Monday, March 16, 2015

7 Things It is Not

There were several flare ups in book world recently, where an author said something problematic, was called on it, and then things happened.  I'm not going to link to either because part of what I want to discuss is the reaction, but, suffice it to say someone made a joke about slavery that was both not funny and not clearly a joke, and someone made a comment about how difficult it is to understand women when one is a man. 
In the interest of disclosure I will say that my social media friends overlap more clearly with one of these authors than the other, so I may have a better understanding of the response.
In both cases the internet rose up in indignation.
And then in a separate issue an op ed addressing a blog post that suggested for people to give up reading straight white men for a bit, looped in the We Need Diverse Books campaign, implying that they were part of this "attack" on white male authors which is incorrect and problematic on so many levels. 
1. It is not impossible for people to write things that you enjoy and also be flawed people. It is not impossible for people to be super nice and also be flawed people.
2. It is not impossible for people to have been attacked unfairly once before, and for them to now do something that is problematic.
3. It is not mean to say to people: This thing you said is hurtful.  You may not have realized that, but there are hurt people now. 
4. It does not shut down people's ability to admit flaws if others address the hurtful things they have done or said.
5. It does not absolve you if you say, I am working on this thing.  But saying: I have seen this flaw in myself and am working on it, it still a helpful thing.
6.The reality is that many people who are authors have a platform and a place of privilege.  And the reality is that as much as we as authors, writers, and people work to be more aware, there are going to be stumbles. We have to be able to talk about these and address these.  Addressing them is not attacking people.  It is not saying the people who have made mistakes are terrible and should never be spoken of again.  It is not saying that people are never allowed to admit flaws.  The discussion is not the problem.  The discussion is in fact what all the people claiming they want better gender representation and better racial representation, have asked for.  Missteps will happen, but this isn't like a fart or something we brush under the rug and never speak of again.  We not only help our friends by allowing and encouraging discussions like this, but we make help make the space the safe welcoming one for everyone, marginalized or not, privileged or not, by showing that these things will not go unacknowledged. 
7. And I can't believe this even needs to be said, but calls for diversity are not calls against white people or males.  Yes, one person wrote a post suggesting people trying not reading white males for a period of time.  First, that is neither anti-white, nor anti-male.  That was a suggestion for people who might be finding their shelves a little full of a certain kind of author.  Second, this derailing to try and say that this is reverse sexism or reverse racism.  Third, yes or course we all want to live in the world where people choose their books based entirely on what they want to read.  But, you may really want to read a story today about an ancient Korean demon hunter or a Brooklyn cupcake maker.  But to make that choice, you have to know that both of those books exist. 
And as I was writing this, someone sent out this Storify (about another different but similar issue) that addressed many of the same things, so I'll just leave this here.