Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ye Be Banned

A fellow blogger, Karen Amanda Hooper, has a good post up about books having warning labels. That got me thinking about banned books. I like what the American Library Association says about this in their latest list of banned and challenged books for 2009:

"The challenged documents in this list are not brought by people merely expressing a point view; rather, they represent requests to remove materials from schools or libraries, thus restricting access to them by others. Even when the eventual outcome allows the book to stay on the library shelves and even when the person is a lone protester, the censorship attempt is real. Someone has tried to restrict another person's ability to choose. . . . Attempts to censor can lead to voluntary restriction of expression by those who seek to avoid controversy; in these cases, material may not be published at all or may not be purchased by a bookstore, library, or school district."

I can see the points for each side: those who see the need to censor a given work and protect children in schools, and those who are standing up for the freedom to choose. One of the points made in Karen's post was that what we should really be doing is sitting down with our children to discuss with them the issues addressed in books, and let them decide if they should be reading a particular work. That would solve things, but then again, the child may not know a particular work has certain material in it if it were never challenged or banned in the first place.

I suppose the question is, how far do we go to protect our children and what they read? There are websites out there that review books and rate them. That's a good start, but when do you let your child decide on their own? A book I recently read, The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian has been banned and challenged all over the place. Let me tell you, I enjoyed this book a lot, and although I think it's definitely meant for a more mature audience, I don't see that it should be removed from library shelves. It deals with things that every young adult audience is going through, and made me think deeply about friendship, racism, and what it means to be human and honest to yourself and others.

How do you feel about banning? Does it solve anything or create more problems? And, more importantly, how would you feel if your work was banned, if that meant you lost sales because libraries and bookstores weren't purchasing your book? Or, maybe it would mean more publicity.


  1. As a parent, I support warning labels and content advisories for materials marketed toward children (books, movies, music, video games, etc.)

    It doesn't mean I wouldn't let my kids read a book that had an advisory, and I don't believe a book should be banned - no matter how outrageous or distasteful it may be. I may question that character of people who write and read something over-the-top offensive, but I support their right to do so.

  2. I don't believe it's the library's job to decide who should be able to read what. There are folks whose religious views prevent their children from reading anything with magic in it. No Harry Potter, for example. I respect those people's opinions, but they should monitor their children's choices of books. Even librarians don't know everything about every book.

    That said, occasionally a young patron will check out a book that I think has content which may be too much for them. I don't stop them from checking it out, but if there is a parent present, I may say something like, "This book deals with some heavy issues. You may want to read it together so you can talk about it." I don't do this often, but when an eleven year old wants to read Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why, I feel the mom might appreciate a heads-up.

    I know parents can't take the time to preview everything their children read, but looking at the jacket content or even a quick read of reviews on Amazon will give them a clue as to what the content may be.

  3. If I wrote a book that was banned I'd be flattered. Really? I wrote something that made enough noise for you to want me to shut up? I could never make another sale again and still feel like I'd accomplished something.

    I think bookstores and libraries should be given the responsibility of deciding what is appropriate for children (or anyone) to read. There is always the chance that parents will disagree with them anyways. Schools are trickier because teachers need material that will promote discussion and critical thinking about issues without offending anyone.

  4. Alas, I'm afraid I must hold to the idea that (other than child pornography) there isn't a single "banned" book in America. Historically, censorship has meant that the government restricts publication of certain materials; expanding that definition to not include government subsidizing such materials is problematic on any number of levels. The Wall Street Journal had a good article on the distinction.

  5. I dislike censorship of any kind, so I hate the idea of banning literature. Someday, everyone is going to have to face something that offends them. Some people seem to be more radical about their delicate sensibilities, though. But if, for example, in the instance of Harry Potter, another parent succeeded in getting that book banned from my kid's library-- I'd be livid. How dare they take away MY kid's right to read something? You can be sure I'd hop on Amazon and make sure my kid read it anyway.

    It obviously irritates me, haha.

  6. I would be GEEKED if my book got banned. I'm pretty sure banning a book usually makes it more popular... like the Parental Advisory stickers on CDs that immediately became This Album Is Awesome stickers in the minds of preteens throughout the nation.

    As someone who has studied psychology, I know that text has less power to traumatize and negatively influence children than films or images. Texts are also more likely to open discussions and prompt questioning, which can be a good thing even if the material is downright offensive. I think the idea of warning labels on books is stupid, but I'm not too worried about it unless there was actual censorship involved.

    Quite honestly, I think the division of Fiction from Nonfiction is more important. Fiction, or untrue information, should not be allowed to be sold as legitimate nonfiction. (Is there even a law about this, apart from slander litigation?)

    Finally, I think the censorship debate may become moot in the dawn of easily shared ebooks.

    Long live freedom of information.

  7. Is this a question of what gets into our libraries in general, or what goes into our libraries in schools? I absolutely think that the material included in school libraries should be age appropriate. Schools should be a safe place for children. I think it would be horrible for an avid reader, such as my daughter, to pick out a book because it looks interesting, only to be assaulted by inappropriate content.

    I don't believe in excluding any material from public libraries. Adults, including parents, are responsible for their own choices in that environment.

    If you write a book that has the potential of being banned, you already know that you have narrowed your audience with objectionable material. Obviously, a wide audience was not your main goal in writing such a piece.

  8. Books will never carry "Parental Advistory" stickers because kids don't use their disposable income on them. Books are banned from libraries because of small-minded, lazy parents who want everyone else to bend to their idiocy.

