Bitch Magazine recently named their list of 100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader. After a few dissenting comments and e-mails (the ol’ “the lurkers support me in e-mail!” argument), they yanked three books off the list for being inappropriate and triggering: Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan, Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce, and Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott.
Of those three, I’ve only read Scott’s book…and it’s gut-wrenchingly painful. I will not lie, it was like the literary equivalent of my three tattoo sessions, all packed into one. And I don’t regret reading it. To intimate that it didn’t have an appropriate feminist message is ridiculous. It is all about surviving in a male-oriented world when you are powerless, to the most brutal degree.
After a few days of commenting kerfuffles, and authors like Scott Westerfield (Uglies, Pretties) asking to be removed from the list out of outrage and solidarity, Bitch Executive Director Julie Falk responded, saying the books would stay off the list…and authors like Westerfield would stay on. “We don’t remove the books because we are asked; we remove or include them based on our judgment,” she explained in a comment on Feb. 2.
To which I say…what? I mean, there’s a giant head-shake from me on refusing to remove authors who explicitly requested it, but “We remove or include them based our judgment”? No, they removed based on others telling them what was in three of the 100 books on the list — inaccurately at that, since Sisters Red‘s content was initially judged based on a few excerpts posted on another blog.
Sure, members of the team rushed to reread the books and come to a decision… but what about the other 97? How do people know they don’t need to be reread and re-judged? I mean, why stop at Living Dead Girl and Sisters Red? Get rid of Speak, which wallows in the lead character’s depression and helplessness just like Scott’s book does. Get rid of The Hunger Games; it glorifies kids killing each other. I haven’t read most of the other 95, but I can bet there are things that could be called out in every single one. How can something “merit inclusion” if those reading Bitch’s list can’t trust that they actually know its merit?
Bitch could’ve saved themselves a lot of drama by simply making a well-informed list to begin with. Lanagan, Scott and Pearce could’ve been left off after internal discussion, and no one would know! Instead the parameters used to compile this Top 100 list were completely arbitrary, not everything was read with the same filter, and the books aren’t even on the same reading level…and there has been no acknowledgment of those flaws. It’d be like me making a list of Top 100 soap characters and slapping people on it from soaps I’ve never watched…just basing my “should be”s on other people’s say-so.
Dude, I abhor censorship and book banning with every fiber of my being… but poor research and back-pedaling…? Well, that just makes me get my bitch on!