Do Better: SFF without Sexual Violence discussion

37 views
Group Guidelines - Town Hall > Worlds with Inequality & Oppression - (Sept 29-Oct 11, 2020)

Comments Showing 1-50 of 84 (84 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1

message 1: by Beige (new)

Beige  | 414 comments Mod
Currently our guideline states...

please avoid suggesting books where sexism, racism, homophobia or transphobia are included and NOT addressed/condemned

The original intent was to avoid books that were older and expressed attitudes most would find offensive today. From outdated gender, racial, queer stereotypes, all the way to outright hatred.

The intention was to allow for books that featured worlds and situations with inequality and oppression, however the main characters would clearly hold beliefs against the inequality and the oppression of any group of people/species

This discussion is to review the line in the sand and determine how we can better communicate our agreed upon guideline to our members


message 2: by Beige (last edited Sep 30, 2020 06:09AM) (new)

Beige  | 414 comments Mod
The Hobbit was definitely an exception - here was the reason for its exclusion....

• The Hobbit, or There and Back Again - Technically meets group guidelines. However, its lack of female rep isn't in keeping with the spirit of the group and we felt its presence was an incorrect signal for the types of books we're looking to compile and promote

This decision will be reconsidered as this discussion unfolds and our guidelines are possibly revised.


message 3: by Steve (new)

Steve | 1 comments My worry with omitting something like The Hobbit is that we start deviating from the purpose of the list (to help people looking for reading experiences free of sexual violence).


message 4: by Beige (new)

Beige  | 414 comments Mod
Steve wrote: "My worry with omitting something like The Hobbit is that we start deviating from the purpose of the list (to help people looking for reading experiences free of sexual violence)."

Agreed, that decision hasn't sat well with me. Ha! I should have trusted my gut. 😉

We made the decision because we were worried about being inundated with older SFF recommendations that are more obviously outdated in their views. A better guideline is a more appropriate way to deal with that risk.


message 5: by Elena (new)

Elena  | 133 comments Mod
Yup, Steve is voicing in a nutshell the same worry I tried to express yesterday.


message 6: by ♥Xeni♥ (new)

♥Xeni♥ (xeni) | 38 comments Steve wrote: "My worry with omitting something like The Hobbit is that we start deviating from the purpose of the list (to help people looking for reading experiences free of sexual violence)."

Yes, this is my main problem as well. It doesn't have overt SV. And yet I can fully understand that not having any on page named female characters is a form of erasure of the female experience, namely in this world where women clearly exist, are often in close quarters with men, and are intentionally ignored by the author.

See, for instance a story in which women are all shut away inside for their safety, or locked up in religious organizations, or somehow only appear on the planet once every five years, or it's a military organization that somehow needs a penis to function a weapon, etc. There are situations where it makes sense female characters don't exist.

In cases where it doesn't make sense (i.e. there's a large planet you travel through, meet a lot of people of many races and there is no other mention of bioengineering or gene-type science involved) I think it's safe to say that women exist. Otherwise how do those men exist? So in those cases you have to rely on authorial intent (not always easy to pin down): if women exist to support the existing population, then why are they not in the book?

If no reason is given, I feel I have to assume malicious intent by the author. Either they were misogynistic, they felt they couldn't write women and just gave up, or the existence of women didn't even occur to them. While the latter two options are more neglect than outrightly malicious, neglect is a form of erasure and silencing of a (minority) group by those in power.

So for all these reasons I feel The Hobbit was rightly binned.


However, if we're the kind of group who mostly wants to focus on excluding overt forms of SV then The Hobbit ought to be reshelved.

FYI I don't much care for Tolkein's works and I feel they get too much praise and space on the internet already. This is me arguing the principle of the matter and The Hobbit is a great example of the kind of book that can go either way.


message 7: by ♥Xeni♥ (new)

♥Xeni♥ (xeni) | 38 comments To reply to @Mark here:

Mark wrote: "But... that leads to the question, is sexism via lack of women worse (or "better") than sexism shown in a more overt light (i.e. an account of a woman experiencing sexism firsthand)?"

Having a female MC vs a male MC doesn't mean much to me when they are so focused on the intellectual, scientific side, have no female friends, don't have to endure much of the suppression in a society because of their class (all which I feel describe Isabella of A Natural History of Dragons). She is interchangeable with a male character for me.

Having a woman experience violence, erasure, suppression, and so on in a society where these things are rampant give a voice to those challenges; usually a voice that sorely needs to be heard. It is also why we should first ask people of color or other ethnicities about what they experience and not the white (or other) ruling racial class - including reading their books first.