    Here's a novel idea: IF A CHILD IS TAKING INTEREST IN ANY LITERATURE, LET HER/HIM READ IT. I mean, unless its like... hardcore smut, what kind of damage is a book really going to cause? Any novel a child wants to read is a novel they wouldn't have read if they weren't allowed. If a child wants to check out books from the fiction racks, let them. We're worried far too much about having a "good" child, as opposed to a smart child.

  9. I think I don't know enough about the world to really speak for or against banned books, honestly. In general, I don't like the idea of banning books. I think it's a freedom of speech issue, and I like the idea that people can say and write whatever they want. It's much better than killing or fighting in order to be heard. But, in the US and some other countries, I almost think banning is impossible. Banning a book, like others have mentioned here, makes it potentially much more popular. In that sense, I wouldn't mind at all if one of my books were banned. In other countries, I have a feeling a banned book really does restrict one's ability to see it. In those cases, I'd be very much against banning.

  10. Rick: I think warning labels are okay. In fact, I don't think I'd mind ratings on books, like movies. But to remove them entirely or set them apart from everything else does seems silly to me. I agree with you that books shouldn't be banned.

    Michelle: My mom's a librarian, yep, and she has no idea what half the books have in them. It starts in the home where a child learns to make those decisions. If they're reading along and find something they know they shouldn't be reading, they should put it down. Should is the key word here.

    I think you're doing a great thing with giving parents a heads up.

    Taryn: You have an awesome name. I've never seen it before!

    I'm not sure if I'd be flattered or not - but on the whole I think I would be. I would't be writing anything truly offensive, I hope, at least not in a vulgar way. Looking over the banned books and the reasons they have been banned, I'm surprised by some of the reasons!

    Loren: Ah, that's interesting! Thank you for the link on that. I hadn't though of it in that way, that nothing is truly banned...

    L.T.: Someday, everyone is going to have to face something that offends them. Yes, and I think sheltering children to that degree is unnecessary. Thank you for voicing your opinion!

    Genie: Hehe, geeked is a fun word to describe that! Yes, I agree about the Parental Advisory stickers. It just seems to put neon lights around the product. I'm sure that's not what the board is after. I don't think warning labels or ratings would be a terrible thing on books, but I can see where it would get to be a sticky situation.

    That's interesting about the psychology part of that - with how text has less power to traumatize. And good point about easily shared ebooks. It's like the music industry, in away.

    Shelli: It's a question of what goes into our libraries in schools, I think. Yes, I think many writers do understand they are narrowing their audience with objectionable material, but sometimes a banned book gets even a wider audience, interestingly enough, and sometimes a book gets banned for very narrow reasons.

    Ken: Wouldn't it be nice if kids DID use their disposable income on books? I did as a teenager...but I was also a geek in school. So there you go. I see that you're all for the literacy angle, and I'm with you on that. Kids need to be reading. I think Twilight was really big because so many people expected sex in it, and that excited the young teenage mind. And gets them to crack it open, sadly enough. Or maybe it's not sad. I think those scenes were handled all right in the book - not offensive to me, at least. This is, of course, all very subjective. There's that word again...

  11. Davin: Interesting view there that I didn't consider. I was thinking mainly America, but I do agree that outside the US banning a book could be much more restricting for access to that book.

  12. Glamis:

    You bring up an interesting idea about the TWILIGHT books. They are not... good, but if it leads kids (girls mostly, I would imagine) to pick up more books -- to find more stuff that excites them the same way that Twilight did, then all-in-all, it is a success.

    I've never read anything by Meyer, and I doubt I ever will, but I am always enthused when the next great-big-book comes out. One more chance for someone to get bitten by the bookworm, as it were.

  13. Ken: I'm interested about your conclusion for TWILIGHT, that you say they are not good when you haven't read them. Hehe. This is not any criticism on you. I just find it interesting, and I think it's a good topic to discuss how we come to these conclusions. My husband says he hates certain classic authors, when I don't believe he's read many of them.

    Anyway, that is all beside the point. I agree that it is a great thing that they have helped many people actually start reading. I have several friends who weren't readers before who have now given reading a second chance.

    I've read the entire TWILIGHT series because I wanted to see if they really were as bad as I thought they were. They were entertaining. I'll give them that much. And Meyer nailed her audience.

  14. The world is filled with things and ideas my parents didn't want me to know about. Hell, the world is filled with things and ideas that I don't want to know about. But there they are. Anyway, my own parents were simply glad we read a lot and while they would give their opinions about what we read ("What is that crap?"), they would never have thought to keep something out of our hands. I am against content advisories and warning labels and censorship. I do not think that the wee minds of children are as easily influenced or damaged as all that. I will go so far as to say that bad parenting is a greater danger to kids than bad books. Let's do something about that first, then we can see about the books.

  15. Scott: Oh, yes, I agree about the bad parenting. Of course, standing on this side of parenting, I'm beginning to realize how difficult it is. My daughter's stubborn nature will never let me dictate what she reads. I just have to teach her what's right and wrong and hand the decisions over, I suppose.

  16. As a parent, I completely disagree with banning of any books. I guide my children through life the best way I can, including what they read and are exposed to. I can't keep them completely safe from harmful things no matter how hard I try, and part of me believes that's okay. A person can't recognize something as bad if they don't know it exists. By talking to my kids about their choices and providing them guidance, I don't worry whether they will read something I might disagree with. And if they do, I trust that the values I have instilled will guide them to the right choices.

    The worst part about book banning is it takes the responsibility of child-rearing out of the hands of parents and places it on the shoulders of libraries and schools. While I really like the school my kids go to, I don't want them raising my children. I take full responsibility for my boys, and I take full responsibility for guiding them through their choices (in everything, not just reading). At a certain point (as in the case of my 16 year old), they will begin to make their own choices but my hope is that everything I have taught them will give them the tools to make the right choice.

