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the girl with violets in her lap [userpic]

in which I am thoughtful, but ultimately boring and unoriginal and probably not worth reading.

April 14th, 2009 (02:45 pm)

I never posted about AmazonFail over on Twitter. λ and I still have no computer at our home -- hers has been in the repair shop for two weeks and will be there for another one; it will be several weeks more before we can afford a second home computer for my writing -- and as a result my ability to access the Internet has been slipshod. So I was offline for a day and a half, and when I came back to Twitter, everything was flooded with the tag #amazonfail. And honestly? I spent most of my time rolling my eyes about it. There is a certain kind of Internet outrage for which I have little tolerance. It happened with Strikethrough '08 and it happened with the Open-Source Boob Project and it's happened in a whole bunch of other circumstances that I don't remember. In each case people have gotten furious and posted to blogs and/or Twitter, and then their readers have gotten furious and posted to more blogs and/or Twitter, and then suddenly the whole Internet has exploded, and no one talks about anything else for weeks, and I wind up wanting to shoot my monitor with a 12-gauge. Most of the time there is a real, valid reason for the original objections. And by the time it's over, the outrage has snowballed on itself until the original objections are totally unrecognizable. And everyone's howling for blood and feeding off one another and journals are deleted and Godwin is invoked and just the idea of going on the Internet while it is going on makes me want to take a nap. AmazonFail appeared to be one of those things. I was not interested in being a part of it.

So I haven't. But it's been percolating in a corner of my brain. I wanted to ignore it, but it won't really be ignored, and I guess there are a few reasons. One is that I'm a lesbian. And the other is that I'm a writer.

As a lesbian, my objections are pretty much what you'd expect. Amazon has a tag for "adult" products that it doesn't want to come up in its main searches for fear of alienating some consumers; somehow that tag got out of control, and although a great deal of material wound up getting deranked, the amount of GLBT stuff that got snuffed was highly disproportionate. This is part of an old, old scene, people. Ever since I came out I have struggled to make peace with the fact that I am someone that many parents do not want their children to know about. These parents would like to erase my existence from their children's universe entirely. I am seen as no more than a sexual being -- a woman who has sex with other women -- and parents do not want their children to know that I exist. I am "adult material", and I am reminded of it all the time. I am reminded of it when conservatives start vociferous campaigns to ban Heather Has Two Mommies from school libraries and curricula, so that children will not know who or what gay people are. I was reminded of it when λ and I went on our honeymoon and, as we walked hand-in-hand through the Magic Kingdom, a mother placed her hand over her son's eyes so that he would not see us.* I was reminded of it, again on our honeymoon, when λ and I were splashing around in the pool being lovey-dovey, as you would expect from any honeymooning newlyweds, and a man came up to us and asked us to "cut it out, just so my daughter don't see."

So I'm not surprised that someone mis-tagged queer materials as "adult" on Amazon. I understand that it was not a top-down policy, that it seems to have been part of an inept corporate game of telephone in which one person made the policy and another person implemented part of it and another person did a different part of it and somewhere along the line someone conflated "queer" and "adult" in their mind. I know how it happened. I live with it, with that conflation of "queer" and "obscene", every day.

What I think is funny is that a lot of people seem to think that the fact that this was not a top-down policy that Amazon implemented as a deliberate screw-you to the queer community somehow makes this all better. "It was a mistake!", I hear. "It wasn't a big conspiracy! For God's sake stop freaking out!"

I am not freaking out, but I understand why many people are. It is because we have lived with this ever since the day we came to understand who we are and who we love, and this is not about one random person doing one thing in isolation. The fact that somebody thought of LGBTQ materials as "adult" is the result of an entire society that reinforces that idea.

