Friday, March 18, 2016

And I'M Offended That YOU'RE Offended That I'm Offended

room at the table for all
Here's a question for you: Is it possible to listen with an open mind, sincerely sympathize, even respect and understand someone's view point...and yet still disagree?

Yes. It is.

As shocking as it is, sometimes smart, sensitive, educated and caring people do not see eye to eye. They disagree. Passionately. Sometimes they disagree in areas where you would have bet money they'd be in complete accord.

It is disappointing, even hurtful, when the answer to something we care so deeply about, is no. But that is life. That is the human condition. Sometimes d├ętente cannot be reached. Sometimes you must agree to disagree.

I'm not suggesting there should not be discussion. I am suggesting that respect for someone else's opinion and their right to free speech only kicks in when you are in disagreement. Hitting "like" on a post or comment you agree with is not a noble demonstration of your respect for someone else's opinion. Allowing those with opposing viewpoints to have their say without vilifying them or denigrating them...that's actually showing respect for someone else's opinion, that's actually living up to the ideal of free speech.

At the same time, disagreement is not disrespect. Disagreement is not the same as forbidding people the right to speak. It is disagreement with what has been said.



Over the past two years the genre formerly known as M/M Romance has experienced more than it's share of rancorous disagreement on a number of issues, and sadly the divisions seem to be getting worse, not better. I'm not here to tell you how to fix that. I don't see a way to fix it that doesn't involve a hell of a lot more open-mindedness, imagination and empathy on the part of everyone involved.

This I can tell you. Diversity is good. It is good for society. It is good for the book business.

DI-VER-SI-TY   

yes, that person has wings

[dih-vur-si-tee, dahy-]   
noun, plural diversities. 

1. the state or fact of being diverse; difference; unlikeness:
diversity of opinion.

2. variety; multiformity.

3. the inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, color, religion, socioeconomic stratum, sexual orientation, etc.:
diversity in the workplace.

4. a point of difference

Look at it this way. Maybe I write cupcakes with sprinkles and buttercream frosting and you write hearty oatmeal muffins that nourish and sustain. Maybe my cupcakes outsell your oatmeal muffins. Maybe you outsell me with readers looking to be nourished and sustained. But in a genre this small, there’s a good chance that our readerships will occasionally, maybe more than occasionally, overlap. Nobody likes cupcakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yet man shall not live by hearty oatmeal muffin alone. You see what I’m saying? My cupcakes may be the gateway to your oatmeal muffin. Maybe not. But if we only serve oatmeal muffins, then a lot of readers with a lot of dollars will never wander over here because they don’t think they like oatmeal and the selection is so small.

It is to all of our benefit to maintain a healthy, thriving genre that attracts a variety of readers who are willing to pay to read many books written by unique and multiple talents.

Do we need gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, asexual romance written specifically by gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, asexual, authors? Of course we do! It is crucial.
a knotty problem

But believe it or not, it is also crucial to have stories by those with other ideas, perspectives, insights. Unless you’re literally a hermit and have no outside contact with the world, there is no exclusive or isolate human experience. All of our experiences are tempered by our relationships with others and the world around us. Nobody lives in a vacuum.

Get over the idea that all these other writers cluttering up the bookshelves are robbing you of your rightful readers. There is no such thing in publishing. Readers are not prisoners of war to be taken by the winners of some bizarre battle of genre gerrymandering.


A multitude of voices and experiences and viewpoints means by default that we are not all going to understand or appreciate everything written by our peers--but that doesn’t mean we can’t benefit in practical, cultural and even spiritual ways from being around people who are, you know, different from us.

  

37 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. The thing that makes true diversity a goal (or maybe just a dream) is that it does require acceptance -- at the minimum -- of people uncomfortably different from you. People you believe you have nothing in common with.

      (And a certain degree of faith that this diversity will ultimately be a good thing.)

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  2. This is so well said, Josh. And now I'm dying for cupcakes — all kinds!!! ;-)

    And here's something related to all you said above — From time to time we've been pondering what makes your Goodreads group such a friendly place, a safe harbor. There's a group of people from various cultural backgrounds from all over the world. People from different age groups in various life situations and events. People with different taste in books and people with strong opinions. People who don't always agree with each other. BUT what makes it all work so well is just that — the diversity of it. And most of all the respect for that diversity. The way the group sees it as a strength, as a possibility, not as a threat.

