Letting the Wokescolds Win

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.


74 thoughts on “Letting the Wokescolds Win

  1. China is a really big country. Most of the steppe peoples have a bunch of the same genes that we identify as “Celtic,” because the Celts, Goths, Alans, etc. came. off the steppes, and some of them never left. Then there are people.who went there, like Alexander’s Greeks who wound up in India and Afghanistan, so you get folks.like the Afghan girl who.was on the old National Geographic cover; and there were always a fair number of women shipped into China along the Silk Road, willingly or unwillingly. (As you would expect in any society with wealthy men, legal prostitution, concubinage, and polygamy.)

    So it would be unusual to have a mostly ethnically Chinese woman with blue eyes, but it wouldn’t be impossible or unheard of. Heck, Silk Road Chinese Jews in one of the old capitals still have distinctive DNA and architectural home features after almost a thousand years. If you are talking a generation or two, that is nothing; and the phenotypes show up too.

    1. When you actually meet a lot of ethnic Chinese, like I have, you see a lot of variety. Chinese women with freckles? Yep. With naturally curly/wavy hair? Not common, but it happens. Tall? Yep, pretty common. And so on, although I haven’t seen anything but brown/black eyes yet (including in mixes).

    2. Yep, I know that. I’ve heard of friends in Japan that there’s a range there too.
      And yeah, exotic WOULD be the term for a half-Chinese woman with blue eyes. Impossible? Racist?
      Oh, hell no.
      Actually what is racist is denying our common human heritage and that even the most pure populations throw a sport or three.
      The amount of Native American in my husband is vanishing small, but our older son has a birth issue that occurs only in Native Americans and mostly NE tribes (which checks.)
      And my family tends to be so dark that when older son looks unkempt I keep telling him he looks like a Palestinian terrorist. But if we’re to believe our doctor, his eyes are actually blue, they just appear dark because something (I’m really bad with this) either rods or cones are reversed.
      Which is not surprising, since three of my grandparents had blue eyes, mom has green eyes, and my FIL has blue eyes. Oh, and older son was straw-blond till 3.
      We joke that it’s entirely possible all our grandkids will be blond and blue eyed. It could happen. I mean, it’s not LIKELY but it could happen.

      1. Actually on the border to Russia, it’s common in one section. Some rag did an article on it. Blue eyes, blonde hair but chinese features.

    1. They declared the whole genre persona non grata back in the ’90s, and think that if they don’t talk about it long enough eventually it’ll go away.

      1. Good luck with that.
        Blankety blank readers just won’t toe the line with the woke literatti.
        William Johnstone’s assorted westerns are well into the triple digits. Robert Parker had a solid series going before his sad and untimely loss. Our own Peter Grant is now on book four of his own western saga.
        Or as someone from an entirely different genre famously said, “you can’t stop the signal.”

  2. So the organisation has been killed and gutted. Next years awards they will be parading around in the skinsuit demanding respect and compliance. Meanwhile I bet a significant number of the members are not renewing membership. Another hugo situation in the making. Corporate Cancer is a book everyone in these sorts of organisations should read. Wokescolds once identifyed should be removed from leadership and where possible eased out of the organisation for it’s own good.

      1. (watches an online mob try to ruin someone’s life)

        That’s a good thing you did . . . *swallows nervously*

    1. Isn’t “removed from leadership & eased out of the organization” what is allowing this particularly wokescold event to gut the RWA?

  3. It’s unfortunate. I did a little research on writers organizations a while back, and while I concluded that SFWA was primarily a bragging rights reward (the only reason to be part of it was to say that you were part of it), RWA seemed like it might be useful. I was impressed that not only did they allow indie writers but aspiring writers. For a while I thought it might be a good idea to write a romance a year or so just so I could join them in order to get writing advice in general.

    But the woke scolds won’t be satisfied until they’ve killed and gutted every organization. The idea that there might exist some group whose purpose isn’t advancing their agenda is unbearable to them.

      1. Used to be being the key phrase — RWA used to be one of the best by, of and for _writers_ organizations out there — all about the business of writing, getting published, avoiding scams, etc., along with creative workshops and sub-genre chapters if one wanted that sort of thing. I think maybe it’s a good thing it’s pretty much dead now (esp. w/big sponsors dropping out of the RWA National convention). Maybe something more akin to what it was originally meant to be will take it’s place, or maybe special interest groups will just have their own online presence. I dunno. But it had become increasingly less valuable over the years as far as one’s career was concerned.

        But, as someone said in a previous post, I just hate to see the wokescolds win…sigh.

  4. “But Sarah, you’ll say, Chinese woman with blue eyes, and the use of “exotic” and and and….”

