Thursday, January 5, 2012


1. No, I have not quit Twitter. But I have felt very much like it on numerous occasions, and vacillated over whether I should or not. Probably if I did my mental health would improve. I have not quit because I enjoy Twitter, and going there to make jokes, find out new things, and chat to friends is fun. This is quite important: I use Twitter for fun. I don't use it to toughen my hdie against attack, and I don't use it as a forum to hurl abuse, and have it hurled at me. I like to go to Twitter to feel good, not to feel bad.

I have a full-time job. Not writing: an actual, 9-to-5, five day a week office job completely unrelated to my writing or my comedy. Forty hours of every week is spent at work. Around fifteen hours a week is spent travelling to and from work. Everything you read that I write, in The Age, New Matilda, King's Tribune, The Drum, Crikey, in my books, on this blog or anywhere else, was written in my personal time outside work. Any time you saw me speak or perform anywhere was my spare time, not my working day - these days I've probably come straight from work: until July last year I would have been going TO work after the gig, as I worked night shift for five years. Time for sleep and to spend with my wife, my six-year-old son and two-year-old twin daughters, is on top of this. What I'm saying is, I don't have a hell of a lot of free time. To spend any of it at all going online to absorb a torrent of abuse from complete strangers would be terribly inefficient.

2. When you tweet to me, you tweet to me. Please keep in mind that what has been grinding me down has not been people talking about me - I don't much mind what people say about me, and even if I did I wouldn't deny anyone's right to say it. But when you tweet TO me, it's addressed to me. You're not talking about me, you're talking to me, and I take it as such. If you are the kind to send abusive letters or make obscene phone calls to strangers, or walk up to people in the street and swear in their faces, then please do keep on tweeting "@benpobjie you are shit". If you are not that kind of person, then please do bear in mind mind that when you tweet that stuff, that's exactly what you're doing, and I'm going to treat you like the rude bastard you are. Talk about me all you like, but please do not expect me to take kindly to people who I don't even know talking rudely TO me. Of course a lot of people will tell me it goes with the territory, but almost all of them will be people who don't have to listen to strangers calling them a misogynist cunt on an hourly basis.

3. This whole storm is NOT about people criticising my work. The debate that sprang up about the word "hysteria" was not sparked by anything I wrote. It was a friend of mine, not I, who wrote the article referring to hysteria. I joined the conversation to defend him and put forward my belief that it was not a sexist remark and not an invalid criticism to make. I still believe that, and presumably so do the many, many people of both sexes who made exactly the same argument that I did. My opinion of what "hysteria" means is, incidentally, based on my experience of the way it's actually used, and the dictionary. Other people differ, and that is fine and I will continue to think they're absurdly wrong and they will continue to think the same of me. But I feel it is quite important to note that this controversy is not based on my own article in the King's Tribune about porn, but on somebody else's article and the furore around one single word used in that article.

4. Anyone wishing to make a point about the article I DID write should note that it is, like most things I write, comedy. This is not a defence against charges of offensiveness, but it is a defence against charges of literally meaning the absurdist jokes within it. If you're going to engage with it, you have to engage with it as comedy, or else you are, frankly, an idiot.

5. Mainly this is all because I said "fuck you" to a beloved Twitter feminist. This was not because I reject the idea of male privilege, because I don't. Male privilege is real, and it is significant, and it is an interesting area of discussion. And I don't need it explain to me, because I've had it explained to me in the past, and I've never once denied its reality and its very real effect on society. But it is not a golden snitch in arguments - you can't produce it and claim victory by default. "You couldn't possibly understand because of male privilege" may or may not, in any given situation, be true, but it is not an argument: it is what you say when you can't be bothered making an argument. Because even if it's male privilege that causes somebody to be wrong, you still have to be able to explain why they're wrong: otherwise you're just copping out (and for one thing, if it's just a case of male privilege, what have you got up your sleeve to shoot down the ten women saying exactly the same thing as me?). I have never, ever, tried to win an argument by telling my opponent, "As a woman you are incapable of understanding". For somebody else to tell me I am incapable of understanding because I am a man, thereby invalidating any opinion I might have on the basis of my gender, is not a serious attempt at debate: it is an attempt to shut the debate down and declare victory by one vagina to nil. Frankly, anyone who does that to me - especially on the end of a conversation in which I've been patronised, condescended to and told that I was letting the world down by not cimply agreeing with what I'm told - is saying "fuck you" to me: and I prefer to just say "fuck you" straight out rather than dance around it that way. Anyone telling me I have no right to an opinion because I'm a man will get the same response every time.

6. I am a feminist. I am not a feminist because feminism needs male allies or because I've decided it's a cool club to join. I'm a feminist because I can't help being one: the way I view the world is simply a feminist one and I can't change that without changing almost every opinion I hold. This doesn't mean I'm always right about gender issues: I don't know anyone who I think is always right about gender issues, so I can't see how it'd be possible for me to be. And the aforementioned male privilege means my worldview is always coloured and I do have to take extra care in examining and testing my own views.

