The Bitch Magazine Shitstorm
If you have been online this week (reading blogs, websites, Twitter) chances are you’ve seen or heard about the big Bitch Magazine Shitstorm that had the YA internets ablaze.
If you haven’t, here is the basic recap: on January 28 (last Friday), Bitch Magazine posted a list of 100 YA Novels for the Feminist Reader on their website and opened the post to comments and discussion. Predictably, some people agreed with the list; others didn’t. A few commenters disagreed with the inclusion of three books in particular: Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce, Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan and Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott (objections against this book were received by email). Ashley McAllister, Bitch Magazine’s library coordinator and the person responsible for posting the list, admitted in a comment that some of the books listed had not been read prior to being included on the list.
On February 1 (Tuesday), the list was officially revised to remove those three books after having (re-)read them, with the following explanation:
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.
And THAT is when the proverbial shit hit the fan. A bunch of well-known and respected YA authors were outraged by said removal and proceeded to voice their anger in the comments section of the post, decrying Bitch Magazine’s lack of journalistic standards and asking for their own books to be removed from the list.
Meanwhile, the brouhaha gained even more steam across the twitterverse (#bitchplease) and blogland, as a flurry of tweets and posts sprang up, each voicing a different opinion regarding the whole fiasco.
That’s the basic rundown.
At first, we were not going to say anything about the subject because, well, we prefer to keep away from internet shitstorms and dramatics. But, given the mind-blowing way things have escalated, we are posting our $0.02 about the matter as we have been (unwillingly) dragged into the discussion.
First: It must be made clear that we think that it was bad form for Bitch Magazine to put out a list of titles without thoroughly vetting (or even reading) each book first. Having said that, it is Bitch Magazine’s list, and they are entitled to do whatever they want with it. If they had to reasons to believe that some of the books included were not suitable for their list, they had every right to revise their choices, especially after reading the books in question. It’s their list. Even if they choose to modify the list from here to eternity, again, it’s their list. They aren’t censoring anyone, they aren’t some governing board or association that has collectively decided to yank books from shelves. No, Bitch Magazine decided to put out a list of what in their opinion are the top 100 YA books for feminist readers. That is all.[1. For the record, we agree with the Sisters Red removal, but think Tender Morsels should have been kept on the list. We haven’t read Living Dead Girl so cannot comment on it.]
Second: We are glad to see authors showing support for their friends and fellow writers, and vocalizing their disagreement with the modifications made to the list. However, we are disappointed to see a number of our own favorite authors derailing the discussion and flaming the situation further with what appear to be knee-jerk/snarky comments, tweets, and posts. It’s also interesting that the focus of this authorial outrage seems to be almost solely with regards to Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels, as the other two books are rarely even mentioned by said outraged authors. Does that mean the other two books don’t deserve to be reinstated? Why not? If it is a matter of how they were removed and not about content at all, the outrage should be for all the books, shouldn’t it?
We think it is important to make this point and ask these questions in face of the derailment of the discussion. We have read all of the comments thus far at Bitch Magazine, as well as numerous tweets and blog posts, such as the posts at Smart Bitches and Chasing Ray. It seems to us that the majority of commenters are outraged by the action of revoking the titles, and there is a perception that Bitch Magazine has been mollycoddling readers. We are concerned that many of the comments left at Bitch Magazine, on Twitter or in blog posts are full of half-truths, misquotes and disregard for important concepts like triggering (the dismissive tone of the majority of commenters when talking about triggers is mind-blowing).
One of the most informed and considered responses to the fiasco, in our opinion, has been written by Abigail Nussbaum, senior reviews editor for Strange Horizons:
Bitch magazine made a lot of mistakes in creating and presenting its list of 100 YA novels for the feminist reader, but when it chose to remove Sisters Red, Tender Morsels, and Living Dead Girl from the list it laid a very specific complaint against each novel. Even if you take their narrative at face value, and many commenters have questioned its veracity, these complaints are all debatable–personally, I don’t think that Tender Morsels validates rape as revenge, though I agree that it edges around Urdda’s responsibility for her actions in ways that aren’t entirely palatable. But what’s happening in the comment thread at Bitch, and in other places on the internet, isn’t that debate. It’s a pile-on, driven by misinformation and perpetuating that same misinformation, recasting the issue as one of censorship and babying readers, and focusing on the most contentious issue raised in the discussion as if it represented the discussion as a whole. Whether you’re writing a recommended reading list, or a blog post, or a comment thread, it behooves us all to ground our opinions in solid experience and in even more solid facts. I don’t see that anyone, on either side of this issue, has done so.
Which brings us to the second reason for writing this post. Our review of Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce has been (mis)quoted several times in this whole mess, ever since commenter Pandora linked to it to make her point against the inclusion of the book on Bitch Magazine’s list.
We were extremely surprised – not to mention mystified and pissed off – to see so many comments and blog posts (by some people that we really admire) completely misquoting, distorting, and/or misrepresenting our review by saying that our opinion of the book was based on one minor excerpt from the point of view of one character. We would like to emphatically say that this is not the case, as our review contains other quotes (from a different character), as well as a host of other reasons (such as repetition, lack of believability with regards to the setting, dull characterizations, etc) as to why Sisters Red did not cut it for us.
We urge everyone to actually read our review in full and the subsequent discussion in the comments section to get a true understanding of what our issues were with Sisters Red. We’d also like to point out that that title of the review in question is “Why We Didn’t Like Sisters Red.” The review is reflective of our opinions and interpretations – which will undoubtedly differ from other readers’ interpretations and opinions.[2. Although we find it interesting that a number of readers seem to have the exact same criticisms that we did regarding Sisters Red regarding the perpetuation of rape culture (which is, despite some commenters’ rude dismissal of “rape culture” as an incendiary “buzz-word,” actually an important topic that warrants thoughtful discussion). Furthermore, we resent the continued implication that our interpretation of a BOOK is being misconstrued as our interpretation of an AUTHOR. Contrary to some disingenuous claims made on the interwebs, we are quite able to separate a work of fiction from its author.]
We think that the case of Sisters Red and our review perfectly exemplifies the irony of the situation. People are criticising Bitch Magazine for not reading the books they included on their list, for not being real feminists by mollycoddling audiences, and for caving to pressure from a few early disgruntled readers – whilst these same detractors are not paying attention to the points made by others (including feminists), by not reading before (mis)quoting sources, and by demanding that Bitch Magazine cave to further pressure.
Oh Internets, you do amuse us.
And now that we took this off our chests…..it’s back to business.
The winner of the 13 Treasures Trilogy by Michelle Harrison is:
Congratulations! As usual, please send us an email (contact AT thebooksmugglers DOT com) with your snail mail address, and we will get your winnings off to you as quickly as possible. Thanks again to all that entered!
This Week on The Book Smugglers
On Monday, Ana reviews YA/Horror Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann
On Tuesday, Ana takes on another YA novel, Jazz in Love by Neesha Meminger
Then on Wednesday, Thea reviews the Sisters of the Sword trilogy by Maya Snow
On Thursday, Thea is back with a review of The Heir of Night by Helen Lowe
And finally on Friday, we post our joint review of Never Knew Another by J. M. McDermott
And that’s it from us today. As usual, we remain…
~ Your Friendly Neighborhood Book Smugglers
AndreaFebruary 6, 2011 at 2:58 am
The controversy led me to the Smuggler review of “Sisters Red” (which didn’t sound like a book I’d enjoy, for slightly different reasons from yours), and I noticed you were already getting a fresh spate of “how dare you criticise any book”.
My take on the list is similar to yours, though I would recommend to list-makers that unless there’s a clear an absolute problem which isn’t open to interpretation, then it’s wiser to flag books with a warning noting that readers might encounter certain issues, rather than drop them from lists. Especially the book dropped because it may be triggering, since other books with strong triggers were left on the list.
The problem with dropping the books is that it’s tantamount to announcing that “these books are not good books for young feminists to read”. No matter what disclaimers they add, that’s the message conveyed.
The focus on “Tender Morsels” probably comes from two sources. The book (on the plot outline I’ve read) demonstrably does not endorse rape-as-revenge and thus the reason for removing it falls to pieces. And the author is an Australian author, as were the first two authors who reacted with dismay.
Anyways, long post to say that one of the things I really love about book bloggers is the reasoned negative reviews. That might make me quake a little as an author, but as a reader it’s a huge boon.
Anne M LeoneFebruary 6, 2011 at 3:02 am
Amen! Sorry you had to get dragged into all of this, but delighted to see a thoughtful post about it. THIS is why I always read The Booksmugglers. Thanks!
NymethFebruary 6, 2011 at 3:28 am
What I have huge issues with here is the way the whole process unfolded. I’ve only read one of the books in question, Tender Morsels, and though I disagree 110% with the Bitch Media’s commenter reading of it, I would never in a million years argue against their right to read the story that way. People read books in ways that I personally consider shallow, simplistic and misguided all the time, and that’s fine. I wouldn’t have it any other way, in the sense that I don’t think my thoughts should ever silence and trump theirs.
However. If the people who made the list had initially excluded these three books for the reasons they later made public, we would never know about it. I’m sure there are plenty of books they didn’t include on the list for a myriad of reasons, and again, it’s their right. The way the whole process happened, thought, makes it seem as if an authoritative media source on feminist issue is endorsing one particular reading of these texts at the expense of others, as if as if that reading was the One Official Truth and anyone who doesn’t agree just lacks critical skills or isn’t feminist enough. This was reinforced by the way they refused to engage at all with people who were offering their own views on these books and explaining why they disagreed with those readings – many in an attempt to TALK about it rather than of having them revise the list again. But they were ignored, which didn’t make this feel like a real conversation at all. I find Abigail Nussbaum’s round-up extremely unfair in the sense that it doesn’t acknowledge that people DID address the specific objections to each of the three books and wrote thoughtful, intelligent and critically engaged responses to them. To say that everything was filed under “triggering” because that’s easier to argue with just baffles me.
