Friday, March 19, 2010

We're here, we're queer, get used to it

One of the things that amazed me, when I started reading Lori Hahn's blog, lo these many moons ago, was how normal she was.

I mean, not normal in the bad, boring sense, but normal in the good sense: down to earth, funny, wise, basic. The kind of girl you'd want to get together with and drink red wine and talk about dating and work and teen woes and vaginas with. The kind of girl you'd want to cozy up to in a chic restaurant and share dessert with. Cool normal. The fact that she'd be talking about dating girls, and I'd be talking about dating men wouldn't matter, because in our essence, we'd be sharing the same struggles...balancing work/lovelife/motheroood...growing into our own as women...finding work we love to do...finding people we can work to love.

So, last month, when Lori closed her blog, I was sad. But like so many bloggers do, she closed a door, and opened a window: Our Big Gayborhood.

And, like most things, it's a mix of goods and bads.

The good:

I like most of the writers, and I find the topics they select, for the most part, interesting. I like the header image, the fact that the blog uses tabs, and most of the content. In an overall sense, the blog experience is more positive than negative.

But, I think it could be improved. So, that's what I'm going to focus on:

1. Some stuff has gotten lost.

Blogs are primarily a vehicle for telling stories, unless you're Glenn Reynolds or something (and who really wants to be him?). The blog is too newsy and not storied enough...for me. Way too many of the posts read like a fifth grade report on being a lesbian.

If you're going to out politicians, I want juicy details. TELL THE STORY. Tell it in a way that sucks me in. This story is full of juicy, schadenfreudian details, and THEY AREN'T TOLD in this post. Instead, the author jumps directly into lecture mode.

Beyond that, the organization of a post is crucial, and subjects need to flow into one another. The post could have started with the idea of people turning colors based upon sexual identity (great visual), and then have segwayed into the fall of the Republican hypocrite, who's clearly magenta on the color scale. Then, move into a discussion of public figures, and the issue of outing themselves or being outted. The organization of the post is the main problem that keeps the reader from being fully engaged. I'd urge, for political commentary, some reading of Leonard Pitts, Jr., who does an excellent job of merging story telling with political commentary. For instance, here's a good example: Jihad Jane. Pitts uses Jihad Jane's story to make a point, but first he has to humanize her...let people in...help them understand her. He tells her story to make his point. He doesn't make his point to tell her story. That never works.

You can't just stand on your soapbox and yell, people will avert their eyes and walk on by. Instead, you have to expose your humanity and vulnerability, and show people why they should care. You have to make them WANT to care. Jihad Jane's story is compelling not because she is so different from all of us, but because she is the same. It's our sameness that brings us together, not our differences.

2. I'm not sure who this blog is written for. I'm a straight girl, and this is a pretty queer blog. There are a lot of subjects here that appear to be written primarily for queer audience, and frankly, I don't get them and/or have a lot of interest the subjects. So, who is your target audience? If it's me, you need to do things differently.

Lori's blog was compelling because she was so very human, so very much like me....middle-aged, looking for love, raising kids. I could relate to her and thus enjoyed the gift of looking at life through her queer eyes. But, this blog doesn't connect to the average reader as well, probably because it feels much less personal and revealing.

The difference is like reading a term paper written by a high school student, and reading that kid's secret journal. The one is always going to be more compelling than the other.

3. Gayborhood needs editing up to some consistent standard. It's awesome to have a diverse pool of writers, but you need to tighten things up.

Some posts are conversational, others read like a college term paper:

When the United States Army announced the creation of a Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in 1942 not everyone was happy. A writer for the Miami News spoke for many of his fellow Americans when he decried the plan, saying women who would be interested in enlisting were “the naked Amazons and the queer damozels of the isle of Lesbos.”

Well, he wasn’t entirely wrong. Of course women who weren’t stereotypically feminine and who loved the company of other women would have been especially likely to get excited about serving in the military during World War II. Other young women may have signed up assuming they were heterosexual, but once they enlisted, the military was to many of them like a poor woman’s Wellesley or Bryn Mawr: Like students in early twentieth-century women’s colleges (those wonderful hotbeds of lesbianism), women who joined the military now found themselves in an environment where females worked together in important pursuits, and where they could become heroes to one another without the constant distraction of male measuring sticks. It’s not surprising that many women discovered lesbian feelings through their military experiences in World War II.


Wow, that's a fucking wall of text that will knock the blocks outta your brain. Break some of those sentences up into smaller pieces, remove the redundancy, and clean that shit up. Y'all need an editor, BADLY.

For instance, this piece could be incredibly poignant, if it had told the story, instead of turning into a "my summer vacation as a transsexual" report. TELL THE SMALLER STORY, instead of trying to turn the post into something larger. If you tell the small story properly, the larger point will be made.

4. The blog template, itself, isn't particularly user-friendly. You have tabs, you just need to use them more wisely. A lot of what is in the sidebar should really be behind a tab. Put the Author blog links behind a tab, use the label function and put a list of topics on another tab, etc. etc. For a multi-writer blog, I'd recommend something more like what Gawker does, because you're really becoming more of an online zine and less of a blog. And, the focus should be on the content, and not on the sidebar.

