Speaker by Various Artists

78

Insert Token Here

by Emma Hart

I have to admit right off the bat that when Russell asked me to do this, my first thought was, ‘dude, how poisoned can you make a chalice?’. Fresh from the ‘why don’t nice girls like us’ agonising over System’s demographic make-up, it’s impossible not to be aware that I am, for the first time in my life, writing as a member of the Vagina-ed Classes.

I make a terrible Token Woman. I’m mistaken for a man in online discussions so frequently that I’m starting to develop a complex about it. The first time I ever wrote anything that appeared on Public Address, it was for Damian’s story competition, two years ago. Despite that story touching on the excellence of my breasts, I was still mistaken for a man - in an incident I may one day be gracious enough to stop raising. But not yet, Haywood.

So it may be that I speak with such an unconscious masculine energy that I don’t have a recognisably female voice. And perhaps this is Russell’s fiendish plan. "Ha, I’ll get that chick who sounds like a dude, that’ll fcuk ‘em."

The whole question of why more women don’t write or comment on political blogs is one I find odd. Pol-blogging is a hobby. Nobody ever asks me why more women don’t fish, or collect stamps. (This may indeed happen, but nobody asks me.) It’s one of those odd truths that people don’t understand each other’s hobbies. My partner programs for fun. My son obsessively collects Duelmasters cards. I think they’re both insane. Me, I indulge in co-operative writing. In theory this involves people creating characters and writing stories together. In practise, it means a bunch of women spending hours chatting and producing terrifying amounts of porn.

But given the discussions of the last couple of weeks, and given I’m one of the people somewhat overlooked in those discussions – women who do feel comfortable at System – I feel sort of obliged to discuss it.

So I tried to be diverse. I’m a woman and bisexual and from Timaru, though apparently that last may be one Diversity Initiative too far. The things that make me different, though, that sometimes make me feel jarringly out of step with the flow of System are nothing to do with demographics. It’s more the times I wonder if I’m the only one here who’s ever sat in a gang house and listened to guys talk about killing people. Who’s ever been taken captive by an ex-boyfriend, or walked out of home holding the policeman’s hand because anywhere else has got to be better. I may be the only one who doesn’t talk about it, or there might be a whole bunch of you here not talking about it as well.

But I don’t want to talk about it. The heavy shit can wait for another occasion, and get here on merit. I’m just keeping Speaker warm until they find a lesbian midget.

Those of us who find the System experience to be positive overall – not perfect, but positive – run the risk of speaking in platitudes. I’m particularly not good at being nice. I’m the one who instituted Attention Whore as an official admin term at work. I use my breasts to get attention. I’m just not a good person.

Maybe, though, I can have one go at being today’s Platitudinarian. I know a few people who read System but seldom or never comment, and it’s not because they’re afraid. Intimidated, sure, because this is an intimidating place. When they speak, they want to feel they have something worth saying, and they want to make sure it’s exactly right. You just know, whatever the subject, someone’s going to pop up who does it for a living or wrote their thesis on it.

I don’t know what System’s lurker to poster ratio is, but I’m pretty sure it’s normal. And it’s not the only site in the blogosphere looking to insert some tokens. But I know what it’s like to struggle to write something, and know when you release it into the wild, absolutely everyone’s going to feel they have the right to judge it. I think about how intimidated I was writing this, and wonder how much it’s like that for the people who write here all the time, knowing any little mistake they make’s going to be picked up and proclaimed instantly. I get this weird, unaccustomed feeling like maybe it would be nice to take a minute and say, you guys (including the guys who are actually women) do a bloody great job.

Then my normal tendencies kick in and tell me it’s probably not as bad for the ones who are clearly drunk all the time. You know who you are – at least since your partner sewed that name-tag on you.

Emma Hart is a Public Address reader who administrates Bardic Web as an actual day job.

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