All men: seriously?

When I lived in the South many, many years ago, I had a long discussion about race with an elderly southern gentleman, who happened to teach mathematics at a community college.  He was not, he insisted, a racist–no, he had supported the civil rights movement in the 1960s. But, he added, he could unequivocally state what he believed was a politically incorrect, but true, statement: Black people, he told me, were just dumber than white people. His proof of that was that in 30 years of teaching, he had never, ever had a black person get an A in his class.

Now, I hope you are as dumbfounded and horrified as I am by that revelation. I really do believe this person honestly believed he wasn’t a racist. But I’m also positive that his belief that black people were less intelligent had a huge impact on his grading and treatment of black people. I suspect he gave black people less credit on exams for identical performance, because he was convinced they just didn’t get it, no matter what their paper showed; I’m sure he gave them less time and attention in and out of class.

And I’m damned sure, that he shortchanged 30 years of black students by his attitude. It’s just simply not possible that not one black student ever deserved an A in his class.  And instead of asking himself, “What am I doing to cause this unconscionable disparity?” he looked at an entire population and found them wanting.

A similar phenomenon was observed in orchestra hiring. The conventional wisdom was that women had smaller technique, and less artistic ability than men. It had nothing to do with sexism, the conductors who did the hiring insisted; women just weren’t as good as men, and they were selecting for quality. Political correctness was pointless. Then someone decided to implement a drastic technique–initial auditions were conducted behind a screen, so the conductor couldn’t see who was playing as he judged the merits of the performance. Needless to say, female participation in orchestras increased rapidly.

So when Publisher’s Weekly defends their all-male top 10 list by explaining that they chose what they believed to be the best stand-out books out there, but that they chose without regard to “political correctness,” you’ll have to excuse my bored sigh. Been there. Done that. Got the irrelevant T-Shirt.

I understand the argument about quality, and I don’t want Publisher’s Weekly (or anyone else) to bless any book with an imprimatur that is undeserved simply in the name of political correctness or inclusiveness or diversity. But their conclusion that including women on the list would simply be a matter of “political correctness” suggests to me that they’re asking themselves the wrong question. It looks like they’re asking themselves, “Why should we bend our standards to include women?” when they should be asking themselves, “Do our standards exclude women, and if so, are they good standards, and if not, how can we fix them?”

39 thoughts on “All men: seriously?

  1. Courtney, great post! I think you’re right on in your reasoning and hope those “standards” at PW get looked at with some rational thinking and get changed.

  2. I’m sickened by PW’s response. Because while I’m sure all those books were good, you can’t tell me that there wasn’t a book out there by a woman that was just as good, if not better. I don’t think lists should be adjusted so it’s “politically correct.” But the fact that was PW’s automatic, knee-jerk reaction response suggests to me that PW knows that oops, we did a baddie, so we’re going to play the old we’re not trying to be politically correct game. PW, I’m holding up a finger to you. Guess which one it is.

    I’m sure that any woman has a story about a sexist behavior, remark, or being discriminated against simply because of her gender. Maybe PW didn’t think there were any good books by women in 2009—but like I wrote before, I highly, highly doubt it.

  3. I’m in the middle of reading Joanna Russ’s How to Suppress Women’s Writing, and it’s covering similar ground.

    It’s depressing, this. We’ve tackled the low hanging fruit (laws that actually encoded discrimination etc.) and now we’re left with far more difficult battles; biases that aren’t quite so glaring, the mental tricks men and women play on themselves to justify that bias. It’s insidious. Women can’t be excluded from this since the cultural message gets sent to (and internalized by) them, too.

    We have a long way to go, yet.

  4. Awesome post. I especially like how you illustrated the kind of wrong thinking their response follows, not just against women but people in general.

  5. Thinking a book is good is so subjective. It would be like naming the ten top paintings of the year. What appeals to one in style, color and subject may bore another. Don’t they have a diverse panel of judges who each appreciate many different genres and give value to the actual style, voice, conflict and theme without prejudice for their own particular interests. Am I just being naive?

  6. Courtney,

    You make some excellent points. However, I think you could have strengthened your argument by mentioning one more thing. You chose two groups who have been discriminated against historically and you’re right on both counts. However, you could have noted than men are often discriminated against in child custody decisions simply by virtue of their gender. This is also an injustice.

