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just about ready to quit
October 31, 2011 8:18 AM   Subscribe

How do you deal with the haters - especially when you're outnumbered and they've got more power than you? Anon due to possible personal/career risks.

I'm involved in an industry/scene where there are very few people with a lot of power, and if you piss them off you don't really have a lot of other options. I write a blog that's part personal experience and part cultural analysis, and I often write about how our scene interacts with larger societal issues (race, gender, sexuality, etc). Locally this blog has gotten me ire, simply because I'm not a Pollyanna "wow everyone is SO AMAZING" - they tend to ignore the positive things I do write, but when I write about something being problematic they all come and accuse me of all sorts of trouble.

One of the biggest names in the industry, possibly the one with most clout, has been bullying me and power-tripping me from the beginning, mostly because I've talked about how some projects she's produced has had problems and that I'm not quick to say that she's the greatest person ever. I've talked to other people in the scene who have had similar issues with her, but hardly anyone's willing to speak up for fear of losing their career. They just choose not to work with her without rocking the boat.

Recently I wrote about an action that I felt was problematic at best, worryingly racist at worst. Like everything else I write I try my hardest to not make this a personal attack (if I'm being critical), but rather go "hey, this isn't cool, here's why, link to relevant resources, here's how it affects the rest of us". The producer got wind of it, contacted me, and is now threatening legal action.

In the meantime, word's spread about my post, and while there are a few people willing to engage in earnest discussion, there have also been people - mostly those who have other reasons to hate me - who've taken this opportunity to flame me and personally attack me. Former friends have billed me as a "drug user" (?!) to discredit my words. I can only engage so much, but at this point I feel like I'm repeating myself, trying to explain white privilege to people who just don't freakin' get it. (and then take my distance from it as more proof that I don't care.)

I've been feeling alienated from the scene for a while thanks to issues like these, and while I can usually brush off internet drama, the threat of legal action and having these people that I thought were cool with me (or at least neutral) suddenly turn against me in the worst ways is draining. This was my passion for a few years and I'd tried so hard to contribute to the community beyond the blog; yet because I dare to be outspoken about things, good bad or whatever, I'm not to be trusted or welcomed anywhere.

I feel like throwing in the towel, moving to another country, and doing something else - but I feel like no matter what I do or where I do I'm just going to run into drama. A lot of this has to do with being a minority (and the complications therein) and I feel that that's just going to haunt me for ages. I know that I'm not perfect either, but I'm trying my best to be fair both to myself and others, and right now it seems like a losing battle.

I look at people who are much more high-profile than I am, people who I know have had a lot of public disparaging (mostly because they are high-profile), and they seem to be doing OK. I may not always like them or admire them myself, but I do admire how they've managed to keep going as though no one hates them. It probably helps that they have a strong fanbase; I'm not sure I have one of those. I do have my fans and supporters, but they're more sparse and quiet (again, the "don't want to attract drama" factor) and tend to talk to me privately. This is all reminding me of schoolyard bullying, especially with Head Honcho involved, and I thought I left that behind ages ago after 11 years of actual schoolyard bullying for being a minority.

Am I just a failure as a person? The more I try to make space for myself and people like me, the worse it gets.
Will things ever get better?
Will moving help?
will quitting even though I genuinely enjoy what I do mean that they have won?

what do I do? I feel so worn, and the people who support me are all so far away.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Warning: devil's advocate below.

At this point, it might benefit you to embrace your contrariness and develop this blog into some sort of character. It seems like this blog is hampering your ability to actually do your job, but maybe its time to embrace that and focus on being a raconteur and shit-stirrer. If you're entertaining enough people will start to admire you openly, like "I dont always agree with x but sometimes they really know what's going on." This may make your skin crawl a little, but think of yourself as like a gossip blogger or a talk radio host. Lots of people will hate you, but everyone has their haters; be glad yours are up front about it.

Stop thinking of yourself as a failed {whatever} and start seeing yourself as a successful agitator. It worked for Armond White.
posted by modernserf at 8:35 AM on October 31, 2011 [7 favorites]


Let me get this straight -- this asshole is threatening you with LEGAL ACTION over something you said on a BLOG?

That sounds like the beginnings of their "Have you no sense of decency?" downfall. Think about it -- if you truly did not name names, they're going to LOSE, and they're going to lose in a big splashy way, and they will LOOK BAD. Or maybe they'll settle out of court, but they are forever going to be known as The Guy Who Got Accused Of Being Racist And Couldn't Officially Deny It.