    The nerve of some writers, imagining a character other than the bog standard. Tsk. Chinese girl with blue eyes sounds awesome. Is she tall? ~:D

    If we learned anything from Sad Puppies, we learned those Wokescold bitches (of both sexes) are never satisfied. Even when they get exactly what they want on a silver platter they’re still screaming RAAAAACIST!!! (Some spinner out there is outraged I wrote “both sexes.” Yep, I did. Whatcha gonna do, spinner?)

    RWA is, to my eye anyway, the same situation as Worldcon. A house so riddled by termites its a waste of a perfectly good match to burn it down. Walk away and let it fall down on its own. Build a new one.

    Sure, the Lefties gutted it and are wearing its skin, demanding respect. They’ve done the same to everything from foodie clubs to knitting circles. The solution is to point and laugh at them when they demand respect.

    Pointing and laughing is really the only response we’re allowed right now, as part of a civilized society. I’m perfectly happy to let the Left do -all- the escalating on their side, I’ve been preparing for the punching them in the face part since I was in kindergarten and I’m all set for it.

    But then we will all be living in an un-civilized society, and I’m not excited for that. It’ll be like Detroit, and who wants that?

    1. “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.”

      Not yet.

      We could easily see that, and soon. If we do, it will be every bit as much bullshit as the Wokescolds.

      1. “We could easily see that, and soon. If we do, it will be every bit as much bullshit as the Wokescolds.”

        The problem with just ignoring them is when your opponent won’t stop trying to rule you, and isn’t willing to negotiate, you either fight back, or let them rule you.

        PS: As Ezra Levant showed, Canada made the wrong choice, and now the silencing is enshrined in law. I don’t want us to make the same mistake.

    2. There are plenty of tall Chinese women (and men); for example, two Hong Kong girls in my neighborhood are 5’10”. As a generalization, I believe northern Chinese (such as Beijingers) tend to be taller than southern, such as Cantonese.

      Diet also makes a big differences; ABC’s (American Born Chinese) tend to look noticeably different (taller and heavier) from mainland Chinese.

      1. Tony, you’re just confusing the issue with facts. Everybody knows that writing in tall Chinese girls is RAAACIST.

        But you’re right, Northerners are much taller on average that the Southerners. Also you can tell an America Chinese person from a China Chinese person from a block away. Even their walk and posture is different. (Scolds and Bonnie McDaniel will please note I did not say “better”, that is the voices in your head.)

          1. Right?

            Having a Chinese character is racist, and NOT having a Chinese character is racist. They haven’t left us much room there, eh?

            According to most authorities on the subject, I’m racist just for getting out of bed in the morning. ~:D

  5. Latest news is Avon/Harlequin have pulled out of RWA National Conference, and that there is a very good chance the conference will have to be cancelled this year.

    But this is what cancel culture is — smash everything, break everything, if you don’t get your way, if others refuse to capitulate to your tantrums. Nevermind that non-white, non-straight authors will be hurt, that non-white, non-straight board members were not-so-subtly manipulated into quitting just when they’d gained influential leadership positions.

    Cancel culture is nothing but narcissistic bullying at best, straight-up fascism at worst.

    1. Being non-white, (Latin. Okay, also with black ancestry. Possibly enough to qualify as black under the law, though of course I’m not going to CLAIM it when I look Mediterranean-gold) and an immigrant hasn’t stopped crazy people from saying I’m a white supremacist.
      Writing gender-fluid characters (not on purpose. It was what it was. First published series) and having about 1/3 gay fans has not stopped them calling me homophobic and transphobic.
      It’s a peculiar form of insanity. And I don’t care.
      Growing up in Porto I learned to “ignore crazy people screaming at you in the street.” This is just the same.
      But I feel sorry for everything they’re destroying.

      1. Thank you for posting this and being brutally honest about this disaster. I have shared it on FB. I’ve been banging my head against the closest solid surface because of how all this played out. Every time I hoped sanity would prevail there’d just be more mob “justice.”

        RWA’s mission certainly needed tweaking, especially when it came to supporting AOC, but it should not have been gutted. Of all the writer’s orgs it offered valuable information for new and established authors. Now its existence is threatened, as are the local chapters.

        A classic case of burning the village to save it.

        1. Authors of Color. I had to do a double take at the idea of the RWA endorsing a congressperson. LOL.

          The thing of it is, really, who doesn’t want to support new writers and those at the beginning of their career no matter who they are? Who doesn’t want everyone to feel welcome and part of the whole big messy party?