Personally, if Isabella had engaged with her society in a manner that exposed it's flaws and hypocracies I would be far more receptive to put it on a bookshelf that encourages writers to 'do better'. Perhaps she does this in latter books. I didn't see it in the first book, where she is also young and often not even focused on society.

But this is again a line that this group needs to figure out where to draw: include it because there is no overt SV, or discard it and encourage more stories that rail against these archaic, outdated forms of class, gender, racial, ablistic, etc societies?


message 8: by Mark (last edited Sep 30, 2020 07:56AM) (new)

Mark (markpeters) Beige wrote: "Agreed, that decision hasn't sat well with me. Ha! I should have trusted my gut. 😉"

The reason The Hobbit was originally removed is on me, so I'll provide a refresher for the backgound... I suggested The Sword of Shannara, but then I was told it should not be included because of lack of female rep not aligning with the spirit of the group; I mentioned that the Hobbit has the same level of rep (zero women characters, only a few even mentioned in text), so that's what led to its removal.

So, I think it still comes to the idea of "where is the line drawn." I'm perfectly okay with seeing books like The Hobbit back on the shelf, but then I feel it's only fair to also allow books like Sword.

AS THE GUIDELINES ARE CURRENTLY WRITTEN, I ultimately agree with what Xeni says, and that neither book should be on the shelf:

"If no reason is given, I feel I have to assume malicious intent by the author. Either they were misogynistic, they felt they couldn't write women and just gave up, or the existence of women didn't even occur to them. While the latter two options are more neglect than outrightly malicious, neglect is a form of erasure and silencing of a (minority) group by those in power.

So for all these reasons I feel The Hobbit was rightly binned."


Now onto Steve's point...

"My worry with omitting something like The Hobbit is that we start deviating from the purpose of the list (to help people looking for reading experiences free of sexual violence)."

This is also a good point, and the question thus becomes "is lack of women characters a form of sexism?" If it is, it does not meet the guidelines EVEN IF there is no sexual violence.

I realize I'm not suggesting anything at this point, I'm just typing all this out to further ponder the subject :D


message 9: by Mark (last edited Sep 30, 2020 08:07AM) (new)

Mark (markpeters) One possible solution would be to simply remove this altogether:

please avoid suggesting books where sexism, racism, homophobia or transphobia are included and NOT addressed/condemned

Not that I would typically advocate for books that include (but don't address) these subjects... but is adding this set of kinda-sorta-unrelated-to-SV items causing us to deviate from the mission of the group, like Steve has implied? If a book is truly free from all SV, but has something like lack of female rep, are we trying to put too many eggs into one (admittedly virtuous) basket by excluding it? Are we potentially depriving members of a book that might not bother them, simply because it bothers us for non-SV reasons?

Perhaps that "extra guideline" should be reserved for the "Do Better Plus" side project :)

Additionally, if "lack of female rep" is seen as a form of sexism... is "lack of BIPOC rep" seen as a form of racism? Is "lack of LGBTQIA+ rep" homophobic or transphobic? Again, where is the line drawn?


message 10: by ♥Xeni♥ (new)

♥Xeni♥ (xeni) | 38 comments Mark wrote: "Beige wrote: "Agreed, that decision hasn't sat well with me. Ha! I should have trusted my gut. 😉"The reason The Hobbit was originally removed is on me, so I'll provide a refresher for the backgound....."

Here is an interesting article that relates to this: https://www.rhiannonkthomas.com/blog/2014/12/16/a-lack-of-female-characters-is-always-a-choice

Choice quotes:


Women are not one of the elements in a writer's bucket of plot points and tropes. They're people, just like men, and they should appear as easily in a story as men do.

This isn't to say that authors can't explore a misogynistic or patriarchal society in fantasy. But that choice should be made for a reason, and if you don't have any female characters around to react to that society and accept or struggle against it, that choice has done nothing for the novel except make it appear lazy, a fantasy trapped in our own world.



message 11: by Beige (new)

Beige  | 414 comments Mod
♥Xeni♥ wrote: "again a line that this group needs to figure out where to draw: include it because there is no overt SV, or discard it and encourage more stories that rail against these archaic, outdated forms of class, gender, racial, ablistic, etc societies?..."

I think where I am struggling is I want the list to be more than the original brief of the group. It personally bugs me that We Are Legion (We Are Bob) is on the list (I put it there) because I know it's not quite "better", but reviews state is does not have SV or dubious sexual consent, but some reviewers suspect the lack of female rep is intentional - which we acknowledge, cannot be proved.

