“Family-Friendly” is a Thin Disguise for Discrimination:
They are on the Wrong Side of History
Who else is on the “wrong side of history” regarding expressions of and legal sanctions toward and behaviors sourced by prejudice, bias, discrimination, hatred against ethnic, racial, religious, gender and other social identity groups?
Adolph Hitler. Austria and Germany. George Wallace. Richard Nixon. Phyllis Schlafly. Anita Bryant. The United States of America. Several Catholic Popes. Margaret Thatcher. Great Britain. Mao Tse Tung. China.
The list is, unfortunately, endless, if we keep going into history and across the globe. Humans seem to have an unlimited ability to be irrational and small-minded.
Fortunately, we do learn. We do grow. Some more slowly than others, as we see all too often, but change we do. One of the main ways people change is through exposure, a personal “eye-opening” moment that educates them (“leads them out”) away from their irrationality and biases.
The other way is through enforcement, such as the enlightened few and the majority collaborating to change the laws that require citizens to change behaviors accordingly. When behaviors change, minds can follow: not always, and not completely, as we see with the laws of integration and other civil rights for Blacks in the USA NOT eliminating racial biases and racism, but these are certainly steps in the right direction.
The current social and political landscapes—right here, right now—are changing rapidly with respect to fairness, acceptance and legal rights for those with all sexual orientations and gender identities exactly as they did with racial intolerance in the 1960s.
As usual, some are being dragged, kicking and screaming, into this new way of being. They are simply not keeping up, are they? Laws often get “ahead” of some people’s mindsets. AREN’T WE LUCKY? The haters may keep on hating, but they have no legal, moral or individual “right” to impose their “opinions” any longer.
Some definitions, for those unclear on these concepts:
I am an author who publicly proclaims myself a feminist. Anyone who knows me or reads me online or reads my books also knows I am Buddhist, Jewish, and bisexual, and I am vocally an anti-discrimination, anti-oppression activist.
I am also a reader who occasionally does reviews. Therefore, I do agree that each reviewer has the right to refuse to review any book we do not want to review. We do not have to give reasons, either.
However, I do not agree with the opinions, prejudices and biases this reviewer expresses when she gives some (but not all) of her reasons for discontinuing her reading of and refusing to review my book.
In fact, when we allow such actions to be fueled in these ways, not commenting, not confronting, we are aiding and abetting the institutional oppression rampant in literary circles. “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” is never truer than in these circumstances.
Some would say that she would have been off not saying anything, but since she did, here we are.
Read below and comment, please! http://www.sallyember.com/blog
After finding me on a reviews-seeking site, this reviewer emailed me, saying that she wanted to review all three books in The Spanners Series. She wrote a few days later, saying she had started and was liking my first book.
Then, the next day, this potential reviewer sent me this email:
I will not be able to review your books. I have just come to a part that is [sic] conflict with my site. I have a family friendly blog and your book contains content that my readers would find offensive. It would also put at risk some of my advertising spots on my site that demand only family friendly content.
I understand that you were just trying to get across the point about non-discrimination but your content concerning sexual affiliation will not work with my site.
Best of luck to you,
“I have no idea what you mean by ‘not family-friendly’ or ‘offensive,’ since my books are accepted by ‘[Facebook authors’ group],’ a strict group on Facebook which promises readers fiction that won’t make them recoil. For example, I use no swear words stronger than ‘damn’ or ‘shit,’ there are no explicit sex scenes, no gratuitous or obvious violence, and no traumatic scenes in my books: they are PG-13.
“If you are objecting to any mention of or acceptance of alternative sexual orientations and gender identities to heterosexual or straight people or cis-gender people, if that would be something you or your followers find ‘offensive,’ then, please: DO NOT READ MY BOOKS.
“And, by the way, discrimination, bias and prejudice are NOT ‘family-friendly’ to any families I would want to be connected with, ever. Use of that terminology to describe what you are perhaps claiming is absurd.
