[note: I’ve updated this post to hopefully make it more clear.]
Quite a few of you have been asking me to weigh in on Richard Armitage’s interview about cyberbullying and about my take on bullying in the fandom. I’ll give my take on the latter first.
I’ve been asked to give serious input on bullying in the fandom on many occasions, but I’ve pretty much refrained. There was one occasion when I felt compelled to make a serious post about someone being victimized. But why have I mostly refrained? Because the subject is a quagmire. And why is it a quagmire? Because one person’s bully is another person’s hero. So it’s all in someone’s perspective. And I’m no different in seeing things one way whereas someone else sees them another, and to be utterly candid, the issue of bullying in the fandom has usually not been important enough for me to wade into the quagmire. And really it’s not that important now, but I guess enough of you asked that I wanted to answer you.
Bullying in general is not something I take lightly, but in the fandom and strictly from my perspective, I don’t see it as a huge thing. Yes, I really said that, and I say it because in the fandom we’re not talking about people who are mandatory for anyone to interact with, to be continually, unwillingly subjected to. Additionally, the fandom is nebulous enough to afford us freedom of movement. It has no distinct identity. It is diverse enough for us to enjoy parts of it while staying away from parts where people are rude.
If it’s helpful to know, my policy is to observe someone for a long time after I’ve encountered poor behavior from them personally. I do this because I’m hoping they pull it around to something better. After a great period of time has passed, if the person is still unreasonable and it doesn’t appear they will change, I will usually move away from the person(s). If someone does eventually pull it around, I have no problem interacting with them again. I’m not a grudge holder. Never have been. I have plenty of flaws, but holding grudges isn’t one of them. I also don’t write people off even if I’ve been tempted at times. It’s my firm belief we all make mistakes and can come back from them. Might be a more difficult task for some than for others, but it is possible. In the meantime, I don’t have to be up close and personal with the person.
And now for my thoughts on Richard Armitage. Richard is in a different situation from the fans. He is a public figure who is expected and somewhat obligated to interact with the public as part of the living he makes. As a result, he witnesses a lot more poor behavior than most of us do. Plus, we are the armchair critics who as fans can say what we want without impunity. If he criticizes, he runs the risk of catching hell from those who disagree with him, and this disagreement possibly hurting his living.
How do I know that about his public life? I can relate to his dealing with public life in a small way because of the public life I lead outside this blog. It’s an interesting dynamic to be in the public eye where many around you have an opinion about what you’ve done, what you’re doing and what you may do in future, and sometimes you get death threats or other threats of bodily injury or at the least unsigned letters of criticism. And it’s not uncommon to be privy to others being threatened. Don’t freak out. It goes with the territory. Then add in the fact that an income may be dependent on what the public or part of it thinks of you. When I think of all of this, I cannot even process the expectations and scrutiny Richard Armitage puts up with as he goes about his business.
Nevertheless, he was plainspoken in his interview about what he deems good and bad behavior, and he brooked no nonsense about what he will accept in his interactions on social media. He was setting an example for others, and his words had a sanity and a sense to them that I seldom see or hear and was glad to witness. I’ve always loved it when a man has good principles and a backbone to go with them. It’s a turn on. Especially when the principles are girded in the Golden Rule and therefore entirely reasonable expectations. And nothing about that stance is a threat to my identity as a person or as a woman. It’s welcomed and respected. Plus, you can seldom go wrong with the Golden Rule. Oh surely there will be those who treat you the way they want to be treated, and you won’t like it. Let them know how you feel if it’s that much of an issue, and if they don’t agree, you can go your separate ways. Richard is a man who appears to know exactly who he is, what he expects, and is making it clear that whomever doesn’t like his principles can part company with him.
Thanks for being willing to slog through the quagmire. I’m sure there are those who will not appreciate it, and it may indeed cost you something beyond goodwill. But you didn’t let that stop you, and I’m saying now and as loudly as possible that I respect you for it.
Someone glad to be your fan
I’ve got to come up with another name for these letters. There was nothing fake about what I’ve said. I suppose they are still fake though since I am never going to send them via conventional means.
I have not been as attentive to this post and its comments as I would like, but it’s because I’m working and truly have not had time. For most things here, time is not an issue because most things here don’t require much thought or wordsmithing in order to communicate effectively or to keep from offending. That’s not the case with this topic, so I’ve been hesitant to say anything further until I could take my time to craft a comment.
