Thursday, July 19, 2012

Reporting Thursday--It's Not About Reviews. It's About Having a Vagina.

Yes. It's going to be that kind of post. Good thing I'm not in Michigan.

Stop the GR Bullies continues to...I don't know. Thrive? Persevere? Honestly, I have no idea what they're doing, besides posting entries on what constitutes a "bullying" review. Leaving aside the obvious freedom of speech issues there, I'd like to point out something very important.

Unless both participants are minors, NOTHING is really bullying.

For people so up in arms over what is and is not appropriate, their continued usage of the word "bully" when it is by no means appropriate is nothing short of appalling.

My original intent today was to discuss the legal implications behind the site. There has been a lot of commentary on whether what they are doing is legal or not. In light of recent events, that particular portion of the dialogue has become even more relevant. I'm going to do this the easy way--copy and paste. The bolding, of course, is mine.

(1) travels in interstate or foreign commerce or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or enters or leaves Indian country, with the intent to kill, injure, harass, or place under surveillance with intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate another person, and in the course of, or as a result of, such travel places that person in reasonable fear of the death of, or serious bodily injury to, or causes substantial emotional distress to that person, a member of the immediate family (as defined in section 115) of that person, or the spouse or intimate partner of that person; or
(2) with the intent--
(A) to kill, injure, harass, or place under surveillance with intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person in another State or tribal jurisdiction or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States; or

(B) to place a person in another State or tribal jurisdiction, or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, in reasonable fear of the death of, or serious bodily injury to--
(i) that person;
(ii) a member of the immediate family (as defined in section 115 [1] of that person; or
(iii) a spouse or intimate partner of that person;

uses the mail, any interactive computer service, or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce to engage in a course of conduct that causes substantial emotional distress to that person or places that person in reasonable fear of the death of, or serious bodily injury to, any of the persons described in clauses (i) through (iii) of subparagraph (B); [2] shall be punished as provided in section 2261 (b) of this title.
So, let's just consider that dealt with. Oh, and the punishments? Not pretty.

Since I try and be as thorough as possible when dealing with an issue of both this magnitude and volatility, I forced myself to read every post on the Stop the GR Bullies site. And the comments. The comments were just as bad. Sometimes worse.

Which is when the focus of this piece changed.

I'm not the first person to discuss this particular component of this fiasco. As mentioned last week, there are numerous sites devoted to the social (in)justices being done by this site.  But when something slaps even the most complacent in the face (and yes, that's me--I'm willing to admit it), it needs to be addressed.

It's been pointed out that the only victims (I refuse to use the terminology employed by the site) that have been profiled are women. One of the theories being posited is one of numbers--more women than men read, thereby making it logical that there will be more female than male reviewers, leading to the conclusion that there is a greater possibility for strident female reviewers.

I have another theory--actually, it's not my theory, it's just something that fits the situation.

Lack of Fit Model/Bias

Don't worry if you haven't heard of it. I hadn't either until I started doing research for this piece. I told you, I like to be thorough. Thankfully, the explanation of this bias is short and sweet:

Lack of Fit Model/bias proposes there is a perceived lack of fit between agentic characteristic of traditional male roles and women’s supposed communal/expressive characteristics; agentic women are evaluated negatively when they violate the tacit cultural assumption they must be communal

