Thursday, April 10, 2008

a response in the aftermath of listening

Yesterday morning Krista and I decided to take down our blog post from April 3 after reading Bitch magazine's post about our behavior online because we wanted to be done with it. I've gotten several appeals to put it back up and allow the conversation to continue. It's not that we wanted to stop the conversation. From our standpoint it was more that we felt that the entire thing had gotten so far away from us that we were attempting to put an end to it. Krista and I are new to blogging. This is our first run-in with an entire segment of the blogosphere whose spaces and rules of engagement are far different from anything we'd known. I put the post back up to allow it to reexist here. The comments have been deleted, but I'm publishing them in the comment section of that original post. We were not interested in shutting down this conversation. Rather, we don't want to continue to fan the flames or continue to comment. I have heard a lot of good suggestions. I've read earnest pleas, thoughtful commentary, and plenty of hard criticism. I read BlackAmazon's post today, in which she explains why she wrote FUCK SEAL PRESS. As I said before, I took that personally. Too personally. I understand that there's lots of emotional history and ill-feeling and feelings hurt on all sides. I am sorry.

---Brooke

36 comments:

delux said...

our first run-in with an entire segment of the blogosphere whose spaces and rules of engagement are far different from anything we'd known.

You know, I've pretty much stayed out of this but I'm going to respond here. I suggest you read this piece by Brownfemipower about women of color space.

Nkenge said...

This is our first run-in with an entire segment of the blogosphere whose spaces and rules of engagement are far different from anything we'd known.

You have got to be kidding me! Well, isn't this just more of your White Woman Syndrome popping off and with the cherry of "othering" on top of this privilege sundae of yours.

Yeah, just keep to publishing books about White women eating bacon and stay the hell away from women of color altogether.

Capsicum said...

This is our first run-in with an entire segment of the blogosphere whose spaces and rules of engagement are far different from anything we'd known.

You know ladies, I'm a woman of color, but my skin is light, and I was raised to try to pass as white. I spent the first eighteen years of my life doing my damnedest to be white.

And yet, I've somehow managed to learn (without making such an ass of myself that I end up with fifteen or twenty different individuals patiently explaining to me in itty bitty words what I did wrong) how to listen to my darker skinned sisters and stand in solidarity with them.

I don't know, maybe whiteness is actually that debilitating to one's ability to listen and learn. In that case, I'm grateful to God that my youthful and ignorant attempts to put on whiteness failed so miserably.

Delux: Thank you so much for finding that post! It's the first bfp post I ever read and got me hooked on her blog. I need to print it and make copies for other light-skins whose lips are falling off from all the ass-kissing.

Nkenge said...

Capsicum, many of us, even us darkie gals, have tried to put on the White. But many of us dark women soon find out how damn fruitless that is. No matter how flat and nasal you make your vowels when you talk, no matter how educated and erudite you are, just dare to irk, no, not even piss off, just irk some random White person and you suddenly become the most niggerfied, nigger bitch that was ever enslaved out of Africa.

krystle said...

It's quite...interesting that you chose the title of this post to be the aftermath of listening because truth be told, I haven't seen it (At least not on your end.) I've seen a lot of Hearing, but as far as listening goes...there leaves a lot to be desired.

If you're wondering what I mean by listening, I mean, Let the thoughts swirl around in your head, think, even if what is being said to you hurts your feelings and after people (time and time again) say the same thing that something is not right instead of rolling defensive, not engaging in specific comments and then closing an entire conversation, say: "wow, I'll try not to do that anymore in the future" and try to correct said behavior.

As for "different" rules of engagement, there aren't any. Respect, treating someone who comments like a human even if they say something you do not like (or don't want to hear) is pretty standard in blogging and in life. Making a comment in someone's personal space that is inflamatory rather than asking, "why do you feel that way" does not go along with that. Neither is not engaging after bringing up a defensive post and then shuting it down all together.

