Thursday, November 14, 2013

Community College

I know I said I was going to continue this the day after my last post, but..well...I say a lot of things.

As I said in my last post, for a long time I was without a community, as such. I had friends, of varying numbers and degrees, but after exiting the Goth community in my great Interstate Flounce and returning to Sydney a couple of years later, I never really found anything to replace it. 
At one stage, I dabbled in the local Sydney poly scene, but never really got properly involved. I met a few nice people, and one or two great people, but an awful lot of dickheads as well. I had some really interesting conversations, but also had WAY too many arguments with people about why polyamory isn't actually the One True Way of the world - to be honest, I just had way too many conversations about polyamory full stop. The poly people were (on the whole) lovely, and fun, but I was going to tear my eyes out if I got into another round table discussion of how best to negotiate sleepovers.After a while it started feeling really....well, small. And not just because there are only about 50 people in the Sydney poly scene. The types of people in it are also very likeminded, and not just about relationship configurations. I think this is what made the scene start to feel stale and small so quickly - we were all of a similar age, similar financial circumstances, mostly cis, almost entirely white. A lot of the guys had beards, and a lot of the girls had long hair and a fondness for corsets. There's nothing wrong with any of these things on their own - but the sameness of the community left me feeling uninspired.

One of the symbols used to indicate polyamory: while I
have infinite love, it turns out I do not have infinite patience

From the poly scene, I quite naturally wandered over to the local kink scene - there's a LOT of overlap between these two communities, so much so that I'm always a bit surprised to meet a truly monogamous kinkster. As with the poly scene, I met a few nice people, and a few really great people. There was a bit more diversity in this community, and the nature of what we were engaged in tended to spice things up quite a bit even at the dullest of events. Along with all the people I felt I had things in common with, I also started to run into people who I really, truly, totally disagreed with for the first time in forever, and found it delightfully challenging. I hadn't realised how much I'd missed the conflicts of the Goth community until I stumbled across them again in the kink community. It's great to have people you agree with, don't get me wrong. When you're as naturally paranoid and self doubting as I am, it's crucial to have solid proof that you can look at when you're feeling low to remind yourself you're actually really not the only one who thinks this, who feels that. But clashing with people you DON'T agree with once in a while is just as important to remembering who you are, what you believe in, and what's really important to you. As an added bonus, my old Goth wardrobe was totally acceptable, nay COOL in this community, so that was a bit exciting. It was nice to be around people where I felt like I knew the rules about what to wear and how to wear it again.

However, as with the poly scene, the kink community started feel a bit stale, and very small indeed. Everyone knows everyone in both these communities, and pretty much everyone has dated everyone in either community. It all gets very...complex. They're also both based around things that, while I really enjoy them, I consider to be only part of my life, part of who I am. I love sex, I love sex with various people, and I love kinky sex, but sometimes I want to talk about something other than sex, something other than kink, something other than who I'm dating and how that's going. And that's where I found these communities really lacking. Quite apart from any shortcomings of the community itself, I also found myself in a position where I'd managed to gather quite a bit of drama around myself, and that started to feel very uncomfortably familiar. Unlike my younger self, I decided to exit the scene before things got really messy and I felt the need to flee the state again. I found myself once again puddling around with my friends, but no sense of larger community.

Eventually I came to a point where I was unemployed for a while (again) and I somehow stumbled across the blogging community. I started reading feminist blogs, fashion blogs, beauty blogs, nail blogs - almost immediately I was entranced with this whole world of people saying what they wanted about things they loved, and the astonishing amount of people listening. I don't know why I'd never really considered blogging myself before - I've been writing as long as I can remember, and lord knows I've always had opinions to spare. I think perhaps I always viewed it as something other people did - proper, popular bloggers. I didn't realise just ANYONE could do it. I mean, there are enormously varying levels of success, but somehow it had never occurred to me that I didn't actually need anyone's permission to join in. I saw so many feminist fashion blogs abandoned, so many beauty blogs reluctant to mix politics or thoughtful content in with the pretty, and I realised the blog i REALLY wanted to read didn't exist yet. I love talking politics, but serious content all the time just gets too depressing for me in the long run. I love looking at pretty pictures, but watching an endless stream of pretty pictures go past without anything in between just bores me after a while. So I decided to write the blog I wanted to read myself.

And here I am, almost a year later. I'm not famous by any means, not what you would call a prominent member of the community exactly. But I'm around - I have some readers, every now and then someone will be directed to a post of my mine without actually knowing me personally (which still boggles me every time), and I've observed a lot of interesting similarities with the Goth community.

Just as with the Goth community, there are the Superstars. The big, famous, shiny people that everyone in the community knows, even if people outside the community have never heard of them. Discovering these people are one of my favourite parts of joining any community - it's like having your own special secret set of celebrities, that other people don't know about. In the Goth community the Superstars were pretty obvious - they were the prettiest, the best dressed, the ones in the club that were always surrounded by people trying to get some of their popularity to rub off on them. In the blogging world, the Superstars aren't as immediately obvious, especially in niche areas. People like The Bloggess are immediately obvious as a Superstar, mostly due to having had books published and an extraordinary amount of comments on each post. Not to mention, well, the name. But I was reading Scrangie for ages before I realised she was considered The Nail Blogger in the world of nail polish fanatics. It took me ages to catch up to just how big a deal The Plastic Diaries really is. There are also people who present like Superstars, but actually aren't that influential when it really comes down to it - just like the Goths who would show up at a club dressed head to toe in wildly overpriced gear that didn't actually suit them at all, and aren't nearly as universally well loved as they will tell you they are.  It's been really fascinating for me learning the in and outs, the Who's Who, and the observable indicators of true success in this new world.