Again, it could be said that any organisation, publication or even book blog will inevitable personally endorse one reading of a text – and it’s their right to do so. And yes, that’s absolutely true, but normally the process by which they come to make up their mind about which reading their favour doesn’t take place in public and in a somewhat ugly fashion. What happened here was that the whole world got to see a reading of these texts that considered them feminist enough to merit inclusion be replaced by another one that didn’t. And because this is a pretty influential publication, making this process public creates a power imbalance – it leaves people, many of whom are passionate feminists themselves, feeling that they have to defend themselves if they happen to have read these texts differently. I think it was more this idea of there being one Official Interpretation that was not up for discussion at all, rather than author or fan solidarity, that made people react so strongly.
(Having said that, I cringed every time I saw someone defend these books by dismissing the whole concept of “triggering” :S).
CeilidhFebruary 6, 2011 at 3:38 am
I’m still feeling pretty guilty for inadvertandly dragging you both into this mess. I linked to your review because I never wrote one of the book and your review accurately explained my problems with the book (although there were a bunch of other stuff that really bugged me about it, such as the obvious favouritism the author shows for the pretty, non scarred sister who just gets tossed to the side more than once) and honestly, this entire thing spiralled into something much more different than it originally was and things got so messy and embarrassing.
I never asked for the book to be removed, but as you said it’s Bitch’s list and they have the right to revise it as they please. It’s a list and lists are subjective. Just because someone puts together a bunch of books or movies or songs that doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything up there. Of course, it was doomed from the start when they admitted they hadn’t read everything on the list but if they felt the need to revise after doing so that’s up to them. It’s nowhere near censorship. That false equivalency bugged me so much – way to lessen its meaning, authors. Noone’s taking the books off shelves or burning them or even recommending that people do so. It was a list!
And the way some people ended up reacting to this was really shocking, especially Smart Bitches, who I really love and respect. The way genuine concerns and ‘triggering’ material was derided and referred to Bitch as ‘caving in’ over it really pissed me off. Guess what? Some people don’t want to read about stuff like that because it genuinely effects them! And don’t automatically criticise every reader who has chosen not to read a specific book because a review pointed out something they find triggering or troubling. Don’t lessen the concerns of others, that’s not feminism.
It’s definitely been an interesting couple of days, especially with authors I love indirectly referring to me in tweets and even replying to me for discussion. Hopefully out of this mess, even with this supposed author solidarity, we may get some genuine discussion on what makes a book, or piece of media, feminist. We at least deserve to have a civil discussion on that.
April (Good Books & Wine)February 6, 2011 at 5:39 am
THANK YOU for posting this. I am glad to see big bloggers acknowledge that triggering is real. It really bothered me throughout the debate the insensitiveness to the trauma rape and sexual assault victims experience by the casual dismissal of triggering. I can say from a professional standpoint (I teach a class that certifies people through the Department of Health to be rape crisis counselors) that triggering is absolutely real and not to be taken lightly. The only one of the three that I’ve read is Living Dead Girl, and that was recently. Funny thing, while reading it, I thought hey, all these rape scenes could be triggering to a victim. But, I’m more apt to notice it because of what I do.
And thank you for saying it’s their list they can do what they want with it. I thought the whole thing was blown way out of proportion. But, well, that’s the nature of the beast, isn’t it.
April (Good Books & Wine)February 6, 2011 at 5:45 am
Oh, also a caveat to my comment, I’m not endorsing LDG be taken off the list, but I do think the concerns about triggering had grounds.
TheaFebruary 6, 2011 at 7:42 am
Thanks for the comments, everyone! What a week.
Nymeth (and Andrea), you make a really thoughtful and reasoned case about the subtextual message Bitch Media sent out with their revision of the list. I didn’t really consider the magazine’s removal of those titles as endorsing a certain reading of the text, but I can absolutely see what you mean – it’s a very valid and thought-provoking point. I agree that Bitch Media handled things ridiculously poorly, and that removing the titles on their list was a bad decision on their part. I agree that instead of removing titles, they probably would have been better served by flagging the books that, upon further reflection (or actually reading the books in question), were potentially triggering.
Unfortunately, the comments over there devolved so quickly, it’s kind of hard to foster a true, productive discussion about these issues. I don’t think Bitch Media was ignoring anyone or running from the discussion; it’s just hard to sort through all the noise over there. Any time a moderator from Bitch Media made a comment, they were inevitably met with a flurry of nasty, accusatory and/or unproductive comments – which is unfortunate, since the drama and indignation derailed what could have been a great dialogue about feminism and textual interpretations.
That said – have you been over to Bitch Media recently? They’ve started an online YA book club discussion in which readers will vote on what title to read and discuss. Amongst the options are Tender Morsels, Sisters Red, and Living Dead Girl. Although the comments in the poll thread are about as productive and useful as those left in the original thread, I think it’s a good gesture from Bitch to try and return the focus to the books, and to discuss (as you said) important issues raised by different reader interpretations.
Ceilidh – No problem at all! We’re glad and totally honored that our review was included. (It’s not your fault that people have been randomly misquoting and misinterpreting our review without actually READING it first – now that is irritating as hell)
TheaFebruary 6, 2011 at 7:49 am
April – Both Ana and I were stunned at how flippant some commenters, authors, and bloggers were of triggering (and coming from so many people that we like and respect, too). I’m glad to see that others found that dismissive attitude deeply disturbing, too (especially coming from you, a professional!). On a related note, I wonder why of all three books Living Dead Girl was the one least mentioned or discussed? I’m certainly interested in reading it now, and will try to be cognizant of these issues.
Gerd D.February 6, 2011 at 7:52 am
Oh, I completly missed the fun, too bad.
However, looking at the intro to their list:
I would rather wonder how a book like Living Dead Girl made it there in the first place…
Now, it’s always a bad idea to compile a “best list” including books you didn’t actually read. And that’s especially true with the goal they set themselves when trying to come up with the “Top 100 YA books for feminist readers”, trying to cater to a crowd covering as diverse goals and views as feminists do is simply asking for trouble.
LuFebruary 6, 2011 at 7:53 am
THIS is the blog post I wanted to write. So thank you for writing it. Thank you for bringing up the importance of triggering. Thank you for bringing up the lack of… judgment, I suppose is the word to use, that is being exhibited on both sides. I was just so unbelievably frustrated watching this unfold. It seemed to me that neither side was willing to look across the aisle here. Why wouldn’t authors acknowledge the importance of triggering in the feminist blog community? Why wouldn’t Bitch, at the very least, acknowledge the problem that book challenging is? Why wasn’t Bitch willing to communicate? It seemed everything was kept in secret. I also just don’t believe they were able to read ALL those books critically in two days. It was just a cluster. All around.
So thank you Booksmugglers for posting this, thank you April for continually reminding us that triggering is a real and important problem, thank you Ana for such intelligent debate. I’m just so glad to see all sides addressed here.
BethFebruary 6, 2011 at 7:58 am
First, I would like to say I have been following the Fiasco. For some reason I just know I would never read the Uglies Series, ever again.
I hate authors who bitch. To whom much is given, much is expected. Control your temper tantrum or at least express it like a mature person. So those authors who were having a bitch fit on the comment session have lost all my respect.
In response to the list. IT IS THEIR LIST. THEY CAN CHANGE IT WHENEVER THEY WANT!
With all the hoopla one would think they were banning the books from the library system completely. I on the other hand, think all three books should have never made it on that list. They address sensitive issues in a horrid way, and yes this is my opinion. LDG, my opinion is NO, NO, NEVER in a million years should that book be for kids. Its very haunting. Sisters Red sends the wrong message about rape and Tender Morsels in my opinion was an annoying book.
Of course this should be the time where I mention I am one of those people that think rape, especially when addressed in such a graphic way in fiction, should be extremely fundamental to the story. Not used for shock value or as an additive. I think that kills whatever feminist message the author was trying to pass on in the first place.
I read those comments and I admire Bitch for not replying or answering people’s questions because most of them were senseless ranting, debasing their opinions, as well as Bitch and going on and on about something that shouldn’t have been such a big deal.
BethFebruary 6, 2011 at 8:00 am
Also, thanks for writing this post. I was really looking forward to what you guys had to say on this whole thing.
KMontFebruary 6, 2011 at 8:17 am
Ladies,I’ve been looking forward to your take on all of this – great job in pointing out the mistakes of both sides in the whole Bitch Media debacle. I’m not as inclined to read anything by the authors making it into the big mess it became. I was pretty sad to see some authors I admired acting as they did. I totally agree Bitch Media should have read these books, or vetted them, as you say, but the way things spiraled out of whack from there was amazing. Not in a good way.
Caitie FFebruary 6, 2011 at 8:53 am
I’m sorry but I have to call bs on the “triggering” being a reason to take anything off a list or warning. Everyone that has been through ANYTHING traumatic has things that trigger them, but that isn’t a reason to call something out. Is it real, yeah, but they don’t need to be babied or need other people to tell them what might make them uncomfortable.
As many have pointed out, life is triggering. So you should never leave your house, read a book, watch TV, or listen to music? And the “harsh reactions from authors” you refer to? Some of them were raped. And they STILL say it is bs. So do a lot of people that have been assaulted. But one person complains so it is taken off. So typical America, one person complains and everyone gets the consequences.
CeilidhFebruary 6, 2011 at 9:10 am
I think you’re being rather insensitive about this. Triggering is a very real thing, it isn’t mollycoddling or babying people. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to show some sensitivity to readers/bloggers/etc who have to go through it. A warning isn’t a bad thing – okay, maybe if Bitch were to do this all over again, they’d put warnings or disclaimers with each title they suggested, or offer a wider discussion as to why they choose/remove certain books but the fact that they decided to make this decision shouldn’t be called BS. Such triggering aspects are subjective – one person’s trigger is another person’s feminist YA.
