Thank You for Being Honest

At the RT booksigning on Saturday, someone came up to meet me. I absolutely love putting faces to names that I read online. When this very kind and interesting person left, she said, “Thank you for being honest.”

I loved that. I so appreciate when people let me know that they enjoy the site, and I love how she put it: “Being honest.” There’s no implication of acceptance or even of agreement with what I say. But there is acknowledgment of honesty, and its value. 

At the panel Jane and I gave Thursday about blogging, I said that any person who participates online has to understand that internet marketing is not a zero-sum game. There isn’t a winner/loser relationship in marketing online. Using some buzzwords, online public relationships are horizontal in nature, and so is the marketing. You can’t beat someone else because there’s no time limit or goal to be reached in online community establishment. Horizontal marketing creates a collaborative community of group success.

Jaye Wells put it better when she hand-sold a copy of my book to someone who had stopped to meet her (Thank you Jaye): “Any book that sells is good for all of us.” Amen to that.

When you’re talking about blogs, though, you’re not talking about selling a product. Blogs like mine or Dear Author or Romancing the Blog or Ramblings About Romance or any of us are about the community and about the experience of interacting with that community. Kassia Krozser called us online blog reviewers “Curators” recently, and I have to say, even with the pretentious museum undertones, I really like that word. But even within our own sites, we’re part of the larger network of romance blogs. We’re not trying to sell you anything except the opportunity for conversation, which, except for the cost of your internet connection, is free. If you buy a book we recommend, great! If you didn’t like it and want to explain why? EVEN BETTER!

Moreover, since hard sell techniques don’t work online, authenticity and generosity are our currency. Consistency, in content and in boundaries, is part of what builds the community. Hard-sell tactics and competition do not work.

Take Jane and Dear Author and our working relationship. Dear Author is probably our biggest competitor, and our audiences overlap a great deal. We do similar things, but not the same things, and our voices and our content are definitely distinct. But I can’t go to Jane’s site and say to her readers, “You shouldn’t read her! You should read us!” I can’t steal readers from Dear Author any more than they could swipe readers from me. We can’t beat one another in some online competition, because, frankly, there isn’t one.

If we disagree, we disagree. It’s not like lines are drawn in the sand and in order to be a true and recognized member of their community you have to swear not to read Smart Bitches, or vice versa.

But if we work together every now and again, we increase both our audiences. We strengthen what each of our sites can accomplish. We definitely do not always agree, but we can work together, simply because “I disagree with you” does not automatically mean, “I don’t like you.”

The thing is, I thought this was obvious. Anyone who conducts themselves online has to have seen the collaborative success concept in action, and even unknowingly practiced horizontal marketing. I figured that in the fractious but largely functional online romance community, even those of us who disagree most frequently would be able to work together for the simple point that in essence, we’re all doing the same thing with the same goal: creating community based on common love of romance novels.

Which is why Michelle Buonfiglio’s comments at the close of the Princeton University “Love as the Practice of Freedom?” conference were so confusing, asinine, and terribly, insultingly wrong.

The foundation of the conference was one of inclusion: academic institutions should steadfastly welcome scholarship on romance novels and view the analysis and critical attention as equal to the professional projects in any other field when it comes to tenure, promotion and professional advancement.

Basically, the conference existed in part to give an appropriate platform to those scholars so as to help legitimize the scholarship they’ve conducted already. And given the amazing things I heard, the sooner they are recognized for their contributions, both to academic study and to the romance genre, the better for everyone.

Increased collaboration from every direction can only yield greater improvement for the collaborating bodies. The more people on the platform, the greater the strength of the platform itself.

(Are you smelling a theme, here?)

Seeing Buonfiglio’s use of that collaborative platform for self-promotion by way of denigrating other bloggers, and I felt myself unmistakably included in her tirade, was utterly inappropriate. She herself perpetrated exactly what the conference itself was against: an insistence there should be selective attention paid only to those who are defined as acceptable using inconsistent and defective standards, leaving anyone deemed inadmissible and nonconforming outside of the accepted boundaries:

When those who gather romance communities nurture heat, they invite and instigate their viewers to reactionary, inflammatory commentary that doesn’t just ‘feel bad’ to a lot of people, it literally reduces the commentary’s relevance….

Translation: if you’re not saying something nice, you’re not and should not be relevant. In essence, she argued against the freedom the conference was celebrating. I was not feeling the love.