Not to make you feel like I'm invalidating your feelings (even though your behavior thus far has invalidated Many other folks' but there are a lot more important things than your feelings. I don't speak for all POC just like BFP and BA don't speak for all POC but I'll tell you one thing: We've seen and heard this dance before and we're not impressed. Annoyed, digusted and pissed perhaps but not impressed or surprised. The short sightedness I've seen from this debacle and in the feminist blogosphere as of late is disturbing (and thats a nice term for it.) All I know is one of my favorite bloggers has withdrawn and been silenced because she was being attacked to massage someone else's "feelings". For some of us it's the oldest story in the world and it always plays out the same, The "hurt" party can move on and leave the conversation, POC cannot and do not have the privelage or the opportunity to do either.
I would have you think on this, what is more important, Being right in an argument, or doing what's right. If you choose your answer to be the former, than you have a lot more things to worry about than getting POC writers or alienating potential buyers of your books about bacon and sex.

Nkenge said...

Now, krystal, you know if a White girl cries a cullud one must die (at least metaphorically if not actually).

krystle said...

I know nkenge, I know, soul death of WOC = dried white girl tears.

Ruthy said...

One thing that you ladies might consider doing, is speaking of women who aren't white as women.

What your words and actions have indicated, that in your narratives, women who are of color/aren't white aren't women by your standards for womanhood.

Capsicum said...

nkenge: Oh yeah. I didn't mean to imply that only light-skinned POC try to lay hold onto some of that fluffy white privilege. I just wanted to acknowledge up front that I do have skin-color privilege working in my favor.

Nkenge said...

Capsicum, I understand what you were saying. I know it's easier to be tempted by the White if you're closer to it in regards to physical features.

Ruthy, this is basically some "Help, save my porcelain, gold-lined vagina from the jealous, evil, she-beast, Negress hordes!" bullshit. Yet again, White women are masculinizing WoC to keep the idea of femininity exclusively White (or failing that, at least completely out of the hands of Black women) and therefore the sole recipients of the chivalry it entails. Yup, been seeing a LOT of that in the feminist blogosphere this week.

Nkenge said...

As delux brought up elsewhere online, there is also the over-maturing of WoC on the internet and in real life (see how easy it is to reference an idea originated by a WoC?). WoC are made adults almost right out the womb. BA is 23 years old and yet she's supposed to conduct herself as if she were an elder of 60. Hell, not even my almost-forty butt can pull that off.

It's the same logic that makes the criminal justice system see kids of color (especially Black and Latino kids) as adults while young, White offenders are often still treated as children even when they are well into their 20s. You can also see this in how differently sex abuse victims of color are treated from White victims. No matter how young, abuse victims of color are treated as being more sexually mature than their White counterparts. At times, blame is implied on abuse victims of color as if kids of color are natural sexual predators/seducers. This is very poignant for WoC as we are often sexualized more aggressively at much younger ages than White women.

It all functions to remove the concept of innocence from PoC and WoC. WoC don't ever need protecting or defending, care or consideration because we come out the womb already grown and capable of defending ourselves. So it's perfectly okay to dogpile WoC but White women, being true women and the sole possessors of femininity are worthy of chivalrous protection and defense.

Cimmerians said...

in the aftermath of listening

The title actually gave me a moment of random hope. I was entirely thrown off by this, but thankfully your post immediately clarified that the title was completely ironic. I see there is no reason to radically shift my expectations of you, or of white feminism in general. Which must be a relief, because I just wasn't ready to break my brain that way.

Thank you for exactly meeting my expectations.

Michelle said...

Somewhere between Stormfront's overt racism and Seal Press' aversive racism I think I've reached overload. I can't figure out what exactly is so hard about not acting like the world is supposed to revolve around not hurting your feelings. Especially when the same ones bleating about their hurt feelings can't manage to give a damn about the feelings of the people they're attacking.

Nkenge said...

The events of the White feminist blogosphere this week remind me of the scene in the move The Color Purple where Miss Millie, the mayor's wife, is fussing over Sophia's kids at the gas station. That's how White feminists seem to approach WoC.

"So clean!"

