Thursday, 16 January 2014

Blogging mistakes, part 2: Challenging the invisible bandits

This continues my examination of nine posts published in December 2012 and January 2013 that I took down on 6 January 2013, because they had been unwisely written. I am drawing lessons from them.

On 17 December 2012 I published a post titled The rules of the game. It was about comments made on one's posts - often uncomplimentary, perversely argumentative, or malicious - by people who were anonymous. This is what I said:

Recently I've noticed some comments, on this blog and others, from persons called 'Anonymous'. One anonymous comment actually came from a friend who didn't blog - that was perfectly all right. But who are the rest? I have no idea whether it's one person commenting, or a dozen persons working in a team. How can you tell? They don't say who they are. Even when you ask. It wouldn't matter, except that often these comments from 'Anonymous' have an edge to them, and may be downright provocative - making you wonder why they have been made.  

It's never explained how they are qualified to express an opinion that you should take seriously. I'd be quite happy to engage with someone who identified themselves and said, 'I'm Dr So-and-so, with eighteen years experience working with trans people who have made failed suicide attempts, and my own case notes, research and experience suggest that...' because that's a real person who has evidence. I can look at his evidence, especially if he has published it for me to read in full, and tells me how to access it. I don't promise to agree with his conclusions, because I might interpret the evidence differently. But I won't dismiss him as an uninformed, troublemaking idiot either.

Is 'idiot' the right word to use? Well, if you do take these unnamed people at face value, and answer their points intelligently, they seem to ignore what you said. They just come back to you, spouting another set of standard comments, as if working from a script. I conclude that two-way communication is not the name of the game here. They are not going to accept a word I say, and in fact it wouldn't matter what I said.

I must be dealing with a troll.

It's so easy to be a troll. Here are the rules I think they play by, when the target is the trans community:

1. Find any trans blog, and make a comment that will upset the author and most of the other commentators. You want to stir them up and watch the fun. Any comment will do, so long as it will needle and irritate. 

2. If possible, pretend to be sincere. Then they may try to reason with you. And that gives you plenty of ways to prolong the game.

3. There are lots of ready-made clich├ęs to hand that will push a tranny into an anguished response. Hackneyed phrases like 'men in dresses', for instance. Pronoun misuse will always inflame the trannies. Keep the pot boiling by constantly using these trigger phrases and trigger words.

4. Play hard and long. See how wound-up they get. If they lose interest, reignite the argument.

5. You win when someone loses their cool bigtime.

6. Keep a score on a spreadsheet - how many comments it took till a tranny started to cry. Share it with friends. Copy and save their distressed and angry comments, to laugh at later.   

7. Remember: they're not proper human beings, just deluded saddos, so it doesn't matter one little bit who gets upset or why.

8. The Big Rule: never, never, never say who you really are. They can't get at you then.

So, in future, I want no more 'anonymous' comments, please. I simply can't tell who is genuine and who is a troll. Genuine people can email me, and enjoy free speech that way. Trolls will be deleted. That's my rules.

Well, that was throwing down the gauntlet, and no mistake! I still think I sussed out the trans blog troll adequately. But the post was a mistake. I was bound to get some hard-to-handle comeback. And I did. Eventually I stopped allowing comments from anyone but registered users of a blogging platform, a restriction announced in a post titled Death to the nameless ones! on 31 December 2012. Here is an extract:

With some reluctance, because I don't like putting up barriers, I've decided to stop anonymous comments completely...So it's goodbye to everyone who has been commenting as 'Anonymous' since 2009, unless you expose yourself to comeback by becoming a 'Registered User'.

In my experience very few anonymous commentators are friends who wish you well. So just as I wouldn't want to listen to a tirade from some aggressive person in the street, I don't want the same tiresome thing on my blog. The right to free speech ends when the words are designed not to seek understanding, but to wound and do harm.

And then, having committed another kind of blogging mistake (to be discussed tomorrow) I became a victim of the dreaded GenderTrender. They pounced on a New Years Eve post of mine, and I felt pushed into responding with a defiant (and unwisely flippant) post titled GenderTrender gives me some attention! Cult status beckons! on 3 January 2013. It makes me cringe now:

Well! I'm amazed. The GenderTrender blog has featured my recent post on drinking in its own New Year's Eve post titled In case you will be drinking tonight (the blog is at Do have a look at it, and the kind of posts they publish, and indeed click on some and study the kind of comments made in support of these posts. It's another point of view, after all. I was inspired to add a comment of my own, thus:

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

I'm glad to see that you appreciated my post on drinking! I am a bit puzzled, though, because the post was aimed at trans women who might need a little lighthearted guidance...and I don't think that any of you are trans women. That's so odd.   

Never mind. It's good to be noticed, and in a strange way it's very, very complimentary.  

Anyway, I'm bringing this post and your comments to my readers' attention on my own blog. This will do you a favour, because I think GenderTrender isn't much known about in the UK, and obviously you'd appreciate some publicity. 

Quite possibly a lot of curious new readers will be coming your way - although I can't guarantee that they'll enjoy your sense of humour. Be warned. Regard these readers as 'the judge over your shoulder'.

