makeup of trolls on feminist blogs really is–whether they’re male or female, they clearly feel free to say ugly, hostile, and demeaning things on feminist women’s blogs that they don’t on nonfeminist and/or men’s blogs.