Having said that, I’ve got some time to post further thoughts on the issue of bullying in the fandom. My further thoughts are a response to comments, private messages and email I’ve received since posting this piece. Also please note my further remarks are not so much on bullying in general but specifically about my experiences while participating with the Richard Armitage fans.
I’ve generally had a good experience and tend to think I haven’t been much on the receiving end of cyberbullying in the fandom because generally I stay away from places where I have seen it occurring, Pretty simple for me. Again, this is my experience. I am not speaking to anyone else’s.
Despite my staying away from places that are prone to problems, I have gotten some nasty private messages on some of the platforms where I have accounts although 98-99% of the messages I’ve received are very positive. Lately the nasty messages have been taking me to task about the Lee Pace thing. These messages have a badgering tone and sound like a child pitching a fit. My response is usually to hit the delete key. Sometimes I’ve chuckled at some of them. Maybe that’s not a good response. I honestly don’t know. Maybe I should be more offended, but it takes quite a bit to offend me. Plus, I have no dog in the RA/LP fight. Let me be plain about my feelings on that subject: I don’t care about it. Richard Armitage’s personal life is not why I’m here and never has been. Enough about that. LOL!
I have also received some nasty emails over the years of running this blog. Again, probably 99% of the emails I get are positive. For the ones that are nasty, I mostly dismiss them. On a couple of occasions, something in them stung, but for the most part, they’re from people I don’t know and therefore they have no power with me. I look at them as part of blogging, part of engaging in public discourse. Not that these subjects in fandom are usually heady, but they are still part of some public dialogue and as such are going to draw criticism in some ways. So yeah, some negative is to be expected.
I want to make it clear that if someone sends me an email objecting to something I’ve said, I don’t necessarily consider that a nasty email. What I consider nasty is when it’s obvious the sender has no desire to have a dialogue about their objection to something I’ve said or done but rather wants to tear me down or anyone who holds a similar view to mine.
When I’m on platforms other than my own, I have a tendency to ignore people who are obviously just wanting to start a fight whether in private messages or publicly. I felt silly typing that just now. A “fight” on social media among grown people (at least that we know of) and over an actor? Damn I sound condescending. But I do feel it’s beneath me to “fight” with one or more people over something that would never be a hill I want to die on — over the acting profession and/or an actor’s personal life. It’s absolutely absurd to me, and if I were to ever engage in it, would probably feel I was losing some brain cells. And I don’t need to give up any brain cells. LOL!
For preventing or curtailing bullying in fandom, it helps for site owners to make it known bullying will not be tolerated. I have made it plain that I will not tolerate it on this site. Have people skated up to the line at times? Yes. I believe that’s going to happen on occasion when there is discussion going on that has a potentially inflammatory nature. Goes with the territory. But I’m happy to report I have never had to close down a discussion by closing comments or blocking someone from commenting, and I hope I never have to do either.
Despite my generally good experience in fandom, there are some things I’ve seen that compelled me to do something. I’ve seen bullies threaten someone’s personal life. On the two occasions I’ve seen that done to someone I know, I did not sit by and watch it. I didn’t necessarily broadcast what I was doing to help, but I was not sitting around merely watching someone be threatened in a way that could have great negative impact on their life.
To reiterate, I’m sharing my thoughts about bullying strictly within the bounds of this fandom and as I’ve experienced it. This is not how I feel about bullying in general and what I know has happened in social media where people’s identities are usually much more accessible, therefore more vulnerable, and where children are involved. That is an entirely different discussion in my opinion, and cyberbullying there is much more of a concern and potential danger. I say that as a parent of a 15 year old girl who likes to get on Facebook and interact with her friends. I say that as a parent who had other teens in the house at one time and they also liked to get on Facebook and the web in general. Believe me this idea of them being harassed or threatened has been a very real concern of mine for a long time and one that I take very, very seriously, but I do believe the tenor of harassment in fandom (as I’ve seen it) is different, and that’s why I segregated my remarks about it from the general issue of bullying.
Hopefully none of this I’ve said will take away from others’ experiences or be taken as a judgment on someone else’s experiences. I’m telling you what’s happened to me, how I feel about it, how I’ve reacted, and how it’s worked for me. What others do is entirely up to them, and certainly, others may have ways of coping that are different from mine and also work. Short of breaking the law, I say do what works for you to end the bullying.