Friday, March 13, 2015

YA and Sexism: The virtual vilification of Andrew Smith

Twitter has been blowing up lately over an interview Andrew Smith,  author of YA books such as Winger, Grasshopper Jungle and the Marbury Lens, did for Vice. The article is called, The Failure of Male Societies: Author Andrew Smith Tackles Monsters and Sex. His interview had female bloggers calling him out as a sexist and misogynist.

In particular, it was just one answer. This one:

Q. On the flip side, it sometimes seems like there isn’t much of a way into your books for female readers. Where are all the women in your work?
A: I was raised in a family with four boys, and I absolutely did not know anything about girls at all. I have a daughter now; she’s 17. When she was born, that was the first girl I ever had in my life. I consider myself completely ignorant to all things woman and female. I’m trying to be better though.

 A lot of The Alex Crow is really about the failure of male societies. In all of the story threads, there are examples of male-dominated societies that make critical errors, whether it’s the army that Ariel falls in with at the beginning, or the refugee camp, or Camp Merrie-Seymour for boys, or the doomed arctic expedition, they’re all examples of male societies that think that they’re doing some kind of noble mission, and they’re failing miserably.

 So, that's a big deal, right? OMG! I can't believe he said that!!! Um...right. Women were having a fit because Andrew Smith says he doesn't get women. I tweeted this:

I mean, seriously? Isn't it a well known fact that men don't get women. And honestly, I don't get men, so there's that.

One Tweeter mocked him SEVERAL times. Wow. Um...I just don't know what to say about all that except, you have too much time on your hands.

A blogger stated that it "assumes that men and masculinity are the default settings
for humanity." Really? If that's what that statement is assuming then I'm reading it wrong. She goes on to say that "Saying 'I'm trying' is not the same as trying." She thinks that by supporting Smith and saying he was just being honest "let's those with privilege off the hook." WTF? Can you say, read too much into something? Jesus.

Yet another: "The interpretation is that women are less than human, or at the very least, inherently different from men. That is one of the oldest sexist arguments in the entire world." Uh, how does one one interpret his statement translate into this?

Last one I'll share: "This is an astounding claim to make and one that exacerbates a lot of pernicious misogynistic attitudes, in the publishing industry and society at large." Does it really? Misogynistic? Come on!

Okay, one more, but I don't remember where I read it, but she said something to the effect that "how can he come up with all these fantasy/fiction ideas and not understand women?" I'm paraphrasing of course, but it was something like that. Um, last time I checked, these were two completely different things. Women are carbon based and living. Fantasy books are make believe and pure fiction.

I would call myself a feminist. I'm a huge proponent of women's rights and equality. But I was not offended by this interview in any way.  I truly do think people have nothing better to do than find fault that isn't there.  I think just as some women are more comfortable writing female characters, Andrew Smith is more comfortable writing from the male POV.

This is what I think about Smith's statement.

Andrew Smith:
  • was being completely honest with his feelings.
  • writes quirky books about boys.
  • is writing what he wants to and what he knows and should write because he's brilliant at it.
  • says he doesn't get girls, not that he doesn't not want to get girls.(Big. Difference.)
  • female readers LOVE his books.
  • I believe saying your trying is trying.
  • We all don't write everything perfectly.
  • Most these bloggers took what he said out of context and did not post that 2nd paragraph of his answer, which explains a lot.
  • The interviewer set him up to answer in that way.
  • Just because you have the imagination to write the way Smith does, does not mean you have insight to everything on the planet.
  • If you read the article he also says he grew up with 3 brothers, no sisters and his parents were abusive. The only woman in your life is abusive. So, doesn't it make some sense that Smith doesn't "get" girls.
This was a virtual witch hunt on Twitter. I love Twitter, but I don't like when things like this happen. Especially to good people. I cannot vouch that Smith is "good" but many people defending him know him personally and say as such and I believe them.

Another thing,  why do some writers, and I'm generalizing, I know, but most the bloggers I know also write...anyway, why do some writers feel the need to cut each other down? This business is hard and cruel enough as it is without us fighting each other. Why do we have to seek the worst in our colleagues? We're not really in competition, I mean to a point I guess, but we should be supporting each other, lifting each other up, not keeping each other down.

This vilification of Smith forced him to shut down his Twitter and Facebook. I hope it's only temporary because I like seeing his posts and I really do think he's brilliant. - even if he doesn't "get" girls.

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