Miss Millie then asks the little girl if she'd like to be her maid as if she were offering a billion tax-free dollars to the kid. Sophia sees this bullshit for what it is and answers for her child (basically telling Miss Thang to pick on someone her own size) with a hearty "Hell naw!" Miss Millie is outright stunned that her oh, so generous offer was met with such disapprobation. All she can think to do is stare unbelievingly wide-eyed at Sophia and utter a "Whut did you say to me?"

At this point Miss Millie's husband rushes to protect the sanctity of his wife's White womanhood against this uppity nigger bitch and demands to know, "What did you say to Miss Millie, gal?!"

When Sophia begins unashamedly to repeat her response, the mayor slaps her. She then lays him out with a punch. More White reinforcements arrive in the character of the local sheriff who pistol whips Sophia into unconsciousness and then takes her to jail to abuse, torture and rot away.

This is often how White feminists approach WoC, asking us to be their servants so that they can achieve their goal of co-rulership with White men. For "So clean" substitute, "So educated and articulate!" when they meet a learned WoC. When we refuse we not only get the shocked response but we get dogpiled on by other White feminists and their protectors of all colors and genders. The effect on WoC feels much like what happened to Sophia and causes many of us to remove ourselves, many temporarily, some permanently from the struggle.

Lucy said...

I'm torn between commenting on the BFP post that Delux linked to and responding to Seal's comment about a segment of the blogosphere in which the rules are somehow different, as my responses are wholly different for each.

First, the BFP post, I think, because the real gem, if I were forced to choose just one sentence, is this:
But isn’t that interesting how when women of color control the space, racist ignorance is not rewarded?

It's so clear to me that I can't even figure out a way to explicate more: when white women are in control, shit gets out of hand, "good" brown girls are rewarded, and the "bad" ones are silenced. When white women are in control, we go home hurt and angry and silenced, and we sit late at night in our kitchens trying to figure out how the hell we could have possibly said it better, been clearer, made things go differently somehow. And the white women go home, feelings all hurt, and talk to their white friends about how badly things seem to have suddenly gone, how they don't get it, how they weren't trying to start shit, but shit just seemed to start on its own.

It reminds me a lot of the other night when my son was being a huge pain in the ass--he had started growling at me in response to my directions, stomping around, yelling, and rolling his eyes. Oh, yeah, he's only six by the way. But he's got the attitude of a 14-year old, let me tell you.

And finally, when he was really up to his eyeballs in trouble, he decided to actually engage in a semi-decent dialogue with me. And when I told him he needed some time alone in his room and when he heard that I was frustrated and getting angry, his eyes welled up with tears and he burst out, "But you hurt my feelings!" I began explaining how his bad behavior had caused my frustration, and he tried again to say how I was being mean and hurting his feelings.

That's when I explained to him the difference between "being mean" and consequences for bad behavior. He finally got it, and after about 30 minutes of other activities, came up to me in the living room and said, "I'm sorry, mommy. I shouldn't have been mean. It's because I had bad behavior that you got upset. I shouldn't have done that."

Sometimes, children are very wise and capable of learning difficult lessons.

So I guess that learning opportunity with my son is a lot like a WOC-run space: bad behavior just isn't tolerated! And perhaps that is a legitimate difference in the so-called "rules of engagement." One that white women aren't aware of because usually their house is run by six-year olds, and growling and stomping around and rolling your eyes is acceptable behavior.

But in my house, we speak with respect to each other. And when we don't understand how we hurt someone, we sit still and listen until we get it. And when we inevitably fuck up and shoot off our mouths, we take some time to figure out what went wrong, apologize sincerely for our mistakes, and do our best not to repeat that same mistake.

And what we have here is a learning opportunity. Here's a chance for Seal and for white women to learn that, in brownfemipower's words, "ignorant, racist shit" doesn't fly, and do your best to learn why what you said and how you said it wasn't okay. To take the time to learn the rules of engagement, ones based on respect and on ensuring that wrongs are righted and that solidarity with each other, being good allies to our sisters, is of extreme importance.

thedoubtersneedle said...