But I am sincere, and I am dedicated, and I am going to keep being a feminist, keep expressing feminist opinions and keep acting in the feminist cause, because it is very important, it is right, it is just, and it is a far bigger deal than my hurt feelings. I've found as a male feminist that you tend to get much more abuse from other feminists than from sexists, but that's life. I may not like it, but feminism matters much more than I do.

I'm also going to keep on disagreeing with other feminists and saying "fuck you" to anyone who disrespects and patronises me - especially if they are going to accuse me of sexism or misogyny. I think I've nailed my colours to the mast with my work. Nobody who knows me personally could think I'm anti-feminist. Nobody who knows my body of work could think I'm anti-feminist. Anyone who does think so is either ignorant, misinformed or just plain stupid. And I freely admit that being accused of bigotry of any kind riles me up something fierce.

7. I am by no means famous, but I am to a certain extent a public figure, and a lot of people know who I am even though I don't know who they are. And I'm still figuring out how to negotiate that, and not get too caught up with the bad stuff. Learning on the job, so to speak. I try to be pretty open and friendly, and engage with the people who read my stuff, because I'm grateful to them and I like the fact my work allows me to meet interesting new people and converse with them. Twitter is great for that, and I don't want to end up with my tweets being reduced to carefully crafted zingers and links to my columns and nothing else, never replying to people or opening up to the public. I want Joe Hildebrand's job, but I don't want to be Joe Hildebrand. I'd rather be able to keep being me for as long as possible. I beg your forgiveness and patience for the fact that being me is often really quite annoying for everyone.

8. Whatever else you think, you can't deny King's Tribune gets people talking. Go subscribe.

9. I suffer from depression and anxiety. This means I sometimes overreact to things, and get more upset than I should. I know this. I apologise for it. I don't want to make excuses, and I'm working on improving in this regard. I don't want people to cut me slack for it - it's just an explanation.

10. I didn't want to write this, and I wish I wasn't, but it seems the affair refuses to die because some people just want to keep it going. Please bear in mind: all that happened was that some people you don't know disagreed with each other about one word, and then one of those people was rude to another one in one sentence on the internet. It's unbelievably stupid that people are still talking about it: it just doesn't freaking matter, people. I'm desperately hoping that by laying all this out I can put a full-stop on it. Henceforth anyone wishing to rekindle the argument will be blocked, mocked, and have their parentage called severely into question. Because I'm sick of it, and almost everything on earth is more important. OK? I'd love to get back to joking about the Biggest Loser and inserting the word penis into movie titles now if it's all the same to you.

11. Thank you for listening. Please enjoy this picture of Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe in the Avonlea schoolhouse.


capitalgourmand said...

It's interesting that, in many ways, you and @tammois are largely agreeing on concept, as what you are saying about evoking "male privilege" as a way of not engaging in an argument is exactly the same argument that she is making about "hysterical". You each see the respective terms as being used to shut down debate, while not recognising that the other term may do the same.

Personally, I would say that both terms can be used in the way, but that in these specific cases I do not think they were intended in that way. But then, intention and reception don't always align.

Lockon Liz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lockon Liz said...

This here is one of my favourite feminist blogs. Right up there with I Blame the Patriarchy and Fannie's Room.

Like the best feminist writers, you often have me in stitches laughing. Thanks for all the feminist laffs, and I'm sorry there are so many arsehats in the world.

Just said...

Wow! You do all this tweeting from work!?

I like your written work (probs more than your tweets), so I am sorry that you are being abused like this. Sending you strength

Jackie K said...

Capitalgourmand that was my thought too.
Ben I like your stuff don't leave Twitter. Can't believe you manage all this while also working.
Re no 9: me too, I don't know how any of you with 000's followers stay cool on Twitter and handle abuse etc, it would be upsetting.

Anonymous said...

I don't object to you saying "fuck you" to a feminist. I object to you saying fuck you to a person. Also, you started a hash tag for #pobjieinsults. What do you expect.

You go on about people tweeting they are in following you and you feed that by retweeting it and, tweeting when you block someone. Double standards.

You ask for respect, just respect all of us too

Ben Pobjie said...

Well, blocking is not the same as as unfollowing, so that's not double standards. Especially since I only object to *people I don't know* telling me they're unfollowing me. And no I didn't start that hashtag, do you're just factually wrong. And if you object to me saying fuck you to a person, that's just tough. I won't be modifying my behaviour to suit your delicate sensibilities.

Lockon Liz said...

"Also, you started a hash tag for #pobjieinsults. What do you expect. "

Even if it were true, you really think inventing a hashtag is just asking for it?!

That is kinda funny, except that it might be hurting someone.

I'm glad I haven't read the whole sorry history. For what it's worth, when I think about the origins of the word "hysterical" from a feminist perspective (and I have no other perspective), it reminds me of the knobs who invented it, not the women they were trying to pathologise.

Stacey0 said...

I only caught the tip of this but I did read Tammi's (?) timeline and anyone that tries to engage in any kind of lenghty discussion on twitter is a dill, never sure what the intention is, that you capitulate out of exhaustion? I enjoyed your pron piece and you and @themanwhofell have two of the only prolific accounts I follow. Don't let them bore/badger you to death.

Anonymous said...

