Thursday, January 27, 2011

What went wrong with my FMH post

I have a simple riff I've done on "what are guys thinking?"  It is kind of funny, kind of true (when limited to "guys" -- that is the mainstream social construct you are likely to encounter in America). I've a second riff that relates to the results of what happens as guys transition to being men and how they learn to see the real beauty in people around them rather than skin deep.  The two kind of go together.

So, in addition to my Elgin System post (about Suzette Haden Elgin, author of the feminist Native Tongue trilogy, and her solutions and ways to deal with verbal violence), I did my "what are guys thinking?" riff.

Some people liked it, but I managed to irritate a lot of people, partially because of the way I attempted to do a better job of expressing myself (things such as adding a consistent flow through metaphor "the secret life of men") and mostly because I let my terms slide.

To begin with, to make my metaphor work better, I substituted "men" in for "guys." That obscured the point that I meant young guys who are swallowed up in their culture and have not learned to think for themselves.  Once I had stepped off on that foot, it was down hill from there for many readers.

Hindsight is 20-20.  But that is how what I thought was a light, frothy bit of writing with a bit of sweetness and hope at the end managed to generate a lot more attention and irritation than I expected.

At least it was not as much a failure as my essay on at Wheat & Tares.  That essay was the least successful essay I've ever posted there.

Well, next week can't help but get better.  Emotionally this was a bit of an overwhelming week.  I don't know why the grief hit me so hard on the 26th, or why this week was so rough compared with last year.  Maybe it was Win being out of town.  Maybe it was the way my home teaching companion's schedule (he commutes from Chile) and the families I home teach had things come together (I ended up having to home teach yesterday to make it work), maybe it was running into a car door (I have an inch and a half gash on my head now), and maybe it is just the weather.

Well, if they ever ask me back, I'll learn from this experience.

I also missed that at times how you interact with your audience very much depends on:
  • how much goodwill the members have towards you;
  • even more, nuance that is much easier to express in person than in print;
  • the level of pain people have from related conversations.
People who knew me tended to read the essay a great deal differently from those who did not. In person I've never delivered the riffs to anyone who was not part of a group that knew me well and was kindly disposed towards me. I've never delivered it other than in person before.  I've never dropped it naked onto someone experiencing pain from related conversations.

I continue to mull it over, as I reflect on what works and what doesn't. 


Anonymous said...

Ah, the 'failure demon'. I have one too. Until you can regain the protective shield that you have to construct to repel it, know we care. If I tell you that you did not fail, will it help? No, I didn't think so. It never does for me either. Even if a part of me knows it is true, I can talk myself out of that pretty easily. I will pray for you and I know that you have what it takes to get the demon back in its cell. I know you are good and true and worthy and that you have the power to prevail, I also know the battle will leave you sore, exhausted and bleeding. What matters most is that even though the 'failure demon' comes out to taunt at times you really are the right knight for the battle. You will prevail. What you need to know is that your courage to go on is one of the things I use to build my own shield. You are one of the reasons I can but my demon back where he is quiet.

Papa D said...

It's hard to overcome initial reactions - and some people just read things differently than others. Mostly, it all boils down to that with the fmh post - but I appreciate the explanation.

cc said...

I'll admit, I didn't get what you were trying to say on fMh, but I gave you the benefit of the doubt.

Your post on W&T about being heard resonated with me in that I feel like my comments more often than not get passed over and ignored. At one point I questioned my ability to reason and communicate, but then I decided not to take it personally anymore. Of course, I also decided to stop commenting in places where I didn't feel welcome or "heard". I didn't like feeling dependent on those coveted responses for validation. I still don't, even though I'm in a better position to not care.

For what it's worth, when my brain engages (less common lately) and I "get" what you're saying, I always learn something. Keep on keepin on.

Bored in Vernal said...

Hugs, Stephen. Never judge the quality of your posts on the comments. They can go way astray through no fault of your own. Or, often people are reading and gaining comfort from your words, but don't respond in a comment.

Hope next week is better for you.

ldahospud said...

Ah, my friend, you have less to worry about being invited back (a given) than I have to worry about you accepting such an invitation again. I'm sad this last experience made you feel that you failed, because your post made a lot of people (including me) smile. For what it's worth, I enjoyed both the overt and more subtle aspects of what you had to say.

I wonder why it is so much easier to both believe and remember and dwell on the negatives rather than the positives--would that we could be like the dudes who think they look awesome at all times rather than the ones who obsess about one hair out of place.

In the words of one of my favorite bloggers, "Bless your heart."

Stephen said...

Thanks. This year my wife had to go out of town to be with a sick relative, did not get back until the 25th, the 26th just wasn't a good day and today she had to be out at a work related meeting and dinner.

We've just been apart too much. I'm really worthless without her.

I'll be better tomorrow. Sometimes it all catches up with me, sometimes I catch up with life.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I have anything useful to say, but I wanted to let you know that I appreciated your post. I didn't especially like most of it, but the end was good and the comments were taking things out of proportion, I think. And I can appreciate and respect that you meant it well. Especially after reading your comments on it here I can see more of what you meant, and I think it was good. Don't take the rejection too badly. I think you usually have great things to say.

-- Conifer

Mommie Dearest said...

I read your post at fMh and about half the comments. I meant to post my two cents but I let it get away from me, so here I am late to the party again.

