You are always on my mind...
Lots of stuff rattling around. I should really be blogging more, but whatever. Instead, some self digestion of discussions going on elsewhere re Neil Gaiman, the word "bitch", reactions, et.al. Anyway, there's a reason I haven't commented at Shakesville, and that reason is that I'm pretty conflicted and feeling generally conflict avoidant. That conflict starts with the fact that on the face of it, I must confess that I found the original George R.R. Martin is not your Bitch comment to be utterly hilarious. I read it, I loved it, pretty sure I tweeted about it, and generally did not think about the problematic aspects at all. It is exhausting to have to think about language all the time and I suspect that I probably twitched a little, but was so enamored with the pithiness and the sentiment that I didn't examine it further.
It also doesn't help that NG is one of those famous people who feels very...accessible to me. Part of that I suspect is the number of people I know who do actually know him and who interact with him regularly on a personal and professional level. One of my dearest friends is in a business partnership with him of a sort. I've written to him and been cited in his blog on legal issues. I've never actually met the man, having decided to spend time with my kid rather than stand in an hours long signing line on the Capital Mall, but I have that - almost certainly ridiculous - sense that if I were to have the opportunity to meet him in a situation where we could sit and chat on any sort of real level that he would be a dandy person to knock back a drink or two with. The fact that he's used language, or written the occasional piece, that may be problematic doesn't change that for the most part.
None of which means that I give him a free pass, either. Anymore than I give myself a free pass for occasionally slipping up and using ablest language or for not seeing the problematic aspects of using a prison rape metaphor to describe a work environment. Thing is, I don't expect perfection. But what I hope for is that people are willing to consider the implications of their speech and to think about the actual meanings of what they are saying. I have never been raped, but I still don't like rape metaphors. I don't cringe away from the word, but I do sometimes twinge at what I'm certain are deliberate plays on the double meaning in songs like Current 93's "Panzer Rune" or Death in June's "Behind the Rose"*. But I still listen to them and enjoy them and have a framed autographed poster from C93's first US shows ever in 1996 hanging on the wall of my home. And maybe that says something about me, but I'm not entirely sure what that is.
I think part of the reason why I feel compelled to get something down in pixels about this is that I get the impression from what some of the commenters who have "discovered" Shakesville via this issue have said and from Neil's own words, that there's a sense that there's a distinction between people who love and understand and "get" Neil and who read his blog and who appreciate his insight and who have spent long dark nights holding on to their last scraps of personal integrity through the power of his words to captivate them and feel less alone in the world, who turn to one or more of his works when they need something familiar, like a blanket or a fought for treasure, that can make you feel like those words were written just for them and those people who may like his work but who find the use of the word "bitch" problematic in the context in which he used it. Or that somehow, criticizing that turn of phrase means we didn't read and didn't understand the point of the GRRM post. And that's just not true. Some of us are absolutely one and the same.
I guess, really, what it comes down to is that enjoying someone's work is not necessarily the same as endorsing everything that person does. I can adore virtually every word I've read that Gaiman has written and still think he's fallible. Hell, I can think that an artist is absolutely scum of the earth in zir personal life and still appreciate that zie has great talent. The two are not mutually exclusive. The flip side is that there are definitely people who have done things that offend me so deeply that I cannot get beyond that to appreciate anything else they might do. There are businesses I will never buy from, individuals who people I know greatly respect who I will not give the time of day to because of things they've done or said and I am never going to judge anyone else for determining that something is unforgivable to them.
So what to do? Right now, I shall respect his request that people take the discussion elsewhere for the moment. But ultimately, I do want to write him, I think, and explain some of what I've ultimately been blathering about here - namely that this doesn't have to be about picking sides, and that no one expects perfection. What we hope for is to be understood and taken seriously when raising issues that are so entrenched and supported by our culture that even some of us who think ourselves highly conscious of such matters find it easy to gloss over or ignore.
*Should you desire evidence that I am prepared to indulge in a fondness for works by seriously problematic artists, well, there you have it in spades.
Jan. 22nd, 2010
You are always on my mind...