To have a better idea of what this entails, you have to take a look at the characteristics of both traditional male and female roles. One thing I discovered is that defining traditional male and female characteristics is a lot like how the Supreme Court once defined pornography--I'm not sure, but I'll know it when I see it. What I mean by this is that out of the half dozen or so scholarly papers I read and the various web sites I visited, none of them actually set down a list of characteristics for each role. They were alluded to or glossed over but never explicitly stated. The closest thing to a list came from--wait for it--Wikipedia.
  • Women are more emotionally expressive.
  • Women are more emotionally responsive.
  • Women are more empathetic.
  • Women are more sensitive to others' feelings.
  • Women are more obsessed with having children.
  • Women express their feelings without constraint, except for the emotion of anger.
  • Women pay more attention to body language.
  • Women judge emotions from nonverbal communication better than men do.
  • Women express more love, fear, and sadness.
  • Women laugh, gaze, and smile more.
  • Women anticipate negative consequences for expressing anger and aggression.
  • Men are more obsessed with sex.
  • Men are overwhelmed by women's expressions of emotion.
  • Men express more anger.
  • Men are stoic.
  • Men show emotion to communicate dominance
Noticing something? These aren't characteristics so much as stereotypes. Like I said, this is the closest there is to a "defined" list and by no means is it complete. Some of the other words associated with being female that I ran across included submissive, weak, warm; some of the words associated with being male were dominant and competent.

Having done that, we need to go back one more layer and look stereotypes in and of themselves. Whenever people speak of stereotypes, one of the foremost attitudes is that it (the stereotype) originates from within the perceive or within the perceived.  

Stereotypes are the result of social interaction.

It's simple cause and effect, something that's been demonstrated in a variety of ways. Our interactions with other people lead to the creation of a stereotype, which is then extrapolated to include a group--based upon our experience with a limited number of individuals who may or may not identify with the larger group. An area where you see this happen quite often is in food service. A server will look at the new table in their section or even a table coming through a door and make an instant judgment on what kind of table they're going to be. 

In a male-dominated society, centuries of social interaction have led to a stereotypical women being complacent, compliant, meek, humble, shy, retiring, caring, warm, and above all else, submissive to authority. A stereotypical man is harsh, abrasive, strong, proud, withdrawn, and above all else, dominant. These are the roles created for men and women by men and women.

People automatically stereotype others, based first on physical characteristics. This automatic stereotype does not have to permanent--this is where using individuating information comes in. It can help people look past their initial judgment of someone. Again, using serving tables as an example, a server may approach a table thinking the table is going to be a "problem table". But the initial greeting and interaction changes that judgment, which enables the server to look past the stereotype they imposed upon the table when they were seated. Unfortunately, individuating information can also work to reinforce a stereotype if the information being presented is irrelevant to a change in judgment and the person in question is already "atypical" of their perceived stereotype.

Okay, let's put all this together (by the way, I always hated that part of a paper--I just explained everything for you, damn it!). What the hell does all this mean in relation to the larger issue at hand?

The behavior of the victims is being judged more harshly BECAUSE THEY ARE WOMEN.

Have you ever noticed how they don’t go after men? And that men don’t do this to each other or to women? There may be a case or two of that happening, but I’ve never seen a male author or male reviewer behave this way. Just the skankier, slobbier women authors and reviewers.

…there are a few men in their group but mostly you’re right. Men don’t behave this way.(1)
That's taken from the Stop the GR Bullies site. Just like this is:
Intelligent adults who read regularly, who purchase books regularly instead of waiting for freebies or bargains, don’t waste time on a bunch of shrewish women who form packs and harass and bully authors and readers.
Oh, this too:
They must have very little joy in their lives if this is what makes them happy. It’s pathetic really.
 And this:

But then again, they pretty much only read YA fiction. I find it strange that middle-aged women (or those in those 30s/40s) still read YA books.
 The last time I checked, there wasn't an age limit on books. If so, then don't I feel like an ass for reading Anne of Green Gables earlier this year. Well, I was only 29 then, so maybe it wasn't that much of a faux pas.

The site says that the victims exhibited "bullying behavior" in their reviews because they (the reviews) were overly caustic, harsh, sarcastic or combative--all stereotypes associated with male gender roles. Let's look at that Lack of Fit Model/Bias again.
agentic women are evaluated negatively when they violate the tacit cultural assumption they must be communal

So, because these victims didn't bat their eyelashes or follow the old mantra of "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" or didn't "act like a woman", they're horrible people.

Basically, they're being attacked because THEY HAVE A VAGINA.

Wow. What a way to not take any motherfucking steps forward in equality, Stop the GR Bullies.