“Since more than 10% of every population of humans on this planet are actually gay, lesbian or bisexual and at least 5% are transgendered, whose families are you ‘protecting’?
“If what I am assuming, in fact, are your positions, I find your views to be extremely offensive, and so would most of the rest of the world, at this point in time. Marriage equality and sexual identity acceptance are legal in many countries, including this one, and discrimination is NOT.
“I welcome you and your readers into the 21st century any time you’re ready to come.
“If I have misunderstood, I apologize. Please explain. I would welcome your further description of what, exactly, is ‘in conflict with’ your site and specifics as to your presumptions about your advertisers’ objections to the content of my books.”
What is offensive is that you mention any sexual affiliation at all. I would not blurt out in a book that I was heterosexual. I would not refer to sex at all. It is irrelevant and has no place in a family friendly book. You can have any sexual orientation you want and that is your business but I don’t have to and will not promote it on my site. The fact that you felt you needed to make a political statement with your book is your business but I won’t be a part of it.
As I said Good Luck to you but I will not be doing this review.
Curious as what others who might be “in her camp” would say, I posted our email exchange on the group site I am part of, the one I mentioned, above, and asked for opinions.
I received the following anonymized responses (I didn’t include them all; some are repetitive or off-topic).
Then, I wrote a few responses, below.
Why do I bother? Because Education.
“Need[ Facebook Group members]’ opinions, please! Just had this exchange with a potential reviewer and I’m burning mad. (She approached me, BTW, asking to review my books via a [reviews-seeking/reviewers-finding site] last week!).
“She emailed me this earlier today…” (same as above, posted)
FB group’s responses:
“She has the right to her viewpoint, and I don’t think she should be dressed down, scolded, or insulted for it. I thought your words were rather condescending and insulting.
“OTOH, she should have done her research first before approaching you, and rather than try to take YOU to task for what she didn’t agree with in your books, she should have just politely said ‘sorry, I was wrong, it’s not going to work out this time.'”
“The old saying I’ve tried to remember is not to lower oneself to another’s level in order to argue or debate. It’s not ever worth it.”
“It’s her site, she can do as she wishes, just as you are able to write about anything you want to. This enters into the forbidden realm of writers who snap at reviewers for not liking what they wrote. She didn’t give you a bad review on her site, which she could have. She simply declined to review at all. It could have gone a LOT worse for you.”
“Sally, I totally get where you’re coming from, having experienced this kind of reaction (my books include gay characters who are treated as normal people). I’m living vicariously through your email because I’ve wished I could say something like that to reviewers who’ve one-started me because of it. smile emoticon But I’m inclined to agree that it’s better to steer clear of these rhetorical boondoggles. I’d just let this go and get on with writing. Your audience is out there, but it’s not this lady or her blog followers.”
“It’s her site. She is entitled to her opinion and the way she manages her site. We have our rules here, but IMHO, even shit and damn are not family friendly. She was polite. I’m sorry that you were not.”
“I have to say also, the reviewer could have gone ahead with her review, as she’d promised you one. She could have been completely open and honest about her opinion, and put it on her public site.
“Instead, when she saw it was something that she didn’t believe she could endorse, she privately messaged you, letting you know that she’d have to back out.
“This was gracious of her to do.
“So to be treated badly was not something that I feel she deserved.”
“PG-13 does not constitute ‘family-friendly’ in my mind. I have a 9, 7 and 4 year old, and I don’t even let them watch most PG movies.”
“Unfortunately, I have to agree with what many others here have commented. In addition, I have to point out that you ASSUMED her problem with your book was the fact that there are gay characters. She simply wrote that she came ‘to a part’ that conflicted with her site. The thing that may have bothered her could’ve been profanity, or whatever else is in your book. It can be dangerous to reprimand someone for their stance – especially since she could always turn around and decide to write a poor review, or even one-star your book.