I did ask Buonfiglio personally via email why she attacked me, and in her reply she said that she did not, that her comments were not about me. When I asked for clarity as to which community she was talking about in her presentation, I received none. When I asked permission to post a portion of her reply here, she said no. Even with that partial reassurance, I remain unconvinced that her comments were not meant to address me or the community at Smart Bitches, and because her diatribe is not specific and therefore includes all the communities online, I find no other option than to reply in this venue. Buonfiglio’s decision to label and dismiss communities as a whole without specific identification requires a response.

I’m irritated to be writing this in the first place, because the flaws of her statement seem so obvious, and because it detracts from the amazing work and absolutely stellar job that Professors Gleason and Selinger did in assembling the sessions and collecting this group of individuals to address one another. The most telling indication that something amazing was happening was that as students from Princeton joined the group, none of them left. In one case, they left, came back and brought more people with them. It was, to use a cliched term, electric.

Originally, I hadn’t planned on saying much about Buonfiglio’s rage against the undefined meangirls, even though the experience of sitting next to a diatribe against a community I’m proud of from a person I’ve never had a negative conversation with was not one I wish to repeat. Her behavior, and her decision to post the whole of her speech on her site, speaks for itself. More than one person noticed the possibility that the remarks were addressed to me, or to Dear Author, even as she was speaking.

Ironically, her ranting against tempests creates one, one that detracts from the real illumination of that conference: the scholarship of incredibly dedicated and holy crapping damn smart people focused on the genre that we love.

What I can’t quite comprehend is the idea that only some communities are valid, and that others, for reasons of behavior or topics discussed, are not worthy of study. And that the researchers in the room should be careful of what they look at lest they look at the wrong thing. Isn’t that what department chairs and tenure review committees say when someone appears before them with a lengthy list of scholarly articles and conference presentations that examine romance novels? That those scholars wasted their time on the wrong subject?

I personally don’t give a flying crap what is said about me. Really, if you don’t like me because of the website or because of something I’ve said, I’d like to hear your opinion and welcome the dialogue with you. But I absolutely will not stand for any slur or dismissal or calls for marginalization of the community of readers who come to Smart Bitches or any other romance site. Our site isn’t about me or Candy; it’s about our community, and the people who frequent our discussions as commenters or as lurkers are the most valuable element of our site.

The truth is, if anyone is to be marginalized, I don’t think it will be any of the communities of readers that exist online. And it absolutely shouldn’t be the people who spoke before she did. The argument Buonfiglio introduced is tired and outdated and rests on antiquated stereotypes that are still too prevalent in the romance community. The pressure to conform and to deliver palliative reassurance without criticism, or even justifiable anger, is not progress. And it sure as hell isn’t freedom.

Ms. Buonfiglio, I think you are incorrect in your assessment of online communities, and your behavior was embarrassing for me and for all of us who spend our time engaging with romance readers online. Moreover, your conduct was all the more deplorable for the setting in which you chose to introduce your opinion. However, I thank you for being honest.

Now, then. Let’s look at the good stuff.


Ranty McRant

Comments are Closed

  1. KeriM says:

    Sarah, I think you did a fantastic job of standing up for all of us “idiots” out here in the jungles of romancelandia unable to think for ourselves. You are a much better woman that I will ever be to set there like the lady that you are and be insulted by Michelle without punching her out…or at least putting a fart cushion under her as she sat back down…lol. My hat is off to you. 🙂 
    PS her site is as boring and plain as dry bread left out in the sun too long.

    Spamword: usually27(seconds)….have ya’ll been peeking in my bedroom at me and my hubby with a stopwatch….Stop it!!! 😉

  2. GrowlyCub says:

    I met her at Lori Foster’s last year and wasn’t impressed.  Thought then she was thinking she was something better than the rest of us and this certainly doesn’t improve my opinion of her.  I really hope folks will take a look and make sure not to invite her any longer to let her talk in this denigrating fashion about the readers of romance.  We have enough detractors without one of ‘us’ (questionable, really questionable) doing the dirty work for those detractors.

    Shame on her!

  3. Teddypig says:

    The real question is…

    Is she really gonna attract people by implying they are sheep?

