Note1: This is a post about bloggers, for bloggers. Readers you can probably feel free to skip this one. Note2: The majority of this post was written prior to November 8th. As warriors and activists for underserved groups, we have our work cut out for us. We feel defeated right now. We don’t know where to put our energies. I’ll do my best to keep American politics out of this but I will say: a world where Trump is president scares the shit out of me, and I suspect many of you reading this feel the same. So let’s do our best to stand together, not apart.
I’m not the authority on this. I’m not the gate-keeper, the mafia don, or anyone of power. I’m simply the person who has chosen to write about it since I embrace the term “Blog Squad” so strongly. I’m writing this in the hopes to bridge divides and correct a lot of wrong assumptions I’m seeing amongst bloggers. I may say “we” and “us” a lot in the post, and it’s only because those of us who have been to Woodhull and are “blog squad” have had long talks about the accusations of exclusivity, the divide, and what we need to do to bring down the “wall”. If they disagree with anything I’ve said here, I’m sure they will comment and correct for themselves (please do!). I’ve tried my best to organize my feels here, and this post is partly about Blog Squad in general, as a global thing, and it’s in part just about Woodhull. Some of this may not apply to you.
Blog Squad Origins
August 2015 – A dozen sex toy bloggers attended a new-to-them sexuality conference, some with great trepidation. Some had had bad experiences at a different sexuality conference1, some had just heard about the negativity bloggers had dealt with at another conference, and still others were just anxious little bunnies about getting out from behind their computer. In part because of our collective anxieties and in part because without each other we felt lost, we bonded and stuck together at that conference. You were fairly unlikely to see just one blogger; we mostly traveled in packs. It was because of this that an employee of Smitten Kitten dubbed us all “The Blog Squad”. We’d never had a thing like that and it felt so superhero-badass that we jumped on it. So yes, it referred specifically to those bloggers at that conference, originally. And then with SFS16 the Woodhull Blog Squad grew with at least 2 dozen of us in attendance. It was glorious and I know we made a difference. Our social media posts, blog posts, tweets – they all educated someone.
What Does Blog Squad Mean To You?
Before I continue on with thoughts on accusations, cliques, inclusion/exclusion, and more, I want to include some words from Woodhull folks. I explained my post to them and asked them what “Blog Squad” means to them; who is the blog squad, etc. Ricci Levy is the Head Founding Honcho, and blog squad mama – her effusive inclusion of us at SFS15 made all the difference.
The #BlogSquad is a group of bloggers who were all at Woodhull together and who adopted a twitter hashtag and name to describe themselves. It’s not a formal group, there’s no application process, no membership dues, no real requirements. In fact, anyone who wanted to say they were a member could – because there’s no governing body to say “nay.” It is our strongest hope that our bloggers and social media warriors will expand every year – both in terms of diversity and in terms of focus.
Metis Black of Tantus is on the board of Woodhull and created a Bloggers Lounge for us starting with SFS15.
The blog squad was so spontaneous in its becoming. I remember at other events, bloggers questioning if they were really sex educators, if they were just toy reviewers. Whatever it was at Woodhull SFS – respect and acknowledgement from the Executive Director (Ricci) and staff; sessions that had larger human rights themes; or just the battle scars from earlier events that made the camaraderie binding, the bloggers bonded in a unique unifying way. It wasn’t planned, it wasn’t exclusive, no one coordinated it- it just happened. And the content for those initial writings also changed. There was more reflection of society, more consent issues, more writing about illnesses, more talk of personal journeys that brought the writers to bigger cultural issues.
Sandra, of SheVibe, (my sponsor) for SFs16 did her best to help bloggers feel at home by sponsoring a PJ Party. The SV crew also drew a Blog Squad design which gave me such sheer joy I don’t even have words. The original superhero trio is included in this post, and their comic-book cover for SFS16 is shown here.
Blog Squad did not (and does not) at all seem exclusionary to me. Any blogger in good standing (and I don’t know any who aren’t) is part of the Blog Squad. In good standing means to me: respected within the community who is working hard at their craft, contributing and learning. Someone who is producing quality work that is meaningful to sexual health and justice.