On the other hand, I want the group to offer up as many options as possible to readers who are triggered by even subtle mentions of SV. If we go the route of broadening our exclusions to try and address more subtle forms of erasure and stereotyping, I worry our approval process will get very murky and challenging.

Elena and Mark know me well, and know I love to jump to solutions. I'm going to propose an idea how we could tackle this, it's not meant to shut down further discussion...I'm open to more and other ideas 😁

Idea: We could include these types of books, but flag them with a shelf tag warning. The tags appear in the bookshelf-database so readers could make informed decisions. We wouldn't do tags for every single type of content warning - there are so many! Maybe just the ones we feel are most common to disturb?

For example, warnings like: Low female rep, Gore, animal abuse, child abuse, sexist society....

In this case, we could potentially bring back The Calculating Stars and tag it as such


message 12: by ♥Xeni♥ (new)

♥Xeni♥ (xeni) | 38 comments Beige wrote: "Idea: We could include these types of books, but flag them with a shelf tag warning. The tags appear in the bookshelf-database so readers could make informed decisions. We wouldn't do tags for every single type of content warning - there are so many! Maybe just the ones we feel are most common to disturb?
"


I like this idea! It allows for more inclusion, but also allows for people to determine where they want to draw the line.

So everything that has mentions or on-page SV should be automatically out? (Including if a character mentions 'I was afraid they might rape me' like in Stormlight Archive?)

And if they have more subversive type SV like no rep, or other types of violence they can be tagged?


message 13: by Mark (new)

Mark (markpeters) Beige wrote: "Idea: We could include these types of books, but flag them with a shelf tag warning. The tags appear in the bookshelf-database so readers could make informed decisions. We wouldn't do tags for every single type of content warning - there are so many! Maybe just the ones we feel are most common to disturb?
"


I think these is a great solution. It allows the original mission of the group to shine through, while also warning members who might be more sensitive to certain subjects.


message 14: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca K | 20 comments I think we should learn from the HP books. I said for years, “oh, it’s not intentional...” to make myself feel better about her anti-semitism, but clearly, the work spoke for itself...I regret not taking the textual support of her bigotry more seriously because now she is defending her outdated and harmful views online (and we have lost family members over it, my partner is trans)


message 15: by Eva (new)

Eva | 54 comments Why should we "assume malicious intent" in this case, though? When you look at Tolkien's life prior to writing it, his mother had been very ill throughout his childhood and died when he was 12, leaving him and his brother as orphans, who were then raised by a Catholic priest while attending a series of all-boys schools, all-boys colleges, and finally male-only officer corps training, and then he was shipped off to war, again surrounded by men.

It seems completely reasonable to me to assume that the fiction arising from his subconscious, in which women were often rare ethereal creatures of beauty, mystery and preciousness (or objects of shy longing and nostalgia for home, e.g. Sam and Rosie) were simply reflections of his life and his own feeling of being cut off (up to that point) from the feminine, and longing for it. He'd been living in a man's world, and that also translated into his fiction, but I never detected any wish to imply that this was ideal: in fact, bright and happy places in his fiction always have women in them (at least in LOTR: Hobbiton, Rivendell, the restored Gondor at the end) whereas the places of darkness and suffering are filled with men, just like they must have been in his wartime experiences.

He also did have Eowyn in LOTR, who is always described as having a strong identity and will; skill in fighting; weapons and armour; a horse; special powers (seen when she turns the Ringwraith's prophecy of doom back onto him), etc. I've heard some people say that her decision to put away the sword when the war is won, and to get married and live a regular life at the end somehow takes away from that, but I don't really think so. Her contribution to the war was invaluable and very important, but she also learns that her (male) relatives were wrong for valuing only warriorship and glory in battle, while looking down on more traditionally feminine contributions to society as worthless, and that she doesn't have to conform to *their* ideas to gain respect as a person, and is free to choose e.g. motherhood, and a peaceful future, without losing any worth. Considering how often women are pressured to somehow be more masculine if they want to be respected and valued, I really treasured her story. Yes, she can do the whole warrior thing, and be great at it. But she can also lay down her weapons when the danger is over and do something else, she's got nothing to prove anymore.

You've also got Galadriel who reigns over an elven kingdom (her husband is given no relevance), and she is always portrayed as a much better and wiser ruler than Thranduil, who rules over Mirkwood.

So that's why I never really agreed with people assuming that Tolkien was a very sexist writer, or one who didn't like or appreciate women.

