A Retrospective on Stagnation and Renewal

This post is my submission to the July Carnival of Aces on the theme of “Renaissance.” Since there weren’t a lot of suggestions provided on how to approach the theme, I was initially unsure about where to go with it. After all, the word “renaissance” paints a much more grandiose image than a simpler word like “change.” It wouldn’t seem right for me to say that ace culture has undergone a renaissance, so I won’t try. What I can speak to is a kind of revival in my own ace blogging and which factors are the most responsible for that. So here I’m using this prompt for a kind of seven-year retrospective, with a specific emphasis on some turning points around 2015-17 and 2019.

The short version: tiresome old things got stale, and then discovering new people and new things to talk about renewed my motivation. Breathing new life into the community as a whole, though, would call for a lot more than that.

[ Preview image by Jeremiah John McBride, CC BY-ND 2.0. ]

An Unraveling

I started ace blogging on WordPress in 2013, and while I’ve done quite a lot of it since then, it didn’t take many years before I entered (what felt like) a phase of stagnation. Not numerically, but psychologically. What that came down to was two or three issues: my own life circumstances, the gap between platforms, and, arguably, a growing sense of disinterest/exhaustion/boredom toward the hot topics du jour.

Blogging exclusively on WordPress had stuck me with a problem: a disproportionate amount of ace community took place elsewhere, on sites that were either culturally inhospitable or missing important features, and this meant that I was disproportionately walled off from more direct engagement with many of the conversations I was following. This was fine at first, but more and more, it became draining to continue keeping up with outside happenings, knowing that I couldn’t easily leave comments there and that anything I had to say was unlikely to be heard. Contributing to this sense of disconnect was that some of my favorite “outside” ace bloggers would eventually taper off their own involvement, for their own reasons, gradually whittling down my list to nothing. The role of the actual content of 2015-2017 era ace blogging played in all this is hard to articulate, but suffice to say I witnessed the increasing crystalization of the inclusion/exclusion axis.

Because of all that and more, during some parts of the years 2015, 2016, and 2017, I felt like my connection to the community had fallen into something of a slump — not helped by a flare-up of depression and my overall life, itself, falling into something of a slump. My involvement with everything, including the ace community, was slowly unraveling.

A Renewal

I feel like my own involvement with ace blogging has been… reignited, since then, and to explain how that happened, I’m marking out two significant turning points: one more structural in nature, looping me in to a more active blogging network, and the other being the discovery of new conversations.

My ability to connect with other aces online began slowly expanding again in 2018. That’s when when I got an account on Pillowfort, which isn’t for everyone. Feature-wise though it nearly splits the difference between Tumblr and WordPress, distinguishing it as more approachable and easier to use for many people. Blogging there has introduced me to many more members of the community, and the more casual setup has encouraged more frequent activity. This ease of engagement (for me) has made it a lot more rewarding to get back into ace blogging again. I’m glad of that.

The other half of the explanation, though, lies with the surge of inspiration that came in 2019. That year witnessed the launch of the Carnival of Aros, starting with the February 2019 Joint Carnival. I don’t remember what my exact sequence of exposure to everything was, but suffice to say there was controversy. A headache for everyone, I’m sure. But even so, dismaying as it was — finally, at least, I’d stumbled across something new to talk about.

Well, “new” by a certain definition of “new,” anyway. Some of it really isn’t new, just newly prevalent or developed into new permutations.

Not This Again

One of the things that stuck out to me in the February Carnival submissions, as similarly remarked upon in Siggy’s post, was the aro narrative on the origins of queerplatonic. Wait a minute, I thought. This again?

This inaccuracy — detached from everything I’d ever covered before — refueled my motivation and inspired a new flurry of posting. I composed an initial response post which I’ve now decided is insufficiently accurate, and then, later, this annotated timeline, and then, still later, a more detailed response to the misinformation. It was both stressful and invigorating. I mean, don’t get me wrong — the reception on Arocalypse was nasty enough that people started messaging me to say “yeah this is why I don’t feel welcome in the aro community” — but the point is that I had a reason to start getting more actively involved again.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only issue that I’ve been surprised to see clawing its way up from what should’ve been a grave. Earlier this year, some misguided souls sloppily attempted to revive a project that had already crashed and burned several times before, and let’s just say I’m growing increasingly invested in the issue of community memory.

