The F-Word Blog Charter

// 5 March 2010

The way we work over in the blog part of The F-Word has been changing. For some time now, we (the regular bloggers here) have behind the scenes been running the blog section of the site as a collective. Following on from this change, we’ve developed a charter for the blog, which I’ve posted below. We’ve worked on this collectively and collaboratively, and it’s taken a long time (as we’ve learnt, things do take longer if you’re a collective!) We’re now ready to share this with you – here goes!

1. Overview

The F-Word blog collective is made up of feminists with a wide range of identities, backgrounds and feminisms.

However, we recognise that to some extent the blogging collective does reflect and may reinstate power imbalances in society, through under-representation of some groups, and we are committed to working to change this through the measures outlined below. We also aim to actively address the impact of all types of oppression and power imbalance in a broader sense through the blog.

This goes beyond simply avoiding forms of discrimination (such as ageism, cissexism, classism, dis/ablism, heteronormativity, lookism, racism, sexism, transmisogyny, etc), and discriminatory attitudes, (such as biphobia, homophobia, lesbophobia, transphobia, etc). It means working to make this commitment a basis for the blog and actively welcoming contributions from as many different perspectives, histories and identities as possible within a broad interpretation of feminisms.

As such, The F-Word is and will remain committed to finding ways to engage with a multiplicity of voices and perspectives, ideas and identities, histories and beliefs, and accepts that not everyone will agree with the posts that arise from that engagement. We will try to engage with those disagreements too and include them, wherever possible, in comments and response threads, but would ask readers to bear in mind that we often walk a fine line between honouring different points of view and trying to keep the space friendly. Readers can also respond by submitting a guest blog post or feature.

2. What we try to do

2.1 Actively welcome, encourage, embrace, solicit and strive to include a broad range of feminisms and feminist identities on the blog.

2.2 Sensitively handle any conflicts this may create.

2.3 Seek first to understand what commenters mean, so as to engage with them constructively and edit comments appropriately.

2.4 Work towards, encourage and provoke a respectful exchange of views on issues of importance to women and feminisms. It is important varying viewpoints get heard within the boundaries of appropriate and acceptable conduct.

2.5 Take reasonable care to ensure what we publish is accurate. However, as this is a blog, we will often be linking to other journalists and bloggers and sometimes their sources will be incorrect or they will just be suggesting their opinions. There will be times when we will be proven wrong and, when that happens, we will do our best to handle that appropriately and sensitively.

2.6 Be open to constructive feedback and offers of help for the site and its development.

3. What we try not to do

3.1 Uncritically publish ageism, biphobia, classism, dis/ablism, heterosexism, homophobia, lesbophobia, racism, transphobia or any other form of discrimination/discriminatory speech.

3.2 Publish comments which engage in the “oppression Olympics”. (Drawing parallels, where oppressions might share certain similarities, can sometimes be helpful and illuminating. However, we would say that denying and trivialising one group’s suffering or implying it is somehow a thing of the past, in order to posit the oppression of another group, is not.)

3.3 Restrict contributions only to those who have academic qualifications or are widely read in feminism.

3.4 Provide a platform for trolls or for abusive, exclusionary or discriminatory comments. (Holding feminist views does not make a commenter exempt from this consideration.)

3.5 Get involved in personal disputes within feminist circles, including the blogosphere. We aim to bring news and analysis of relevance to women and feminisms and, in order to do so, may sometimes link to posts other people don’t agree with (or where they don’t agree with the author generally). This is not taking sides.

3.6 Claim to represent the ‘voice of feminism’.

4. What you can expect

4.1 Blog posts which inform, challenge, appraise, critique and sometimes amuse or infuriate.

4.2 Serious thought given to everything we publish, even when we make mistakes.

4.3 Similarly serious thought given to the moderation and publishing of comments on blog posts and a response, where appropriate or requested, when we think they need to be edited, rewritten or denied a platform. This may not always come from the original author of the blog post, but will always refer to our comments policy when making decisions on whether or not to publish a comment.

4.4 An openness to engage with and think about adaptations to the site based on constructive criticism from readers.

4.5 Occasional appeals to readers for ideas about content, layout, design and other aspects of the site.

5. How the Blog Works

The F-Word blog is run by volunteers working in our spare time

and around our other commitments. The blog operates as a collective in that we each write individually from our own perspectives and we each subscribe to collective decision making about the blog.

People are invited to blog on a guest basis at first and then sometimes as permanent bloggers. Potential guest bloggers could be people who have contributed to The F Word in the past, bloggers for other sites, people we meet at feminist events or online or people who approach us with ideas for posts.

All the bloggers (permanent and guest) write and post when they can on issues of interest to women and feminists, under the broad heading “feminist news and views”. We don’t have a set definition of “feminist news and views” because, frankly, that’d take a long time and be redundant as soon as we finish, and because we rely on the creativity of the blogging team to refresh content.

Blog posts are not subject to prior editorial approval and are the opinions of the writers themselves; they do not constitute a monolithic F-Word viewpoint. All bloggers agree to abide by the ethics and spirit of the site, including the aims and aspirations expressed above.

