Brigade of Bitches

pitchforks-and-torches

Some of you may know that I’m a voracious reader. I tend to average a couple of books per week, sometimes more if I’m caught up in a good series. I read very fast and can usually devour 2 or three books in a weekend when the mood catches me.

I’ve been a huge reader ever since I was little. I think I mentioned in a previous post how my dad once grounded me from reading for a whole summer. It was painful. I used to sneak books into the bathroom so I could feed my literary habit in the privacy of the loo.

Now, as you can imagine, this type of habit can get pretty expensive. As much as I love Amazon’s convenient “one-click” payment method, it can also be dangerous how easy that little button can be. About a year ago, after seeing a long, long line of accumulated book charges on my monthly statement, I realized I was going to have to change a few things.

That’s when I developed my love for Amazon’s free kindle books and the emergence of indie authors. At first, it started out as a way to buy less expensive books. I lucked out, one of the first indie authors I came across was Hugh Howey and his Wool Omnibus.

What a great way to make a first impression! Hugh Howey’s writing is, in a word, beautiful. He has a talent for prose and character development and I found his world building in that book remarkable. After reading Wool, I was actually so impressed, that I decided to see if he had an author’s page or any other books out there.

Mind you, as much as I had been a reader before, I’d never been spurred to actually cross that invisible barrier between reader and author. I’m not sure exactly why. I think it had to do with the fact that they seemed so “official” and inaccessible with their publishing houses taking the frontline point for them.

I think it helped that Hugh Howey was just an independent guy who had written this book and was trying to make his own way. It made me feel like he was more accessible to a random reader such as myself. Whatever the reason, I went googling and searching to see if he had an author page or if there was any more information I could learn.

Lo and behold, there was! He had his own little blog up and running with friendly posts and little videos he had made of him dancing for joy about reviews posted on Amazon and sending out boxes of books to fans. It was exciting for me to discover that not only were there more books from this great author, but he was a happy, humble man, easy to contact, and caring towards his readers. He seemed very genuine and authentic.

And, I’m happy to say, that initial impression has born out over the past year and half that I’ve been following him via Facebook and his forums. It’s been a joy to witness his success blossom and grow out past the usual indie barriers and into more traditional means of media and publishing success.

Unfortunately, that has also exposed him to more criticism and the fickle vagaries of fame. You know the old saying, “You can’t please all of the people all of the time…” I think Hugh got his first taste of that this past week when there was some blowback from a previous blog post he had made.

The post was talking about his interactions with a woman at WorldCon while standing in line for the HUGO awards. He had been having a lovely conversation with a couple of aspiring Canadian writers, and she had come up and started demeaning indie publishing, insisting she had an agent they should talk to, and basically making an ass out of herself.

Hugh (who hadn’t been recognized, chose to stay anonymous, and NOT offer up his many successes and “credentials”) listened to this spiel and was not only offended, but sad about the misconceptions and biases that persist towards indie authors today.

In relaying this story, he titled the post “The Bitch from WorldCon.” He has since taken it down, but a quick Google search will give you access to a full transcript, if you’d like one.

In it, he describes how, as he was watching the Hugo awards ceremony, he had a daydream of one day being able to stand up there at the podium and basically telling the traditional media and all the people looking down at indie authors off. Kind of a proverbial flipping them the bird or telling them to suck it.

The whole post was written tongue in cheek with a bit of snark and wit and bravado mixed in. Sometimes, you get into situations that just fill you with piss and vinegar and you want to scream, “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, you’re cool, and fuck you- I’m out.”

Especially when you’ve been in a situation where the odds were so stacked against you (and still are) and you’ve found some way to climb out of the hole they’ve arbitrarily dropped you in. Who hasn’t felt that way at one point or another?

Well, unfortunately, there was a bit of an internet mini-storm over Hugh’s post. A whole army of indignant men and women swarmed the blogosphere and Hugh’s site to let him know they objected to his use of the word “bitch,” and the overall crotch grabbing tenor of his post. (I won’t insult the term “feminist” by referring to them as such. Instead, let’s call them the Outrage Brigade.)