  7. So they’re basically saying not a SINGLE book written by a women measured up to the high standards of their selections. I think this is a classic example of society devaluing women and devaluing the issues and stories that are important to women. As romance writers, we bash our heads against this wall almost every day of our careers so this shouldn’t be as great a shock to us as it’s been to our more “literary” sisters-in-arms.

    I was thinking about the book THE HELP, which I felt should have been at the top of the PW list of Best Books of 2009. It’s a “literary” novel, written in extraordinary voice about the lives of 3 women that intersect during the Civil Rights movement in Jackson, Mississippi. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just as important and thought-provoking as any novel or work of non-fiction written about that incredibly volatile period in our history. But it’s a book written BY a woman ABOUT the lives of women and is primarily being READ by women. Three strikes and you’re out! It’s also had TREMENDOUS commercial success, just as romance novels do (primarily due to extraordinary word of mouth recommendation), which may have also alienated the PW panel. Unfortunately, these are the exact sort of antiquated attitudes that are driving so many print publications out of business these days and causing them to lose relevance with their targeted audience.

  8. A decade ago, I returned to university & got a degree in English (minored in marketing). Most of the classic literature assigned was written by men (although I did read Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, and Christina Rossetti). It’s one thing to suppress female writers in earlier centuries, but that it should continue even now is depressing. I’m curious about the panel of PW judges – all male?

  9. Hi everyone, and thanks so much for your comments. Barbara, Elyssa, Carolyn, Monica, Melanie–I really do hope that internally, PW is thinking about precisely this issue, and trying to think how to include women (and not just women–but making sure that their standards don’t exclude other groups as well) and women’s issues from their “best” lists in the future.

    Walt, you’re right that prejudice is not only applicable to underrepresented groups. This post obviously can’t mention all the ways that we as a society are hurt by unfair bias, and I’m glad you brought up one of them.

    Terry, I have heard really good things about THE HELP–I’m going to have to get a copy of it soon.

    And Vicky, I wish I knew what the makeup of the PW panel was!

  10. Very well put, Courtney.

    I am reminded of the Margaret Atwood poem, “Spelling,” about the power of women’s words, and history’s attempts to surpress them, from the “wise women” burned at the stake as witches to the women who had to choose between being mothers or “mainlining words.” The value of the feminine in public discourse has always been underrated, which was the meaning of the poem, but it also points out (through her daughter’s ability to “spell” without fear) that we are making progress. I think the PW selections have touched a nerve among women authors because it reminds us how very far we still have to go.

    I don’t argue with the choice of books by PW. They’re entitled to their opinion [even if it is wrong, she added sarcastically]. They will not be convinced otherwise because they will need to defend their choices in order to justify their contructs. I do argue with the contruct in which those choices must have been made.

    The filters one uses to judge remind me of something Einstein is said to have remarked: “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” If PW’s construct only allows for the masculine perspective, i.e., the things men care about, and doesn’t allow for the alternate female voice in that perception of greatness, then the fix was in before it started. They may not have even realized it themselves.


  11. And yes, I do know how to spell “construct.” Witness I did it right one out of three times. I swear, it’s my glasses–they suck and I’m always seeing things wrong. LOL!

  12. I haven’t followed all the defense/explanation from PW, but does anyone, listmakers included, ever take these kind of lists as “the ten objectively best books published this year”? I’ve always assumed they are chosen as a representative group: “here are 10 books that represent the best of this year’s crop.” with the understanding that there were many other excellent books that couldn’t fit on the list. They strive for balance, I’ve always assumed. Sort of like assembling a good All-Star team in basketball. Maybe the top ten players objectively all happen to be point guards. But if that team wouldn’t be a good representation of the league’s strength.

    So I guess what bugs me is, I think of this list as representative by nature. for it to include no books by women suggests not that these male-written books were objectively the best– it suggests that books by women aren’t even worthy of representation when we discuss “the year’s best.” Or that our voices aren’t necessary to assembling kick-butt literary All Star team. I would disagree.

