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A Stinging Defense of Caring

June 29, 2011

I’m going to be 50 in one week. I could spend the next 500 words detailing how much that sucks because my body is rebelling against me in some specific and horrible and potentially embarrassing ways, but you know what? Fuhgeddaboudit.

I’m going to be 50 years old in one week and right now, I don’t have time for that bullshit. I have spent my whole life going along and getting along, and while I’ve been outspoken about some things, there are others I have passed over and smiled about and swallowed my words. But tonight I’m not going to. I can’t.

Me & my BFF Stacy, getting our radical on in the rain.

Here’s the deal: I’m flipping around my twitter feed and find out that people are attacking Heather Armstrong because she went to Bangladesh and came back and wrote about it. “Poverty tourism,” they are sneering.

Never mind that Heather wrote about her trip in the most clear-eyed, transparent way. She didn’t write with the attitude of “OMG I saw amazing things in Bangladesh and now I’m going to fix everything.” She was very open about her feelings of helplessness and that she didn’t know what to do to help the people she met, but that she felt compelled to tell their stories.

That was not good enough. The freaking Guardian newspaper attacked her, as Mom-101 talks about in this post. Other bloggers attacked her (not gonna link to them. So there).

They attacked her, basically because she went and learned about Bangladesh and had the temerity to write about it.

The weird irony is that, had she visited and learned about the cathedrals of Europe and written about it, far fewer people would have attacked her (though some still would have, because some people attack her no matter what she does, just because she’s Dooce). Certainly the Guardian wouldn’t have weighed in.

So let’s recap: learning about the conditions people in poverty live in = bad. Traveling around looking at old buildings = Yay! Stuff to cross off your life list.

Makes perfect sense.

What I really want to say to Heather is: screw those people. Non illegitimatum carborundum, as my dad would have said (in fake Latin): don’t let the bastards grind you down.

For me, this is personal, and let me explain why. I grew up with people like that – the “Why bother?” people, the nothing-is-good-enough-to-do-because-it-will-just-lead-to-more-trouble people, the doubters and the deniers and the skeptical.

I have spent years answering their questions about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it and trying to justify why it is worth doing and seeing their sneers and enduring their put-downs. And while I’m doing my little bit, they’re sitting on the couch and eating Doritos and rolling their eyes at me.

Well, at 49 years and 51 weeks, I can say I’m proud of the things I have done or have tried to do. Five prisoners of conscience whose cases I worked on with Amnesty International got released from prison. People who were in for doing terrible things like listening to forbidden radio stations. Was that due to something I did? I will never know. Dictators don’t send back postcards saying “Ok, you win.” But I know I tried.

About 10 miles of oak forest stand because a bunch of us environmental wackos said that we didn’t want them chopped down. We yelled and protested and did skits on street corners and got petitions signed. No one sent us a congratulations card when the corporation changed their decision to cut them, but I know those trees still stand.

I’ve supported women from war-torn countries through Women for Women International. I have given Kiva loans. I have written letters and signed petitions. I have volunteered at the soup kitchen and marched and screamed and testified in front of the City Council and Board of Supervisors and the Minerals Management Service.

I don’t know how much good I have done and I never will know. I certainly haven’t done as much as some. But I can say I have tried. I don’t want a reward in heaven. I don’t want praise or a gold star on my permanent record. What I do want, at age 49 and 51 weeks, is for the critics to shut the hell up and let those of us who do give a shit to get on about our business without having to listen to their whining.

If you need any inspiration for ways to contribute to the world being a better place, see any of my other posts for the past 6 weeks.

  1. June 30, 2011 11:53

    I get the whole thing about being critical of Heather making you some sort of hater, but c’mon. Can you look anymore like an asshole when you criticize someone for going to another country to get some perspective, write about it, and most likely provide much needed awareness?

    We’re not talking about washers and dryers. We’re talking about peoples’ lives that could be hugely affected in a positive way by this attention.

    Sometimes people just need to learn to keep their mouths shut. This was one of them. And instead of waggling fingers at Heather, they should use them to do something – anything – for a good cause. And by “good cause” I don’t mean “furthering their own for more attention.” I mean making a difference in someone’s life.