That said, it's been a long while since I read the books, so perhaps I remember them in a more rosy light then they deserve? Anyway, I can't imagine them triggering anyone's trauma when reading them.


message 16: by Beige (new)

Beige  | 414 comments Mod
♥Xeni♥ wrote: "So everything that has mentions or on-page SV should be automatically out? (Including if a character mentions 'I was afraid they might rape me' like in Stormlight Archive?)..."

That's a challenging one. I really like having these seperate threads. I think they'll act as additional context for future members. We can update the first comment with our decisions and allow the discussion to remain for full transparency. We can even link to this folder in our guidelines.

I think your question is worthy of its own discussion thread, do you agree?


message 17: by Eva (new)

Eva | 54 comments Beige wrote: "♥Xeni♥ wrote: "again a line that this group needs to figure out where to draw: include it because there is no overt SV, or discard it and encourage more stories that rail against these archaic, out..."

We Are Legion (We Are Bob) is only the first book, and since it basically features only a single character, I easily forgave the lack of female ones. Later in the series, female characters (especially a scientist who becomes the second main character) join in.


message 18: by Eva (new)

Eva | 54 comments Mark wrote: "Beige wrote: "Idea: We could include these types of books, but flag them with a shelf tag warning. The tags appear in the bookshelf-database so readers could make informed decisions. We wouldn't do..."

Yes, I agree, that's a very good idea. :-)


message 19: by Mark (last edited Sep 30, 2020 08:45AM) (new)

Mark (markpeters) Eva wrote: "Why should we "assume malicious intent" in this case, though? When you look at Tolkien's life prior to writing it, his mother had been very ill throughout his childhood and died when he was 12, lea..."

Well said, Eva. Those are all very good points, and actually I was initially wondering why The Hobbit (which has 0 active women) was on the shelf, but LotR (which as you mentioned DOES have more women) was not. Is there SV that I don't recall?

Perhaps "malicious intent" is strongly worded. In most cases, I would consider it being more "oblivious" or "clueless" than malicious, I suppose :).


message 20: by Beige (last edited Sep 30, 2020 08:45AM) (new)

Beige  | 414 comments Mod
Rebecca wrote: "I think we should learn from the HP books. I said for years, “oh, it’s not intentional...” to make myself feel better about her anti-semitism, but clearly, the work spoke for itself...I regret not ..."

This sounds insufficient, but I'm so sorry to hear about your family.

This is another great idea for a thread in this folder. Our position on author behaviour has been set, but we do need to work out the wording for our guidelines.

A thread will also allow new members to discuss and better understand our thoughts on the difference between a Twitter spat and the use of power, money and fame to oppress others.


message 21: by Beige (new)

Beige  | 414 comments Mod
I can't express just how much I've enjoyed all of your comments so far. I've even seen LOTR in a whole new light. Thank you!!!!!!

I'm also glad a few of you are in support of the idea of warning shelf tags. Let's go through an exercise to see if we agree in how we'd interpret them against some of the books we have previously excluded....


Re-instate Select Exclusions :
The Hobbit, or There and Back Again - add with warning tag of low female rep

We Are Legion (We Are Bob) - stays, warning label of low female rep

The Calculating Stars - added with warning tag ...something like acknowledged sexism? sexism explored? sexism as theme <------ I'm terrible at labelling


Continue to Exclude based on our guidelines:
We probably need to tweak our guidelines "sexism, racism, homophobia or transphobia are included and NOT addressed/condemned". I'd like to somehow express that books that feature unacknowledged outdated stereotypes of gender, race, sexuality etc. will not be approved.

The Sword of Shannara - excluded due to unacknowledged gender stereotypes.

The Three-Body Problem - excluded due to unacknowledged gender stereotypes.

Question: Many of reviews commented on Shannara's rep, less so for Three Body. Should that matter?

We haven't yet had a book suggested for our group that promotes stereotypes of race, sexuality, or gender outside of cis female, but I can only assume it would be just as easy to identify these in our GR review research.


message 22: by Mary (new)

Mary I like the idea of tagging the shelves and keeping 'approved' list of shelf names somewhere so that they can be included when recommending.

I'm a bit uncomfortable with excluding books without women, there's alot of discussion just around the Hobbit, could end up with a lot of circular discussions in the future. And for me it's edging into cancel culture.

I mean the above in relation to sexism only I'm all for excluding books where racism, homophobia or transphobia are included and NOT addressed/condemned.


message 23: by Mark (last edited Sep 30, 2020 10:54AM) (new)

Mark (markpeters) Beige wrote: "The Sword of Shannara - excluded due to unacknowledged gender stereotypes.."

