November 14th, 2011


So apparently I am going to comment on this topic

I was being good. I really, really, was. I'm a member of OTW, an avid user of AO3, and an occasional contributor to Fanlore, but I've never volunteered, and the few glimpses I've had of the organization's inner workings have been decidedly one-sided. There are so many other people who are far more involved and invested than I, saying smart and helpful and important things about the OTW election and all the issues it has raised, so I was content to sit this one out and not get involved beyond reading up on the issues and casting an informed vote in the election itself. Because what can I really add to the conversation at this point anyway?

But I guess everyone has their limits, and today I reached mine.* And I find that there are two things I want to say, the second of which I've been thinking about lately for other reasons and may come back to in more general terms soon.

1. If one is embroiled in a public controversy, it is the opposite of helpful to say that people are misrepresenting and/or misinterpreting your words and actions and then refuse to either share your side of the story or engage with the people you claim are misrepresenting you. Especially when the charges against you include an unwillingness to take criticism.

2. Relatedly, negativity and criticism is not the same thing as vitriol. It really, really, isn't. Yes, there have been many criticisms of the OTW and its leadership, and some have been in harsh terms. But I have yet to see anything that looks like people throwing rocks. Every criticism I have read has been thoughtfully written, well-sourced, and presented with the intention of making fandom a better place, and I've been reading pretty widely for the last week or so. The conflation of all criticism with rock throwing is something I see all the time in fandom, and it's an attitude that's always bothered me. In order for there to be progress, there must be debate. Where there is debate, often there will be disagreement. If there is too much pressure to be "nice" and to get along, the necessary space for debate and disagreement can get lost. Is it possible for disagreement and criticism to get out of control and reach toxic levels? Sure. But from what I've seen, this does not seem to have been the OTW's main problem. From my outsider's perspective, this whole discussion has the feel of a boil being lanced, of pent up frustrations and concerns finally being spoken in public, of people finding each other and having the conversations they've been wanting to have for years but didn't have the right words or venue to have until now. Given that, I have to believe that getting all this out in the open is going to make the OTW healthier in the long run.

*I want to be clear: I am a long-time admirer of Ms. N. Her books are among my all-time favorites, and her contributions to fandom are undeniably huge. Her leadership has been invaluable, and no matter what happens this week, it will continue to be so. But (or, perhaps, therefore) I am really, really disappointed in this response. I wouldn't criticize if I didn't expect (and hope for) better.

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