Saturday, October 24, 2015

Why I have left the MMRG on Goodreads

It’s been an interesting few days for the M/M Romance Group on Goodreads. Basically, people of color were hurt by the racism in a historical master/slave story that was written as part of the Don’t Read in the Closet event. A white master/black slave story set in the United States around the time of the civil war.
Hey, who remembers the uproar over the concentration camp “romance”? Frankly, if anyone couldn’t see that a master/slave story set during the American Civil War was a terrible idea, I’m not sure anyone can help them.


Here’s the thing. It is absolutely beyond question that the writer of the story did not mean to cause harm. Nobody is accusing her of that. Nevertheless, people were harmed by this story, because the effects of slavery are still felt today. Racism is a thing. Institutionalised racism is a thing. And so is privilege. And if you can’t see that people are still harmed every day in absolutely tangible ways by racism, then you need to check your privilege.




I’m a white Australian woman. When it comes to privilege, I win some and I lose some. But I always do try to be aware that because I’m white, I’m Western, and I’m middle-class, then there are a hell of a lot of prejudices out there that other people face, that I simply don’t. I recognise that I have privilege, and that sometimes I need to shut up and listen to what other people are saying, rather than dismissing their concerns as something that just doesn’t happen because it’s never happened to me.


For truly excellent reviews of the story in question, I suggest you read Emma Sea’s review, or Mmeguillotine’s review.


The issues with the story aside for now, let’s turn instead to the response from the M/M Romance Group. When people of color stated that they were harmed by this story, I would have thought that the response from a group that so fervently defends LGBTQ rights would have been different than what amounted to: If you don’t like it, leave.


Let’s just repeat that: People were harmed, and instead of the mods apologising for that harm, they threw out the old red herring about censorship, and told people that if they were unhappy in the group then they should go.


Firstly, smarter people than me have pointed out that rejecting a prompt or a story is not censorship. And secondly, telling already marginalised people who are complaining about being marginalised again in a group they thought was a safe place that they’re over-reacting, or they’re too sensitive, or they’re making a big deal out of nothing -- excuse me, that loud bang was the sound of my irony meter exploding.


I have written three stories for the DRitC event, and I have enjoyed doing it. But I have asked that this year my story Hellion be removed from the anthology. It will still be available on the M/M Romance Group site for anyone who wishes to read it. However, I have left the group and will not be writing for the event again. On a professional level, I do not wish to have my work publicly associated with the group whose response to this incident has been tone deaf at best, and racist at worst. On a personal level, I do not wish to be part of a group where others are made to feel unsafe, unwelcome, or unwanted.


And while I know I run the risk of being labelled a sycophant, as others have already been, I assure you that I can and do think for myself. And if anyone wants to label me a badly behaving author, as others have already been, because I believe in taking a stand in this matter, then if that’s easier to do than checking your own privilege, go for it.

30 comments:

  1. I have stayed away from GR for some time now. Way too much jealousy and squabbling amongst readers and authors. I think you are doing the right thing, if that is what your heart is telling you to do. So, don't let anyone make you feel bad Bout your decision. Hugs. V

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel good about it, Vicki! Thank you!

      Delete
  2. If one disagrees with the moderators of any group, and feeling as you do, leaving is the right choice. Everyone has their own opinions/beliefs/perspectives, which is their right. Tolerance and respect of these differences goes all directions. So I admire your determination to stand by your principles.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I left that group years ago due to the petty nastiness of it. I'm glad to see that my misgivings were spot on. The moderators were and, apparently, continue to be horrible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The main issue I have was with the moderator response. The story was problematic enough, but the response made it clear that people who raised objections were not welcome in the group.

      Delete
  4. I haven't read the story in question. It's on my Kindle currently. I'm reserving judgment until I read it however, everything you've written is spot on. I haven't visited the group to see what the discussion has been, but I find it troublesome if the admins united response is, "There's the door. Adios."

    Extremely troublesome.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely reserve judgement until you read it. I'd be interested to know what your thoughts on the story are. The main issue I had with the group wasn't the inclusion of the story, but the response to the people objected to it. It became very clear very quickly that people who felt marginalised were expected to shut up or get out.

      Delete
    2. "It became very clear very quickly that people who felt marginalised were expected to shut up or get out. "

      I'm sorry, but this is completely untrue. In fact, people who objected to the story were **encouraged** to express their opinions through their reviews. The moderators refused to remove the story, but that is not at all the same thing as telling people to shut up.