  13. This is very interesting, and timely! I was at a conference recently where the speaker (A WOMAN) insisted that to be a top seller, you had to be a man.

    Huh…??? I can’t tell you how mad that made me. I can’t tell you how angry it made me that the other women sitting around me BELIEVED IT! WTF!

    Sometimes I wish I lived in a cave so I could play the ignorance is bliss card!

  14. There’s a flaw in your argument. You’re comparing the top 10 with “AN ORCHESTRA” or “A MATHS CLASS”. There’s a huge difference. The reason that is different, is that men really are typically better at the very top end of nearly all professions. I know you’ll hate me for writing this, but it’s a confirmed statistical fact.
    Likewise, at the bottom end of society, men are also in the majority. The conclusion: Men vary more than women, phyisically as well as mentally. Nature experiments more with the male sex (a biological phenomenon) and thats what causes these sort of results: more of the best and more of the worst.

    This does NOT mean that no woman can be the best – its just less likely, so you personally might be the best writer of all times. That is why I encourage people to not take such results personally.

    You might also want to know that women rule the middle of the performance distribution. There they are in the majority.

  15. TJ, I completely get where you’re coming from. I’m not sure I would go so far as to say I don’t fault PW for their bias–but I do think if there is a bias, they should either ferret it out or own up to it, and not present these as the “10 Best Books” of the year, but “the 10 Best Books, as agreed upon by war buffs.”

    Tessa, I completely agree. If they’d left out nonfiction books altogether, everyone would agree that was just weird and suggested a bias towards fiction. So why is it so odd when you handle it otherwise?

    Oh, Adi. I don’t hate you, but I do have to laugh at this. I went to law school. I’ve seen plenty of sexism in action. And I’ve seen this assertion before, enough times that it’s boring.

    Quite frankly, so far as I can tell, there is no scientific experiment with an adequate control (e.g., something to account for cultural, rather than biological differences). This article sums up the studies on sex differences:

    What you cite is hardly a “confirmed statistical fact.” It’s a highly debated proposition–an effect that shows wide variability from country to country, and can disappear altogether in statistically rigorous studies of societies where men and women are treated roughly equally.

    It seems to me that rather than relying on a dubious, unproven, likely cultural effect, one that no study has ever identified with regards to writing, Occam’s razor suggests a simpler explanation. Which others have suggested here.

    Since I’ve had this discussion thousands of times, I wager that when you assert that “nature experiments more with the male sex,” you will be completely unable to provide me with an adequate, scientifically acceptable actual explanation of how sex-linked variability would provide an evolutionary advantage. Because, you see, “nature” doesn’t experiment with anything. The process of evolution selects individual genes.

    So go ahead. Give me the argument for male genetic variability. You will think that it’s evolutionary in nature, and then I will have to explain to you how your argument is founded on a common misunderstanding about the mechanism of evolution.

    Let me tell you why you’re wrong in advance: Evolution favors the survival and replication of an individual gene, not the well-being of a species.

    Just give it a try, and you’ll see.

  16. Courtney, I really do hope you’re right. Its certainly the version that I’d be more comfortable with and you clearly also would rather it be like that. Unfortunately, the article you linked to only had one study as a reference and it was not published. So I’d appreciate if you could find another source so we can resolve that question and move on.

    The phrase “nature experiments more with men” was figure of speech. Of course I know that evolution doesn’t work that way, but on blogs like this, where people are trying to comfort themselves from a perceived injustice, scientific rigor is usually the last thing anybody wants thrown at them.

    I suppose the purpose of your lecture on evolution was to make me look uneducated rather than to correct my reasoning (which may very well need correction). Or are you trying to say that the sexes are identical? Surely we can all agree that they aren’t (though I personally believe the differences are very small).

    I suspect, underneath all this actually lies a deeply routed inferiority complex – which is why people always take it personally when their gender seems to perform less well (i.e. thinking with your feelings). Why thats silly should be obvious: As a man (wow, you were right) I compete with other men; I don’t mind women doing better than me. In fact its attractive, and every time a new study comes out showing women performing better than men at something, I take it as an applause of my own performance. Winning against the odds is the best victory there can be.

    But I think I made a mistake in posting here. Its probably the wrong place for someone like me.

