I'm feeling a tiny bit better.
Warning: explicit language ahead.
I learned this evening from Lauren (who is working with me to create a new wordpress blog, about which you will all learn soon) about the serious news regarding Barry (Ampersand) and Alas, A Blog. Amp has been one of the most important voices in the pro-feminist men's blogging community; indeed, he might well be the best-known male feminist blogger. (Cuz it sure as heck isn't me.) I'll always be grateful that Amp called in to the Glenn Sacks show when I was a guest in January 2005. (Bored? Download the free MP3 of that broadcast.)
I’m just now discovering what some of you may already know: Barry sold his domain to a pornographer, so now his blog is hosted alongside hard-core porn reviews. The deal is that the huge traffic to Alas — feminist traffic, generated by people who have built up that readership over years — drives up the search engine rankings for the pornographer. (Heart has a fuller explanation of the deal.)
Barry didn’t bother to tell any of his readers about this until someone discovered the links and asked him what the fuck was going on. Even now I’m not sure most of his readers are aware of it, since Barry’s explanatory post didn’t allow comments and so rapidly sank to the bottom of the list.
I think this is absolutely vile.
Some may think this is small beans, but in a community where sexual politics are so very personal, as well as political, this is an enormous business gaffe of exceeding irony. Of all the things one can do to save a buck, making money off the backs (and mouths and pussies) of women is not one that I encourage for a feminist man.
I do understand that hosting a popular blog is expensive. I don't criticize my fellow bloggers who accept advertising or who market shirts, caps, and other blogware. This (NSFW), however, goes well beyond the acceptable.
Men who blog as pro-feminists are --rightly or wrongly -- under a microscope. Anti-feminists and feminists alike are frequently suspicious of our motives. Is our feminism a strategy for sexual conquest? Is it a manifestation of self-loathing? Are we for real, or are we frauds? Lauren's right: in the feminist blogosphere, sexual politics are personal as well as political. How we live our lives matters. What we do for money, what we do for pleasure, what we do in private must be congruent with what we profess in public.
The feminist community is split over the porn issue. Some of us are hostile to all forms of visual erotica, at least in commercial form; others are more ambivalent; still others of us are enthusiastic proponents of helping women become more active, discerning consumers of pornography. All of us, however, are concerned with the impact that the male-dominated, male-centered commercial sex industry has on our lives. All of us are concerned with the impact on the women who work in the "industry." Alas, A Blog was a forum for discussing this very topic. But it is impossible to see Amp's blog as "safe ground" for that discussion when it is sponsored and supported by pornographers.
I've forsworn the "good feminist", "bad feminist" game. (See Jill today for more on this aspect of the topic.) I gave up discussing the whole idea of "feminist credentials" after this debacle. But I do think that it is important that feminists in general, and pro-feminist men in particular, talk about our communal obligations. Given that we daily tread on very personal ground, given that we write about our intimate lives and advocate for radical changes in how we and others live those lives, we have a huge responsibility to be clear and honest and gentle with each other. ("Honest" and "gentle" are not mutually exclusive.) And quietly selling a prominent feminist blog's domain name to someone who will use it to drive traffic to porn sites is a hurtful, bewildering, and -- until I hear more -- frankly inexplicable act.
If what I do for money, or what I do in my marriage, or what I do in my church, or what I do in my classroom doesn't match my professed beliefs, my friends, family, students, colleagues and readers had better call me on it. And right now, a lot of us are calling Barry (Amp) on this one. Barry, you owe your readers a public forum where you can further explain your decision, and offer those who are stunned and hurt an opportunity to express that to you directly.
It's the right thing to do, and it needs to happen right now.
UPDATE: Amp has responded swiftly with a new post, further explaining his decision and his regrets. He has also wisely and bravely opened that thread up to comments. It was indeed the right thing to do, and I commend him for it. Thanks to those of my commenters who pointed this out.