Which means that the more this guy does....the worse he is making it for HIMSELF. If you just remind yourself of that, then you'll start seeing everything this guy does not as "oh God, something else I have to deal with," but "ooooh, you're walking further and further out on the plank, now, aren't you? Heh." It won't stop him from saying and doing stuff -- until he does pursue legal action -- but it'll help you frame it better and react to it better.

(But take a really, really close look at what you've written about him to make ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that you are wholly impartial and do not name names when it comes to your blog. You don't want to give him the SLIGHTEST bit of evidence that it is specifically him you're talking about. You want to make the case that the only reason he thinks it's about him might be because of his own issues.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:37 AM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


You poor thing! I think your problem is that you don't quite understand how radical what you're doing is. To you, it seems natural to be critical of your surroundings, to speak truth to power, and to write it all down attributable to your name. You don't feel like you need to hide, and you feel like these things need to be said. It is confusing to you why, when all you are doing is trying to make things better, everyone seems to be coming after you.

I think, like many whistleblowers (who I used to represent as an employment lawyer) the problem is that you have vastly underestimated how insecure the Head Honchos are; and you're also just a wee bit blind and overly innocent about the natural consequences of your own bluntness and willingness to criticize.

The fact is, nobody likes to be criticized, much less in public, and MUCH less by a more junior member of the community. That's just how structures of power work; and it doesn't matter if your particular community is dedicated to the ethics of rescuing baby dolphins or whatever, the Head Honchos are still going to be pissed off and retaliatory towards the whistleblower. I mean, you don't like to be criticised in public, right? Neither does anyone else. They are going to react; and depending on how much power they have, they are going to push back with as much force as they can muster.

So, if you're going to step out the way you have been, you have to be willing to do two things: either accept the blowback and retaliation; or learn how to be more aware and political about your criticism. If you chose the latter, to become more political, then you're going to have to stretch a little. Right now, it feels natural and easy for you to be the lone wolf blogger airing your concerns. But if you want to do things differently, you're going to have to learn how to do things like build coalitions; engage in strategic acts of omission in your writing; tone it down when necessary; keep your powder dry.

Another thing to keep in mind: the more credibility and allies you build up in your community, the more effective and credible your criticisms will be. It is INCREDIBLY easy to lose your credibility by engaging in increasingly shrill and escalating rounds of cricitism. If you want to make change in a certain field, you have to first position yourself as a legitimate, expert member of that field. In other words, if you don't have the respect of your colleagues first and foremost because of your skills in your common endeavor, they will dismiss your concerns.

Last thing: there is a typical cycle of escalation that whistleblowers experience whereby they make a legitimate criticism; the retaliation they suffer makes them bitter and delusioned; then they engage in even more heightened criticism; then they get retaliated against more brutally ... until the whistleblower ends up obsessed and a little crazed. Don't let this happen to you.
posted by yarly at 8:43 AM on October 31, 2011 [24 favorites]


First things first- people "threaten legal action" all the time. Almost no one follows through with it. Have you libeled this person? No? Don't respond. It's just bullying.

As for what to do? Well, the idea of "white privilege" is inherently a minefield that gets people's hackles up immediately, mainly because we all try avoid talking about how complicit we are in it. That said, "trying to explain white privilege to people who just don't freakin' get it" makes me wonder if the reaction you're getting isn't due in some part to the way you're approaching it. Without knowing more about you or your work it's hard to say, but I'm just gonna put that point out there to consider.

Also, you're going to have to come to grips with the unfortunate truth that those in power aren't always nice. Some of them aren't going to like you personally. It's true everywhere you go. You can't change it, but you can accept it, and sometimes a little deference is the price you have to pay to be in the club. But there's nothing stopping you from forming your own club, so to speak, if enough people agree with you and are willing to turn that idea into something constructive.
posted by mkultra at 8:50 AM on October 31, 2011


yet because I dare to be outspoken about things, good bad or whatever, I'm not to be trusted or welcomed anywhere.

Nobody is going to give you a cookie for calling them an asshole. Especially not assholes.

Without knowing the context, it's hard to say if what you're doing will work. If you're right that you're fighting the good fight for injustice than it looks like you're in stage three of "first they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." on the other hand, I know of no aphorism that puts a cap on how long stage three has to last.
posted by Diablevert at 9:18 AM on October 31, 2011 [8 favorites]


It sounds to me like you're writing about an industry that is 1) not all that big, and 2) significantly project based. This would mean that there's a real sense that no one's "job" in this industry is secure, including Head Honcho's, because it constantly depends upon additional work from clients, of whom there are not likely all that many. So you spouting off about how Head Honcho is racist or whatever is not going to be interpreted by Head Honcho as harmless. You are engaging in what amounts to an existential attack on their career.

