Token Black Girl

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Black women to be seen and not heard on BSFS? My true story as posted on ProfessionalBlackWriters.com

I am new in the world of writers websites, newer still to those that are tailored to the black community. Allow me to say that I was more than thrilled to find communities where I could connect with other black writers. I have joined other writing sites, but because I remained the serious minority with black protagonists and what not, my stories and writing were given little to no attention or credence. When joining writing group collaborations, everyone loved my concepts until I would publish my chapters and they discovered my characters were always black. Suddenly my segments in collabs were treated like a red headed step child.

In light of all that, I was very excited to find sites for black writers like this one. There is another site that I joined that I REALLY loved, blacksciencefictionsociety.com. I mean I logged on every day to read the works of other authors, checked out 3d renderings, engaged in meaningful discussions and even just to pass the time in that chat room. It was a lot of fun. I found that other members of the black community were more willing to honestly critique and comment on my work than anyone else. My skills grew more in the past few months there than they had in the past few years on my own. Everything was great... until yesterday.


Yesterday, while chatting casually with friends, the administrator of the site pops into the chat room and asks myself and another woman in the chat room to visit a discussion page a member posted and to give him our feedback. The woman was commenting how she did not approve of a picture of a naked woman being used to advertise the site. The site is about science fiction, and her image did not convey any such thing. It was just a naked woman.

As I was asked by the administrator, I gave him my opinion, as well as responded to her discussion. I also disapproved of that type of advertising. How did it relate to the content of the site? I commented to the administrator in the chat room that the site was not the most 'female friendly' place. Male members were constantly posting images of black women in compromised positions in tons of classless and tactless images. While many of the men argued that it was "art" I argued that it was far closer to cartoon porn.

I myself had posted many images of beautiful black women, and yes, some were naked. However, these pictures were actual artwork by actual artists and were realistically depicted. These were not women with abnormally large breast with large pointy nipples or gigantic protruding back ends. It was argued to me that there were an equal amount of pictures of large virile men and that this was common in the genre. I responded that there most certainly were not, and whatever images there were did not include men bearing their genitalia, groping themselves or having what looks like violent sex with aliens. There were however a number of photos of women depicted that way, the vast majority being black women. The administrator seemed to really hear me out, and ifeven asked me if I thought he should remove the image. I told him it was his site to do with as he pleased. Everything seemed fine.

Furthermore, earlier that same day I was involved in a post discussing how many female comic characters were being depicted as lesbians and asking our opinions. Since one of the major characters being discussed was Storm of the X-Men, and I am an avid follower of her character, I joined the discussion. Imagine my dismay when I realized that this was not at all an intelligent discussion about the objectification of women or sexuality, but merely a place to discuss artwork rendered by a known cartoon porn artist. I was taken aback and I said so. I called it for what it was, a bunch of guys looking for an excuse to discuss porn on what should be and had been a respectable site for black writers.

Later in the day I had a male member comment on a piece I wrote while we were talking in the chat room. My character was a female soldier returning from Afghanistan and war. During that time the world ended, and most of the worlds population was completely eviscerated. This character was walking through her home town where her family all dies, children and all, and she teared up for a minute, before blowing the faces off a few random zombie like survivors. My story was referred to as moody and emotional. I don't know if it was because the protagonist was female, or I was, but that was certainly not the case for the story.

After that, I was pretty frustrated with all the anti woman content I had encountered that day. I decided to post my own, no holds barred opinion of what was going on in regards to certain members of this site and their treatment of women. I even went as far as going to the administrators personal page and letting him know I was posting my thoughts and that they did not reflect on him or the site at all as a whole, but some individual members. This was also pointed out in my blog.

Later in the chat room, a female member and I began discussing the events of the day. Three male members joined in the discussion. Two of the three of them agreed with us ladies and said it was beginning to bother them too. They suggested I place my blog in a public discussion and get other member feedback, so i did. The third member argued his point but then came to the conclusion that we could agree to disagree. This was a civil conversation. Another member decided to join and and was extremely rude, making insulting comments, which the ladies and I tried to ignore.