    There is no such thing as an evil book. Whether I agree with every idea ever put into print, I recognize every human's right to print it and read it. If I don't want to read a particular book, I can choose not to. If I don't want my kids to read something, I have the responsibility to guide their choices.

    Sorry for the long rant on my soapbox, but that's my two cents.

  17. Living in a country which banned "Black Beauty" because of it's title, I am deeply against banning or external censorship of any sort. I believe we, as humans, have free will and we should use that gift to choose for ourselves what is good and what is not good.

    (In case you're interested, I was lucky enough to have liberal parents, and I got to read Black Beauty as a child. They got a copy for us from another country - not easy in those days!)

  18. I think part of the problem with banning books is that they often pick books to ban that kids don't feel they need to be protected from. (The Scary Stories series is in the Top Ten for Most Challenged, and I don't know a single happy, well-adjusted kid who hasn't read at least one of those books.) Aside from the fact that it's frustrating to be told a book you love is harmful, the fact that they seek to ban beloved, safe-seeming books depletes all of their credibility when they want to go after books that might be worth a warning label. They don't seem to know which fights are worth fighting.

    If a book is really potentially harmful to kids, then talk to the kids and explain why. Don't just grab every book that might or might not be harmful and run away with them. It's counter-productive and not educational.

  19. Banning books is a form of mind control. Many of the books on that list are classics that promote tolerance and open minds. Intolerant parents aren't interested in protecting their children: they want to protect themselves.

    When I was nine, I picked up a book I found in my Dad's study that was short, had lots of white space and pictures--a kid's book, I thought. The story was exciting, but had an icky ending.

    So I went to my Dad to talk. It turned out the book wasa new translation of Euripides' Medea--the story of a woman who murders her own children to get revenge on her ex. It led to one of the most important conversations I ever had with my Dad about relationships.

    Books aren't the problem--lack of communication is.

  20. ...I think there are more important things to worry about. If some people want banning, maybe they should ban their kids from using the internet (without parental supervision), where pedophiles can easily target them.

    Book labeling is okay with me, but I don't like book banning. On the other hand, while banning can be a subset of censorship, I think "censorship" is worse than outright banning. Outright banning means the banned written-work titles are usually PUBLISHED in list form somewhere. This is publicity; negative publicity is still publicity.

    Censorship tends to be something more insidious, not so obvious, like pushing a writer out of society's writing areas, not publishing the writer, not reading the writer, not paying the writer, completely ignoring the writer, denying the writer a place in the literary part of society's history.

    On the other hand again, to me, censorship, as a noun, would be a censorship across the board--like the writer's work isn't allowed anywhere on earth. That never seems the case today. I guess "censoring" and "being censored" is a problem for some writers, but not "censorship." A writer can usually find somewhere to offer even the sickest content.

    I've been censored a lot, but I've not suffered from censorship--I see a difference between the verb's act and the noun's meaning.

  21. Also, I think the world's a terrible dangerous place. And if kids get NO exposure to what's "out there," they're in a position of weakness once they do go out there. They may be overwhelmed, with fear probably.

    A bit of controlled exposure to the terrible things that go on in the world--that probably helps toughen humans.

    Not everything read should be all sweetness and light; the real world certainly isn't all sweetness and light.

  22. Glamis:

    My conclusions from Twilight are based solely around the many things I have read about it (easily a novella in its own right) and about the way that it portrays the main character as a vapid, half-aware simpleton, willing to do anything to keep the love of some narcisstic blood-sucker who is decidedly creepy in his own right. To me, the idea that teen girls idolize this trash is a problem in its own right, but I don't think that gives me the right to tell them not to read it. It simply means that I will, under no circumstances, give that woman any of my money, nor will I waste my time reading a story that is, essentially, Meyer's sexual fantasies, lived out.

    I suppose it may somehow make my argument on the subject invalid, but the original point that I made was that if the book can bring people to the joy of reading, then by all means, go for it. My girlfriend never read books besides Harry Potter, but after Twilight, I've gotten her to read some Lovecraft short stories, some Gaiman, and now she's reading LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN! I don't read Meyer for philosophical reasons, but if you do, I will not judge you for it.


  23. In my opinion, banning a book essentially creates an institutional one-size-fits-all rule as to whether the content is appropriate. Since ideas on what is offensive differ from person to person, a better choice is to provide information about the type of content in books and let parents decide what works.

    Warning labels are a good step--and I feel the responsibility for monitoring the reading habits of youngsters rests with parents and teachers, not institutions.

    My two cents, for what it's worth.

  24. Would you delete my post if I used offensive language?

    Probably. Because I violated one of your rules.

    Get it?

    Who needs libraries.

    Who needs (bleep)ing rules!

    (bleep) the rules! (bleep) em!

    Raise your own kids, folks, and don't trust the welfare of the state to indoctrinate them into good little proper-thinking taxpayers.

    I've never read Catcher in the Rye. It was banned in my small town.

    So were the bands KISS, Black Sabbath, Lynyrd Skynyrd, that satanic movie Star Wars, and in some houses, all forms of television.

    Oh, and AC/DC. Man, were those guys banned or what!

    Welcome to deep East Texas 1970-something.

    I said during a bible study in college: You guys are nuts. I want to go to hell. That's where all the good concerts and dirty women are!

    I think I was wearing a University of Texas, Austin (Longhorns) shirt that read: Don't Tuck with Fexas

    To a bible study!

    Yeah. I'm a real mutha(bleep)er.

