Hi all! Rose here again with a Soapbox Saturday entry that, well – okay fine. I think you guys know what I’m going to write about if you’ve been around the Goodreads community lately.
Now before you say, “Oh <insert expletive of choice here>, something happened on Goodreads again?!” – I want to make a statement clear – right here, right now. I love Goodreads. I think any online community that you choose to be a part of is what you make of it. If I hadn’t been a part of this wonderful book community and discovered the wonderfully articulate and intelligent people I’ve met there (as well as discovered the many books I would’ve never read otherwise), I don’t know where I would be. It’s a great place where I’ve been able to network with other readers, authors, aspiring writers, among others.
I’m not going to mince words saying that there’s yet another malicious attack in the blogosphere involving someone with an obvious axe to grind against the community and some of its members. There are some strong assertions that it is likely the work of the same person behind what I wrote about in my last Saturday Soapbox entry. And further evidence supports this considering a comment given in one of the subsequent posts made on this compiled website.
Did you get the Peter Pan theme from the Wendy Darling/The Selection drama?
Have you profiled Wendy?
This whole mess has been way out of line. I had hoped that would be the last case of its kind that I’d have to write about and that eventually things would find its way to rights.
I was wrong, as it seems to have taken a turn off the tip of a unseen iceberg. Now it involves multiple victims, and the subsequent outing of their personal details in an attempt to intimidate and belittle them for their opinions and person.
More on this under the cut. A long entry as per usual, but I’ll break it into sections to make it easier to digest.
Introduction – The Power of Opinion and Critique
I’m going to start this entry with a bit of food for thought, just to give people something to consider before I highlight the main issue. It has to do with the concept of “revenge bullying” and oddly enough, I had time to think about this particular subject at length because of a young adult book I read in recent considerations called “League of Strays.” Granted, I did not like the book for personal and objective reasons, but I was at least glad to have the chance to think about what the subject of “revenge bullying” entails because the book touched on that very topic. Maybe it’s also worth mentioning the irony entailed with thinking about that book because it came under its own sort of controversy among some reviewers because of some scenes incorporated in the book’s content, specifically about the bullying and the rationale behind it in one of the key confrontations in the book. But it’s worth noting that L.B. Schulman responded by opening the platform to discuss the book regarding its content while also expressing her motivations for writing it. I saw that as an honorable thing to do, and I think more authors should aspire to be open to any measure of discussion and interpretation when it comes to their audiences. They don’t have to engage if they feel it’s something they disagree with, but it doesn’t have to go to the level of negative interactions that I’ve seen in the past several months of this year. One of the dimensions of reading a work is to be able to anticipate and accept various interpretations, perceptions, and ideals regarding it. There may be platforms of disagreement upon it, but those disagreements are perfectly fine to have over the construction/content of a work.
It goes beyond the scope of just positive and negative, but also considers content, character, writing style, and many other dimensions that might come on the floor. At the end of the day, we should realize that a book’s value and meaning is what we gain from either the perceptions we have of it in its entity, and/or from the experience of reading it. For each person, that can vary across a wide scale. What we choose to read is, by and large, decisions that we make for ourselves. What we think of a book is also considered in that same term.
The reason I bring this up is because, well, I think you guys recognize the power of opinion that comes across when one writes a review of a book, if one chooses to. A review can cover many different dimensions, be as long or as short as the reviewer sees fit, be as biting or as cool as they want to express it as well – or somewhere in the long medium between. There’s a certain power in this – a presence in one’s voice being able to express an opinion about anything. The services we receive, the creative works we take in, the things in our lives that make indelible impressions on us (whether in potency, in revolting context, indifference, or somewhere between). We have those freedoms – if we didn’t have them, how would we be able to cultivate new ideas, interpretations, ways of seeing the world around us? How would it be if we were all confined to the same measure of expression? It wouldn’t be the individual stamp that we all give when we open our mouths to explain the world through the lenses upon which we look upon the world.