And it's not just about the idea. It's not just because we smell homophobia in the air. It's because literature provides us with a voice, and Amazon is the largest and -- we thought -- most democratized, egalitarian provider of literature in our society, and if these books are not available on Amazon, it takes our voice away. I literally got sick to my stomach thinking about some of the books that Amazon made unavailable -- thinking about what it would mean if there had never been a controversy and those books had quietly disappeared from the most mammoth bookseller in the world. We're talking Stone Butch Blues, the raw, agonizing book that blew a hole in the status quo and told uncountable transpeople that they weren't alone, and we're talking about Gender Outlaw, which blew the hole wider and shouted a challenge to gender binaries loud and clear. We're talking Maurice and Well of Loneliness, two books that came around three-quarters of a century ago and told the world that gays and lesbians exist. We're talking about queer YA books, which tell teenagers struggling to come out that it's okay, others have been through this, they'll get through it and they have a place in the world. We're talking about books on the history of homophobia. We're talking about self-help books on coming out. We are talking about books that have been huge milestones in the history of the queer movement, books that have meant so much to God knows how many people and that we have already fought the censorship of time and again and again and again. For decades people have fought to keep these books alive and visible and available. Recently they became unavailable through the default bookseller of our time. Oh, it was a fuckup, Amazon? You didn't mean to? Gosh, but I so do not give a shit. Get it un-fucked up. Now.

That's my rant on the queer-censoring aspect. Now for the other part.

LGBTQQIA books are not the only books that were censored. You hear a lot of talk like they were, because there was this huge proportion of them that were, and because, like I've said, as far as queer people are concerned, this is a new slice at a very old wound. But there are plenty of books that were stripped of sales rankings that plain-out contained sexual material. This means everything from books on rape and sexual assault (Men Who Rape: The Psychology of Sexual Assault) to Lady Chatterley's Lover. So let me talk about censorship in general for a moment, because although I'm probably not saying anything original, if they were things that everyone understood, this stuff would never happen.

The books that were stripped of their ranks were, almost without exception, books that were already well-known and controversial. The books that aren't well-known never hit high enough in the sales rankings to turn up high in the search results, I guess, and thus didn't merit being flagged as "adult". And here's what that did: it ensured that the books that were the most groundbreaking, the most important, got snuffed first. Books that attract controversy are books that tell truths that people don't want to hear. A romance novel with sex scenes full of milk-white breasts cupped in the palms of big, strong hands and climaxing explosions of hot, wet passion are not going to get censored -- as we can see from the fact that they didn't. Books about heterosexual sex that titillate a little bit, but present no further challenges to the pretty sunshine-and-posies world that we like to pretend we live in, just aren't going anywhere. And, you know, that's great. Those are fun to read as an escape. Sure. No problem.

But then there are the books that are scary to the mainstream. The books about little girls who grow up to dress as men and act as men and experience pure agony when they're forced into a woman suit that doesn't fit, and who get hit and raped and arrested and degraded in innumerable ways for it. The books that tell you that the nice, clean-cut, good old boy from down the street might just get off on forcing women to have sex with him. The books about people who, owning their own bodies as all of us do, decide to rent them out to make some money. All of the books about things that people condemn because they're scared of them, because they shatter the rose-colored glasses. Because when you murmur "Ignore it and it'll go away," these books and the people who write them get in your face and say "We will not BE ignored."

So that's what Amazon blundered into with their "adult" tags. And we see which side they picked.

I am currently writing a novel whose eventual reception I have often pondered with a lot of trepidation, because if it winds up attracting any attention or popularity, it will be very controversial. It's a book for teenagers, those people right on the cusp of childhood and adulthood -- the people that grown-ups want to shove back into childhood as long as possible, and who themselves want to careen into adulthood as fast and reckless as they can. And it's a book about rape, and sex: how we define the concepts and how we separate them and think about them and what we try to do about them.

This book is the first thing I've ever written that started out with an issue I wanted to address -- the first thing that's started with a concept around which I hung a plot and then later developed the characters. It took me a long time to work that out, to make sure the characters were real and that they drove the book, that it wasn't a piece of propaganda. But although I am comfortable now that it is character-driven, that the people in it feel as real to me as any I've written and that they will carry the book where it needs to go, I started writing it because I heard too many stories from too many rape survivors who were disbelieved and denigrated and ostracized. I heard too many stories of rapes that society refused to call rapes, and too many stories of people who were traumatized almost as much by society's responses to their assaults as they were by the assaults themselves. And I heard too many stories of people who fell into scary self-destructive behavior after sexual assault because they felt so worthless, and who were judged for that self-destructive behavior, and who fell into an awful spiral that takes one hell of a lot of fighting to get out of.

