When Roboseyo first contacted me and let me know that he would be, in some sense, dealing with my role reversal post, what I expected to see was a response outlining his opinion on the matter at hand. What I saw when I went over to check it out, however, was more of an analysis of community, of spaces and of how people are interacting, and who has a right to (or should) say what where.
I have a lot of opinions about what goes on in the internet spaces the Western foreigners in Korea have carved out for themselves, and I think just about everyone knows that I rarely hold back on expressing those opinions. At times, those posts have been quite combative in tone and nature. And I don't really apologize for that. This blog is my space. I try to go out of my way not to speak for other people, but I don't tiptoe around the issue of speaking for myself. If I see something that pisses me off, whether I stumbled across it, had it deliberately dropped in my inbox or intentionally sought it out, if I feel I have enough of something to say about it to form a coherent post, I will.
Is that not what blogs are for?
Because of this, I've had accusations in the past of trying to control other people's blogs. But to me, disagreeing or having a problem with what someone has said is not trying to control their freedom of expression. It's an integral part of my freedom of expression. And I've always had respect for other bloggers' right to take me to task when they have an issue with something I've said. I may not agree with their methods or their opinions, and I may respond to that end, but I don't make a habit of telling them that they're not allowed to make posts on their own blogs disagreeing with me, because I don't personally feel that disagreeing with me and saying so out loud is an attempt to control me and my discourse.
I am a member of this community. As such, I participate. I have my say for myself and my opinion. I have my say for myself and what I think about other people's opinions. I've never claimed to be, or attempted to be, a moderator of this community. I speak for myself. And if there has ever been a time when things get a little too heated, and I feel the need to go ahead and discuss my interaction with another member of that community, and to analyze our personal contributions and behavior and perspectives, then I have done so. With those other people involved in the discussion, as equals, as two members of that community. As participants.
I found it interesting what Rob had to say about individual spaces, and gendered spaces in particular. The internet is a big, yet strangely small place at times. It's a part of the public sphere. If your forum or blog is not locked down to a specific list of people who are capable of viewing it, and when it is open for all of the world to see, then it automatically becomes a part of public discourse. Do I control what content (including comments) are allowed to be posted and visible on my blog? A hundred percent. And I will always assert my right to do so. However, do I control how other people respond on their blogs to what I post, in public, on my blog? No. I have the right to respond and disagree, but I don't have the right (or the ability) to control how they respond to something I decided was appropriate to put out on the internet for all of the world to see.
To me, it's a little bit tedious to attempt to create rules for or moderate public discourse, from a position of anything other than expressing your own opinion about the issue at hand. It was a weird experience to read an analysis of what kind of discussions are appropriate in which spaces filtered through my role reversal post. In essence, it felt almost as though I were being told to stay in my space. But I'm not quite sure what, if not my blogs, is my space. And to bring the issue of gendered spaces into it made the experience even weirder. I am female, so which space is my gendered space? Am I outside of my gendered space on Blogspot, because when I started blogging nearly all of the major bloggers on Blogspot (or Wordpress) were male? Is Rob stepping outside of his gendered space when he posts on Tumblr? Am I outside of my gendered space when I make commentary on ugly posts I've seen on Dave's ESL? Or am I just borrowing trouble by not simply avoiding "dipshit" conversations and allowing the dipshits to have their space?
Maybe it's a little easier for Rob to be of the opinion that people should just "stay out of" those spaces, because the posts addressing foreign men in Korea in terms of ugly stereotypes have been so few and far between. Maybe Rob doesn't realize that for female foreigners in Korea, that shit has not been confined to just the internet. That those internet spaces that we should just avoid if we disagree were inherently and deeply entwined with what it meant to go outside of your apartment and into any space where there was a high volume of foreign men gathered in one space. Maybe he doesn't realize that those spaces slapped me in the face routinely when I was just trying to go about my life out in public in Korea during that first year.
Or maybe he also feels that I should've considered those bars or meetups with friends of other male friends to be their gendered space, their "frat party", and I should've just realized that I wasn't welcomed there, that the foreign bars in Bupyeong were for male expats who wanted to bitch about women, and not me, and that those spaces should be respected as their spaces and shouldn't be interrupted, because those men have the right to be the way that they are, and to express their opinions about me to my face and I should've just accepted my fate graciously, not argued or spoken up, turned around and just gone home. To "my" space, where I belong.
Or maybe he's only talking about the internet. Maybe the big name forum for ESL teachers in Korea, which as far as I could see, didn't have any rules or regulations about how it was a space for men, should just be allowed to become a cesspit where women are shouted out for trying to seek any kind of information about their experience in Korea, and no one should say anything about it. And maybe, to bring it back to the blogs, I should've just realized when I first started blogging, that blogging in Korea was for men. I shouldn't have bothered taking the time I did to analyze and respond to a number of issues I saw there, because I should have realized that I was trying to "discuss books at a frat party". Or rather, be a female voice in a space already primarily claimed by men. It just wasn't my party. It wasn't my community. And instead of taking inspiration from bloggers like Going Places and Amanda Takes Off and sticking it out, I should've just packed up my bags and left, and the community would just feel sorry when they looked around and noticed I was gone.
But I doubt that. Very seriously.
Maybe Rob doesn't realize how many spaces women (or any other "minority") confront on a daily basis that have already been marked off as spaces delegated to "dipshits" who have the right to express their opinions about any and all other categories of people, and how exhausting it gets to try to stick to your own "safe" spaces without confronting those other spaces. Or better yet, to try to carve those spaces out of nothing, when men, or majority groups, have already claimed all of the space as theirs, by default. Maybe he doesn't realize just how much space those "dipshits" are already taking up, so for him it's a little easier to say, "Just avoid it. They have the right to be that way. Go find your own space, where it doesn't happen." But I, for one, reserve the right to invade "dipshit" spaces that are discussing me and my categories in offensive terms, whenever the fuck I see fit.
I also reserve the right to speak up when I see the space where I am a part of the majority start to slip. Because, to me, individualized dipshit spaces are not the ideal. Especially when I was the one who was there first. Do I run the risk of being shot down, when my opinion is no longer the majority? Yeah. Do I run the risk of unfavorable responses? Yep. I accept those risks. I always have. But I'm not going to just shut up about it and mind my own business. I don't expect anyone else will, either. But that's fine. They can express themselves, and I'll continue to do the same.