On Comment Moderation

Before starting up my blog, I had a look around the internet for other blogs about feminism, and searched for tips to start up a successful blog. Something that caught my eye and set me thinking was the common recommendation to moderate comments. The likelihood of a feminist discussion attracting sexist trolls is high, the advice acknowledges, and many people find it best to remove such offensive behaviour from their sites.

I’ve been lucky – so far I’ve met with nothing but support, kind words from fellow feminists that have buoyed me up and inspired me to keep writing, to keep fighting. But I cannot help but wonder, if I were to one day receive an offensive, misogynistic comment, full of violence and threats (and I’m sure everyone’s seen these before), what should I do? Delete it? Leave it up? Respond to it?

Let’s dismiss the last option straightaway. If an individual can read a thoughtfully-written, sensible feminist blog, and still think it appropriate to threaten the author with rape, I doubt an argument with him would do much good. So let’s consider the other two options – deleting it, or leaving it on the site.

I can definitely see the benefits of disallowing it straightaway. After all, feminist blogs should be areas of support, where women rally round to vent their frustrations and articulate their hopes. We get so little support in real life that online support is vital. Allowing vile comments to parade about on my blog feels like a violation, a discouraging slap in the face. And it won’t be just me who is affected, others who read my blog (if they support the cause) will receive an indirect threat as well. If a budding feminist were to stumble upon my blog, I want her to find support, to be empowered. Seeing men hurling abuse may well discourage her from speaking out for herself in the same manner.

And yet, I can’t help but feel that deleting these nasty comments will only serve to further cultivate one of the biggest problems of combatting sexism today. And that’s the fact that most people do not believe sexism exists. With clear-sighted feminists on one end and unapologetic misogynists on the other, it is the people in the middle of the spectrum that we need to reach out to if we want to see change. And how can we convince them that sexism is a problem if we painstakingly hide away all evidence of it?

It isn’t an easy decision. I would be curious to know the thoughts of bloggers more experienced than I am – there may be an aspect of the problem that I’m missing. But for now, I’m leaning towards fearlessly displaying sexism in all its nakedness, and showing the world exactly why I am a feminist.

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