KB/KT GrantFebruary 6, 2011 at 9:11 am
Oh yes, Booksmugglers you are to blame for everything based on your review. For shame.
You’re the reason my Jets are not in the Superbowl. If only you never reviewed Sister Red.
And is it just me, or is the YA genre and a certain minority involved there has become more condescending and almost has an elitist vibe from the community? That is one of the things I took away from the WTF drama over at Bitch Media.
KB/KT GrantFebruary 6, 2011 at 9:12 am
BTW I read Living Dead Girl and I felt it was so-so. The book isn’t all the bells and whistles people are giving it and the set up the novel and the way it’s written is annoying, at least IMO.
jeff vandermeerFebruary 6, 2011 at 9:18 am
I think my problem with your discussion of triggering is that you are *ignoring* the people who commented and said that they have significant triggers in their lives and that they didn’t agree with the books being taken off the list. I find it patently absurd for you to ignore those people while saying triggering is an important issue. It speaks to the ways in which an ideology can blind one to *people who are speaking to the issue*. That’s frankly infuriating.
BethFebruary 6, 2011 at 9:27 am
Just because a person types on a blog that they have been traumatized doesn’t make it true. They could easily just be saying that to get some credibility for their opinion. So, I think its faulty to say because a group of people online who we have no proof have ever been abused said they didn’t feel somehow about something, then sure, others who’ve been abused may feel the same.
Of course, its also possible they are telling the truth. However, often times than not, I’ve seen people claim heaven and earth to get a point across on the internet.
BethFebruary 6, 2011 at 9:30 am
Funny thing was it was your tweets that alerted me to this fiasco. What I didnt like about the book was the whole thing seemed purposeless. No hope, no lesson learned, nothing. Its like riding on a 60 hour flight-if that’s even possible. The point is when you land you expect a feast, you expect whatever you are going to see to be damn worth every second of those sixty hours you just flew. LDG wasnt worth the amount of madness it put readers through. It mind raped people only to be left with a so-so ending. I am not for that at all.
Tweets that mention The Book Smugglers » Blog Archive » Smugglers’ Stash and News: The Bitch Media-Gate Edition -- Topsy.comFebruary 6, 2011 at 9:32 am
[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Liz Burns, Liz Burns, The Book Smugglers, The Book Smugglers, Jessica Tripler and others. Jessica Tripler said: RT @booksmugglers: Smugglers' Stash & our take on the Bitch Media fiasco: http://tinyurl.com/6djms3d […]
KB/KT GrantFebruary 6, 2011 at 9:36 am
Beth: While reading LDG I had no connection to the story in any way shape or form. The way the passages and POV from the narrator was supposed to be creative and evoke an emotional response from the reader. I was left shaking my head, doing that’s it?
It’s nowhere on any of my best of YA lists or one that I would recommend.
BethFebruary 6, 2011 at 9:48 am
Lol. The left shaking your head part cracked me up. 😆 Yes, I agree, its no where near any best lists in my opinion.
KB/KT GrantFebruary 6, 2011 at 9:50 am
Lately the majority of the books I’m reading, especially in the YA genre leave me shaking my head.
AnaFebruary 6, 2011 at 10:51 am
JeffV : I am truly sorry that you feel that way. But do you know what infuriates me? That you picked one line of our entire article and decided to run with it as though it was the main theme of the article. We are not ignoring anyone, we are simply conveying our dismay at how the majority of commenters (and when we say majority of commenters we are talking about many more posts which surfaced all over the Internet but more specifically, the ones at Bitch Media and the Smart Bitches post) plain dismissed the concept of triggering as something real.
Also, just because some commenters (survivors or those with significant triggers in their lives) don’t consider those books as potentially triggering does not mean that ALL people will feel that way. As we’ve seen in the comments thread at our blog alone, as with April who is a professional in the field, triggering is an important topic that should not be trivialized or dismissed, and by bringing up the topic here, we hope to open a dialogue that has been derailed by others. We don’t think our comments on the bitch media situation were ignoring or being disrespectful; we are trying to shed light on a sensitive issue.
JohnFebruary 6, 2011 at 11:33 am
I like that you acknowledge both sides, because while the sense of author community is sometimes very good – it didn’t work here. I saw some authors I really like (like Scott Westerfeld) get much too pissy and ranty for me to feel like they were trying to be fair for the sake of argument.
That being said, I disagreed with Bitch’s tactics. Why add to a list if no one read the book and you aren’t sure of it’s contents? Why remove the book without an unbiased opinion? That’s what got me. They removed those books after hearing a rant. When you hear an opinion like that you are bound to read into that context to see if it’s validated. If they had read their books cleanly without those opinions, I do not think they would have drawn those same conclusions.
As to triggers, I think they are important enough to mention, but not important enough to take off the list. It may sound harsh, but a lot of books could be triggering for people. It is life. It sucks and we should obviously encourage people to MENTION when these triggers could happen, but it’s not to say that a trigger means the overall meaning of the book is pointless.
It actually got me to finally read Tender Morsels, which was taken so out of context in the comment. The reader ignored the entire latter half of the novel and saw the rape as meaningless, when in fact it had a portion of the story. Calling rape out is obviously going to cause problems because it’s such a weighty subject. It’s bad when an author doesn’t use it with weight, but it’s also bad when someone says the author has no meaning behind it and they do. It’s insulting to the author because the reader is saying they don’t respect other emotions for it.
LDG was a great powerful read for me. It’s emotional detachment is for good reason, I think. It’s entirely plausible to do that when one is in such a traumatic situation. But I digress, as I think having it taken off the list for being a trigger was already shown in an earlier paragraph.
All in all, a lot of mistakes on both sides made this just really suck. It would have been a nice list for booksellers/librarians/teachers, too. Just goes to show that you should read and make judgments of your own accord before compiling your thoughts about them – because after that outside bias will be all too obvious in your decisions. And brava to you guys for staying behind your opinion (and making it clear it’s an opinion and not one that was voluntarily put into this mess). 🙂
SamanthaFebruary 6, 2011 at 11:38 am
Ana wrote: “But do you know what infuriates me? That you picked one line of our entire article and decided to run with it as though it was the main theme of the article.”
You know what infuriates me? That you picked 332 words out of the entire 80,000 word book, Sisters Red, and decided to run with it as though it was the main theme of the book.
Lindsay ElizabethFebruary 6, 2011 at 11:45 am
First of all, the triggering issue does make me very angry. The comments of “the world is triggering!” are especially heinous. Yes, that’s how we should think- oh, you got abused or raped? Too bad! Get over it, because the world isn’t going to be nice!
The other thing I find crazy is the discussion of censorship. Removing a book from a list of recommendations is not censorship. The argument seems to be that if the book is removed, it says that it shouldn’t be read. Well, isn’t a negative review even more explicitly saying not to read it? Is that censorship? No. It is the statement of someone’s opinion. It may or may not factor into a reader’s buying decision, and that is up to the reader. For instance, I know I’m more likely to agree with Ana’s reviews, so I put more credence in them. If she loves a book, I put it on my list, and if she hates it I reconsider. Is she censoring that book? Ridiculous.
EstaraFebruary 6, 2011 at 11:53 am
I’d like to give kudos to Caitlin Kiernan, author of the Moorehawke trilogy, who tried to bring a reasonable adult tone to the new flame-war comments on that Sister Red post, with a patience I lack and wholly admire.
EstaraFebruary 6, 2011 at 11:53 am
errrrrrrrg, that’s Celine – like the singer ^^
Amy @ My Friend AmyFebruary 6, 2011 at 11:55 am
Living Dead Girl was the only book of the three I’d read, and it is does have quite a bit of rape and awfulness in it. Having said that, it also delivers a pretty powerful message about power and choosing for oneself. Personally, I feel it’s an important book but maybe not a book for everyone.
I also came back to read your review of Sisters Red after all of this and saw immediately that you had been quoted out of context. I am so sorry for that.
jeff vandermeerFebruary 6, 2011 at 11:58 am
Well, you can be infuriated all you want but as far as I’m concerned you took a complex issue that has people arguing on both sides and you decided to more or less ignore one side of it because it fit your purposes. I am not arguing one side of it or the other–it’s clearly a polarizing issue–but it’s not cool to say those comments are illegitimate without proof, because you could as easily say then they all are bogus. What you are in fact are saying is that you choose to believe some are bogus and some are not without there being any proof in any direction as to your assertion.
jeff vandermeerFebruary 6, 2011 at 12:21 pm
That said, I think part of my own infuriation was caffeine-driven. I am merely peak-ed now and I hope you too are less infuriated. Perhaps the one point we can all agree on is that a passion for good and complex books, and *good and complex readings of books* that value their ambiguity and ability to be both contradictory and true, subtle and spectacular, capturing all we know or want to know about life, should be what drives us in our commenting and swearing and infuriating-ness.
Now I shall avaunt as if I were never here.
AprilFebruary 6, 2011 at 12:36 pm
Exactly! I wish more people were able to, and that includes the people having issues with authors who had something to say in reaction to the list.
Did I think that was probably a wise move on their collective parts? Not really. But even if those were poor decisions, a lot of poor decisions were made all around in regards to Bitch Media’s list.
Did I think it was really horrible or bizarre for them to express concerns over a list of 100 best YA books? All things considered, no.
Can I see that as a grounds to never read them ever? Not really. There are much better reasons for not reading an author than not liking their strong reactions to the removal of their friends’ books.
SamanthaFebruary 6, 2011 at 12:46 pm
The only issue I take with this statement is that the initial title of the post reviewing Sisters Red was “Why we hate Sisters Red and Jackson Pearce.” I very much remember it at the time because I thought it was a fairly harsh statement.