I think you might be mixing this up with The Elfstones of Shannara... Elfstones had poor gender stereotypes, but Sword simply had low female rep... pretty much exactly the same as The Hobbit. I still think this should be included if we are allowing The Hobbit for the same reason... I know, I'm difficult. :D


message 24: by Beige (last edited Sep 30, 2020 11:05AM) (new)

Beige  | 414 comments Mod
Mark wrote: "I think you might be mixing this up with The Elfstones of Shannara... Elfstones had poor ge..."

Ah, my mistake. I suggest we park that one until we discuss our approach to book series next week.

But you would be in support of excluding Elfstones on those grounds?


message 25: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca K | 20 comments Beige, I would love to hear more about those guidelines from you before adding my two cents on some of the other books! I don’t think it was a Twitter spat because policy makers are using her words to support bathroom bill bans in southern states, and this argument applies to other authors outside of YA that we are discussing. And, like you said in a previous comment to me, money truly matter here (to me) and trans people I talk to...

I’m not trying to be combative, but queer narratives are my thing and really want to argue for a stronger stance on this...I think it would be great to add a way for new members to search threads more easily (or something) b/c I was trying to do the work myself (not ask you for an explanation) :)


message 26: by Mark (new)

Mark (markpeters) Beige wrote: "Mark wrote: "I think you might be mixing this up with The Elfstones of Shannara... Elfstones had poor ge..."

Ah, my mistake. I suggest we park that one until we discuss our approach ..."


Oh, definitely would exclude Elfstones based on this. Good point about series! In this case I think it's safe because it was written as a stand-alone, and book 2 has a totally new cast of characters / takes place years later. But I get waiting to discuss further.

Incidentally (because I like trivia), Sword of Shannara was the first fantasy novel to ever reach the NY Times trade bestseller list.. this was in 1977.

Best part of all this? I don't even like the book very much. I'm just stubborn xD xD


message 27: by Beige (new)

Beige  | 414 comments Mod
Mary wrote: "I mean the above in relation to sexism only I'm all for excluding books where racism, homophobia or transphobia are included and NOT addressed/condemned...."

I agree, low female rep is sexist for the reasons Xeni most eloquently outlined.

To clarify, you're in agreement to include books with low female rep, with a warning label, but what about....

excluding books that have unacknowledged sexism through outdated gender stereotypes? - I.e. women are only depicted with common fantasy tropes of damsel in distress, prostitute, evil witch etc.


message 28: by Beige (last edited Sep 30, 2020 11:20AM) (new)

Beige  | 414 comments Mod
Rebecca wrote: "Beige, I would love to hear more about those guidelines from you before adding my two cents on some of the other books! I don’t think it was a Twitter spat because policy makers are using her words..."

We're on the same page. Rowling is an author we agree to exclude for using her power, money and fame to oppress others. Many of us believe she has gone way beyond a Twitter spat.

Sorry for any confusion, it's clear we need a separate thread to discuss this further. I'll get to it later. I want to focus on this week's topic first 😉


message 29: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca K | 20 comments Thank you for the clarification!

I’m also uncomfortable with excluding books for low female rep alone. I think this issue gets sticky b/c anthropomorphic characters, magical creatures, and robots are important to people discovering their gender identity (who may not have the words to discuss their feelings b/c of the house they are raised in, or their religious upbringing, etc.). However, this doesn’t mitigate the need for real rep in these stories, but should be a consideration when considering how gender is explored in narratives.

Also, for The Hobbit (and maybe this was said already), but Sam and Frodo have been shipped for ages, and honestly, it is super popular among all my friends for that reason. I bring this up because one way to tag is to encourage people to explore expanded universes (as copyrights end and estates ease requirements, we see more from diverse authors) ...or to think critically about the material, like


message 30: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca K | 20 comments My comment got cut off, oops! I was going to say the tag could encourage people to think critically about some of the stories the group debated...like “approach with critical thought”


message 31: by Mary (new)

Mary Beige wrote: "Mary wrote: "I mean the above in relation to sexism only I'm all for excluding books where racism, homophobia or transphobia are included and NOT addressed/condemned...."

I agree, low female rep i..."


I read this and then forgot to respond sorry!

Yes I'm in agreement to include books with low female rep, with a warning label.

Regarding excluding books that have unacknowledged sexism through outdated gender stereotypes - My vote would be to include with labels. My impression is this group is to advise not to spoon feed to readers, the labels will inform them but if they are excluded the assumption may be that they include SV.