          Well, maybe one type of person doesn’t want everyone to feel welcome. But even the sort of person who views it all as a zero-sum competition isn’t going to be supportive of some new writers and not of others, they’re going to try to drag down everyone but themselves.

      2. Yep. It is to laugh, if you can. When someone calls you a white supremacist, and you blink and recall that two grandparents had to get married on a military base because it wouldn’t have been legal in their home state due to… you guessed it….

        I think by this time it’s just their shibboleth of “I have called you The Name! Now you are cast into the Outer Darkness!”

    2. As of end of day yesterday, I think all the big publishers and most of the smaller presses had pulled out. The Twitter mob was having a field day praising them all as heroes, saints even! The chapters where making statements of worship and the RWA forums were lit up with accolades.

      Fast forward, oh, 5 hours, and now the do-gooders are attacking the publishing houses for not publishing enough “AOCs”. Oh the horror!

      Anyone shocked? LOL!

      1. It’s all cutting noses to spite faces all the way down. A huge convention is a great place for agents and publishers to get a face-to-face with aspiring new authors, in particular those who are minorities. The “point of privilege” (to reference another piece of recent hysterics) is most often access and contacts and who has them and who doesn’t.

        Why anyone would view this as a “win” is remarkably bizarre. A win for who, exactly?

  6. Checking notes… Ah, yes. Lian – the Chinese girl – is indeed “tall and lithe.”

    Alas, Phantom, even if you have access to a time machine that does both backwards and sideways, she is still out of your reach – she’s happily engaged.

    Yes, I am still slowly trudging through the book. As I said, however, that list of more interesting things are still intervening (plus a few new ones, of course – I have to patch a new leak in the back porch roof today, before another winter storm moves in tomorrow; and then figure out tonight why the daughtorial unit’s new gaming computer is refusing to talk to the router – she gets very testy without her gaming time).

  7. Wups! I misspoke. Looking a bit further down in the notes, it is the other half sister that is engaged – the one from India. I don’t see anything yet about Lian being involved in a formal relationship (although I’m sure she is at least in an informal one at some point, otherwise what is the use of the book?).

    So all you need is that Universal Time Machine…

    1. There has been a little “parallel worlds” and time-travel used as a weapon lately in my stories. Demons, you know. They cheat.

      Maybe a blue-eyed Chinese girl would be interested in joining in. I already have a Chinese girl, she’s 6’8″ and carries a nine ring guan dao. And she’s an AI robot, so there’s that…

  8. “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”

    I find killing all communists to be a nice fantasy. Would it work? Probably not. There’s too much dissemination of information to completely make it disappear.

  9. “All the colonialist Victorian women who forced natives of tropical regions to wear pants”

    I find this ironic because 2000 years earlier, the Romans scorned pants as being barbaric and uncivilized.

    1. They’re practical for labor. Fashion has long been about signaling that you’re not required to labor.

      They’re also warm. And for Romans, the barbarians would have been mostly Northward.

    2. … Scorned the pants, until the legions realize they’re good for protecting the family jewels when out and about in the cold. Then they made a law that only the legions can wear them … which suggests civilian Roman men wanted to get in on the cultural appropriation, too.

    3. Well, until they became a cavalry based military and realized you can’t ride in a toga.

      They changed their ways to meet reality. When have the SJWs ever shown the slightest ability or desire to do that?

  10. All RWA horror aside, this is one of the best articles I’ve read on this topic. One interesting tidbit is that the book that allegedly started it all isn’t even a romance. I read the entire series shortly after I sold my first book to New York in 1989. It’s one of those big sprawling historical sagas that (no doubt) did take years to research and wasn’t just Regency belles dressed in the equivalent of Scarlett O’Hara’s curtains spouting modern-day dialogue. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Those books can be great fun, too.) The first book in the Davis series, TOO DEEP FOR TEARS, was given to me by my agent as an example of stellar historical fiction. If we’re going to accuse the dialogue of fictional, historical characters of being “sexist” or “racist”, then we might as well start throwing books into the bonfire right now. I’m not responsible for the sins of my characters. Some of them swear way more than I do. (Well…maybe not in the past week…) What if someone DOES have skin the hue of a warm mocha latte or exotic almond-shaped eyes? Since when did simple description become an insult? (Personally, I adore warm mocha lattes AND almonds.) Are we supposed to lie about what someone looks like? Even fiction is supposed to be about telling the truth on some level. Years ago a friend of mine, who was an incredible success in the suspense field, was trapped on an elevator with a rabid woman who felt compelled to tell her everything that was wrong with her latest release. My friend listened, then calmly blinked and said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t write it for you.” To me, that says it all.