  2. June 30, 2011 13:47

    Personally, I think it’s both hysterically funny AND grossly pathetic when someone’s jealousy is fully exposed, by themselves, in public. It’s like when the elephant poops at the circus; on the one hand it’s funny as hell that they let go right there in front of everyone and on the other it STINKS and you sure don’t want to STEP in it!

    Anna needs to accept the fact that she will NEVER be Heather Armstrong, no matter how hard she tries. She just doesn’t have “it” and instead of accepting that and finding her own voice, she keeps screeching away trying to hit the high note.

    Even her Twitter tag (“I am the mommyblogger who says what the other mommybloggers only wish they could say.”) is pathetic…………”like me like me, I am cool”. Um, no.

    I will stick with Heather, thank you.

    • June 30, 2011 13:52

      To me, this isn’t a Heather vs. anyone kind of thing. It’s more of a doing something vs. snarking kind of thing. But I get your point.

  3. June 30, 2011 14:12

    Is she not benefiting from this all? Jon has said in a recent article in the NYT that the hate was the most valuable to them, as it brought in the most money via hits. Hmmmm kind of looks like a publicity stunt to me. Got to get those numbers up!

    I feel that this wasn’t an issue for her until a supermodel brought it to her attention. And in her entry about the trip she is complaining about how people are attacking her for this trip, and her looking like peter pan?! WTF? How is this bringing attention?! I’m not stupid, but where is there compassion and insight in that entry? Because she told one guy she’d tell people of his plight? Come on, that’s scripted from a bad made for TV movie.

    I know you’re a fan of hers; your name has been on her site for a long time. As mine is a name that is known for not being found of her. But even with those feelings I have for her, if I felt that she was doing this to really make a difference for reasons other than attaching her name to a real celebrity I’d say so but I don’t.

    Also the way she behaved on twitter is/was highly unprofessional and immature. So you have dissenters, that’s part of this whole blogging gig. And when you sic 1.5 million followers on one person you’re making it personal, not a business action. She doesn’t like Anna ,so what life is about dealing with people you don’t like. Why become a big bully and sic millions of people on her because of what she says on her blog. I find it interesting that whenever Heather needs to get a point across or wants sympathy she does one of two things. She opens comments on an entry when she wants sympathy and people to tell her how awful everyone is and how awesome she is, and secondly she goes on Twitter and publicly ostracized and attacks them. Where and how is this a trait to be commended on? How is this helping the cause? Then all of you get on the band wagon and write entries about how awful it was for her to be treated this way. I don’t see Heather as strong I see her as weak, weak that she is only strong when she’s got all of you backing her up.

    I have not forgotten how she ( and Jon wrote a whole entry about it) called Jenny the bloggess a drunk and said how Jenny was going to physically assault her. Or that she said in a video woman at Blogher were jealous of her and wanted to kill her. Or when she stole content from my blog that others had posted but attached MY name to it saying I’d sent this in email to her. ALLLLLLL Lies. I find Heather to be highly duplicitous so when she behaves like this, it just solidifies my previous view her.
    She’s no angel.

    • June 30, 2011 14:35

      See, you’re one of those people that will never be happy.

      You say Jon said hate is most valuable – so was Heather trying to stir up hate when she went to see the conditions in Bangladesh, or when she was attacked for it? This makes no freaking sense.

      Yes, I am a fan of Heather’s, and I don’t apologize for it. For the record, she and I have met once, and talked for about a minute, and she was very nice. We know each other on a casual basis through a few comments and emails over the years, that’s the extent of our relationship, so I’m not on her payroll and I don’t have anything to gain or lose by defending her.

      She’s a great writer and a good photographer and she’s managed to do blogging like no one else. She’s also – guess what – a human and you’re right, probably not an angel and she’s certainly made some mistakes, some of which I have made fun of. Maybe she’s strong, maybe she’s weak – who cares? But in this case, where she is exploring how to do good in the world – what does any of her past behavior, good or bad, have to do with that?

      From your comment, I think you’re exactly one of the people I was talking about.

  4. June 30, 2011 14:44

    I share your frustration. For me it seems that just doing the little things isn’t nearly enough and I’m not sure I have the time/energy/resources to do more at this point, so I continue with the little things and hope for the best. At the risk of sounding like Pollyanna, I think if everyone did the same, we really might see some positive change.

