Hello everyone and Happy Sunday to all!
This week was not cool, friends. It gave us a lot of heartbreak and headache.
Andrew Smith, Systemic Sexism and the Call for Kindness:
If you were not on Twitter or around the Internets this week you might have missed the most recent events in the YA-sphere. It started when award-winning, prestigious YA author Andrew Smith gave an interview for Vice in which he was asked about the female characters in his books (which are not the best in my opinion. Grasshopper Jungle had REAL issues with its portrayals of women). His answer, especially the part in bold below sparked some conversation on Twitter:
I was raised in a family with four boys, and I absolutely did not know anything about girls at all. I have a daughter now; she’s 17. When she was born, that was the first girl I ever had in my life. I consider myself completely ignorant to all things woman and female. I’m trying to be better though.
A lot of The Alex Crow is really about the failure of male societies. In all of the story threads, there are examples of male-dominated societies that make critical errors, whether it’s the army that Ariel falls in with at the beginning, or the refugee camp, or Camp Merrie-Seymour for boys, or the doomed arctic expedition, they’re all examples of male societies that think that they’re doing some kind of noble mission, and they’re failing miserably.
That conversation contained a multitude of reactions that ranged from anger to befuddlement, from sarcasm to frustration and were expressed by authors, readers, bloggers and librarians at seeing once again, women painted as unknownable creatures of mystery. YA authors Tessa Grafton, Sarah McCarry and Phoebe North wrote amazing, in-depth essays on the topic looking at Smith’s words in the context of a sexist culture that continuously diminishes and disregards women. I followed the whole thing pretty closely for hours, and what I saw was a bunch of clever, passionate women (and men) expressing their ideas and discussing a public interview in public.
I then went to bed. I woke up to find history had been rewritten overnight. To my utter dismay, I woke up to a brand new narrative that painted those women as hysterical harpies who were expressing “fauxrage” and who bullied Andrew Smith out of Twitter.
What made me super frustrated: on the day before or since, I had not seen any personal attacks against Andrew Smith, I didn’t even see people tweeting @ Andrew Smith directly. Although it is obviously possible that those have happened (and needless to say, are a bad thing and should be denounced), in no way do I believe those were the majority of the reactions. In fact, lots of people were asking publicly for examples of those attacks. None were provided. IT BEARS REPEATING because we keep coming back to this: criticising someone’s words and works is not bullying.
Worst of all: no one was engaging with the substance of the original criticism any more.
Instead what I saw then was the Internet falling on the heads of these women, attacking and harassing them viciously. In fact, there was a whole hashtag created to shut us up: a tone policing movement called #KeepYAKind. The gist of the movement is: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything: Andrew Smith is a nice guy who does wonders for teenager readers and is a great teacher.”
I don’t know Andrew Smith. I believe he is a nice person. I agree his books are important to a subset of readers. But people’s words (which is what was criticised here, remember) and especially those of prestigious authors with a huge following should not be above criticism despite of how nice they are. Cannot be above criticism: especially when it comes to equality.
Because what this movement is saying is that Andrew Smith can say anything he wants and be praised for expressing his “honesty”. But then when women do exactly the same they are told to shut up and be nice.
I categorically refuse any suggestion that my “community” might be better served by my not asking questions. I want the women–of color, queer, trans–whose work I admire to have the same options I do, and I want all of us to have the same options as writers like Smith. I want my own affective community–women whose work challenges, creates beauty, offers windows into other worlds–to be given the critical attention, the economic support, and the cultural prestige it deserves. What I want for this particular “us” is not “kindness,” but equality. I’m not holding my breath.
Only a couple of days later, The Telegraph published this disgustingly sexist and racist essay. All I could think about was: THIS IS WHY WE NEED TO KEEP HAVING THIS CONVERSATION.
“CAPTAIN MARVEL AND THE CAROL CORPS” – A new Captain Marvel series has been announced as a crossover event with Marvel’s Secret Wars. To be released on June 10, Captain Marvel & the Carol Corps, is cowritten by DeConnick and Kelly Thompson, with art by David Lopez and features Carol Danvers as the leader of an elite all-female squadron of fighter pilots stationed at a base called Hala Field. SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.
We have a really cool announcement to make!
Starting this Thursday, we launch a new regular monthly column here at The Book Smugglers! Written by one of our very own authors, Catherine Faris King (“The Ninety-Ninth Bride“), the column – Decoding the Newbery – will be taking a look at Newbery Medal Winners, whether they fit into a “Formula” or not, what does “Death by Newbery Medal” mean and more, much more. It’s going to be super fun and we are over the moon to have Catherine as a Regular Smuggler!