    1. I knew someone who was the EXACT color of mil-chocolate. It was actually stunning. And it was the best description.
      Also, thank you. And dear Lord, I don’t want to be held responsible for my characters. At least two have a rather… flexible relationship with respecting human life. As in, what’s a little murder between friends?

      1. Exactly! Plus no one is supposed to know that we’re just as much our villains as we are our heroes. Shhhhhh… 😉

  11. ” I refuse to give them an inch on what I can write, what I can read, or what I can think.” Superb statement. Ranks up there with the phrase attributed to Martin Luther: “Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me.”

  12. Re: Georgian England wife sales mentioned in an earlier thread:

    Sabine Baring-Gould talks about this in Devonshire Characters and Strange Events, in a chapter called “Wife-Sales.” His points are that it was always illegal and never permitted by any church, but that the common people in Devon once seemed to think that it was a form of common law marriage and common law divorce, all in one.

    So he gives some cases from his dad’s time as a vicar when this occurred and was unable to be stopped. In most cases it was an existing husband who “sold” the wife to another man, and the woman went along with it. In one case, a woman transferred her husband to her sister, and went to the wedding. He also notes a case where a woman refused to be “sold” and was supported by the law, and of cases where Victorian magistrates had to reprimand solicitors for trying to draw up bills of sale for wives.

    He noted several cases where the police stopped such sales and hauled off the husband and wife to jail, and if both were consenting they were both punished for trying to do such a thing.

    In another book, “In a Quiet Village,” Baring-Gould notes a few other cases from other parts of England, during early Victorian times. But again, they were reported in newspapers or court records as strange and shocking.

    So it happened, but it was a weird local thing that was never legal in any formal way. And nobody seems to remember husband sales to get shocked by that.

    1. That’s fascinating. And in a world where being cast off can mean a woman dies on the street, making arrangements (as you describe that are likely even her idea) to dissolve a marriage while making sure that the wife isn’t left without support seems more humane than some of the more socially acceptable rules at the time.

    1. Read the linked article, and thanks. Coming into this blind and not knowing anything about it all – since I don’t write romance and am not a member, or in mainstream publishing, I couldn’t make heads or tales of the ruckus …
      And I am thinking again that it’s a darned good thing that I never did anything political with my FB or twitter accounts…

    2. Thanks for the article. Whunf, what a complicated, long-running, mess. And more reasons not to keep anything archived (so to speak) on social media.

    3. Case One: Trump voting is a reliable proxy for white supremacist conspiracy. If that is the case, the number of Trump voters in the romance buying population would be enough to prevent minority writer careers, regardless of what one Trump voter did or did not do.

      Case Two: Trump voting is not a reliable proxy for white supremacist conspiracy. So, absent being able to show that the decision was made from some other evidence, that succeeds in proving conspiracy, the decision to persecute this matter itself looks like a discriminatory conspiracy.

      Potentially a fairly reciprocal fight over who is discriminating against whom.

      Trying to start a fight between an eighth of the population and a bit under half the population does not sound like a smart move to me. Too close to even. Even fights are more likely to stack up the bodies than see a short victorious war.

      I’m wondering what the plan is here for the end game.

  13. There’s a blog post about this I read elsewhere that is almost surreal in its take on this kerfuffle. I think my favorite part is where the author of the piece stated the RWA should ignore the interests of its dues paying members and seek out those who are not members and may or may not ever have an interest in becoming a member, and cater to those groups. Interesting take on the matter, I guess.

  14. Alyssa Day from RWA recently became president of NINC. Today she posted a letter titled “The whiteness of NINC.” You can read it here: https://twitter.com/Alyssa_Day/status/1217155202630983681

    Some people in NINC are pushing back on Facebook. One posted a screenshot of a tweet from Alyssa (since deleted, it seems), saying: “I will burn another organization to the ground before I will allow anyone to say that calling for diversity is “bringing drama.””

    1. My first reaction to that is exceedingly snide, petty, and will be kept to myself.

      My second reaction is: Really? Who are you to decide what the entire membership and board will think, say, and do? Who is any one individual to do that?

      1. The entire thread was just removed from their Facebook page by the moderator. And I should probably clarify that the push-back came with what happened to RWA in mind.

    2. Is she for real?
      People who worry about the skin shade of writers need medications. Also they need to get the f*ck out of any creatives organization.
      Dear Lord.

    3. With hattip to David Burgue, this is these people’s modus operandi:
      1-Target a respected institution
      2-Kill it and clean it
      3-Wear it as a skin suit, while demanding respect.

    4. Update: Alyssa Day just resigned from NINC — as president and as a member. She said that she’d be a hypocrite to stay with NINC when it had the same problems as RWA.

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