Wednesday, October 13, 2010

RIP Bitch PhD

News: Another blog has bitten the dust (zOMG -- only 1,242,411 left!), and this time the casualty is a pioneer of the feminist blogosphere, a bastion of fire-breathing, finger-flipping, feminazi truth-telling since 2004. Yes, my virtual but beloved friends, I speak to you of the brilliantly named and consistently illuminating Bitch Ph.D.


Reaction: The feminazis of Roxie's World are sorry but not entirely surprised to hear the news. We thought the blog was showing signs of exhaustion. Truthfully, we became less devoted readers once it went from being a solo project to a group effort a few years back. That shift already seemed to suggest burnout or boredom on the part of the alpha Bitch (understandable, given the effort it takes to maintain a solo blog, particularly one that hits it as big as hers did). Nonetheless, we learned a ton from the ornery women of Bitch Ph.D. about what this blogging business was all about, and we are grateful to them for lessons on writing with edge, intelligence, humor, and indignation. We raise not a middle finger but a paw to you, grrls, and thank you for the years of hard, good work.

Postmortem Q&A:
  • Does the closing down of one influential, well-established blog mean the blogosphere is dying, a casualty of the mindless ease of connecting to social networks through Facebook and Twitter
  • Does the closing down of one academic-ish blog mean that interest among scholars in using our skills and expertise to communicate to a broader audience is waning? 
  • Does the closing down of one fiercely feminist blog mean that heteropatriarchy has won, again and forever?

For readers in a hurry, the answers to those questions are no, nope, and hell, no! In that order.

Our blog pal Annie Em has had a bit of a blog death watch going on lately. 'Twas she who called our attention to the demise of Bitch Ph.D., and she gave us a heads up today that Michael Bérubé and a couple of other academic bloggers have or are about to give up the (virtual?) ghost. (FYI: Bérubé says he's putting his last post up on Friday. You will want to click in -- Dude knows how to stage an ending.) Annie Em has noted signs of flagging energies throughout the academic blogosphere. We've noted that, too, but figured it was just us projecting, on account of my typist has this insanely busy post-leave life that requires her to get dressed and leave the house every single day, which seriously cuts into the time available for surfing the Interwebs and coming up with snarky yet inspiring stuff to say.

Here's the thing, kids: Blogs come and go, but blogging will abide forever until such time as technology and the collective ADD of the human animal decide it's time to look for other ways to express ourselves. If, eventually, the form and the phenomenon run their course, something else will emerge to provide a platform for uncensored, unedited, un-gatekeepered communication between John/Jane Q and the broadband-equipped Public resourceful or benighted enough to find us. That genie is out of the bottle, my friends, and there's no stuffing it back in. Don't let one half-baked piece by Malcolm Gladwell make you think the party is over. Here is the best reply we've seen to Gladwell's straw-man attack on the political value of blogs, Twitter, and other tools of social networking. It's from Destructural (via), and it nicely maps out the different roles played by different tools in different situations:
The question for activists is always how to use available tools effectively. So blogs are for sharing longer ideas, Facebook is for spreading basic information and links, and Twitter is for sending small amounts of information publicly on the go. We even use phones sometimes. The internet can’t hammer a nail, but that’s what hammers are for. But there are some tools that don’t stand the test of time as well. Gladwell writes, “… what use would a digital communication tool be in a town where ninety-eight per cent of the black community could be reached every Sunday morning at church?” Of course, this is a completely useless question. What good would Twitter have been for dinosaurs? THEY COULDN’T EVEN PRESS BUTTONS! By putting the historical comparison on his opponents (who would “no doubt” make it), Gladwell attempts to dodge responsibility for an absurd line of argumentation. He writes that [Martin Luther King, Jr.] needed discipline and strategy because of certain exigencies of the particular movement (the need to maintain a moral high ground for the white viewing public), but never explains why those tactical decisions should carry over. In fact, Alain Badiou has argued that while patience was the cardinal virtue required in the past, right now we need nothing so much as courage. Fetishizing the 60′s is a bad idea because we don’t live there any more. Material conditions change; so should our strategies, so should our tactics, so should our methods of communication. (Emphasis added.)
It's like we said: Blogs come and go, but the longings to speak truth to power, to share great stories, or to pass along urgent brief bits of information or vacation photos abide forever. The great question of our time is not whether the Interwebs are making us dumber or more distracted. It is, What is the best tool for any particular communicative/strategic goal? That is a good problem to have, darlings, a very good problem indeed, because we are not dinosaurs and can push many buttons, even simultaneously if we have to.