    I truly hope that this whole Bangladesh thing is used for something incredibly positive from both an awareness and monetary/resource standpoint, as it has the potential to be, but honestly I’m not sure that will happen.

    And I can’t wait to see post #50 :o)

    • June 30, 2011 16:38

      I appreciate whatever anyone does, no matter how small. We all have full lives with shifting priorities. I just don’t appreciate the detractors. Some woman was saying that Heather was acting like she invented altruism. What the hell. Did we even read the same post? It is bizarre, all this hate. Sick of it.

  5. June 30, 2011 15:10

    I have always deeply respected you.

    This post just cements the reasons why.

    • June 30, 2011 16:38

      Mutual Admiration Society meets here.

  6. June 30, 2011 15:56

    yes yes yes – you are on spot.

  7. Molly permalink
    July 1, 2011 05:04

    I’m so totally perplexed by the nature of people who simply can’t control their emotions to the point that they spew this kind of ridiculousness all over the Internet. If there was genuinely something to be concerned about–like a demonstrated level of cavalierness about or a disconnectedness to the problems Heather’s talking about being demonstrated, or any kind of mixed motives–it would be something else altogether. I’ve been on the kind of trip Heather took, and please believe me when I say that, bad economy or local homeless population or small scale poverty aside, even knowing on an intellectual level that people in the world live in staggering, stunning poverty, sitting there in the middle of it changes you from the core of you right straight out. It does. I am fine with whatever motives she had for going. I am of the opinion that Heather appears to take very few of the material things she has for granted, (which seem to be a major complaint with the, for lack of a better word, trollishness. and even if she did, so what? So she is…what? Being publicly slapped around for…what? Being well-liked? Breaking new ground? Taking advantage of opportunities that need to be taken advantage of for us to live on a better, safer, happier planet? I think those are kind of good things, actually.

    I know she feels like she needs to defend her motives when the haters start to hate because of the nature of the trip, but honestly, I think it only emboldens them and creates a bigger problem, and while it garners her some support, I think it draws attention away from what she wants to focus on. I absolutely don’t question her motives, I just hope that at some point she finds some
    way of acknowledging that she benefits from people calling her a dilettante and whatever other nonsense, because to ignore that fact seems slightly disingenuous. I don’t think she IS those things. I just think she needs to acknowledge that she’s simultaneously personally hurt by the accusations, even while her brand benefits. It’s got to be a fine line to walk–live happily under the umbrella of being uncontroversial, or live unhappily under unfair, unconstructive, personally slanderous criticism while benefitting from its existence.

    Hopefully I’ll never be that well-liked.

    I can’t wait to read more about her trip. Also, I’ve enjoyed your 50-for-50 series.

    • July 1, 2011 07:21

      I agree, Molly, but writing and linking this post from a few places yesterday taught me exactly why these trolls – and one in particular – do this – anything involving Dooce is great for traffic. I got more traffic on yesterday’s post than I have since I moved to wordpress. I don’t have ads, but if I did, and if I was making my money off my blog and had no scruples, I might be tempted to insert myself into every Dooce-related controversy or other internet kerfuffle, as this person has been known to do.

      Heather did that “monetizing the hate” thing a while back, which was funny for a while, but I don’t think she had the stomach to continue it, or maybe it just got boring after a while.

      Thanks for sticking with me through 50 for 50. It has been good, but I’m ready for it to be over!

  8. July 1, 2011 09:55

    People are weird. You are not. Congrats on using your voice. Much love.

    • July 2, 2011 07:20

      Oh, Becky, I love that you think I’m not weird. You know what that means about YOU, right? 🙂

  9. July 1, 2011 14:10

    Well said. I’m umpteen bazillion weeks behind on my blog feeds, but I wanted to tell you how much I’ve been admiring your 50 posts series. It’s a great idea, executed wonderfully.

    • July 2, 2011 07:19

      Thanks, darlin. That feed reader grows like Kudzu, doesn’t it?

  10. July 1, 2011 16:00

    I love you. 🙂 So well said.

  11. July 1, 2011 19:41

    I love this piece and I love that you are doing so much to make the world a better place. I agree, anything we can do to help make a positive change is better than sitting on our collective asses and complaining about it.

    I just wish there was mor respect within our blogging community and for our community. You rock!Love your positive attitude and proactive personality.