This Week on The Book Smugglers:
On Monday, we kick off the week with Ana’s review of a fascinating Middle Grade novel, The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove
Tuesday, OMG IT IS HERE IT IS FINALLY HERE. Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman, the sequel to Seraphina is finally out and Thea gets to review it.
On Wednesday, Ana is back with her thoughts on The Grey King, the fourth book in The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper
Thursday, it’s the launch of our new column with Catherine Faris King with an intro to what is coming
And on Friday, we close out the week with Thea over at Kirkus with a review of Gideon by Alex Brown
Until tomorrow, we remain…
Your Friendly Neighborhood Book Smugglers
Gerd D.March 15, 2015 at 11:18 am
It’s plain to see that the Telegraph’s Martin Daubney is doing nothing than putting down populistic nonsense, which resonates alarmingly well with their (white male?) readership.
Scary, I used to think better of the Brits.
I do have to wonder, though, about the backstory to Andrew Smith’s admittance to be ignorant about women (because honestly, who of us men isn’t?).
There must be more to it than the man probably not being able to write a convincing female character if his life depended on it, I guess, for it to give cause to a heated internet debate – or, well, not, for as we all know by now these can start by something as simple as an opinion over colour perception…
However, I think it’s interesting how Andrew and Phoebe can essentially say the very same thing, that we get mostly educated about boys lives and experiences (these days in more detail than we ever wanted to know) and barely in girls lives and experiences, and yet people receiving the message given by them so differently.
LexiMarch 15, 2015 at 1:00 pm
The Newbery should be fun to look at. Are you doing mostly recent books or all of them? I read all of them in college (up to 2010) for a paper/project on representation and overall trends (race, sex, family marital status, main message). I took over my apartment with piles of books and sticky notes. I’m interested to see a different view.
SuzanneMarch 15, 2015 at 4:47 pm
Oh, heck. How did I miss that Shadow Scale was out?? I guess I know what I’m doing for the rest of the day…..
Catherine Faris KingMarch 15, 2015 at 10:05 pm
Lexi, I will be looking at a wide range of Newbery winners — I’m hoping to get in one book from each decade. I look forward to your comments on my columns! I’ve been focusing Newbery winners for around three years, now, and I’m amazed that you managed to read all of them in — what, a year? A few months? Wow.
Shadow Scale has an amazing cover (but then again, so did Seraphina — I’m not surprised, just excited 🙂 )
Andrew Smith’s original comment was pretty bad, but this backlash against the outrage sparked from his original comment is just so frustrating. That’s my Angry Feminist Thought of the moment… how women who act even the slightest bit out of line with how men want them to act get labels slapped on them. Once you stop being the “Cool Girl,” you become a harpy.
Catherine Faris KingMarch 15, 2015 at 10:07 pm
Also Korrasami fanart gives me life and I haven’t even watched S4 yet.
collected thoughts on andrew smith - We are book punks.We are book punks.March 20, 2015 at 4:18 am
[…] From Ana at The Book Smugglers: […]
Fangirl Happy Hour, Episode #6 – “Misandry” | Fangirl Happy HourMarch 24, 2015 at 1:45 am
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Let’s Rock the Boat | The Practical Free SpiritMarch 24, 2015 at 11:03 am
[…] Quick recap: A critically acclaimed YA writer said a troubling and sexist thing in a public interview. Several critics have said that this writer’s portrayal of female characters leaves something to be desired. I have not read his work. (I was supposed to back in January, actually, as his latest critically acclaimed novel was a book club selection, but because I had heard of its problems, I decided to sit out that month. Life is too short, and I have way too many books to read.) As a result of this public interview, there was a public conversation about the problematic nature of this writer’s public comments and his work. There may or may not have been inappropriate behavior (aka harassment and bullying) towards this writer. I haven’t seen any evidence of it myself, but I didn’t spend a lot of time looking for it. #KeepYAKind was a Twitter campaign aimed at stopping the public criticism and conversation. The Booksmugglers write in more detail about it all. […]
The curious case of Andrew Smith, Twitter & sexism - YA InterrobangMarch 26, 2015 at 2:02 pm
[…] including Bibliodaze, Book Punks (including a separate round-up of responses to Smith), Stacked, The Book Smugglers and The Compulsive […]