At this point the site administrator came online and was incensed. He was angry that we had the "nerve" to be continuing this conversation. he stated that we were no longer allowed to discuss it. He insisted that we were being trouble makes, though none of us were arguing. He promptly censored us by removing our posts regarding the treatment of women and threatened to revoke our memberships to the site should we continue to discuss it. At this point I had moved on to a private chat with another member regarding something completely different. We were sharing about blog editing.

Upon my return, I discovered that my membership had been canceled, even though I had dropped the conversation BEFORE the administrator asked us to. Not because he did, but before because I was ready to move on. Because I had not yet signed out of chat, I could still see and participate in the chat room. I asked the administrator what I did to warrant his action. He refused to acknowledge me. He would only type, in all caps mind you, that he was no longer discussing it and would not speak to me. Several members objected to his behavior, while some cosigned his negative and inappropriate actions. A member asked why we should not be allowed to discuss women's issues in sci fi on a sci fi website. He threatened to cancel their account as well.

In the end, my account and the account of the other woman involved in this discussion were deleted, as was the account of the member who posted the original blog, even though she wasn't online at the time of the confrontation and had no idea what was going on. She was an innocent bystander. The three men, who stayed online quite a while after we were revoked defending our point and pleading with the administrator to undo his unjust actions, had no effect. Their accounts remained though they continued to discuss the issue. I could still see all of this because I had not clicked out of the discussion thread.

I received several emails from members who saw what went on saying how sorry they were for me. One even offered to talk to the administrator on my behalf. Most people said and did nothing, allowing this unjust behavior to continue. They said nothing. Some even joined the administrator in calling us names after we logged out. We were referred to as immature, children, naive, and a host of other bad things simply because we were having a socialble conversation about women's issues. I am still very angry. I would NEVER have expected such behavior from a man I came to admire and respect. I am further incensed that this was allowed to go on by the members. We black writers have to stick together, but very few spoke up when we were berated for stating and opinion that the administrator did not like. We did not attack anyone. We did not name names. We did not throw insults. We were having an adult conversation. I was insulted and angered by this interaction and I have since rescinded any invitations I have given to the site and have made a public platform against the administrators mistreatment of women. On this site women are to be seen and not heard. We, as a people, are better than that. We are bigger than that. I will be heard for the sake of black female writers everywhere.

4 comments:

  1. This whole incident is sad. You would think that a site for Black writers would not tolerate such sexism. The site administrator behaved very immaturely. Your dismissal is their loss not yours.

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    1. I agree Barabara, thank you. I admit, I didn't even know that this blog was still in rotation, as i wrote so long ago, but it is nice to know that my voice is still out there. Thanks again.

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  2. I would strongly recommend that anyone interested in this incident to judge for themselves. {smile}

    There are many sides to a story like this, and not everyone saw the entire exchange, and subsequent postings in this same light.

    As a writer, with many reviews of my work on Amazon and other venues I have found that having a less sensitive perspective, a thicker skin so to speak, is a necessity.

    And, my final word of advice is to NEVER let others' opinions, postings, or comments define you. You already know who you are, and what you're about; opinion is just that...

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    1. I am willing to bet, judging by your decision to remain anonymous, that you were either a participant in the sexist banter in the event I experienced, or simply someone who agrees with what happened. I do not have issues with sensitivity. Three years working as a correctional officer should speak to that. It isn't a profession for the soft or emotional. The fact that you even assume that I was being sensitive or not wearing a 'thick skin' speak volumes about where you stand on the issue.

      Thank you for the advice. I do not let others define me. I know who I am and I know what I am capable of. In fact, I am currently working on my creative writing thesis as one of the top students in my graduate program. Website banter has no affect on my self image. This, however does not mean that I will not speak out against injustice. That is what occurred on BSFS that day so long ago, whether you chose to acknowledge or believe it or not.

      As for me, I have far too much integrity to be party to such blatant sexism and just let it go. Some things are simply never acceptable. That is just my opinion though, you are free to believe whatever makes you happy and helps you sleep at night.

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