This is our first run-in with an entire segment of the blogosphere whose spaces and rules of engagement are far different from anything we'd known.

What a load of crap. Your comment would've had the same, or even more violent, reaction on any freaking blog out there. God, you've embarrassed yourselves enough with your infantile behaviour and breathtaking arrogance, there was really no need for you to put the icing on the cake by painting the women at BA's as "different," "foreign" and "scary."

And then you wonder why feminists of colour want nothing to do with you.

By the way: how the holy hell could you have thought that such behaviour in your professional capacity was a good idea?

Sarah said...

I like this, personally: "From our standpoint it was more that we felt that the entire thing had gotten so far away from us that we were attempting to put an end to it."

translation: we said some fucked up bullshit, and rather than deal with that reality or take any responsibility for it whatsoever, we'd like to conveniently walk away now, as is our right as white feminists. if you can't control it, get out, am i right? just like you couldn't control what happened on BA's blog because it's, oh yeah, her space.

for the record, I am white. and the only acceptable response in this situation is the same as all situations where you hurt someone you supposedly care about through your ignorance: the only acceptable response is "oh shit. I fucked up. I'm sorry. would you like to tell me what I can do to fix it?" notice I said "would you like to" because, guess what, when you fuck up - especially as spectacularly as you did, especially in your capacity as "professionals" - it is up to the people you offended and hurt to determine whether or not to engage with you, how to engage with you, and what constitutes acceptable next steps. NO ONE OWES YOU an education on YOUR PRIVILEGE.

White feminists need a big collective steaming mug of Shut The Fuck Up and Listen. Because really? Stop whining about how WOC and bloggers-of-color are oh-so-mean until you've at least TRIED to get past your defensiveness and LISTEN to what they are telling you. It is not about YOU as a person or individual, it is about patterns, it is about institutions, it is about history, and if you do not GET that, if you cannot possibly RESPECT that, then you have no business busting in to the spaces of women of color and spreading your bullshit around. Stop it. I am so wholly disappointed in the way Seal Press has represented itself as an institution. I was a loyal customer; now I just don't know - I appreciate some of the voices Seal brought forth - more so in the past than now - and I want to support individual authors, plus let's face it, the authors and their subjects look a lot like me. But I am so completely disappointed in how you've conducted yourselves, Seal Press.

Emma Power said...

I'm new to the Seal Blog, but got directed to it through Bitch. I just read through maybe months of these posts (fascinating like a pseudo-feminist train wreck) and I am left wondering not only about the questions of race and privilege that have come up, but about basics: Is Seal Press a feminist press or simply a press that publishes work by and for women. To me, at least, this is a big difference.

If Seal does indeed claim to be feminist, what does that even mean anymore? The blogs unbelievable simplistic questions of Hillary-support, breast-fascination, Spitzer-spitting, seem more like Camille Paglia-lite meets cable news commentary (à la Nancy Grace) than feminist cultural critique.

I think instead of worrying about being a crying bitch at the airport (10/2); surfing sites like cleavage creek (10/22); the significance of Jamie Lynn's pregnancy (12/19); the Drew Peterson case (1/24); and on and on, maybe the Seal women need to take a step back, read their blog, and think about what it means to be a press for women that puts out such simplistic drivel.

ruby said...

Here's another thing: seal press is run by two women from the bay area, home to all the so called progressive "we're so enlightened, feel good, universal consciousness, find your true self" ideology. in other words me thinketh they come from and maybe live in a nice little bubble. in my opinion one that lacks real grit and apparently by their expressed shock.... a connection to how the real world and real folks work.

so none of this surprises me, because the way i see it seal has lost its soul - yeah, yeah i do understand about the struggle of a small press and need to be a little more commercial - but that doesn't mean clubby. and there you have it. one big, white girl vagina loving, feminist studies ghetto. (to be fair, they have and do publish some great books that are in my library.)

