I’ve previously discussed the content trolling and plagiarism that made me have to post a Content Use Policy on my blog in regards to my writing. Both of these situations are very stressful, disrespectful and degrading. (And no, I am not “flattered" by exploitation.) But there’s a third situation that arises. It is not as bad as these two but it doesn’t leave me feeling very well either.
It’s the academics.
Almost from this blog’s inception (which is only May 2012; it may seem like this particular blog of mine has existed forever but it hasn’t; it’s not my first blog ever either, but it’s also not very old itself) I have had academics after me for content. I’m asked about content daily/weekly. I am not exaggerating here.
Now this surprises me because unlike blogging for page clicks, ad revenue and attention type of White feminists and White-owned mainstream publications, academics are theoretically supposed to, I dunno, know the things that I know? I don’t understand why anything on my blog would have them in such a frenzy of desire. I feel like…me with my lowly Master’s degree compared to their doctorates (as no doctoral program wants me as of yet) shouldn’t be writing something so off the wall and so out of their world while they are in their doctoral programs, post-doctoral work or are professors of some sort. Really? So my responses to say…bell hooks or Patricia Hill Collins are things that never crossed their minds within doctoral programs or as professors? (And I know having a Master’s degree is literacy/education privilege out of the wazoo, but let’s be clear that it doesn’t always mean social status or middle class privilege for Black people.)
And I know, I know, the anti-formal education folks will say "well having a degree doesn’t mean that you are smart" which is true, but I don’t think it’s always this simple. I am not talking about “smart” versus “not smart” here. I am wondering why the “ZOMG your blog!” reactions are coming from people who I presume have read, studied, and analyzed the same things that I have. Now certain topics they may have not explored like I have on beauty, street harassment or certain media critiques. But the essays on race/gender/feminism are really the source of intellectual cumming like this? It makes me wonder why the fuck are they accepted in their doctoral programs while some have told me no. My work is good enough to be cited in their work or taught in their classrooms but not good enough for me to be accepted in a doctoral program or get a teaching job? And then I am supposed to be flattered by all of this?
To be clear, I never started this blog for attention (introvert here), for fame (again, muthafuckin’ introvert here), for money (do you see ad revenue on my blog? Am I owned by a larger, White owned publication? Other than small donations, do I get a regular check here?), or for a job (do you see me shoving my work in everyone’s face or are people after me?). At the same time, bills gotta be paid. Why does everyone get to build their work and dreams on my work while I worry about gathering money for application fees to give one more try at doctoral applications since last fall was a bust? As I worry about bills. As I know that a degree = struggle and no degree = really fucking struggle for a lot of Black women? And then, when I have the audacity to critique all of this, I am the one called “selfish,” a “capitalist,” “seeking White approval” and plenty of other insults.
And I get it. Most academics (most, not all, as some are content trollers and plagiarizers while being academics) mean well when they want to plaster my content—content that they should actually be able to create themselves no less—all over their classrooms, workshops, panels and whatever. They aren’t trying to hurt me. And in reference to White academics, they are not individually responsible for the inequality that puts me where I am but puts them where they are, even if they benefit from that inequality. I am not saying that White privilege is individually their fault at all times; it’s a result of a collective system. (They still need to check their fucking privilege before asking me questions like this and realize that even when they think that they are giving me a compliment, they are simply reminding me of inequality.) It takes multiple individuals, structures and institutions to make the academe the great place and the blithering cesspool that it is, because it’s surely both all of the time.
I talked to my best friend about all of this last night and being the good friend that she is, she listened and understood my frustration. She even mentioned putting certain content behind a pay wall but the truth is that a pay wall barricades my writing from the people I most want to read my blog, not academics who are used to content pay walls.
And it is not that I don’t want to share. If I didn’t, Gradient Lair wouldn’t exist. (I also note positive incidents of sharing via my Gradient Lair Around The Web posts and I share others’ writing via Read This Week.) I am just tired of being demanded to be flattered by people using my work to build their careers when all I receive are the insults, attacks and bigoted, oppressive comments. And sure, there are good comments too. But after a while, the daily/weekly contact from academics is tiring to my spirit and exhausting overall (especially when you add this to the worse actions of content trolling and plagiarizing by others). I don’t always feel flattered or happy about it, especially when it feels like people taking bricks I made to build themselves houses that I am not invited to live in or even visit.
I and any other writer stands on the shoulders of writers and scholars who came before us. True. Thus, I don’t mean to suggest that I am inventing a wheel and wheel-less wheelbarrow owners want my wheels. It’s just sometimes being a writer—especially when the things I write are often my life and a matter of life and death in all honesty—feels like being a dead carcass where content trolling is the punches before the guns, plagiarism is the gun/bullets and academics are the vultures picking off whatever is left of my flesh. I am always asked for something. I am never offered anything.
So what’s the answer? Well the former two, content trolling and plagiarism I cannot prevent or control. People enjoy harming and exploiting Black and other women of colour’s work in the same way that they enjoy cultural appropriation, and for the same reasons. In terms of academics though, I dunno what to tell them. In my Content Use Policy I outlined that they can use the content and cite each post appropriately without contacting me for permission. Only if the content is to be used on a panel/project would they need to let me know. But they contact me almost daily anyway. They gush with compliments that I am supposed to orgasm over yet vaginal dryness that rivals the Atacama Desert commences. I am always supposed to be happy over this but I feel a range of nothing to sadness to rage to more sadness. I feel tired.
I think I realized that a certain end date will come to Gradient Lair. I am not sure when. But when other Black women and some other women of colour told me that they stopped blogging or abruptly stopped, I get it. I always miss them dearly but I always 100% understand. I may eventually join them.