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Romance Writers Cancel Annual Contest Because… I’m not sure why

January 12, 2020

(image via wikimedia)

The Romance Writers of America announced recently that it is cancelling its 2020 Rita Contest because of some really convoluted controversy.  I tried to read about it.  I really did, but it’s very complicated and it gave me a headache.

The short version (I think) is that one RWA Ethics chairperson was removed (or fired) because of a complaint against her for allegedly harassing(?)/talking about another author for something that author had written over twenty years ago.  Then the fired RWA chairperson (who claims to be from a marginalized group) went to social media and a Twitter outrage mob forced a couple other people to either resign or get fired, and now everybody is angry and filing ethics charges against each other.

You can find more information about the topic here .  It’s a lot to take in.  On one hand, I respect a blogger who puts all those sources together in one blog post.  On the other hand, it’s too much for me to keep track of.  Go ahead if you want.  This blogger put a lot of work into details.

Just so you know, I don’t have any stakes in this issue.  I’m not a romance author.  I don’t read romance novels.  I’ll never win a contest for any of my writing.  I don’t belong to a marginalized group (unless being left-handed counts).

In fact, some guy who claimed to belong to a marginalized group once told me that I can’t have an opinion about these kinds of issues involving people from marginalized groups because I’m not marginalized, but I know he can’t stop me from having an opinion so I ignored him because he doesn’t speak for everybody who considers themselves marginalized.  I figured that since our backgrounds were different, we could trade perceptions (without arguing) to figure things out, but he wasn’t interested.

That’s okay.  I’m still interested in how people who disagree with me think.  Just don’t try to get me fired…  and please don’t send an outrage mob at me.

Even though I’m not a romance author, I feel sympathy for the romance authors who aren’t involved.  Most of them probably just want to write romance novels and enjoy some camaraderie with other authors.  Instead, they see bickering over stuff that could have been avoided with a little diplomacy.

As far as who is to blame, I don’t know.  There’s always stuff that the average person doesn’t know in these situations.  It’s probably one of those conflicts where both sides are right in some way, but both sides distrust each other, so nothing will ever be able to get worked out.  No matter how much is written, I’ll never know which side broke the trust first.

One of the problems in situations like this is that stuff that was (thought to be) acceptable in the past isn’t acceptable anymore, and people have a tough time adjusting.  A couple years ago I ran into a problem where I wrote the phrase “I hit like a girl” a few times and got called out for it on my own blog.  So I asked the question…

Is This Phrase Sexist?

Every once in a while, I tell people that I hit like a girl.  I don’t say it often, but it comes up occasionally in conversation or in my writing.  I’ve never given the phrase a second thought.  I just thought it was a simple expression that explains that I’m not a good fighter.

I’ve been told several times recently that I shouldn’t say that I hit like a girl, that the phrase is sexist.  A woman at work told me that it was an inappropriate thing to say.  I apologized and made a mental note be very careful about what I say around her from now on.  A couple commenters on this blog claim that it was a phrase that I should not use.  I’ve even been told that women can hit just as hard as men.

At first, I was surprised I was getting criticism for saying/writing that I hit like a girl.  I mean, I’ve written some objectionable stuff on this blog.  I’ve written about adult situations.  I’ve written about vulgar language and have even used some profanity.  I’ve suggested that James Patterson might be a hack (as outrageous as that claim might be).  I’ve even written porn jokes, and nobody complained that the porn jokes were sexist.  They just said the porn jokes were stupid.

I understand why people would think it’s sexist to say “I hit like a girl.”  They think I’m making fun of girls, and I’m saying that the way girls hit is inferior to the way boys hit.  I agree that some women can hit just as hard as some men.

Read more here!

Some content creators don’t want to face accusations on social media.  One way to avoid this is to simply not publish anything that might be controversial.  Here is an author who self-banned her own book after she received outrage criticism over her portrayal of a character.

Author Self-Bans Book Because Of Outrage Mob

She looks ticked off. I’d be ticked off too if an outrage mob attacked my book.

To be honest, I wouldn’t have been interested in this book without the outrage mob.  First of all, I don’t like YA fiction because there are always too many kids in the books.  I don’t usually like reading books from the kid’s point-of-view.  It’s okay occasionally, but I’m in my early 50s, and it would probably be kind of weird if I liked YA fiction too much.

Plus, this book is fantasy.  Man, I have read way too much fantasy in my life.  I’m so bored by fantasy that when I watch Game of Thrones, I enjoy the political intrigue but I yawn when I see dragons and ice zombies.

As much as I don’t like YA fantasy, I truly despise outrage mobs.  They react too quickly and too forcefully to stuff and don’t give people time to process information.  Even if the outrage mob is right about a specific point (they usually aren’t), they act so obnoxious that they ruin any point they had.

Just so you know, I’m referring to an unpublished book called Blood Heir by Amelie Wen-Zhao.   The author has decided not to publish her book after an outrage mob attacked her for a variety of reasons.  I’m not going into those reasons, but you can find them here and here .  These two articles (especially the second one) explain the situation better than I could.  You can also go to Twitter and look up Blood Heir, but I don’t recommend that.  Twitter, ugh.