    • July 2, 2011 07:18

      I think there is a lot of respect and goodness and love. Unfortunately, the negative gets the attention – the nastiest comment on this post has gotten the most click-thrus. It is up to us to decide what we want.

  12. silverthinks permalink
    July 1, 2011 20:05

    Well done. Keep fighting the good fight. Much love.

  13. Dana permalink
    July 3, 2011 08:57

    So let me understand this — if you disagree, and somehow have the audacity to leave a comment or question someone because you have a differing viewpoint, you’re considered to be a troll?

    Look, I like Dooce the blog. I have nothing against Heather because I don’t know her personally. Mostly I think that Heather is funny, smart, a good business woman, and BRAVO! to her for becoming an all star in the world of blogging. But attacking Anna and “calling in favors” went above and beyond what was necessary in order to silence Anna or make her feel badly for having a different viewpoint. I think it was necessary for Heather to stand up for herself and her convictions, but it was equally as important for Anna to stand up for what he believed, too. So really, what was the big deal? Anna wasn’t hiding behind a fake name or publishing her thoughts annon., she was just giving her viewpoint on the subject and it differed from Heathers. If Heather wanted to get across the point that you don’t fuck with her, then hands down, she is clearly the winner.

    Healther, in my opinion, was the bully in this particular instance. Anna’s voice or blog doesn’t even come close to the amount of page views that Heathers does. Never mind the fact that Heather has over 1.5 million twitter followers to Anna’s 2500. Never mind that Dooce has a personal friendship with probably every single one of the “elite” bloggers; bloggers who seem to come to her defense no matter what the issue is. Really — who do you think is gonna win this cyber war?? Probably not Anna. Dooce knows that, and so does Anna.

    Do I think Anna is a shit stirrer? A bit. I think she probably should refrain from guessing Dooces next “big move” or if and when HGTV is gonna give Heather a real honest to goodness TV show. And who cares if HGTV bought the Armstrong’s house? I personally don’t care, but I can understand why a lot of people would be interested. It is because Heather is a bit of a celebrity — and because of that status, like it or not, she is gonna be the subject of conversation and speculation. The Armstrong’s clearly make a lot of money from Dooce and I’m happy that she is paid well for what she does. Lots of good and bad is gonna be written about Heather and Jon — it goes with the territory of celebrity, and I think they expect it. The good in their lives probably far out weighs anything bad. Anna voicing her opinion didn’t hurt Heather in any way, shape or form, other than she took Anna’s viewpoint a little too personally and let it bring the worst out in her. Again, I don’t mind Dooce standing up to her beliefs and expressing them on her blog or twitter. But she didn’t do that, she attacked Anna. AND she called in “favors”. Her intent was to hurt or silence Anna and her viewpoint.

    That is the definition of a BULLY.

    • July 3, 2011 10:29

      If you read the tweets, they went far beyond opinion into general jerkiness. And this wasn’t the first time, or the second or the third or the dozenth. I don’t know if it is true trolling or just a search for blog hits, but it’s ugly and mean and unnecessary.

      So because Dooce has more readers than anyone else, she isn’t allowed to speak up herself, or she’s attacking the little guy? What is she supposed to do before she stands up – limit her readership so she’ll be on more equal footing? This makes no sense.

      Give me one iota of evidence that Heather “called in favors.” Do you have anything to back that up?

      I hate that “price of celebrity” argument. Just because someone is famous – or even internet famous – doesn’t mean that they should be treated worse than other people. Apparently the tweets DID hurt Heather’s feelings and I have a feeling I know why they did – BECAUSE HEATHER IS A HUMAN WITH A BRAIN AND A HEART just like the rest of us. And that’s what I’m standing up for – the right to be a human with a brain and a heart without having people dump all over you.

      • Dana permalink
        July 3, 2011 16:20

        Heather should have stuck up for herself. I thought I made that point clear. But Heather didn’t just stick up for herself; Heather was mean and nasty in her own right. She knew exactly what she was doing. And yeah, if you read the tweets there was a person who said that Heather had called in favors and Anna had five minutes to back down or else. Or else what??? Heather didn’t deny that she called out “favors” and it would have only taken a few keystrokes to get that across, but she didn’t bother.