You may have not wanted to write this post, but I'm bloody glad you did, to clear up a few points and have yourself HEARD in the way you can't in 140 characters.

I read the article in question; I read "hysterical" not in its historical context, though I do understand how it could have been misconstrued once it was explained. It should have stopped there. I don't believe it was meant in its historical context, but a modern one. Justin Shaw said as much. Why is that so hard to accept?

And I fucking resent feminists saying "do you understand why *we* women object to that word?" WE? I didn't object to it, I still don't, and I fucking won't. So don't fucking speak on my behalf just because I'm a woman and I *should* be offended! Don't speak for all feminists, or all linguists, for that matter.


james1511 said...

"You ask for respect, just respect all of us too"

You ask for respect, but you don't respect Mr Pobjie enough to actually put your name to your comment and stand by your words.


Anonymous said...

I too have been 'engaged in intelligent debate' with' tammois & witnessed others suffer at the hand of her Twitter ego. Granted she has some good points but she is aggressive & condescending despite her protestations otherwise. And as you & others allude to Twitter is 'downtime' for most...where the fuck does a farmer, phd candidate, wife & mother of 2 get the time to carry on & on & on like that? I saw the point of her argument but I'm all for the macquarie dictionary version & move the fuck on with it.

Anonymous said...

Ok so I am the "double standards" anonymous poster. I'm just using my phone on the road. Can't find an easy way to put my name to the post but I am @veekayoz. I have no issue in revealing that.

Sorry a minor detail that u didn't start the hash tag but it would have died a very quick death if you didn't latch on promptly and promote it to your following.

Im still following you and take the gold along with the shit (maybe with some sighs of WTF)

Awaiting my public "#blocked #fuckyou" tweet from you.

shellity said...

I haven't really been following what's been going on, and at this late stage I can't be bothered catching up.

You've been very, very nice to me. I try to be very nice to you.

That is all.

horace said...

Without having seen the original argument — twitter is terrible for things like that — I can't be sure who is right. But I will assume that you probably don't deserve that kind of vitriol.

horace said...

(2) Also FFS people grow up.

Doug Quixote said...

For the life of me I cannot see how any man can be a feminist. A baboon may as easily claim to be a goldfish.

Get over it Pobjie.

(Disclaimer : I have great sympathy with women and their cause; equal pay for equal work, full rights and no discrimination etc etc etc. )

Lockon Liz said...

Welcome to the secret feminist society, Doug. The password (and manifesto) is "women are human".

David Horton said...

Well said Ben. Hang in there.

Michelle Bracken said...

I have been away Ben so have missed the storm. But this blog entry trigged me to check if I was following you on twitter or not as I realised that I haven't seen anything from you for a while. I am not on much and rarely tweet but like reading the tweets of people I find entertaining, and you are one of them. Alas, you have blocked me, and I truly don't know what I did to deserve that. I have only sent 62 tweets in about 4 months. I'm just a mum who happens to enjoy your writing. Sorry if I offend you. I must admit, I am puzzled as to why you have offended me, but you have.

Ben Pobjie said...

What's your twitter name Michelle? I don't remember blocking you: might have been a mistake.

Michelle Bracken said...


Thanks Ben. I'm really not a nutter. Promise.

Jen Tsen Kwok said...

Dear Ben, Something for you to consider about the ethics of conversation and whether you should give up on twitter or twitter's beloved Feminists. Jen.

‘Ethical singularity’ is neither ‘mass contact’ nor engagement with ‘the common sense of the people’. We all know that when we profoundly engage with one person, the responses come from both sides: this is responsibility and accountability. We also know that in such engagements we want to reveal and reveal, conceal nothing. Yet on both sides there is always a sense that something has not got across. This we call the ‘secret,’ not something that one wants to reveal. In this sense the effort of ‘ethical singularity’ can be called a ‘secret encounter’. Please note that I am not speaking of meeting in secret. In this secret singularity, the object of ethical action is not benevolence, for here responses flow from both sides. It is not identical with the full and frank exchange between radical and the oppressed in times of crisis, or the intimacy that anthropologists often claim with their informant groups, although the importance of at least the former should not be minimized. This encounter can only happen when the respondents inhabit something like normality. Most political movements fail in the long run because of the absence of this engagement. In fact, it is impossible for all leaders (subaltern or otherwise) to engage every subaltern in this way, especially across the gender divide. This is why ethics is the experience of the impossible. Please note that I am not saying ethics is impossible. This understanding only sharpens the sense of the crucial and continuing need for collective political struggle.

From Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, ‘Translator’s Preface and Afterword to Mahasweta Devi, Imaginary Maps’.

Helen said...

Good on you Ben for firing up some feminist debate! Despite all the aggro people are hurling at you.
I find your writing very witty. Keep fighting the good fight.

skinnyjeans said...

For a while I had one really nutso activist writing to me about every column I published and ripping it apart. It was bloody horrible. So I applaud every writer who keeps going in the face of Joe-blow criticism - it is a lot more painful than people think.

For the record, I'm in love with your columns. I would marry your words if it were possible.

Ben Pobjie said...

Oh thank you skinnyjeans - perhaps you and my writing could have dinner, see where things lead.