You might have heard about this Andrew Smith thing. It sucks. It sucks because it’s just another moment in the daily lives of women being otherized, mocked, shamed, or disregarded. It sucks when I think about how I’m treated like a less-than-human all the time, like last Wednesday when I was walking down the street to go to a yoga class and had a man start following me in his car, yell at me, ask me “Can I be your friend?” and then when I shook my head and kept walking, pulled into the next parking space and got out and shouted that he wanted my number. I hate that I had to be glad that he only did that and didn’t keep following me. I hate that I should be grateful that it didn’t get physical. No one should feel grateful that someone only somewhat harassed them. And, in this Andrew Smith situation, no one should feel grateful that Andrew Smith thinks of women as more of a mysterious, Other Thing than gigantic grasshoppers just because he’s “trying” to be better. Of course he was being facetious when he said his daughter was the first woman in his life – that being nitpicked over is absurd, annoying, and a way of excusing what he actually meant – “I don’t really care about women because I don’t get them and I don’t find them valid” – instead of engaging with it.
No, Andrew Smith is not the biggest jerk in the world or the only person who thinks this way. But he said it, and it’s a chance to engage with sexism, and anyone who says that criticism is the same thing as bullying (see the Stop the Goodreads Bullies movement of a couple years ago for other misinformed idiots who decided that attacking and threatening book critics was somehow righteous) is not helping.
It is an outrage that women are consistently referred to as if they are foreign and invalid. And it is more of an outrage that this has sparked the ridiculous #KeepYAKind movement, and even further that this hashtag seems to be spearheaded by women YA authors. Don’t get me wrong: EVERYONE should be offended by sexism. But to see women working in the very field where we are trying to have a productive conversation about imbalance, about prejudice, about otherizing, about criticism saying, “Hey guys, we think you’re being mean by pointing out that we are treated badly,” makes me really sad. It’s unsurprising – women are socialized to keep things kind and friendly and to accept sexism. But this is a chance to stand up, not to turn fair and warranted criticism into accusations of meanness. This is not the time for kindness. Kindness has nothing to do with sexism or literary criticism. Kindness has to do with playground politics and human decency on a day-to-day level, not societal change. Kindness here is derailing. Continue reading