Bitch posted their 100 YA books for the Feminist Reader list, and of course, like any thing that is (a) a list (b) adorned with the word “feminist” and (c) on the internet, there was lots of discussion. And disagreement. And expressions of disappointment. Some didn’t like that certain books were left off, and some didn’t like the books that were selected, particularly those that were sexually violent or challenging to the reader’s emotional equilibrium. I can understand that – books are powerful things, but all the more reason to collect them in to one giant list to share with libraries and those looking for thoughtful reading material to share with young adult readers.
Then came this comment from post author Ashley McAllister:
A couple of us at the office read and re-read Sisters Red, Tender Morsels and Living Dead Girl this weekend. We’ve decided to remove these books from the list— Sisters Red because of the victim-blaming scene that was discussed earlier in this post, Tender Morsels because of the way that the book validates (by failing to critique or discuss) characters who use rape as an act of vengeance, and Living Dead Girl because of its triggering nature. We still feel that these books have merit and would not hesitate to recommend them in certain instances, but we don’t feel comfortable keeping them on this particular list.
We’ve replaced these books with Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley and Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden. Thanks to several commenters who pointed out the need to include these excellent books on our list. I’m excited to add a few more rad girls to our list and I can’t say how happy I am to know that there are WAY more than 100 young adult books out there that tackle sexism, racism, homophobia, etc… while presenting us with amazing young adult characters. Young adult lit has come a long way. We’re really excited to keep talking about feminist-friendly YA books on the blog.
So, sorry about those books that were scary or only able to be interpreted in one single way or somewhat triggering (and for fuck’s sake, “triggering?” Fucking adolescence itself is one big trigger of misery**!), and congrats to these also-ran authors who made the list because we caved to what a few people said.
**ETA: Let me clarify here, since some are questioning my position. I know what a trigger is – a seemingly unrelated experience that can immediately cause partial or full re-experience of a traumatic event for an individual. My ire here is at the idea that Bitch Magazine can identify all the triggers of all the potentially traumatic events of a person’s life and then protect that person by removing those books that contain those elements from their list. Removing a book because it is triggering is at the least disrespectful of anyone who has survived anything because it presumes to know better that the victim herself what is and isn’t going to affect her. Every other moment of rereading an adolescent experience could be a trigger. How do you stop them all? You can’t. And it is insulting and presumptuous to try to do so.
Oh, no. They didn’t. Seriously, I am so surprised at Bitch Magazine, I don’t quite know what to do with myself except shake my head with my jaw dropped open. It’s like the perfect storm of fandom wank, only more horrifying because FOR FUCK’S SAKE it’s Bitch Magazine. I thought they printed the original recipe for all clue-filled pastries and made other publications scared of their awesomesauce.
As you can imagine, that amendment to the list did not go over well, and oh, the unholy wtfery that has been unleashed in the comments. Leading the charge of WTF? is author Scott Westerfeld, who wrote,
Let’s get this straight: You put Tender Morsels on your list without having read it, then saw a handful of outraged comments appear. So you reread Tender Morsels, swiftly and with those comments uppermost in your mind, then decided they HAD to be right.
Did you talk to anyone in the non-outraged camp first? To those feminists who originally recommended it? Did you engage in a rigorous discussion at all? Or did you just cave?
1) Please remove my book Uglies from the list. It’s an embarrassment to be on it.
2) Perhaps change your name to something more appropriate, like EasilyIntimidatedMedia. After all, the theme of Tender Morsels is that one must eventually leave a magical, fabricated safe haven for (sometimes brutal) reality. The theme of this blog would appear to be the exact opposite.
Bitch Media responded by saying that they “hope that even those of you who disagree with the decision to remove the books from the list understand that, as a feminist, reader-supported organization, if members of our audience contact us and tell us something that we’re recommending might be triggering for rape victims, we’re going to take that seriously. That being said, please feel free to voice your dissent here; we take that seriously also.”
So if there’s enough dissent, you’ll put the books back? Way to completely eradicate the value of the list in the first place, cave to those who shriek loudest, and bend with the remover to remove. Westerfeld is not the only author to express outrage and revulsion. Author Maureen Johnson also commented:
I was absolutely delighted to see my book, The Bermudez Triangle, on this list when it was published. I’m a fan of the magazine. But I have been incredibly disheartened to see your process for removing books. It mirrors EXACTLY the process by which book banners remove books from schools and libraries—namely, one person makes a comment, no one actually checks, book gets yanked.
You’ve removed Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan. I think that’s a disgrace. You were right the first time, when you put it on.
Ladies, feminist media should be held to the highest standard. This kind of waffling and caving on comments is no good. Lots of people would have LOVED to use this list for educational purposes, but it’s such a mess now that no one wants near it.
I request that either you get a grip or remove me from this list. If Margo is removed, I’d like to be removed with her. And please remember that young feminists are looking up to you. When they see you so easily intimidated, so easily swayed, so eager to make concessions . . . it sets exactly the wrong example.
(As a side note, if you want to read a fantastic bit of “mansplaining” and condescending crapfiesta, there’s a comment like that in there, too. Please have flasks ready to drink with every other line.)
I honestly can’t process the whole thread, except with exclamations of “What?” “Wait, really?” “BITCH? NOooooooOOOooooOOo!” I mean, of all the publications online with Big Girl Pants and stone cold badassery on a daily basis, BITCH would pull this type of “Oh, noes, it hurt someone’s feelings, that scary scary literature?” I never thought I’d see the day when Bitch Media would be following the playbook of the Humble, Texas, Teen Lit Fest, which disinvited author Ellen Hopkins because of one librarian who didn’t like Hopkins’ books or their subject matter.
I’m shaking my head like you would not believe. As you might imagine, I’m a fan of Bitch Magazine and have been a subscriber and supporter of their not-for-profit mission and ad-free publication. I don’t always agree with them, but I usually have their back on most anything. But, oh, holy wafflepants.
Bitch, please. Don’t do shit like this.
ETA: You know how books that make A List, A Really Important List, get stickers and insignia and stuff? I have some for Bitch Media. Here, you can has them.