So the real question is... did you really think you could do something like this and get away with it? That he'd just let you go about your merry way saying whatever you wanted, even if it costs him his livelihood? Even if what you're saying is true--and lemme tell you, something as controversial as an allegation of racism is never going to merit the label "true" to all participants--it has the potential to be hugely damaging to Head Honcho.

Wake the f*ck up.

This isn't "schoolyard bullying," and the fact that you're comparing it to that suggests that you haven't really come to terms with the fact that unlike on the schoolyard, there is actually quite a bit at stake here, namely the various parties' ability to continue working in this field. This is not a pissing contest, the victor of which gets worthless bragging rights. You have, admittedly inadvertently, started a fight, the loser of which might not get to work anymore. I'm pretty sure this isn't something you wanted to do, but you started it, and if you don't finish it, Head Honcho will.

This isn't really about your legal rights either. It's entirely possible that you could win a defamation action and still come out as a loser because you can't get work anymore. The legal system does not guarantee you that a result in your favor is something you're going to be happy with. Nor is it even necessarily about racism or whatever other socio-political issue you think is going on here. It's about existing in a social and professional hierarchy. What you identify as "white privilege" may simply be the privilege of experience and credibility--privileges we usually like!--so disparaging someone's position when you don't have either just makes you look bad. In other words, maybe Head Honcho is picking on you because you're a minority, but it could just be because 1) he's an ass, and 2) you're a punk. As yarly points out, junior members of communities really don't get to criticize senior members of communities most of the time. Why should you be able to speak your mind before you've convinced anyone else that you even have one? Sure, you may come across a community the senior members of which are humble and relaxed about shit, who aren't given to throwing their weight around, but that's a factor purely of their sufferance. Things could and would be different if they wanted them to be.

From where I'm sitting, the best thing to do here may well be to eat a generous helping of crow and apologize to the community for raising a potentially disruptive issue in public. Then take the post down. If you see something that bothers you in the future and you aren't in a position to talk directly to the "offender" privately and in person, you shut your damn mouth.

This is just a fact of life. You don't get to Call the Old Man Out most of the time. Most of the time you get to ask, please sir, for another. The fact that this is unfair, maybe even unjust is completely unimportant. If there's anything to be learned here, it's that egotistical assholes are egotistical assholes. Hopefully, when it gets to be your turn in the big chair, you won't turn into one.
posted by valkyryn at 9:20 AM on October 31, 2011 [13 favorites]


there's nothing stopping you from forming your own club

I absolutely agree with this.

Do your own thing and focus on the work you're so obviously passionate about. There's nothing that kills the beauty and joy of doing something you love more than getting caught up in the drama of a "scene". Let everyone else play the game and tell each other they're SO AMAZING while you pursue a nobler path. You don't even need to respond to these haters.

You may feel like a small fry compared to One of the biggest names in the industry but people who are on power-trips are going out of style these days. If this is the first time someone has stood up to her, you might be surprised and soon find that others are following your lead. In any case, that's not the most important issue here...

What's most important (IMHO) is that you do what you love and remember that there will always be aspects to everything that are challenging and sometimes seemingly impossible, but that you have to look beyond all that and see the bigger picture of why you do what you do. Don't let yourself be bullied or intimidated out of doing what you love--so many people are searching to find what that is and you're one of the fortunate ones who actually knows. Best of luck to you.
posted by seriousmoonlight at 9:22 AM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


A while ago I wanted to work in theater AND write about theater (i.e., be a critic). Almost everyone I talked to about this rolled their eyes and said, sure if you never want to work in theater again.

It's pretty much one or the other.
posted by Ollie at 9:39 AM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


I also work in a tiny industry where a very small number of people hold the lion's share of power.

In my experience, it is entirely possible to work in a creative field while being critical of others' work within it. However, by doing so you're almost always going to be closing doors behind you, and cornering yourself into a smaller sub-section of the community. Some people are willing to make that sacrifice -- for them, honesty and integrity are more important than mainstream professional success and stability. Others decide that the trade off just isn't worth it to them. Obviously, no one else can make that call for you.

I actually have a lot to say about this topic within the context of comics and television. Feel free to memail me if you want to chat about it outside this tread.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:02 AM on October 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


In my experience, it is entirely possible to work in a creative field while being critical of others' work within it. However, by doing so you're almost always going to be closing doors behind you, and cornering yourself into a smaller sub-section of the community. Some people are willing to make that sacrifice -- for them, honesty and integrity are more important than mainstream professional success and stability. Others decide that the trade off just isn't worth it to them. Obviously, no one else can make that call for you.