    As a fellow “mean girl” who openly invites heated debate let me express my displeasure through quoting the timeless singer P!NK…

    Keep your drink just give me the money
    It’s just you and your hand tonight

    I think that about sums it up right there.

  4. Lady T says:

    I’m all for positivity online and off,but much of what this lady had to say leaves a bad aftertaste in my mouth. Several of her comments came off as severely elitist, for example:

    “I’m not so presumptuous as to thank you on behalf of all romance readers. But on behalf of my online community of readers – from those who didn’t make it through high school to the doctoral candidates and everyone in between – I thank you for welcoming to Princeton and acknowledging as important the books about which we care deeply.”

    Thank you for being so humble there,Ms. Uriah Heep! Also, why bring the educational level of your readers into this? This little tidbit bothered me too:

    “You know, the first fan letter I got after RBTB went online was from a woman who apparently never met either Strunk or White. But she was eager to let me know she appreciated having a place to go online where she could talk about romance without anyone making her feel embarrassed – especially not other romance readers. She told me how much she learns from romance novels, and how she works that into dinner conversations with her romance-eschewing family.

    This woman whom some might deem ‘limited,’ considered romance novels in a literate way, and had more to say about them when we began exchanging emails. She knew way more than I.”

    Does she have any idea how condescending that sounds? I’ve never read her blog before now and now certainly have no desire to ever again.

    Her insistence that romance studies could only be relevant if presented to “non readers” is absurd.  I’m a fan of Jane Austen and horror films and believe you me,some of the best scholarly work on both subjects comes from within the devoted fan communities. Yes, it’s good to make things interesting to the uninitiated,but if your goal is merely to make your time and attention “worthy” by impressing those who don’t share your enthusiasm for such and such in the first place,your results will be severely limiting and ultimately disappointing in the end.

    As for her complaints about “heat and light”(she sure loves using those air quotes!), it is possible to have a lively discussion and still remain civil without being too nicey-nicey. Every website has it’s own set of rules for talkbacks and if you don’t like how things are done at one place,then find another that suits your needs. In other words,if you can’t take the heat,what are you still in the kitchen for?

    I may be just a small fish in the internet pond(unlike some people
    ” whose job is working IN Internet – as opposed to hanging around ON the Internet”) but I hope to do more with my writing and if some of my blog readers are willing to go along with me,that’s great. However, I refuse to act as their “guiding light” and would prefer to credit them with as much intelligence as I have,if not more so. People who feel they need to lead a horse to water shouldn’t be surprised at the refusal to drink it(or the Kool-Aid,for that matter).

  5. ksquard says:

    Wow. I mean, WOW. I think there must be a gene missing to be so unaware of the fact that you’re insulting the audience you’re addressing by saying such things in such a forum. I am so thrilled to see Princeton and the kick ass people involved in this conference finally shining a light on the estimable scholarly value of the romance genre. To have a participant insult the online community of same at large in such a, well, clueless way is disheartening. We’ll just have to continue being the bitchery and keep pressing on.

    Sarah and Candy – Thanks for being so up front and honest. One of the reasons I so enjoy spending time with you ladies each day is your no-holes-barred, upfront, direct attitude and your frank, funny, and intelligent dialogue. Keep at it! Looking forward to meeting you in person in Clifton next week.

  6. Robin says:

    Sarah! Yes!

    One of the things that continues to puzzle me is if MB is “media savvy” (which I am sure I am NOT), if she’s also a “Romance expert,” then shouldn’t she be familiar with the character of the online Romance community and therefore eschew making collective dismissive statements about its communities?  It seems to me, given the way she constructed her terms, that she either a) doesn’t know anything about SBTB, DA and the many other Romance-focused blogs/messageboards out there, which IMO would bring into question the media savvy expertise thing, or she’s being disingenuous about not referring to you, since she echoes a lot of the language used to dismiss sites like SBTB and DA every time we say something that is not “nice.” 

    Either way, I agree that she undermined the very principles she was espousing, and worse, IMO she did a HUGE disservice to her own readers by choosing that talk to represent them, as well.

  7. Mari Miller-Lamb says:


    I had read Ms Buonfiglio comments and saw at once that they were directed towards this site.  (wished I could’ve been at this conference, sounds like it was great!) It is very clear to me she meant to trash Smart Bitches. I hoped against hope that you would not dignify such nonsense with a response and thus lend this incoherent rambling silliness more attention than it deserves. But I suppose you felt the need to defend yourself. 

