On Signaling Behavior (UPDATED!)
Recently, there was a mini-kerfuffle about my calling out of a particular comment by a particular author. I found the comment to be crass and offensive and the type of thing we often fail to account for when we stare at our navels and wonder why our site lacks gender and other types of diversity. Many seemed to feel that I was seeing offense where there really wasn’t any, was making a mountain out of a molehill, and/or was responding more to the messenger than the message. Ya know what? It is possible that all these folks were 100% accurate in their criticisms. But I still stand by what I did. Why? Because I think signaling behavior matters.
Signaling behavior, in this context, is the way in which we communicate through implicit language and actions. In a recent discussion with Russell about the experience of same-sex parents, I compared it to explicit messaging (such as statements of non-discrimination or mission statements) and used the example of forms filled out by parents and the difference between an application that has spaces for “Mother” and “Father” and one that has spaces for “Parent” and “Parent”. While Russell himself said he didn’t pay much mind to that, I know that particular issue is a bother for many same-sex parents and they find it is often more indicative of the openness of a community than anything stated explicitly.
What does any of that have to do with the latest mini-kerfuffle? Because I thought it important to signal to those less familiar with this space that comments such as the one I responded to did not represent the League in its entirety and that there were at least some members here willing to challenge them. I felt that if someone completely unfamiliar with the folks here saw that comment go unchallenged, they could fairly conclude that our community is one where women are first and foremost evaluated based on their appearance and/or where we think of lesbians only through the most trite of stereotypes. I don’t want that to be the message we send. And I don’t think that imploring women to “COMMENT MORE! WRITE A GUEST POST!”, having a Commenting Policy, or engaging in the type of “Why don’t more women come here?” navel gazing is enough.
Was my criticism necessarily the most thoughtful or most accurate? Hell no. But neither was the comment I responded to. I’m not going to win any awards for what I wrote. But if it signals to folks not yet members of our community that this might be a space for them, I’ll take those slings and arrows each and every time.
I want everyone to know that the goal of writing this post was not to call for the ouster of any Front Pager or to serve as a referendum on any individual. Rather, I wanted to offer an explanation for *MY* actions and to explain the thinking behind *MY* words. I received some criticism and pushback for my initial response, all of it valid and thoughtful, and I wanted to offer a broader explanation for it, because I anticipate making similar responses in the future and getting similar criticism and pushback. I was seeking transparency, letting everyone know my motives. I have a vision of what I think the LoOG ought to be and I will make no bones about doing what it is my power to make it that type of place.