    On the side: Why would you make a statement about not hating me? Do you say that to everyone you meet:
    “Hello, My name is Courtney and I don’t hate you”?
    Is it that you actually do hate me but lack the courage to say so directly?
    Or is it that you want to threaten me with hate to keep me silent?
    Or is it that you think I deserve to be hated but you’re so forgiving that you’ll put up with my opinion.

  17. Why did I say I didn’t hate you? Hm. Go scroll back and look at your first post: “I know you’ll hate me for writing this, but it’s a confirmed statistical fact.”

    You were the one who thought you were going to get hated. I was trying to reassure you. I only tell people I don’t hate them when they tell me I do.

    But let’s talk intellectual rigor. You claim that you spoke poorly about the line “nature experiments” because “scientific rigor is usually the last thing anybody wants thrown at them”–when you, in fact, in your last comment were trying to take the scientifically rigorous upper ground, by using the words “confirmed statistical fact” to describe something that is not, in fact, confirmed, statistically or otherwise. You made an offhand reference to what “nature does,” and when invited to actually get scientifically rigorous, you not only declined, you pulled an ad hominem fallacy, by trying to make it be about “my feelings.”

    I asked you, specifically, to be scientifically rigorous; you read that as an attempt to make you “look uneducated rather than to correct [your] reasoning.” No, actually. I was giving you a chance to either cite a study or provide an analytical backing for your theory. I admit it was also a warning that if you came up with pseudo-science, I was going to have to get all Richard Dawkins on your ass.

    All you had to do, to make yourself look reasonably informed, was make an actual argument founded in science. I couldn’t actually correct your reasoning on the evolutionary argument yet, as you hadn’t actually made the argument.

    And note, I corrected your reasoning as to the one argument you did make, first by demonstrating that studies are all over the place on the question of cognitive variability between sexes (contrary to your assertion, the Slate article links to a piece in Science, a piece in a peer-reviewed journal on sex roles, a meta-analysis of 100 studies performed by other researchers, and several other pieces, in addition to the comprehensive unpublished study you mention–something that is surely obvious if you actually read the article).

    Could you have played the prototype of bigotry any better? I made a rational argument, and linked to a selection of studies; you tried to turn this into a discussion of my “feelings,” and tried to justify your own inadequacy by saying that clearly, I wouldn’t have wanted to actually engage in rigorous debate.

    I am glad to engage in rigorous debate, but I’m particularly intolerant of people who think they can use science as a shield for their bigotry, and who, when someone engages intellectually with their ideas, try to pretend it’s about the other person’s hurt feelings.

    Bull. Skip the crap about my feelings, and make an actual argument. Skip the crap about what I’m “trying” to do, and actually go toe-to-toe with me.

    And if you can’t do that–if you have a sudden, sinking realization that you really don’t understand evolution, and you really can’t find a source that suggests that there’s greater variability in male cognitive capacity when you’ve controlled for culture and training–then fess up and admit you were wrong. Don’t pretend that my being right is some secret inferiority complex on my part.

    Because you’re right. If you’re not going to make any arguments except pseudo-scientific bigotry, this is not the place for you to post.

    Further whines, without actual argument, will be disemvoweled.

  18. But I think I made a mistake in posting here. Its probably the wrong place for someone like me.

    Someone like you? I assume you mean, someone who can’t back up his ridiculous and offensive assertions with fact?

    Then, yeah. This is TOTALLY the wrong place for someone like you to post. Fun as it may be to watch Courtney trounce you.

    The idea that Courtney’s comments reflect some “deeply routed (sic) inferiority complex”… Oh my. Excuse me while I reattach the ass I just laughed off. Take it from someone lucky enough to know her pretty well – Courtney is holding down the top end of that spectrum you mention. You know, the one where all the women are supposedly clumped in the middle? Well, someone forgot to send Courtney that memo.

    P.S. I’m not passing that memo on to my daughter, either.

