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March 23, 2010

Jumping in and out of portals

This afternoon I was reading The New Quarterly (and one thing I fear, by the way, is that I will never find the words to articulate just how much I love this magazaine), and I was enjoying Eric Ormsby’s article “Fine Incisions: The Art of Reviewing” when the following jumped out at me: “Mere opinion isn’t the same as reasoned judgment; opinions, the fodder of blogs and websites, are fine and dandy, and everyone’s entitled to them.”

And it took me way back to last week when a Canadian newspaper columnist wrote a ridiculous piece about how all bloggers are men, the reason being that “spitting out opinions on current events every twenty minutes” is just “a guy thing.” Oh, the furor that ensued! For me, however, the column’s most egregious misstep was its painting of all blogs as mere opinion-spit receptacles.

Part of the problem, of course, is that the columnist was writing about political blogs, which I don’t read, but I think most of them are written by men– am I wrong? (And of course, women do engage with politics in their blogging, but in the the blogs that I read [which are written by both men and women] this engagement occurs more pragmatically than that of bloggers for whom politicking is a passion and an end in itself.) Perhaps with political blogs, opinion spitting is indeed in order, but this is so far from the case for the blogs that I love best.

Everybody might be entitled to an opinion (though where is this written exactly??), but it doesn’t mean I have to hear it. There are many writers whose opinions I do respect, but, honestly, most of these tend to be published by major news outlets (whose reader comments I make a habit of ignoring). The blogs I love best aren’t those that call out, “Here’s what I think…”, but rather those that tell me, “Hey, take a look at this…”

I like a blogger who will tell me about a book she’s just read, or bring my attention to an article from somewhere else that they have a reason to respond to. I like blogs that profile interesting people, or track the minutiae of beautiful lives, or tell stories beautifully. Where intelligent people are enlisted to write to us. I like blogs that direct me to cool stuff. I like blogs where conversations take place and ideas are shared. I like blogs where writers meditate, even change their minds, which means they think about things. I like blogs where brilliant people send out dispatches. In short, I like blogs that take me somewhere new (particularly if it’s into other people’s houses).

Of course, these writers do have opinions, and most of these blogs are best when they incorporate elements of the personal, but when the personal is used as a springboard out into the wider world, it’s what I like best . This is the case as well with blogs about mothering, and books about mothering, and books about anything actually. And there is nothing exclusively female about this kind of blogging, either. Boyish blogs actually seem to have this market cornered, and I’m thinking of the blogs my husband reads, like Boing Boing, which (literally) takes us (to online) places in wonderful link-filled frenzies.

Anyway, back to to the columnist and Eric Ormsby: I don’t know if these poor people don’t know blogs, or perhaps they’re visiting the wrong ones? Regardless, I think it’s a shame that while the rest of us are all here jumping in and out of portals, they seem to be smashing their heads into virtual brick walls.

8 thoughts on “Jumping in and out of portals”

  1. Rosalynn says:

    Kerry, thanks so much for the gracious shout-out, and I whole-heartedly agree with what you’ve said here. Also, thanks for the excellent list of blogs. We read many of the same ones (natch!) but you’ve mentioned about three or four I’ve never checked out.

  2. B.Kienapple says:

    I think opinion is often mistaken as judgement, though it only really bothers me when these opinions are taken too seriously. Hence why I will not be reacting at all to *that* G&M columnist’s ideas anymore! Oh and I am adding all these links to my Google Reader..thanks!

  3. Kerry says:

    I can’t quite figure out the distinction between opinion and judgment, except that the latter has a moral componant and a touch of nobility about it. And the former is more often obnoxious. I am not really sure the distinction matters anyway… Also, I spent an hour this morning trying to find this wonderful Carol Shields quote about opinions, and the horrid way people start acquiring them as they get older. To no avail. The upside is that I got to spend an hour reading Carol Shields.

  4. Nathalie says:

    Great post (opinion). One of the best blogs around (judgment). Love how you so often speak for me (feeling).

  5. Kerry says:

    Thank you for clearing that up, Nathalie. I think my confusion lies in the fact that all of my opinions are incredibly judgmental. But we’re entitled to our judgments, aren’t we (or why not?)

  6. Nathalie says:

    No! I wasn’t clearing anything up! I was giving my opinion, my judgment and my feelings.

  7. Kerry says:

    Well, I appreciate it, nonetheless!

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