This.

I'd also be happy to chat with you about this issue, as someone who is both a young adult author and a critic of YA and genre fiction. The YA world is, like your community, a bit criticism-averse; it's filled with writers who pretty much act like your happy-go-lucky counselors at summer camp. That's fine for them, and more power to them, but as an opinionated, fundamentally political individual on exile from the academy, for whom critical expression not only comes naturally but is integral to my development creatively, I knew that wasn't for me.

My choices have closed doors, undoubtedly. But they've also opened them--I have an audience of passionate fans, writers among them, who have really gone to bat for me because they believe I'm honest and trustworthy in a way that our community needs.

But I don't just go around criticizing people in the genre willy-nilly. Being a critic of integrity means that you need to be careful. You need to choose your political battles with care and deliberation. You can't let yourself get roped into every petty piece of gossip that comes along. You need to phrase your criticism with care, and know when to admit when you were wrong. And you need to be willing to turn your critical lens on yourself and your actions, and be sure that you're acting in accordance with your own internal compass even when you're feeling defensive, even when you're feeling criticized, even when it's hard.

I can only engage so much, but at this point I feel like I'm repeating myself, trying to explain white privilege to people who just don't freakin' get it. (and then take my distance from it as more proof that I don't care.)

There's a point past which engaging only fans the flames of your enemies, and this is it. Be freakin' circumspect (which means being rigorous with proof, evidence, and with logic) the first time, and don't defend yourself subsequently. Whatever it is you're discussing, answering your critics over and over again only makes it look like you have reasons to defend yourself, that your initial platform is weak.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:17 AM on October 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


So the real question is... did you really think you could do something like this and get away with it? That he'd just let you go about your merry way saying whatever you wanted, even if it costs him his livelihood?

In other words, maybe Head Honcho is picking on you because you're a minority, but it could just be because 1) he's an ass, and 2) you're a punk.


Just fyi, valkyryn: According to OP, Head Honcho is a woman. This might not necessarily change the point you want to make, but, for me at least, this is not a small detail.

OP, you've already received plenty of good advice here, much better than I can give you. So I'll just encourage you to take Narrative Priorities and/or PhoBWan Kenobi up on their offers to discuss further.
posted by bakerina at 10:36 AM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think you've already gotten a lot of practical advice about what you could do about all this and the legal considerations and so on, so I won't address that here. The one bit of advice I had was more about how you might think about whatever you end up doing.

I've found it to be useful to bear in mind the difference between where you stand with yourself and where you stand with others. You could characterize with as honor versus reputation, where honor is what you know about yourself, and reputation is what others think they know about you. Without disregarding the importance to your career and so on, I'd prioritize honor above reputation.

Also remember that for every commenter who flames you, most likely many more read what you said and were sympathetic but didn't care enough to comment or didn't have anything to add.

Astute readers will know where I picked up the honor vs reputation speech and may chuckle, and maybe the language is a tiny bit pompous, but I don't care. Doesn't make it any less true.
posted by Wretch729 at 10:51 AM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just fyi, valkyryn: According to OP, Head Honcho is a woman. This might not necessarily change the point you want to make, but, for me at least, this is not a small detail.

Fair enough, but no, it doesn't change my point much. The gender at the person at the top of your particular hierarchy may (or may not) affect how you want to relate to them, but it doesn't change the fact that they're at the top and you aren't. Deference is still the operative mode.
posted by valkyryn at 11:12 AM on October 31, 2011


I think you should stop engaging in behaviors that allow you to relive the drama/trauma of your childhood over and over again.

You are not the designated "traffic cop" or whatever of your industry's tastes or behaviors, so stop putting yourself in an unwanted and unattractive role.

THERE IS ANOTHER WAY.

----

I think it is possible for you to continue your blog (or start a new one) and keep the focus and commentary entirely positive. You do not have to comment on what is going wrong within your industry or society to get your point across. Picking on other people's work is lazy. Plus it is garnering you negative attention. Focus on the positive examples you wish to see more of in your industry/scene and discuss that on your blog. Really, it is this simple.

An example of this would be Eddie Izzard. Most comedians make fun of stuff and go negative to create humor. Izzard consciously tries not to " go negative" in his stand up. I think he has been most successful with this so far in his HBO special Dressed To Kill. I'm sure if you YouTube and google, you can find many interview clips of Eddie Izzard discussing his philosophy and how he implements it in his work.

I see no reason why you can not focus on your own projects and continue the blog or similar in a positive vein.

There is no cure for a negative dialogue or interaction. You can not turn this around. Take responsibility for " poisoning the well" with your negative criticisms and judgements. Change your output moving forward by improving the quality of your own projects.