    P.P.S. CM, feel free to delete this comment if you want. I know you can fight your own battles just fine, but I couldn’t resist. xoxo

  19. OK, I’d forgotten I wrote that sentence about you hating me. That was my blunder and I apologize for that.

    Please don’t start calling me names. It is ironic that you call me a bigot when I don’t even care if the studies confirm the one theory or the other. I’m sorry, but what you’ve presented just isn’t satisfactory. Those studies might be conclusive but they don’t help me if I don’t have access to them. And if they are available, then please post the sources and don’t just say they’re everywhere.

    We’re mostly arguing about something that doesn’t matter in the context of this subject. What the cause is of the cognitive variance between the sexes (cultural, sociological or evolutionary or a combination) doesn’t change the fact that there is or isn’t a variance.
    I can offer you an example of a study that shows that there is such a difference:

    Study in 2005 of about 1300 brother/sister pairs’ scores at the ASVAB test were compared. If I remember correctly, there were about twice as many brothers in the top 2% as sisters but see for yourself:

    Deary, Irwing, Bates (2005) “Brother–sister differences in the g factor in intelligence: Analysis of full, opposite-sex siblings from the NLSY1979”

    So here’s the situation: You posted about a phenomenon that the top 10 above are all by male authors. You concluded immediately that it was (only?) due to discrimination. Since the ‘evidence’ you delivered is more than questionable I pointed that out to you and offered another explanation (the greater variance in male performance like the study above suggests). Though its also hardly conclusive, its still way better than to talk about a random maths teacher’s supposedly sexist attitude. I also suggested an explanation for that cause by referring to nature. I realize now that that was like pouring gasoline onto a fire. I personally think its probably mostly due to social upbringing but that is ONLY A SUGGESTION.
    So in the interest of getting back to the point of your blog, I concede that the greater variance among men in cognitive performance is probably not something that has evolved naturally.

    Out of principle I boycott any person or institution that conducts public sensorship on information. So if you in any way change the text I write or delete parts of it then I’m gone.

  20. It is ironic that you call me a bigot when I don’t even care if the studies confirm the one theory or the other.

    Don’t play innocent, and don’t give me this “don’t call me names” bullshit. You started it. I’m calling you a bigot because of your implication that I couldn’t handle scientific rigor, and when I actually applied intellectual pressure, you resorted to deeply offensive ad hominem attacks. I’m calling you a bigot because your response to my discussion of science was to say that I was thinking with my feelings and had a “deeply routed inferiority complex.”

    Sorry; pseudo-science followed by claims that my arguments are motivated by my own insecurity mark you out.

    Now go back and take a look at my original post and identify the sentence that supports your statement where I concluded the disparity was due to discrimination.

  21. Courtney,

    Having quite a bit of experience working in equal opportunity and affirmative action, I agree with you that I’ve seen these same arguments over and over. While people may think they are applying “objective” standards that are neither racist nor sexist, the proof is in the results. When women or people of color are excluded, that’s almost always a sign that somehow there is bias, albeit possibly unintentional or institutional.

    Moreover, I agree with Tessa Dare that lists like this aren’t really supposed to be “top 10” in an objective or accurate sense. Instead they are designed to highlight some works that collectively demonstrate the strength of the whole field. To put together such a list that excludes women writers sends a clear and unfortunate message.

    I wish that PW’s response was more along the lines of the British Fantasy Society’s when they faced charges of sexism earlier this year for publishing a collection of interviews in which all of the authors interviewed were men. This was in the horror genre, where many of the top-selling authors are women. Guy Adams, the BFS chair and special publications editor, wrote on the society’s website: “When James [Cooper, the editor of the book] brought the manuscript to me with a view to our publishing it, I know he intended no sexism in his selection of the authors but I feel deeply sorry that I didn’t flag the omission at the time. It is disgustingly simple for a man not to notice these things, a blindness to the importance of correct gender representation that I feel embarrassed to have fallen into.” See how easy that was?

  22. Crtny, y cn’t rlly blm m fr ntrprtng tht yr rspns ws mtnlly gdd? Wht d y xpct whn y gt s hng p n dtl th crcy f whch dsn’t ffct th pnt thr f s ws mkng?

    “ sspct h gv blck ppl lss crdt n xms fr dntcl prfrmnc, bcs h ws cnvncd thy jst ddn’t gt t, n mttr wht thr ppr shwd; ’m sr h gv thm lss tm nd ttntn n nd t f clss.”

