As I write this, there are 1,181 posts on this site, most of them written since late March 2007, when Shapely Prose was born. That’s a lot of fucking writing — and for a while, it was all me. When I started, it was my full-time job; I had come into some money and gave myself a year to figure out if I could turn a blog into a writing career before breaking down and getting a real job. Rather unbelievably, the plan worked. Which means that increasingly, paid writing has taken me away from the blog.
On the one hand, it’s really sad that writing elsewhere means I no longer have much time for the blog that started it all. On the other hand, that was always going to be the case: If the writing thing hadn’t worked out, I would have had to find some other paying job by now. All of my co-bloggers have always had full-time work — and one of them has two kids on top of that — so for all of us, it’s a labor of love that involves sacrificing time that could be spent relaxing or spending time with our families and friends. And in addition to writing 1,181 posts, in the last two and a half years, we have moderated 91,017 comments. That’s a lot of fucking comments. (For a glimpse of what moderation entails, check out Sweet Machine’s collection of some of her favorite deleted ones. Trigger warning on that whole damn blog.)
Why do we do it, then? Because it’s worth it. There have been incredible rewards — seeing fat acceptance get more mainstream attention, developing a large readership comp0sed of people we (mostly) love talking to, getting to know each other well (Sweet Machine and Fillyjonk were already besties, but the rest of us met online), getting immediate feedback on our posts, learning ridiculous amounts of stuff from the Shapelings. And for me, obviously, enjoying the beginnings of a real writing career, which is all I ever fucking wanted. So I’m not complaining, I swear. (Nor are we quitting, if anyone’s worried that that’s where this is going. We all love this blog, love the commenters, and remain as passionate as ever about feminism and fat acceptance.) I’m just putting this in perspective: Thousands upon thousands of hours of work have gone into this blog, almost entirely for the pure love of it — and in my case, because it was an investment in my career (but still mostly for the love of it, or I could have quit a year ago).
Before anyone starts offering suggestions for monetizing the blog itself, we’re not interested in doing that right now. We decided long ago that we didn’t want ads, nor did we want to solicit donations. And this isn’t about money, anyway. Like I said, there are loads of rewards that make it worthwhile.
But increasingly, there have been headaches and frustrations that have made this feel a bit like the kind of job where, if they didn’t pay you, you’d have no motivation to show up every day. Thousand-comment threads. Blogwars we tried to stay out of but somehow got dragged into anyway, without any of us saying a fucking word. Constant arguments about whether the boundaries we’ve set for our own space are appropriate. That sort of thing.
But most troubling of all is the expectation of leadership on our parts — of a movement, a community, a fatosphere — just because we’re a high-traffic blog. Some people have argued that whether we asked for a leadership role or not, that traffic means we’ve got it, so we have a responsibility to accept that our position means certain things. Like that we must be more democratic about what goes on here,we must weigh in on blogwars, we must set an example, we must respond promptly to all assertions that we are, in some manner, Doing It Wrong.
But you know what? No. It’s a fucking blog. As we’ve tried saying a gazillion times, it is not the movement. It is not the fatosphere. And the fatosphere is not, in fact, a real place or institution that has — or needs, necessarily — an identifiable leader to set standards, referee fights, and generally be all things to all fat people. If the majority of fatosphere bloggers decide it does need such a leader, that’s cool — but none of the Shapely Prose bloggers are running for office. We write a blog. We own what we write on the blog. We moderate comments on the blog. We started a community site for people who want to have discussions off the blog. That is the beginning and the end of what we do, apart from paid work and hanging out with friends and family and occasionally sleeping. We are four human beings, writing one blog among many. Period.
But just saying that isn’t enough. A lot of people refuse to accept our self-identification as bloggers — no more, no less — and keep insisting that as long as Shapely Prose remains the most visible blog in the fatosphere, we have an obligation to “lead” it in ways that are never clearly defined and involve some highly mobile goalposts. So we made the difficult, much-discussed and verrrrry well thought-out decision to reduce our visibility in the fatosphere — by simply not being part of it anymore.
What this is not: Some big, dramatic flounce or rejection of other fat bloggers or abandonment of fat acceptance.
What this is: The four of us making the decision that’s best for our blood pressure.
What this means: We’ve taken ourselves off the feed, as Bri mentioned the other day, and we will be taking the feed off of the sidebar here.
If you count on traffic coming from this site, or you rely on SP for access to it, we’re sorry about that. (The feed can be found here, for anyone who wants to add it to an RSS reader or their own site. Please do!) But there are other reasons why we made that decision, too. For one thing, the combination of our workloads and the increasing number of fat blogs (which is a fucking awesome thing) means we can’t actually read 90% of what comes up on the fatosphere feed, and we’re not comfortable giving an implied endorsement to blogs we don’t read. We wish we had time to read more. We don’t. We can barely keep up with this one.
And finally, when we made the decision, Bri hadn’t made this explicit yet, but now that she has, I’ll quote her, from the new rules for submitting your blog to the feed:
Your submission will not be accepted if your blog entries are not at least 75% relating to fat/size acceptance – Notes and Fat Chat are fat acceptance feeds for a reason…
Most of the 1,181 posts on this blog are about fat. Which means we could probably write about nothing but lemurs and still technically clear the “75% fat” hurdle for some time, but going forward, we are not necessarily going to be focused on fat more than 75% of the time. This is not — let me make sure this part is clear, NOTNOTNOTNOTNOT — because we are any less committed to fat acceptance than we ever were, or because we want to distance ourselves from the movement, or because we’re softening you up for the big announcement that we’re all going on diets “for our health.” It is because, quite simply, we’ve already written like a thousand fucking posts about fat. I’ve also written half a book about fat, and many more posts and articles for other outlets. I am in talks to start writing about fat for a monthly publication. I’ve been doing (and arranging more) speaking engagements about fat, and dozens of interviews. We all will still be writing about fat here. But it’s just, with all that writing and thinking and speaking about fat, we’re starting to feel like broken records. And we all have other interests we would like to write about. So we’re broadening the scope of Shapely Prose a bit.
When I started this blog, the tag line was “humorless feminism and fat acceptance.” I envisioned it as a general feminist blog that specialized in fat, but then the fat part really took off, and I tightened the focus. What we’re doing now, more or less, is going back to the original vision. 90% of topics will probably still be feminism or fat-related — plus some lemurs and shit. We’re not really setting rules. We’re just going to write about whatever interests us on a given day, so that blogging feels more fun and less stale than it’s been feeling lately.
We know some people aren’t going to be happy with some or all of this news. We’re sorry, insofar as we don’t relish making people unhappy. But given that we are, in fact, doing this for the love of it, we need to make sure it remains something we love doing. And all of the above are steps we feel we need to take to make that happen.
If you’re angry and/or don’t want to read SP if it’s going to be like this, that’s okay. We’re grateful to all of you who have helped to build our traffic, and if we lose traffic now, well… decisions have consequences. That’s okay, too. You gotta make ’em anyway, and these are the decisions we made.
It’s just one blog. And it’s our blog. And this is how it’s going forward.
So now I’ve told you everything I can about the State of the Prose as of Friday the 13th of November, 2009 — except for one bit of FANFUCKINGTASTIC news I am going to share in a different post, because I don’t want that overshadowed by whatever WTF-ing happens on this thread.
Thank you all for reading this blog. Really.