A thread with the labels defined and instruction (?) for those recommending to include the label(s) and provide additional detail in the recommendation. (I.e. women are only depicted with common fantasy tropes of damsel in distress, prostitute, evil witch etc as you stated) Possibly also instruction for those might be searching to look there for additional details pertaining to that book and label.


message 32: by Beige (last edited Oct 02, 2020 06:39AM) (new)

Beige  | 414 comments Mod
Mary wrote: "I read this and then forgot to respond sorry!..."

No worries, I do that all of the time 😉 It's so easy to get distracted on GR. I used the break to think about my own response to the question I posed to you. I came to a different conclusion....

Firstly, we both agree to exclude books where racism, homophobia or transphobia are included and NOT acknowledged/condemned.

What I've been asking myself is if we.....exclude overt stereotypes of race, transgenders and sexuality on our shelves but DO include books with overt female stereotypes (with a warning label).....doesn't that communicate to our members that one is less harmful than the others?

When I reflect on my own experience, I've spent decades quietly condemning overt racism, homophobia and transphobia in media, but turning a blind eye to many forms of sexism. And frankly, I'm tired of giving it a pass. I believe many other readers are too.

So what does that mean for the group guidelines? We agreed we have to draw a line and I am most comfortable with
⚫We include books with low representation of specific genders, races, sexualities and differing abilities. We will label them as such

⚫ We exclude books with outdated stereotypes of gender, race, sexuality and ability that are not acknowledged/condemned

I accept this will result in less books on our shelves. I acknowledge that "outdated" and "unacknowledged" are subjective but we will work through these on a case by case basis

Any further thoughts?


message 33: by Beige (new)

Beige  | 414 comments Mod
Also please note, I put an October 5 end date on this discussion. However, the dates are can be changed if we need more or less time.

The guideline discussion dates are more to illustrate we aren't going to discuss every topic at once. This is meant to be a longer term project, we can take out time. 😁


message 34: by Mark (last edited Oct 02, 2020 07:23AM) (new)

Mark (markpeters) Beige wrote: "What I've been asking myself is if we.....exclude overt stereotypes of race, transgenders and sexuality on our shelves but DO include books with overt female stereotypes (with a warning label).....doesn't that communicate to our members that one is less harmful than the others?."

I think you should either INCLUDE all of them (with warning labels) or EXCLUDE all of them... it seems like a strange implication to allow works with overt sexism when we are excluding racism, homophobia, and transphobia.

Personally, I would go with this option:

"⚫We include books with low representation of specific genders, races, sexualities and differing abilities. We will label them as such"

Why? Because the mission statement of the group is books without Sexual Violence. I don't mean this in a confrontational way, but selecting Non-SV elements is almost playing moral police... why are those elements selected and not others? Why is it okay to include books with physical child abuse or animal abuse, for example? What about elder abuse? Excessive gore? Religious persecution?

Again, I would always (personally) prefer NOT to read books with sexism, racism, homophobia, and transphobia... but people who join this group are not necessarily looking for the same thing; they are looking primarily for SFF Without Sexual Violence. I think we should have warning labels to inform members of other questionable content, but I don't think we should assume what another member would be comfortable with reading (other than the obvious non-SV). Otherwise, we may be depriving someone of a non-SV book that THEY might enjoy, just because it includes other elements that WE don't like.

ETA: Additionally, Option B (to exclude those books) would only lead to more work on the part of the mods, and possible frustration on the part of the group members, because it is so subjective.


message 35: by Beige (new)

Beige  | 414 comments Mod
@Mark - Help! 😂 I'm so confused! 😂 It's not that your statements themselves aren't clear, I just don't understand your intention, given, what I intended to convey with my comment #33. Maybe my comment wasn't clear enough?

First, my proposal was not an option A or B, it was both things together that I'm most comfortable promoting in this group. Let me try another phrasing....We would allow for milder forms of erasure but, add a label. We wouldn't allow books that have outdated views that go unacknowledged by the MCs.

The second bullet point was an attempt to provide a guideline for excluding all forms of overt stereotypes that I (and many others) would find sexist, racist, homophobic and transphobic. My argument to Mary was that we should treat sexism equally to the others.

Has your position changed? Are you arguing for us to include all the books you previously agreed should be excluded based on their sexism? I had never suggested that - see my comment #21. I'm not comfortable with adding anything and everything to our shelves and using labels. I'm comfortable using labels for arguably milder forms of erasure and other disturbing content.

As for how much work would be involved to moderate .... whether one is researching for extreme forms of this content or "outdated", it's not much more effort. I've already been doing it.