    I really do think the best response would have been silence on your part.  The excellence of this site is such that it speaks for itself.  Have you seen Buonfiglio’s site?!  (I don’t reccomend it!)  ‘Nuff said.

    Sarah, I don’t alway agree with your point of view, but I keep coming back for the intelligence, wit and humor you use to such great effect in analyzing a genre that is near and dear to my heart, as it is yours. 

    I do think this site goes overboard at times with the sort of community code words used here and I do have a problem with the word “bitch.”  Makes me wince just to write it.  But I respect intellectually what you are trying to do.  You’ve move the dialog regarding romance to a level I never even thought about and made me consider the genre in a new light.

    Buonfiglio does romance no service at all by trashing people/ communities who are too critical.  It’s time certain romance readers grew up.

  8. Jessica says:

    Who is this person? I have never heard of her until now. I did click the link, but I couldn’t get past the misspellings of Selinger, Frantz and bell hooks to the content. Oh, and the extra large ego was in the way, too.

  9. JoanneL says:

    Her whole presentation has just about ruined my day off and that pisses me off big-time.

    My questions keep coming back to WHY?
    WHY appear at a forum with comments that demean the genre community you say you’re representing?
    WHY separate & divide the readers/reviewers/moderators into (her idea of) groups of nice/not nice?
    WHY tell people how you are not self-aggrandizing and then proceed to be just exactly that with the most egotistical mommy-knows-best attitude I’ve seen in a long, long time.

    The next time you go close to the ground to research, check out the light and look to sites where the readers say things with simplicity and dignity.

    Yeah, researchers should always get only one vanilla point of view before publishing their findings.

  10. catie james says:

    I can only think MB is one of those people who swaths herself in superiority in order to drown out the demons of insecurity. No one wants to hear that they are “stupid,” “ignorant,” or somehow “lacking” whether the speaker is doing so directly or indirectly and this is what romance readers have been told since the genre’s inception. (Hell, it’s what women have been told since humans became bipedal). Buonfiglio doesn’t get it; her diatribes may appeal to the upper echelons of literary snotterotti, but they hold no appeal for the legions of she so carelessly mocks. Her bad. (Woops—the preceding should garner a visit from the language police!) 🙂

  11. Lizzie (greeneyed fem) says:

    Dear Author also has a response up: Romance B(u)y Whose Book?

    I don’t understand this gentle shaming of online readers and commenters to make nicey-nice.

    First of all, being able to engage in an intellectual community that can handle disagreements and incorporate diverse viewpoints is kind of the definition of what intellectual/academic pursuit should be.

    Secondly, most girls are raised/women are admonished into being “nice” in all realms of their lives. Being thought a “bitch” (i.e. having an opinion and voicing it) is the worst thing that can happen to us, according to some folks. I know fighting the impulse to just “play nice” (to not speak up for myself or my opinions/feelings) is something I still have to check myself on, in many situations, both online and off. I find it incredibly liberating and empowering to visit online spaces like SBTB and DA where the bloggers and commenters value honesty and strong opinion over “ladylike” behavior. The Smart Bitches are role models to me—unapologetic, passionate, funny as hell, and unwilling to let others dictate the terms of their opinions—as well as willing to engage in those who disagree with them and to think through their own reactions and viewpoints. That is real intellectual and emotional maturity.

    I have never found this to be an unsafe space—there is a real difference between creating a thriving, yet sometimes messy, online environment, and an anything-goes, meanie-meanie-meanie environment. Buonfiglio seems to be conflating the two.

  12. Barb Ferrer says:

    The argument Buonfiglio introduced is tired and outdated and rests on antiquated stereotypes that are still too prevalent in the romance community. The pressure to conform and to deliver palliative reassurance without criticism, or even justifiable anger, is not progress. And it sure as hell isn’t freedom.

    Score one for Sarah!

    This is precisely why my heart sank as I waded through the utter tripe of her address.  Well, one of many, many reasons, at any rate.  The fact that she was invited to speak at the closing panel was such a huge honor and should not have been abused in the name of blatant self-promotion and the type of snide denigration that all-too-often accompanies mention of the romance genre. 

    She wanted to issue a challenge?  Fine—she should have challenged everyone in that room to continue to fight the good fight on behalf of the genre—to break through that glass ceiling that keeps romance (or other genre fiction) from being considered as worthy of study and analysis and criticism as any other form of creative writing. 

