There are things organizations (and corporations) do when being screamed at that make you wonder exactly what is wrong with them.
Or perhaps makes you want to tell them “You’re like the guy who bit off a piece of the true cross one Saturday night in Jerusalem, and this is why we can’t have nice things.”
This is the case, for instance, with the RWA deciding to cancel the RITA awards:
As a controversy over bias and a lack of transparency at the Romance Writers of America continues to roil the country’s foremost writers association for romance writers, the RWA has announced that it will postpone the 2020 RITA Contest until next year. The RITA Award is the U.S.’s top prize for romance fiction.
Okay, first of all, let’s level set: RWA though I was a member for a brief period, was never my organization because Romance was never my field.
No, I’m not going to promise never to write romance. You know the minute one makes that sort of promise, it becomes the thing above all others that one wishes to do. I will say if I ever write romance it will be indie; it will be a small part of my output; and it will be done because it amuses me and other people might enjoy it.
So, RWA inside-baseball? Not a thing. I don’t care. I just plain and utterly don’t care.
But about that controversy “roiling” the organization? What I saw when I devoted two days to look at it was people using the power of holy (and largely imaginary, since these are mostly upper middle class women who never went without a meal a day in their lives, unless they were on a diet) victimhood to scold everyone into handing them over power.
But Sarah, you’ll say, Chinese woman with blue eyes, and the use of “exotic” and and and….
And bullshit. All of the above might be corny. It might even be cliched. But if we forbid corny and cliched, 90% of all fun writing — not just Romance — will shut down and fold like a cheap umbrella.
The thing is, see, that I don’t really care about the literary quality of most things I read. Yes, I do know what literary quality is, or at least what passes for it on college campuses (I almost typed corpses. Because I’m very tired. I swear that’s the only reason.) I’m ABTD in Literature and languages. And as far as I can tell, literature is that which captures the essence of the human spirit to such an extent that it continues to resonate with audiences centuries after. See, for instance, Austen and Shakespeare.
Oh, modern “literature”? No such beast. You simply can’t tell what has literary value until it has stood the test of time. Most of the modern stuff college professors call literature is just stuff written to push their (largely Marxist) happy buttons and make them dream of the revolution that was inevitable when they were young and hip in the sixties.
Fun reading? That’s something completely different. That’s what might eventually become literature in a few centuries. And if you think cliches, purple prose and awkward phrasing prevent fun literature form becoming “literature” you’ve never actually studied Shakespeare in context and in his time. I have.
If you take away the right of people who write to amuse other people — and as far as I can tell, Romance still has the largest audience of people wanting to be amused — without bothering to police their every word lest literature majors and mean girls throw a fit, you might as well shutter the whole enterprise.
All you’ll have at the end of the day is mean — but exceedingly privileged and well educated — young women trying to force the “natives” of the fun regions of writing and reading into their version of propriety and utility. All the colonialist Victorian women who forced natives of tropical regions to wear pants stand arrayed behind those missionaries of woke scolding and power to truth nodding in approval. Which is fine since many of the current wokescolds are descended from these women. I just wish the current missionaries would return to their great great grandmother’s fervor. I can always wear pants — possibly on my head — but I refuse to give them an inch on what I can write, what I can read, or what I can think.
Honestly, I’d start to describe all my characters as food — her eyes were caramel, his skin was brandy, her hair was like dark cherries, her lips were blueberries after a night out in the cold — just to piss them off (since that’s another of the forbidden things), except I refuse to give them that much power over me.
As for the RWA?
Shame on you. With the field in upheaval and a lot of your members indie, you need to hold the awards, and keep them honest, in order to publicize Romances that in turn will bring more readers to the field.
What you don’t need to do is get involved in disputes over political correctness or lack thereof. Anyone chasing other people down with cries of “racism” should be told if they don’t like it, put it on the side of their plate. Or in other words don’t read it.
No, bad words on a book that is largely forgotten is not going to hurt them. The evils of unexamined racism? bah. I know first hand (And second, and historically) the evils of Marxism. I know that Marxist propaganda does corrupt the minds of those who’ve never seen it in action and make it more likely that the 100 million dead claimed by the ideology in the 20th century will double in the 21st.
But you don’t see me chasing down every book with a hint of Marxism and demanding the author be defenestrated and cut out of polite company. You don’t see me demanding that no avowed communist author get a prize or be given an award, or even be given any attention.
It’s not that I don’t think their philosophies are dangerous or corrupting. It’s because I’ve yet to meet any philosophy so dangerous that it can’t be discussed, or so sneaky that it has to be chased line by line and page by page, and those who write it banned from job and income. And above all, I’ve never met a philosophy that, after being forbidden, disappeared. When you ban any expression, all you do is make it go underground, where you can’t judge it or see when it’s about to explode. Ask the leaders of Romania under communism how well that strategy served them. (In a seance, of course.)
People are going to write things that are offensive to other people. And sometimes the offensive writers are really horrible people. (I, for instance, have been declared the world’s worst person. Though my friend Kate was declared the same the next day, so now we have to share the trophy.) And sometimes those who are offended are either crazy people who crave the frisson of being outraged and the power of leading a twitter mob, or perhaps would-be Stalins wanting to rewrite reality to conform with their daily dictates.
In either case, the role of a sane spectator is to say “What? Stop screaming. What are you? Two years old? You don’t like it, don’t read it.” Not to applaud people as so brave because they are punching down truth with power, nor to tell them how wonderful they are because they know how to throw a tantrum.
When my kids threw tantrums, we found the best solution was to ignore them, and preferably leave them alone in a quiet room till they were ready to be human again.
You’d think a Romance writers association would have enough women who raised toddlers to know this, right?
But apparently not. Apparently whoever screams must be given center stage, and every organization must be twisted out of shape, and out of its original purpose, to serve the goals of wokeness.
Or in other words, the organization must be flayed, and then its skin worn, while people who have nothing to do with its original goal or purpose, prance around in it demanding respect.
And then these people are very shocked when after a little while people see through the ruse and the respect stops. But they never realize what they have done. Instead, they’re convinced they were defeated by some magical “privilege” of those they silenced.
At which point they run off to find another organization to skinsuit.
Again, and again and again.
As long as we let them.