but the ignorance in seal's behavior is leaking all over. if you need more proof just consider their forthcoming book 'Yes Means Yes' - an anthology, that has at its premise that "empowering female sexual pleasure is the KEY to dismantling rape culture."

are you fucking kidding me?

there's some ignorant inflamatory bullshit. i was stunned when i read heard about this call for submissions then learned that seal was publishing this. so let me ask the ladies at seal: do you really think the man that raped me and my sisters gives or gave a rats ass about my pleasure?

talk about blaming the victim. don't even get me started...

need i say this raised more than a few hackles and furies on the blogosphere and was met by similar platitudes, akin to "oops oh golly gee and thanks for your feedback, and we'll tweak our concept a little." I said "we" because apparently it took two white femininst brains to come up with this outrageous idea.

and did i mention that one of the book's editors is already a "name" seal author and well known white feminist blogger and me thinks the other editrix runs the WAM conference that was praised by seal and critiqued by some others as being way too clubby?

that's when i wrote seal off. and the women -- all the women, white and WOC - at the medical rape crisis center where i work can't wait to blast this when it comes out. best stay in your bubbles ladies cause more shit's gonna fly.
heads up.

i'm done with seal.

Fire Fly said...

Yeah, the blogosphere is bizarre in that it demands a level of accountability. Who woulda thunk?

Speaking of accountability, you're not dealing with people who are gonna give you candy if you cry. I see you've given yourselves a convenient excuse to avoid dealing with criticism for deleting comments.

Who the hell do you think you are?

MR said...

B and K -

May I first suggest a return to Continuing Education for additional classes in communication skills.

Because although I see you
- telling people they're angry
- attempting to shut down "dialogue" because YOU didn't want to deal with it
- saying things like "That's the end of it. OK."

I don't see, in ONE SINGLE response of yours , ANY indication that you have ANY clue as to WHY all these people are upset in the first place.

So -- despite any outcry from a WOC sister that I don't have any obligation to educate, and therefore should not -- after having read
- both threads here on your blog,
- your initial comments on BA's blog that started all this, and
- the resulting commentary on other blogs,
I'm going to try.

And we're going to start at the beginning. Like, Racism 101. Beginning.

Do you have ANY idea WHY people are as upset as they are about the SPECIFIC remarks that you made?

Given the fact that you say you love words, do you have ANY IDEA WHY that SPECIFIC PHRASEOLOGY was so offensive??

Plain(s)feminist said...

I can understand that, being new bloggers, you didn't realize some of the netiquette around blogging and posting in someone's comment section. Blogging can sometimes appear like lots of open conversations, in which it is perfectly acceptable to jump in and say whatever is on your mind, without thought to what was happening before you got there.

It does seem to me, however, that the rules have since been explained to you. I suspect that this post is meant to be an apology, but I don't think it quite cuts it.

Sarah gave you a good example of what an apology would look like:

the only acceptable response is "oh shit. I fucked up. I'm sorry. would you like to tell me what I can do to fix it?" notice I said "would you like to" because, guess what, when you fuck up - especially as spectacularly as you did, especially in your capacity as "professionals" - it is up to the people you offended and hurt to determine whether or not to engage with you, how to engage with you, and what constitutes acceptable next steps.

This incident has made many people of all races distrust Seal, and you will now have to work harder to find good authors. Personally, I would love to see Seal elevate itself to the status of what it used to be.

I hope you will consider how you can ensure that Seal Press affirms women of color and anti-racist work. I don't know if you personally have heard the outcry that followed the "Yes Means Yes" CFP, but know that it is a very unpopular book among many feminist blog communities, even while you may have strong interest from others. Women of color in particular have noted, as has Ruby, upthread, that the book's focus completely ignores their experiences of sexual assualt.