A blog is dead. Long live blogging. And Facebook. And Twitter. And sit-ins. And vigils. And marches. And academic conferences that feel like consciousness-raising sessions. We need them all, and thank dog we have them all at our disposal. Peace out.

10 comments:

  1. BitchPhD was a huge inspiration to me when I started blogging, and it's a shame to see it go. And yes, I never liked any of the other bloggers nearly as much as the Head Bitch herself, except Taddy Porter was pretty entertaining.

    Agreed that this doesn't mean jack dick for the "future of blogging" or whatthefuckever. Facebook and Twitter are for right-wing politicians and other mental children to share their internal shitstreams, not for adults.

    Finally, didn't that Berube d00d "quit" blogging once before, a few years ago? Is he the Brett Favre of the left-wing academic blogosphere?

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  2. Re. Bérubé: Yep. Seems he just can't quit us. Though I suppose your Favre allusion means a snarky sext joke is is in order. Not goin' there.

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  3. I think it's probably hard to do any one hobby for a huge length of time.

    I occasionally liked Bitch PhD, but mostly I was annoyed about how much free time and energy she seemed to have compared to me. I was jealous (not with how she used said time and energy, but that she had it).

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  4. GlassPen8:40 AM EDT

    Thanks for interesting post, particularly responses to Gladwell piece. Blog on, Roxie!

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  5. Snarky response to Nicole, which is meaner sounding than I mean for it to be but I think also true: it's easy to have lots of free time and energy when you quit your career.

    I started blogging at right around the same time in 2004 as Bitch PhD (sans co-bloggers) started, and B and I (and Profgrrrl and a few others) were sort of pals for a time. On the one hand I'm sad to see it go because it makes me feel like Dr. Crazy is a dinosaur, but on the other hand, for me that blog has been pretty much over for a while and I think we all knew it. I'll be interested to see what Tedra comes up with - I don't think she's done blogging - just done with Bitch PhD.

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  6. Candy Man8:57 AM EDT

    Hey there, Roxie -- fun to see you quoting from a QTU recent grad (and one of my favorite students).

    Have you seen "Helvitica," the flick? I happened upon it the other evening, and this morning couldn't help but notice (after being subjected to 1.5 hrs of documentary on, yes, a type-setting) that it's your font of choice. You might be interested giving it a look-see -- it's on Netflix instant!

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  7. OMG, Candy Man -- Thanks for pointing out that the genius behind Destructural is one of QTU's best and brightest! My typist stumbled across the post by way of Student Activism and hadn't noticed who the author was. I think it's fair to say the future of blogging is secure with guys like Malcolm in the game. As for "Helvetica," haven't seen it but would like to. Moose loves a pretty font and has a long happy history with Helvetica going back to her days as a yearbook editor in the last century. We'll check out the flick.

    And, Dr. C., with you on being interested to see what the genius behind Bitch PhD will do for her next act. Also hoping the blog will stay up and accessible for a good long while. We hate it when things just disappear.

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  8. B said in the comments to one of the farewell posts that she plans on keeping the blog and its archives up - just there won't be any new posts after the farewell ones.

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  9. Have you seen "Helvitica," [sic] the flick?

    You're shittin' me? There's really a movie called "Helvetica"? I fucken love typography!!!! I gotta see that!!!!

    (And yes, Dr. Crazy is pretty much the T-Rex of the academic blogosphere. Just mowin' down motherfuckers left and right!)

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  10. Roxie--even I got the Brett Favre joke, and I ritually shuck out the Sports section of my newspaper as soon as I open it. (Or am I so out of it I only think I got the joke?)

    What Dr. Crazy said works for me, too.

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