So, there are the cons.

But then, there are jewels like this that are the whole reason that I blog, and read blogs, and review blogs.

So, my candid advice is: do more of this, and less of this. Stop throwing words and labels at people--feminist, homophobe, patriarchal, heterosexual, queer--and focus on being HUMAN. Your best posts do that, your worst posts use words like walls.

I'm saying that selfishly, of course, because some parts of the gayborhood are just too preachy to engage me. I received all the preaching I ever needed during the first 22 years of my life, growing up Southern Baptist. The baptists have their own dogma and special words of the faith, too, and they are turn-offs to anyone outside the clique.

When in doubt, Hedon is always right:

I guess what I’m recommending is to simply live your life. When you find the right person, grab on and make the commitments between yourselves that will make your lives a joy.


For now, I give you one star, with the promise of more if things get better.

23 comments:

  1. That spanking hurt so good. I think you have some valid points! I'll let you know when it's time to come back and look again! We lurve AAYSR!

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  2. Best review I've read in awhile. The most important point being that the audience and goals should be more clearly identified.

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  3. LB, you are my shero of proper reviews. Perfection.
    It seems I shall continue to be the strange, slightly well dressed girl wandering around behind you, typing up reviews and wishing I knew how to walk in a good pair of heels as well as you do.

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  4. Just a comment about audience - yes, it is geared to primarily GLBT readers hence the name "Our Big Gayborhood...Where the Queers Write"

    Just as their is huge diversity amongst our delightful straight counterparts, there is too in the GLBT community. The blog is about slice-of-life - each author brings something different to the table - some will be storied, some will turn a political issue out with a twist, and some will be educational - like getting in touch with our queer history. Perhaps we'll add a paragraph to that effect. Thanks again and be sure to let us know if you're ever ready to join our team - you know I've said before you'd be a big hit!

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  5. The word is segue. Use it wisely and spell it correctly. Thank you.

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  6. You know, whenever I type "segue" I feel downright unamerican. Segway 4eva.

    I think I wrote a blog about it once. Drunk, most likely.

    anyway.

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  7. If all anonymous can complain about is how I spell segue/segway, I feel like i've had a good day.

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  8. At least we're in the news: http://www.theonion.com/articles/nation-shudders-at-large-block-of-uninterrupted-te,16932/

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  9. LB,
    I'm a big fan of AAYSR, your staff has directed me to several well written blogs. As much as you complain about spelling and grammar on other sites I would hope that you would double the effort to avoid that pitfall on your own, lest you appear as illiterate as those you cast your aspersions upon. My "complaint" about your misuse of segway for segue stemmed from the fact that once I stumbled across the error I could not finish reading the review: its credibility was diminished. I get bitchy when people butcher the English language.

    Rassles, use what you wish, but you should know that a segway is a self-balancing transporation device with two wheels, and a segue is to make a transition without interruption. As for feeling unAmerican about it, almost all of our words are derived from other foreign languages; that dog won't hunt.

    Was it your intent for the Gayborhood to segway... into the sunset? You're usually more up front about saying so.

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  10. Anonymous, I am well aware of what actually constitutes as a segway. Welcome to the land of Poor Attempts at Levity. I am your queen.

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  11. Also, "staff"? AAYSR has a fucking staff? Anon, you give gratuitous credence to a random group of bloggers who do not claim to be perfect.

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  12. Does that mean we're all getting paychecks at the end of the year? I think there should at least be some kind of commission based on who has to deal with the most douchebags.

    Anon has a point about segue. On the other hand, I don't think any of us would bring it up in a review if a blogger had a minor spelling mistake in a lone post on their blog. Complaints about spelling and usage in the reviews are reserved for bloggers that have misspellings riddled throughout their blog on almost every post and severe problems related to lack of editing. Despite it being right, bringing up the segue thing seems petty.

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  13. I want a segue for my birthday.

    Wait....

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  14. Thinking back on my own grammar-nazi days ...

    what a miserable life that was.

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  15. Please pardon my gaffe in using the word 'staff' when I probably should have written 'contributors'. I certainly didn't mean to ruffle any feathers.

    MB, petty? I'm honored.

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  16. Anonymous,
    Kindly shut the fuck up. Read if you want to, or depart. It matters not to me.

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  17. Hey, Anon, if you're gonna bitch about "segue" than we can point out as many gaffes of yours as we want.

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  18. Also: Anonymous, do you realize your last comment was ALMOST a limerick?

    I feel cheated.

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  19. I think the missing word was prick.

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  20. Rassles,
    I cannot bear to depart knowing that I have somehow cheated you.

    Never criticize Ask
    or you they'll attask.
    They cannot take what they dish
    which may seem quite sefish,
    But reviewing's a disagreeable task.

    Shutting the fuck up now. Still a fan.

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  21. Wow! Nice to see this site still around!

    I submitted. Please be gentle :)

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Grow a pair.