Comments From You

saranga // Posted 5 March 2010 at 12:05 pm

sounds good to me. bearing in mind recent discussion on this website, would you consider adding into the discriminatory section something about not allowing discriminatory attitudes towards various religions? (not sure what the right general word is)

I feel that discussing the pros and cons of religions is fine, as well as the rights or wrongs of specific actions by a rep from a religious institution (if the action is linked to said institution), but stating outright that all christianity, or all of islam, or judaism, or hinduism or whatever is bad and oppressive (for example) isn’t ok.

Maeve // Posted 5 March 2010 at 2:06 pm

Can’t agree with Saranga at all. If I think any religion is bad/oppressive, why on earth can’t I say that?! Why should it be considered discrimatory? I wouldn’t openly mock anyone’s religious belief, but I do think I have the right to say that, in my opinion, a particular religion is bad or oppressive.

Even if someone does mock or satirise a religion, they have the right to do that. If someone is secure in their conviction about something, why should that threaten them anyway?

I think Christianity, Islam and Judaism are all oppressive towards women. There. That’s my opinion. Anyone else has the right to disagree with me.

Amy Clare // Posted 5 March 2010 at 2:36 pm

I have to disagree strongly with saranga’s comment.

Ideologies and belief systems are not people, and should not be treated as such. A belief system cannot be discriminated against. Only the *people* who hold those beliefs can be, as individuals or as a group.

Saying that Christianity is an oppressive belief system is akin to saying that Tory party ideology is oppressive. It is an opinion which may be right or wrong, and may be argued for or against, but it does *not* constitute discrimination or hate-speech. It is very different from saying that all Christians, or all Tories, are oppressors. One concerns beliefs, the other people.

I believe passionately that it is vital for all ideologies and belief systems to be open to criticism – even if that criticism amounts to a blanket dismissal or negative judgement. This includes ideologies that I ascribe to myself. I couldn’t give a monkey’s if people argued against atheism, or even called it a load of bollocks, as long as they didn’t make prejudiced comments saying ‘all *atheists* are x’ because that *would* be discriminatory. (Such as Cormac Murphy O’Connor’s recent comments that ‘atheists aren’t fully human’.)

So yes I think it *is* okay, actually, to say ‘Christianity/Islam/Judaism/Hinduism/whatever is bad and oppressive’. Many people might disagree, but it’s okay to say it. As it is okay to say ‘capitalism is bad and oppressive’ or ‘communism is bad and oppressive’. I think it should be fine to criticise any belief whether it’s in the existence of a god or the efficacy of the trickle-down effect. And of course, any person ascribing to that belief has the right to argue against the criticism. Or to simply say, ‘That’s your opinion, mine is different’.

I oppose any discriminatory speech against *people* and this of course includes religious people (so, not okay to say that all Christians/Muslims/Jews/Hindus are bad people or oppressors etc). But I think it would be going down a very dangerous road indeed to start banning criticism of ideologies on this blog or indeed anywhere else.

gadgetgal // Posted 5 March 2010 at 3:48 pm

@saranga – right on – and I say that as a non-religious person! Sometimes it feels like a bit of a derail as well since we’re usually discussing how certain individuals or groups of people are being anti-feminist in some way, and then everyone has to spend ages explaining why they believe what they believe instead of what they feel about the topic and what a solution could be. Like you I’ve not got a problem explaining or answering back to the pros and cons but it gets everyone’s backs up when you have to come back against a blanket “you are stupid and wrong” kind of statement. Whatever point anyone wants to try and get across can be better served by saying (example) “I FEEL/THINK Judaism is oppressive BECAUSE of a,b and c” rather than “Judaism is bad and oppressive” full stop, no arguments! The first one makes it clear it’s your opinion, the second one is just offensive to anyone who doesn’t agree with you!

Oh, and I don’t think there is a word for it – I had a look but it just seems to be called religious or non-religious (for the non-religious) discrimination, so it would probably be covered by 3.1 anyway as discrimination/discriminatory speech. So even if it was published a critical response probably would be as well!

And I’m not saying this to try and shut down discussion, sometimes explaining beliefs can be appropriate to the conversation, I just think any discussion (even if everyone disagrees with each other) can be done in a respectful way.

Shea // Posted 5 March 2010 at 4:13 pm

“but stating outright that all christianity, or all of islam, or judaism, or hinduism or whatever is bad and oppressive (for example) isn’t ok.”

This sounds like censorship to me. What if on weighing the pros and cons of these religions, the balance is in favour of them all being bad and oppressive? Can we please not have pandering to religion on this site, when we have to put up with it so much in the real world.

Jess McCabe // Posted 5 March 2010 at 5:48 pm

I’ve put down this issue to be discussed at the next F-Word blog collective meeting, scheduled for the end of April. Without wanting to impose censorship on criticisms of ideas or institutions, I personally think we have had issues in several threads where commenters have been disparaged for their religious belief since we put the comment policy in place, and threads have got a bit ugly. Moderating is unfortunately not a 100% perfect process and sometimes comment threads can get out of hand!

