Posts Tagged ‘List’

Two things that are guaranteed to make me cranky:

1: Sexism masquerading as value-added content;

and

2. Racism masquerading as Colour-Coded for Your Convenience.

That is all.

So, there’s this online feminist publication called Bitch Magazine, famed far and wide for its intelligence and integrity. And a couple of days ago, their library coordinator, a woman called Ashley McAllister, posted a list of 100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader,¬†the actual contents of which (as opposed to the subsequent shitstorm) can be found here. All was well for about a day – people were commenting, books both on and off the list were being discussed – until this commenter (whose handle, aptly enough, is Pandora) unleashed all the evils of the internet by objecting to the list’s inclusion of Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce, citing agreement with an online review wherein it is argued that the story promotes a culture of blaming rape victims. Not having read the book myself, and being unwilling to judge a whole novel on the basis of a single paragraph, I’m not about to enter into a discussion of that interpretation, although I feel it’s important to point out that, according to those who have read it, there is no rape in Sisters Red. Regardless, as a result of Pandora’s complaint, Ashley McAllister admitted to not having read the book herself and, out of concern that its contents could act as a¬†trigger to victims of rape or sexual assault,¬†removed it from the list.

At this point, author Diana Peterfreund – whose novel, Rampant, sits in 71st position on the list – weighed in, criticising the removal of Sisters Red and¬†pointing out that most of the books on the list, including her own, could similarly be said to act as a triggers for different types of people. After a short exchange with McAllister failed to resolve the issue, Peterfreund requested the removal of Rampant in protest at Bitch’s censorship.

It’s possible that things might have stopped there, but a few posts later, a new commenter expressed outrage that¬†Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan was on the list, too – this being a book which, for many reasons, has never been far from controversy. This time, McAllister’s reaction was to reread the book with the commenter’s objections in mind, and then, two days later, to announce that not only had Sisters Red and Tender Morsels been removed and replaced with different books, but so had Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott. The last of these is particularly puzzling, as nobody whatsoever had complained about its inclusion.

And then, the internet exploded.

Readers of all stripes started vehemently protesting the removal, expressing disbelief and outrage that Bitch had effectively censored their original verdict in response to the comments of just¬†two dissenters. And then, taking a leaf out of Peterfreund’s book, other authors began chiming in, either requesting the removal of their own books if they’d made the list, or condemning the removal itself if not. First Scott Westerfeld, then Justine Larbalestier, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Kirstyn McDermott, Maureen Johnson, Ellen Klages, Lili Wilkinson, Emily Lockhart, Jeff VanderMeer, A.S. King, Penni Russon, Paolo Bacigalupi and¬†Alina Klein – which is a pretty fearsome list of authors, by the way – all made their thoughts known at the site, and now other authors (such as John Scalzi) and feminist websites (such as Smart Bitches) are blogging about it themselves.

Right now, I feel sorry for Ashley McAllister, despite the fact that what she did was stupid. Because clearly, she’s a proponent of good YA novels. And clearly, she was trying to do the right thing – or at least, what seemed to her to be the right thing at the time, being as how her original efforts were intended to make rape victims feel more comfortable with the list. I’m not going to slam that as a motive, because really, how can you? But as the thread itself points out, it is impossible to write a book, or review a book, or do anything even vaguely artistic or critical without running smack-bang into fact that someone, somewhere, will wish you hadn’t, and if your first response to criticism on the internet is to back down – even if your intention was to be considerate – then the question becomes, why put up a list you weren’t confident in to begin with?¬†Saying, “Oh, but we didn’t notice that negative interpretation the first time around,” or pleading ignorance because you hadn’t actually read the book and were just going off what other people said, is the worst possible defence. Abdicating responsibility for your own critical judgement will not win you sympathy with authors and readers who come to your magazine purely to engage with exactly that, and who therefore expect you to defend your opinions as a matter of course.