On a more everyday level, I've also enormously enjoyed getting to know my own personal Superstars. Just as there were more experienced, cooler people who were happy to take me under their wing when I was but a baby Gothling, trying to figure out whether I really could pull off PVC pants or not, there have been some bloggers who have been incredibly generous to me. People like Autumn from The Beheld, and Michelle from Lab Muffin, who have answered endless questions and given me encouragement whenever I felt like I just wasn't cool enough to play with the big kids. There have been enormously kind readers, who've stumbled across me randomly or been bullied into reading by me personally, who've kept reading, kept commenting, and kept sharing links across the vast wilds of the internet. Maybe it's because I'm still new to this, but I very much consider the readers just as much a part of the blogging community as the actual bloggers. It's such a two way street, for me. I'm always delighted when the comment thread on a post ends up more interesting, complex, and nuanced than my actual original words - it genuinely gives me more joy than a hundred comments telling me how great I am. I have a lot of readers who make me feel quite dense on a regular basis, and it's incredibly flattering how interested these intelligent, insightful people have in what I have to say. When these clever, cool bloggers and readers are happy to spend time with me, it reminds me of the warm, welcoming solidarity I felt in the Goth community. Just as it's no fun being at a club with three enormously popular, beautiful people and no-one else, the blogging community is no fun without friends to hang out with. I'm older now, but still just as baffled that people I consider so damn COOL want to hang out with me - I like to think I'm a TINY bit less embarrassing about it these days though.

The thing I'm still finding hard to grapple with about being part of a community is how much to put into it. Just as putting too much into the Goth community started to burn me out, putting too much into blogging is enormously draining. And unlike the Goth community that I was part of, the blogging community is fast, constant, and international. I've learned the hard way that you need to specifically, and deliberately take time out here and there. If you don't take a step back, the stream of information and discussion and movement will wash you away - it will never stop, not for any one person. At first, I tried to keep up, and I admire the people who can keep up beyond words. But me? I can't keep up, and I've had to accept that. I'm around, but I'll never be at the centre of the community. I'll never be a Superstar, because I just don't have that much to give.  I've also remembered that community is not synonymous with friends - there is overlap, but it's not a total overlap. There are people in the community I admire, and others I disagree with furiously. Just because we're all part of this community doesn't mean I'll automatically support them, nor they me. But my friends have always been there, and I like to think they always will be. They are the people I am happy to give everything to, because they're the ones who'll give everything back. And this is exactly how it was in the Goth community - there were people in the community I despised, and others I would have given anything just to go to a party with them. But my friends were the ones who were still there when I couldn't make it out to the clubs, when I needed to go home early, or when I just needed to sit quietly for a while. In the blogging world, these are the readers and friends who still come back and read what I have to say even if I haven't blogged for a week, a month. They're the ones who ask when I'm going to finish that post I was talking about. They're the only ones I really owe anything to, when it comes right down to it.

One of my favourite Threadless shirts!
There are so many correlations between bloggers and Goths I could go on forever; there are the old guard who like to tell everyone that the community was so much better back in the day, in every possible way. There are the baby newcomers, loud and brash, wanting to make a name for themselves. There are people who dip a toe in the community briefly before slipping out again, off and away to a different adventure. There are the ones who've been sitting quietly in the corner talking to their friends all along, that you don't really notice until they're gone. There are always the Gatekeepers, the people desperate to set out and constantly update rules and regulations about who does and doesn't "really" belong. There are the Gamechangers, who found new projects and new ways of doing things within the community. There are the failed Gamechangers, who never got their ideas off the ground, but never let go of them all the same. All the similarities make me wonder if these are things that are common to all human communities, be they based around music, makeup, or a love of weaving.

What do you think? Am I clutching at straws, or are there really common threads between all communities, no matter how disparate the core theme?


  1. Just so you know Cassie, you are my favourite feminist blogger.

    Remember when Heli and I were fangirling about meeting you? Just remember that when you feel like you might not be that famous.

    Jess xoxo

  2. Exactly! I was just thinking the anime schoolgirl picture was like me and Jess the first time we met you!

    1. Hahahah! Okay, I'll admit you guys were like that for about ten minutes. Then I opened my big mouth and removed all mystique ;)

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. And I do think there are similarities in the communities. My community is a specific corner of the geek community that started from the usyd club Sutekh. I presume the actual club still exists, but the community moves on as we age and move on from uni and have babies get married get careers. And there's sub groups and overlap. It's less defined than the communities you mention, but there are definitely similarities. Having such a big group of friends and acquaintances with similar interests to me was the main reason I decided to stay in Australia after finishing honours.

    1. Oh, the Sutekh kids! I know so many of you guys, which is hilarious because I was never in that club, nor attended the uni that runs it.

  5. I'm a toe dipper. I have started and abandoned three blogs. I still read blogs but on many I am just a lurker. That actually has much to do with being unable to comment on them because I do not have any of the account options for commenting. I love it when a blogger has the comments section set up for people like me to just type in my name and leave my bit.

    I have learned that I am too much of an introvert to really be seeking any community. I don't want much community I just want to have a nice coffee chat with one or two people once a week at the most. I quit every group I ever join. I am not a team player. I am a solo artist but I don't care if I don't have an audience. It's probably all classified in the American Journal of Mental Health somewhere.

    I have just discovered your blog but am enjoying what I have read so far even though I don't wear nail polish or eye shadow, I do wear acrylic paint and charcoal.


Thank you for taking the time to comment! I live for comments, good or bad.

Anonymous commenting IS allowed on this blog, but in order to reduce the amount of spam, comments on posts more than 14 days old will be moderated.