Book Riot is a publishing blog and they have recently been garnering quite a bit of attention due to recent post written by Brenna Clarke Gray. She alleged in a convoluted manner that when she left two or three star reviews of some books, the author and their publicists called her out on it. Brenna felt bullied about being asked to take down her reviews, so she quit GoodReads.
Brenna claims that Goodreads is not safe for women and that they are constantly being bullied “When I say the bookternet is not safe for women, I mean it. Thankfully I have never been physically attacked or directly harmed by my experiences tweeting and blogging about books. But I have certainly been made to feel unsafe, to live on the defensive, to question the motivations of those who engage with me, to block first and ask questions never. That’s not the person I want to be, but it’s the person I must be if I wish to have a public voice on a big platform like Book Riot. If I have to choose between my sweetness and my voice, my voice will always, always win. It has to.”
Her post on Book Riot has garnered a few hundred comments and moderator Kelly Jensen has been deleting almost every single comment written by men and people who disagree with the author. Kelly is even claiming that GoodReads is sexist because the site does not do enough to protect women from indie authors shilling their books or authors who have a problem with a bad review.
Kelly said “Sexism works when a group in power uses that power against another group. In other words, women can’t be sexist against men. Men have power in our society; women do not.” So, is Kelly saying that women have no power online and in the world at large? Many people have called her out on this issue and she has personally deleted everything that conflicts with her narrow world view.
Only four men have their comments officially sanctioned and even women have raised the issue about Book Riot promoting the fact that Brenna is playing the victim on one hand and over-zealously battling commentators on the other. Book Riot is claiming that fundamentally it is men responsible for driving women away from GoodReads and book blogs in general.
One gender group is not to blame as Book Riot is claiming. Women can also be hostile when people leave negative reviews of their books or call them out for being shills on Twitter. Author Kimber Leigh Wheaton said “My book-related stalkers and harassers have all been women so far. I had a trio make my life a living hell last year. It was so bad I thought about giving up writing. I mean, what’s the point when my stress level was through the roof. But of course, that would let them win. As a reviewer, I get a few nasty comments off and on, but again most (almost all really) were from women. I actually get stalked and harassed more as an author than a reviewer. The internet is full of people typing before thinking. It’s so easy to spout off without serious repercussions. It’s like the frontal lobe ceases to function in some people the moment they log on.”
Book blogger Celine said “I’m so sorry to hear you got harassed – no one should go through that. However, I’m not sure I agree that it’s gendered harassment, and that the female voice isn’t valued in the online book community. I’ve never noticed any sexual bias in the community, apart from the wider cultural denigration of “women’s fiction”. In the four years I’ve been active on the Goodreads forums and as reviewer, I’ve never been called out on my gender, nor have I had to block anyone. It could be I’ve just been lucky. But I don’t recognize your generalizing statements in my personal experience.” The Book Riot moderator team mocked her for this opinion.
Carol McNicol summed it up by saying “‘I’m a woman and personally I think this is just a big over reaction. Honest to God, we are becoming a nanny community where every little thing is an anti-woman slur. I feel absolute no hesitance in sharing my opinions where and when I feel I have something to contribute. And if people (or men) feel the need to personally attack me, then that says more about them and less about me. Just ignore it and stop living your life in fear of what other people think and say. Let’s try raising a new generation of girls who aren’t afraid to speak out and defend themselves rather than running away when confronted with a little bit of resistance.”
I think the real point that Brenna Clarke Grayreal misses is that it’s not just limited to men hating women. Women hate women online, too. The Kathleen Hale controversy is a fine example of this, it’s about an author who stalks a reviewer and even went to his house to confront him. Author Jenny Trout’s dander was raised after she read a book she did not like and told all her fans to pirate it. She then got dozens of bloggers to stage a protest against the author who basically writes paranormal romance out of actual historical characters. The author had several titles, but when she got to Thomas Jefferson/Sally Hemmings (his real-life slave who bore him six children), it was suddenly unacceptable. Flush on the success of this campaign Trout then battled Anne Rice and called her a racist who supports rape because Rice supports anti-censorship.
Running away at the first sign of conflict is the essence of Brenna Clarke Gray’s rambling diatribe. She is claiming that when authors interact with reviewers who leave bad reviews it is a sign of bullying and sexism.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.