KMontFebruary 6, 2011 at 12:53 pm
Samantha, just curious, but are you then saying that it’s not OK to say we hate a book and why? I mean, because some books just do evoke strong reactions in readers at times. And does it really matter if they might have changed their post to “didn’t like” so and so instead of “we hate”? I’m a little confused, if you think hate as an opinion is too harsh, aren’t you glad if the title of the review/discussion would be changed to something softer?
SamanthaFebruary 6, 2011 at 12:59 pm
KMont, what I was pointing out by the initial title of the review wasn’t the word hate, necessarily, but the title was that they hated Sisters Red AND Jackson Pearce.
In footnote two they say they can separate their opinion of the book from that of the author. Their former post title, saying they hate both the book and the author, seems to contradict that point.
AnaFebruary 6, 2011 at 1:01 pm
I would just like to clarify that Samantha is blatantly, completely LYING. To what purpose I do not dare to guess.
The title of our post was always “Why We didn’t Like Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce” .
PiduteFebruary 6, 2011 at 1:08 pm
If only we could feel as passionate with all those (real) women raped in the world ( in Congo right before our eyes !!!) we have way too much time on our hands people….
But as always thank you smugglers for entertaining me so and giving me the edited version of the latest craziness.
AndreaFebruary 6, 2011 at 1:21 pm
@Samantha – Are you sure you’re not misremembering? I think that if the post had had a title like that, it would have created a considerable furore in the comments and given that no-one, not even the author herself when she dropped by, commented on such an out-of-character title, it doesn’t seem very likely at all that there was any blatant statements of author-hate.
Sylvia SybilFebruary 6, 2011 at 1:29 pm
@Ana and @Thea, great post, thanks for writing it. I’m sorry you’ve been quoted out of context, and I think it’s sadly ironic that the same people who aren’t reading your entire review are upset that Bitch didn’t read the entire book. I brought your review up at Smart Bitches but had to drop it when other commenters kept misinterpreting what I was saying about it versus the book.
The sheer amount of disrespect for concepts like “rape culture” and “triggering” makes me think these Bitch commenters are coming in from somewhere else in the blogosphere, not from a feminist perspective. My opinion is supported by the commenters criticizing the name of Bitch Media and claiming that “rape culture” is as stupid a buzzword as “patriarchy”. If you want to have a conversation about triggering, I think a feminism 101 blog would be a better fit for you. Criticizing some of the basic tenets of modern feminism (rape culture, especially) on a feminism blog is about as well-thought-out as coming to my speculative fiction blog and criticizing a fantasy book for being unrealistic.
As far as “coddling” readers, I like the idea that they could have put trigger warnings (call them “explicit material” warnings if it makes you feel better) on the list instead of removing them, but I definitely don’t think that trying to avoid hurting people is a shameful or patronizing thing to do. And no, being raped does not make you an expert on all rape or all rape survivors. For starters, all it takes is another rape survivor pointing out that they were triggered by the book to cancel your argument out. For another, it ignores the difference between “things that can trigger” and “things that are likely to trigger”.
I liked the analogy a Bitch commenter used about war movies and war veterans. Not every veteran has PTSD, and not every PTSD patient will be triggered by scenes of gore, but statistically it’s still irresponsible to show a war movie to a group of veterans without warning. The stats on rape vary, but the most consistent numbers I’ve seen are 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men.
I’ve also been disappointed in some of my favorite authors’ behavior here. Not that I’m going to boycott their books or anything (they’re some of my favorite authors), but my opinion of the author does flavor my opinion of the book when I read.
@Andrea, thank you for pointing out that some of the authors reacting so harshly are Australians like the author of one of the removed books. Not that this excuses their behavior, but it does explain to me where some of this WTF behavior is coming from. I simply couldn’t understand the amount of vitriol.
@Samantha, it seems likely you are misremembering the word “by” as the word “and”. It’s a simple word switch to make, and completely changes the meaning of the title.
AllieFebruary 6, 2011 at 2:05 pm
The irony of a couple of bloggers on the forefront of all the major hoopla going on the past few years in YA (Liar cover, etc.) saying they like to avoid controversy! This blog has been all about controversy in the last twelve months — to send up page counts, doubtless. Sometimes, they stir up controversy where there is none to be had — posting covers where the artist has committed the unpardonable sin of perhaps giving the main character a different hairstyle.
And the comments continuing to perpetuate this absolute falsehood that there is a rape in Sisters Red! “I don’t like how the novel deals with rape?” WHAT RAPE?
That the Smugglers didn’t like the book is one thing. Yes, they wrote a whole review about how they thought it was repetitive or flat or boring or whatnot. But the part that they complained about-that was IMPORTANT to the discussion at Bitch Magazine-was about a single passage they chose to interpret in a particular way. Apparently this is the only acceptable way to interpret this passage? If you look at the comments section of that review, the Smugglers continually correct any commenter who ventures to interpret it differently.
When the comments point out actual FACTUAL errors that Thea and Ana got wrong, do they correct themselves? Do they edit their posts? Of course not. Because they aren’t real journalists and there’s no onus on them to print corrections or retractions, and yet their interpretations are being given the official stamp of approval from real journalism outlets… and that’s a shame.
How many people now believe that there was a rape in Sisters Red because Thea and Ana started throwing around the words “rape culture” to refer to a passage they had a problem with?
If Thea and Ana wonder why there was so much more debate and discussion about Tender Morsel and Sisters Red than Living Dead Girl, It’s because the challenges to the former two were based on blatant misreadings and shoddy misinterpretations of the text (i.e., “unexamined rape as vengeance” and “perpetuating rape culture”) whereas the challenge against LDG was straight-up “it’s triggering.”
Hmmmm… so does that dearth say that people are making light of “triggering” or just occasionally reasonably arguing that the potential of triggering does not mean that a book is not a powerful portrayal of an important woman’s issue? And what do the much louder voices about the other novels say? Probably taking issue with the fact that one bad reader is enforcing her negative and misguided opinion on everyone else.
TheaFebruary 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm
“Allie” – (anonymity respected, although we would like to remind people that we log IP addresses and are able to tell when previous well-known and high profile commenters are visiting under pseudonynms) We have never said that Sisters Red has a rape in it. Never. Please feel free to read our review again and point out to us where we have erroneously stated that there was a rape in the book.
To what instance(s) are you referring? Have we committed some factual error in our reviews that need correcting? Because if that is the case, we will certainly take a look and respond to any such criticisms. We gave our reasons for why we did not like Sisters Red. We enumerated our problems with the text, from technical failings of the book to the more relevant thematic aspects of the novel. But please do let us know where we have committed some kind of falsehood that needs addressing.
The Book Smugglers has never been a blog about entering controversy in order to garner page hits – we don’t employ any type of advertising on our site nor do we receive revenue of any kind. We run this blog for the sheer fact that we love literature. To crassly accuse us of attempting to garner page views is…well, frankly, ridiculous. Also, “Allie,” we’d like to point out that prior to this post – which we felt we had to write, given the amount of slanderous flack we’ve received online for a review we wrote a year ago – we have not tweeted, commented, or participated in the Bitch Media fiasco AT ALL. How, then, are we the ones “enforcing [our] negative and misguided opinion on everyone else”?
KarenSFebruary 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm
It isn’t you. I rolled my eyes at the comments by the some authors I’ve read and planned to read and they all came off my TBR list. They saved me some time and money.
CupK8February 6, 2011 at 3:24 pm
I’m coming in very, very late to this debacle, and have not read any of the books. But I completely agree that this is one list, of one publication, that anyone is certainly welcome to disagree with. It is not censorship, and the comment you quoted even said they “feel these books have merit,” so claiming that they’re dissing the books is ridiculous.
I agree also that they should have read them all before making the list. I wonder how they got those titles anyway? I know that with some lists, publishers submit recommendations, and if that was the case, there could be many books on that list that don’t fit the criteria. The fact that they are listening to their readership and re-examining their choices is admirable. It takes guts to do that, especially on the internet. Hopefully in the future, they will read all of their books thoroughly.
I’m more amazed by the response than anything. People are saying some pretty nasty things and hurling insults without even thinking, it seems. Thus is the nature of internet shit-storms..
Sylvia SybilFebruary 6, 2011 at 4:04 pm
Some of their staff read some books while other people read other books. When complaints were filed, specific staff members read the books in question and made their decision. I still think someone who works for a feminist organization and recommends a book for a feminist list ought to have been aware of the problematic content (and had a defense ready) before it was pointed out to them, but it’s not as simple as “they didn’t read it”.
BrandyFebruary 6, 2011 at 5:18 pm
The Internets amuse me too.
And so did the comic you added to the bottom of the post. Thanks for that. 😆
JLFebruary 6, 2011 at 5:52 pm
To Ana & Thea, I’m sorry to hear that you have been unwillingly dragged into this mess and subjected to ridiculous accusations, such as Samantha’s and Allie’s. I’ve been reading your blog for years and appreciate your thoughtful and articulate reviews. One many of the strengths of reviews is the way you lay out your reading experience in a way that allows other readers to situate their own preferences. Most of the time, I share the same your opinions on books, but there have been times where I have chosen to read a book that one or both of you did not like because I could tell from your review that I would like it. I’ve also not read books that you have recommended specifically because I could tell from your review that they wouldn’t work for me and my personal tastes as a reader. I mean that as the highest complement. I think you did an excellent job reviewing The Sisters Red, and how someone who couldn’t care less about the portrayal of rape culture or repetitive characterization could still enjoy the book (I myself haven’t read it). I think that is the mark of a great review.