Instead of pointing out what is wrong with other's output, espouse about what's good and right. You'll be steering your audience in the same direction, but in a much much nicer way.

So far you've been part of the problem. If you stop fueling the fire you'll be much happier.
posted by jbenben at 11:23 AM on October 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


Backing down at this point probably won't make this person any less determined to destroy you.

If you want to continue in this career, I think you have little choice except to fight back and go forward-- and it will likely be a pretty hard road.
posted by jamjam at 12:16 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


modernserf has a good take on it, but I'll go further: If this is affecting you this much, you probably shouldn't be doing it.

Like you, I have a blog that's occasionally critical -- and often complimentary -- of many people in and industries related to my profession (although of course I also discuss other things). Not personal attacks -- just my point of view. Sometimes people get pissed. Sometimes they get defensive. But they are always outweighed by supporters, and I'm happy to defend my stance in front of anyone, including my bosses at work.

I don't take personal attacks seriously, and can laugh off pretty much anything. The fact that you can't implies that you're heading in the wrong direction.

I also disagree strongly with jbenben's comment: Picking on other people's work is lazy. Sometimes it is, and sometimes criticism lays the foundation for vast improvements. It's all in how you do it.

And as a usability professional, half of my job is "picking on other people's work." Surely my field isn't the only one.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:27 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Since you describe your situation in generalities, it impossible for us to say whether or not you're actually being fair to the people in your industry who you accuse of wrong-doing. What does come across from what you've written is a strong sensitivity to persecution. I get this mostly from your feeling that you are back at school being picked on by bullies. That analogy in particular strikes me as a very personal/unprofessional perception of these events, and might explain why people are shying away from you, rather than rallying to your side. They also might be afraid that they'll be next on your shit-list.

But, to answer your question: Am I a failure as a person? Of course not! You sound brave and smart. But, as a fellow bullying survivor and sometimes picked-on minority, I want to encourage you to examine the role of conflict in your life. How big of a role does it play in your professional and interpersonal relationships? You may have internalized a tendency to "fight" power as an automatic defensive gesture, rather than understand its nuances and respond in a clear and rational way. Or rather, you may sometimes be too emotional to clearly and fairly make valid points. People respond very well to reason and evidence, rather than vindictiveness.

If you're feeling so low and bereft of support that you are considering moving out of the country, then perhaps you should take a healthy step back from your blog, and revisit it later in a way that's less destructive (to you).
posted by swingbraid at 12:43 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I write a lot about anti-racism work and I know the kind of drama you're talking about.

Here's your options:

1) Close the blog and take it down.

This won't stop HH from continuing to harass you. But it will reduce the rest of the drama. The problem is that it also means that everyone else's words and responses have disappeared. Sometimes, when someone is showing their ass, it's good to keep a public record, because then they can't claim it was something else.

2) Close the blog but leave it up.

Keeps historical records, but after a time, it will calm down in terms of drama.

3) Post up or highlight comments or replies which are completely out of hand.

"XYZ said they will kill me and make sure I never work again. Hmm. Professional." This will continue to have drama, but at least, fully recorded, and sometimes, some people find ways to make themselves look incredibly bad in it all.

4) Continue to post and not give a fuck, but turn comments off

This is my standard method of blogging at this point. I really can't emotionally deal with the endless parade of hate. That said, expect some people to do stuff like try to track you down on other sites or email addresses to email their hate at you. This is especially true if you call out privilege.

Now, this is the basic point- HH already has targeted you. Nothing will make her turn around. The question is whether you think your blog will cause others to also wall up in defense against you, and, whether you feel you have any other options.

I have several friends who write fiction (small circles, lots of influence in a few hands), but they are happy enough to call out racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. It definitely makes it harder to get jobs, but they get them. And their fanbase is dedicated, because they respect people who stick to their ideals.

Obviously, different industries, different problems. But at this point, nothing will turn HH around, because regardless of what she says she's upset about, what she's really defending is privilege, and that's pretty much going to be a complete level of irrationality involved with it.
posted by yeloson at 12:55 PM on October 31, 2011


You have to sleep with yourself at night. If that means you tilt at windmills, you tilt at the damn windmills. At least then you won't be awake at night 10 years from now reliving the shame of giving in (with the attendant stress related health issues).

With regards to the, 'earn your opinion' bit: you had to have a brain to make it into professional industry X, unless professional industry X is the functional equivalent of sorting cans. Your opinions might not be as polished or as respected but they are educated opinions. Is there a great divide in knowledge between HH's position and yours? Is there a great deal of insider info you don't have? There are jobs when, looking at HH, I think that's the case, and jobs when I think that the boss is simply a guy who's been working for eight more years than I have with an ego to prove it.