    She should have challenged everyone who studies or enjoys romance to search out and investigate all of the wonderful communities online and off to best judge and evaluate for themselves which serves their needs best.

    She should not behaved as if she were raised in a barn.  And for the love of all that’s good and holy, if you’re giving a spoken address, why on earth would you have so many internet shortcut spellings?  Really?  Was that necessary?  They just look tacky.

    Then again, everything about that address was kind of tacky.

  13. Lizzie (greeneyed fem) says:

    Okay, the link to the DA post isn’t letting me post it for some reason. But it’s over there.

  14. AAJ says:

    I’ll just say that I think you guys are all great. *spreads the love*

    (growing42: Penis jokes ahoy! In the SmartBitches tradition, of course.)

  15. martins says:

    Went to Ms. B’s blog. Meh.

    De-lurking here to say keep up the GREAT work! I bought Heaving Bosoms (wishful thinking) at my local independent bookstore (they had three copies in stock!) just so’s I could keep Candy and Sarah in sparkly-rhinestone-sexy librarian eyeglasses.

  16. Suze says:

    Lady T, you took the words right out of my mouth.  Condescending!  How nice that she appreciates the illiterate gushing of her “limited” readers.  How kind of her to “give them tools” to communicate the thoughts attempting to escape from their dense brains.

    And if there’s any doubt about who she was aiming her diatribe at, she responded to commenter with:

    Also,for me, it was spending so much time w/the sister Bellas and rom community that made me certain there’s everything right about reading romance. I noticed a long time ago here we stopped expressing disgust or exasperation over getting dissed by the outside and trying to figure out ways to combat it. We figured out early on how to simply define w/out giving away our power, and that’s made a lot of difference.

    Nope, not Smart Bitches at all.  Can’t imagine how anyone got that impression…

    I started reading her speech thinking, okay.  Fine.  There may be a point in all that somewhere.  By the end of it, all I could think of was Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter books.  “Hem hem. I’m going to rule like an iron-fisted despot in the nicest, sweetest possible way. Fear my treacly wrath.”

    By the end of the speech, I was feeling a little unclean.  It displayed the worst possible traits I find in women—controlling, angry, elitist, and sugar-coated.

    As well, she maintains the fiction that disagreement is bad and unwelcome.

    One thing I deeply appreciate about this community is that we don’t pile on.  Everyone is welcome to dissent.  If they can’t back their argument up with logic, they may feel piled on.  That, however, is their own fault for failing to support their argument.

    Argh.  I’m tired of the fake niceness.  Thank gods for the Bitches!

  17. Reacher Fan says:

    Forgive me for saying this, but reading the snippets that were blogged and tweeted from the Princeton conference had me feeling it was like every conference I every attended on any subject (I work in a science/engineering type field) that I’ve attended over the decades – a basically dull meeting, the occasional lively talk, no new information, great net-working thing.  I am somewhat reassured that you also had the requisite elitist asshole present.  I was starting to think that was just something I and my colleagues endured.

    Perhaps the surest sign that you have ‘arrived’ is that someone is sufficiently jealous of your work they throw a hissy fit about you.  I think you and Dear Author should feel flattered.  You are officially in the ‘Big Time’!  Besides, she was likely just pissed about your book.

  18. Karen says:

    I am impressed with others’ ability to parse MB’s comments in her address, as I can barely understand what she’s trying to say. That is some terribly convoluted, over-the-top writing, right there. And what is all this nonsense about “heat” and “light”? Good god, they sound like dreadfully twee sex euphemisms.

  19. katiebabs says:

    One word comes to mind: Jealousy.
    There will always be one who wants to the best of the best. Not sure if it is to get montary gain from the situation or be bowed down to, or to name drop. What is the gain in that? Community builds friendships, confidence and suppport. I feel like I have been slapped in the face. Aren’t we all, from big to small, working for one common good?

  20. JenD says:

    I’m with Karen.

    I want to hit her speech with a red marker.

    having92- Having 92 words when fifteen will suffice doesn’t make you appear smarter.

  21. Anon76 says:

    Wow. I’m stunned speechless…almost.

    What other than self-aggrandization would drive this woman to make “this” speech in “this” setting? (And I don’t give a rat’s ass if that sentence isn’t perfect.)