Given that there was also outcry against the author's earlier book, for the same reasons, I would hope that you are giving serious attention to the work you are publishing henceforth. If you are not getting proposals from women of color, I hope that you will come to panels at the NWSA in June - I know Seal always has a table there - and spend time hearing papers by women of color and talking to their authors about the work they are doing. If you are pressed for time, you can also contact the chairs of sessions that focus on issues relevant to women of color and ask them to have their panelists submit proposals to you, or encourage session organizers to propose anthologies around their session topics. You can also look online for the conference schedules of those conferences that deal with issues of race on a regular basis. Heck, why not invite a writer to edit an anthology on Women of Color Bloggers: Speaking Truth to Power; or Women of Color: Re-Centering Feminism?* You have a lot of power to change this situation, but you need to take responsibility.

*I suggest this, not because this is the issue at the core of these incidents, but because it is an issue that Seal needs to deal with.

Krista Lyons-Gould and Brooke Warner said...

Thanks Plain(s)feminist.
A couple of us will be at NWSA. I am already reaching out to several contacts in the agenting community in an attempt to find manuscripts that reach a broader audience. I will also be taking some of the suggestions made in the comments to the previous post. I'll be doing outreach. I'm listening. This has been hard and eye-opening and I'm moving forward with a broader sense of what Seal might be able to do in the future. The anthology idea you suggest is a good one, but it's also narrow, which is one of the big frustrations in publishing at large: we need to publish books that have enough of an audience to make them feasible. But the more ideas the better, and I'm open to them. I appreciate them. And I do intend for us at Seal to work toward effecting change over the course of the next few seasons. Thank you.

---Brooke

Charity said...

Given that you haven't actually said what was eye-opening and why, can you elaborate please? And what change you are interested in effecting? Please elaborate.

Also, as it seems you are not getting the picture, I think the damage to your reputation resulting from your behavior will have more impact on the viability of your books than these *audience* issues you keep referencing. Why do you assume WOC-centered books will not have a big enough audience to be *feasible*? Really, what are you talking about?

danadocus said...

Yesterday morning Krista and I decided to take down our blog post from April 3 after reading Bitch magazine's post about our behavior online because we wanted to be done with it.

White people just seem to LOVE erasing the history of their past wrongs.

It's not that we wanted to stop the conversation.

You wanted to be done with "it" but to not stop "the conversation", am I the only one seeing complete contradiction in actions and words?

This is our first run-in with an entire segment of the blogosphere whose spaces and rules of engagement are far different from anything we'd known.

More than one person has said this already, but the "rules of engagement" are no different than when you go into anyone else's space. And I love the analogy to warfare, I guess that goes along nicely with the "negative discourse" comment. Lastly, you're being really "pity me", rather than just fessing up that you were downright rude and ignorant to people.

My favorite book in the world came from Seal, and that just makes me so much more upset and disappointed with you. This is a really half-baked apology, I hope you won't be too upset if people like me don't want to accept it as is. Cuz I don't need you coming and insulting me in my space too.

You gave a whole new meaning to BA's original comment.

krystle said...

Basically Charity, it's similar to the same line of thinking that allowed Margaret "She who types at starbucks" fraud to be a best seller. In case you haven't heard about it, she wrote a memoir depicting her life as a rape survivor/multiracial WOC in south central. Only 1. she wasn't (neither poor, adopted, or a WOC or in a gang at all) and 2. wrote a whole bunch of inaccurate stereotypes. Her book was safe and familiar with enough sensation to make it "feasible" while books written by actual POC/WOC with actual experience growing up with adversity sit on shelves. Now, Seal Press is a publisher and they have the right to approve what will keep them afloat, but isn't there something automatically wrong with assuming that just because a piece is written by a POC that financially it'll automatically tank like a lead balloon?

Plain(s)feminist said...

Why do you assume WOC-centered books will not have a big enough audience to be *feasible*? Really, what are you talking about?

I think they meant anthologies rather than WOC-centered books - at least, I *really* hope that's it.

Brooke, I have to say that you have not yet made the apology that folks would like to hear. And, I can't help but notice that I'm the only one of the commenters you've so far responded to. While I'm sure you are feeling defensive, I would really encourage you to respond to their issues and concerns.

littlem said...

