Love doesn’t always inspire love and jokes don’t always lead to laughter, but snark always generates more snark.
Someone is wrong on the internet 24/7.
I’m pointing all this out not because I think you don’t know it, but because I want you to know that I do.
I don’t like the idea of calling Goodreads out, because I don’t like some of the company that puts me in. Just for the record, I’m not any more sympathetic with the nonsense over on “Stop The Goodreads Bullies” than I ever was before.
I have posted negative book reviews. I have seen negative posts about my own writing on plenty of sites.
I have also dealt with in-person bullying, including a man who delivered his screaming death threats right at my back door.
I can tell you, in loving detail, the difference between reading mean words about my work and feeling personally menaced.
Not to put too fine a point on it, STGRB is full of donkey spit.
Now: please give me some feedback, because I may be closing my Goodreads account and I want to know if you think I’m overreacting.
As I said, I’ve posted snarky reviews on Goodreads. I like to be the one who slogs through whatever book people are currently freaking out about.
I learned a lot about writing, writers, and readers by making my way through Outlander, Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl, and the Twilight books. (Spoiler alert: The last book in that series is actually pretty good. It isn’t bad, anyway. Bella stops letting Edward walk all over her. She becomes a strong, active character who stands up for herself and the people she loves. Oh, and one time she totally yells at Edward for being a moody pain in the butt. That was fun.)
Anyway. I learned a lot reading these books. I enjoyed posting frequent updates and then writing reviews that attempted to address larger issues. I grappled with what I see as dangerous sexism in Twilight. I addressed who has the “right” to write about a book in my review of Not That Kind of Girl. I freaked out about the beating scene and the rape rape rape rape rape in Outlander.
The authors of these books have fiercely devoted fans, to put it mildly. I did not mince words – and I mostly only got respectful, intelligent, engaged responses to my reviews.
Of course I fielded some nonsense. A guy who friended me out of the blue (I still don’t know how he even learned who I was) blocked me after I started posting about Twilight, because those are his favorite books in the world and he can’t bear to hear anything bad about them.
I don’t blame him for finding my posts hard to take. When I was in my twenties, it would have been hard for me to be calm if someone talked trash about, say, Jane Eyre.
Granted, this guy could have just unfriended me, or unsubscribed from my posts until I finished the series. I actually posted a heads-up about the fact that I’d be reading and snarking out about Twilight, because a lot of my Goodreads friends like Meyer’s work. Blocking is a bit extreme, and is generally reserved for trolls. But that was his choice and his right.
It was a choice he apparently went on to regret, since once he learned that I’d posted a negative review of Outlander, he created a new Goodreads identity in order to be able to post comments.
The first time he said “It wasn’t rape she was asking for it” [sic], I decided I wasn’t interested in having that conversation. I also didn’t feel like having that comment on my review, so I deleted it.
My review, my choice. He can post his opinion on his review.
I’ve fielded plenty of “your review is wrong and so are you” comments. I was annoyed when a commenter couldn’t be bothered to write a review of her own on her Goodreads page, but posted a spirited defense of Barbara Ehrenreich’s Living With A Wild God in the comment section of my review. This was a book I expected to love and ended up loathing. My review was reasonably well liked, and the commenter seemed to me to be trying to get her own ideas more widely read than they would have been if she’d simply posted her own review.
But I’d trash-talked a book she liked and I couldn’t very well blame her for responding. I didn’t agree with her, but she wasn’t being offensive. So I let her comment stand.
I tend to do that.
I don’t tend to put up with men saying “she was asking for it” when it comes to rape, whether it’s real or on the page, so I deleted it again when he posted that sentiment a second time. I could have engaged him in debate, but I didn’t feel like it. I wasn’t going to change his mind, and I had better uses for my limited time and energy.
He posted the comment a third time, and this time I deleted and then blocked him. Enough’s enough.
Notice that I didn’t run crying to the Goodreads’ authorities, whining about the bad man who said icky stuff on my review. I dealt with it. His comments weren’t lovable, but they were within the realm of acceptable albeit annoying.
Now: what if he’d said, “It wasn’t rape she was asking for it bitch”?
I think that shouldn’t be considered okay at all.
Specifically, I think that comment would cross the line between being my problem and being something Goodreads should have to do something about.