I'm okay with our group not working for every type of reader. Our job is to be clear enough about who we are so they can decide if we are a good fit for them or not.


message 36: by Mark (last edited Oct 02, 2020 08:44AM) (new)

Mark (markpeters) Beige wrote: "@Mark - Help! 😂 I'm so confused! 😂 It's not that your statements themselves aren't clear, I just don't understand your intention, given, what I intended to convey with my comment #33. Maybe my comm..."

Haha, sorry! First, I definitely misread the two options-which-are-not-actually-options. I now see the first point is "low rep" whereas the second item is "outdated/unacknowledged" problems... I see now they are referring to two different things.

I was trying really hard to approach this in a way that separates my personal feelings from the group as a whole (since I'm usually a more emotional person)... but maybe I'm failing in that goal :D.

The books that I previously argued should be excluded (for sexism) were based upon the guidelines as they were/are currently written, as well as my own personal reading tastes. If the guidelines were to CHANGE, then yes I would agree to include them. My point... which was perhaps more stream-of-consciousness-y(?) than I intended, is trying to look at it from the perspective of a potential new member. How does that individual perceive the Mission, Vision, and Values of the group? And do those Values extend beyond SV, or are they more narrowly-defined?

So yeah... not sure if this is making it any less confusing. PERSONALLY, I would prefer to do what you suggested in those bullet points. But if that's the case, I think the group description should be expanded to convey that "Do Better" means more than just SV, and add some wording after "... do NOT feature sexual violence or dubious sexual consent."

And if this means my stance changed... maybe? I can't keep track of my mind, as it changes pretty much every day on so many subjects :P :P

Does that help explain? I'm really tired and grumpy today, so I apologize! <3


message 37: by ♥Xeni♥ (new)

♥Xeni♥ (xeni) | 38 comments Beige wrote: "As for how much work would be involved to moderate .... whether one is researching for extreme forms of this content or "outdated", it's not much more effort. I've already been doing it."

This was my biggest worry about doing it this way, since I would hate for you (and other mods) to have even more of a burden to bear. But I'm glad to hear it's not more work.

(I'm still reading the discussions going on btw. Just not chiming in as much - life interferes with fun internet discussions at times.)

@Mark: I agree with your last comment. I'm personally also more emotional and prone to sensitivity. I like being warned beforehand so I can be prepared if there's violence or other unsavory bits in books. I sometimes choose not to read the books, and sometimes I do read the books. Having a warning system at least gives someone that choice.

I think the group Mission Statement should include something like 'Be Better involves a lot of stuff but we are specifically looking to exclude SV or consent issues in this group' (words are hard atm; that doesn't sound like a good statement but hopefully my intentions come across).

I personally don't mind if this group wants to exclude or include books that have low gender representations. There are arguments for both sides of that coin. I want us to be clear on if we're excluding or including those books, though.


message 38: by Beige (last edited Oct 02, 2020 09:19AM) (new)

Beige  | 414 comments Mod
Mark wrote: "Does that help explain? I'm really tired and grumpy today, so I apologize! <3...."

Yes, my friend, I understand you completely now. Thank you!

And kudos for thinking about it seperate from yourself. As you know, my former career required me to do that fairly regularly and it is not an easy feat. Especially, since we're operating with little data and need to rely on our GR guts.

Mary's comment helped me understand just how strongly I feel about how much sexism we permit on our shelves. It was one of the very first points raised by our members and I've really been questioning it, even more than the SV, since then. This discussion also helped me realize we can have some balance and allow for the scenarios I listed in comment #21.

Now how to best communicate it????? I shall ponder but appreciate any and all ideas from others. I'll aim to comment on this point by Sunday/Monday.


message 39: by Mark (new)

Mark (markpeters) Beige wrote: "And kudos for thinking about it seperate from yourself. As you know, my former career required me to do that fairly regularly and it is not an easy feat."

Thank you! In fact, you're the one who has influenced me to try and be more like this during discussions ;).


message 40: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 42 comments I am new to this new group, so I'm not sure how keen we are about the original mission statement. I like this:

"⚫ We exclude books with outdated stereotypes of gender, race, sexuality and ability that are not acknowledged/condemned"

... because it will result in a more carefully curated & select shelf. We'll be a resource for others, perhaps, eventually, even for others who aren't even GR members. Whereas if we were more inclusive, we'd be more catchall and a lot of the books on our shelves would not be "Better" by (what I imagine to be) most people's definitions.


message 41: by Beige (new)

Beige  | 414 comments Mod
♥Xeni♥ wrote: "I think the group Mission Statement should include something like 'Be Better involves a lot of stuff but we are specifically looking to exclude SV or consent issues in this group' (words are hard atm; that doesn't sound like a good statement but hopefully my intentions come across). ..."