    It was not the time, nor the place, and set the actual genre she was “supposedly” lauding back a number of years. She might as well have had a backdrop with the “Dueling Banjos” scene of the movie “Deliverance” playing as she spoke.

    Sad. Sad. Sad.

  22. Chicklet says:

    I think my favorite bit is how Buonfiglio decries “mean girl” tactics like criticism and bullying while SB Sarah is sitting right there. Hypocrisy, your doin it rite.

    And man, is that some tortured syntax and convoluted writing.  I read an entry of her blog at the Barnes & Noble site and seriously considered sending them an email asking if Buonfiglio is really the romance expert to whom they want to hitch their wagon.

  23. Anon says:


    I know, she was the one snarking about a reader not being introduced with Strunk and White?  Did she miss the part that went, “be clear?”

  24. Alyssa Day says:

    Nice does not equal spineless or afraid to voice an opinion; I’m teaching this to both my son and my daughter.  The romance community benefits from the politics of inclusion, not junior high “my clique is better than yours” nonsense.  I’m so sorry you had to sit in that room.

  25. Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    All I got to say is this:  that anyone who uses non-words like “telephony” and “nichiness” in the same paragraph needs to re-acquaint herself with Mssrs. Strunk and White.

  26. SarahT says:

    My main objection to Michelle’s speech was its passive-aggressiveness. It was clearly directed at sites such as SBTB and DA. She should have named them directly and given Sarah the chance to defend herself and her blog. 

    The only point I agree with in the presentation is that online bust-ups can get out of hand. But then I think we all know that and can choose whether or not to participate. Also, this phenomenon is hardly confined to the romance-reading community.

    I find sites such as SBTB and DA refreshing because there’s no bullshit. My first experience of an online romance forum was the Avon Authors’ messageboard. All the gushing and ass kissing got very old very fast.

  27. Candy says:

    If it had been yet another standard “You have to be nice to be relevant, valid or heard” diatribes, I think I would’ve been able to shrug and move on. Two things, however, set this apart:

    1. The intense self-congratulatory tone. I felt like she was selling herself and her site, and selling them hard, and putting down other romance communities in the process.

    2. The unconscious patronizing tone that permeated the whole piece—Jesus Christ, did she really just backhandedly refer to one of her readers with a term people used to use on the mentally retarded, and then praise that reader for exceeding her expectations?

    And this is the petty pedant in me roaring to the fore, so feel free to ignore this because it’s irrelevant to the argument, but dear sweet cream of Christ it’s irritating: why the fuck namecheck bell hooks, and getting the lowercase right, but spell “bell” itself wrong?

    And was Buonfiglio really quoting bell hooks in an article about the value of being nice? The woman who’s talked about how white upper-class feminist discourse has left huge chunks of the population—especially black women—out in the cold?

    Right. The irony, it is crushing me.

    And for somebody who’s a fan of the Marketplace of Ideas (at least, that’s what I’m assuming when Buonfiglio talks about “First Amendment-type discourse at its ‘freest’”), she certainly strikes me as A) somebody who’s never read or heard of the cases decided by the Supreme Court protecting inflammatory (emphasis on “flame” in those two cases, there) speech, or B) particularly committed to the free marketplace ideal in the first place, since she seems to be pushing pretty hard for us to limit our discourse.

  28. tracykitn says:

    I read MB, and I gotta say, I had a kind of sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I always hated when my mom told me, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!” I always felt like she was saying that it didn’t matter if I was unhappy/uncomfortable/bleeding as long as I was being pleasant. And, let’s face it, that pretty much puts us right back into the days of “women are non-card-carrying-humans-and-therefore-only-have-value-as-property.” At least, when it’s directed to us as readers of romance, as it seems to be by MB.

  29. SandyW says:

    I was going to rant about paternalistic attitudes and the subtle whiff of elitist condescension, but then the real question occurred to me.

    Isn’t whining in public about the Mean Girls, while standing right next to one of the Mean Girls, kind of… mean?

    I’m so confused.

  30. Nadia says:

    Oh, fer fuck’s sake.  Condescending much, MB? 