And this is not something to which people take kindly. People don't want to hear that they judge wrongly. They don't want to hear about ugly things like rape, and they especially don't want to hear that people may respond to rapes in ways that don't make a lot of sense from the outside. They don't want to hear that things may not be clean and easy -- that a girl may have had some drinks and kissed a guy and flirted with him and yet still not be responsible for her rape, that a girl who's raped by her boyfriend might not break up with him then and there, that a rape survivor may not go to the police because it's all scary and s/he's got enough to deal with. They don't want to hear that The Rapist of their dark imagining may in fact be the well-mannered, good-looking kid from down the street. They don't want to hear that the situation they understand and sympathize with, which is that a girl gets grabbed by her ponytail in a dark alley and assaulted at knifepoint, is not the only way things happen, and they don't want to be told that they need to stretch and try to sympathize with the others as well.

So you tell me. Is this "adult" material? According to you -- according to Focus on the Family -- according to Amazon.com? As I have read and thought about AmazonFail I have thought about my book and I have thought about how passionately I want it to be published so that these things that I think are so important will have one more small vent in society. I've thought about what it would mean to me to write this book because I feel so deeply that this needs to be talked about -- and then to see it cut off at the knees and essentially taken out of distribution because people don't want to hear this stuff. I've thought about what it would mean to do the best I could to reach out to teenagers experiencing a particular experience that makes them feel so alone, and to try to make them feel less alone -- only to have a book distributor shut that all down and leave the teens that I might have reached as cut-off and isolated as ever. The whole reason I feel this book needs to be written is because it's controversial, and if Amazon erases it from their search listings for that very reason, then -- well, what then?

Censorship is about free speech, but not in the sense of some dry legal principle. Censorship is what happens when society tells people either that they don't exist, or that they shouldn't exist, or that the things they believe in shouldn't exist. So someone or a group of someones gather the courage to stand up and shout for their basic right to an acknowledged existence. And society -- angrily or casually, actively or passively -- goes "Nope. As far as we're concerned, you aren't there."

Censorship is the denial of the existence of groups of people -- or of their choices, which are part of who people are and become more so as others define them by those choices. It's about making people invisible. It's about erasure.

Amazon decided to flag "adult" books. The trouble is that we don't live in a "non-adult" world. We don't live in a world where "adult" things do not exist and when we encounter them it is generally not because we choose to step into an alter universe of "adulthood". The things Amazon classes as "adult" are all around us, and some people's lived experiences overlap very little with such things, but for some of us, those things *are* our lived experience. This is why the fact that the tag was mismanaged to shut out LGBTQ material doesn't change the fundamental wrongness of the tag at all. There is no up side in preventing people from finding information that they are actively searching for. And there's nothing acceptable in whitewashing reality to help people's pretty fantasies of what the world ought to look like.

So. Yeah. Get it fixed, Amazon.

*And because she was watching us and not him, she walked him straight into a trash can.

Comments

Posted by: the girl with violets in her lap (slammerkinbabe)
Posted at: April 14th, 2009 07:38 pm (UTC)

It's a summary of Stone Butch Blues, which is set in the '50s, and which was deranked. That was the one I was probably most upset to see deranked. (It was part of the revolution that enabled the questions as to what it means to dress like a man or act like a man to be asked in the first place.) Several of the things in that paragraph summarize specific books that got the axe -- I suppose I shouldn't assume everyone has the same base of (frequently queer-specific) reading matter that I do...

Incidentally, I'm not 100% sure that it was a troll that took advantage of the system. Amazon and the purported troll have different stories on that. The guy says he trolled the system, but other hackers have said that's not possible, but then some other other ones say it is, and meanwhile Amazon's official statement is that someone "accidentally" classed a whole bunch of books incorrectly by filling out a field wrong. If the latter is true, I'm guessing the "accident" was that said employee carelessly conflated certain non-obscene materials with "adult" concepts, and filled out the field accordingly. It would be way too coincidental otherwise that queer stuff & sexual health stuff got the axe.

Edited at 2009-04-14 07:40 pm (UTC)

Posted by: electric misfit love machine (eyelid)
Posted at: April 14th, 2009 08:01 pm (UTC)

eh, I don't think it really matters to me whether it's from a plot or not - the way you put it was that the girl dressed/acted "like a man" and suffered when forced to act "like a woman." I think the way you put it embraced sexist definitions of what women/men "are like" (or even "are like unless they're trans/gay") and that makes me uncomfortable.