    Censorship (bleep)s!

    - Eric

  25. My initial thought: censorship in any form is wrong!

    My second thought: censorship in any form is wrong!

    My third thought: if you ban a book, kids are going to want to read it and find a way to read it.

    The main issue with banning anything is that it makes it, in the simplest terms possible, the forbidden fruit . . . and we all know how well the first instance of forbidden fruit turned out. To ban a book entices the majority of people to want to read said banned book. Reverse psychology anybody?

    Should there be warning labels? Of course. Should parents discuss certain books with their kids before and after their kids read certain books? Of course. Communication is key . . . not matter the subject.

    The thing with banning books is that, probably 98% of the time, the people wanting to ban the books probably haven't read the books. Okay, I'll drop the % down to about 95%. I remember all the hoopla over the Harry Potter books - they're evil, they teach magic, blah, blah, blah. When I asked one person who was going on and on about the book if they'd ever read the book . . . well, no, they hadn't. Go figure.

    Okay, I'm rambling now. Banning books is bad. Communication between parents and kids is good.

  26. And The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is Lovecraft's horrorual fantasy. I can name several books off the top of my head that are the male authors' sexual fantasies (I won't name them because I'm not giving them publicity--they've already gotten more than enough)--and these books are called great literature. But when the author of a work is a woman and the work is claimed as reading like a sexual fantasy--all of a sudden, the writing sucks. I see this double-standard often; it is sexist.

    Meyer has made lots of money, and while I don't think much of Twilight's purported dependent-on-males female content (assuming that's true--I've not read the whole), Meyer's writing style is very clear, very straightforward. I think this is a significant achievement. While some of Lovecraft's works are among my favorites, getting to the point usually took him ten-thousand years, and I'd hardly call his works philosophical giants--neither would I call Lovecraft himself that. He actually seemed very small-minded in too many ways.

    Point-blank: in my opinion, your post reads as sexist. I regularly see almost the exact same sexistly structured post all over the place, smearing female writers, smearing their works, and exalting male writers and male-written works instead.

    Both Harry Potter and Twilight are written by women*; Let The Great World Spin is written by a man, and Lovecraft and Gaiman are also men. Oh yes, your girlfriend or whoever should move away from reading those female writers and read those male writers instead. Right.

    I think Rowling's writing style is very endearing. I can see why so many copies of Harry Potter have sold. That book apparently got lots of little kids to read. I can't say the same for Lovecraft's writing. His writing and his audience invoke two separate segments--and ages--of society.

    "give that woman any of my money"

    --Why does Meyer's sex matter here? I'm getting tired of seeing someone's gender invoked when it has no relevance to the conversation. Or at least it shouldn't.

    I'd love to live in an English-speaking society where people use terms like "person" and "people" and "they" and "humanity" liberally and rarely bring up someone's sex, unless engaging in sexual activity is involved.

    (*Which your post sounds like the author of Twilight's simply being a woman is enough for a dismissal of her work--and without even having read it.)

  27. I've lost count of how many times I've heard Meyer and her writing smeared using sexist language and constructions. Her books may be sexist, and I probably would despise that, but then so are many books written by MALES sexist. Yet they aren't smeared so sexistly.

    To the world: enough with the sexist Meyer bashing already.

  28. FP

    You're a loon.

    This has nothing to do with the sex of Meyer.

    Get the hell over yourself.

  29. Eric: The worst part about book banning is it takes the responsibility of child-rearing out of the hands of parents and places it on the shoulders of libraries and schools.

    I like how you put that! I liked your long rant. Very well stated, and I agree with you about teaching our children and then letting them make their own decisions.

    Judy: South Africa banned "Black Beauty"? Wow...

    And great for your parents getting their hands on that! I haven't read that book, and now I really want to. :)

    Dominique: Yes, I still own copies of the Scary Story series, and I can't even fathom why they are banned. I remember reading much more disturbing stuff as a child than anything in those books. In fact, I remember reading a book in middle school that was filled with sex (and vulgar, from what I remember) - and I was really confused as to what was going on, to the point that I stopped reading it. Now why on EARTH was that not banned and the Scary Stories books were? Huh? See, it makes no sense, like you say.

    Anne: I think many of the challenged books are on that list, yes, because parents are protecting themselves. That is an excellent example you give of your talk with your dad. I remember some talks like that with my own father after reading some work I didn't understand or with which I felt disturbed. Movies, as well.

    FP: Oh, very good points! Thank you for your distinction between censorship and being censored. I never looked at it that way before.

    And yes, I think sheltering children from everything is a very bad, bad idea.

    Ken: Thanks for your reply! I think we can get a good feel for work without reading it - if it's widely discussed. I read TWILIGHT because (1) I love vampires (but usually only the Dracula or Anne Rice ones) and (2) I wanted to see what on earth everyone kept raving about. I'm glad I read them because it has taught me a lot about the YA market, targeting an audience, and marketing - even with something mediocre. It's interesting how all that works out!

    I'm happy your girlfriend is reading more. I think that's fantastic, and a great thing that TWILIGHT has brought about.

    Jon: My opinion lies somewhere with yours. I think it's a good idea to not put warning labels ON books, per se, but to have a general area where it's easy to find information about the content. I believe Amazon is a good start. Not sure if there's other places.

    Eric: Live it up! You have good points there. Censoring and banning things, on a widespread scale, nonetheless, is always bound to backfire.

    Thanks for the rant. :)

    Scott: Yes, well said! I think communication is the overarching to key to the underlying problem.

