Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Amazon and the F-word

Among the categories of books disappeared by Amazon while in the throes of its "glitch," feminist and feminism seem to have joined gay, lesbian, bisexual, homosexual, transgender, sex, sexuality, and erotica as subjects considered "adult."

I can see how someone with limited exposure to literature might consider the glbt categories as "adult," but in what way is feminism something that should be hidden from children? This smacks less of excessive prudishness than of excessive right-wingishness.

And while I was puzzling over the inclusion of feminism in the list of suspects, I remembered something a knowledgeable publishing person told me about marketing my novel:

"Never, ever use the word 'feminist' in describing the story or characters. It's a terrific word, but it's as loaded as 'Communist' was in the '50s."

That sentence stunned me, and I hastened to look up the definition of "feminist" in case some lapse in my formal education had prevented me from appreciating its dark side.

Feminist (n):
a) a person who believes that women should have political, economic, and social rights equal to those of men.
b) one who believes the implementation of feminist principles will create a more humane type of political power.

WOW!!! I don't see how any reasonable person can argue with a), but b) blew me away. That's exactly what my book is about!

While I wrestled with the advice of the publishing guru quoted above, I wrote a defense of myself and my work that I can now make a place for here:


How is it that the f-word inspires such terror and contempt that a woman who writes a book about women who are the equals of men is enjoined never to speak it?

It seems to me that women and men are equal, but not the same, and that the patriarchal societies in which humanity has lived for the last few thousand years are neither wrong nor evil, but simply out of balance. At one time there may have been survival value in the patriarchal organization of society, but I believe we have entered an age in which the old model will work against our survival and that the time has come to imagine the world differently.

In a world where men's values are deemed right and noble, women's values must be condemned as weak and dangerous. If the "rationality" of men is extolled, the "emotionality" of women must be trivialized with words like sentimental, frivolous, hysterical.

When the hearts of women are accorded equal respect with the minds of men, and when women are acknowledged to have minds and men are permitted to acknowledge their own hearts, we may be able to create a society that supports the expression of the full range of our humanity.


One way of undermining the credibility of an idea is to join it to an unpopular or discredited idea. That's how universal healthcare becomes socialized medicine, and how any liberal social program becomes a communist plot. That's how the right wing made "liberal" a dirty word. Say anything with enough contempt, and the contempt is what people perceive and remember.

By lumping feminism in with glbt, the author of Amazon's "glitch" let slip that he or she holds a bias that exceeds simple homophobia, which is all the more reason for Amazon to reveal the algorithm or human error that resulted in the de-ranking of 57,000 books.



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