When I created “Writing Through Rose-Tinted Glasses” in its original form, I wanted a platform to express my opinions about the media I took in. Music across an international spectrum, movies, anime, TV, books, anything I could get my hands/mind on collectively. I didn’t really think about the voice I would take on to express that. My voice IS my voice. I can be sharp, savvy and biting when I wish to be, and in other contexts, I can be gushing like a fangirl (or somewhere close to it – I’m not really the fangirl type per se. But I have my moments). The one thing I never questioned myself on this blog was my ability to be honest. I expect that, when I make the assertions that I make, you’re going to read/hear/perceive the things that I say and juxtapose it to your own experiences and interpretations. They may be similar or completely different, but regardless of that measure, it’s going to open up a gate that you may choose to step through to express your own perceptions. The discussion, regardless of tone, should be that as long as we maintain that we have the right to our individual perceptions, we can discuss them accordingly in a comfortable environment. So as long as there’s a degree of respect for our spaces and person.
Matter at hand, there seem to be people in the blogosphere with a lot of bad beefs against the Goodreads community at large, who want to control how certain (or perhaps a great deal more) members express themselves and use an extraordinary amount of belittlement and tactics to be able to do it. In this particular matter, they’re using the front of “bullying” to make their argument, and insist that it’s not reviewer critique they’re arguing against, but pervasive arguments in the form of such “bullying”.
The alleged victims in their argument? Authors. (*sighs* Here we go…)
The alleged perpetrators in their argument? Reviewers who don’t write their reviews a certain way. Or reviewers who call out authors who respond in negative outbursts against reviews they get and aren’t able to take criticism in proper context. Or reviewers who shelve their books a certain way, whether they wish to read or not read a work for their own private perusal.
So this group has taken it upon themselves to stop the bullying of authors by method of…”revenge bullying”?
Danger, Danger, Will Robinson! Uh…never mind. I’ll just explain what’s going on.
The Problematic Movement: Stop the GR Bullies – Stopping Bullying…By Bullying
Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me either, but I figure I might as well tell you the story of what happened.
A disgruntled group of four persons with varying pseudonyms created a website called “Stop the GR Bullies” in an attempt to “out” the private information of several prominent Goodreads reviewers. All of the profiled reviewers were proactive speakers against some of the various authorial/reviewer scuffles that had occurred in the community over the past several months of this year (and some a bit before that). As well, the reviewers were known for their savvy, blunt honest approach to writing reviews. In each respective outing, the creators of “Stop the GR Bullies” profiled these individual reviewers by juxtaposing their screennames with their real names, real pictures (if they could find them), where they lived, even profiling where they worked among other personal details.
The profiling information puts straight up fabrications denouncing the profiled reviewers’ lives, while also taking screenshots of their conversations in some of the authorial/reviewer clashes. And it’s disconcerting just how far these individuals go – not just in the posts themselves, but in the comment sections of the posts also. The commentary contains instances of ablelist language, misogyny, and sexual shaming so toxic that I’m refraining from posting any quotations or screenshots of it in this respective post.
I’m not even linking directly to the website because this is the kind of behavior that’s gone too far and I have no interest in putting it in a display. What I will do is talk about it, and I’ll be damned if anyone asks me to sit on my hands and stay silent about it because this behavior is sick, twisted, and puerile. It has to stop somewhere.
There have already been a number of people – bloggers and authors alike – denouncing the existance of this site and its motives. I’m including some of these links for your reading because many of them report on the issue with such expansions on why its wrong that I’m standing up cheering and happy dancing at how they strike this site down for what it’s doing. I will give my two cents about the collective issue following sharing this collection of links, however, so feel free to peruse at your discretion.
My two cents
Authors/writers and reviewers are not mutually exclusive terms. We’ve been down this road before; I don’t understand why it’s so difficult of a concept to grasp as to how we should treat each other via social media platforms, it’s not different than if you or me were talking in person about a work that we’ve read, seen, or consumed in some measure of things. It’s common sense, but apparently not so much if there are people who think the construction of that website is going to lead to something that makes things better in all of this. No, it’s straight up bullying, belittlement, and there’s no “eye-for-an-eye” in this matter – it’s crossed a line that, frankly, I don’t think can be uncrossed, unless it’s stopped where it’s started. The website needs to be shut down. No one should be threatened to the point where they can’t share their opinions of a tangible work in a public spectrum. We should be able to function in an environment where our opinions can be shared without fear of persecution or belittlement.
