I assume that most people who drop by here regularly also read Public Address, and I know that some of you, and me, join in the discussion there. So you will already know that the one explicitly feminist voice there, Tze Ming Mok, is calling it quits.
I count four explicitly feminist voices in the NZ blogosophere – me, Span, Tze Ming, and Maia, with other people from time to time saying something feminist. (Not that these other people aren’t feminist – their blogs have a different focus.) Of those four, Span regretfully thought long and hard about what other important things were going on in her life, and quit a few months ago. Tze Ming has just quit, for reasons that she spells out in her leaving post, and reasons that she leaves sitting tantalizingly there, mentioned, but not explicitly drawn out, in her lovely prose. I’m about to leave for Australia, so although I plan to continue to blog, on NZ topics, no doubt over time I will find that I focus less on NZ, and more on my new home. Maia will be the only one left. She has been involved in incredible events recently, living her feminism and activism. I hope she is able to keep going, because we need her voice.
The comments thread following Tze Ming’s final post is … interesting. Lots of people commenting on how much they appreciated her insight, her anger, her capacity to make us all think. But take a little look at the language she has used:
After nearly three years of being the exotic dancing girl of Public Address… these Canto-peasant feet weren’t made for stilettos.
the PA System experiment is a large factor in why you’re seeing the back of me. Although it’s been a very successful exercise in online community-building, and although I have had a lot of fun with it in places, it has, overall, been strangely isolating for people like me. But I always knew that was how communities worked, and I knew even before it started that PA System would be dominated by a certain kind of perspective. It’s not a terrible one, not at all. But it’s not for everyone. For people like me, it takes a lot of effort to stay involved. I’m tired and isolated enough where I am, now that I’m a real hard-working immigrant at last.
Coincidentally, the day that I joined the [Redacted Place] and became unsure whether I could say exactly what I wanted on this forum [Public Address] without getting fired, was the day something happened in New Zealand that had me feeling sick to my stomach every time I checked my email and found no reply to a ‘where are you?/are you okay?’ callout to some of my activist friends. Good friends. Eventually, when the replies started coming with reports of raids of their homes and young families, and when the posts and discussions on Public Address showed their colours, it certainly drove home for me how far away I am from this country, and from the overall middle ground of this site, from its essential gut.
Those are not “so long and thanks for all the fish” remarks, but if you read the comments thread, you would think that Tze Ming was just saying a polite goodbye. Read between the lines, people. Tze Ming doesn’t feel welcome at Public Address. The crowd there can’t cope with difference, with views that provoke and challenge them to change their own thinking and behaviour. They are accustomed to thinking of themselves as the good guys, the liberals, the ones who are on the morally right side of issues. When Tze Ming comes along and jolts them out of their liberal complacency, the typical reaction is to howl complaint, and to refuse to recognize when their own behaviour embodies the very attitudes and behaviours they are decrying. And there’s an in-crowd there – people who can say what they like. As for other folks, when they say something the in-crowd doesn’t like, they get slapped down, pronto.
And then there’s this:
To the chicks: As if to prepare me for my own exit, the author of some of the most well-considered, articulate, clearly argued, occasionally plagiarised by others, and least-linked political posts ever in the blogosphere, one of my oldest friends from middle-class activism … AKA Span, retired earlier this year from blog-life to exist as a more well-rounded human being.
Feminist writing isn’t a goer on Public Address. I googled back through the PA posts, and I could find precisely one link to the fabulous Span. Analyse that.
There’s an insightful comment in the discussion:
but i reckon that the halycon days of public address were just after you and keith joined the team. lots of posting, lots of debate. the big issues were canvassed and blogs were still a teeny bit guerilla.
i think that’s something everyone can look back on fondly.
(The commenter is welcome to contact me if he or she would like me to attach their name to that.)
I agree. It’s all just too damn comfortable there at the moment. Like lots of the people there, I love playing around with words, I enjoy quirky insights about NZ life, I am happy enough to read a little about techy stuff and music stuff. But that’s all cosy armchair in front of the fire material.
I would love to get in there and be provocative, but I have been slapped down a couple of times, and I’m just not up for it again. A couple of weeks ago one regular commenter made a gratuitously sexist reference to women politicians… and I longed to post something pointing out exactly what the problem was with the phrasing, but I do not have the energy to do it, nor the emotional wherewithal to withstand the rebukes that would come my way.
I can see why Tze Ming Mok is leaving.