Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney
rozk

Sometimes things become very clear

Actually, they became pretty clear for me with the outing of coffeeandink and Elizabeth Bear's long post, of which more in a second. This though is so far beyond the limits of the acceptable that I cannot stay silent - which I have done, in accordance with my earlier post, and a general feeling that much of the heat and rancour involved in all of this might disappear if all Us White Folks (on all 'sides') shut up for a bit and listened.

No matter how principled Kathryn Cramer's objections to the pseudonyms of online life, and no matter how bitter her experiences with right-wing idiots trashing her from behind handles over her anti-war writings, you do not break a universally accepted convention - viz. that online handles are sacrosanct - by arbitrarily over-turning that convention in a particular instance. When you do that, and people quite rightly get angry with you, you do not threaten to sue without very good reason, and you above all do not start applying for TOS of people on the other side in a row.

You do not do this because it is a general assault on freedom of speech.
You also do not do this because it makes your 'side' look bad.
You also do not do this because it ensures that a whole area of fannish life is going to be rendered toxic for the forseeable future - OK that had pretty much happened already, but there were, prior to this, some hopes that in due course Wiser Counsels Might Prevail.

You also do not do this when some people are already calling for other people to be banned from conventions, or at least saying that they will not go to conventions those people attend and will tell the organizers that is why - which frankly is a distinction without a difference - and asking for a gazeteer of an entire section of fandom's family, friends and associates so that no-one talks to the wrong faction by mistake, or actively disrecommending writers' books over their politics. After KC's actions, those making those demands look reasonable; she has ensured that we go on reaping bitter harvests for years.

*****

I am also vexed by this and most especially by this:

It's my fault because I accepted criticism of my book that I knew to be untrue, that I knew to be based on a shallow and partial reading (a reading of the first chapter of a 160,000-word novel), because I felt it was important to serve as an example of how to engage dialogue on unconscious institutional racism.

I wanted to be part of the solution, and make it a teaching experience, rather than responding with hurt and defensiveness. I wanted the dialogue to be about racism and how to combat it, rather than about me.


In other words, confronted with a reading of the first few chapters of Blood and Iron that her critic felt strongly enough about that she had not read further - a reading which, while I think it is probably wrong for the book as a whole, is certainly reasonable and arguable for those chapters, Elizabeth Bear feigned acquiescence in rebuke in complete bad faith rather than engaging like a grown-up person talking to another grown-up person. I have felt all along that Willow had a point, but that Bear had folded too easily given the text in question; at the very least, Willow rightly pointed out that the enslaved rapist is a trope which, when associated with dark skin, has worrying precedents, however non-ethnically specific the character is. If that folding was an evasion of discussion, it becomes a lie.

This is discreditable, also, because it means that any pro forma acknowledgements of the possibility of unconscious racism or whatever by a member of the hegemonic group will now be interrogated from the start with a stronger burden of proof. By apologizing insincerely, Elizabeth Bear has poisoned discourse, whatever her good intentions.

In the end, her refusal to engage looks horribly patronizing, and patronizing someone with less power than yourself is always offensive.

And everything else in this poisonous mess derives from that single act of bad faith.

What have we learned from this, children? Honesty is always wise, even when not prudent.

Later OK, my house, my rules. I have had to deal with a number of complaints of unpleasant and malicious language being used in comments here and am asking future commenters to think before they post. Do not assume that people are lying, malicious toerags, please. Do not assume that your 'side' is exclusively made up of the good, the true and the nice.

In short, behave!!!

Later still I will be specific because the above seems too vague. I made this post because I felt that Elizabeth Bear had been at fault. She has chosen - and I thank her for it - to come here and discuss the matter at some length. When I accused her of bad faith, I did so on the basis of the clear evidence of her own unequivocal words. This does not entitle people constantly to rail on and on and on in my LJ about their doubts as to her sincerity now. You are all guests here and you will behave. The mocking phrase 'white women's tears' ought to apply both to those about whom it was originally used and to those White Allies who sometimes seem to feel that their righteousness entitles them to be mean. I would ask those POCs who are commenting to respect my wishes as well - there is the whole internet to be rude and I wish people to be polite on my turf.

So, no more accusations of trolling, no more demands that people suspend loyalties to friends and no more being mean.

I am also unsure that endless me-tooism is a useful form of discourse, and I would ask all of you, and this applies my friends to my friends too, only to make substantive comments for a while, much as I love you all.

Above all, as Kate Bornstein always says, the most important thing is NOT TO BE MEAN.
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