    Ths s th vry dfntn f dscrmntn nd ts yr xplntn f th mths tchrs xmpl.

    Thn y cncld wth:
    “….thy shld b skng thmslvs, “D r stndrds xcld wmn, nd f s, r thy gd stndrds, nd f nt, hw cn w fx thm?”

    ts n-wn qstn tht prsppss dscrmntn:
    f y nswr “ys r stndrds xld wmn”, thn tht cnfrms dscrmntn f wmn.
    nd f y nswr “n thy d nt” thn w’r rght bck t th bgnnng gn.

    Hw bt mkng sm cnstrctv sggstns nstd f nly fghtng? hv n, gt th crtcs t rd wrks wtht knwng wh th thr ws. Tht shld srt t dscrmntn sly. s fr dptng th stndrds t ncld wmn, thts vry bd rd t g dwn. By th sm rgmnt n cld dpt th stndrds t ncld, wll, nythng nd nyn ntl thr r ql rprsnttns f vry mnrty tht cn wrt nglsh ncldng 5-yr lds.

    Th nly thr xmpl y lst ws tht f rchstr hrng.
    Thy’v ls trd pttng pplcnts f cmpttns bhnd crtns t vn t pssbl nfrnss (tht ws lss fr dscrmntn thn t ws fr thr nfrnsss by th wy). ’m vry crtcl f tht mthd bcs ) t ntrfrs ccstclly nd b) t lmnts th vsl lmnt f prfrmnc.

    My xprnc wth nstrmntl mscns (nd hv lt) s tht thr r typcl dffrncs n tttds nd rslts. Th d tht wmn hv wkr tchnq s ttl nnsns thgh nd th nly xmpl vr hrd f smn syng tht (thr thn n yr pst) ws lttr by Clr Schmnn rfrrng t th dffclty f Brhms’ Pgnn vrtns n th 19th cntry.
    cn sfly ssrt tht wmn, mr ftn hv rlbl tchnq nd lss ftn brk dwn frm nrvs r nscrts. n vrg th wmn thrfr tnd t b bttr. Bt th prfrmncs tht rlly g nt dpth – th n’s whr y gt nsprd fr wks ftr – ths r nrly lwys mn.

    [Where did the vowels go?]
    This comment was modified to more accurately reflect the trollish grunting of Adi's underlying analysis.
  23. As a woman who writes m/m fiction, I see this all the time – the exercise of deniable prejudice. It may even be so systemic that the people doing it are not aware themselves that they’re doing it. I see it so often, in fact, that I’ve almost had to give up being indignant about it, because otherwise I’d have no time for anything else.

    It’s just a terribly strange coincidence, obviously, that in a society riddled with sexism, racism, heterosexism etc, somehow ‘the best’ of everything just happens to be produced by straight white men.

  24. Ys lx, bt br n mnd tht mn r ls vrrprsntd t th bttm nd f scty sch s scd nd hmlssns. Fr wmn ths mns, tht thy r mr sf frm th wrst dl nd lss lkly t gt th bst dl.
    ts trdff, whch ’d prsnlly prfr. Tht wy, f dd gt nt th vry tp, ts tht mch mr f sccss r snstn.
    Ths s why dn’t ndrstnd ll th pst bt th tpc.

    [Where did the vowels go?]
    This comment was modified to more accurately reflect the trollish grunting of Adi's underlying analysis.
  25. Okay, Adi, I gave you a chance. The “detail” I apparently got hung up on was the question of whether men actually inhabit the top percentages of cognitive ability due to some form of natural selection, and it’s a “detail” you have yet to confirm.

    Your response has been to consistently tell me that rational argument is “emotional”–a response that attempts to delegitimize what I am saying without responding to the substance, and you continue to assert this as fact without proof.

    And you did all this without taking the time to understand my post–which was “if you get a disparate impact, consider your processes, because there may be discrimination involved, and you’ll never find out if you don’t ask yourself hard questions.”


  26. It’s just a terribly strange coincidence, obviously, that in a society riddled with sexism, racism, heterosexism etc, somehow ‘the best’ of everything just happens to be produced by straight white men.

    Exactly, Alex.

