Collateral Damage

After literally centuries of oppression and minimization of women, I can understand the fury and anger that fuels much of the Me Too Movement, particularly since I’ve witnessed that on-going and still continuing minimization and disregard by men toward my wife and my daughters. It’s well past time for change, and that change needs to be considerable in scope and duration, but such change isn’t going to take place without passion and, frankly, fury.

Unfortunately, there are also going to be excesses and collateral damage. When there are profound social changes in society, there always are. And there’s the very real danger that those excesses will produce a backlash. In fact, if the excesses are too great, the backlash will also be great.

In addition to the considerable and well-documented revelations about powerful men, from Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby to Donald Trump, there have also been what appear to be charges against other public male figures, and even one female figure, based on far less substance, and in the case of one well-known author, a series of anonymous and undocumented charges, charges that remain without any support, three months later, and, in the case of a respected commentator, a single dubious charge, one refuted by the commentator and roughly sixty other female media personages.

After some forty years as a published author, I do know a considerable number of authors, male and female, and quite a few of the women authors I know are disturbed by some of the anonymous and so far unsupported charges being bandied about.

Now… there is no excuse for unprofessional behavior and particularly not behavior that degrades or damages others, especially women, given the abuse and minimization they’ve endured for years, but charges of abuse and minimization need to be documented and accusers need to put their names on the line and not hide behind anonymity. In those cases where the accuser fears retribution, evidence is still required.

There’s also one other danger that needs to be avoided, especially in the field of writing, and that’s equating criticism and considered judgment with gender-based minimization. Men and women can both write great books. They can also write terrible books. If a man believes a woman’s book is poorly written, and says so, that’s not minimization – even if others think he’s wrong. The book or story is not the person – even though all of us authors do in fact take it personally when we get negative criticism.

On the other hand, when authors’ advances and/or royalties are based in any degree on gender, rather than on sales or projected sales, or when female authors get less publisher support when they have comparable sales levels to male authors, those are examples of gender-based discrimination and totally unacceptable. But we need to keep in mind the difference between criticism or literary opinion and actual discrimination. And, yes, a negative comment or review can harm an author, but so long as the negativity is based on the book and not the author, that’s fair game. Over the years, I’ve occasionally gotten some terrible reviews. I never cared about, and often never knew, the gender of the reviewer. Books and their reviews need to stand on their own.

However… for all that I’ve just written… there is going to be collateral damage. I can only hope that it’s kept to a minimum, because the backlash could even be worse. After all, for better or worse, isn’t backlash one of the reasons why we ended up with President Trump?

4 thoughts on “Collateral Damage”

  1. Derek says:

    This might be the first time in my life where I have seen powerful men being held accountable for their actions towards women. I have a limited knowledge of history, but it seems unprecedented.

    Going from a blanket ignoring of the issue to what we have now, regardless of collateral, seems to be a fairly good deal. Well, for everyone except the collateral. I’d rather a few men be worried about false accusations than almost all women’s accusations be considered unfounded.

  2. Daze says:

    I’m fascinated by some of the reactions from men affected – essentially not believing that this is going to have any impact.

    The most extraordinary is Roman Polanski’s lawsuit against the Academy, saying he hasn’t had the chance to speak in his defence, when he could have set out his defence any time by returning to the US and stating it in court.

  3. Tom says:

    After a year of Trump and, considering the view of the US from an international perspective, I am uncomfortably aware of just how well Trump does in fact represent the face and actions of the worlds largest economy.

    Knowing that the rest of the world is as well represented as the US with the demonstrative dominator males does not help.

  4. I am so happy to say you thank you because your post is obviously fantastic. I agree with you in all terms. As you said, your story seems to be unique from that by other writers, which I have read. Novel is somehow a fictional story writing in general. But in order to keep the readers thrilled, it should be well written with beauty. Being a journalist, one can get good experience in writing with some flavors. Generally, a journalist needs vast vocabulary and professional usage of the language. Usually, journalists put some decorating words to make their articles interesting to read. This becomes the routine for a journalist. However, some years of experience will definitely lead a journalist to write a biography or a book himself. This is the starting stage of a novel writer within a journalist. I have some examples for this as well.

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