As I said in last week’s post – Women speak out about online abuse – I’ve been really pleased to see how Helen Lewis Hasteley’s New Statesman piece and others have helped kick start a pretty wide ranging debate about the misogynist abuse a lot of women are being subjected to when they write online.

However, a few days ago I started to have a bit of a panic about it all as well. Not an “Omg why on earth did I stick my head above the parapet again, now I’m going to get all kinds of shit from the haters” kind of panic though, but a panic about the potential impact these revelations could be having on women who might be thinking about blogging or going into online journalism. Because the last thing I would ever want to do is to put anyone off writing. In fact I’d be pretty devastated if someone told me they’d been planning to set up a blog but had then read my Occupational Hazard article and decided the whole blogging thing wasn’t worth the hassle or the risk.

Because it is. Or at least I think it is, and that’s why I continue to write and blog despite the crap that (sometimes) comes with it.

I noticed a pingback on last week’s thread from the blog A Mother Knows, where in a piece entitled To blog or not to blog? That is the question the author questions whether she really wants to carry on blogging. She has several reasons for this, but part of it is that she’s been reading about all the misogynist abuse. The author says:

“As a journalist I and my female colleagues are all too aware of the perils of writing on anything personal for certain publications, in particular Comment is Free, and the Daily Mail, because of the vicious comments made there; not so much about the content of the author’s piece, but about their appearance and personal life. I think most of the female freelance journalists I know (including me) avoid pitching to these and other similar outlets because we are too scared. Even when it comes to blogs, many (including mine) are technically anonymous (even though with mine, I am not sure if it will stay that way – certainly many of the people reading it know who I am).”

Thankfully she concludes that she does want to carry on, saying:

“The pressures are powerful but I refuse to be intimidated into not expressing myself. If enough of the quiet vast majority of good people continue to write and be read and love and support one another, hopefully the shouts of the mean, cruel few will start to fade.”

But reading that piece did make me wonder again whether women (quite rightly) speaking out in the way we have been might be having some unintended consequences.

So, to reassure anyone who might be having second thoughts about blogging, and to answer all those tossers who have responded to the current discussion with “Well if you don’t like it why don’t you just get off the Net then!” I’d like to state for the record that, speaking from personal experience anyway, while the abuse I’ve received in the past has been heinous, it is far far outweighed by the more positive aspects of ‘blogging while feminist’: by the encouraging comments I’ve had, the supportive emails I’ve received, and by a gazillion other things that have made writing online an overwhelmingly enjoyable experience.

I think there’s an interesting discussion to be had about how hateful comments have a disproportionate impact on the recipient of them in relation to their relatively small number. In fact I remember being told once that for every mean thing someone says about you you need to hear something like 30 nice things about you to repair the damage done to your self-esteem (I could be making that last number up entirely by the way, so don’t quote me on it, I just remember the last number was a lot higher than the first one) so maybe that’s got something to do with it. What I do know is that I receive waaaaay more positive comments than I do horrible ones, and that’s one of the reasons I keep doing what I’m doing.

But even if that wasn’t the case, I’d still carry on writing. Not because I’m some arrogant fucker who thinks the world needs to hear my very important opinions, but quite simply because I bloody love writing: I always have done and I always will do, and no one will ever be able to take that away from me.

Another thing that keeps me going of course is the amazing community out there, or should I say the amazing communities. I know some people like to scoff at any suggestion that you can have a sense of community on the Internet, but trust me you can. Especially if you’re a woman, or a feminist, and more especially still if you’re a woman and a feminist. I’m not saying men don’t have the same sense of online community incidentally, not being a man I don’t know if they do or they don’t, and I can’t presume to speak for them.

In summary then, what I’m basically trying to say is that there are myriad reasons for my continuing to write, and that actually while the abuse I’ve received as a woman who blogs has had an impact on me, and is something I feel needs to be talked about and exposed, it is not what dominates my experience as a blogger. So please, if you’re having second thoughts about setting up a blog, or if you’re a blogger who’s thinking of packing it in because you’re worried about some of the stuff you’ve been reading lately, don’t let the current very important debate about online abuse and misogyny put you off. If you feel up to it, keep on keepin’ on. It’s genuinely not all bad. In fact most of the time, the vast majority of the time in fact, it’s not bad at all.