As for the Bitch List, I find it really disturbing that next to none of the commenters at that site on either side of the debate seem to address the issue of what is the point of a feminist YA reading list. Moreover, almost no one seems terribly concerned about whether these books are furthering feminist debates, only whether their removal is a form of censorship (a worthwhile debate, but not the only one at stake) or whether a ‘factual error’ occurred in some reviews. I come at this from a particular angle, as my PhD is in Feminist Sociology. I recognize that makes me neither an expert on YA fiction, nor on the subject of this debate, but it does mean I’m routine exposed to multiple arguments on what constitutes feminist empowerment versus reification of patriarchal tropes. I espouse the view that feminism IS debate, criticism and discussion. It’s not a particular standpoint, opinion or perspective. The is nothing inherently feminist about an opinion, piece of art, or whatever, if it is not contributing to open discussion. But that’s just me.
In addition to having actually read all the books ahead of time, I think Bitch magazine would have better served young feminist feminist readers by including a discussion of why certain books would make a contribution to a feminist reader’s experience. That would have been much more productive than an arbitrary list. Seriously, why 100? Why not suggest 10 or 16 or whatever number of good books that you have read, and spend time talking about why they are relevant instead of finding another random 90 books to add to the list?
But at the same time, it’s shocking to me how many authors commenting about the list do not seem to engage more thoroughly and intellectually in a discussion about issues of normalizing rape culture and vilifying women’s sexuality. It’s true that writing about rape is not the same thing as endorsing it. But it’s also true that writing about rape does not automatically mean a book is feminist or critical in anyway. I’ve yet to see any substantial conversation about this, or how books (just like tv shows, music and any other form of media) can contribute to anti-feminist discourses. Maybe The Sisters Red is a good book for this list precisely because it can hopefully lead young readers to think critically about rape culture in the way Ana and Thea discussed in their original review. Instead, most of the authors commenting seem to be complaining that authors they respect and books they personally liked were taken off the list. If it was a list of Greatest YA Books Ever, I would understand. But this is a list of books for feminist readers. I’m especially disappointed by the authors who want their books removed from the list because their book also depicts rape. There needs to be more of justification than ‘if a book talks about rape, it must automatically be feminist (or anti-feminist).’
Sorry for the length of this post. The whole thing has left me incredibly disappointed in the world of YA lit.
JLFebruary 6, 2011 at 5:58 pm
whoops! Sorry for all the typos and horrible grammar. Meant to say “One of the many strengths of your reviews is”
Commenting while enraged does not lend itself to good proofreading…
Katie WFebruary 6, 2011 at 7:55 pm
Thank you a 100X times over for this post. You guys have once again provided thoughtful discussion on a topic that somehow devolved into a conversation that I don’t want to touch with a ten-foot pole.
I see both sides of the argument. I know that I once threw a book across the room SO HARD I dented my closet door because of how much it triggered me and made me see red with rage. Had I seen that book on Bitch’s list I too would probably have sent in my two cents about the book, and I’ll not lie, seeing the book pulled would have filled me with relief. But this is me. It is my opinion. I have seen other people love that series and that author, and it is their right to do so. My triggers are my triggers, and what sets me off would be another’s favorite feminist book. I would have been relieved to see it pulled, but I would not have wanted it to be pulled, if that makes any sense. But it’s Bitch’s list, and they do what they want. It wasn’t any of the three that were pulled, I’ve only partially read Tender Morsels, and unfortunately I was unable to finish it. Should Bitch have pulled it and the other two books? I don’t know. It was their decision. And while I don’t think the books in question needed to be pulled, I can see exactly why they might have thought to do so.
Like it has been said, it’s Bitch’s list, and they are allowed to do what they want when they want. Did they do it the right way? The epic wankfest that happened says no. But it was still within their rights to do so. The way triggering was dismissed also upset me, because for me it is an unfortunate fact of life. For those who do not understand, and they are lucky to not understand, they should have at least had a little bit of sensitivity to an issue that affects a lot of people. Trust me, I’d rather not be triggered myself, it sort of tends to put me out of commission for a couple of days and I hate that.
That being said, I also see how some people would take this as “mollycoddling” or even more erroneously, censorship. Maybe the books should have stayed on the list, but with a warning, but unfortunately hindsight’s 20/20.
I’m not sure what honestly has been learned at this point, other than the internet’s ability to take a misunderstanding or an argument and devolve it to the point most people just raise their hands and back away slowly. What could have been a thoughtful and emotional conversation on what makes good YA feminist literature has gotten lost in a bunch of knee-jerk reactions and disinformation, and that makes me sad.
Anyway, thank you both for being so thoughtful, intelligent and eloquent, as always.
danielleFebruary 7, 2011 at 5:01 am
I think Bitch Media definitely made the biggest mistake by not going over every book on their list, especially if it would be one so polarizing. Yeah, the reactions are a bit dramatic but when you’re dealing with feminism, you king of have to tread carefully.
BookChicFebruary 7, 2011 at 7:44 am
JL Said: “I’m especially disappointed by the authors who want their books removed from the list because their book also depicts rape. There needs to be more of justification than ‘if a book talks about rape, it must automatically be feminist (or anti-feminist).’”
Why are you disappointed in them and not Bitch Media? Bitch Media pulled a book that didn’t even have a rape in it but instead because on ONE PAGE IN A 300-PAGE BOOK there were some realistic attitudes presented. Are those attitudes wrong? Absolutely, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be included in a book. Characters have flaws- those two characters who say those things have that flaw.
So anyway, if they’re going to get rid of a book that doesn’t even have a rape because it might be triggering, shouldn’t they also get rid of the books that actually include a rape, sometimes a graphic one? Because I’d imagine that reading an actual rape scene is much more triggering than a character saying something indirectly about rape.
As for triggering, I don’t think it’s dismissive to say that life is triggering. Triggers can happen at any time, anywhere for a variety of reasons from any kind of traumatic experience, not just from having been raped. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson is a horrifying realistic portrayal of eating disorders. I’d imagine that someone who had been through an eating disorder could find that book triggering. Same thing with Sold by Patricia McCormick and a whole slew of other books on the list. That’s where the problem lies. It’s not an equal opportunity pulling.
Bitch Media should’ve stood by their list. They had been recommended those three books by other staff members and maybe friends and should’ve let those people say why those books were included and kept them on. The person who brought up your review even said that she didn’t want the book pulled, just that she was surprised it was included. The correct response to her comment would then be “Oh, thanks for the link and that’s an interesting discussion of an interpretation. However, we included this book because…” Those books were obviously there for a reason and fit their criteria; if someone has a problem with a certain book, tell whoever recommended it to check out that comment and respond with the reason. If you make a list and post it for public consumption, be prepared for haters and detractors but STAND BY IT. That’s the first rule of blogging, honestly. If they’d just done that or, hell, even reinstated the books after being proven wrong by a bajillion people, this whole hoopla wouldn’t have happened. Those three books were obviously there for a reason; why weren’t those reasons brought to light?
Yet one person (or, being generous, a handful) complains about a book’s inclusion because of its depiction of rape or, in the case of Sisters Red, unsavory attitudes toward rape that are realistic (oh noes!) and it gets taken off. That was the problem; that’s what people are upset about. Your review was included in that first comment about Sisters Red and the rep from Bitch was like “Oh, I didn’t know that. I’ll go pull the book and replace it with another.” BECAUSE OF ONE NEGATIVE REVIEW. In that case, just take down the whole list because every book on there has a negative review, if that’s your criteria for pulling books off a recommended list.
Also, it bothers me when people keep mentioning that it’s a Top 100 or Best of list because it’s not. It’s just 100 books that they deemed feminist reading. It’s not the Top 100 because it’s in alphabetical order. They were even talking about making a second list with new suggestions that were made. It’s just a bunch of random books that were selected for a variety of reasons.
So essentially, Bitch Media was wrong, I am right.
Gerd D.February 7, 2011 at 10:00 am
That exactly mirrors my thoughts on any listing of such nature, I could have easily done with half or quarter of that list but with detailed comments.
Who needs a top hundred of anything, if you have no basis to judge where the people compiling it come from as a starting point nor where they are headed with it?
Regarding “triggers,” that’s a difficult topic for me that I personally have no real opinion on because I’m in the lucky position to say that I don’t know what it means to find yourself in such a situation.
I’ve got books that depress me, books that I thought afterward that I could have lived without having read because they brought up unpleasant memories, but when it comes to “triggers,” nope have none…
Still, taking off LDG because of possible “triggers” or demanding it to be taken down because of that?
That seems strange to me, honestly, I didn’t have to read that book to tell that it’s going to feature sexual abuse, so it’s unlike, say, reading Kelley Armstrong’s “Frostbitten” where I went in completly unaware of the quite graphic elements of sexualized violence contained within the story.
I do agree though, that comments like “life is triggering” sound supremly condescending, seems I do have an opinion after all, like telling people living in a warzone to stay away from it if they can’t stand the heat. I wonder if people that dismiss the idea of triggers in books, and the thought following from that that a warning might be in order, with “Life is triggering” also find it redundant to warn people off minefields.
Books being possibly triggering or not, is to my understanding not a quality statement. It says nothing about how the author in question handled the given subject. But people seem to see exactly that when talk comes to possible triggers, as if it was a inherent negative statement.
As if “This book possibly triggers,” is tantamount to “This book is badly written.”
Which it isn’t, unless it says “This book possibly triggers english majors”
SBFebruary 7, 2011 at 10:30 am
I think this is an excellent post in many respects, and I think a lot of the people commenting so far have made a lot of good points, so I won’t repeat them.
The only thing that I want to point out is that from my understanding, the original discussion of censorship had to do with the fact that the process of the removal of those three books resembled the process by which books get censored in general. It wasn’t that the books themselves were being censored. Now, bear in mind I only read the beginning of the discussion on Bitch Media, so what it devolved into after that, I don’t know. I’m sure plenty of people accused Bitch Media of censoring the books, but I don’t think that’s how it was originally meant to be. And if the start of the censorship discussion only mentioned the one book, it may be because the person posting had only read the one book and so only felt comfortable using that one as an example. I know that since I have not read any of the books in question, I wouldn’t be comfortable attacking or defending their right to be on the list. But again, I stopped reading the comments shortly after that because I got tired of the vitriol, so I can’t say what happened after that, only how I interpreted the initial discussion of censorship.