So when you recommend a list of books for feminist readers, then quickly remove three of them because you didn’t realise that some people would consider them un- or even anti-feminist, what you’re actually saying is, the dog ate my homework. Because, to crib shamelessly from Neil Gaiman, it’s not as though the only true criticisms of¬†Sisters Red, Tender Morsels and Living Dead Girl are hidden in a cave in the black fucking mountains. All you have to do is type any of those titles into Google, look for reviews, and pow! – controversy! In removing those books from the list, Ashley McAllister wasn’t just backing down, no matter how pure her motives. She was effectively acknowledging the fact that a feminist magazine, in seeking to create a list of feminist books, had done their research so poorly as to feel obliged to change their verdict after two commenters told them about controversies they should already have taken into account. The reason so many people spoke out against the removal of Lanagan’s work in¬†particular isn’t because Pearce and Scott’s books are somehow less important or less worthy of defence: it’s because public, prominent and heated debate has raged about Tender Morsels since the moment of its publication – is still unceasing, in fact – and if the team at Bitch were so unaware of that maelstrom as to be blindsided by the outrage of a single ranting commenter, then what the hell else did they miss?

Having made the decision to remove the books in (presumably) ignorance of how that decision would be received, I can appreciate that neither McAllister nor the team at Bitch wants to back down again, even if the subsequent debate has made them regret the initial decision. Doing so would only compound the offence, and cement the idea that their critical approval can be swayed by whoever shouts loudest. But even so, I imagine there’s a lot of soul-searching going on at their HQ – and if, as so many people have said, they are otherwise known as a bastion of good sense and good journalism, then I imagine that, further down the line, a frank discussion of where they went wrong can’t be far off – even if we don’t all agree with the verdict.

Update the first:

Given that the reaction to this whole thing is still ongoing, I’m going to link here to authors and other notable peeps who blog about the decision as and when I notice them to have done so. Thus, you may also like to read the responses of:

Holly Black

Karen Healey

Margo Lanagan

Kirstyn McDermott

Diana Peterfreund

Update the second:

In the original version of this blog, I stated that Diana Peterfreund had asked to have her novel, Rampant, removed from the list in solidarity with Jackson Pearce. Since then, I’ve read Diana’s own blog (linked above) about the incident, and have therefore corrected her motivation.

As has been previously mentioned, I am very much enjoying the UK. We leave Surrey for Bristol tomorrow, having been in our current locale for exactly two weeks. In the spirit of commemoration, therefore, here is a list of things I have learned since being in England.

1. Alcohol and supermarket food, especially cheese, are cheaper than their equivalents in Australia, even accounting for the dollars/pounds conversion.

2. Train fares are more expensive, but better value for money, seeing as how British rail and the tube actually work. (Connex, take note!)

3. Fish finger sandwiches with mayonnaise are extremely tasty.

4. Sloe gin is, as the name suggests, regular gin with sloes in’t. Sloes are small, purple-brown berries. On their own, they do not taste wonderful. Neither does gin. But mix them together, and by God, you have a spiritous, mule-kickin’ beverage that drinks like port, warms like whiskey and hammers like dawn. Also, it is delicious.

5. Sloe gin is, as the name suggests, gin. Drinking it as if it were port is therefore not recommended.

6. Camden Markets is my new spiritual home. On an average Thursday at 3pm, the crowds were equivalent to that of any street festival you’d care to name, and bounteous with (but by no means limited to): tattoo parlours, striped stockings, blue hair, market stalls, African food, Lolita Goths, silversmiths, canals, rainbow knits, anime, punk, leather and lace. There is a pub called the World’s End, and beside it, a shop called Underworld. It is a magic place.

7. There are many excellent bookshops, first and secondhand, on Charing Cross Road, into which I could cheerfully (though inadvisably) take a shopping trolley and a credit card. Of these, Foyles is the most mindboggling. It is huge. If Camden Markets were not my spiritual home, then I suspect Foyles would be.

8. Luggage has a tendency to grow overnight, in the fashion of mushrooms.

9. Deadlines become hazy when they were set on a different island.

10. We will soon be living with a cat called Genghis. Which is awesome.

I have spent the few weeks ramming my head repeatedly against the Great Brick Wall of Bureaucracy, so much so that I’m about ready to braid myself a noose out of red tape and jump off the British Consulate. Special sore points include: labyrinthine visa websites, non-refundable application fees, banks with a policy of¬†only buying black and white printers despite the fact that bank documentation for visas must be in colour, automated phone directory services, wrongly addressed tax invoices,¬†a landline that doesn’t work but for which Optus still tries to charge line rental, multiple 1300 numbers, help lines that charge by credit card, cheques which are yet to arrive, and express couriers who bang on the door in a Wagnerian fashion. Also, university assingments. SWEET ZOMBIE JESUS.