The anthology idea you suggest is a good one, but it's also narrow, which is one of the big frustrations in publishing at large: we need to publish books that have enough of an audience to make them feasible.

So your assumptions are

1) that Plainsfeminist - who identifies as white - is the only person worth speaking to directly on this thread (*cough*Amanda your author*cough*)

2) that the very women who OUGHT to read such an anthology, since by the definition PF gave you the dialogue is practically directed to them -- and at the very least such an anthology could be an assigned work in your vaunted Seal Studies project, virtually assuring sales, aren't going to???

How long HAVE you been publishing? Because you're behaving like amateurs who have never even heard of multicultural or viral marketing. What the h*ll is the matter with you?

littlem said...

Why do you assume WOC-centered books will not have a big enough audience to be *feasible*?

They've never heard of bell hooks, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Jill Nelson, Octavia Butler, or Terri McMillan.

:rolleyes:

CLD said...

This is our first run-in with an entire segment of the blogosphere whose spaces and rules of engagement are far different from anything we'd known.

Honestly, if you'd popped into any blog space and done what you did, you'd have gotten the same response, and deserved it.

Krista Lyons-Gould and Brooke Warner said...

Littlem, I was responding to Plain(s)feminist because she brought up a book project idea, and I'm an editor, and my greatest hope, as a result of all of this, is that Seal can do a better job in acquisitions.

I do not think that WOC-centered books aren't feasible. I was referring to the anthology idea. We struggle with anthologies. That said, we also struggle with books about sexuality. I've made a big push during my time here to publish trans books. Those books are just doing okay. We base our ability to do certain types of books based on the track records of similar books we've published in the past. I absolutely think there's a market for WOC-centered books. And part of this conversation was me saying that Seal has not been very successful in getting them out into the world. When I say that I mean that we have published books that are WOC-centered, and they haven't sold very well. That's all. No judgment as to why. That just means we have to work harder to acquire new books in this area. And I want to do that.

Regarding a real apology: I am sorry. I wrote that I was sorry in this post. I feel incredibly humbled. I will not enter someone's space and respond the way that I did to BlackAmazon. I regret having done so, but I've learned a lot over these past two weeks. In the Salon comments someone said that this sounded like a case of not wanting to do the hard work, that it sounded like we were saying we would leave that to someone else who can do better. I think that's true, and I want to change that. We have been given a new mandate by Perseus to acquire "big" books, and I realize what's being ignored is too great. Krista and I both realize that things need to change. This is not something that we're going to sweep under the rug. So, Krystle, we're hearing and listening. I've said multiple times that I was defensive and that I took the comment too personally. And we're taking all of the comments to heart. Thank you all. I will do a better job. I will continue to listen. This whole experience has made a huge impact.

---Brooke

Sylvia/M said...

Then why the fuck aren't you apologizing to Black Amazon?

Plain(s)feminist said...

Regarding a real apology: I am sorry. I wrote that I was sorry in this post. I feel incredibly humbled. I will not enter someone's space and respond the way that I did to BlackAmazon. I regret having done so, but I've learned a lot over these past two weeks.

I'm very glad to hear that you have a fuller understanding of what happened in this discussion and that you feel that it's changing the way you interact online. I agree with Sylvia, however. If you want Black Amazon to hear your apology, you should apologize directly to her.

Likewise, like Littlem, I'm uncomfortable that you haven't addressed other commenters here. I feel like you and I, as two White women, are having a conversation about women of color, while women of color are right here, talking to you, and not getting a response.

On a totally different note: I think there are some concrete things you can do to ensure that you get more proposals from women of color and that you publish more works by women of color:

1) At past conferences, publishers have offered sessions for conference attendees on getting published. What about working with some of the other publishers, at conferences Seal attends, to do sessions specifically for women of color on getting published and getting their proposals accepted?

2) Host receptions specifically for women of color, or make a certain time during the book exhibits a time that you publicize as being for women of color who have book ideas or proposals.

3) Invite women of color to be on your advisory board (and if you don't have one, create one). Ask them to help you identify writers and works for consideration.

