Friday, August 05, 2005

RWA Conference Awards Controversy and the Bigger Picture

I didn't attend the RWA National Conference in Reno, didn't attend the Golden Heart and Rita Awards, and therefore all of my information on the brewing controversy is strictly second and third hand. For the best rundowns of the situation I've found, I suggest you look here and here.

However, I would like to address something that bothered me as I read over the various accounts of what sounds to be a perfectly awful awards ceremony, regardless of your political persuasion. And that's the vilification of conservative-leaning writers in the comments I read.

Granted, it sounds like someone used very poor judgment in setting up the award presentation, but I've seen terms thrown about such as "Reich Wing" (obviously to describe conservatives of any ilk) and "cabal"—with all its nefarious undertones—used to describe RWA members who have reservations about whether or not RWA's definition of romance should be so elastic as to include stories that are not traditionally considered romances (such as romances with multiple partners, sometimes at the same time).

At the risk of tarring myself with the Reich Wing cabal brush, I don't think that having reservations of that sort is wrong. At some point, an organization has to define itself to have any meaning at all, and sometimes, defining oneself means putting limitations on what's acceptable within the confines of the organization.

This doesn't mean I think romantica or even erotica should be censored (except where it causes explicit harm, such as pedophilia). It doesn't even mean that I have yet come down on one side or the other. All it means is that I don't find it unreasonable to question whether romantica and erotica should be defined as romance if they steps outside the traditional monogamous, happily-ending relationship.

It's not fascistic to think that way.

Nor do I think that people who have reservations about the inclusion of certain types of stories under the umbrella of "romance" should just shut up and sit down without expressing those opinions. Do we believe in free speech or not? Because if we do, then the so-called Reich Wingers have just as much a right to express their opinions and work to implement their ideas as people on the opposite side of the question, and calling them names for doing so is, in my opinion, childish and distinctly unhelpful in framing the debate.

We have some difficult issues to face in RWA over the coming months and years. I think we'd all do well to take a deep breath and listen to each others' perfectly reasonable concerns and stop the namecalling.

And that goes for people on both sides of the issues.

4 comments:

Shesawriter said...

Paula,

The key to these discussions is respect and consideration. Once the insults start flying, it's over.

Tanya

Paula said...

Exactly. I personally think that both sides have valid concerns, and calling the "other" side a bunch of (pick one) immoral hedonists or right wing fascist prudes isn't going to make solving the conflict any easier.

Dragging politics into the mix as some folks have is a bad mistake, too, because whatever you do you're going to alienate half the country (which roughly amounts to half your readership). Not a good idea.

Paula

Thieme said...

Paula, wonderful comments that capture exactly what I was thinking. I was at the ceremony, and I felt that it was not as politically gestapo as people are portraying it. There were things to offend and delight all sides of the political debate. It was unfortunate that the ceremony focused on things outside the romance industry, but I got no sense that there was an attempt on the part of the organizers to champion a particular cause or agenda. I have felt for a while that if one expresses conservative viewpoints, one is automatically branded as "intolerant." In my experience, intolerance has become a shared trait on both sides of the political spectrum. It's about ROMANCE, not agendas, and we need to remember that. Thanks for stating so.

Thieme

Suzanne said...

I'm hoping that the blame game will stop and people will focus on just making things better for the future, which is the only constructive issue at this point.