Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Archive for the day “May 23, 2011”

Blogging Code of Ethics

I did a search for a Blogging Code of Ethics but found nothing I like. Take this one, for example. I thought if it made Wikipedia, it must be marginally useful. But its stated aim is to promote civility on the blogs. I have no interest in that, to tell you the truth, especially if to achieve this dubious goal I have to ban the anonymous comments and never say anything online I wouldn’t say in real life. The beauty of online communication is precisely that it allows you to be more honest about things, and if you need to be anonymous to do that, then that’s got to be fine.

So I came up with my own Blogging Code of Ethics that will serve both bloggers and commenters. As everything on this blog, it is based solely on my personal opinions. Feel free to dispute or add anything. If you want to do it anonymously, that’s good, too.

1. Don’t leave links without express permission. When I first started blogging, it took me some time to realize that people don’t particularly enjoy it when you leave links to your blog in their comments section without being asked to. Polite people don’t promote their blogs on strangers’ websites. If you want to attract attention to your blog, simply leave comments that will be interesting enough for people to follow you to your own blog to continue the conversation.

2. Every quote needs a link. If you are going to quote a person, insert a link to the post you are quoting. And don’t quote people’s posts in full. Leave something for the readers to discover at the original location of the post.

3. Surfing the wave is good – if done respectfully. If somebody published a post and it’s proving to be hugely popular, it’s OK to surf the wave. Write your own post on the same topic to attract readers. It’s good form, though, to mention the blogger whose wave you are surfing. Start your post with something like “I just read an interesting/horrible/stupid/fascinating post at and it made me think. . .”

4. Say all you want about other bloggers – but let them know. If you are appalled by something another person wrote on their blog, it’s perfectly fine to express your outrage about it on your own blog in any terms you like. It’s not nice, however, to talk behind people’s backs. This is one of those times when it’s not only acceptable but necessary to leave a link to your post at the offending blogger’s site. They will delete it if they don’t like it, but at least they will know that you are talking about them.

5. Don’t investigate bloggers and use the information against them. Even if what a blogger says annoys you to no end, it is very stupid (and really creepy) to investigate them and send letters to their place of employment demanding that they be fired or punished for expressing their views online. (This didn’t happen to me but it did to Hugo Schwyzer – see how I linked back to him here?, and I think it’s absolutely wrong.) Unless the person in question is engaged in illegal activities of which you have evidence, it is not your place to censor them. If the desire to shut people up for disagreeing with you persists, try getting a life.

6. If asked to leave – just go. If a blogger asked you to leave their site, just do it. Believe me, even if it’s the most fascinating blog in the universe, the Internet still doesn’t end there. You will find other places where you can express your opinions. Or just start your own blog and nobody will be able to ban you from it. Don’t overanalyze the banning either. Who cares why this particular blogger doesn’t like you?

7. Read before you write. Before making outraged accusations, make sure they don’t make you look stupid and waste space. If a blog’s header says “Feminist Blog”, it might make little sense to inform the blog’s author “Oh, you sound like a total feminist!” If a blog announces itself as “An academic’s opinions on everything”, do everybody a favor and don’t exclaim triumphantly “It’s just your opinion!”

Everything besides this is, in my opinion, fine. Want to post anonymously or use 15 different identities? Feel free. Want to be aggressive, rude and obnoxious? That’s perfectly fine. If you can’t be your true nasty self on the Internet, then what’s its point, really?


Grading Policy and Infantilization of Professors

I just heard something terrifying, people. It turns out that there are college departments that have a policy on what the median grade in a course should be. And professors somehow have to adjust their grade to this median. Can you believe this? I know, of course, about curve grading but only as something professors do of their own free will. I might disagree with the policy (just like I do about the usefulness of multiple-choice tests), but it’s part of everybody’s own teaching philosophy.

What happens if people don’t comply, I wonder. Do they get scolded for being naughty little boys and girls and told to resubmit the grades?

This is one atrocity I would never agree to.  If people know better how to grade my students, then they should go and teach them instead of me. It’s a humiliation of the same order as dress codes for professors. This is one of the things I’d fight to the death.

