The Tale of Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Part II: Lies, Damn Lies, And Failing at Statistics
The Trouble With Heroes
Cracked: 5 Things Vigilantes Do to Screw Themselves (alternately: 5 Reason the Internet Always Prefers Revenge Over Justice)
Mikki Kendall (Karnythia): Some advice on anger & outrage from a former outrage junkie
Unwinnable: The Tyranny of the Fan by Stu Horvath
The ‘Loser Edit’ That Awaits Us All
On The Ethics of Targeting Others
Hot Allostatic Load by Porpentine Charity Heartscape — it’s about the author’s experience as a trans fem person who was painted as a predator and abuser in order to silence and isolate her. The playbook looks dishearteningly familiar.
By way of the page Anti-Racism media on Facebook: A massive list of sources on white privilege and systemic racism.
It’s been a bit, but I’ve had a couple of false starts, and what I’d originally planned to be the second part got moved behind this post when the Hugo Award nominations dropped this past weekend and Laura J. Mixon got the only non-canine nomination for Fan Writer. If you are able to vote for the Hugos, I strongly recommend voting No Award, and then Mixon above a Sad/Rabid Puppies candidate, because Mixon winning the Fan Writer award is still a travesty, but not as much as a Sad/Rabid Puppies nominee. As far as I’m concerned, Deirdre Saoirse Moen and/or James Nicoll should’ve been nominated for the category, or for Best Related Work, for their bringing the depth of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s crimes to light. (The fact that the shitstorm around Bee has overshadowed the revelations around MZB speaks volumes, for that matter.)
George R. R. Martin’s endorsement is, I suspect, what pushed it over the top, and it proved nothing so much as that Martin is deeply unaware of the longer history here, and followed the narrative Mixon presented as she presented it, without following any of it up or investigating the sources. If he had, he would have seen the deep, deep flaws that make it highly unreliable and functionally a hit piece. Furthermore, despite much talk within it of high-minded goals, the real fuel for Mixon’s blog post is the ire of a group of white women who were enraged — utterly furious — that a woman of color be rude to them and call them out for racism. To what degree Mixon was aware of that when she began, or has become aware of that since, I can’t say, but it has been patently obvious to me from the first day that I learned of this. Had Bee not angered these white women during her time running the Requires Only That You Hate blog, I do not believe that any of what happened last fall would have gone down.
The central thesis of Mixon’s blog post can be summed up thus:
The person who now publishes fiction under the pseudonym Benjanun Sriduangkaew (“Bee,” henceforth) was formerly known as the blogger Requires Only That You Hate, also known as A Cracked Moon/acrackedmoon, Winterfox, Pyrofennec, and a handful of other handles, is a serial abuser, a liar, and a sadist who enjoys causing pain and uses social justice rhetoric as a smokescreen. She and a core group of friends regularly identify targets and harass them until they leave a community or social media altogether, and they have a pattern that they follow. NB: the use of the present tense here is quite deliberate.
This is, to put it bluntly, bullshit.
Before we proceed further, I wish to say something unambiguously:
The point here is not to deny or erase the harm Bee has done. I firmly believe that accountability is critically important, as is providing a safe space, whether in public or in private, for the airing of grievances. However, Mixon’s work is not about that; it shows, quite unambiguously, how this process that should have happened was instead hijacked by people angry over being called out for bigotry.
To assert that criticizing the blog post is equivalent to denying or justifying Bee’s history of toxic language and behavior is to present a false dichotomy. While I do tackle specific incidents Mixon cites because her presentation of them is misleading (whether this was intentional on her part or not, I don’t know), and I do seek to contextualize some of the harmful things Bee actually did do, I do not exonerate Bee of all wrongdoing, and there are places in the text below where I specifically discuss places where she was unambiguously in the wrong.
The point is, we can acknowledge the harm she has done, and offer succor to those harmed, without having to enable or endorse the very real harm that Mixon et al.’s work — and the underlying dynamics of power and privilege — does not only to Bee but to other marginalized people. (More on this later.)
One additional note: this is based on the PDF of Mixon’s post which was uploaded to her blog after the high number of comments broke the site’s blog engine.