I don't know how you're framing problems and issues, I would hope you're clearly delineating between minor problems (the grammar in these minutes is kinda confusing) to major problems (we have a harassment/racism problem here). The minor ones shouldn't raise hackles, and if they do... your industry has an ego problem. And yes, the ego is a problem when it hinders the ability of the industry you work within to quickly and efficiently address even the smallest issues, personal or not.

The major ones should raise hackles and cause drama. I don't think anyone is going to just come out of their office and say, "You know what, lets be more accepting of minorities from now on". They could but that would lower (they think) their standing as leaders of the pack, and that just ain't something animals do. Instead they attacked the messenger. No going back for them now, no easy way back for you.

Two men* enter, one man* leaves!

*Adjust as necessary
posted by Slackermagee at 1:19 PM on October 31, 2011


Now would be an excellent time to evaluate your goals and tactics. There are always going to be people with more power and influence than you, and there's always going to be shit happening that you don't like. This is as true for hierarchical corporate structures as it is consensus-bases progressive groups. You can work to change the world, but you can't change the entire world at once so you're going to have to pick your battles.

There were problems with the production of projects that you weren't involved in? Stay out of it. You were involved or they affect you directly? Talk directly to people about your concerns before you go public. This goes double for something like an accusation of racism, which is a personal attack no matter how you frame it. It's almost certain that the person you accused doesn't see herself as racist and believes that in her professional behavior she is fair, equitable, open-minded and inclusive. Or she feels that she would like to be more fair, etc., but that she has to compromise her values to continue doing her work (see my paragraph above.) She might not have the experiences you've had or the perspective you've gained, so she doesn't see problems where you see problems. Of course she's going to push back. What would you do if someone publicly said you were a bad person?

What are your goals here? Stopping the problematic action? That's unlikely, unless you're going to get more people on your side than hers. More awareness of the issues? Okay, you've done that, but have you changed any minds or are you preaching to the choir? Fewer problematic actions by this person in the future? Could that have been achieved without making a public attack?

And let's think about your tactics. When you attack, attack from a position of strength. Don't attack if that means exposing yourself unless you're prepared to take the damage. Think about what could happen if you lose. Think about what would happen if you win. If you take this person's career down, even a notch, you will get blow-back from that too. You've got to protect yourself first. The thousands of positive things you will do with your work will far outweigh the fact that you did not sacrifice yourself to counter a fault you found in another person's work.

Get some allies next time; it's more effective and the counterattacks won't be so personal. Try dialog first. Fight beliefs, institutions and systems, not people (who might have been on your side if they had the chance). It may be too late or your field too small for you gain anonymity, but that's a great way to protect yourself in the future. Look to the Guerrilla Girls for inspiration.
posted by hydrophonic at 2:42 PM on October 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


In addition to all the great advice, here's a phrase that might help you conceptualize your experience: I think you are operating under something that is often called an 'unenforceable rule'.

You say, ".....but I'm trying my best to be fair both to myself and others, and right now it seems like a losing battle." But it sounds like you're saying that as if that fact ought be weighed heavily in your favor. Part of what might be your unenforceable rule is that other people recognize and appreciate how hard you've tried to honestly be fair and balanced, and that while they may not agree with you, they respect you. That they consider your intentions, motives, and efforts.

Instead, it sounds like they are instead considering their outcomes. In this scenario you've set up a scenario where you're doing what you're doing for the good of the team, and others (including those who are attacking you, and those who are silent thought they support you) are doing it for their own, selfish intentions.

Constructing your situation in this black and white scenario makes you the martyr, and while there are certain benefits of this - honor and speaking truth to power, etc. - one main feature is that the martyr dies, or at leasts gets arrested.

The alternative is that you are politic. It means you are less candid, and more strategic. Strategic means that people read you both for your thoughts, AND for what you do say, as much for who doesn't make your blog and what you don't say. It is just as effective, in my mind, to say, "I want to recognize bob and greg this week in my blog, who are excellent for this, this and that reason" (and let people notice that you didn't mention Susan), rather than a carefully written blog entry assessing of what Susan is doing wrong.

You're not a failure as a person. Assuming what you are saying is true, it's a situation where you've discovered what happens when you speak truth directly to power. Now you're just deciding what you're going to do about it. That sort of depends on the type of person you are, because there are multiple successful approaches here, each with pros and cons. That's what people are laying out to you. Find the ones you can accomplish and still feel you can hold your head high, and be willing to accept the consequences, no matter how fair you feel they might be.
posted by anitanita at 2:46 PM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


FACT: Some people will never get it.
FACT: No matter what you say or do, you can't change this. At all.
FACT: The only way to win is not to play.

