What are you?
No, really. What are you? If you stop to ask yourself the question, let it roll around behind your eyes for a minute, what kinds of answers do you get? Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Well, friend wonderchicken, I hear you say, I’m many things. I’m a human. I’m an American. I’m a writer, I’m a painter, I’m a mother, I’m a husband. I am my children. I’m a big fraidy-cat. I’m an alcoholic. I am a philanderer. I’m a survivor. I’m a thinker, I’m a lover. I am a Christian. I’m a woman. I’m a miraculous fowl. The possibilities are limitless, I know. We’re all many things all the time, and as selves die, new ones are born within us to take their places. That’s what makes life worth living, what keeps us from going snake-raping bonkers from boredom while we scamper madly around in our hamstertopias.
So, what are you first? What is the facet of your being that stands before — or behind, if you wish — all the others? What, to put it another way, is the part of you, of your self-perceived identity, that you cherish the most, that you would be the least willing to have cut away like a tumor, or wiped from your present or your past?
To be fair, I suppose I think of myself and define myself, if forced to do so in a phrase, as a wanderer, a seeker, a lover of the new and the outlandish. As a meat machine for saying ‘yes’. These are all the same thing for me. Were these things to be taken from me, I don’t think I’d be myself any more, whatever that actually is. Or even a reasonable facsimile thereof.
Your answers will differ, no doubt. This is as it should be. But I’ll bet that in response to my question above, none of you who took a moment said to themselves ‘First and foremost, I am my weblog’.
It is possible, though, that some chose as their centrepiece ‘I am a woman.’
Recently Shelley initiated some discussion about women in the digital world and whether and to what degree they (or more properly, the persistent textual avatars that are their weblogs, avatars that seem so often to be mistaken for the actual person in weblogging discussions) are or are not undervalued or pushed aside or whuffie-starved on the New Frontier. Not being ogled enough — non-pruriently of course — in our eyeball economy, not linked-to enough, despite the fact that they have just as many important and useful things to say as the wrinkly old Y-chromo dangler-waving oligarchs like myself.
I’m not sure I understand this, to be honest, and so my response may be off-target. I answered at the time she brought it up, off the cuff, that
Me, I’m less concerned with what I _am_ than with what I do, and what I say, both in life or online. This goes for my attitude towards others, as well.
I mean, I do understand that some women feel that some not-women are somehow unfairly barring them from the prominence they deserve, and that Women As A Group are under-represented in the Link Market, and that it seems natural to think that since we have a clear duality with women on the one hand and not-women on the other side of this Weblog Gender Gap, that it must be the not-women who are to blame, especially since we’re talking in the context of Power (if not power laws) here. As much as I am able with my feeble faculties, I do follow the train of thought.
But there’s a reason I asked the questions I did, above.
Although I grant that many women who read this may define themselves first and foremost as a woman, there is no real reason for anyone else, male or female, to look at them through that lens. In other words, I may think of myself primarily as a Pundit (like all these assholes), for example, while the vast majority of people I interact with, on the IntArwEb or elsewhere, may well think of me first and foremost as a f–kwit.
Now, if I am shunned and ridiculed because most people (rightly or not) think of me as a f–kwit, I can hardly accuse them of discriminating against Pundits, of withholding their sweet linky love because they are set on unfairly restricting the rights of Pundits to punditize! They’re denying me because they think I’m a f–kwit (or a Cheesehead or a WonderMonkey or something), regardless of how I want them to think of me.
Now this example was not intended to accuse anyone of being a f–kwit, other than perhaps myself. My point is this, and I apologize for the tortuous path by which I’ve reached it : on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog, or cares. Unless you tell them, and even then, not much. That is, regardless of what you perceive yourself to be first and foremost, or fifth and hindmost, and quite probably regardless of what facet or facets of your identity you strive to push to the fore in your online persona in your weblog (which, to belabour the point, is your avatar and not your self) others will more often than not react to you based on what they perceive you to be. Not what you wish them to think. Would that they did.
And, further, out here in Textistan, I think it may be fairly said that your gender is less important as a cue for the way people treat you than it is back in the office, or on the bus, or on the street, even if you do make it a point of order. We are all more brain than gonad out here. Well, most of us are.
So, does being a woman (or a homosexual, or a juggler, or a drunk) come first for you? Fine. I have no problem with that, and I applaud the self-awareness that has led to that understanding. Does that apply for your internet presence as well as your Real Life Persona? That’s a fine thing too. But expecting me to interact with you in ways that are constrained or defined by the fact that you have made that choice? Don’t bother.
Are women linked less because our voices are different? Are we not as confident when making our assertions and are therefore less quotable? Are we not as aggressive in our opinions, and therefore less interesting?
My answer, then, is that asking about women just doesn’t make much sense to me. Not much of an answer, perhaps, but the only one I have at the moment.
About a year back there was much discussion around the neighbourhood about ‘identity‘. I think of the above as a coda of sorts to that discussion. I was intending to come out guns blazing, but I have not, in part because I’m too busy for a fight, in part because I don’t think it’s something starting a fight over is going to help, and in large part because all that crap above notwithstanding, I actually do think that Shelley’s probably right.
The dominance of males at the Big End of The Hockey Stick in our extended weblogging family is a symptom, not of deliberate exclusion of women, for the most part, I’m certain, but of systemic undervaluing of the contributions of women out there on the streets and in this other place, this place which still bears the imprimatur of the button-and-lever gearbox mentality that men have made their domain, to the slightly disdainful laughter of most women, since the first wheel rolled out of control, bounced down the hill and ran over Og’s favorite goat.
I suppose the balance will change as the machinery becomes more irrelevant and the men less proprietary, as more women wade in and kick a few asses around the block, and the phallerati will lose some of their dominance. I suspect it is an inevitability. But for my part, I won’t be paying any more attention to anyone’s gender — even if they ask me to — than I do now.