The Internet is a community of communities, all filled with conflict and drama. Social justice and activism are as filled with these clashes as any other group, but the wounds inflicted can be more than difference of opinion or personality discord: in “safe spaces”, tensions can be particularly fraught These incidents can often be instructive and valuable. Conflict clarifies loyalties and solidifies friendships; conflict can reveal humility and pride. Controversy can teach anti-oppression activists about how to avoid unintentionally inflicting harm upon folks who do not share their privileges. But while call-outs can be essential to honest discussions of inequality, drama is just as often destructive. Conflict comes at a price, sometimes with little payoff. Internet drama cost emotional energy, physical resources, time, and relationships. Blogwars, 500+ comment threads, and 140-character fights are rarely in anyone’s best interest – they are usually costly to the attacker, the target, and those reading on the sidelines. Drama and conflict in online social justice is usually best minimized and carefully managed. This presentation, which will focus more on examination than instruction, is not just about how to check your privilege. It’s about when to call out, and how to avoid abusing others. It’s about how to respond, when to check out, and how to take care of yourself in a community that demands everything of you.
Rachel McCarthy James is a writer and editor originally from Kansas; she currently calls southwest Virginia home. Her blog Deeply Problematic focuses on media, language, and news from a feminist perspective. Rachel, who sometimes goes by RMJ, has also written on television and webcomics for Bitch's blog, along with a few guest posts at Feministe, FWD/Forward, and Sadie Magazine. To pay the bills, she tutors basic composition.
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