They were quick to rake him over the coals, lambaste him up and down, and label him a sexist, mysogynistic pig who is also (probably, who can say, really…) a would-be rapist. When he responded with the fact this was written tongue in cheek and those who know him realize it should be taken with a bit of humor, they cried louder that not only was he all of these things, but now his friends, family and readers who would DARE read this in the manner it was intended were ALSO all of these things.

Here’s an exact response to what I’m referring. This Outrage Brigade responder goes by Djinni. She quotes him and then goes from there.

(Hugh)”I also made the mistake of assuming the readers of my blog have the context of my life and my actions that my friends and family have. I forget that strangers read my blatherings. When I post something, I have in mind the small group who know me well enough to know when my tongue is planted firmly in my cheek or when I’m joking.”

(Djinni) “In other words, my friends and family are also misogynist assholes. Good to know…” She goes on to add, “Nice try, thanks for playing, but you fail at apologies – “

So, he backed down even further. He apologizes again and said he didn’t realize that people would take it so seriously and that it would be perceived this way. He meant no offense and feels terrible. He’d remove the awful, disgusting post in order to not exacerbate the problem and really hoped they would accept his apology.

But, of course, that wasn’t good enough. He needed to be humiliated. He needed to REALLY UNDERSTAND just how awful his transgression was. He needed to PAY for all of the injustices and evil things that men JUST LIKE HIM do in this terrible, sexist world. And, of course, they were just the people to do it. Light the effigy, folks, this motherfucker is gonna burn!

Well, I hope my dear readers can hear my eyes rolling as I type this.

Anybody who has been following my blog for sometime would know that I’m a feminist. I strongly believe in equality between sexes and am certainly not afraid of loudly speaking out when I see unfair shit happening. If you haven’t been around for awhile and don’t know what I’m talking about, then please take a moment to read my past posts “Republicans and Rape” or “Females and Fair Sex” to get a taste of what I’m referring to.

I can honestly say, after reading Hugh Howey’s post, I was not offended. I understood what he was trying to say. Intent and context should count for something, imo. This means considering the person who has said it, the body of his work, past actions and the actual situation at hand.

For people who are familiar with his work, they’ll notice that some of his best known series have strong, fiercely independent women as the main characters and heroines, including his Wool series, as well as his Molly Fyde series.

Fans know that he has a warm and loving relationship with his wife and sister. No, I don’t know him personally. In fact, I can base all of this in how he talks about and refers to his wife in videos and how he interacts with his sister through various social media means. The mutual love and respect is obvious for anybody who cares to see it.

What I was deeply offended by was the manner in which these people came to his blog and tried to make their points.

Take this for example:

A lady comes onto Hugh’s blog and says “I read the original post. I took it as humorous, as though you were talking it up with a group of friends. I’m sorry you caught the attention of the PC police but hey, you got a new reader out of it, so it’s not all bad.”

To which one of the Outrage Brigade replied, “There’s no “PC Police,” there’s only “decent people,” and as a woman, you have a lot to thank them for.”

Um, what?

One of the things that always strikes me as odd are the people who are SO LOUDLY FEMINIST who assume that all women would – or should – feel the same about a given situation.

Yes, I’m a feminist. No, I was not offended by Hugh’s post. Does that mean I should feel thankful that these people have come up on their feminine white horses to save me from my ignorance? Should I be thanking them for defending their definition of “decent people” for all woman-kind on my behalf?

No. And you want to know why? Because, part of being a feminist is understanding that women come in many variations and are all different. Part of being a feminist is knowing that you can’t put us all in a little box and label it “woman.”

Part of being a feminist is recognizing the fact that being a feminist is simply demanding to start with the assumption that we be treated equally and fairly…and letting our OWN ACTIONS dictate where we go from there. This lady at WorldCon did not get called a bitch because she was a woman. She acted like a bitch, and therefore earned her title fairly.

