Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Safety and Literature

This'll probably be all over the bloggaverse in no time. Twitter is lighting up in much the same manner as an old-fashioned switchboard. Here's the thing. It appears readers really don't like to feel that they're being "protected." Reading in and of itself is often an act of defiance. Being told that you should only inhabit the safe worlds, well, it is demeaning. And, a publication that considers itself feminist is the one doing the censuring?

I have this idealistic list of what a strong woman should be. There is one word that is high on the list. Courageous. Life is hard. Life is ugly. Life does horrible things to people. Silence is never the answer. When you take away someone's choices and tell them that some words are too dangerous for them, you are trying to steal that person's power. You assume they aren't smart enough to decide for themselves. You figure they can't handle it. And because they can't handle it, that means no one else will get the chance.

Good thing we have the wise people at bitch magazine to think for us and protect us. All in the name of feminism.

If you aren't caught up on the controversy, here's what it is all about. The magazine printed a list of 100 young adult books for the feminist reader. The list is actually pretty good, with a wide range of authors. It covers classic YA as well as current favorites. Here's the list: 100

Then, a couple of comments complained that some of the books on the list could be considered triggering to rape victims. The books were immediately removed from the list in response to the comments. Wow. I mean, that's a pretty quick reaction, isn't it? They must have done a lot of research to come to that conclusion.

Here's the thing. Victims of rape aren't idiots. They don't need to be protected from all references to rape. If they would rather not read something that explores the issue, then they can make that decision for themselves. Give them the opportunity to do so by warning them about the content, but you don't need to censure the entire world on their behalf. In fact, enforcing a system where honest discussions of rape are banned will do far more harm to the women of the world. It promotes silence. It strangles truth. It turns us into pretty little creatures who need to be looked out for.

I know this is a tad more controversial than my standard blogging fare, but censorship is something that both angers and scares the pants off me.

Here's the article, complete with comments: Young Reader

Authors such as Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier, Maureen Johnson, and Ellen Klages have asked that their books be removed from the list in an act of solidarity.

Here's another great (and possibly more articulate) summary of the issue: BookishBlather

A few great blurbs from other comments (hopefully it is okay to repost these):

"The criteria for an excellent book does not change based on whether or not in might include touchy subject matter. We can't censor these events out of our lives, why would we want to censor them out of our lists of fiction?"

"I cannot believe you took LIVING DEAD GIRL off the list. For some of us survivors of horrific sexual abuse as children, LIVING DEAD GIRL was a *relief* to read. It was such a relief to finally read a book that I recognized myself in."

"Abuse toward women is an epidemic and literature that brings it to light is to be commended, not condemned. Until you understand this, you probably shouldn't be labeling anything on this blog as "feminist.""

"Feminism does not mean you ignore everything that doesn't fit comfortably within a certain safe sphere. Readers read *in order* to be challenged, moved, surprised and, yes, disturbed... The sanitisation of ideas that you propose in amending this list is directly counter to this."

And, my favorite: "Strong books make strong girls."


  1. Well said, Sarah. Thanks for a great post.

  2. *this post has been censored by Blogspot*