Candy: I debated with myself long and hard about writing this. On one hand, I’m not sure what went on deserves to be dignified with a response. On the other hand, remaining silent might be interpreted as indifference, cowardice, turning a blind eye, or, worst of all, tacit approval of the shit we’ve seen being slung around in recent days. I finally decided I couldn’t keep my yap shut any longer, and the reason why I’m allowing the floodgates to open is this: ultimately, it’s not just about a specific blog, or a commenter, or a group commenters. Don’t get me wrong: I’m going to pick on one blog in particular, and pick on it hard because it exemplifies much that I find distasteful. But I want to also address an issue that I’ve seen over and over in many blogs—and I’m not just talking about romance blogs, either, though that’s what I’m going to talk about here, given the focus of this site. Essentially, there’s a type of discourse that goes along the lines of “You’re really mean, so you really need to watch your mouth, you ugly whore.” Most of the time, I shrug my shoulders and go “Eh,” or I tell myself not to let it bug me, because it’s the Internet tubes, man; sometimes, they do end up resembling dump trucks. But all that shrugging and sliding isn’t working any more.
So yeah, don’t know what brought on this rant? It exploded all over the place with what I thought was a pretty innocuous post about the presence of bloggers and author costumes at the RWA Nationals this year, but it really kind of started with this (now-deleted; praise Jah for Google caching) post at Cindy Cruciger’s (also known as FerfeLabat) about reviewers/bloggers. I’ve made jokes about how rack-obsessed that bunch is, and I’m still amused that these people found my breasteses even remotely squawkworthy, but in my opinion, the most hostile comments were directed towards Jane of Dear Author.
As the discussion about costumes got bigger and bigger over here at Smart Bitches—and let me tell you, I’m astonished this tempest in a teacup became the category 5 hurricane that it did—Cruciger and her commenters became increasingly prune-mouthed and disapproving, giving birth to two posts: one that pulled many comments, several of them out of context; and another to REALLY drive home what a buncha animals, animals we are over here.
Taking the high road is a tricky, tricky thing. If nothing else, if you indulge in the behaviors you condemn, you’re going to look like a huge, honking hypocrite. (Alliteration is always awesome.)
For example: check out this bit of commentary by Cruciger in response to Nora Roberts’ criticism of Kenyon’s ginormous swan hat: “There is such a thing as tact. It runs part and parcel with the ellusive [sic] “Professionalism” thing … I’ve heard. How is bashing an author on a public blog better than the BASH (Big-assed-swan-hat)?”
And then check out this bit of commentary by Cruciger about Jane of Dear Author: “It’s comments like that that made me think she was a 40 yo WASP. Classic disdain. You can’t buy that. You have to be born with it and it takes years to perfect.”
The double standard here is pretty staggering, especially since Nora Roberts was commenting on a) an author’s attire, and not the author herself, and b) an issue that was directly related to media perception of the romance genre and what it means to be a professional writer. I have yet to discern any sort of non-personal reason for Cruciger to post the pictures of us reviewers/commentators. She’s fond of talking about how on-line reviewers are free to snipe with impunity at authors on blogs, but I haven’t yet seen any of the review and commentary blogs—especially those with a decently large readership, like Dear Author—post photos of authors solely for personal commentary.
See what I mean? “Watch that mouth of yours, you whore.”
Keep in mind, I’m not saying I can’t understand why, say, Mancusi and Maverick felt personally attacked—because it’s natural for people to interpret these sorts of discussions as comments on their worth as persons as opposed to a debate on the viability of their choices—but I saw the thread as largely civil, while somewhat puzzling to me in its length and intensity. (I’m definitely still suffering from “Why are we so worked up about two hot chicks in tame miniskirts and stockings?” syndrome.)
The irony of Cruciger’s response becomes especially delicious when I review the comments Cruciger and some of her regulars made about our appearance for, near as I can tell, shits ‘n giggles, because that somehow gets a free pass, and then see how they howl and rage so very hard over what was said about Kenyon, Mancusi and Maverick over here at Smart Bitches. Look, I’m not denying that the discussion here was very loud and brusque in tone—but it centered on questions regarding professionalism, marketing in romance, conformity and the image of romance. I’m also not saying that people didn’t go over the line (*koff*DebSmith*koffkof*) in the 600+ comments we logged over the course of a week. But it’s important to note that NOT all of the comments were against costumes, nor were all of them critical of Mancusi, Maverick and Kenyon, as Cruciger implied when she characterized that particular thread as “taking 600 comments to to demoralize three writers.” I think the tone of the discussion here at Smart Bitches, while often hard-hitting and blunt, remained largely free of malice.
These differences in perception interest me. Certain types of people love to claim that we reviewers get to say whatever the hell we like about authors without having to face any consequences, but the people who make these claims the loudest seem to also be the ones who snipe frequently, snipe often and snipe messily at their targets. In fact, these are often people who actually HAVE targets, usually bloggers who set them off. There seems to be little awareness that what they’re doing is in any way inconsistent. What they do is a little bit of fun against thick-skinned people who know how to take it; what we reviewers/commentators/bloggers do? Is ENTIRELY different, and our victims are unsuspecting, sensitive little lambs.