      Delete
    3. Yes, reviews were encouraged. However, two "discussion" threads on the issue were closed by moderators. And if you take a look at Lori's farewell thread, you'll see - and I'm paraphrasing because I'm no longer in the group - "Well, if they don't like it, they can get out, and good luck with their own tiny little group with no moderators." I also saw various discussions where people were told they were over reacting, and they were making a big deal out of nothing, or. worse, they wanted EVIL CENSORSHIP.
      I don't think you'd be able to find anyone who stated they are harmed by the fallout who wasn't told, at least once, to harden up and get over themselves.

      Delete
    4. "However, two "discussion" threads on the issue were closed by moderators."

      After several hundred posts each, and several days' worth of discussion. After a certain point, people were just talking in circles.

      "And if you take a look at Lori's farewell thread, you'll see - and I'm paraphrasing because I'm no longer in the group - "Well, if they don't like it, they can get out, and good luck with their own tiny little group with no moderators." "

      You *are* paraphrasing, and rather inaccurately at that.

      I don't really want to restart the debate over here. But everyone who is reading your blog should keep in mind that there are at least two sides to every disagreement.

      Delete
    5. "To them, I say: Go. Just go. Good riddance. Stop threatening and just do it. Go start your own group with 14 members and no leadership but what you can make of it."

      Delete
    6. Wow. Nice way to post out of context.

      Here's the intro to that quote: "The members that keep claiming this isn't a safe place did everything they could to take the safety of the mods and some of our members away all while threatening to leave."

      "Them" was a reference to members who had deliberately posted the identities of MMRG members and their posts in public blogs without permission, thereby forcibly "outing" them to their possible detriment -- not the general mm members who were offended by the story.

      As I mentioned in my previous post -- your blog readers should just keep in mind that there are always at least two sides to every disagreement.

      Delete
    7. Of course there are two sides to every disagreement, but those two sides aren't always equally valid.

      You said: Here's the intro to that quote: "The members that keep claiming this isn't a safe place did everything they could to take the safety of the mods and some of our members away all while threatening to leave."

      To that, I say: I was one of the members who stated that the group was no longer a safe place for others, because others told me that was what they felt. However I certainly never "did everything I could" to take away the safety of the mods. So I do not feel that quote is out of context at all. I feel that everyone who stood with the people who were harmed by the mods' response were made to feel equally unwelcome.

      I'm also not sure that any argument about outing people to their detriment because of screenshots holds a lot of weight. The group had 19000 members. It is hardly a secret society. And I would certainly hope that anyone who had reason to fear the discovery that they read mm romances would not be using their full name on Goodreads.

      Delete
    8. "Of course there are two sides to every disagreement, but those two sides aren't always equally valid. "

      Right. We simply disagree on which side has the most validity.

      As I've already said -- I don't mean to restart the debate over here. This is your blog, and you have both the right and the power to have the last word on it, just as the MMRG's mods have the right and the power to have the last word in their own group. I'll just state once again, and for the last time: your blog readers should keep in mind that there are always at least two sides to every disagreement. They shouldn't assume that they are getting the full story here.

      Delete
    9. Just as they shouldn't assume they are getting the full story from the MMRG group.

      Delete
  5. Couldn't have put it better myself Lisa. You would think after all the discrimination the LGBT community experiences they would know better and as for the answer from the moderators - dumbfounded. Another reason for me to spend as little time as possible on GR. Well said and good on you airing your views.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Beautifully said, Lisa. I was appalled by the mods' response to the concerns about that story. I left the group. When I think back a year or two to the big push for new group members, i find it sad that the people running it don't seem to care if people leave.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I find it sad too, but I'm not sorry I left.

      Delete
  7. I left--and pulled my story from the anthology--for the same reasons.

    The M/M Romance Group's decisions to

    A) hide the "discussion" in a private group and
    B) repeatedly turn the discussion away from the *actual problem of racism* to the reactions of those hurt

    show that they are not a group I care to be associated with either personally or professionally.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Very succinctly and well put. I left the group three years ago and have not regretted it once.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure I won't regret it either, Wendy.

      Delete
  9. Well said. And I for one am proud of you for taking a stand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, dn. It's not a decision I took lightly, but, having said that, it was an easy one to make when it became apparent that others were being made to feel unwelcome there.

      Delete

Hi! Whatcha thinking?