I'm not 100% sure that it was a troll that took advantage of the system.

I'm not 100% sure either. That's why I said "there is A THEORY" that Amazon was trolled.


It would be way too coincidental otherwise that queer stuff & sexual health stuff got the axe

not really - the way it is explained, the hackers could have specifically culled for certain types of books (e.g. books with "gay" or "queer" meta designations) and specifically targeted those books. Just to cause a big ruckus, which is what trolls like to do.

Again, I'm not saying that's what happened. I see either explanation as possible. I doubt the troll claiming responsibility is really the troll that did it, if it was a troll.

Posted by: LizMcK (mckennl)
Posted at: April 14th, 2009 09:04 pm (UTC)

"eh, I don't think it really matters to me whether it's from a plot or not - the way you put it was that the girl dressed/acted "like a man" and suffered when forced to act "like a woman." I think the way you put it embraced sexist definitions of what women/men "are like" (or even "are like unless they're trans/gay") and that makes me uncomfortable."

You should read Stone Butch Blues before you dismiss this. It's not about wearing pants. K. didn't define "acting like a man" or anything. In other news, cis-gender privilege is real.

Posted by: electric misfit love machine (eyelid)
Posted at: April 14th, 2009 09:30 pm (UTC)

You should read Stone Butch Blues before you dismiss this.
Stone Butch Blues is irrelevant to what I am saying, which was that slammerkinbabe's statement assumed that "men act/dress a certain way, different from how women act/dress" which made me very uncomfortable.

And I'm even more uncomfortable now that when I'm calling out gender-restrictive language as sexist, I'm getting attacked for it. You know what? The statement, as written, was sexist. If it just didn't come across right or something, ok, that can be said. But saying it doesn't matter because the book it was describing isn't sexist (how is that in any way relevant??) is totally the wrong response to being called on a sexist statement.


It's not about wearing pants. K. didn't define "acting like a man" or anything.
So? what does that matter? it's offensively stereotypical and sexist no matter how she defines "men" as acting. Saying men "act" one way and women "act" another is sexist, stereotypical, and gender-binary.


In other news, cis-gender privilege is real.
?? I'm not really sure how that make sexist language and gender binary assumptions/language ok. Or is this just privilege olympics?


Edited at 2009-04-14 09:30 pm (UTC)

Posted by: LizMcK (mckennl)
Posted at: April 14th, 2009 10:08 pm (UTC)

You don't seem to think there is any difference between men and women and anything that implies that there is -- such as the discomfort experienced by a trans person forced into an identity that is wrong for them -- leaps out at you as "sexist, stereotypical and gender-binary." I think that's classic cis-gender privilege right there. I'm not playing oppression olympics.

I mean I could accuse you of the same thing: confronted with the real agony and discomfort of trans folk, your response is that it is sexist and gender-binary and (I am paraphrasing) counter-feminist. You're privileging the politically feminist idea that men and women are exactly the same over the lives and experiences of trans people.

Don't get me wrong, I think men and women should be treated as *equal* but that's not the same thing as *the same.*

Posted by: electric misfit love machine (eyelid)
Posted at: April 14th, 2009 10:37 pm (UTC)

I don't think you're at all addressing what I was actually saying.

This isn't about judging transpeople, it's about people (men, women, queer) being free to be whatever they want without having to deal with YOUR JUDGMENT about whether they are acting "right" (since women and men, in your opinion, are Not The Same - women "are" one way, men "are" another).


You're privileging the politically feminist idea that men and women are exactly the same over the lives and experiences of trans people.

And you're using a lot of buzzwords to get some kind of moral high ground on using sexist terminology.


Don't get me wrong, I think men and women should be treated as *equal* but that's not the same thing as *the same.*

Ah, separate but equal. Classic.

You know, I find that no matter what, separate but equal doesn't get any prettier? Whether it's you saying that Women Are From Venus, Men Are From Mars, or Rush Limbaugh, or Dr. Dobson, or the Catholic Church?

It's interesting because before, I thought you were arguing that transpeople weren't coming from a gender-binary construct, but just from being uncomfortable with their physical bodies. Now, it appears you actually DO believe in gender-binary concepts. There are men, and women, and they are Different, period!