On Feelings of Exclusion
Over the last year, but particularly recently, we’ve seen folks complaining about the name “the blog squad”. They have felt that it’s purposefully exclusionary, and wonder if they’re a member, or assume they’re not. I’ve seen folks getting salty about it on social media. But here’s the thing: It wasn’t a name we came up with ourselves, it wasn’t a thing created to exclude – it was created to celebrate. It was not born of malicious intent; quite the opposite. Yet it’s being used against us. Maybe you’ve never had the privilege of attending a conference, or maybe you have but it was just a different one. Maybe you have, or have not, felt the camaraderie that comes from spending the weekend learning, hearing uplifting words, and being around Your People. Woodhull wasn’t the first time I felt it, but it was the first time it was felt so strongly.
There seems to be this bizarre divide, a growing divide, and I don’t know what started it. There seems to be the Blog Squad who is willing to include anyone and then there are folks who are almost anti-blog-squad, who complain that we are a “clique”, who assume there is purposeful exclusion. If you were to talk to us and really listen, without prejudice or paranoia, you would understand that it wasn’t something we named ourselves but it IS something we’ve embraced because we needed the community and support. We needed each other to lean on. I would love to see it be a unifier, not a divider.
How to Be Part of the Blog Squad
There will still be the Woodhull Blog Squad, but I think that the term is important and very descriptive of what so many of us do – unrelated to the Summit. It’s not a club, with dues or criteria, really. It was born out of Woodhull but doesn’t require an invitation. Maybe you live far outside the US and will never be able to afford to come to Woodhull. Well, SFS16 Blog Squadders are working on a way to extend the education from Woodhull to everyone, but there’s not much we can do to extend the in-person experience and I’m sad for that. I really am. I wish you could experience this bonding. It’s so life-changing. But I think we can find other ways to bond and relate.
So you want to know who is blog squad, who isn’t? How to be part of it? Embody the Spirit of the Blog Squad. That’s it. You’re in. As I’ve said before, as a group we get shit done. We’re loud. We are mighty. We can accomplish so much more if we just support each other. This doesn’t mean everybody will be chummy friends; disagreements will happen and personalities will clash. But overall we can support each other in so many ways and elevate the community to a true Force To Be Reckoned with. Also? The Woodhull Blog Squad isn’t limited to American bloggers. Firstly, there’s a number of Canadians that attended Woodhull. Poor overlooked Canadians! You definitely don’t have to attend Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit to call yourself “Blog Squad”, but you’d better believe that the moment you step foot inside the Summit bounds, you’re Blog Squad. You will be thanked, you will be honored, you will be mentioned as part of the mighty group of social media warriors.
I’ve already seen so much Blog Squad Spirit from many of you. When you write posts about companies who fat-shame in their marketing. When you call out a company on social media for shitty behaviour of any kind. When you educate others against toxic toys and irritating lube. When you feature interviews with other bloggers on your site. When you share each other’s important posts on social media. When you review a sex toy and talk about flame testing, or encourage silicone over porous materials. Really, it’s pretty open-ended. Take the name, freely, if you feel it suits you and be fucking proud of yourself because you’re awesome. The name has begun to evolve, to be synonymous with Bad Ass Blogging and Taking No Bullshit.
On Friendship, Anxiety, and Assumptions
I don’t know WHY this is the case, but man a lot of us are anxious bunnies. A lot of us, and by us I mean the bloggers in general, sometimes assume the worst of other bloggers. We are scared they dislike us; this is sometimes easy to assume when you’re in the context of text-only social media. If your mentions timeline is always busy, you don’t have the time to reply to every person who @s you. Maybe you just have time to favorite their tweet. Maybe their reply doesn’t really need a response. I can’t speak for everyone about everyone, but as someone accused of being part of the exclusionary clique, I can tell you that most of the time my non-response isn’t a signal of my exclusion of you – it just means I didn’t have a good response or didn’t see your tweet.