    No, this blog is not going to appeal to every romance reader.  Same as not all romances will appeal to every romance reader.  We are individuals, after all.  But I can’t wrap my mind around the assertion that divergent opinions in a community that encourages frank speaking detracts from the scholarship of the genre.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  The first thought that flashed into my head was that this woman obviously wasn’t around for the hella long threads on “The Jewel of Medina.”  There was disagreement, sometimes quite emotional to the point of flames, but there was intelligent exploration of the book and attendant controversy.  I’m sure I’m not the only person who learned assloads from those posts.

    I come here *because* people are comfortable expressing a different opinion, because minority opinions are valued.  Because one poster can say she loves Twilight like a fat kid loves cake and the next can rag on Edward’s sparkly stalker ass and it’s all good.  And because I can say “fer fuck’s sake” when it’s warranted. 😉


  31. >Blogs like mine or Dear Author or Romancing the Blog or Ramblings About Romance or any of us are about the community and about the experience of interacting with that community.

    One thing that humbled me beyond belief when I started my own blog was the number of other bloggers who supported my effort (too many to list here!). And a few of those folks who welcomed me were bloggers from the SF community. It didn’t occur to me that any of them were supposed to be competitors.

    And I learned and continue to learn much from sites like SB and DA and others who with obviously great love, frankness, and enthusiasm explore romance from the inside out—I didn’t know there was any other way to blog about it!

  32. tracykitn says:

    Oh, and she refers to her readers as “Bellas”? Shades of Twilight, anyone?

  33. Eirin says:

    I really do think the best response would have been silence on your part.

    No. “Dignified” silence in the face of such drivel is exactly the kind of ladylike response she espouses and I can’t abide. On the contrary, let’s dissect her speach and debate the meaning. Let’s argue and create a whole lot of light. And if we happen to generate some heat as we go? Well, us big girls can handle that.

    I feel fucking insulted. Note the word fucking, Ms. B. That was by way of lighting up my comment for ease of view through the heat-haze.

  34. Elaine says:

    I didn’t read through the whole speech, but it seems to me that this person is attempting to appeal to the gatekeeper mentality of her scholarly audience.  The traditional gatekeepers of our culture, whether it be editors, encyclopedia publishers, magazine and newspaper reviewers, or credentialed scholars, had to deal with a major paradigm shift with widespread use of the Internet.  Culture and news is no longer mediated through 20th Century checkpoints, and the traditional gatekeepers are pissed.  To gain an audience on the Internet, all you have to do is write well, write consistently, and write entertainingly.  What you do is more important than who you know, and what you’ve produced in the recent past is more important than any number of traditional credentials.  The attention of the audience is the only currency.

    By attacking some sites as having more heat than light, she is attempting to endow her community with an authority beyond that of mere popularity.  Unfortunately for her, popularity is the only authority that matters.

  35. Tina C. says:

    I don’t know if any of you read the comments to her post.  Most of them are loving licks of the hand by her fanpoodles (a term used by a commenter, logophilos, on fashionista_35’s Abriendo Puertas site—and one I’m obviously appropriating!)  but I loved this one:

    11:39 AM CDT
    Anonymous said…
    Hi Michelle,

    I found it odd that you welcomed “those who didn’t make it through high school to the doctoral candidates”—but you didn’t welcome the actual PhD.s.

    I have my Ph.D., and I hope you’ll welcome me, regardless. I also have more than 20 papers published in peer-reviewed scientific journals in biology and anthropology as general subject headers.

    I have to say that your blog surprised me. Primarily, I was surprised because academia is the most argumentative place I know. Wow, we scientists fight. We fight in public, we fight in NSF boardrooms, we fight in the forums as BBS and Science and Nature. If you want to see fur fly, get a bunch of academics together and ask them why their pet idea is wrong. If you want to see fur fly, try reading the review of your grant after the panel is finished with it.

    You said: “The next time you go close to the ground to research, check out the light and look to sites where the readers say things with simplicity and dignity.”

    I have to tell you, when I “go close to the ground for research,” I either hit up Web of Science or collect my own data. The last thing I’d do is look for a site where somebody else has given their (usually unscientifically tested) opinion.

    I go to blog sites for entertainment or ideas (even wrong ideas), but the last thing I’d do when I want to do actual research is check out a blog site. I love to read the comments, but I wouldn’t do research there—and if I were, I wouldn’t want to exclude sites with flame wars, necessarily. Even if I were doing some sort of meta analysis of what bloggers across the net were saying, I wouldn’t want to exclude contentious sites. They are data points.

