As I often do when I initially explore a website, when I visited The Feminist Wire for the first time I began by examining the site’s mission statement and, because it has a caveat I had never seen on a website before, its commenting policy. My rationale for examining these two features is that before I began reading submissions I wanted to gain a sense of what exactly this site’s goals are—the kind of writing it looks for, the kind of community and discussion it attempts to generate, both the kind of conversations it is participating in and the ones I am joining by reading the site. I believe a close examination of this site’s mission and commenting policy might help us, in this class on Octavia Butler’s work, to think not only about the policies of discussion in our own classroom space, but about the ways in which those policies (or a lack thereof) shape discourse outside our classroom.
I was particularly struck by these words from the website’s mission statement: “of particular critical interest to us are social and political phenomena that block, negate, or limit the satisfaction of goods or ends that humans, especially the most vulnerable, minimally require for living free of structural violence.” In light of our discussion about John Locke and property today in class this part of the mission statement got me thinking about ‘the satisfaction of goods’ needed to create a living, ‘free of structural violence,’ and I wondered more about what those ‘goods’ would look like in more concrete terms. Because of our discussion of Locke my mind immediately jumped at the word ‘goods’ to think more about property. However, I do not know if I am reading this correctly. In this instance do the authors mean ‘goods’ as in product/in terms of commodity, or do they mean this term in some other way such as ‘common good,’ or as in well being? I suppose it could mean something altogether different from these options, of course. I am asking mainly because I didn’t understand this part of the mission statement but figured it would probably increase my overall sense of what the editors of the site are going for.
While this part of the Mission section felt unclear to me, overall I felt as though the Mission and Vision of The Feminist Wire seemed fairly clear: to offer critiques and dialogical space particularly concerned with structural problems in the United States that concern those who have been overrun, overlooked, intentionally kept down, by these structural formations—I believe the site extends its aims beyond the U.S. but seemed to refer most specifically to political/social responses to conditions in the United States. Is this reading similar to those that others experienced?
The other aspect of The Feminist Wire that I turned my attention to involved the website’s section on Comment Policy. Given that this website appears to have an immense interest in speech, and the inherent power dynamics that come with speech, I thought it would incredibly important to see how The Editorial Collective—the signee of the Comment Policy section—address speech forums, particularly those on the Internet that, as we all likely know, can be both anonymous and nasty. First, as The Editorial Collective notes, their policy takes inspiration from the commenting policy for the blog flipfloppingjoy.com. Already, the editors appear to be participating in their first of three bullet-points for good conversation: citing precise moments of connection or interaction with authors, texts, critics, ideas, etc. I noticed how the Comment Policy in some sense attempts to recreate the kind of accountability that we are held to in Dr. McCoy’s classroom—citing evidence, engaging with the individual you agree/disagree with, being constructive critics, speaking as through a lens of perspective rather than through a lens of absolute truth. I think it is interesting—and no doubt an incredible challenge—to ask people in an Internet comment section to be rigorous and almost ‘scholarly’ in their critiques. But perhaps citing evidence, being respectful, and constructive should not just be construed as a ‘scholarly’ or ‘academic’ approaches, as I may have just done, but rather perhaps they are means by which people in both non-academic and academic situations could benefit from in order to discuss serious, and sometimes abstract-seeming issues, while treating other people with integrity and respect. That makes sense to me, at least.
I suppose my comments here are less explicitly reflective of Octavia Butler’s work than they could be. However, I do think that, like The Feminist Wire, Butler’s work of course asks that we engage with structural inequity and how our frameworks of thought exist and are perpetuated. As a result, I believe an examination of The Feminist Wire’s Mission Statement and Comment Policy can not only generate thought about accountability and responsibility—especially on the Internet, where so much discussion takes place—but also ask specific questions of us, as visitors to the site, that Butler leads us to engage with as well. Namely that we examine structures and discourses that shape politics and inequality; but also that we interrogate how we speak, live, and thereby participate, within those structures. It seemed important to me to try and get a sense of the website’s aims and policies before trying to engage directly with The Feminist Wire’s submissions alongside Octavia Butler’s writing.