  27. Cngrtltns Crtny!
    Y’v xpsd yrslf.

    [Where did the vowels go?]
    This comment was modified to more accurately reflect the trollish grunting of Adi's underlying analysis.
  28. Can you stop messing up Adi’s comments. I want to decide for myself who I want to read and who I don’t thank you very much.
    Aren’t you overreacting a little anyway? He’s been writing quite a lot of **** but he has been civil so why don’t we let the poor guy make a fool of himself. He seems to enjoy it.
    By denying him a voice you’re actually making it look as if he has a point when he accuses you of being emotional and irrational.

  29. Then why mess them up further? Why doesn’t she want us to see what he wrote? Or does she think we’re not smart enough to make up our own minds?
    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not upset about shutting Adi up but I am upset about having someone dictate what I can read. Especially if that someone is involved in the conflict at hand.
    I’ve been to countries where people are denied freedom of speech and , trust me you do NOT want to go that way even in a small way. And if you think that someone has to moderate a discussion then that person should not be involved in the discussion. Or it just becomes a squabble where the participant with the most moderator privilege wins.

  30. Lucy,

    There are thousands of places Adi can go to write what he wants. I’m not denying him freedom of speech. He can start his own blog; he can comment on this in one of the innumerable other forums that discuss the PW list. The only thing I’m denying him is the right to interact with me, and freedom of speech has never required anyone to interact with anyone else.

    In case you are wondering, this is not a public forum. I am a romance author. This is a place that is inextricably tied with my commercial identity, and so that means that the range of discussions that can be had will be limited.

    I haven’t actually limited it all that much, all things considered. It’s just that there are certain viewpoints that I am simply not going to give voice to on this blog. It’s not that I don’t think you all are smart enough to make up your own minds; it’s that this is not the place to have certain sorts of discussions. There’s simply some things I won’t tolerate on this blog, because I won’t have them associated with me as an author.

    Sexism, racism, and homophobia cross that line.

    Yes, the answer is that the person with the most moderator privileges wins. This is the only time I’ve ever moderated comments; it’s not a power I take lightly. I gave Adi a warning when he started engaging in the classic justifications that bigots used (delegitimizing the voice). I cut Adi off after he asserted that my orchestra discussion was all wrong, because women didn’t have smaller technique; they had great technique, it was just that men were the only ones who could really inspire you.

    Sorry. At some point, I have to draw the line, and I draw it at the point where I think the comments would offend my readers. Adi crossed over that line. I don’t deny that he was civil in doing so, but then, the southern gentleman who had never given a black student an A was the soul of politeness. You don’t get a pass on bigotry because you say it with a smile.

  31. Upon looking at the other categories in which PW gives recommendations it becomes very clear that they do not rate romance as something worth reading. They have a listing for comics, they have a listing for sci-fi/horror/fantasy and they DON’T have a listing for romance. In fact most of the fiction described sounds very much like “something guys would like to read”. This definitely points towards a bias in their selection method.

    I realize my “something guys would like to read” comment sounds biased in and of itself so I would like to qualify it. I read a lot. 3 to 4 books a week. I used to read more. All my friends, acquaintances and coworkers know that I read this much so they all tend to recommend their favorite books to me. Over the last 17 years a definite pattern has emerged. With the notable exception of a few authors (and a few friends) men like books written by men and women like books written by women. Although this is not true for all books liked by a specific individual the pattern is definitely there. I am sure no one is surprised.

  32. Thanks for your detailed answer Courtney.

    First of all to Adi: In case you are still following this , don’t for one second think that my upset with Courtney’s behavior means that I agree with you.

    Now to Courtney : Adi wasn’t only interacting with you. We’re all interacting with each other and by cutting him off , you denied all of us that interaction which is what I’m bothered with.
    Thanks for ‘protecting’ me from sexism but I can protect myself. I’m not a feeble little girl who cries for help when someone says something upsetting.
    I would have especially liked to see what Adi had to say about orchestras since I’m a professional musician and I’ve played in many orchestras in almost as many countries. I could have crushed him like a weasel but I’ll never get the chance now.
    Adi’s clearly full of **** but he has shown that he could admit it when he was wrong (or when he thinks he’s wrong) and concede points. Not exactly the behavior of a bigot.

