The Many Faces of Twat: A Meditation on Responsible Writing

060514-Bianca-del-Rio-by-Magnus-Hastings-cover-image
Bianca Del Rio, whom I must thank even from a distance for injecting humour into my silly blue funk. You’re my hero, lady. Just sayin.

I’ve lingered and hummed and hawed about writing this post for most of the day now, and yet I think the topics that it brings up are just as important for gardening and the inner cell of the soul as they are for writing and the ethics of the self.  It’s a philosophical question; I haven’t done much in terms of serious thoughtful philosophy for a few months so maybe this is a good opportunity to do it in the context of the events that recently took place.

After I posted yesterday, I received a text message from an individual who was mentioned in the post, asking that I remove any connection between their real life self and the persona they use in writing their blog.  This individual explained to me that they didn’t want there to be any connection between themselves and the narrating voice of the blog.  A nome de plum, I suppose.  In the words of the first text message I received, the voice of the blog is offensive and this individual author didn’t want that voice to be tied back to him/her.

So I did something that in the last few days I have seen done on forums that I had subscribed to.  I went into the post and deleted/edited references.  In the particular forums I subscribe to, posts have been removed because some individuals found them offensive not because they were offensive, but because they pointed out truths about the world that are uncomfortable for some people to accept or look at.  Censorship, basically.

This actually gave me some considerable things to chew on after I received the messages.  First and foremost, it points out to me that the culture in which we live utilizes tools, namely the internet and mobile devices (yes, I’m writing on a MacBook right now so I’m as guilty as the rest) that permit us certain liberties that we didn’t have in the past, namely being able to say and do whatever we want without there being perceived consequences towards the individuals that we write about.

Pot-Kettle?  Not necessarily.

After spending the bulk of the evening trying to consider a response, any response, to what seemed like a rather incredulous request I decided that the best thing to do was simply remove the reference.  Did I feel sick for having to edit?  A little.   A part of me felt like I was becoming involved by editing out the reference, condoning what is really nothing but, let’s face it, anonymous trolling although written extremely well.  How can I make that judgement?  What gives me the right to make that judgement?

I’m in the blog.

Bianca Del Rio is an insult comic.  She walks out into a crowd, finds people, points out their defects with wild and sometimes sharp stinging comments, but it gets a laugh.  Even though she’s wearing make up, she’s out there, she’s honest about what she’s doing.  She tells the audience before she begins “Are you ready for me to be a hurtful angry ****?” and people love it because she’s not hiding it.  There’s an agreement between Bianca and her audience.  She’s going to use them, and they’re going to use her, and everyone (mostly everyone) will get a huge laugh out of it.

The internet, and the age of the internet, has taken certain chivalrous and important codes of conduct away from us.  It’s eliminated the practicality of standing beside what you write, what you say, what you do, as part of being an honourable person.  When I hit publish, I recognize that every word I write is going to be read and scrutinized by people all over the world (at least potentially, but not likely).  But even more importantly, the reason I’m writing is because a) it gives me a sense of discipline like journaling, like writing in my leather bound journal with pencil and paper and b) it allows me to share aspects of my life with others, things that I’m excited about (the garden, the transformation the garden and the new house is having not only on my life, but my family’s life, and the garden itself).  I’m writing this for me, but I’m doing so fully cognisant that its out there, that it’s public.

Twenty years ago, all I’d be doing would be writing in the journal and considering publishing it.  But is there an ethic involved in online publishing  that is similar, is necessary, to any writing?  Is there a line that we approach, or even cross, by writing in an anonymous style that is hurtful, or potentially harmful?

I think as authors, be it online or offline, we need to choose our words carefully and not be fearful of standing behind them, be they in print or in pixel.  We as authors must convey to our readers and potential readers the ideas we want to communicate and trust that those words are significant and meaningful.  If we have to hide behind a name, if we have to write in cognito, what are those reasons?  Steven King had legitimate reasons, he wanted to see if people were simply buying his books because he wrote them.  J. K. Rowling had similar reasons.  I myself toyed around with the idea of a nom de plum when I first started writing poetry back in my twenties, but I did so because I wanted to bring honour to my maternal grandfather (whom I have never met), and I wanted to tie the relationship of my family closer to what I was writing.

Even Armistead Maupin, who wrote the famous “Tales of the City” and no doubt included aspects of his own life and interactions with people in his life, knew that what he was writing had meaning.  The words had weight.  He stood behind them.

So I’m left with only one thing, having written and said all this.  Is there anything in what this individual has requested that is unreasonable?  No. Is there anything unscrupulous about how this individual is writing?  Absolutely.  But it’s not my blog, not my words, not my potential consequences.

The editing I have done in the previous post is the last time I will ever change what I have written because someone is afraid their words will catch up to them.  The only advice I can offer, and I suggest it’s not going to be willingly heard (again, not my issue) is that if one is afraid that one’s words will somehow come to haunt them, why then, Felicia, are you writing them to begin with?

Bianca Del Rio, my hero.  She’s not only beautiful, but she has the balls to be a c*nt and own it.  Call me.  Drinks are on me.

To this individual?  Be like Bianca.  Have courage to stand behind you words, not hide behind them.

Back to the garden…if you’re going to plant something like an opium poppy or marijuana, don’t be screaming at the potential of people finding out you have illegal plants in your ground.  Or, I’m just a crazy janitor trying to impersonate a hermit who gardens.

The Many Faces of Twat: A Meditation on Responsible Writing

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