LET IT GO. LET IT ALL GO.

Don't let their petiness and negativity drag you down to responding on their level. Every second you spend brooding over haters is a 100% loss...there are millions of positive, constructive things you could be doing and thinking about instead. Don't be afraid to "leave on a low note"-- get your ego out of this and move on.

I don't know...when I was in an analogous situation, watching these video by Katt Williams made me laugh my ass off and feel much better:

Katt Williams: On Haters
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7z_ztMxBgk
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJIWL-FfDrI
posted by aquafortis at 3:11 PM on October 31, 2011


I feel like I'm repeating myself, trying to explain white privilege to people who just don't freakin' get it.

Consider that for some people, white privilege is something they neither need to understand, nor have any interest in. It's like air - it's invisible and constant. Why would I listen to someone wanking on about their hobby of comparing clay content in soils of different areas of Malaysia, then calling me stupid because I didn't retain some element of whatever it was they were prattling on about? Part of privilege is, well, privilege, and (wild guess) it sounds from your frustration that you're speaking your message in a language that isn't meaningful to these people.

Why would they care what white privilege is or isn't? It sounds like an entire industry is yessir-ing them, and their power in their little empire is immense. That's a pretty strong reason to be happy with things the way they are, and to come down hard on anyone saying that this sweet ride isn't actually all that sweet. Because pretty demonstrably, it's damn sweet.

I don't mean to be discouraging, but I do get the sense that you're possibly sheltered from how radically different a mindset and worldview people can have, and you might do better with more focus on how the things you say can sound to people who are not like you or people you know.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:22 PM on October 31, 2011


Have you heard the term "dooced?" If you think blogging beats your job, then quit and find another one. But you can be fired for blogging/writing/publishing about work-related events and incidents.
Make your blog private or close it down. Seriously, that's the only way to protect yourself.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:42 PM on October 31, 2011


I don't want to derail, but I've been in the OP's situation before. Do the wise people here have suggestions for how to fix the damage?
posted by 3491again at 6:04 PM on October 31, 2011


Do the wise people here have suggestions for how to fix the damage?

In my experience, the only way to fix this kind of damage is eating a ton of crow and waiting for it to blow over. For a minor offense that can be played off as a misunderstanding, that'll probably be enough, although said crow-eating may be protracted and public and unpleasant.

But even then, I mean, I have to be honest here -- if you're in a small industry with a lot of people competing for jobs, if you make a big enough stink and get noticed by an important figure because you've insulted them, that person will probably never hire you unless you're famous or absurdly, indisputably amazing at what you do. You basically have to be Alan Moore to get away with spitting on the people who're paying you.

Now, keep in mind that I'm speaking very specifically of what the OP is describing -- calling people out, in public, on their bad behavior or offensive creative choices. It's not that we can't ever mess up lest we never recover, but it sounds like the OP very specifically and deliberately stepped on some toes, and that's different than just accidentally being rude to someone at a party or forgetting to answer an email in a timely manner.

I mean, look. A lot of us reach a point, over the course of our careers, where we realize that we can't completely live our own ideals AND have our well-paying, mainstream dream job. Eventually, a lot of us have to compromise on one or the other. There are plenty of reasons why, for instance, I ultimately decided I wasn't cut out for climbing the ladder of television production, and one of them is that I just couldn't deal with being a part of that machine for long periods of time -- even now, years later, I still get angry about some of the shit I saw and heard while I was moving in those circles, although fortunately my own super-awesome coworkers and supervisors shielded me from the worst of it. I knew that I was never going to be able to most past very low-level jobs without having to learn to play that game, and I just wasn't cut out for it.

Which is all a rambling way of saying that sometimes burned bridges aren't the worst thing -- sometimes being in that situation forces us to accept what we are and aren't well-suited for.

OP, I am on your side. I agree that people do a lot of fucked-up shit and should be called on it. But you're not going to be able to have the best of both worlds, I'm sorry. A few of the comments in this thread should be evidence enough of how some people feel about speaking truth to power. There are plenty of people like that in every industry. They are often in charge of the big, exciting jobs. The only way to call them out without suffering consequences is to wait until AFTER you've climbed the ladder and reached their level or higher. If you're just starting out? They're squash you if they have a chance. It's awful, but it's how these things work.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:32 PM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Haters gonna hate.