However, something that comes from meeting in person and hanging out is a bond – I’m sure that some of the UK bloggers have experienced this with ETO or Eroticon. There’s simply a stronger bond of friendship that forms, and it’s not against others, it’s not to hurt them. But it’s a fact of life. I feel that I can speak for those viewed as blog squad when I say that we are not closed off to making new friends, but out of comfort we can be more likely to talk to each other. That’s normal. But when folks starting making jabs to each other publicly on social media about the blog squad, accusing us of exclusionary tactics, of being a clique, of being this or that….take a moment to think of how that feels for us. How hurtful that is. It is tiring to frequently be told you’re a bad person for having some friends closer than others. For embracing a bonding, unifying “code name”. It is tiring to constantly assure people that there’s no evil clique, merely varying levels of kinship. If we were to send out engraved invitations, I feel that that still would not help some folks. Yet here I am, trying regardless. The very definition of the word “clique” means that those in it put up walls and refuse to let others in. We may not be handing out roses but that isn’t a good definition. We are friends. Some of us are close friends. Some of you are close friends. But purposeful exclusion on a large, group level? That’s simply not the case.
So many folks said “I wasn’t sure if I was part of the Blog Squad, you guys were this little group” after Woodhull. Or even, that they didn’t feel as much camaraderie or felt on the fringes. Confession: I had a mini break-down to Sugarcunt on Saturday before dinner. I had no dinner plans; I wasn’t sure if anybody wanted to spend more time with me. Yes, I felt like Everybody Disliked Me for a little bit. Why? No real reason, actually. Just my anxious, paranoid brain sticking it’s nose where it doesn’t belong. That doesn’t mean that it was right, though, you see? You may get worried that you’re being excluded but I feel I can speak for us all when we say “it was never intentional, we were doing our best which maybe isn’t all that good”. And I know that unintended hurts don’t erase hurts. Which is a great segway to this next topic…
Assume Good Intentions
Speaking here mostly for myself (they’ll chime in if I’m wrong) but when you’re anxious, nervous and feeling really overwhelmed by being around more people than you usually are – is it not normal to seek out a friend, use the buddy system? We often say we’re socially awkward – yes, around folks we don’t know well. Not around those we’ve already bonded with. But because we’re all up in our own heads, trying to read other people’s faces and words, trying to figure out where we’re going next, battling a lack of sleep, battling our introversion….it’s damn hard to be A Good Host. It’s really fucking hard to remember to find people and purposefully include them if they’re not right there. If you stand on the very outskirts and don’t introduce yourself? I’m not going to come talk to you. That sounds horrible, but I’d probably vomit if I had to do that. I saw a number of folks at SFS16 that I know by sight because they aren’t anonymous online, but they may not remember what I look like. And a bunch of them never spoke to me. I didn’t take it personally; how could I? I didn’t have the guts to go say hi and tell them who I am. I’ve been told that some folks at SFS16 felt that I gave them the cold-shoulder. I can assure you that I didn’t on purpose. Maybe I wasn’t as socially confident and proper as I should have been, but I was doing the best I could. Maybe I had somewhere to be next. Maybe I just had to fucking get out of that loud room, NOW. There’s plenty of reasons and I can pretty much promise – it wasn’t you.
So when we start tweeting pre-conference about how excited we are to see our friends but also all the anxiety, maybe try believing us? Try assuming that we’re sitting there unsure if YOU dislike us. That we’re terrified we’ll say something dumb. We all have battle scars, we’re all trying to support each other. Come sit with us in the Blogger Lounge. Throw your cents into a conversation. Put your name on the list next year for lunch buddies2. But mostly, understand that we’re individuals, not a mob. We may have a lot of similar views, but we are not the same. We don’t all agree on everything, and we don’t expect to.
Assume. Good. Intentions.
Stand together. Be kind to each other. Understand that friendships take time and many times need more than just tweets. If we support each other and ask as often as we offer, can you imagine the changes we can be part of for sexual health justice? To better the industry? Assume good intentions, and have good intentions.