Mixon’s “report” (far too dignified a term, in my opinion) is, as I shall demonstrate here, nothing so much as a crowdsourced Zoe Post, and it is, I believe, one example in a series of attempts to excise the ugliness that pervades the SFF community by ritualistically draping an acceptable target in the community’s collective sins before sending them off into the wilderness. It is a frothy mixture with a veneer of objectivity and rationality, but, in truth, composed mostly of (a) regurgitations of grudge-motivated (that is, not actual harm-motivated, mind) blog posts dating back 3–4 years (which are, in turn, primarily motivated from incidents dating back even further), (b) conspiracy-theory bullshit of a couple of different grades, and (c) taking reviews she wrote as RH as if they were identical in nature, intent, and harm as the personally-directed attacks she actually did commit. It’s all the worse because Bee was genuinely a raging horrendous asshole who did a lot of damage and hurt a lot of people, but when the elements I list above are included in the list of her attacks, it devalues the real harm done, and it amplifies the voices of those who already have an audience and a megaphone over the voices of her actual victims. And, while Mixon does refer to some of those incidents in her blog post, there’s a disproportionate amount of focus on Bee’s calling out of homophobia, misogyny, racism, sexism, transphobia, cultural appropriation, and other manifestations of hegemonic power and thought (patriarchy, white supremacy, heteronormativity, and so on) and treating it as equivalent to, for example, her habit of attacking people as “illiterate fucks” or what-have-you when they had the wrong opinion (as far as she was concerned) on the LiveJournal community 50books_poc.
I also note that Mixon peppers her blog post with screenshots of Bee’s vitriolic language. One of those screenshots comes directly from the person who goes by creepalicious on Twitter and Roguey on RPGCodex (a breathtakingly toxic forum where, yes, Bee did post for some time), and who is Bee’s self-described stalker (henceforth “Creepo,” based on their Twitter name). Mixon’s blog post concedes “rumors” of a stalker, yet note that she posted her statement of solidarity and request for emails appears in the same megathread in James Nicoll’s LiveJournal as Creepo dropping some details about Bee. Furthermore, Creepo first publicly interacted with the people involved in 2012, by way of a comment on Liz Williams’ LiveJournal post made on August 1st of that year, in which they identified themselves as Bee’s e-stalker. This means that either Mixon was not engaging in due diligence, or she deliberately ignored Creepo’s behavior, self-description, and perhaps their very existence.
This is but the first example of the critically biased, sloppy nature of Mixon’s work.
Note that when I say biased, I mean that this blog post appears as if Mixon compiled it with a priori assumptions about where the evidence would go. The document’s structure reflects this: she exhaustively describes a very detailed picture of a terrifying, sadistic monster, a “serial abuser and harasser,” and does this in four different ways before providing any sort of meaningful information on her methods or data. And, when she does, many of her key terms remain undefined, such as “attack,” “abuse,” or “harassment,” which is of critical importance, since many of the examples in the “database” consist solely of vitriolic reviews (and sometimes not even vitriolic reviews, just reviews that said something either the author or a third party took issue with). Both of these leave her considerable rhetorical freedom both to build her thesis prior to presenting anything to back it up, and incorporate as much putative evidence as possible in order to provide as overwhelming a case as possible.
Furthermore, it was released on Friday, November 6th, 2014, the first day of the World Fantasy Convention of 2014, meaning that it would be the subject of much discussion at bars and such there before the target audience would have had a chance to dig through it in depth and follow up on it, reinforcing the narrative in the audience’s minds. With the con to deal with, how many of them would have the time to read through it and see past the superficial appearance of rigor and objectivity to grasp how unreliable and thin its support actually was?
[screenshot of an FFA poster gloating about Mixon’s timing, some months on]
Conveniently, Mixon lays out her principle allegations in bullet points. Let’s tackle those, shall we?
- She has been involved in efforts to suppress the publication of fiction and reviews for those works that in her sole opinion should not be published.
False. Not only that, but it flies in the face of how the publishing industry even works — there’s a reason that, when the Puppies accused the industry of blackballing and blacklisting, it was greeted with derisive laughter. Furthermore, for the above to have any meaning at all, it requires attributing enormous power to a single reviewer, allowing them to exert far-reaching influence over huge swathes of the publishing industry. A reviewer, I add, who was not reviewing for any large website, small website, or semiprozine, but running their own blog. She did have a substantial following, mind, but to suggest that her “inner circle” and/or her following could somehow wield power over the SFF world that perhaps only a handful of editors/publishers in the Golden Age might have actually had is ludicrous.