    So yes, I couldn't agree more with what you wrote above about the genre and about respecting — about cherishing — diversity.

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    1. I think part of our success lies in our conscious effort to find our points of commonality. And yes, enjoyment of my work is one of those points. But beyond that we are all people who value civil discourse and care about our fellow humans (even the ones we don't understand) and the planet we're living on. Okay, and yes, there is a peculiar love of cute animal vids too.

      Those are a good place to begin.

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  3. Great post. This goes far beyond M/M, though. I've seen people post such things as 'if you believe' or 'if you support' then remove me from your friends list now. I've seen 'tolerance / inclusive' preaching friends eviscerste others over their differing beliefs and opinions. I've seen people disparage, unfriend and block. It's sad. I keep most of my opinions close to the best these days because I don't want to risk the potential fall-out.

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    1. Some of my closest friends are very conservative republicans. We don't talk politics. We have other things in common.

      We are all more than our gender or political affiliation or our disability or our race or our you name it. There is a bigger picture out there and it is not a selfie.

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    2. For as far as we've come, we still have so much further to go.

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  4. First, let me say that I love your spring picture. Blue flowers make me happy.
    Second, you are such a smart lady. I love people that I have some pretty significant differences with. We don't love each other any less, we either avoid the topic, or argue raucously before moving on to common ground. When you scream, you negate any point you're trying to make. Great post!

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    1. It looks HUGE on my screen. I probably need to reduce it. :-D

      The thing about the constant ongoing debate in this genre about who gets to write what is that is no winning it.

      It isn't even about free speech so much as the nature of art and artists. Artists produce what they are compelled to produce. And they do it with the threat of being unsuccessful hanging over them, the threat of excommunication or imprisonment hanging over them. They do it ON PAIN OF DEATH. This is how artists are. And if you understand anything about art and artists, you get that. The art, however trivial or important, is actually not even the point. The point is about what drives people to produce art. Be it photos, paintings, writings. In the end, it isn't any different as to whether the artist is Solzhenitsyn or Barbara Cartland.

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  5. Your wise words are spot-on. I have such a natural inclination for diplomacy, so I find some of the rhetoric and vehemence out there blows my mind. People should be learning a lot about diversity and civil discourse through discussions with others who share a love of the same subject (MM Romance) rather than sniping at each other. Alas, if only.

    And now I sit back and wait for someone to tell you they DO want cupcakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner ;-)

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    1. Well, you know, there's one in every crowd. ;-D

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    2. I want cupcakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yep,
      I went there
      :-D

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    3. The baker is cutting you off. It is clear you have already had too much refined sugar today. YOU WILL EAT YOUR OATMEAL AND LIKE IT!

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  6. Diversity is about inviting everyone to the table, not saying 'you can't sit with us'.

    (Yes. Mean Girls reference. I am who I am.)

    :)

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    1. Well, you're kidding but not kidding because yes, you're right. We all know this is a factor. The US VERSUS THEM element. Which ironically exists at every lunch table in the world. When you're 15. When you are a grown-up person with an education and life experience, you kind of hope for more.

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  7. Your wise words are spot-on. I have such a natural inclination for diplomacy, so I find some of the rhetoric and vehemence out there blows my mind. People should be learning a lot about diversity and civil discourse through discussions with others who share a love of the same subject (MM Romance) rather than sniping at each other. Alas, if only.

    And now I sit back and wait for someone to tell you they DO want cupcakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner ;-)

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  8. I think you're preaching to the choir here, cuz that's the thing I love best about the Fanyons is their wonderful, encompassing acceptance of Diversity.
    I only have one question: do the oatmeal muffins have raisins? I can't abide by raisins.
    Oh. And I don't want sprinkles on my cupcake....or frosting.

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    1. Yes, you're right! But with a thousand unique page views between yesterday and today, I have to hope that the message is spreading a bit. Well, perhaps not a message so much as the reminder that most of us aren't planning to show up for the civil war.