“On a personal note, I write both Christian AND secular stories (things that would give Junot Diaz a run for his money in the department of shock value). So I can honestly say that even the words you listed are not ‘family friendly,’ meaning appropriate for all ages. As far as homosexuality is concerned, I have a #LiveAndLetLive philosophy on life. That means that I do not judge someone else for their lifestyle choice. However, that doesn’t mean I want my six year old reading about it. Again, it’s a subject not necessarily appropriate for all ages.”
to HHH: “She came right out and stated what her concerns were. I didn’t assume what she objected to at all. I assumed her reasons, because she did not state them. Also, I did not expect any 6-year-olds to read this book; it’s way too complicated and sophisticated. PG-13 is the rating i always state. Thanks for your comments, though.”
“Wow. And she was so polite…”
“Since when are expressions of bias, prejudice and discrimination ‘polite’??? If her objections were obviously about my having Jewish or Black characters, would you be defending her ‘family-friendly’ smokescreen???”
“She made her reasons for choosing not to include your work on her site clear to you in a very polite manner. Tolerance works both ways.”
“To JJJ and others here: I appreciate all your comments, but for some of you, I am disappointed. SOME don’t seem to know the difference between being ‘impolite’ and being against someone else’s being discriminatory, Number 1.
“Number 2, it is not the job of those who are not being tolerated to return such intolerance with tolerance. I was not ‘impolite’ to her: I was direct and I expressed my thoughts and feelings. I did not call her names, I did not insult her.
“Remember: she VOLUNTEERED to read my books and had already sent me an email prior to this saying how much she was enjoying the first one. Then, she came to a part she didn’t ‘tolerate,’ which she and her groups, of which some of you are obviously members, seem to think it’s just fine to insult and demean. That is plain wrong. She doesn’t have to like it. She could have just said “It’s not for me” and DNF or not even written me. But, she chose to ‘explain.’
“Those who are not heterosexual or cis-gender do not deserve to be treated as if we are threats, are wrong to be ‘this way,’ or by our very existence, are ‘problems’ for ‘families.’ We ARE in families!
“I will defend to my dying day the right of all who are discriminated against to object strenuously to such discrimination, wherever it appears, however ‘nicely’ it is phrased.
“Maybe some of you are too young or didn’t have these experiences, but I grew up in Missouri under Jim Crow laws. I grew up with signs on stores and country clubs that said : ‘No Dogs, No Jews, No Niggers Allowed.’ Should I have greeted those racists with ‘tolerance’????? I am a Jewish, female bisexual. Our country is in the exact same place now with LGBT rights and biases as it was then with Jews and Blacks.
“Remember when women weren’t treated as ‘humans,’ weren’t allowed to vote, sit with men, drive, own property? Would you all be so ‘tolerant’ if she had said her ‘family-friendly’ group doesn’t want to read books with autonomous female characters, that all women be subservient to their families’ males to be considered ‘family-friendly’? Whoever doesn’t see the connections, here, I’m sad for all of you.”
“Comments about the relative politeness of exchanges of views are not an automatic acceptance of intolerance or prejudice. In fact they are no comment at all about the relative merits of the content of the exchange – just the manner in which comments have been delivered.”
“Thanks for all of your ideas, comments, and responses, here. Group. I am sorry that some of you still believe that strongly worded disagreement is ‘impolite,’ but we’re going to have to agree to disagree, there. Best to you all.”
Okay, Followers/Readers and Other Peeps: Weigh in! What do you believe/do?
Please leave comments on this blog! Thanks! Best to you all!
1) Should we authors all just “be polite” when confronted with reviewers’ prejudices?
2) Should we authors “be silent” when potential or actual reviewers express their biases and refuse to “serve” us at the “review” lunch counter because our books or characters don’t meet with their “approval” (don’t have a right to exist)?
3) Is it incumbent upon us all not to allow any reviewer to give or imply that their personal, political, religious or other biases as/are sufficient “reasons” for refusing to review a book? Or, do you recommend letting that go unchallenged?
4) Does simply having LGBT characters make a book “unfriendly” to “families” and/or inappropriate for youth?