  30. So all you've got is an ad hominem? Great logic and great writing. So you make a declaration that it "has nothing to do with Meyer and her sex," yet people reading can see your post says otherwise. You don't like criticism of your writing? Then withhold yours on a work YOU HAVEN'T EVEN READ but have certainly made a case for people not reading it, by constantly invoking Meyer's sex.

    I've got ad hominems too: you're a sexist asshole.

    I think your response only proves this. It's typical. A woman complains about a man using sexist language, and he attacks her. Typical sexist asshole response.

  31. So what about the other women writers posting here--you're all cool with Ken's posts and posts of that kind in general? You're all cool with women writers being talked about in sexist exclusionary disrespectful ways in favor of male writers?

    I've also seen other women attacking Meyer sexistly. I'm not even a fan of hers, yet I'm the only one seeing a problem here?

    This is why I rarely bother talking to anyone else. Too many people have blinders on or they have no guts or both. If I see something, I speak out.

    But then I doubt I'm the only one annoyed at all this.

  32. FP

    Yes. I am clearly a sexist asshole. Anyone can see that because I clearly did NOT just say that I disliked the way that Bella gave into whatever that vampire wanted. Yes, I am sexist because I want people to read great works of literature, and I do not consider Meyer on that list. If I do not like ALL female writers, I am inherently sexist. Of course! How could I not see the perfect logic in this!?

    I'm not sexist. Just because I think that you are taking offense to something that should not be taken offense to, and just because I used an ad hominem attack (oh, dear! the obvious red flag of sexism!), does not make me a sexist. I read lots, and I'm merely telling Glamis what I had gotten my girlfriend to read since Twilight. What's to say that next she might not pick up Clarke or Atwood or Le Guin? I would imagine you will say because there is no way that I could possibly like those authors... but you'd be wrong.

    So no, I don't really feel like putting so much time into defending myself on some internet forum -- life's too short for an all-out defense of my views on women. I am not a sexist, and anyone who knows me, knows I am not. I have read reviews on the book, and therefore do not choose to read it. The same thing goes for tons of MEN who I choose not to give my money too, but Meyer, being a woman, got labeled with the moniker of "woman." My bad... should have called her something else, or nothing at all, I'd imagine.

    And no, I don't like reading about people's sexual fantasies -- male or female. Lovecraft writes some bad stuff, but please notice that I said a few, I did not say all.

    So yes, get over yourself.

  33. Note that I made NO attack on Ken himself--I stuck entirely to addressing his post's content. I never even used the word "you" in my response to him. I said "your post." And what did he come back with? A nasty attack on the arguer, me, a woman.

  34. FP: I don't think Ken maliciously meant to be sexist, so I didn't say anything. If you feel the need to speak out, that is fine here in my comment section. I welcome debate! I would rather it not turn into a bashing session, though.

    What would be interesting is if TWILIGHT had been written by a man, would it have been as popular? Or do you think it would have mattered? I haven't read Lovecraft. I'd be interested, too, though, after the debate going on here.

  35. Keep digging that hole: all sexist males I've ever known always say "I am not a sexist, and anyone who knows me, knows I am not."

    --Prove it. Let me hear from all the women who know you and have come across you and had dealings with you. Give ma a break. Most people are sexist; it is ingrained in society. It's Unfortunately become a part of human psychology. But I'm supposed to believe that after the way you repeated;y structured your post to disfavor female writers, then attacked me, a female writer, when I pointed this out--I'm supposed to believe that you're not sexist? Yeah right.

    My post wasn't about YOU. YOU'RE the one who needs to get over himself--yes, HIMself.

    "If I do not like ALL female writers, I am inherently sexist. Of course! How could I not see the perfect logic in this!?"

    --Nice strawman. Those sentences never came off my fingers. They came off yours.

  36. Lady, in general, just because someone didn't mean to be sexist doesn't necessarily mean that someone hasn't been sexist. Intent doesn't necessarily equal execution. IMO, sexism has become ingrained in people's language choices, so ingrained that they can't even see where there's a problem. They think this is just normal acceptable language, when it isn't. It probably affects people psychologically, no matter if they want it to.

    If you don't want bashing, then please warn HIM. He bashed me first. I did not bash him first.

    This is disappointing. Don't ever let men personally attack women like that. Anywhere. If you don't care that much when it happens to other women, realize that if you let it to happen, then it's in society--and you could be next.

  37. FP, I don't even know what you are arguing anymore. You just seem to be rambling.

  38. More "you" in your posts. You barely address my actual posts. You're focused on ME instead.

    If you can't READ MY CONTENT WHEN IT'S IN YOUR FACE, why should I or anyone else trust your opinion on Meyer's content?

    I pointed out problems with your post, instead of considering them, you knee-jerk attacked ME, a female writer. And in the context of my complaint about your post sexistly smearing female writers. Way to go! Your further posts just proved my points.

    Amazon has a Search inside sample of Twilight--why not go there and check out the insides? What's to stop you from doing that? Girl-writer cooties?

    Start at the first chapter. I think the clarity of Meyer's writing is...clear. Because I also think most modern writers and their writings are clarity-deficient and because clarity is extremely important to me when judging writing quality, I think Meyer's writing clarity is a significant achievement. So far I don't think much of her content--maybe I'd think even less if I read more, I don't know. But then I don't think much of most writing content. That's the way it is with me.

    I can separate style from that though. Meyer's style reads as very pared down. And, apparently, it works for her content.

  39. One last thing: I see a general tendency for writers to knock down big-selling (of whatever sex) writers and the quality of their writings, all based on hearsay. I don't make a habit of engaging in this, but even I've slipped once or twice.