The closest one could come?
First example (and one blatantly misrepresented by Mixon): Bee pointed out how a story by Mary Robinette Kowal echoed some unfortunate racist tropes as well as non-racist issues (major racist tropes: the person of mixed heritage driven made by said mixed heritage, White Person’s Magic being the only thing to defeat indigenous magic; furthermore, some critical research and terminology failures yielded some nonsensical bits), which led to Kowal deciding to revise the story to address these criticisms, an event that the Mixon post lists in the Big Table of Victims as Bee having “pressured” Kowal “to revise manuscript and publicly apologize for writing about American Indian culture.” (And, as another example of the post’s sloppiness, this is listed as not having at least 2+ sources, when not only did Kowal blog about it herself, but Apex posted a note about Kowal’s revision.) Kowal’s blog post does not suggest that she felt “pressured” or “abused” that I can find, but that she regretted that she had dropped the ball so badly — not only were there issues due to her ignorance about the connotations of certain terms (e.g. “patois”), but the story had issues that she was disappointed with herself for missing.
And the thing is? That’s what this sort of criticism is supposed to accomplish. It’s supposed to help people for whom these issues aren’t things they struggle with every day. Help them be aware of the ten thousand microaggressions baked into our culture, our media, our baseline assumptions about the world that oppress subaltern groups. It’s not about guilt, it’s about understanding. Awareness. Empathy.
Another work specifically cited as one Bee allegedly worked to suppress is Tricia Sullivan’s novel Shadowboxer. This goes back to October of 2012, when Tricia Sullivan contacted Bee to ask her to look over a draft of that novel, because of it being set in Thailand and being heavily informed by Sullivan’s understanding of Thai culture. You can read the exchange here [NB: these were shared last November to provide additional context concerning the Shadowboxer component of this mess]. Very short version: Bee found it to suffer from the same problems of stereotype and exoticization that permeate works written by white Western writers about cultures they know mostly (if not only) from (a) guidebooks and (b) racist work written by preceding generations of white Western writers. Bee’s big email gets quite vitriolic, to the point that Bee ultimately apologized for the level of vitriol in her critique.
Fast forward to 2014, when Sullivan found herself deciding to publish the novel. Her reasons, as outlined in a comment on Mixon’s post (with my commentary between each quoted bullet point):
- Because my friends told me not to listen to RH. They picked apart her criticisms and compared them to my actual work and showed me several instances of false logic that, in my self-flagellation, I couldn’t see. Even my friends who had issues with the draft that RH criticized told me that I shouldn’t feel I had to pull it from publication.
Or, more concisely, whitesplaining.
- Because I needed the money. Really. And I didn’t make a lot of money, but I really needed it.
Come to think of it, that Sullivan typed out the above bullet point and posted it to the Internet (where one can reasonably expect it will never be forgotten) does go a long way to support Sullivan’s statement (elsewhere in the same comment) that she doesn’t really think about what she posts, just puts her head down, lets the words flow, hits post, and damn the torpedoes.
- Because I was writing another novel, the SF novel that I just sold, and I realized that if I stayed completely out of cultures where I was an outsider, I couldn’t write that novel, either. I might as well throw in the towel and do something else.
Didn’t fandom have a colossal thing about this back in 2009?
- Because another Thai reader helped me work on the stereotypes
And, yet, the novel hits every three out of the four primary Western clichés about Thailand:
- Muay Thai (obviously);
- Kathooey (and there are two major problems in the book’s handling thereof: one, kathooey are consistently referred to as “ladyboys” throughout the novel; while the terms “kathooey” and “ladyboy” are used interchangeably in Southeast Asia, “ladyboy” in the West is used primarily in a porn context, alongside terms like “sh*male and “tr*nny.” Two, kathooey are treated as being equivalent to Western binary trans women, which they’re not. Moreover, the book is preoccupied with the bodies of trans women in a very cisnormative, even cissexist way, and the kathooey character’s emotional journey likewise falls afoul of cisnormativism.)