Interestingly, the commenter in question did attempt to call me a bitch publicly, elsewhere. On this blog, in fact. I’m in control of the comments that are posted here, and I didn’t accept that one when he submitted it.
Again: I didn’t overreact. I didn’t engage. I didn’t contact his family. Or his employer. I certainly didn’t call him. I had plenty of options, because like many trolls, this one doesn’t seem to realize how much information about himself he’s left scattered across the internet. (Hint: I could have done all of the above and plenty more.) But that wouldn’t have been appropriate, and it wouldn’t have been worth the hassle – not when it was far, far easier to just delete, block, and move on with my life.
Deleting and blocking and moving on are what you do when the situation is your problem.
It’s your problem when, say, you don’t like a neighbor or classmate or colleague. If their behavior is annoying but legal, you have to grit your teeth and deal. If it’s a big enough bummer, you can move or put in for a transfer or even quit your job. But it’s a big world and there are a lot of idiots in it and we all have to deal with them sometimes.
It’s your problem when your neighbor leaves his Christmas decorations up until March, or someone at the table next to yours at the local café won’t stop yacking.
By “your problem,” I mean: oh, well. That’s life. Deal with it.
It is no longer your problem if your neighbor screams threats every time he sees you, or the guy at the café table next to yours won’t stop making crude sexual remarks to you. “Not your problem” means you can hand this to someone else because we have a system in place (in theory, at least) to deal with this kind of thing.
I’ve spoken to and read about victims of sexual harassment in schools that don’t seem to grasp this concept. The young women in question are sometimes told to dress differently, or instructed “not to engage.” Sometimes they’re the ones who are switched to a different class from their tormenter.
All of this implies that the young women are in the wrong basically for existing, and that this is the kind of behavior you have to put up with if you’re going to be out and female.
Targeting someone solely for her gender, sexual orientation, race, or religion is what’s known as engaging in hate speech.
There’s a reason that guy who became weirdly obsessed with my Goodreads reviews didn’t call me a bitch there. He was also faultlessly polite when he latched on to my Facebook writer page, which is public.
Calling someone a bitch is not the same as calling her an illiterate moron, or a jerk, or a bad writer. “Bitch” is a gender-based insult. Gender-based insults cross a line.
Please tell that to Goodreads.
Goodreads has decided that a guy who just told me to take out my tampon is engaging in unpleasant but acceptable speech.
I don’t know this guy. I wasn’t talking to him. I wasn’t reviewing his book, or a book written by a friend of his. I wasn’t even snarky, which is weird for me.
Months and months ago I wrote a review of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. This guy randomly latched on to my review. Out of nowhere, he told another commenter that she is “very, very dumb,” and then made the lovely tampon comment to me.
Not okay. No longer my problem.
Oh, and he’s a Goodreads librarian.
Definitely not my problem.
I flagged the comments; and then, when I got no response, I sent a letter to Goodreads explaining that they needed to take care of this guy.
I just got a note back from an unnamed Goodreads representative. He or she told me that – well, I’ll let them speak for themselves.
We’re so sorry to hear about this situation! In cases like this, we’d recommend blocking the user. He won’t be able to message you, comment on your posts, or otherwise interact with you.
This is my problem, in other words.
I’m surprised they didn’t suggest I change my user photo and start going by a pseudonym or my initials, so strangers can’t tell I have girlyparts.
Am I out of my mind?
Well, yes. I think that was settled when I decided to title my first novel How To Write A Mutant Bestseller.
But what I mean is: how is this comment not blatantly, plain and simple, newsflash-from-the-land-of-Duh obviously unacceptable?
It’s clearly about my gender rather than anything I wrote. Here, judge for yourself:
You miss why this is an iggynorunt play! We know there never were any witches. However, there were Commies in US gov. So, as a parable it’s political hokum. Meantime, pull out the rag and thiMk.
This is my problem, Goodreads? Seriously?
This is the kind of comment you don’t mind someone making on your site?
This is how you like your librarians to talk to other members?
Up until that last sentence, it’s just business as usual. I don’t know that I’d have bothered to answer it, especially since I haven’t been too active on Goodreads lately and anyway I don’t quite understand what he’s talking about (“iggynorunt”?); but I’d have been content to leave it up and let other readers puzzle it out if they so chose.
That last sentence crosses a line.
Let me know what you think, because what I think is that if Goodreads is okay with this, I’m not okay with Goodreads.