        Look, I’m not saying that Heather doesn’t have a heart because I think she does. I just think she over reacted. I think Heather let her emotions get the best of her and she was mad and she was gonna attack Anna. And that is exactly what she did. And so did half her cyber buddies and her husband. For what? A differing viewpoint? Really, do you think Anna voiced her opinion for TRAFFIC? WOW. I’m sorry but Anna doesn’t come off as being a desperate person. Or anyway to me she doesn’t.

        Of course view pages and twitter followings matter — why the heck do you think Heather makes the money she makes?? I’m just saying that if there is gonna be a cyber war, Anna isn’t gonna come out on top. Heather knows this and so does Anna. It’s not rocket science. Think Maytag. (and just so you know, I’m GLAD Heather did what she did regarding Maytag. They’re BIG business, and she took many different avenues to get some deserved attention before hitting the twitter button)

        If you read Anna’s blog you’ll see that she writes about business along with finance matters. So in my opinion it was totally appropriate that she write her view point on Heathers trip to Bangladesh. Anna also writes about her family and her life.

        And I’m sorry, but I disagree about Anna dumping on Heather. I took it as a differing viewpoint nothing more, nothing less. Heather just didn’t like what she had to say. And I sorta get that too. Heather comes home from seeing horrible poverty, feels likes she needs to do more, be more involved and then BAM! Anna writes and tweets about a very personal trip and time in Heathers life. That isn’t lost on me. I get it. But what Heather did was mean, nasty and she was being a bully. She over reacted and got all her cyber friends writing about what a nasty troll Anna is. That is being a bully.

        There are many other ways Heather could have handled the situation too. She just as easily could have written Anna an e-mail explaining her feelings.

        If Heather wanted to get the point across you don’t fuck with the big dogs in the blogging world, then clearly she won.

        • July 3, 2011 19:17

          I think it is kind of hilarious how the comments on this post have turned into a story about 2 people, neither of whom I know much. The real crux of this post is the paragraphs beginning “For me, this is personal…” It was actually a post about me and my life. I really just want people to cut each other some slack when it comes to earnest attempts to do good. Especially me, because, of course, it is all about me.

          And that comment from “a person who said that Heather had called in favors and Anna had five minutes to back down or else” – I’m pretty darn sure that was a joke.

          Thanks for keeping your comments civil and on a human-to-human level. I appreciate that.

          • Dana permalink
            July 3, 2011 21:55

            I’m glad you took no offense to my comment(s). I really am not trying to be disrespectful or a jerk. And because I have no alliance to either Anna or Heather I think I can be a bit more objective to this particular situation.

            I like both Anna and Heathers blogs for totally different reasons. I’ve never commented on either blog ever, and I don’t know either of them personally.
            And, if Anna didn’t write about business or finance I’d might think she was stirring the pot for all the wrong reasons. But those are two components of what her blog is about, so to me, it seemed natural that she MIGHT comment on the topic. I think she just picked the wrong time to address the subject, and I wonder had she not made her comment(s) so close to Heathers return home that things might not gotten so blown out of proportion.

            Let me just say too, that if one of my followers on twitter made a comment about Heather contacting them and calling in favors and I didn’t ask for, or condone that poor behavior, I would have made that very clear with a short twitter. Heather didn’t do that, so I then assume that she maybe she was on board with one of her twitter followers making idle threats to Anna.

            It’s one thing for Heather to take on Magtag, a huge corporation. Quite another to make it personal and take on Anna just because she has a differing viewpoint. With Maytag Heather took several different avenues in attempt to solve the issue at hand. She could have offered Anna the same consideration. With Anna there is NO question it was personal vendetta.

            Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts on the subject without being called a TROLL. I appreciate that, too.

            PS Hitting the big 5 0 isn’t so bad, its all the numbers AFTER 50 that tend to hurt. 🙂

            • July 5, 2011 11:26

              “Hitting the big 5 0 isn’t so bad, its all the numbers AFTER 50 that tend to hurt.”

              LOL now I have something to look forward to.

          • July 5, 2011 11:12

            Yep. It was a joke. But I see the reference to that tweet over and over again in comment threads as if it was some sort of mafia hit order.

            • July 5, 2011 11:24

              I know. It’s like everyone out there was just waiting for confirmation that Heather did indeed have a robot army.


  1. Dooce Trip to Bangladesh Provokes Twitter Clash and Blogger Backlash | ShePosts

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