    IMO at least, this behavior is wrong--and stupid. Instead of slamming people out of jealousy or because that slamming's become fashionable, as if only lowly readers will read that "trash," probably more writers should be examining some of that "trash." Maybe it sells well for other reasons. But if they prejudge and never open those books, how will those writers learn what has made those books so appealing to people today?

    Not that I think writers should obsess about "what sells big." I'm not obsessed with that. BUT, some writers are interested in selling big with their own works. So they should probably be reading selling-big works. See how the successful writers have done what they have. Sometimes it's a fluke, and lots of "junk" does unfortunately sell well. But not everything that sells well is junk.

  40. Alright. Well, good luck with all of your pursuits. Feel free to rail on me some more, but quite frankly, this whole excersize has left me a little bewildered.

    I do realize that my original response to you was rude, but being called a sexist was jarring. It had nothing to do with you being a woman, and having everything to do with you picking apart, and using little quotes taken out of context as buzzwords. Namely when you quote "give that woman any of my money," as though that is SO taboo. It has nothing to do with gender. I could also say that I would never give that MAN, John Grisham, any of my money as well, and it would be just as true.

    OBVIOUSLY the fact that she is a woman does not negate her writing. I guess you got that because I mentioned her as a woman, which is, in itself a strawPERSON. So I am done here. Let others make what they want out of this, but I'm not weighing in anymore. Everything I say seems to be sexist double-speak to you, so I don't think that a concensus can be reached.

  41. LG, how ironic if your hand were forced into using censorship!

    My point was obtuse -- as is often the case -- but censorship is necessary to keep the waters calm enough to see bottom.

    My use of (bleeps) was an example of censorshipping out of courtesy. Cursing has no place on this blog. I curse on my own blog all I want.

    Spam is another example of irritants that should be censored.

    Threadjacking is yet another.

    - Eric

  42. FP: I understand if you want to point out that you felt the post was sexist and a personal attack on women. That's fine. I didn't feel that it was maliciously done, nor did I feel it necessary to point it out. Readers can make their own assessments. This is mine and Davin's and Scott's blog, and I don't feel it my place to make our readers feel uncomfortable or unwelcome here if they are adding to the discussion and not intentionally out to hurt anyone. If that becomes the case, we will step in. If readers want to argue civilly amongst themselves, that is okay with me. I appreciate both Ken's and your comments. Both were valid and valuable to the discussion.

  43. "but being called a sexist was jarring."

    --That never happened in my first post. You were jarred by something that didn't exist. I specifically said YOUR POST is sexist.

    I explained in a bit of detail about "that woman." I think when gender is brought up repeatedly outside a genitalia context--that affects how people approach people. And they then are more likely to approach them sexistly.

    Language buzzwords and patterns do count--yes. When they're added up, repeated ad infinitum in numerous conversations, they probably affect people psychologically. Like the sexist expression, "The right man for the job." Used often, effectively excluding women. Wherever it's often used and especially at upper levels, few women are often employed, which I think is now both an effect and a cause of that expression's use.

    I tried to show your post as sexist overall--I did not pick out only one thing. I discussed multiple problems with it. YOU are focusing on the one "that woman" thing.

    The fact is that you didn't say "that man" about Grisham. I rarely hear people refer to "that man" when they are talking in the negative manner you have about writers or whatevers. It's almost always "that woman." Gender is pointed out when the gender is female. When it's male, that's sexistly considered the default universal, so gender isn't pointed out.

    Just like the sexist expression "you guys." I'm sick of hearing that, sick of walking into stores or forums or blogs and hearing people say "you guys" as intended to be everyone. How come they don't say "you gals"? And how many males would love being called a gal in public as the universal human? Yet I and other women are supposed to love being ignored on the altar of males as the universal human?

    How about "you people"? Or "you folks"? Where did those expressions go?

    Women are effectively being disappeared. They've never had much of an appearance in society, and that little bit seems to be on the decrease again.

    And, um, I usually use the term strawperson or strawpeople. Occasionally I don't. This time I did because I was talking to a (as far as I can tell) man. And I wanted to make that clear, given the context here.

  44. Eric: Yes. Spam. I have my qualms about that crap. Fortunately, we don't receive much here on the Lit Lab. I thought your post put your point across clearly.

    If threadjacking gets out of hand, then yes, we may be forced to steer things back to the topic in one way or another.

  45. "I understand if you want to point out that you felt the post was sexist and a personal attack on women."

    Michelle, you're trying to bait and switch now. Maybe you don't mean to, but you're confusing my first post to him with my post to YOU, which referred to his personal attack against ME. THAT is the bigger problem. I clearly said, "If you don't want bashing, then please warn HIM. He bashed me first. I did not bash him first."

    Yet another problem today: people fence-sitting trying to please everyone. Sometimes you've got to take a side and stand on it.

    But I should know better than to expect support from another woman or women in general against a man or against men in general. Most women don't support each other. That's why there's no gender parity.

    So is Ken's calling me a loon adding to the discussion?

    If while you were debating something on my blog, a male poster--or ANY poster--came in and called you a loon, ESPECIALLY after you pointed out his post was sexist, I would right away chastise and warn the poster--AND delete his post.

    That you instead sounded as if you were defending KEN and chiding me--yet again evidence of what women do to other women, that beating down the woman and supporting the man. I'm sorry, but that's what I see you're doing here. I've seen women make this mistake many times. You should have told Ken to SHUT UP with the name-calling.

    I think women don't do this enough and that's partly because they (falsely) see other women as not a physical threat; they're more physically afraid of men so they try to mollify them rather than cross them. Too many women forget guns exist, and you don't need much muscle to pull a trigger. They need to get guns and learn how to use them.

