First let me get out of the way that I’ve been a sidetracked blogger for the last month and a half, so I’m way behind on my Book Bits, and all other kinds of posts and reviews.
I spent the end of June and most of July focusing on a large project and making the most of a free trial month of Netflix. I’ve never watched so much video (and done so little reading) in a 30 day time span!
I also attempted failed combat against a highly irritating, and ultimately intransigent, computer virus that ended with resorting to doing a clean OS install that resulted in no computer for almost three full days because, of course, it didn’t go well. (All my fault, I thought I knew what I was doing. I didn’t.)
Plus there was all the resulting, seemingly endless, setup and reloading of data and programs that made for limited computer utility for a few days more. And to cap it off, had to deal with another 12 hour period of online and computer withdrawal due to a power outage. I’m only now finally getting back to normal! The good news is, my computer seems to be okay.
So today I wanted to discuss two types of harassment that I came across in my net wanderings yesterday. They are very different. The only things that they have in common is that one or more persons harassed another person or persons, and that I read about them both on the same day. Rather than doing two separate posts I figured I’d lump them together in one long-assed post.
The first is a case of sexual harassment. A Hugo-nominated writer attending Readercon this year was harassed by a man also attending the con. It’s a good case to use for discussion of what exactly constitutes harassment, and what is required to make space welcoming and safe for women.
The acts of harassment, when taken individually, do not on the surface seem to be severe or worthy of lodging official complaint. After all, women put up with those sorts of things all the time, and rarely remark on them, except maybe comments to a close friend.
That fact alone is worthy of discussion. It’s shocking just how little most men know about what the average woman deals with in her lifetime. And because it’s so seldom discussed, women, especially young women, are much too ignorant as well. Meaning, they often can’t even identify actual harassment when it happens, being trained by our culture to not trust their instincts, let alone how to do something about it.
Women are trained to accept a certain amount of boorish behavior from men. We are also trained to apologize for the bad behavior of others, as if it is somehow our fault. So it sometimes becomes difficult to identify just when average, ill-considered behavior crosses a line, unless the behavior is blatantly abusive or predatory.
The Readercon case was not an instance of blatantly abusive behavior, and the stalkerish nature of it is not necessarily immediately obvious to someone who is only reading a brief recounting of the weekend after the fact.
But women need to feel safe within their communities, however community is defined at that moment. And feeling safe means that they should not have to wait until a man physically corners them or whips out his penis before it’s acceptable to expect action be taken by whatever the local authorities are for that situation, whether it be event organizers or local police.
My main point in bringing this up, though, is to link to Genevieve Valentine’s excellent blog post about her Readercon experience. In the last half of the post she lays out, in concise, easy to understand bullet points, the social cues that all men must recognize and abide by.
And most importantly, she stresses that women do not owe men any further contact, even if it’s a chance to apologize, once those men have violated boundaries. This goes against our training, but I think it’s vital for women, as well as men, to learn this particular point. As Ms. Valentine states in her post: “When you have made a woman uncomfortable, you show her you are sorry by leaving her alone.”
The second issue for today is a case of public cyber harassment. This isn’t the usual sort that makes the news, where a bunch of teens gang up on another teen to bully them and make their life as miserable as possible. In this case it’s hypocritical adults abusing internet tools.
I’m not a member of Goodreads (haven’t had the time yet), but I’m somewhat familiar with the site. A small group (if it’s not a single individual posing as a group, which is entirely possible) has taken it upon themselves to try and clean things up, get rid of bullying, and make it a better, friendlier place.
That all sounds well and good. But here’s the problem: the “bullying” they are decrying is not in fact bullying. What they are taking issue with is some reviewers who have posted negative (sometimes filled with liberal amounts of snark or mockery) reviews about books. Yeah, you read that right. They’ve equated stating an opinion as a consumer with bullying.
But that’s not the worst of it. These hypocritical net thugs have employed some of the tactics used by actual bullies in their crusade to stamp out what they, in their massive ignorance, define as bullying. They have set up a website where they have posted out of context screen captures, but most reprehensibly, real life info about their targets, including family info, real names, locations, and photos*.
That is NEVER okay.
It does not matter if the info was easily obtainable with some inside help spying on private pages and from public pages elsewhere on the net. It is NEVER OKAY to collect and post people’s private info on the internet. Doing so is not only a form of harassment, it invites additional harassment from unrelated weirdos, and potentially puts people in real life danger.
Foz Meadows made a great blog post about what is and is not bullying that sums it up as well as anything I could do. (The first part of her post discusses the Goodreads environment for those not familiar with it.) Though she’s much too soft on calling out the offenders, making it sound like what they’ve done is no worse than posting a negative review, which I most stridently disagree with. Still, it’s good reading.
This post at Gossamer Obsessions proves that though the personal info is no longer on the STGRB site, it was at one time.
To make my position on reviewing clear:
Once a book is published, the author relinquishes control over how that book is perceived and discussed in the public domain. Once an author is published, they become a public figure, and their behavior, in real life and/or in cyberspace, will be discussed.
Readers have the right to offer up their honest opinions about books they have spent their valuable time (and usually money) reading, without any interference from authors, editors, or publishers. It is in an author’s own best interests to let readers alone to do what they do, even if the reader is being unfair or out of line.
I do not think reviewers should be nasty or malicious towards the author in a book review. There are some who don’t follow that rule, and I’ve probably skirted that line in one or two of my reviews, but it unfortunately comes with the territory. I understand that hearing negative things about your hard work hurts. But that also comes with the territory.
Authors who can’t accept this should never put up anything they have written for sale. Post your work on a blog, where you maintain full control of content and feedback, if that’s the case.
[As a sidenote: Despite only being a distant outside observer, I’m pretty sure I know who the operator of the Stop the GR Bullies site is. A few months ago on an Amazon forum a woman posted a link to her blog where she had supposedly written a post about how to make the online world a better place. But when I followed the link I found a post centered around dredging up an old conflict from Goodreads in which she made many off-target accusations.
I commented at the time that I found it curious that a post supposedly about how to counteract bullying in a positive manner was in fact antagonistic, focused on conflict, and spreading misinformation.
Some of the same misinformation posted on that blog is now posted on the STGRB site. It’s clear to me that the author (and she is an author despite claims otherwise) has an axe to grind and is unable to let issues from months ago die their natural death.
Since I have no intention of sinking to her level, I will not out her here by revealing her name. I just found it interesting that something that was old news, and was overlooked by most book-oriented netizens at the time, has dots neatly connecting it to the recent mess, which has gained plenty of net buzz .]
* The photos are posted without permission, which is a violation of copyright.