Posted by: LizMcK (mckennl)
Posted at: April 15th, 2009 07:30 am (UTC)

eyelid, are you a man or a woman? How do you know which you are? Can you prove it?

This stuff isn't theoretical to trans people. It's every day. And I am miraculously able to understand that gender happens on a continuum, also that trans people who transition are uncomfortable in their bodies, *and* that, for instance, I'm a woman, not a man. If men and women are exactly the same, how do I know what I am? How does anybody? If men and women are exactly the same, why are some people heterosexual and some not?

Trans people aren't a monolith, as I said before. Some of them are very invested in the difference between men and women. Some of them are equally invested in the idea of a continuum.

It's possible to believe, ardently, in equal rights for women without having to believe that women are the same as men. I'm not a man. I have female hormones and hormones are powerful things. I think it is kind of silly to pretend that the same hormones that make breasts or don't, the hormones that create facial hair or the hormones that told my body to grow ovaries instead of testicles are just -- what? Not doing anything else? Not affecting the way I see the world and myself? A bottle of wine might lead me to dance on a table but testosterone is, I don't know, overrated?

Anyhow now we're talking about nature vs. nurture, and I suspect we seriously disagree on that. I'm not a fan of Rush Limbaugh or any of those others, I'm just someone who knows a lot of trans folk and has witnessed first hand the differences between someone on female hormones and that same person on male hormones.

BTW, it's not up to me to end this discussion, but I also don't want to hijack slammerkinbabe's thread if she's uncomfortable.

Posted by: the girl with violets in her lap (slammerkinbabe)
Posted at: April 15th, 2009 01:58 pm (UTC)

NOTE: This comment is WAY long. I dunno if either of you feels like wading through it. I wanted to write it though because I felt like, having started this conversation inadvertently with something I wrote, I wanted to say what I meant and what I think about this stuff. Even if both of you are burnt out on this conversation, I sort of wanted to put this stuff out there. Feel free to skip if you’d like. I won’t pretend this is concise.

HERE IS WHERE I STARTED TYPING THE COMMENT ORIGINALLY, I HAD NO IDEA IT WOULD TURN OUT TO BE THIS LONG

Well, I have to admit I’m feeling a little awkward, but I think it’s mostly because my words sparked this discussion, and I’m still not sure what I said is coming across properly. I haven’t been commenting because I have no computer, so now, belatedly, is all the stuff I was thinking but had no opportunity to say as the conversation was developing:

1. When you, mckennl, talk about what it means to be male vs. female -- i.e., that hormones and such do play a real role -- I’m in as-far-as-it-goes agreement. I don’t mean to get into a Larry Summers-style debate (his error was in floating random ideas without having any fact-based backup that wasn’t gleaned from biased articles in Newsweek, and so the stuff he picked on, like “girls aren’t good at math”, was bullshit), but at the end of the day, I do believe differences in biology are not entirely unrelated to gender.

2. With that said, nurture plays a *far* stronger role than it needs to play, in our society, and I suspect nurture constitutes the bulk of the way gender tends to be expressed. I don’t think it’s hard-wired for women to wear dresses and men pants, nor that it’s hard-wired for women to be demure and men to be outspoken, for women to read bridal magazines and men to yell at sports players on TV -- what have you. I know you weren’t arguing this either, mckennl, but I think this is where the core of this argument is coming in: eyelid, I think your associations for “male” and “female” is based a lot in this kind of thing because that’s what society generally tells us gender consists of, and I think when I wrote about “how men act” you thought this was part of what I was talking about.