(1)--They think this absolves them of their behavior. In fact, highly prejudiced people are more likely to explain away gender inconsistent information by saying its due to situational causes--i.e. they're not profiling men because men don't act "that way"

A great deal of this information was gleaned from Psychology of Women: A Handbook of Issues and Theories (Denmark and Paludi). If you have both the time and the money (it's a textbook and not a cheap one), I'd advise you to check it out.


  1. Wowee! This is quite the analysis. You make some excellent points, and clearly have put some thought and research into your position on this, which is why I'm responding out of the clear blue sky. Anyone who thinks it through like this deserves to be acknowledged and invited for a conversation, IMHO.

    I follow another author on Twitter that I virtually met over on the Amazon boards, which is how I got acquainted with this bru-ha-ha. Let me start out by saying that I don't hang out at Good Reads, don't know any of the players, and have only just become acquainted with the sitch out of prurient curiosity more than anything.

    Now, from my experience over at Amazon, I will say this about the situation in general:

    1. Reviews are not feedback from your writing group. As someone so very wisely pointed out on some thread somewhere I read, once you publish a book, even if it's self-published, it's no longer 'yours' and you don't get to speak for it personally anymore. It needs to speak for itself.

    Plus, I imagine that writing is a lot like acting or sculpting or any other artistic endeavor -- haters gonna hate, fans gonna love ya, and you've got to have a thick enough skin to let the haters roll off you, and be smart enough to take the criticisms that matter to you and keep striving for growth. If you're not ready for haters hating, you're not ready to be a professional artist, I suspect, because it's gonna happen. And, fer crying out loud, you ARE on the internet! This is not known for being a kind and gentle medium!

    2. Brutal honestly is still brutality, and it is a good point probably in some of these cases that the reviewers did go overboard. Again, back to that thick skin.

    3. As soon as you review yourself and give yourself five stars or whatever, all bets are off and you deserve a virtual slapdown, in my opinion.

    So there! How's that for an opinion about something I know almost nothing about? ;-)

    Now, on to your points in your post:

    1. "Stereotypes are the result of social interaction."

    Eh, yeah. But, there's more to it than that. Some of it is socialization when we're young. And, as politically incorrect as it is, having raised one of each flavor, there *are* differences that I'm fairly sure are organic. Now, how much is organic and how much socialization? Honestly, my money's on socialization playing a larger role in reinforcing these roles, so to speak, but I still think there's some sort of underlying biological gender thing going on.

    2. "The behavior of the victims is being judged more harshly BECAUSE THEY ARE WOMEN."

    *DING DING DING DING DING!!!!!!* Folks, we have a winner here! Can't possibly agree more.

    3. "Basically, they're being attacked because THEY HAVE A VAGINA."

    Okay, I know this is a picky, semantics thing, but IMHO, they're being *selected* for attack because they have a vagina. They're being attacked for having the audacity to be snarky to some folks who really sound like they needed some snark directed their way. But, they are being selected for attack because of gender, I'm sure. Women are seen as more vulnerable -- I mean, nobody would pull a tweet out by a guy talking about drinking whisky and accuse him of being too drunk to care for his kids! If that isn't gender-bias, I don't know what is! But it occurs to me that these people might not even be aware themselves that there is any gender bias behind it, and that's why I'm offering the caveat that it's more selected for victimization than why they are being victimized.

    Anyhow, excellent points, one and all! Sorry for the flipping essay of my own...obviously I don't have enough to do! *LOL!!*

  2. Sorry to spam you but just had to say -- in order to avoid finishing some very boring edits to project documentation and because I'm currently under-employed and those edits are all I have to do, I spent FAR too long this afternoon surfing around all this. And, I just wanted to add how very VERY FRIGHTENING that site is! Good god, they even go so far as to point out where one of their targets hangs out in their off time!

    I mean wowzers! This runs deeper than gender bias. This is approaching certifiably pathological. I had no idea how bad it truly was! And, it's bad!

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