SBFebruary 7, 2011 at 10:34 am
Oh! And I also want to mention that I didn’t just come over here for the Bitch Media thing. I’ve read the blog for a while to get ideas for what to read next – I just don’t comment usually. Ana and Thea, thanks for all the great reviews and posts you guys make all the time. You’ve definitely helped me make decisions on whether or not to read certain books on numerous occasions. It sucks that you’ve been misquoted and dragged through the muck on this, but I hope you continue the awesome work!
JLFebruary 7, 2011 at 10:52 am
I’m certainly disappointed by Bitch Media for the list, and agree the overwhelming fault lies with them for a poorly thought out list. But since I do not regularly follow that magazine, my disappointment in them stings a little less than it does for the authors whose books I adore. I completely agree Bitch is at fault for referencing the list as “100 young adult novels that every feminist should add to the stack of books on their bedside table.” That certainly makes it sound like a definitive list, or at least a sign that the removed books are NOT appropriate for feminist readers. I saw the removal of the three books as an insult to intelligent young readers.
But back to my disappointment with the authors and online commenters. Much of the debate started when a link to the Smugglers’ review of The Sisters Red was posted. That review called out the tacit reproduction of social norms in which women’s concern with their looks or sexuality is denigrated and portrayed as ‘asking for it’. Many commenters on the original review were upset that the Smugglers were seemingly basing the review on one minor passage (they weren’t) that wasn’t necessarily pertinent to the rest of the storyline. But the fact the passage in question was minor was the point! That it was subtle, unchallenged and normalized is what was problematic. If ‘unsavory attitudes toward rape’ was an overt, major plot point or character trait, it would be easier for readers to digest, critique and consider in relation to their own opinions and experiences. Readers, even (or perhaps more so) young adult readers, are very capable understanding that an actual occurrence of sexual assault in a storyline is a complex issue and does not mean rape = good. But the potential for normalization of rape culture in YA was not addressed as a different issue than writing about rape or other tough issues. When the author of The Sisters Red commented on the Book Smugglers review, she didn’t address this difference either. That doesn’t mean I think she supports rape or rape culture. Just that it’s a pervasive problem in society that often gets inadvertently reproduced and is rarely challenged, and its certainly an issue that wasn’t properly addressed in the book according to the Smugglers, nor in the comments about the book at Bitch Media.
I understand when commenters over Bitch Media or even here may not always get the difference between rape and rape culture. But a number of the authors commenting on the Bitch List are choosing to write about sexual assault and other important feminist issues, and a number of them do gear their books toward a primarily young female audience. I expect them to have a critical perspective toward social norms around sexuality and gender expression. For the most part, they do an excellent job addressing rape, eating disorders and other major issues young women frequently face. That’s why I love their books. But in the comments over Bitch Media’s list, most of these authors seemed to be no more articulate than my pet frog. Particularly in recognizing the difference between rape and rape culture. That’s where my disappointment comes from. Many of these authors that I have a lot of respect for complained about ‘coddling’ readers. But they simultaneously overlooked a real opportunity to address why any of the three removed books should be read by young feminist readers, and whether reproducing negative stereotypes about women’s sexuality is problematic in YA lit.
KMontFebruary 7, 2011 at 11:06 am
JL, thank YOU! The points you’re making are ones that many are overlooking! Points that the Smugglers have tried to make clear over and over, but instead folks take it as book bashing, accusing the author of such and such and other pointless, off topic things instead of exploring the issue on the table.
Thank you for putting that issue forward in a reasonable, calm way that makes sense. If only more would take that as a means for discussion and not the petty crap that’s being flung around way too much!
RebeccaFebruary 7, 2011 at 11:27 am
JL — you’re making a lot of comments about Sisters Red and how the idea of rape culture is portrayed in it. I’m not calling into question your opinions in any way whatsoever, I’m just curious about the fact that you haven’t read the book. Some people agreed with the booksmugglers in their interpretation and many people disagreed.
I think this is what I find frustrating with this conversation because I have read the book and I disagree with the Booksmugglers interpretation of that passage and how it fits in with the book. You wrote, “That it was subtle, unchallenged and normalized is what was problematic,” and that’s the Booksmuggers interpretation that it was an unchallenged aspect of the book – I disagreed and thought that idea was challenged in the book.
I feel like a lot of people are taking the Booksmuggers opinion as their own rather than forming their own opinion after reading the book. This then goes one step farther in that people are defending the removal of the book based on someone else’s opinion of it and not their own.
LisaFebruary 7, 2011 at 11:40 am
I think you guys make some great points. I think the whole situation has gotten ridiculously out of proportion.
What you say is absolutely true- that Bitch magazine made THEIR list of books and can absolutely revoke, remove or delete the whole thing if that’s what they want to do.
As I haven’t read any of the books in question, I’ll leave my 2 cents right here. 🙂
JLFebruary 7, 2011 at 12:00 pm
I tried word my comments in a way that made it clear I hadn’t read the book and wasn’t suggesting the book was anti-feminist, or that I believed it should be removed from the list. Yes, I do trust the Smugglers to give thoughtful critiques and chose not to read the book because of their review. The review was really well explained, not simply “anti-squee! I hate this book! Stupid!” I really couldn’t care less about whether it was removed from a list that clearly wasn’t well thought out from the get go. The reason I keep mentioning this book is because it was central to the big brouhaha, and the one book of the three that is accused of being problematic for reproducing negative stereotypes of women’s sexuality (as opposed to being potentially triggering). That being said, you’re right that it’s starting to feel like a lot of us, myself included, are ganging up on a book we haven’t read, and it is unfair to Jackson Pearce. And I would love to hear your thoughts on why you disagree with the Smugglers’s take. I love dark fairy tales and would love to have a reason to read the book. I read 400+ of the comments at Bitch Media and at the Smugglers’ original review and did not see an articulate counter-argument.
However, the fact remains that is is a very common trope, in my reading experience, to portray ‘bad’ girls as ditzy, pretty, and over-sexed in YA lit. Often, female protagonists only wear makeup or sexy clothes if duty calls or their friends decide to play dress up with them. But of course, they are naturally ridiculously beautiful, so they don’t need makeup because all boys love them anyway. But they are good girls and don’t have sex. But if they do, they get slut-shamed and learn their lesson and blah blah blah. In a society were we are still fighting to have date-rape recognized as rape-rape, slut-shaming and portraying a young women’s desire to be attractive as naive and/or responsible for unwanted attention is both common AND problematic. In my opinion, there is a much bigger issue at stake than whether or not books should have been removed from Bitch List.
Okay, I’m ranting way too much and I’m sorry if I’ve hijacked the conversation. I’ll stop now 🙂
Paige M.February 7, 2011 at 2:50 pm
Just a quick note in support – I found your blog through the BitchMedia controversy, and though I’ve only barely had time to start reading, I love it. Thanks for hosting great discussions, and for taking the time and energy to work through what are genuinely challenging and worthwhile discussions to have.
PamFebruary 7, 2011 at 7:27 pm
I hadn’t read any of the books so the only thing I had to say was that I wish they had used a better vetting process and that they had tapped educators and went into it with some thought.
BookChicFebruary 8, 2011 at 10:59 pm
JL- Oh my goodness. I don’t even know where to begin. I had like a 20 minute rant in my head over a lot of what you said. But I will try, even though I’d like to just leave it at “You’re wrong and you and everyone else is making a mountain out of three particles of dirt.” and move on.
In regards to the Book Smugglers’ review of Sisters Red, I read it and the comments and honestly? I felt like that one page just colored their entire view of the book. Even though it is a realistic viewpoint; that doesn’t make it right or anything, but it’s realistic and makes sense in that situation (there was even a comment early on with a different interpretation that was probably closer to the author’s intent than the BS’ hysteria). I felt like they were just trying to find other reasons to hate it besides that one page because giving a book an F based on one page? It’s not done or, if it is done, it’s stupid.
I felt as if they wanted the book to be hunky dory and that it was a perfect world where Scarlett absolutely loved protecting the ignorant girls. Like they didn’t want a realistic character flaw to exist because it was such a wrong thing to think/say. As if we all don’t think horrible things in our day-to-day lives.
You also say this- “That it was subtle, unchallenged and normalized is what was problematic.”- which makes it sound like the author was trying to pull a fast one over readers and hoping they wouldn’t notice. Like she’s some evil villain planting little ideas on one page of a 400 page novel to normalize blaming rape victims.
It wasn’t normalized. If every single character (or even a majority) thought that, then yes, I would agree with you. However, it was two characters out of I don’t even know how many who said these thoughts. They said these thoughts because they are in the business of saving these girls from wolves. Does that make it right? No. Does it make sense to their characters and what their job is though? Yes. Hence why it is there and Scarlett comes to realize in the end that she shouldn’t think that way.
You even said it’s a common and problematic way of thinking. So there’s your reason for including it. Someone has to think that way and be proven wrong. By sweeping it under the rug, nothing gets changed.
As for why you should read the book, here’s my argument. Does the book sound good to you, just looking at the summary? It sounds like it because you say you like dark fairy tales. Does a character having opposing viewpoints that are considered wrong in the real world and that conflict with your own viewpoint make you hate a book? If the answer is yes, then by all means, go pick it up from your library or wherever. Then form your opinion on the passage in question and the book as a whole.
If you want to go ahead and avoid the book because of the Book Smugglers’ unbalanced, hysterical review (I mean, really, who the hell spends 5 paragraphs complaining about how two characters thought one horrible thing on one page? Oh noes, a character has a flaw!), then that is your prerogative. But it is not up to us to provide a counter-argument of the book so that you’ll read it. Go find some 5 star reviews and read those. Or just forget all about reviews and just pick the damn book up yourself so you can make up your own mind.