I wonder if there are places where people are obligated to use multiple-choice tests. That would really be the limit. Soon we’ll have a special person standing outside the bathrooms to check if we have washed our hands after using the toilet.

Some Things Don’t Change

I’m reading this 1878 novel by Pilar Sinues and the main character called Eufemia says the following (translation is mine):

What surprises me is my aunt’s constant desire to take care of herself, the high appreciation and the cult of her own person: I, at the age of 18, never find a moment to curl my hair and end up walking around with the same hair-style as our cook; a fitted dress makes me feel cold and I wear a woolen dressing gown instead. What will I do when I turn my aunt’s age [The aunt is 50]? I will probably don a serge habit and not out of devotion but because it will be more comfortable.

Isn’t it fascinating to see that there were always people who didn’t have time for themselves and walked around in ratty old clothes under the excuse of “convenience”?

This is why I love literature. I just felt like this XIXth-century Eufemia was one of the many people I know.

One of the scariest things that could happen to me would be to become an Eufemia. I think I’m going to go curl my hair now.


It’s horrible how cliches invade one’s writing style. I just found the stupid and completely meaningless cliche “working outside the home” in my own text. Brrr!

P.S. Just caught another one: “a positive outlook on life.” Bleh.

Unreliable Narrator

For a long time, I kept trying to explain to N. why a first-person narrator is unreliable. (If you don’t want to be lectured at all the time, don’t marry an educator. Otherwise, get prepared to being educated in perpetuity.) “But if the narrator is telling his or her own story, they have to know what they are talking about, right?” N. kept saying. “I don’t understand why I should doubt what a first-person narrator tells me.”

Then, we traveled to San Francisco for a conference. Before we set out, N. donned a huge and heavy coat that I’d never seen him wear before.

“We are traveling to California,” I said. “Why the hardcore coat?”

“You know this book series that I love that is set in San Francisco?” he answered. “The main character always complains about how it’s extremely cold there. It’s always foggy and there is this piercing wind. I need to be prepared for that.”

Of course, when we arrived in San Francisco, the weather was lovely. It was warm and sunny. I walked around in my business suit while N. suffered in his coat meant to withstand Siberian winters.

After a day of sweating in the coat, he finally exclaimed,

“Oh, now I get it!” N. suddenly exclaimed. “You should never trust the first-person narrator because he doesn’t talk about how things really are. He just relates his own subjective perception of reality that might be very different from mine.”

And then there are people who say that literary criticism is useless.

Socializing Children

I often see people who fail to socialize their children completely and who seem to think that this is the best kind of parenting there is because it allows the kids complete freedom. Freedom to develop, however, does not necessarily have to entail the freedom to be rude and not to behave in a socially acceptable way. It’s beyond annoying to see children who run around, push each other and complete strangers, step on people’s feet and scream like they are possessed in public spaces as their parents stand meekly nearby and observe their off-spring with beatific smiles.

Once a colleague invited us to his place for drinks. In the middle of a discussion we were having, his 11-year-old marched into the room and inquired in a very loud and annoyed voice, “Pa, are they leaving any time soon?” It is needless to say that the proud papa was mortified. Another acquaintance brought her 8 and 10-year-old kids to a colleague’s house and let them roam free there. The kids started going crazy and destroyed an expensive piece of recently purchased equipment. “Oh, they have Asperger’s,” was what their mother offered by way of an excuse. Asperger’s has nothing with destroying property, of course, so all she did was use autism to explain her own lack of interest in socializing the kids.

Such parents do no favors to their children. They grow up and have no idea how to behave politely and avoid antagonizing people. To give an example, there is this student whose rudeness and lack of concern for others caused me grief during the semester. Last week (long after the end of the semester), she wrote me the following e-mail.


I need to come to your office to talk about my career goals. When can I do that?


And now try to guess what the chances are of me interrupting my vacation and schlepping to the office just to do this person a favor. There is no greeting, no recognition that she is asking for a favor or that my needs might not coincide with hers, no “thank you” or “good-bye.” She needs, so, obviously, everybody is expected to jump to attention. This sense of entitlement and the lack of the most basic understanding of good manners will not serve this person well in the future.

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