    They also don't support other women because they're taught to do the work of patriarchs and keep women divided. In many ways, women harm women just as much as men harm women. Without female collusion against females, society wouldn't be the sexist-against-women way it generally is.

    I should have never come back in here. I only did because I thought not saying something would be rude after Davin's very nice post. I appreciate his efforts, but please, in future, don't reference me here if people will be allowed to personally attack me in the comments. No thanks.

    Goodbye and good luck with your writing.

  46. The content in my trilogy is controversial. If it was banned, I be more disappointed at losing the opportunity to impart the message rather than upset at the loss of revenue.

    Paying publication is the ultimate goal, but is not the most important.

    I think people should be given more responsibility for themselves. Even children; some are more mature than others and grasp concepts quickly, while others struggle behind. I think parents will know at what level their child is, and if not; isn't that the teacher's job to find out.

    Banning a book from school or libraries doesn't keep the info from getting out. Controversial issues - even among children - should be aired and discussed to get all sides of the matter.

    I talk to my kids all the time about what they are reading, or the games they are playing, or the music they like. I find out what it means to them before I decide if it's appropriate for them to read/watch/listen to. Granted, I don't know everything they're up to, but at least the times I can, I hope I've taught them how to think critically on their own.

    At some point we hope our children grow up to be adults, and if they are never allowed a voice in their own choices, how can they hope to accomplish this with their own children?


  47. Donna: Good points, thank you. Having a voice in our choices is important. Not everyone believes or follows the same issues, but it's important that we're allowed to decide for ourselves.

  48. Thanks Michelle.

    I posted my comment before reading through all the others; and at the invitation from FP, I will send a comment to Ken Hannahs.

    As a female writer, I did not find your comment sexist at all. I found it a concise complaint against a single author and the style of writing itself. That the autor is female didn't enter my reconing at all.

    As an avid reader, I refuse to read certain authors because of the message/content of the writing itself. Male or female author doesn't exist in the formed opinion, but if I feel the author's style demeans me - as a woman or as a reader - then I refuse to put money in their pocket, and will state my opinions openly - as you did here.

    That doesn't mean everyone who hears me is of the same opinion. If that opinion were "banned" because it is offensive to people who write what to me is dribble, then that is censorship.

    I felt you made your point in regards to censorship and book banning quite clear, while also supporting freedom of others to read what they want and get whatever experience they can out of it.

    Well said, IMO.


  49. Donna: I just want to thank you for your comment. I never know if what I say is going to offend, and I hope it never does. I think of this blog as a professional place where I need to stay professional and remain objective, even concerning things that might bother me to the core. I was bothered by feelings being hurt here in the comments, and thought for awhile that I might delete those comments and therefore remove the tension, but I realized that wouldn't solve anything, and how ironic it would be if I censored something here!

  50. I would be thrilled if my novel were banned - would surely drive up the sales. As for school libraries, when I was in high school I did after-school work in our library, and made a habit of sneaking banned books into the system, giving them call numbers, card pockets, etc. As far as I know, no one ever noticed or complained, and this was in a *very* conservative town. Open libraries create open minds.

    As for works that might be inappropriate for children, if I were forced to ban one, I would pick the Holy Bible -- I've been reading the Old Testament of late, and it is full of sex and violence, some of which is described graphically enough to produce nightmares (the most recent one I ran across was about soldiers slicing open the bellies of pregnant women, somewhere in Kings II, I believe). Truly gruesome stuff in there. Though given what's on TV and video games , maybe it hardly matters.

  51. Aww, thanks for the link. :)
    You already know my opinions on the topic based on my post.

    Such a controversial topic, but such an important one.

  52. Mizmak: That's a dangerous town in which to be a biblioterrorist.

    Michelle: You're always the nicest of hosts in the blogosphere.

  53. If my books aren't banned somewhere, I'll be mightily disappointed.

  54. F. P. asked me not to talk about her here anymore. I can respect that, and I will try to respect that as best I can. But, I can't keep from not leaving a comment here having to do with the sexism discussion. Sorry, F.P. (BTW, I was a little worried about bringing you up in my post the other day because I didn't want to offend you. But, I decided I would write it anyway. I won't do that again unless you say it's okay in the future. Just know I think highly of you.)

    First, I should say that I am sexist. I try very hard not to be, but I am. I catch myself being sexist all the time. I believe I am becoming less so over time, but it takes a lot of conscious effort.

    I don't believe Ken is anymore sexist than I am. I don't believe Ken is anymore sexist than most men and women in this country. And, I don't think Ken was being consciously sexist at all in his comments. To be 100% honest, I don't know if he was being at all unconsciously sexist. I think most people are unconsciously sexist, and it's hard for me to see it...although I try to.

    I agree with basically all of the general points F. P. made. But, I also think that when it's brought up the way it was here, it puts everyone on the defensive. F.P. is passionate, and I respect that. I wish I was more passionate most of the time. She didn't make any personal attacks in her first few posts. But, the passion feels like anger, and it FEELS like a personal attack. This puts Ken (or whoever) on the defensive. Reason goes down, at least in my opinion. I think in this kind of discussion the passion that seems like anger ends up making some people closed-minded.

    This discussion could be very educational. And, I actually hope more people think about F. P.'s general comments, because I think it could make the world better. But when people get angry or scared, I think that opportunity is lost by a lot of people.