Kez // Posted 5 March 2010 at 6:04 pm

I’m glad to see the reference to the “Oppression Olympics”, and I hope this policy is upheld. I quite frequently see comments on here asserting that, for instance, “nobody would ever get away with saying [insert any racist/homophobic/whatever statement which springs to mind here]” when the most cursory glance at, say, the comments on the Daily Mail website disproves this entirely.

saranga // Posted 5 March 2010 at 6:09 pm

Hi all,

To add something to my earlier comment, I should also have included non religious discrimination too. so no atheist bashing either.

Looking back on my original comment I didn’t explain myself well (quelle surprise!), so I will now try again.

I think there is a difference between stating that a religion is oppressive (or has opressive history/themes/institutions etc) and mocking/bullying someone who says they are a member of that belief system, or trying to shut down someone when they mention that they are a member of (whichever) religion. I have felt that sometimes on this site when people have mentioned that they are Christian other commenters have left rude, disciminatory or mocking comments based on their first poster’s beliefs, which have no link to the original topic being discussed.

This has made me feel uncomfortable about joining in certain discussions.

I feel that the distinction between criticising the system and criticising the person is sometimes lost.

Amy Clare said:

“as long as they didn’t make prejudiced comments saying ‘all *atheists* are x’ because that *would* be discriminatory”

That’s what i’m trying to get at. Thank you for saying it better than me.

For the record I am not condoning censorship and I do not think that including something pertaining to non discrimination of people based on religious views, constitutes pandering to religion. I think we should criticise patriarchal religious practices but sometimes that has turned into very negative and personal comments made directly towards people who have said they are (for example) christians.

I see that i actually mentioned nothing about religious views of the individual in my first post, so obviously did not explain myself *at all* well.

Having said that, gadgetgal obviously agreed with my first post and I’m also inclined to agree with her comments. I think there is a danger in blanket statements because they can come across as very hostile and discriminatory *towards individuals*.

I hope that is clearer, if I come back later and realise I’ve forgotten something I’ll submit a further comment.

Amy Clare // Posted 5 March 2010 at 7:13 pm

@Shea and Maeve – exactly.

Jess, on which threads have commenters been disparaged for their religious beliefs? (Rather than say, the religions themselves been criticised?)

Anne Onne // Posted 5 March 2010 at 7:29 pm

With respect, I think the above commenters are missing each other’s points. I don’t think Saranga’s trying to say that nobody can ever criticise the religions, rather that a comment saying that ‘all Christians’ or ‘all of Christianity’, or ‘all Muslims’ or ‘all of Islam’ is disrciminatory would be discriminatory in itself.

Whilst I hope that such exaggerated all-or nothing wording comes up rarely, I can see her point. And I don’t think that’s the same as explaining which aspects of each or all religions you find discriminatory, or saying you find religion sexist in general. It’s the word ‘all’ that’s the issue.

I don’t see why that’s different to anything else. We don’t generally agree with people saying ‘all men are sexist!’ for example, unless they are considerately talking about the kyriarchy in which we are all influenced and sexist to various degrees. Maybe I’m missing the point.

Elmo // Posted 6 March 2010 at 12:45 pm

I agree with Jess

Jess McCabe // Posted 7 March 2010 at 1:20 pm

@amy Clare there have been several over the lat year or so.

Cazz Blase // Posted 7 March 2010 at 4:40 pm

To take this out of context slightly… I recently (ish) attended what should have been a discussion on the intersections between the Manchester music scene and the gay scene in Manchester over the years, which instead turned into quite an ugly discussion about gay politics instead (quel surprise…) and one of the people who joined in made a point about being a Quaker and being gay, and resented the implication that all religions are anti gay. The chair acknowledged his argument very politely, whilst not refracting his own view, and nobody challenged the gentleman who made this point about the Quakers. Not because, I suspect, we all agreed with him, but because we felt it would have been rude to say that we didn’t… Is this an illustrative example of the kind of dilemma you are exploring here?

Amy Clare // Posted 7 March 2010 at 5:18 pm

@Anne Onne:

I agree that saying “all Christians are x” is discriminatory, the same as saying “all men are x” would be so. However it isn’t the same to say “all Christianity is x”. Christianity is an ideology, not a person. Such blanket statements aren’t particularly helpful in a debate but they don’t constitute discrimination imo (see my above comment!).

@saranga:

That’s quite all right. I think it’s really important to maintain a distinction between people and ideas.

@Jess:

How were these people disparaged? Are we talking ad homs (personal insults) here? Personal insults are against comment policy anyway, no?

Jess McCabe // Posted 8 March 2010 at 12:21 pm

@Amy Clare I’m not going into detail here, I think it would be inappropriate to discuss particular comments, but the line between the two is sometimes hard to manage, and moderation is not always an exact science.

Paul // Posted 8 March 2010 at 12:55 pm

If people with religious views are only going to be ‘disparaged’ for those views they should count themselves lucky, given what some people with religious views have done and continue to do to those who don’t obey their dictates.

Elmo // Posted 8 March 2010 at 1:30 pm

Yes, but all christianity ISNT “X”-it and other religons are massive areas covering many different idelogies. And there are people commenting on this sight who beleive in many of those certain ideologies, so to dismiss or state that “all >insert religon

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