4) Read women of color blogs. There are theorists doing work that rivals any feminist writing out there.

5) Consider the impact of your cover designs. I looked at the covers of several of your recent books, and so many of them feature a white woman on the cover. This sends a clear message about the content, even if the white woman on the cover doesn't accurately represent the content of the book. There's no special reason the covers have to be white women, is there?

Many of these suggestions will both help ensure that you get more proposals from women of color, and they will also allow women of color to network with publishers.

Ilyka said...

Then why the fuck aren't you apologizing to Black Amazon?

Duh, because she was mean! And it's much easier to focus on the mean than to ask yourself, "Exactly how frustrated and disgusted would a person have to be with us to write, 'fuck Seal Press'? What are we doing wrong to prompt such a reaction from a young woman of color? What are we missing here?"

Or like Black Amazon said herself, no one asked her why. But asking questions is hard and seeking answers is so awkward and using the f-word is just ugh.

Krista and Brooke, on the off-chance you really are unused to blogospheric norms, here's one to consider in the future: Deleting posts never works the way you intend it to. I sympathize with the urge; I've been tempted to wipe a few of my own out many a time, but quite apart from stopping controversy, it keeps the ball rolling, because now everyone gets to comment on the coverup. It's easier, albeit temporarily more icky, to just acknowledge the problem rather than sweeping it under the rug.

Part of blogging is getting used to messing up in public (and I'm not sure anyone ever really gets used to it, but you at least learn to live with it). Get used to apologizing sincerely and promptly and directly to the injured party, hint hint, too. It hurts more in the short term, but way less in the long term; better to wince briefly now than cringe chronically later.

Maggie Lang said...

Okay. I'm stumped.

This is what I am hearing:

"I am humbled."
"I have learned a lot."
"I wrote that I was sorry in this post."
"I've said multiple times that I was defensive and that I took the comment too personally."

No, no. You are not; you have not. I'm sorry, but genuine regret and genuine learning involve far more than what you have displayed here, and in BA's blog.

The reason you keep having to repeat yourselves, and the reason that NOBODY is accepting your apology is because every single comment you have made has shown the lack of sincerity of that apology. You appear to be sorry that you are in trouble. You appear to be sorry that people are angry with you. THAT is what comes across.

I have been in trouble before. I have said stupid, ignorant, thoughtless things, and let me tell you...no matter what the circumstance, here is the proper script for an apology (expletives optional):

"Holy s---, I can't believe I let my brain get so lazy and self-absorbed that that asinine s--- popped out. I must have been f---ing crazy. THANK YOU for setting me right so I won't embarrass myself anymore. I have learned the following...(enter lessons here)."

I have used this basic script many times, and it works because it shows that you are not just trying to shut up the person that you hurt. Apology is not about form, it's about meaning, and your meaning sucks.

Saying you have "learned a lot" sounds hollow and false if you can't say what you've learned. Saying you've had an eye-opening experience is useless if you don't say what you've seen...in detail. Saying you're humbled without outlining how you messed up is (or comes across as) self-indulgent. And stating twice how you have explained yourself "multiple times" shows that you are irritated rather than sorry.

Look, I can't say it any clearer than this: It's pretty obvious by your type of "engagement" in this "negative discourse" that you feel pretty highly elevated above the conversation that your comments have created.

Your ivory tower is showing. And it's pissing people off.

If you would like to stay up there, fine, that is up to you. But don't be so confused and tragic when you throw stones down on people and they don't react well. But, if you do want to come down and live with the real people, you need to start with an actual apology.

krystle said...

Everyone above this comment pretty much summed up what I have to say. Thank you for reading my comment. But, I'm not the one your apology has to be directed to, it should be directed directly to Black Amazon and then a bit of an explaination on what has made an impact/what you've learned from this debacle. Otherwise, it'll look as if its an insincere "Ok, I'll apologize just to get folks off my ass" rather than, "I effed up totally I'm sorry and I've learned....and I'll never/attempt to never do that again." That's what folks are trying to get across in these comments.