Another person named Margaret left a response saying: “No apology was required, Hugh. I don’t believe very many of the people who protested were sincere about their outrage. Unless they live on a different planet. Recreational outrage is common in the social media, from message boards to FB etc. Don’t sweat it.”

To which another member of the Outrage Brigade named annieonymous replied: ““Recreational” outrage IS REAL OUTRAGE. You are clearly a heterosexual white upper-middle-class literate able-bodied cisgender male and have seriously and genuinely NO CONCEPT of living with oppression. Social media gives a voice and a space for outrage, not a playground. “

Seriously? Sometimes I’m just astounded when faced with this level of hypocrisy. Really, truly and utterly flabbergasted. Here we are, being told very loudly and forcefully that using gender specific insults and male dominated stereotypes is WRONG. But apparently, it’s OK to make HUGE, massively stereotypical judgments about race, class, economics, education, etc.

How do these two concepts and behaviors manage to live in one person’s head? Do they not see how they could be mutually exclusive? Also, did she really not notice that the original poster was named “Margaret,” which I suppose could be a guy, but is more than likely a woman? Talk about snap judgements!

Another thing, let’s talk about this word bitch for a moment. Yes, it means a female dog and used to be used specifically when referring to a woman. However, the fact is, language is fluid and changes over time. Words that were once OK to use may not be any longer, and vice-versa.

I don’t think bitch is gender specific anymore, and I know I’m not alone in that thought. Some people don’t even consider it an insult. (Think Tina Fey, “Bitch is the New Black.”)

To me, bitch as a verb means being mean, whiny, disagreeable, despicable, condescending, etc. Someone who does those things is a bitch. Men can be bitches just as easily (and as often) as women. Calling someone a bitch doesn’t make a person sexist.

I’m not saying words aren’t important. As a blogger and aspiring writer, I think the words we choose are very important. However, what’s even more valuable are the meanings and actions behind the words. I think this is a case where people are getting so caught up in the details that they’re missing the big picture.

You know what I find sad, a little funny, and ironic about this whole thing? By making something this small such a big deal it actually detracts from the valuable conversation and work still left to be done for gender equality.

We have serious issues in this country when our politicians can refer to things such as “legitimate rape,” girls get raped and then subsequently slut shamed into committing suicide, and women are still fighting for the right to be equally paid for equal work (having it as a law is one thing, putting it into practice another.) I think feminism is a worthy and just cause.

Personally, I feel people have magnified this whole situation so out of proportion. I don’t think calling bitchy behavior bitchy is a mistake. Using the word bitch does not make you a misogynist, sexist or a potential rapist or any of the other absurd things I’ve seen in response to that post.

The fact is, if the Outrage Brigade have that much time on their hands, then they ought to be doing something better with themselves. Maybe they could go crusade against female genital mutilation, volunteer at a woman’s shelter or other just cause. Hounding a poor indie author from the comfort of their couch and keyboard is hardly going to do or achieve what they obviously feel SO passionately about.

In the end you’re left with a guy who has been made to feel like shit, apologized, had his apology tossed back in his face, been expected to grovel for forgiveness to people who aren’t inclined to either read his works or get to know him, for an offense he clearly did not intend. Oh, and his name has been smeared by a myriad of armchair activists.

This whole kerfuffle seems like such a sad waste of energy. I have a better idea…let’s dance instead!

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12 comments on “Brigade of Bitches

  1. Awesome post. And Soulja Boy FTW!

  2. anniesbc says:

    Love it. Keep up the good fight.

  3. Love the post Janyaa. Thanks for taking the time to put into words what so many of us have been feeling about all of this!

  4. Judy Smith says:

    Oh, I love this. Delicious thoughts and spot on. I’m going to see if I can leave you a link to one of my posts about reading …

    http://playingfortimeblog.com/2013/01/29/my-life-in-books-2/

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