So last week I went off the rails a little bit about the concept of a person's ebooks reading them, and sending all sorts of personal information to marketers, publishers, and any hackers who might happen to be around.
And then I popped over to Kim's excellent book blog Sophisticated Dorkiness, and found her link to a BookRiot article titled "Why I Quit Goodreads (or,The Bookternet Is Not Safe for Women)."
You should read it, but if you don't want to, and I can't blame you, it depressed the hell out of me for days,* I'll try to cover the big points for you. The author, Brenna Clarke Gray, evidently reviews books through her GoodReads account (or she did, until she deleted her account). And when she gives three-star or fewer reviews, evidently she gets contacted by authors and authors' publicists, some of whom are threatening.
That's right. Threatening...in response to BOOK REVIEWS.
Evidently she also posts about book news at Twitter, and this is what she has to say about that experience: "Let’s be clear: you are not the first person to call me a feminist whore on Twitter. Maybe if you were, your words wouldn’t have such an impact. But when you’re the fifth in a day, or the hundredth in year, then maybe this isn’t about me overreacting — maybe this is about the way we use language to make discussion scary and inaccessible for women."
Well, all I can say to that is, Jesus H. Motherfucking Christ. And I am sorry, so sorry, to use that language on Good Friday, of all days. But I do think a little (okay, a lot) of righteous anger and profanity is called for here. You're telling me people can't even feel safe reviewing books on GoodReads?
Yes, yes, I know this is all down to just "internet trolls," and compared to living in a war zone, this is low-level intimidation.** But Gray is absolutely right: even low-level intimidation starts to wear on you.
Allow me to illustrate.
By the time I left my job at the public library (and I worked in the richest, safest branch in a rich, largely safe city, mind you) I could no longer do my job at night when I was the ranking person in charge. You know why? Because I'd seen enough disturbing incidents and threatening people that I was spending all my time, mentally, praying that no shit would go down on my watch. It's kind of hard to provide readers' advisory services and reference help when you're that preoccupied. It wasn't particularly gendered and most of the dodgy behavior I witnessed was fairly low-level (I'm anxious by nature, I'll admit, so it doesn't take a whole lot to make me nervous), but even just being sworn at starts to make you a tad defensive.
So here's where we are. I didn't feel safe at my job, and this woman doesn't feel safe reviewing books at home. So I ask you: where do I go? WHERE DO WE GO?***
*And even if you read the article, don't read the comments. So, so depressing.
**Also known as "first-world problems." But you know what? Honestly, is this all the better we can do getting our shit together in the first world, where we have all the advantages? Disappointing.
***If we don't want to feel threatened, we don't go to the UK and campaign to get Jane Austen's face on the currency, that's for sure. If you don't want to be constantly hounded on the street, I guess you don't live in New York City, either.