Posted by: the girl with violets in her lap (slammerkinbabe)
Posted at: April 15th, 2009 01:59 pm (UTC)

3. On THAT subject, I do still want to reemphasize that my fault in constructing that sentence lay in the fact that I expected people to know the book and context I was referencing. Because the societally prescribed idea that men behave one way and women another way is, well, what the book is about -- the book couldn’t exist without that societal prescription, and moreover, if there weren’t a general ingrained understanding of what a man is and what a woman is in the context of the book -- the ‘50s, remember, when there was actual legislation that defined “men’s clothing” and “men’s behavior” and criminalized women who tried to cross the gender line. I could have said “little girls who grow up to defy the societal expectations of what a female is supposed to be,” but honestly, that’s not what the book is about either. Kate Bornstein is about breaking down gender binaries, but the butches in Stone Butch Blues are not. The butches in the book would in fact be offended if their actions were mistaken for a sign that they believe that gender is a societal concept that doesn’t exist unless we imagine it to, and that their movement is about getting rid of that concept. There’s a scene in Stone Butch Blues in which one of the butches hates hir body so much that sie showers wearing a raincoat. When the bar is raided one night, the police take great pleasure in stripping hir naked and laughing at hir as hie female body is revealed. Sie hangs hirself that night. The fact that sie was put on display publicly as someone who was born female was something sie couldn’t bear.* That’s not about saying that men and women are the same under their skins and society is fucked for not acknowledging it. In that way, honestly, when you, eyelid, thought mckennl was saying that what I said wasn’t sexist because “the book wasn’t sexist” -- well, that’s not it. If you read the book you might well think it *was* sexist. It’s definitely not about feminism, or the idea that women can do anything men can do. As such, I don’t believe I misrepresented it with my original comment. But I do apologize for not making the context clearer, as I personally don’t believe that there is one hard-and-fast way women should behave and another hard-and-fast way men should behave.

4. Should’ve said this elsewhere but I can’t figure out a place to put it. I talked about gender being part of biology to a certain degree -- in my opinion, that’s *hugely* variable based on a person. Honestly, I don’t even believe there are two sexes, plus this in-between thing that is intersex. There are different types of intersex people, different ways that that’s displayed, and a higher percentage of people than most of us think -- what is it, one in a hundred? -- display physical traits that are neither “100% male” nor “100% female”. So I don’t even believe in two physical sexes. And I certainly don’t believe that biology and hormones make everybody behave in one of two ways that correspond to one of those two sexes. Gender’s as variable as people are, and although there are loose ways to subcategorize it, I tend to think of it as a concept that is analogous in some ways to race. There are genetic racial markers to a certain extent, but there is no hard and fast way of saying someone is one race or another race; at the end of the day, race is a social concept. We’ve made up our own boundaries as to how many races exist and where one race ends and another begins. (The analogy falls down after that because when people try to assume that race is predictive of behavior, that’s bullshit. I’m not trying to make that parallel -- just the one about the fact that we draw hard-and-fast boundaries on issues where gray areas exist.) In the same way, gender and sex may be loosely related, but society makes up and continually reinforces hard boundaries that are not based in “nature” at all.

*Because I figure I ought to acknowledge it: yes, I edited this to change the pronouns to gender-neutral ones. I used female pronouns 1. because they're used in the book for lack of other options in the '50s, and 2. because I routinely fuck up pronouns. Which I should own.

Edited at 2009-04-15 03:02 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Pythian Habenero (lienne)
Posted at: April 15th, 2009 03:04 pm (UTC)

Posted by: the girl with violets in her lap (slammerkinbabe)
Posted at: April 15th, 2009 03:08 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Pythian Habenero (lienne)
Posted at: April 15th, 2009 03:11 pm (UTC)

Posted by: the girl with violets in her lap (slammerkinbabe)
Posted at: April 15th, 2009 01:59 pm (UTC)


5. All of which is to say -- biology exists. Though many trans people believe in the concept of genderqueerness -- i.e., that the gender binary is bullshit -- many trans people do NOT, and behave as “men” or “women” according to traditional gender roles. Then there are the trans people who are about as committed to traditional gender roles as those of us in this conversation are -- people who know what sex and gender they are without being committed to traditional gender roles or to smashing the binary whenever they can. The difference is that all of the people who identify as “trans” know on a deep and unquestionable level that whatever they think of gender, their sex is the wrong one for them.

6. I really, really, *really* wish I could dig up the link to a study one of my trans friends linked once about differences between male and female brains and how many trans people demonstrate, for example, “male” neurological features even though they are chromosomally female. I think that brings up a lot of issues that are at the core of this debate.