By the way, the yellow-scarf photo is from 2007 and is one of a series that shows my personal development over the last six years. I'd draw your attention to the one taken two days ago, in which I'm having a great time (did you?) and I recommend that you read the post in full ('Six years of personal development - the gallery', dated 2 January 2013). In fact I hope I can tempt you to delve into my past posts, and find out what I'm really like as a human being. That would be nice, if you're up to it, but if not, then I promise not to worry. 

Remember, each click on my blog increases my pageview total. See if you can raise it beyond 20,000 a month. I want to get it up to 50,000 a month by the end of the year, and you GenderTrenders could all do your bit. 

Happy New Year.


Not only did the post on drinking get examined, one of the lady commentators looked at yesterday's personal development gallery and used it to illustrate a point she wished to make. I'm immensely flattered. As they say (well, someone does) 'there is no such thing as bad publicity'. It's so true. The big thing is to have one's name bandied about, so that you get terribly well known. If you can actually become a cult figure, whatever the reputation, that's even better. So whether it's fame or notoriety, I might as well go for broke! 

Why, there could be a New Year's Honour in it for me, for Services to Internet Blogging. In the 2014 List as Dame Lucy Melford. Aaaaah, yes!

However, at the time of writing this, my GenderTrender comment is 'awaiting moderation'. And, you know, I fear that it will be misinterpreted as scurrulous and irrelevant. That pageview remark at the end does introduce a dirty commercial flavour (some would say 'taint') that GenderTrender may consider inappropriate. Their standards are pretty high! So alas, my comment may not actually get published. Not to worry, you have it above.

Ouch. I so wish I hadn't written that. It was stupidly frivolous. It was also unnecessary and dangerously misjudged. I was quite new to GenderTrender (henceforth 'GT') and really hadn't understood what GallusMag and the other contributors there were about. Nor, really, what the broader radfem movement stood for. I should not have stooped to ridicule - in effect baiting them, and inviting hostility.

I suppose that at the time I could have been forgiven for not knowing what radical feminism was: the ordinary women in my life from whom I took my cues, such as my neighbours, and people I chatted to in local shops, might agree that men still had the best of it, but they never mentioned radical initiatives and radical action. They were not revolutionaries, and did not hold strident views. Nor do they now, in 2014.

I believe I am correct in thinking that at the heart of all feminist movements, radfems included, and even those radfems who adopt the GT point of view, is a high principle: that all human beings should have complete equality, and that nobody should enjoy any privilege. It naturally follows that all girls and women must have the same opportunities and chances of happiness and success and respect as all boys and men. Which (to cover a GT preoccupation) certainly includes feeling untroubled in specifically female public spaces, and not having one's body invaded against one's will by a man.

The sexes are not inevitably at war, even in an imperfect world. Nor is mockery and vilification the best way to control stupid, rednecked men with sex and female subjugation on their minds. They need instead to be irresistibly coerced by a general shift in public opinion, supported by effective legislation.

So I think that the likes of GT are barking up the wrong tree, using the wrong methods. It's no good grumbling away anonymously in the darkness. They need to be out in the open, winning hearts and minds. They should form a political party, jettison the jargon, learn to be appealing to the electorate, and get influence. And do it in every country in the world, not just safe, easy, civilised places like the US. Forget peccadillos in restrooms. Why isn't GT fighting the just cause of womanhood everywhere on the planet, everywhere that girls and women are at knifepoint denied personal control over their own bodies and their own future?

The lessons I learned from these three posts:

1. Don't throw out challenges to people who are hidden, and can hit back from the shadows. They can hurt you, but you can't hurt them. Exclude or delete them with the tools on the blog, and resist responding to provocation. Don't play their game.
2. If a response simply has to be made, then make it in terms that are low-key, utterly reasonable, and do one credit as an adult of some sense and perspective. Then leave it at that.

But it's terribly hard to resist having the last word, or making a point with a stabbing finger, isn't it? Look at that paragraph above, exhorting GT to get out of its comfort zone and start campaigning in places around the world where women have much more to cope with than nervous cross-dressers in dodgy make-up. Ah well...


  1. You will never see Mr/Mrs/Miss or Ms Anonymous commenting on my blog, I delete any comment from unknown persons who refuse to reveal themselves. First time commentors are always placed automatically in the queue for moderation.

    Shirley Anne x

  2. I am sure that I clicked a no comments from anonymous box in the blogger preferences. I felt it was bad manners to comment like that so signed up for a profile then thought why not actually blog, sloppy slope...

    More real comments might have led me to write more...


This blog is public, and I expect comments from many sources and points of view. They will be welcome if sincere, well-expressed and add something worthwhile to the post. If not, they face removal.

Ideally I want to hear from bloggers, who, like myself, are knowable as real people and can be contacted. Anyone whose identity is questionable or impossible to verify may have their comments removed. Commercially-inspired comments will certainly be deleted - I do not allow free advertising.

Whoever you are, if you wish to make a private comment, rather than a public one, then do consider emailing me - see my Blogger Profile for the address.

Lucy Melford