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  9. An excellent post, Josh. It is a shame that whether in politics or book genres so much polarizing and intolerance comes into play. It isn't enough to simply disagree, but there seems to be a need to eviscerate and possibly humiliate as well. It's almost a sport to see who thinks you're clever. Anyway, I think most of us are fairly eclectic in what we choose to read. I found other writers who are not m/m authors through your recommendations and suggestions from Fanyons. There's room for diversity and inclusion - it's dreaded when there is fear.

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    1. Thank you, Janet. I do think you're right about fear. Fear of the unfamiliar, certainly. Fear of change. And also fear that there are not enough cookies to go around. That others are gobbling up our rightful share of the cookies. This is a stressful period in publishing regardless of who you are and what you're writing, and I do think the general level of hostility is a reflection of that. People who were earning a living are no longer earning a living. And people who have always dreamed of a writing career are seeing that in fact that is likely to remain a dream.

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  10. "There is a bigger picture out there and it is not a selfie." I love that line. Very funny!

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  11. What a grey world we would have without diversity. I think we have lost the ability of civil discourse and the art of listening, which is a shame because we could learn so much from each other.

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    1. The ability to diversify, to adapt is how species survive.

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  12. I love diversity. And I love that there are books written that I maybe don't choose to read, but that someone else will. Wouldn't the world be a boring place if everything and everyone was the same?

    I just wish there were more people that enjoyed a good debate, where people may present facts and opinions, discuss and argue, and even agree to disagree.

    Debate does not mean bully the other side to your opinion. And, I also enjoy the right to change my mind. That's part of being human. I know it's a naive thought, but I really wish we could all get along.

    Thank you, Josh. I agree with this post wholeheartedly.

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    1. It's especially disheartening when you know that underneath it all you have people who are ultimately on the same side. These are decent, good-hearted people for the most part, people who are natural allies in a much bigger and more important fight. And they are wasting time and energy and their heart's blood on a battle that cannot be won.

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  13. Well said, Josh! Of course, people are going to disagree on certain view points. But, that's what makes humans interesting. A good, perhaps even passionate debate about these varying opinions helps inform us all. It's a shame that some people resort to vitriol attacks and even verbal bullying because others don't agree with them. Hopefully, someday we can move beyond this.

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    1. Discussion is great! Debate is important. But at some point you have to ask yourself if you're arguing just to argue or if you have a practical and achievable goal in mind.

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  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  15. (Oops. Deleted myself. ) They are novels. ("A fictitious prose narrative of book length, typically representing character and action with some degree of realism"). The autobiographies are in another section.

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    1. Yes indeed. A section of books that usually don't sell all that well because, despite what we all imagine, our experiences are not all that unique or interesting.

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  16. I'd also like to add that disagreement is not a personal attack. Yet I see an alarming number of people choose to interpret it that way. Telling someone to shut up because their differing viewpoint upsets or hurts you is nothing more than plain old demagoguery. It is not a valid defense for trampling over another individual's rights. Dictating what someone must define as erotica v. romance, what tropes are acceptable in one as opposed to the other, what 'label' an author can choose to apply to the fictional character(s) they created in their imagination. What words are acceptable to use on a book blurb. That an author must portray or represent real people in a work of fiction. These are all attempts to exert control over another. To inhibit freedom of artistic expression. The fact that reviews exhorting such behavior got major pushback from readers and other authors in the genre is a pleasant surprise.

    I'm so glad you had the courage to publish this blog entry and I agree with everything you said so eloquently.

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    1. Thank you for reading. I feel like if we could just keep the focus on ideas and not devolve into personalities (and amateur psychoanalyzing) we will be okay. We will find our way through the thorns.

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  17. My elders always say [ paraphrased, we learn more by listening than " jumping to conclusions. Insulting is not a person is not " disagreeing". sometimes I think on social media this constitutes modern versions of " disagreeing." i personally respectr anothers opinion altho i have no difficulty in saying I dont agree with that I can respect that is their perspective, I dont always succeed [ everyone has that irritiable moment or sensative subjects eh?] BUT over all taqlking about our differences can lead to new views on life sometimes. as for genres, hell i never know what will grab my attention. I have read many different subject matters, and that is what keeps life interesting for me. new "worlds" to conjure from the words written.
    professional jealousy mb leads one author to think the other shouldnt be there>? PFFT A then why are there so many flavors of coffee>? same principle. keep on writing , i enjoy it

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