Honestly, this (Bitch Media and the Sisters Red review) is all just so stupid. I’m surprised there are even two sides to either issue. It just doesn’t make any sense to me how anyone could think otherwise.
CupK8February 9, 2011 at 8:31 am
Thanks for the clarification. There’s obviously a lot of confusion over the process (from other comments I’ve read as well).
kellyFebruary 9, 2011 at 5:01 pm
I checked, I double checked, and then I checked again, but nope. Nowhere in Sisters Red could I find a reason to link this book with the current rape culture. As for the passage that was given by Ana and Thea, that was just clearly two flawed characters trying to cope with the lives they WEREN’T leading. Just some plain bitterness and jealousy. A sane and objective person would have just taken the book for just what it is, a kick-ass story about soulless wolves trying to eat pretty girls in red cloaks. But no, the Booksmugglers had to get on their high and mighty horses to blow a random passage way out of proportion.
And now you guys are crying about your review being misrepresented. Well, Boo Freakin’ Hoo! Isn’t that the same thing you did with Jackson Pearce?
As you guys so coldly reminded Jackson when she tried to explain herself, “It’s not about an author’s intent, It’s about a reader’s interpretation”.
Ain’t karma a bitch!
RenayFebruary 9, 2011 at 10:02 pm
Good to see you’re still responding to debates like this with A+ sexist language, BookChic, it’s nice to see things haven’t changed much, dudes ripping down women with this type of inflammatory nonsense. It’s like your calling card, like if I see your name I can go “gee, how many offensive things am I going to find this time?”. Congratulations, it’s impossible to take anything you say when it relates to women, feminism, sexism, or women’s issue seriously because you completely fail at basic, Sexism 101 and aren’t interested in stepping back to see how much you consistently fail. Bravo.
alanaFebruary 10, 2011 at 8:49 am
This is kind of funny and par the course for these sorts of things.
I do have to say I personally took issue with the was the revenge rape was played out in Tender Morsels. I even commented about it on your original review. “But then the author tries to justify the rape of the men who raped Liga in the beginning of the story and I can’t accept that. Rape is wrong. It doesn’t matter if you’re a good person or a bad person. I may have more sympathy for an innocent 15 years old girl than I would a convicted rapist in prison, but that doesn’t make it any more acceptable. As long as rape is used as a tool of punishment and degradation, on anyone, it will always be a problem.” So yeah, I definitely took issue with that as well.
BookChicFebruary 10, 2011 at 9:06 am
Renay- First off, when have you and I ever discussed women’s issues before? The last debate we had (which was also our first) was about male characters. So how would you even know my thoughts on feminism and the issues associated with it?
Also, if it were two guys writing the review instead of two women, I’d say the exact same thing (and I have, probably several times on the site AfterElton, which is mainly a site for gay males, when I see someone being hysterical). What else do you call making a mountain out of a molehill? Or making an issue out of two characters who have different viewpoints from you and that don’t reflect the author’s own viewpoint? It is hysterical. It’s making an issue out of nothing and yet running with it anyway and completely blowing it out of proportion. It’s giving a book a DNF for no real reason.
So please, tell me what word I should use when it comes to those particular situations that’s PC or whatever.
alanaFebruary 10, 2011 at 9:51 am
Oh and I just read a good chunk of the comments over at Bitch Media and I have to say people are getting way too worked up about this. A lot of people are just using this as an excuse to air other grievances I think. Did they drop the ball? Obviously. But they’re trying to showcase books with strong women protagonists and that’s great.
Also, all the comments show a gross misunderstanding of what the “triggering” label aims to do. It has nothing to do with coddling rape survivors. To even imply so is disingenuous.
RenayFebruary 10, 2011 at 10:05 pm
@BookChic Come on, I can read and you continually pop up on the YA Radar, because you are a male YA book blogger in a primarily female community and you use so much sexist rhetoric it’s embarrassing. It doesn’t matter if our last conversation was about male characters — the rhetoric you used was sexist. I also read your entry where you put “rape culture” in scare quotes and blamed this entire debacle on Ana and Thea which is absolutely boggling. You discredit their review as hysterical and accuse them as having hysteria but then blame them — you can’t have it both ways. Either their review is hysterical and they’re angry and shouldn’t be listened to or they’re not and it’s their fault. Pick a side, you’re being inconsistent.
The problem is you are trying to insert yourself into feminist discussions without a solid feminist background. You’re defensive, you’re hostile, you use sexist language, and yes, “hysterical” the way you used it is sexist, because you are a man and you are aiming that language at Ana and Thea to dismiss their concerns, discredit their criticism and characterize them as being angry so you can suggest that their anger is making them illogical and unbalanced. This is basic, 101 level stuff that you refused to even consider last time we ran into each other one on one, and it doesn’t look like times have changed much. If you want to be an ally, take a step back and actually READ THE WORDS on the screen that are being said to you. You are using sexist rhetoric against two women and you are doing it in such a way that it is clear you don’t want to learn. You want to use what words you want to use, but the problem is words mean things and that reaction IS different when you aim it at a woman, because it feeds into a historical context of men oppressing women’s voices by making sure everyone knows they’re HYSTERICAL and can’t be trusted. Just search for “female hysteria” or “derailing” — which is what you’re doing right now. It’s not rocket science.
As for more appropriate terminology you could have used instead of that word that you chose: expand your vocabulary and think about why, exactly, you’re reading their review as angry and hysterical. Is it because they were angry or really because you’re annoyed with their reaction and thus projecting because you seem to have no clue how to critically engage without demanding that there’s something wrong with someone’s mental faculties? I didn’t find Ana and Thea’s review of Sister’s Red hysterical, I found it contemptuous. They weren’t beside themselves, they were clear and straight-forward and thorough in why they did not like the book and it is perfectly valid for them to have not liked the book because one part of that book failed for them — that is their right as readers. That’s not hysterical, that’s called being critical. You made your criticism by calling Ana and Thea’s emotional state into question with your word choices. Even if I could suggest better word choices, I don’t think I would, because the fact of the matter is you invoked their emotions on purpose to discredit them and changing your language will not help the underlying problem in that every comment I have seen you make in this discussion has been distinctly anti-feminist. You are boosting up tired old sexism memes, which really troubles me considering the community you’re attempting to be heard in. It’s not even original, it’s just depressing.
Ana, Thea — I apologize for wanking all over your comments.
NTEFebruary 12, 2011 at 6:27 pm
Ok, well, I missed this whole thing when it happened (and am kind of glad I did), but I just want to thank you for your thoughtful post here.
BookChicFebruary 13, 2011 at 10:23 am
Renay- Here’s what happened on the Bitch Media site- List was posted, link to TBS Sisters Red review was posted, Sisters Red was removed, and because of this, people then thought they could get OTHER books removed from the list. If this review hadn’t been so over-the-top with the rape culture stuff as well as the irrational upset of characters having different (though not right) thoughts from the reviewers.
That’s where I take issue with their review. It just makes no sense. Yes, what Scarlett and her friend say is very wrong, however it makes sense in the context of the novel as a whole and to what their characters have been through. It’s like Ana and Thea don’t want this fictional world to be realistic. Newsflash- sometimes people say bad things. Get over it. Or, heck, educate people in real life if you’re so angry about people thinking that way, but don’t take it out over a half-page of a book.
Hysteria begets hysteria. Their review was hysterical, causing other gullible, easily swayed people to go “OMG WE MUST PROTECT THE CHILDREN FROM THIS AWFUL, AWFUL BOOK!” Because of this, they should be blamed, at least somewhat. If this review hadn’t existed, or even had been written in a more rational manner, Sisters Red probably wouldn’t have been taken off the list and presumably, there wouldn’t have been other people trying to get other books off the list. I mean, seriously, the review is like 80% about that one little passage. I mean, seriously, who in their right mind spends that much time disagreeing with what a character (or two) said ONCE? And then say not to read the book because of that? Should I not recommend a book because a character says something homophobic once even though the rest of the book isn’t homophobic and is actually very pro-GLBT? Because that’s what happened here- the rest of the book is very feminist but they chose to not recommend the book based on one tiny passage.
As for me being anti-feminist and not understanding it, let me get this straight: because I as a man used the word “hysterical” to refer to two women’s thoughts (even though I’d also use the word if a man wrote it since I have issue with the review and not Ana and Thea), I’m being anti-feminist. However, if a man wrote this, and I called it hysterical, that’s fine.
That all doesn’t sound very feminist to me. Isn’t the definition of feminism that women are equal to men in every capacity and don’t deserve any special treatment? By retracting my use of the word “hysterical” when it comes to their review, I’d be giving them special treatment. You’re saying that they can’t handle a man calling their review “hysterical”; that because they’re women, they need to be coddled and treated more delicately than if I were speaking to a man. Oh yes, that’s VERY feminist of you.
Also, their review is not critical in the slightest. If it was, this whole issue wouldn’t have cropped up. Because if they had thought critically about WHY the characters thought that way, they would have realized that there is a reason behind it all. Several commenters on the review even mentioned the motives and reasoning behind Scarlett and her friend saying those things, but Ana and Thea refused to listen.
Yes, they can write whatever they want, but don’t pass it off as being critical when it isn’t.
They didn’t disagree with one part of the book. One part implies something larger, like a character’s emotional journey, or a theme that pops up a few times. This is less than half a page in a 400 page book that they spent 80% of their review stewing over FOR NO REASON. This book isn’t advocating blaming the victims and it bothers me (and many others) that they’re saying it is.
To conclude, if I were REALLY sexist or anti-feminist, I wouldn’t even be in this community because, as you mention, it’s mainly populated by women. I wouldn’t even bother reading the books given to me because they’re all about strong women. I also highly doubt that the vast majority of my friends would be women, that virtually all my CDs are full of women singers (some singer/songwriters), that my favorite actors and comedians are women if I were so anti-feminist and sexist.