Jane: I thought the debate on costumes was illuminating because not only was it a stand-in for the greater resentment felt towards the mainstream media for marginalizing romance, but also how important the issue of respect is to those careers are defined by the genre itself. It was an issue that was fraught with emotion but for the most part was spirited but not unkind. It is obvious that the two of the authors in question felt these were personal attacks and as Robin said, that would be natural. Yet, the discussion wasn’t about the person, but the idea of marketing and the time and place of appropriateness.
What grew out of this debate on Cindy Cruciger’s blog was demeaning to us all in the way that it turned a legitimate discussion into a mockery. In the rush to trample down everyone in their paths who did not hold similar beliefs, Cindy Cruciger and a group of e-published authors such as Selah March and Eva Gale engaged in the very acts that they purportedly despise: name calling, condescension, discussing personal appearance as if it had anything to do with ability or content. Cruciger engaged in a wholesale deletion of posts and comments.
I did not respond before because I felt, as I commented in the monstrous thread about costumes and bloggers, that these types of comments deserved no response merely because I felt that the point of posting it was to gain a response.
I believe that personal attacks are not appropriate and try very hard on the blog, particularly in a review, to not make it personal. If I say that the author is doing something with her books or her characters that I find objectionable, I don’t perceive that to be a personal attack. A personal attack to me would be posting a picture of an author and saying, “I can’t believe she could write a sex scene like that. She certainly doesn’t look like she could.” Which was, in essence, the gleeful statements that were made about the four bloggers on Cindy Crcuiger’s blog (which she has since deleted).
Cruciger’s blog has long been a haven for nasty comments like March’s in April when she stated “I’ve been publicly humiliated by award-winning authors in front of entire classrooms full of my peers because my stories dared to incorporate PLOT” and “Can’t please all of the people all of the time, and if you try, you might just be writing middle-of-the-road crap that alienates the people who write ME fan letters about my “gritty, realistic” characterization.” Which are as off putting to me as some believed that the verbiage from the “rebels of romance” page was. Other comments existed (until they were recently deleted) such as “Where did Karen Scott say she went on vacation again? I think someone saw her …” and then quoting the passage from a news article “Weird-Looking ‘Lake Snake’ Sought by Illinois Authorities”.
So yes, when I came across a post on Keishon’s blog and Selah March wanted to engage in a debate, I refused because I knew that I would only be subject to sarcasm and viputeration. When Cindy Cruciger posted our pictures or would make a comment about the state of DearAuthor, there was no point in responding. It seemed to me that either these people wanted the traffic from linking or that they were simply determined to be mean, neither of which deserved a response. But I suppose by remaining silent, I subjected others to this and perhaps I should have objected sooner. For that I would apologize. But, I don’t apologize for not wanting to support their careers or give them attention for which they don’t deserve.
Sarah: My reaction to both debates – the costumes and Candy’s rack – has been mostly to observe, but then, it takes a lot to set me off in general.
But my reaction to the discussion and what it turned into moved rapidly from “Holy cow” to, “Are you kidding me?” My perspective as someone who isn’t regularly called upon to defend romance, but does it anyway, is certainly different from those who posted in that thread. It’s not as if my career is based upon the genre, but for other authors, I can totally see their point. Ignoring the trolls, as is my habit, reading over Crusie, Roberts and other writer’s comments was certainly illuminating as to the other side of the debate: do costumes detract? Where is the line between fun and frippery that decreases respectability? Are costumes and dressing up in character for marketing purposes something that will be seen more frequently? Or is it reserved for other venues and not so much RWA?
But really, as Candy so rightly contrasted in her rant, how come it’s not ok for us to discuss or even question the presence of costumes, but it IS ok for others to not only discuss the presence of bloggers but comment upon our appearances and the way we look? WTF?
The amount of vitriol and cruelty was astonishing at the sites Candy linked to, and I have no patience for anyone who wants to throw mud when they don’t have anything of quality to add to the discussion – hence my decision to close comments on the original behemoth when it turned into a pile-on instead of anything meaningful.
No matter how much or how little I read on the sites Candy linked to, or in Google caches of the same, the more I’m thunderstruck. What really, really pissed me off is watching our site held up as the source of what’s wrong with the romance community online, when neither Candy, Jane, or I would ever dare criticize an author’s appearance as part of examining his or her books. There’s a line for us that we wouldn’t cross, no matter how much we didn’t like a novel. But to be accused of being the source of all that is crapful by those who cross that line blithely at our own expense is infuriating and disgusting.
That said, trolls aside, I am as usual exceptionally proud of how most of the time, folks on this site can debate and discuss topics wherein there is great disagreement operating within an environment of respect and consideration. Pity that a noxious few attempted to spoil it, but at this point, I’m happy to ignore them again.
Candy, Jane, and I debated about opening this thread to comments, because the last thing we want is a pile-on of hateration, or soothing pats on the head. However, we all agreed it was past time to respond. So in the comments, some ground rules:
1. This isn’t open season to attack us, or Cruciger, or anyone else. If you disagree with us, we trust you know how to do so respectfully. If you don’t, and post anyway, we’ll get crazy with the delete feature.
2. What we’re trying to address here is: What is a personal attack, and where should that line be drawn, if at all? Is it personal to attack authorial behavior or reviewer behavior? Can only content be criticized?
3. Please keep the discussion focused on generalities and behaviors. This isn’t an opportunity to re-hash. And please, if you reference a specific instance on another site to underscore your point, please link. If your HTML breaks, no worries – we’ll fix it.
4. Everyone: take a deep breath. Have some chocolate. Then post.