Yes, I like that. A mission statement is more formal and implies we're on a journey. And your broader 'Doing Better' point is a very important distiction to include. I'd love to find a ton of books that do better in other ways, hopefully we will as the project grows.

One thing I've thought about is how in the next few years many readers are likely to outgrow or tire of YA SFF. As they venture into more adult SFF they are going to need support, YA has arguably been doing better, for longer.


message 42: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca K | 20 comments Can I ask something general here since you brought it up? How is the group defining YA? Industry standard? Or more lay person? (I think this is a great topic of convo for the future.)


message 43: by ♥Xeni♥ (new)

♥Xeni♥ (xeni) | 38 comments Rebecca wrote: "Can I ask something general here since you brought it up? How is the group defining YA? Industry standard? Or more lay person? (I think this is a great topic of convo for the future.)"

I was wondering this too. I guessed it was - does it have a lot of YA tags / shelves?


message 44: by Mary (new)

Mary I agree with everyone haha! I'm on the less emotional end of the spectrum ie 'this book is BS' and I'll stop reading it and not having any higher level of reaction. So I definitely try to see from someone else's perspective and it's also why I like the idea of a defined list.

I think my questioning of the sexism is tied to the mission statement, I think if that is updated it would clear things up.

But I'd still like to have definitions for tags as a resource for both myself and anyone looking at the list trying to decide on what to read.


message 45: by Beige (new)

Beige  | 414 comments Mod
Cheryl wrote: "We'll be a resource for others, perhaps, eventually, even for others who aren't even GR members..."

Thanks for your thoughts Cheryl. I agree.

And yes, it was my hope that this group would be accessible to those outside of GR. We made the group public so it would appear in Google search results. A few keyword combinations already work, I assume with time, we will appear more frequently ☺️


message 46: by Beige (new)

Beige  | 414 comments Mod
Rebecca wrote: "Can I ask something general here since you brought it up? How is the group defining YA? Industry standard? Or more lay person? (I think this is a great topic of convo for the future.)"

Good idea. We should have a discussion for every guideline. I'll set one up.

We decided to exclude YA because there are more resources for this. I find on GR, if you don't specifically exclude YA it will inevitably become the majority focus 😉 For example, this listopia...
https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/1...

I'm familiar with the industry standards and how inconsistently they are applied. I've only had to research one title so far and went with the review comments.

Personally, I'm okay with considering books that are more mature in theme and happen to have younger characters. For example:The Marrow Thieves was marketed as YA, however many reviewers felt that didn't fit and compare it to Parable of the Sower. If it didn't have SV we would consider it.


message 47: by Beige (new)

Beige  | 414 comments Mod
Mary wrote: "But I'd still like to have definitions for tags as a resource for both myself and anyone looking at the list trying to decide on what to read ..."

Thanks, Mary! I'm sorry if I misread your other comment. I love that we are having such respectful nuanced conversations, but acknowledge the challenge of the medium we are using.

I agree that our list of bookshelf tags should have a resource page. For those who choose to use it, the recommendation process will certainly be more efficient ☺️


message 48: by Beige (last edited Oct 05, 2020 12:03PM) (new)

Beige  | 414 comments Mod
Ok, today was our last day scheduled for this topic. However, if we need more time to review and comment we can certainly extend and push back our other topics 😁


DISCUSSION RECAP:

Decisions Made:


1) We will continue to exclude books with outdated stereotypes deemed sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic and other harmful views that go unacknowledged by the protagonists in the book. This means many older fantasy and SciFi will be excluded

2) We will allow books that have lower representations of gender, race, sexual identity, body size, abilities and other differences

3) We will include books that explore heavier themes, but provide content warnings for common concerns via shelf tags. However please note: we cannot provide an extensive tag list of every concern for every book. GR review search will remain the recommended source


Actions to be Taken:

1) Create a mission statement and updated our guidelines to best reflect these decisions - see next comment for draft details

2) Create an FAQ that re-enforces the guidelines and provides examples. Keep the FAQ updated as the group grows


message 49: by Beige (new)

Beige  | 414 comments Mod
Here is the updated mission statement and guidelines. Please review and let me know if anything is unclear, missing etc....

https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

I will also create an FAQ directly below the guidelines so members can get further details on these points. I'll work on the FAQ this week and share them here, for your feedback, as I go.


message 50: by Kristenelle (new)

Kristenelle | 38 comments Is sexual harassment and groping considered sexual violence? If so, “calculating stars” has those and can be removed from the shelf with more conviction. 😛


« previous 1
back to top