    I’m glad you’re proud of your blog. I’m glad you’re proud that picked you up. I’m glad you welcome people who haven’t read Strunk and White (as many other romance blog sites do—when readers on those sites fight, it’s rarely about the education of the people leaving comments; it’s usually about an idea).

    You should be proud of all those things.

    But really, your lack of contention among your readership isn’t a selling point for academics doing research. At least, it isn’t a selling point for me.

    And no, I’m not signing my name. My colleagues would use the fact that I spent my time answering this blog against me.

    If only this person wasn’t anonymous—he/she deserves a personal kudo or two.

  36. Robin says:

    @SarahT: One of the things that makes this tough is the way such dismissals make it difficult to talk about concepts of civility, etc. in anything but the most extreme ways.  As someone who is deeply committed to extremely broad First Amendment protections, I also see a complementary obligation to being as responsible as I can in my own speech (not that any of us don’t have some a-hole moments).  Not everyone will feel the need to measure what they say in the name of being able to say it, but that doesn’t mean we throw out everything that’s said in the vicinity and even inclusive of inflammatory, even deeply offensive statements.  Polite speech can be vapid and inflammatory speech can be meaningful depending on the recipient, context, speaker, etc.  But how do we talk about civility in ways that honor the nuances in the issue. 

    And in the end, how interesting would the community be without all the passion, even the stuff that pisses any combination of us off at any given point?  There are a number of blogs I avoid because I was feeling personally burned out by the intensity, but I still think they serve an important function in the community or make a contribution.  Yes I would like it if people took the time to read carefully and think before they speak, and yes I dislike ad hominem attacks, and yes I would love an absence of name calling, but if I have to accept that in order to get other things—like intelligent, passionate, argumentative discourse—then that’s the deal.  And I feel that addresses like Buonfiglio’s make it MORE, not less, difficult to mount a compelling argument for civil discourse.

  37. Marilyn says:

    The thought comes to my mind that the phrases Smart Bitch and Dumb Bitch really are poles apart. I’m not pointing fingers, I’m just saying…It took me a long time to figure out that is was ok to speak my mind (as well as have a mind). If that makes me a mean girl, oh dear.

  38. Gwynnyd says:

    In the interests of academic research, I clicked on some of the other posts on Buonfiglio’s blog.  Was she quite as clueless as the most recent post made her seem?  No, she’s worse.  After reading her self-admittedly Sophomoric “Five Things You Won’t Hear” at the Princeton conference – #1. Does this dissertation make my ass look fat?” – I needed some eye-bleach and mind floss.  By the time I got through her sycophants constantly calling her “Queen Bella,” and her calling a frequent poster “Principessa” (even if Portia is a Principessa,  that is just too precious for my taste) I couldn’t face Buonfiglio’s opinion on whether jelly beans or peeps were the ultimate spring treat. 

    Yep, those are some hot academic subjects. I see why the researchers are beating a path to her door to look into all the important topics in the romance genre.

  39. Anaquana says:

    I personally prefer a site where people aren’t afraid to laud the good and laugh at the bad. It’s usually those people who are the true fans of the genre. They’re the ones who want the industry to expand and keep getting better. They won’t settle for mediocre.

    Without somebody speaking out and saying: “Hey now! What is this piece of crap? We know you can do better. We know there is better out there. Step up your game, please.” there is very little forward progress. There’s no incentive for people to strive for more. There’s no reason for them to create a better product, to write a more compelling story.

    I’ve seen it on several different forums. The dissenters get shouted down and silenced by those who only want to discuss the positive and the whole board stagnates because there’s no real discussion. There are only so many times you can say “OMG!! I love this liek woah!!!” before you get bored and look for a different venue.

    spamword – take49 Heh… take this post with 49 grains of salt. It’s just my personal opinion.

  40. Lori says:

    Previous posters have already covered most of my thoughts about this, but I will add one thing—-if Ms. Buonofiglio thinks that Smart Bitches is filled with mean people generating more heat than light she needs to get out more.

    The comments here are passionate, but not mean. If she’s unclear on the difference I can point her to some political blogs that would give her the vapors. And if her point is that it’s OK to talk that way about politics, but romance can only be discussed in an atmosphere of total agreement then she really needs to think through the implications of that. And then never make this kind of speech again.

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