I’ve really enjoyed this period of looking back at the blog, and hearing from co-bloggers. I’m so very grateful to Lady Day for organising it!
It’s prompted some reflections of my own. One thing it prompted me to do was to try to figure out when the blog started. I couldn’t actually work out how to make wordpress tell me, but I found this interesting one-year anniversary post, which told me that we started in May 2006. I do remember vividly what led me to start it: a conversation in the snow with Sally Haslanger, in which she urged me to start a blog and I resisted, insisting that I wasn’t the blogging type. I decided to go ahead because (a) I was already emailing links round to like-minded friends, and I thought I could put these on a blog, expecting it would only be those friends reading it; and (b) I thought some of my students might be the blogging type. I didn’t expect all that followed from this.
Pretty quickly, the reach of the blog defied my expectations. I expected maybe three readers and we were almost immediately up into the thousands, such was the hunger for something like this. Admittedly, not all of those were probably looking for a feminist philosophy blog (e.g. those who searched “loving wife spanking”, our most popular search in the first year). I’m pleased to say that our all-time greatest hits now include some important posts that weren’t just found by accident. Still, it’s not quite what I expected. Our number one post of all time is just a link to something someone else wrote. But number two is Red Eyed Tree Frog’s Christmas Trees Not So Harmless. The Gendered Conference Campaign comes in at number 7. And then we have a very large number of posts about incredibly bad behaviour in philosophy. I like to think we’ve done some good for the profession by calling attention to these.
Our blogging team also rapidly increased. At the start, it was just me, Stoat, and Monkey. By the end of the first year we had added Cornsay, Digivordig, Edna in the Sea, Heg, Introvertica, JJ, ProfBigK and Telbort. At the moment there are 40 names on the books. (I don’t even know for sure how many people they name!)
I think one of the blog’s greatest successes has been the Gendered Conference Campaign. This has, I think, helped to normalise the idea that people should notice the demographics of their invited speakers, and try to avoid homogeneity. It has been one factor among many helping to inspire similar campaigns in other fields, and additional ones in our own. But my happiest moment associated with this campaign was when it acquired a theme song.
I hope we’ve contributed in other ways: helping people, philosophers and non-philosophers alike, to find feminist philosophy; drawing attention to sexism, and other and overlapping prejudices, in philosophy; and, more generally, helping to build a community that could work together to improve our profession.
Back in the optimistic early days of blogging when we started, we thought we could manage comments with what I called the “be nice” rule. It sounds very feminine, but those who know me know that it’s a reference to the classic Patrick Swayze philosopher/bouncer movie Roadhouse. And of course if you know your classics you know that in addition to there being a time to be nice there’s also a time to be not-nice. The internet has become a complicated place, and figuring out the time to be nice and the time to be not-nice has revealed itself as beyond the abilities of even Dalton, world-famous bouncer with a degree in philosophy. We had many behind-the-scenes discussions about how to draw these lines, and couldn’t agree a clear way forward. But we felt we needed one if we were to continue. That’s no small part of why this blog is ending.
People have asked what I will do next. Which is odd, since it’s not like blogging was my profession and now I need to find a new job. But anyway… I’ve been thinking a lot about my deeply held view that online discussions of difficult issues are currently toxic to the point of being counterproductive. One thing I am trying to figure out is what we can do instead– how to have productive, inclusive discussions of difficult issues. I’ve got some ideas, and I’m trying things out. But I’m not going to discuss them online– not now, anyway.
I’m really looking forward to seeing what all of the FP bloggers and readers do next. There are so many more places and ways to do feminist philosophy online now, and there’s a vast community out there to do it.