A few months ago, I quit Goodreads.
Partly, I was paring back my social media life to those that are most useful to me (Twitter) or make me happiest (Instagram). Partly, I found the Kathleen Hale controversy profoundly upsetting. But mostly, I was just sick of being harassed. I was tired of being questioned by authors or rabid fans about my three-star reviews (by the way can we talk about how a three-star review is not a bad review, people?), messaged and spammed and poked at to read someone’s self-published magnum opus, and invited to everything all over the world always. But those are minor annoyances. The Kathleen Hale controversy snapped into focus something I had always kind of wondered about: as a woman, putting my views on the internet is an act of risk-taking.
And this is gendered, folks. I don’t think Hale would have stalked a male commentator, and I know my male colleagues here at Book Riot get very different reactions for saying the same things my female colleagues do. This is about being a woman who wants to exercise her voice, and this is about the people who will always read that voice as a threat.
Once, a week or so before I deleted my Goodreads account, I gave a book that shall remain nameless a two-star review. A man claiming to be the author’s publicist messaged me to ask that I reconsider. I ignored the message (I never had that many followers on Goodreads and it seemed to me that I was a small potatoes target) and, a day or so later, received an angrier message, this time demanding that I take down the review. I wrote back and noted that I had made some positive points about the book but that overall it didn’t work for me. Reviews on Goodreads, I noted, are personal reflections for the most part — mine certainly were — and I wasn’t condemning the book as a whole. The person wrote back and asked, “How would you like it if people used the internet to say mean things about you? It can be done, you know.”
. . . .
It got me thinking about how often I read articles on book sites (not, blessedly, this one, with its carefully managed community and moderated comments) where I have wanted to join in the discussion, only to read the comment threads full of male aggressions and personal attacks, racism and sexism and threats of violence, and think: no, this is not for me. My voice is not welcome here.
At least once a week, now, I scroll past a comment thread and move on.
This is a problem that is wider than us in the bookternet but it is, make no mistake, a problem in the bookternet. We were supposed to be the safe space for intellectual discussion of this act of reading that we so love. And yet.
. . . .
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.
Link to the rest at BookRiot