I’ve just done a bit of retouching to the “Why Was I Sent To This Blog?” post, aka FAQ:I Asked Some Feminists A Question And They Sent Me Here: Why? The main reason I reworked it is because I have both great gratification and some disappointment from how I see FF101 being used to deal with disruptive questioners in feminist discussions.
I’m a bit tentative to put this out there, because not only am I not the high priestess or pope of any feminist anything, I’m not even an anointed acolyte; I have no actual control over how others use links to this blog in their discourse with others (and wouldn’t want to) but I do have a vision of sorts, and that vision isn’t quite happening.
That vision is that links to the FAQs are potential conversation starters, not just conversation-derailer stoppers.
I’m seeing lots of referrals to the blog from threads where someone is asking 101 questions and disrupting a more theoretically advanced discussion, which is terrific, but I don’t think that those getting the referrals, or the lurkers who also click on the link, are being best served by a habit that I’m also seeing.
What habit is that? Dropping a link just to this blog’s index page, instead of taking a few moments to check out which FAQ here best addresses the disruptive question and drop a link to that relevant FAQ in the thread. I think it’s only fair that when asking people to go and do some homework that a little bit of groundwork gets done by the referrer, otherwise it really does just seem totally dismissive and unhelpful.
It may be hard to avoid seeing questioners you suspect are trolls as worthy of dismissal and unworthy of help in finding the answers, and sometimes you may indeed be right: why bother for “obvious trolls”? But remember, only a small fraction of readers are commenters, and only a small fraction of commenters are trolls. The trolls aren’t going to be persuaded, but other commenters and certainly the lurking majority might well be, but only if we feminists are actually persuasive and not just dismissive.
Please consider using the link to the FAQ roundup rather than just the blog alone for questions that seem genuine, or use the link to the “Why was I sent to this blog?” post for someone pouting about their questions not being answered. (I’ve noticed a couple of people have blogroll links to the FAQ roundup rather than just the FF101 front page, and I think that’s an excellent idea, as that’s the proper core of the blog.)
Now, the core of the vision, really: think about whether the disruptive questioner actually had the basics of a good discussion starter in the question, if only it hadn’t been such a derailer to the discussion already happening. If it was a good question, something that you do actually find interesting or worth addressing separately, then maybe throw up a post which addresses some aspect of what the questioner wanted to know?
That way, if the questioner has actually followed the link here and done some reading, then the questioner gets a chance to be part of a discussion about that without being viewed as a derailer. (Corollary: if it was a really disingenuous question aimed solely at a derailment, maybe a post that dissects exactly why the question was disingenuous, and that indulges in a bit of recreational troll-mockery, might be an equally valid conversation starter). These are the sort of posts that will draw in lurkers to comment who are intimidated by more intermediate/advanced topics, and isn’t enticing lurkers to join discussions a big part of the reason for online feminist discussion in the first place?
Obviously, lots of feminist bloggers have no interest in addressing 101 questions at all, and that’s a totally valid position. That’s another reason this blog exists. If you’re a feminist who just doesn’t want to deal with introductory stuff ever, I hope you still find this blog valuable for blocking derailments and troll-stopping. But please consider taking the time to find the link to the pertinent FAQ for the disruptive question nonetheless. We may well never win the heart/mind of a single disruptive questioner, but we may well sway swathes of lurkers with just that little bit of effort.
We do want to sway some hearts and minds, right?