  55. I don't know about really banning books, unless it is just really over the top. I like the idea of rating books so parents can have an idea of what book their child is reading/wants to buy. One of the themes in Karen's comment thread was that parents should talk to their children after they read these books. What about talking to the children before they read them. What about pre-emptively speaking to your children and telling them why you don't want to read certain books because (shocking) they are still children and may not be old enough to read such and such. I'm not against books with real and current issues. I am against books that express these issues in a titillating (sp?) and graphic manner.

  56. Davin,

    I wouldn't have responded as I did if FP hadn't written the following, which is, I believe, an attack on me. She called me a sexist, as I see no difference between "my post" and "me." I think that is a distinction that is used to act as though a personal attack isn't being made when it of course is. In the middle of her first assault on my hatred of women, she said:

    oint-blank: in my opinion, your post reads as sexist. I regularly see almost the exact same sexistly structured post all over the place, smearing female writers, smearing their works, and exalting male writers and male-written works instead.

    Both Harry Potter and Twilight are written by women*; Let The Great World Spin is written by a man, and Lovecraft and Gaiman are also men. Oh yes, your girlfriend or whoever should move away from reading those female writers and read those male writers instead. Right.

    I can understand being passionate. I am a passionate person. But it is ridiculous to say that this is JUST passion. This is a back-handed attempt to portray me in a negative light because I introduced my girlfriend to writers WHO DIDN'T HAPPEN TO BE WOMEN. Her blatant assertion was that this was inherently sexist.

    She says that my attack on her came first, but anyone who reads her first post to me can see the truth for themselves. I'm not usually one to fall into this "nuh-uh you started it" argument, but people can't seem to let it go.

    FB's verve and vigor is misplaced if she feels as though she needs to attack me -- a liberal 23 year old who worked for his LGBT student organization, and was very close with many Women's Studies majors at my school. This isn't to "list my credentials," as I'm sure it will come off, but rather to show that, really, FB and I are on the same side, and that her attacks were rude and misplaced.

    You say she has passion, but I believe there is a difference between passion and hubris. I hope that she doesn't allow someone who has no affiliation to your site to shun it. You guys have a great community, and it shows through people being able to have impassioned arguments like what happened today without censorship. I'm apologize to you and your readers that the thread got hijacked, and I allowed myself to get dragged into it.


  57. I know parents worry about what their kids are exposed to, but who's to decide what warrants a warning label? The most absurd things have been found offensive. I guess a list of specific concerns inserted somewhere in the front matter might be okay -better than a general classification, at least- but that still wouldn't take into account context. Besides, in my experience, when kids encounter possibly objectionable content in literature and it neither passes over their heads like a Shakespeare pun nor upsets them so that they stop reading, they're probably mature enough to handle it.

    Also, sorry to take the comments off on this topic again, but re: FP vs. Ken Hannahs –

    Mr. Hannahs,
    Please refrain from insulting your fellows. Passionately opinionated does not equal loony or stupid.

    I'm probably gonna seem timid and brainwashed to you, but . . . I do think your initial reaction to Mr. Hannahs was probably out of proportion. The only thing I found questionable in his post was the phrase, "that woman," which is contemptuous and often has sexist connotations. However, it is possible that the contempt in this case was not aimed at women in general. To refer to someone as a member of a type rather than an individual is an effective rhetorical device to invite judgement of that person, because people cannot identify with someone who lacks individuality. "That person" would also have done this, but for some reason its tone seems kind of unnatural - fussy, stuck up.
    It's very hard to scrub your language of every unintended cultural shading.
    The authors Mr. Hannahs's girlfriend has read more recently do happen to be men, but I think that's just an unfortunate coincidence and that the point is her progression from extreme bestsellers aimed at young readers to less obvious, possibly more grown-up choices. (It is great that these women authors have been so successful - although I do worry about Meyer's themes - but reading only worldwide phenomena means missing out on a lot.)

  58. And of course, I spent enough time fussing over how to express my points that they became largely redundant, yet still managed to put a comma before a nonrestrictive modifier. Oh well, since I'm in a mood now I'm going to say something I was leaving out: FP, I'm kinda confused by you saying that "Meyer's writing style is very clear, very straightforward." I read the first page or so of Twilight when it first came out, and I - usually overfond of purple prose - found it nauseatingly flowery.

  59. A book is such a different animal than music, TV, or video games. Reading ability and content go hand and hand.

    Knowledge is power and the people who control knowledge will always have the power.

    I never support the banning of books.

    And as far as the Harry Potter thing goes. That's just plain ironic. Santa can have 8 magic flying reindeer, Easter Bunnies deliver eggs (examples are inexhaustible so I'll stop here), but Harry Potter uses magic. Be afraid! Headdesk, headdesk, headdesk.

  60. Mizmak: Great job on helping books see the light! That's interesting about the Bible. I agree some of the stories in there are very violent. Still, I wouldn't ban it.

    Karen: Thanks for the inspiration!

    Simon: Hah! Well, you write adult fiction, so I doubt your books would end up in a school library - unless, of course, you end up writing a classic and 100 years from now it's all over! It could happen. :)

    Davin: Thank you for your thoughts. I'm sorry that this had to happen here in our comments section,but passionate feelings are part of being human, and they can also be misinterpreted by others.

    Jessie: I am with you on that. It's important for children to understand what's out there and our lives and stories revolve around the real world. But, I do agree that some books can present certain issues in an inappropriate light.

    KG: Besides, in my experience, when kids encounter possibly objectionable content in literature and it neither passes over their heads like a Shakespeare pun nor upsets them so that they stop reading, they're probably mature enough to handle it.

    I like that. I would also hope that the parents have taught the child to the point that if they encounter something inappropriate for them, they are mature enough to put it down.

    Zuccni: I've always felt that way about Harry Potter, as well.


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