Read more here!

Critics today often use current standards to judge people or art from generations ago.  It happens a lot, but this one caught my attention because it involves a prominent American book series that hadn’t been thought of as controversial before.

Is Little House on the Prairie Racist?

(image via wikimedia)

This is one of those topics where it’s not really necessary to have an opinion, but people will anyway.  Last week the American Library Association changed the name of its children’s literature award from the Laura Ingalls Wilder award to the Children’s Literature Legacy award.  That by itself might not seem like a big deal.  I read a lot of books, and I had never heard of (or don’t remember hearing about) the Laura Ingalls Wilder award before. Under most circumstances, most people wouldn’t care what the name of the award is.

Then people found out that the award name was changed because of some stuff in the Little House on the Prairie books that is considered racist.

RACIST?

Did you say RACIST?

Did you say The Little House on the Prairie books are RACIST?

AW, CRAP!!  That means everybody has to have an opinion!!  Look out!!!!

Before everybody starts taking their predictable sides, let’s try to get some of the facts… and then we can take our predictable sides.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder award was first given out in 1954 to Laura Ingalls Wilder, which is kind of cool, I guess, to win an award that was named after you.  This also shows that in 1954 the Little House on the Prairie books weren’t considered racist.  Or it might mean that racism wasn’t an issue that the ALA paid attention to.  Or it might mean that the ALA was an organization filled with racist librarians.  Racist librarians are the most dangerous racists because they control the books.  Plus, I always hear that it’s those quiet people you have to watch out for, and that includes quiet librarian racists.

Read more here!

*****

What do you think?  Can issues like these get settled with diplomacy, or do these conflicts need to escalate until people get fired and books get boycotted?  If you choose to NOT have an opinion, are you then part of the problem for not being involved?  Or if you choose to be vocal about your opinion, are you part of the problem by escalating a conflict that could have been solved with tact and diplomacy?  Are you a fan of false binaries, or do you think false binaries cause unnecessary arguing?

5 Comments
  1. I totally agree that everyone just needs to calm the hell down before giving an opinion and mobs of ill informed people joining in on social media really does not aid informed debate.
    Your Laura Ingalls Wilder piece is interesting. What do people expect from books written a hundred years ago? In the UK we’ve had a similar issue with a mid-20th century children’s author called Enid Blyton who’s been called out for similar racist language – and sexist, xenophobic, elitist… But she was one of the biggest selling kids’ writers of all time here and continues to sell well. Is her writing racist? Undoubtedly by today’s standards, but not so much judged by those of her own time.
    The acceptable use of racist and sexist language has changed a great deal even in my lifetime and we shouldn’t judge our ancestors by our own standards. We should just be grateful that we’re trying to move forward into a more equal society.
    This, btw
    ‘Are you a fan of false binaries, or do you think false binaries cause unnecessary arguing?’
    Made me laugh out loud

  2. I’ve not read “Little House on the Prairie” so can’t comment on whether or not it is racist. But I think we should take into account when a book was written and the accepted literary conventions of the time before we stigmatise the writer. For instance words that were in common use in Shakespeare’s time aren’t used nowadays and some of our current vocabulary would scandalise our grandparents.
    Perhaps we need a system of warning readers that a book contains if not “adult” material then terms that were considered acceptable in general use at the time the book was written. I’m thinking for example of the works of Mark Twain. Maybe there needs to be a note to the effect that certain words – if I listed them I expect my post would be instantly deleted – were at that time the normal way of referring to native americans and not necessarily insulting.
    We already have footnotes in classical texts explaining vocabulary and usage no longer in current use so, why not extend this to more recent publications?

  3. I believe that you should not try to rewrite history. Enough of that goes on in the school books. If a book is true to its era, it should be left alone. That being said, if, for example, the book is a racist tract and the whole point of what was written was around an effort to inflame or encourage racism or hate speech…that is a different story but each book must be judged on an individual basis. To ban a classic like Huckleberry Finn or LEW for racism is beyond ridiculous in my person opinion. Outrage mobs need to get a life.

  4. The literally worlds, once the bastion of ALL ideas and expression, has now become a dome of PC. It is a shame that those the were the frontiers for free thought are now the suppressors of free speech. But in this controversy, I am getting a kick out of them eating their own. Like with J. K. Rowling, sometimes there is a limit to stupidity and suppression, and you reap what you created. RWA is now experiencing it. I, on the other hand, will wait this out, hoping that writing and the arts will be what it was always meant to be: the EXPRESSION of uncensored thought. Let the marketplace be the judge and jury…it always has been, and true art will rise to the surface.

  5. I’m not surprised you don’t like the offense internet mobs. You don’t like young adult fantasy, and a lot of these supposed offenses are just some young adult’s fantasy.
    Also, I agree that “hits like a girl” is offensive – an average girl is surely not as powerful a hitter as a boy of the same age, but the difference is probably not as dramatic to be a basis of an insult. You could, for example, use “hits like a two-year-old”, at least for the next couple of years until it becomes common knowledge that some two-year-olds are exceptionally strong, so the whole phrase is ageist.

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