Speaking of which: These days, there’s still a lot of ace community activity focused on sites that are socially and/or structurally inhospitable. Tumblr, for instance, remains relevant somehow, despite the fact that it’s inherently destructive to its communities. Now post-2018, it seems that more people have gotten active on Twitter of all things, which isn’t what I’d call an improvement.

Anti-gray antagonism is still around, of course. I saw a lot of it back in 2013 or so, when I was just beginning to identify as gray-asexual. Now gray-a folks like me have a new problem to contend with in the form of “oriented” and the attempts to retroactively crunch “ace” out of being an umbrella term.

Oh, and there’s also that suit of aces nonsense, which I first encountered in 2015 and which people like trying to bring back, apparently, but at least that hasn’t caught on like the identity policing of “oriented.”

In addition to these assorted roachlike issues that just won’t die, though, some actually new developments have also cropped up in the interim.

New Problems Emergent in 2015

Back around the time when it first started spreading, I remember laughing it off when I saw anti-ace bloggers complaining about the “split attraction model,” because I figured that everyone knew enough to write that off for what it was: an imposition of their own (worse) language on the conversation about our community. My efforts to reverse this linguistic violence and tell its true story have made some headway, but not as much as I’d like, and that wound, unmended, is becoming a scar.

The same year also brought us the “a-spectrum” concept, which is a lot newer than people seem to think. It was first introduced in 2015 on Tumblr, specifically in the context of arguing with people on Tumblr who were using “aroaces” to mean “aros and aces.” For some reason, redirecting them into saying “aros and aces” wasn’t the path these users chose. Instead, because people were excessively treating the aromantic and asexual spectrums as a single unit, they decided to… create a term for the aromantic and asexual spectrums as a single unit.

This has easily lent itself to a lot of hurt and frustration over people using it wrong, and that’s soured my whole perspective on the concept. The main association I have with it is people yelling at each other. Nonetheless it seems to have really caught on over on Tumblr, to the point that many people seem to feel very comfortable assuming that all aces consent to being called “aspec.” I still feel cast to the side every time I see this assumption in action.

In Closing

After an increasing sense of stagnation in my own blogging, reigniting the spark came chiefly from gaining access to new things to talk about, a new place to talk about them, and more people to talk about them with. That just describes my own journey, though.

As for the online ace community at large, I still think it’s being held back by its most popular choices of venue. Social media sites with limited-to-nonexistent privacy and self-protection measures, for instance, or no edit button, or userbases notorious for their overwhelming hostility — these severely constrain what is possible and keep aces eternally edge. To furnish the means for a larger community renaissance — a rebirth from the ashes, if you will — would call for more space to tell our stories, beyond the glossary and the gristmill.

2 responses to “A Retrospective on Stagnation and Renewal

  • Sennkestra

    > Contributing to this sense of disconnect was that some of my favorite “outside” ace bloggers would eventually taper off their own involvement, for their own reasons, gradually whittling down my list to nothing.

    I feel like this is something that has changed a lot about my own blogging and also general community interaction style, which has been both slower and a bit more insular over time, especially as a lot of the people I first joined tumblr and made a wordpress blog to engage with eventually moved on to other things in life and my list of notifications started to slow…

    I think that for me, part of the issue was actually a sort of counter-reaction to the rapid increase in things like tumblr activity over the years, which made it daunting to get back into the action by finding new blogs. When I first started, ace tumblr was…tiny. No need to sort through hundreds and hundreds of blogs to see who posts relevent content when there were like…maybe 25ish active blogs and you could just follow them all, or when you could just read through an entire days worth of posts in the #asexuality tag in less than an hour.

    Now, through, with hundreds of blogs – as well as, imo, an increase in both generic, repetitive “positivity content” as well as generic, repetitive “ace discourse” content that is far more than any single person could even attempt to follow- it’s much more daunting to try and find interesting writers to follow or to keep tabs on the community pulse. (Which can be both a good thing – more content also means more niche spaces and less feeling alone – but also makes things more intimidating and hard to follow)

    I think that’s one of the things that I actually like about pillowfort (on top of the much better feature setup) – it still has the small, intimate community feel that I liked about 2011 tumblr, rather than the dizzyingly overwhelming chaos of most mainstream social media in 2020.

  • Linkspam: August 21st, 2020 | The Asexual Agenda

    […] As previously mentioned, the July Carnival of Aces didn’t appear, but we did find one submission: Coyote’s retrospective on stagnation and renewal. […]

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