I strongly disagree with the idea that you should have to put up with what amounts to bullying and abuse because it's the mature thing for working responsible adults to do.

Fuck that shit. As I'm sure you realize, the "working" "responsible" world is filled with systemic and institutional violence. That's not OK. Just because all the other working stiffs need to put up with it to get through the day doesn't legitimate it at all or make it OK. In fact, the kind of scorn, negligence, and hate people have for those speaking up against this kind of ugliness sounds to me like an additional trauma (for example: your friends turning on you or not speaking up in support of you).

You are not a failure as a person and it doesn't mean you are a failure or weak person if you decide to hang up your hat. The decks ARE stacked against you, and that's what you're feeling as you try to push against it. And it's going to be hard - it might not get better for a while if you decide to keep doing this kind of thing, whether in this industry or another one if you decide to leave. Racism and other institutionalized oppressions permeate every facet of professional life.

When this sort of thing happened to me and I felt completely alienated and unsupported, I left. The underlying issues and my peers' reactions poisoned the environment and my relationships with the people involved. Part of my healing process was recognizing that it wasn't about /me/ or /them/ specifically or individually, but the kind of space I was in. I didn't love the work enough to continue with it in that space even if I were to completely backtrack and give up my critical engagement with it, but you might find that you do. If that is the case, and you might need to rethink the kind of relationships you have with those in the industry and to what extent you share the things you care about that motivated you to start blogging. It is entirely possible that you won't be able to find a good community of care and support for the day-to-day stuff, never mind the speaking-truth-to-power role of your blog from within the industry and need to look elsewhere.

If you feel compelled to continue with the blogging project it would be essential to figure out some ground rules about self-care, limits of engagement, de-compression, and people you can rely on for support offline and in and out of the industry, even if this particular storm blows over.

Good luck with everything and feel free to me-mail if you have any questions or need to talk.
posted by dustyasymptotes at 7:46 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


One person's "scene" is another person's livelihood and career.

OP can apparently drop it all and leave the country, but I'd bet the dread head honcho has a mortgage, dependents, and a reputation that didn't primarily arise from a blog.

Being accused of racial discrimination on a public blog is a direct and ruthless attack. Left unanswered it can destroy a business.
posted by MattD at 8:06 PM on October 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


3931again, I think what people are saying is that you can't 'fix' the damage, because you can't control other people's response to you.

There is no way to undo the damage. Limiting the damage it involves a couple of options such as recanting, lying low, shutting down her blog, waiting to see what happens, addressing what is happening in her blog, or double downing the drama (this is a free speech issue, and/or your actions to silence me are racist), etc.

On another facet spectrum: she can use the experience to grow. You can understand what happened. You can appreciate your role in it. You can understand your unenforceable rules. You can conceptualize it and figure out how to recognize that you might be heading for similar trouble. You can come to terms and peace with what is happening, both in terms of your role and other people's actions. You can more carefully examine the lives of people who have 'held firm to their convictions'. You can get a mentor to help you figure out to address such things in the future better, because usually, shaking the hornet's nest isn't a one time thing for people, particularly people who have closely held beliefs. You can ask friends and family for feedback.

And you can consider checking in with a lawyer, to cover yourself, in this case.

But the response often is multi-step and situation-specific based on the field, and the person's goal. The OP didn't so much ask how to fix the damage as ask what she should do. And the answer once again depends on her goals.

Is it to get peace about the fact that her best intentions have somehow harmed her or are not appreciated? Is it to figure out how to fight back? Is it to assess whether or not this is worth it to her? All of these have different steps. But the OP asked if she was a failure as a person (no), if things ever get better (not to be difficult, that depends on what her definition of better is), if moving would help (once again, it depends on her goals. Is she trying to move to something, or away from something? For example, is part of the issue that she isn't near people who love and care for her and that's important to her? Because if so, moving closer to people who care for her probably would help), and will quitting even though she genuinely enjoys what she does mean that they have won (only if she thinks that this is about winning or losing, rather that considering this experience the gentlest way one can consider every fair and unfair experience in life - another opportunity to learn about either what is important to her or what is important for her to experience to fully live a life.)... at the very least recognizing that one can't always do what one wants/loves the exact way one wants/loves it, for as long as one hopes. But you can find other ways to get as close as you can to your goals.

So you see, her question of what do I do is sort of made up of all of the pieces of every person's response so far. Hopefully what you'll do OP, is not let this experience serve as some sort of proof as your failure. It isn't. It's a very disheartening, unpleasant experience, that has happened in some way or another to a lot of people, and hopefully you'll figure it out what exactly you should and can take from this experience.
posted by anitanita at 9:41 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


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