- Prostitution (child prostitution, at that — although, fortunately, only mentioned in passing rather than being central to the plot)
The only thing missing is described in this painful essay by Sunisa Nardone (emphasis my own):
For anyone from the global fringe, the flattening expectation created by a cultural stereotype is pervasive and familiar. There is, of course, a single story of Thailand. It is what my parents confronted in the hotel [when Nardone’s mother was assumed to be a prostitute — AB], the stereotype of the foreign man seeking a Thai woman. People unfamiliar with the country won’t know that shorthand for a wife who is twenty years her foreign husband’s junior, who speaks broken English, who is from the countryside, who may have met her husband while working at a “bar” — that woman is called a “Thai wife.”
Bangkok bookstores are full of this reductive narrative. On my last trip home I stood in front of the bookshelf for “Thai literature”, a category that mostly consists of crime thrillers written by white men capitalizing on the little they know about the Thailand. The books are formulaic: white male meets Thai female in the exotic Kingdom, land of smiles. They fall in love. She is sweeter, kinder, and easier to please than any foreign woman he has been with. The myth of the exotic Asian female is upheld. Then he finds he’s been duped: his Thai wife, who is inevitably from a poor family in the country, turns out to be in it for his money. Interwoven with tales of drug users, gang members, Muay Thai fighters, and monks, and the story is a predictable series of plot twists with the white male hero struggling to navigate a country more frightening and less friendly than it initially appeared.
Shadowboxer, being a YA fantasy novel, leaves out the more sordid elements highlighted above, but instead replaces them with cartoonish portrayals of Thai mythology and religion, complete with a Magical Negro Asian. (Yes, it’s a Wikipedia link. Go read the references and external links if need be.)
- Because I looked again and made all the revisions that I could
And how is that different from any other novel? Isn’t that what the editing stage is about?
So, with Sullivan’s reasons for moving forward with Shadowboxer laid out above, let’s talk about this alleged suppression effort.
Alex Dally MacFarlane wrote about this on her blog, in response to the allegations in Mixon’s blog post.
I’m going to add to that.
You might also ask yourself what possible interest I would have in injuring a vulnerable young writer. Especially when I have recommended that writer. Especially when that writer and I have barely ever interacted — and then, only momentarily and with courtesy on twitter. At least, this is the case according to them and the name that they use. I have certainly interacted with this person under another alias.
If a person tells you that my work is this or is that you might ask how it is they know this when they haven’t had the opportunity to read it yet — according to the story they tell about their own identity, at any rate.
A person may be completely disinterested in social justice; they may indeed be using that platform simply to advance their own ego — there’s no crime in this. But they may also be using a platform to cause trouble and harm. They may be lovely to your face but not so lovely behind your back.
I don’t have an issue with a person having a history in which they wrote politically-charged diatribes of whatever stripe. …
… When that same person used their connections to bully and ostracize a close friend of mine, and when that person’s associate behaved in a transparently racist way towards my friend, I informed my publisher of the identities of the people involved (both of them new professional writers) in strict confidence. I also informed one of the editors to whom I’d recommended them — I haven’t had a chance to speak to the other yet, but as I don’t think he’s commissioning right now it’s less of an issue. I did this because I do not want to be seen to condone these young writers’ behaviour in any way — I recommended them, after all, and they turned out to be a poor choice of recommendation. And I want to put my colleagues on their guard that one of them may in fact be utterly two-faced and that the other has behaved in a racist, bullying manner. I do not take this sort of thing lightly.
… I have kept quiet about this is because the last thing anybody needs is another shitstorm where a lot of people get hurt unnecessarily. But I will not stand by and do nothing when an individual and at least one of their supporters attacks people (like my friend) who are genuinely working hard and making sacrifices to bring diversity and mutual understanding to our field. And I will not stand by and do nothing when my own reputation is attacked. It is my understanding that this is what is now happening.
… I have not stated this person’s name publicly only because it was given to me in confidence by my friend who is vulnerable. If she chooses not to release the name, it is not my place to do so.