What gets me is that the people behind this website are adults. Adults who were likely taught better than to treat other people like this. I keep coming back to the fact that in contemporary culture with respect to children/teens/young adults, there’s a pervasive problem with bullying in the physical dimensions as well as cyberbullying, but there’s also a growing problem with the cyberharrassment of young adults/adults as well. One time may be all it takes for something horrible to happen. Do we really need to wait that long before it does? This website had no business going up in the first place, and truthfully, I do not understand why they thought this was something that was okay to do. I don’t even know why there are people who are encouraging this kind of pervasive hatred – over book reviews, no less. It doesn’t make sense.
The actions of this website, whatever intentions may’ve been behind it, could lead to someone getting stalked, hurt, or killed. Posting where someone works, lives, spends their livelihood among other factors can endanger someone’s life. Pretty much the action of what “Stop the GR Bullies” website is doing is “Hey, look at this person – go at her because of A, B, and C.” For asserting opinions.
Look, I’d like to think that on a social media platform, the space provides a way for authors/writers and readers to share a connection that bridges the gap between what it means to be in the extended media realm – it’s more intimate, and provides that more immediate one-on-one networking that perhaps, in the past, we’ve not been able to achieve. I think that’s a great thing, though it has its caveats. I think authors/writers do have to remember that there’s a degree of arms length they have to have when your book is out in the world – interact with your readers, but don’t try to control who they are or everything they want to say. Keep writing, keep promoting, keep working in a positive framework. None of us have the jurisdiction to rule other people for their opinions, and certainly, writing a negative review or shelving a book on a “not-reading” list does not constitute bullying in any measure of the word.
Heck, I have a “not-my-cup-of-tea” shelf on Goodreads, because truthfully, I do keep track of certain books I don’t choose to read for any number of reasons. The style of writing may not be my cuppa. It may be based on what little I’ve read into the book, what reviews and my friends have said about it, in addition to other factors. Shelving it as such communicates that I know people are reading this book, but I know I wouldn’t enjoy it, and it’s a way of me saying “this is my stance on the book, if you want to know whether I’m planning on reading it or not, here it is”. Sometimes I might say why, but most of the time I usually just shelve and move on. It’s not necessarily a review, and I’m not telling other people whether they should read it or not. That’s left up to them. People have the right to read what they will for whatever reasons they feel, and same goes for the decision of choosing not to read something. It’s not something that can be forced.
I think in order for things to change, it has to begin from within. I almost want to say to the members and supporters of STGRB – take a good, long look at yourselves. Look at what you’re doing, and think about it in a way that turns the tables. Would you appreciate someone doing to you what you’re doing to the people you’re profiling? No? Then why the hell are you doing it? It’s not tough love, I can assure you. Trying to stop someone from expressing an opinion by belittling their sexual preferences, or making fun of their disabilities, or accusing them of being a bad parent doesn’t cut it. It’s encouraging the hatred mentality, not speaking against it.
How do you think it would accomplish anything by threatening a person’s livelihood, even to the point where it puts them in physical danger, to be hurt, for their loved ones to be stalked and hurt? What are other constructive ways to approach it and resolve the problem? Are there other people you can reach out toward? Or how about just saying you’re sorry and owning up to your mistakes, taking a swig of humble juice while you’re at it? What harm would that do?
Point blank, the message behind STGRB is very wrong. I’m keeping the people who were victims of this “outting” website in my thoughts and I hope that it gets resolved in a responsible way. And I hope if there’s a message to be taken from the scheme of this – we all have the ability to think for ourselves, and we should be able to express our opinions and speak our pieces without violating each other’s rights or livelihoods. I think the STGRB website completely misses the point about what an author’s livelihood consists of. If you are an author, your livelihood is in the words that you write, and not trying to convince other people what your writing should entail or ostracizing someone who “didn’t get it.” Your writing should speak for itself – that’s it, don’t try to explain it – just do it. If for whatever reason you can’t conduct yourself in a civil discussion which recognizes the right of the other person to bring their perception of your work into the fray, then don’t engage. Recognize that people have different perceptions of everything (and yes, I do mean everything). People will love your work or hate it or somewhere between – that’s a given. Nothing can change that. But if you truly love the work you do, that won’t matter to you. What will matter to you, is the strength and ability you have to keep going in your particular trade. And if you focus on that, success, respect, vitality will come in its own accord.