Posted by: Damian (fanboy_of_zeus)
Posted at: April 15th, 2009 02:47 pm (UTC)

Posted by: the girl with violets in her lap (slammerkinbabe)
Posted at: April 15th, 2009 02:53 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Damian (fanboy_of_zeus)
Posted at: April 15th, 2009 03:09 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Pythian Habenero (lienne)
Posted at: April 15th, 2009 03:09 pm (UTC)

Posted by: LizMcK (mckennl)
Posted at: April 15th, 2009 06:10 pm (UTC)

Posted by: the girl with violets in her lap (slammerkinbabe)
Posted at: April 14th, 2009 09:14 pm (UTC)

eh, I don't think it really matters to me whether it's from a plot or not - the way you put it was that the girl dressed/acted "like a man" and suffered when forced to act "like a woman." I think the way you put it embraced sexist definitions of what women/men "are like" (or even "are like unless they're trans/gay") and that makes me uncomfortable.

I should be more clear: the "stone butches" at the center of the book dress in clothing that was identified at the time as men's clothing -- suits, ties, men's boxers, etc. There were laws that detailed what men's clothing consisted of and what women's clothing consisted of, and a person with a vagina had to be wearing three items of women's clothing at all times, and if they were not, they could be arrested. (And were.) The butches at the center of the book are actively revolting against the idea that they are "women" in the way that society wants them to be. They date femmes, aka women who wear dresses and lipstick and feel comfortable in their skin. It wasn't about taking the binary down at all, in fact -- if a butch dated a butch they were ostracized from this particular subcommunity of the gay world. The world in which the book was written was *very* clear on what "women" and "men" are like, and those definitions are, in brief, what the book is about. The book couldn't exist without traditional gender roles and rules, and the thing about the sentence that I wrote was that it was meant not to be a reflection of my own opinions or my own perspective, but instead of the author's perspective and the book's perspective. What I wrote was meant to be read in that context, not in the context of modern/more progressive ideas of gender. I think my error was just in assuming that people would get the reference and thus grok to the context I meant.

I'm not 100% sure either. That's why I said "there is A THEORY" that Amazon was trolled.

Sorry, misread.


not really - the way it is explained, the hackers could have specifically culled for certain types of books (e.g. books with "gay" or "queer" meta designations) and specifically targeted those books


Right, sorry -- I meant that if it *wasn't* a hacker, then the person who made the error in "typing things into a field" or whatever it was that Amazon claimed had to have conflated the ideas of queerness and obscenity. Otherwise, if he'd just made a random typo, it would have been too coincidental that the only fields affected were queer stuff and sexual health stuff.

Posted by: electric misfit love machine (eyelid)
Posted at: April 14th, 2009 09:33 pm (UTC)

It sounds like that was a very cool movement ;)

then the person who made the error in "typing things into a field" or whatever it was that Amazon claimed had to have conflated the ideas of queerness and obscenity.

I agree. Or at least, the way I could most easily see it happening is that Amazon workers labeled the books as gay/queer/whatever, and then one genius higher up the chain decided that gay/queer should be in the adult section. one keystroke later...

Posted by: LizMcK (mckennl)
Posted at: April 14th, 2009 10:12 pm (UTC)

Also, the book is semi-autobiographical and butches and ftms (who are conflated in the book because there wasn't much else to do at the time) still endure tons of crap because they're supposed to "act" like "women."

I doubt that Rachel Maddow would be wearing visible eye makeup if she wasn't on TV.

Posted by: electric misfit love machine (eyelid)
Posted at: April 14th, 2009 08:07 pm (UTC)

I should mention, too, that even if Amazon didn't flag stuff themselves, I still think they're pretty culpable. Because any system that categorizes stuff as "adult" based on flagging is going to be going on a "community standards" basis that will inevitably disproportionately target (and consequently ban/limit access to) gay/minority/otherwise "controversial" material.

Posted by: the girl with violets in her lap (slammerkinbabe)
Posted at: April 14th, 2009 08:54 pm (UTC)

Yeah, this. I forgot to say it in the post, but this. Because ultimately, if it *was* done by repeated flagging, it doesn't matter at all whether it was done by one persistent troll or a campaign by the American F* Association. It's even more wrong in the latter circumstance, honestly, and the fact that their system is open to that is Bad.

*Adhering to my long-standing principle of refusing to call them the "American Family Foundation" as long as all they're doing is campaigning to discriminate against my family. There's another word I sub in in my head, but no need to get into that.

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