So, instead of dwelling on or ranting excessively about the above, here is a list of things I like. Feel free to go to your happy place while reading it. Sad girls in snow, calm blue ocean. Whatevs.

Ten Things I Like (Which Are Not Related To Bureaucracy In Any Way, Shape Or Form)

1. Letting my hair dry naturally in tangles, then running a brush through it.

2. Ravioli bolognese.

3. Spaghetti bolognese.

4. Linguini bolognese.

5. The opening theme song from Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040.

6. Reading four good books in four days.

7. Webcomics.

8. Obscure references to esoteric geekery that no-one else gives a crap about.

9. New episodes of Bones.

10. Random lists.

Ahhh. Everything is good. La la la la la…

1. My essays are done. Assuming they weren’t so piteous that I fail either subject, or that my other academic efforts don’t entirely suck, they represent my last ever university essays. Joy eternal, people. Joy eternal.

2. In accordance with the $900 tax bonus initiative of the Rudd Government, my Manna from Kevin has finally arrived. Oh, sweet federally-funded moolah, how I love thee!

3. The new Tamora Pierce book, Bloodhound, is completely awesome. I’ve always loved her writing, but she’s really outdone herself with the Beka Cooper series. Yay for well-plotted, well-scribed fantasy¬†girl power YA¬†excellence!

4. Today is Friday, meaning I can listen to Friday I’m In Love and Friday On My Mind with special emotive resonance.

5. I have no uni work this weekend! Huzzah!

6. My mother burned me the double CD soundtrack for The Boat That Rocked, which I’m now listening to. Viva la sixties rock!

7. It’s almost lunchtime.

8. Next Tuesday, I’ll find out the results of a short story contest I recently entered. Anticipation is a pleasant, tingly feeling.

9. My boss likes the¬†geeky t-shirts I wear to work, and thinks they’re becoming progressively more eccentric. In a good way.

10. Life is sweet.

As 2008 draws gracefully to a close, one is lead, somewhat inevitably, to confront the imminent¬†prospect of its replacement. Next year, for instance, I will¬†turn twenty-three, complete my Bachelor of Arts and celebrate my second wedding anniversary. Steps will be taken which might, possibly, result in an eventual¬†move to China. Possibly – and very hopefully – someone might offer to publish my book. Regardless of whether this happens, the likelihood is that I’ll finish writing the sequel. I may also get drunk. And so on.

2009, therefore, is clearly a year for productive resolutions. Ignoring the typical-but-inevitable desires for better health and athleticism, here are mine:

1. My rolemodels for 2009 will be Zoe Washburne,

Zoe Washburne, 2iC on Serenity (Firefly class)

Zoe Washburne, 2iC on Serenity (Firefly class)

Temperence Brennan

Dr Temperence Bones Brennan

Dr Temperence 'Bones' Brennan

 and Jane Lane

Jane Lane, of Daria fame

Jane Lane, of Daria fame

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– because fictional or not, these ladies rock.

2. After a five-year hiatus,¬†I will take up¬†tennis again.¬†However, in the spirit of good sportsmanship, I shall¬†refrain from sulking when it turns out that I’m nowhere near as good as I used to be, because the point is to have fun, and also because I’ll get better again with practice. See that, universe? That’s growth.

3.¬†I will write more short stories, because they’re enjoyable, and because they’re a good way to figure out where the hell my writing style is headed.¬†

4. I will maintain and broaden my addiction to awesome TV shows, because a little immaturity is an excellent thing.

5. I will endeavour to surprise myself – and others – as often as possible. This may involve props.

6. I will reupholster my armchair anarchism.

7. I will find my poetry, and run with it.

8. I will do more jigsaw puzzles.

9. I will locate a second pair of comfortable pants, delight in getting caught in the rain, listen more, talk less, sing shamelessly in public and wear crazy hats.

And:

10. I will give thanks to Vizinczey.

You’ve been good to me, 2008. I’ll remember you fondly.

2009? Bring it on.