Just face it- you were wrong then and you are wrong now. You’re just making issues out of nothing.
AnaFebruary 13, 2011 at 1:39 pm
Bookchic – Look. Dude. We were able to ignore the many, arrogant, self-inflated and flat-out ignorant comments you were leaving here, but this last one takes the cake.
Let us get this right: what you are basically saying is that on top of being hysterical and irrational, we are also so supremely powerful that we have not only swayed the gullible minds of our readers, but we are also responsible for everyone on the internet that has voiced a similar opinion regarding Sisters Red – including the Bitch Media staff.
Seriously? We get that you disagree with our interpretation of Sisters Red (again, key words: OUR interpretation). That’s fine. However, we have yet to see anyone reply with an actual review or argument for the book explaining why you think it is a feminist work of YA fiction. Don’t you think that would be a far more valuable exertion of effort, instead of repeating your same misguided, accusatory comments over, and over, and over again? (Please also feel free to point out where we “refused to listen” to commenters making reasoned arguments behind the behaviors of those two characters in our review – because frankly, we’re mystified as to where you are getting these bizarre ideas about what we said in the review and comments section.)
You also seem to be under the impression that ours is the sole negative review of Sisters Red but there are at least 150 1-2 starred reviews on Goodreads and some of them also mention the problematic depiction of female characters in the book. Our favourite might be this one: HERE, but that’s just us, of course. You might find these too hysterical as well.
Also, simply saying that because you have a lot of female friends or read a lot of books by female authors or listen to CDs by female artists does not mean anything in the context of this conversation. And when you use words like “hysterical” or dismissive comments like “If this review hadn’t been so over-the-top with the rape culture stuff,” you’re really not making much of a case for yourself as a so-called critical reader or feminist.
CelineFebruary 13, 2011 at 2:23 pm
*Hysteria begets hysteria. Their review was hysterical, causing other gullible, easily swayed people to go “OMG WE MUST PROTECT THE CHILDREN FROM THIS AWFUL, AWFUL BOOK!” … If this review hadn’t existed, or even had been written in a more rational manner, Sisters Red probably wouldn’t have been taken off the list*
Here was me thinking you guys were bookbloggers. How shocking to find that you are evil masterminds with powers verging on gods.
I shall put on my tinfoil hat* so that I can continue to love ‘Tender Morsals’ and ‘Skippy Dies’ despite The Booksmugglers not liking them.
(* it being, of course, the only thing that protects me from the Smugglers nasty thought waves and helps me think for myself.)
BookChicFebruary 17, 2011 at 2:53 pm
I’m not saying that you guys wrote that review knowing what would happen at Bitch Media 6 months later. But you can’t deny that your review is what took the book off the list and it was the first book to even be taken off, thus leading other people to be like “Oh, we can make cases to get other books we don’t like off this list.”
Here’s what happened: Someone pointed Bitch Media to your review and said that it sparked a debate about rape culture and how the book promotes it. Bitch Media responded with “Oh, I didn’t know the book promoted rape culture. I will take it off right away.” Your review did that. In fact, that employee of Bitch Media even said that she had only heard good things about SR and this was the first she’d heard of any negativity. She didn’t even do any research into it, even though I feel like everyone should know that all books have negative reviews.
And I don’t have a problem with you not liking the book. I have a problem with you not liking the book because of a misguided interpretation you had regarding one scene. Every book has negative reviews, so if they’re taking off a book because of one negative review, they might as well just pull the whole list. If your review was just about SR’s repetitiveness, predictability, etc., I wouldn’t have even cared. One of my blogger friends Gail has been reading some books lately that I loved, but she’s hated them, quite vehemently too. We have a discussion and I can see where she’s coming from and I respect that. But her problems with the books in question actually make sense and that’s why I can see her side. I don’t see how this book promotes rape culture in the slightest. I’m writing a book with a homosexual protagonist and he gets bullied at school; I included a scene where he gets beaten up off school grounds. Now, because I have that one scene, am I promoting bullying and homophobia? Even though the rest of the book is pretty pro-GLBT? I feel like if a reviewer made that case, everyone would laugh at them because it has no foundation. Bullying happens; it’s not right, but it happens. It’s the same with this- blaming the victim is WRONG, but it happens. Should Pearce not have included that (and also, in the passage you quoted, Scarlett even said “I didn’t mean that.”) because it shows a wrong way of thinking, even though it’s realistic? Should Pearce’s world just be hunky dory? Because I feel like you’re not giving enough credit to readers to know that that way of thinking is wrong.
Tell me this- does Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson promote eating disorders? does Crank by Ellen Hopkins promote drug and alcohol abuse? does Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas promote child abuse? does Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu promote hoarding? does Grace by Elizabeth Scott promote terrorism? does Hate List by Jennifer Brown promote school shootings? does Rampant by Diana Peterfreund promote rape? The answer to all those questions is no. The mere existence of something in a book doesn’t make it promote that point of view or traumatic event. Now, you can say that those books and SR promote those things, but you would have no real foundation to that claim, which is why those “interpretations” would be hysterical. But then again, that’s logic and you don’t seem to be getting that so why even bother?
As for people responding with different interpretations to SR on your review, check comments #4, 37, 41, 42, 56, 89, 102, 107, 110, 112, and 113. They are logical and give reasons to the characters’ motivations behind what they say. You however seemed to take Scarlett and Silas’ thoughts at face value and went “THIS BOOK IS BLAMING THE VICTIMS OF RAPE!” when it’s not. A critical person would have seen that. When faced with those clear, logical, correct reasons, I’d imagine that you would have seen that you were making a big deal out of nothing and taken the rape culture bit out of your review (though that probably wouldn’t have left much after that since it’s 90% of both your reviews).
I read books all the time with characters who say and think things that I don’t agree with, but if I threw the book across the room every time this happened, I’d never finish a book nor would I have a blog. Or if I did have a blog, people would laugh at it from me writing “There’s this character Jack who came in and said something homophobic once in the entire book. This book obviously promotes homophobia and shouldn’t be read by anyone!”
But whatever. You guys obviously don’t understand logic and how to read into a story correctly. You want a reason that this book is feminist? Girls kicking rapist ass. What more do you need?
Kate & ZenaFebruary 17, 2011 at 6:31 pm
Hi Ana and Thea,
I happened to stumble across this site from, yes, BitchMedia. I did read your review of Sisters Red and I agree the review was misconstrued and deconstructed horribly on the site (I managed to read all of the comments on that site. Wow, people can be horribly mean). I just started reading Sisters Red (I’m on page 68) so I won’t be able to give you my honest thoughts on it until I finish it.
I wanted to comment on the “triggering” thing that happened on BitchMedia and is being commented on in here. “Triggering,” aka a trigger, is a serious thing. Yes, I’ll admit my mom and I had a little fun (“Mom, the red pillow is triggering!” Um, yea, it’s a way of coping for us) when we say that’s why Tender Morsels was removed, but we still know it’s serious because we both have very serious triggers.
I know it hasn’t been defined on here (or on BitchMedia, for that matter), so for those who don’t know what it means, here it is; a “trigger” is something (an event, a word, a smell, etc) that causes a victim of a traumatic event (ex. sexual assault, abuse, war, et cetera) to relive the event or have “flashbacks” of the event. Some people and experts choose to clump reliving and the flashbacks, I don’t.
The thing that bothered me was that they chose to use the word “triggering” with Tender Morsels and that book alone. This bothers me as many books on that list could be deemed “triggering.” I think the word was used very flippantly in that case.
~BookChic–It’s not a misguided interpretation. It’s a very good interpretation actually. They have a right to be disturbed. especially if you go off the original tale.
In fairy tales, particularly Little Red Cap, which this story is a retelling of, a wolf is symbolic of a rapist, the huntsman is a symbol for the hero and Little Red Cap (and grandmother) is the damsel in distress. If you’ve never researched fairy tales, let me give you a crash course on where fairy tales come come. They were oral stories that were written down by the people we come to associate as “the authors” (aka the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault). Women told these stories to their children, particularly the females. These stories didn’t have morals originally (Perrault added those), but were used as a device to teach female what to expect as they grow up. In Little Red Cap, the girl goes off to see her grandmother carrying wine and cake. Her mother SPECIFICALLY says not to stray from the path. She gets distracted by a wolf and tells him where she’s off too. The wolf takes a faster path, eats the grandmother and later Little Red Cap and the huntman kills the wolf and rips Grandmother and Little Red Cap out of the wolf’s stomach (I’m sure you know the story. If not, you really were depraved as a child. Look it up). Basically, the mothers who told this story were teaching their daughters to never talk to strangers–particularly strange men–whom you or the family don’t know because you don’t know their reputation. You’re worthless once your soiled (aka raped).
As for Scarlett’s comment in the book (which I haven’t gotten to yet), traditionally, it was seen that women were to blame for their rape because they had done something too sexual, too racy, et cetera. That type of thinking still exists today.
So is their analysis too far off? I don’t think so. I would like to add as someone who has taken feminist literature classes, I would call both Scarlett and Rosie “divided self” characters which is very important in feminist literature. Feminist literature tend to have “woman becoming” characters as well; I can’t yet say if Scarlett and Rosie are those as well as I’m not even half-way through the book.
P.S. Before you comment on a book, please READ the book. I just looked at your review list and this book is NOWHERE to be seen. You’re also basing your accusations based on reviews. Read before slamming please.
Kate & ZenaFebruary 17, 2011 at 6:32 pm
(Sorry for the long comment, Ana and Thea! I didn’t mean to make it that long. Oops.)
KellyFebruary 18, 2011 at 8:10 pm
BookChic is right
Review: Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce « Rhiannon LassiterJune 21, 2012 at 7:36 am
[…] Book Smugglers which the author herself took issue with in the comments. (The Book Smugglers also posted an update after the Bitch […]