I got your point and your sense of humor, and I suspect there's a generational thing going on. I am married to a Classic Guy like the one you describe with typical brain wiring, and it's been necessary for me to develop both an understanding of and tolerance for Guy Cognition, which I have had the luxury of doing over a number of decades. Some days it wasn't pretty, until I started developing my sense of humor about it. Some of the gals over at fMh are rather prickly about it being necessary to do such a thing. Who knows, maybe they're right. Some women have the blessed luck to marry a man with a lot more mental hardware than average, and they never get the workout I've had. And some younger fellas seem to be willing to - do something (try harder? be more gifted? keep their mouth shut? have more brain connections?) that makes them appear to be a feminist's dream, at least when they stand next to my dh. I figure it takes all kinds to make the world turn. There's a place in it for prickly feminists and clueless guys both. And there's definitely a place for you in the blogosphere, and at fMh. Imho.

Fuzzy Logic Flowers said...

Hey Dad,
I read your post and loved it. Then I read the comments and was appalled at how many people missed the point completely. It was like being back in high school English class listening to the teacher trying to explain to my classmates that no, Johnathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" is NOT advocating cannibalism, it was in fact satire.

I wanted to yell in indignation on you behalf as I read the one woman's comment about how (paraphrasing) her boys were all into art and music so when they got together of course that was what they talked about. How could your metaphor claim they weren't real men? (end paraphrasing)

She (and so many others) missed the point that "football" was a substitute or placeholder for ANY shared and socially acceptable common interest.

Some fretted over the fact that it wasn't completely satire. What did that mean of the rest of the work? You have never strongly tended toward constant hyperbole or extreme satire and have always used metaphors extensively, even in casual conversation. It was no surprise to me that you employed moderate elements all of those devices in your post.

I have always enjoyed your metaphors because I can take two or three or more messages from them. You don't delve into extreme satire or sarcasm because sections of your metaphors can be taken at full face value or be completely subverted within the context of a later sentence while still maintaining their original point.

Context is everything.

I'm sorry some of the people reading your post forgot their high school lit classes. Anyone who got through Aldous Huxley ought to know that satire, social criticism, metaphor and honest sincerity are not mutually exclusive and can occupy the same paragraph in even the most prosaic writings.

Here's hoping your week gets better.


Stephen said...

Heather, you just made my week better.

Thanks to everyone for the additional comments.

Morgan said...

I enjoyed your post. Its one of the very few FMH posts I have read and I thought it explained some basic things about guys very well.

Anonymous said...

I thought your post was one of the funniest and warmest and wittiest -- even truest -- things to appear at FMH in months, if not longer. I'll never understand how people can't adjust their thinking for different styles of writing, and how so many could only interpret your post as a failure to endorse the standard ideology of feminism. Black and white thinking is boring, and appalling to see in others.

Ben said...

I didn't comment over there (just read the post), but it reminded me a lot of Dave Barry's Guide to Guys, which I gave to my wife for her birthday when we were engaged. It's a useful satire of male thinking, that may, unfortunately, sometimes be more reality than satire.

DB said...

I saw two problems with your post. First, you wrote the truth about men which many people - including some men - just aren't ready or willing to accept. Second, you wrote in a style which, perhaps, resonated better with men. Personally, I loved it and thought it was dead on. Those who didn't like it either don't understand men, don't want to understand men, or just didn't understand your writing style.

Edmund Gwenn said...

“Dying is easy, comedy is hard,” - Peter O'Toole, in "My Favorite Year"

Mommie Dearest said...

Wow. Go Heather. You nailed it.

...just call me cassandra said...

Hi Stephen

gotta say I didn't love the post. And it's not because I don't understand satire. As anyone who knows me will attest to, I am not the most PC or the best articulated writer (see previous sentence)However, when you make generalizations, even in a humorous forum (which fmh is NOT) be prepared for a little backlash. No one who reads your post online can see your cheeky grin.

Al in all I was very confused by this post. I have admired your writings for years (at least 5 or 6) You are an articulate and sensitive man, and although I don't know you personally, those whom I call dear friends do... And they hold you in high esteem. (I am certain Spud is irritated as hell with me)

So although I think the post was misguided, I don't think you are a big bad dopey dude. I hope you post to FMH again, but hopefully this time you will stick with an emotionally sensitive and sincere writing style, which you excel at and leave the satire to Dave Barry.

p.s. I am not who you think I am, the only Apollo I know speed skates and should probably shave his goatee.

Dave said...

Well, I read the FMH post and I read your Post here -- and it is still entirely unclear what was spoof and what was sincere in the FMH post. Was FMH in on the joke?

annegb said...

I thought it was great. Although you left out sex. Mostly.

Stephen said...

Dave -- as the FMH posters noted, they were in on it.

just call me cassandra -- the classic Cassandra in the Trojan war was the lover of the god Apollo, though when she asked him for the gift of prophesy he felt she overreached, and so she was cursed that her prophesy was true and yet not believed. I was making a joke about that Apollo vis a vis your pen name.

annegb -- that would make a whole 'nuther post (going beyond "short skirts), and one I'm really not willing to walk into ;)

Thanks though.

Anonymous said...

It is kind of ironic how the typical man that you describe in such a humorous way is so not the man that I have come to know from reading your blog all of these years. While I appreciate humor it its place, this is an area that makes me a little nervous because as a woman it is how I have worried that men are. It has taken me a leap of faith to believe men are thinking and caring and want more out of life than base physical needs. Obviously, the philosophy, intellect, creative genius of men through the ages should show me that there is more to men. I am attracted to men but have been scared to take that leap of faith to ever marry. I have a condition too. I hope you appreciate that I respect you greatly and your example. I'm glad you have a sense of humor. We need that in this life!--Barb

Stephen said...

Barb, as I've noted, I should have said
I meant young guys who are swallowed up in their culture and have not learned to think for themselves.

When they escape or grow up they become real men, who are what you are looking for.

But, the natural man remains an enemy to God (and woman for that matter).