Twitter has been a non-stop drama lately.
Calling it drama llama makes it sound like it’s not a serious subject, and frankly I find that to be a silencing tactic for issues that are important and serious. However, I really like llamas, and so do Sarah and Tricia.
What drama am I talking about? Sexism. (Anyone familiar with the latest drama in the YA community is cringing right now, I bet. Just hold on).
I’m late to the game on this, and I doubt anybody needs yet another opinion, but the Andrew Smith sexism “debate” struck a chord with me. I’m not going to rehash the particulars. A simple google search could do that for you. Or read this link and this one.
The thing about it that really gets my dander up is that it’s so hard for women to talk about sexism, and yes, point out specific examples in our communities and by our peers, without being called mobs or bullies or harpies. More problematic than Smith’s original comment and the reaction to the comment is the outraged backlash to the outrage that essentially created a rubbernecking situation. People, like me, who aren’t even players in the publishing community (yet) are weighing in and arguing and magnifying a situation that got heated too fast and needlessly so. It’s my opinion that the women who reacted (some calmly, some not calmly, as is their right) did not create the so-called mobs, but rather the reaction to the reactions did.
Because, you see, women don’t want or need men to flagellate themselves when accused of sexism. We just want men to realize the unintentional negative effect of their words. Like so:
How many times do we need to reiterate that criticizing someone’s words is not criticizing their character or worth?
There’s also the refrain that a true discussion means allowing for differing opinions on whether or not Smith’s statement was sexist.
I also struggle with how I feel about this idea. I don’t personally feel that the statement in question could be construed as not sexist, meaning it seems pretty clearly sexist to me. But when I say sexist, I understand that sexism plays out on a spectrum. Some examples of sexist behavior are appalling, some egregious, some tiny little papercuts.
But you know what they say about papercuts:
And that’s the real issue. Smith’s statement is just too similar to so many other lazy and/or sexist justifications for failing to include more female representation in media. It’s not like this statement is only one papercut. It’s one of a thousand. Same goes, perhaps more so, for other diverse representations.
There were also criticisms leveled at the way the women were sharing their criticisms. Also known as tone policing. Too strident, too mean, too over the top, as if tone could negate the content of the criticism. There’s also the companion complaint that our tone pushes allies away. Well, that’s hogwash. It’s never a woman’s job to make a man feel better about sexism.
Once more with feeling: It’s never a woman’s job to make a man feel better about sexism.
Also the insinuation that this was somehow fun for the women involved when we all know what women on the internet face for opening their mouths:
IDK, maybe I misunderstood what Asher was implying.
So, you see, this isn’t about Andrew Smith. It’s about sexism.
I don’t know how he’s handling it or how he’ll choose to respond if at all. For me, it’s about the fact that so many professed allies have shown that they don’t really understand how to be an ally. And I hope for better for all of us.
I think the monster I just wrote can be best summed up with these tweets:
*smallish disclaimer that these opinions are my own and not necessarily shared by the other Plotless bloggers.