Day 16: Midway Through 31 Days of Blogging
I have now blogged everyday for fifteen days in a row!
The most regular blogging I have done up until now was during my trips to Greece. I blogged about blogging the first trip, and looking back, blogging a trip is not that different from giving yourself a 31-day blogging challenge. In both cases, I find myself bringing added attention to my experiences because I know I am going to have to blog about something. One of my biggest obstacles to blogging more regularly before this month is that I’ll have ideas about something I could potentially blog about and I’ll think that it isn’t important or interesting enough or that I’m not the one to say it (sometimes, this is a legit concern and the philosophy blogosphere might be a better place if more white cisgender men asked them whether they should be the ones to say the thought they have).
I think this filtering is raced and gendered because there are a bunch of able cisgender white men blogging about seemingly every idea they have (idk maybe they just have that many more thoughts and these are the filtered through ones). When I do post, I have considerable anxiety about what people will think. Not every time. Some posts I’m pretty proud of: the one on conversion, the one on my political past, the one on being gluten free. Others I’m not so much proud of, but I’m not nervous about them because I was reporting on an event or experience, like the mentoring workshop and the public philosophy panel, or on pedagogy practices, like blogging with students or using student evaluations to improve teaching practices. What I’ve realized is that the posts I’m nervous about are the posts where I articulate something I think, my own ideas.
I think this points to the real sense of stereotype threat on the internet, specifically within the philosophy blogosphere. At the Public Philosophy Panel at the Eastern APA, Justin Weinberg, editor of Daily Nous, encouraged people to start a blog despite the nastiness of the philoblogosphere by saying, look, probably a million people in the world are hating Taylor Swift right now, like actively hating her, but that doesn’t matter to her. As a philosopher, I immediately began to concern troll Weinberg’s comment. Yeah, I thought, but Taylor Swift’s career is in no way affected by those people hating her or thinking she is not good at what she does. Mine does.
But does it? I wonder if we overplay that. I just got tenure. I think that might be why I find it possible to take on this 31-day challenge now. I don’t need to feel as hampered by the fear of how it will affect my career. Nonetheless, it does. Again, I think this experience is affected by stereotype threat for white women and people of color in philosophy (which gives me a deep respect for the public philosophy work of women of color like Myisha Cherry over at UnMUTE podcast). Stereotype threat prevents people from doing their best work or taking certain kinds of risks because of the fear that they will fulfill the stereotypes that people have of those with their social identity. So not only do you have to have the interesting idea you have to overcome the added anxiety about whether people will think it is good enough given the things they are likely to think about you. The able cisgender white men on the internet in philosophy and political theory are taken as having something worth saying, of being given the benefit of the doubt, because of their social position. So they take up more and more space on the internet because they are affirmed and encouraged to take up more and more space. The feeling that there aren’t that many disabled persons, LGBTQ, white women, or men and women of color being recognized on the internet in philosophy makes it more difficult for members of those groups to put themselves out there especially when the work they are doing draws attention to their social identity.
I think it is telling that the posts I have received positive feedback on are the ones where I’m reporting on programs and panels or where I’m talking about strategies for pedagogy. Fewer people have read and responded to posts about my ideas. What I like about the 31-day challenge is that I given myself somewhat arbitrary requirements that necessitate that I ignore that feedback. I still have to post everyday. I still have to find an idea. I can say to myself, it doesn’t matter if no one reads or responds, this is about my commitment to writing and thinking in public every day. I want to take that way of thinking further, which I expect is part of what enables my white male colleagues to write often. They aren’t concerned with whether they are read, they are concerned to take notes on their thinking in public.
So if anything, what I’m learning from this practice is courage.
Image is of the Agora in Athens.