  33. I think I’ve identified the parts where Adi writes about music. I won’t post them here since you clearly don’t want that. I managed to reconstruct most of it. My impression is that Adi is probably also a musician (or a failed one).
    He writes at one point a sentence that ends with “these [or those] are nearly always men”.
    And he starts that paragraph with “My experience with instrumental musicians…”. So he was only making an observation and not stating a universal fact.
    Now MY personal observation is that nearly all harpists are female , most percussionists are male , most winners of beauty contests are female ,most of the Zimbabwean population is black. I could go on and on. Making observations like that is not at all sexist. You interpreted it that way and by distorting his comments and describing them wrongly you left your readers not even a chance to believe anything else.

    After everything I can’t help concluding that it was actually YOU who was being the bigot.
    Denying people a voice and then misquoting them to justify that denial has to be the ultimate form of bigotry.

    Anyway, I had better leave now.

  34. To paraphrase Carl Sagan, there’s a difference between prejudice and postjudice. Prejudice–judging someone based on factors that are irrelevant–is wrong. Postjudice–listening to someone’s arguments and then judging them–is part of intelligence. It’s not pre-judgment if you know, you actually wait to judge someone.

    Denying someone a voice isn’t actually bigotry at all, unless you do it because that person is a member of a particular group. What you really mean is that I am exerting dictatorial control. Which is true. I am. But please use words in line with their actual meaning: I’m being dictatorial, not bigoted.

    And yes, Courtney wearing her dictator hat declares: This is not a public forum. This is my blog as an author, and everything that is said here reflects on me personally to some extent. I’m not doing this out of misplaced benevolence, to protect you; I’m doing it out of a heavy-handed self-interested dictatorial interest in protecting my professional identity.

    I’m simply not willing to open up a forum where people can feel free to bag on women, even if they do so politely, and even if they couch it with phrases like, “in my experience.”


  35. Lucy, a statement like, “In my experience, most harpists are female” can’t be bigoted, no matter how correct or incorrect it might be factually–because there’s no value judgment there. It’s an entirely different thing from saying, “In my experience, the truly inspiring musicians are male” — which was Adi’s last paragraph, more or less (even without vowels, I could figure it out).

    Prefacing bigotry with a phrase like “in my experience…” doesn’t make it any less offensive or wrong. If anything, those instances are even more insidious, because the people making those statements are so clearly perpetuating the “experience” with their own choices. Like the math teacher in Courtney’s example, who claimed black people were less smart “in his experience”, because he’d never given one an A.

    Or like this Louisiana judge, who just last month denied an interracial couple a marriage license–oh-so-politely, of course–because “in his experience”, interracial marriages don’t last and are hard on the kids.

    Courtney warned Adi what kind of comments she wouldn’t tolerate, he persisted in making them, and she exercised her right of moderation as the blog owner. If you want to interact with Adi, why not link to your own blog and invite him over to chat?

  36. I’ll probably regret sticking my nose in here, but that’s never stopped me before. 🙂

    Courtney & Tessa, I admire you for sticking together on this. And I appreciate the difficulty Courtney faced when deciding how to deal with this issue. I can only hope that I’ll be as even-keeled if I ever face a similar situation.

    Lucy, This is not a public forum. Every post is eligible for moderation by the owner. Period. This blog is a tool used by Courtney to communicate with her readers, not a platform for others’ opinions. That is not censorship, that is the owner deciding on the mission of the blog.

    Just some words for thought…
    Jami G.

  37. Ha! Oh man, the reason why there are no vowels in those comments? Surprised a laugh out of me (which I needed, thank you, since my Torts reading is putting me to sleep). So funny. And so fitting.

    I can’t come up with anything more intelligent to add to the discussion than what you’ve already contributed, Courtney. I just wanted to say that I think you rock. 🙂

    –a different Christina than the one who commented up thread

  38. I’m just chiming in to agree with Christina. Excellent post on PW, hilarious and awesome smackdown in the comments section. I adore you and can’t wait for your book.

    (I also agree with Christina that torts reading stunk, but not nearly so much as property. It’s been years, though, so my memory might be flawed).

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