The above bits I’ve bolded? They show that Sullivan:
- Specifically contacted editors to discourage them from buying stories from either Bee Sriduangkaew or Alex Dally MacFarlane (and for reasons unrelated to their ability to either meet a deadline or write a good story)
- Also intended to put other authors “on their guard” — i.e., make them suspicious
- Alludes to the unnamed person having written “politically-charged diatribes” (a hint about the identity of the person she’s alluding to)
- Implies that Bee only cared about social justice as a tool to hurt people (more on that later)
- Acknowledges in the post that this will foment another “shitstorm”
- Clearly implies that she expects Bee to attempt a campaign of some kind of against Shadowboxer (thus answering her question “what possible interest [she] would have in injuring a vulnerable young writer” — better to silence someone who might warn potential readers off the book, and whose voice Sullivan feared would be heeded and signal-boosted)
- Received the name of the “person” from the “friend”
Mixon cites that blog post in her “database” as the basis for including Sullivan, although Sullivan writes, in the same comment as what I quoted above about Shadowboxer, that “[she had] known about the RH/BS connection [her]self since almost the beginning,” and that she “inadvertently implicated Rochita.” Yet everything else about both “Toxicity and Me” and the rest of the comment on Mixon only make sense if the “person” she’s accusing is Bee, the “associate” she’s accusing is MacFarlane, and the “friend” is Rochita — and what seems to have motivated this outburst is fear of Bee posting a negative review or bad word of mouth about Shadowboxer and thus potentially hurting sales. From “Toxicity and Me”:
If a person tells you that my work is this or is that you might ask how it is they know this when they haven’t had the opportunity to read it yet — according to the story they tell about their own identity, at any rate.
As discussed above, Bee reviewed the Shadowboxer manuscript in 2012. The timing of the rumor campaign — and make no mistake, there was a rumor campaign about Bee’s identity, despite protestations to the contrary (and Rochita was, in fact, catching grief over it — Pat Cadigan admits to pressuring her first in private and then in public to tell what she knows) — up to and including Sullivan’s post all seem about keeping Bee on her back foot so that she wouldn’t be able to do whatever nefarious things Sullivan and, most likely, Liz Williams were imagining. This rumor campaign, mind, had been building up steam for months before Sullivan’s blog post.
Examples: Caitlín R. Kiernan posts about it to Facebook in August 2014 (since either deleted or hidden, just as she edited her LJ post on the same subject to remove mention of knowing that Bee was RH):
And discussion between Kiernan and Williams in the comments involving “strategy” and obvious gloating:
Nick Mamatas’ public outing on Ello, three days after Sullivan’s post, was intended to take that steam out. It … didn’t really work very well, of course, as we can see now.
But did Bee actually have any intention of doing any such thing?
The answer is no.
Nor did she pressure Rochita to write a negative review.
Before we go any further, let’s be perfectly clear about something:
A person of color calling out a white person for racism of any kind — leaning on racist tropes, intentionally or unintentionally using racial or ethnic slurs (even if they were unaware that they were slurs), or engaging in any number of microaggressions — is always taking a risk in doing so. I’ve stated before — including in this very post — that this is about silencing and isolating Bee as punishment for calling out white women on racism, and now I’m going to provide an example of exactly that.
I’ve seen some responses to my statements criticizing me because of my entry point; specifically, Caitlín R. Kiernan’s statement:
“… I can’t help but hope that the exposure of Sriduangkaew as such a profoundly petty, hateful, hypocritical individual puts a nail in the coffin of her nascent career. … In a just world, no editor would dare touch her, for fear of guilt by association. Fair is fair.” (archive link)
What was the source of Kiernan’s ire?
… And yesterday, on Twitter, I “learned” that Silk is a “racist” novel*, which I suppose would make me, by extension, a racist. Were it true. Actually, the person (no names will be named) who started this didn’t come right out and say that Silk was racist. They said “…which reminds me that the one novel of hers I did read was racist, lol.”
… The novel is labeled racist because a Caucasian girl looks at a Vietnamese girl and envies her, thinking of her as exotic, and because that same Vietnamese girl, who’s never been to her home country, thinks of stamps from Vietnam as “exotic.” …
… [H]ere’s a dictionary definition of exotic: Intriguingly unusual or different; excitingly strange.…
I will also point out that the individual who considers Silk racist also made statements like “goddamn 99% of white people should break their keyboards and their hands period unless they promise only to write about whites.” No, truly. I’m not making this up. “jesus white people really can’t write China for shit. or Thailand either.” And “white people writing fantasy China give me the creeps.” Okay, so. If I am of whichever many, many Caucasian lineages (many of which readily qualify as people of color), I should never, ever write Thai or Chinese characters, unless I want my hands and keyboard broken. Because, by this person’s estimation, in so doing, I shall inevitably commit “racefail.” Does this mean they advocate torture and censorship? I don’t know, but it wouldn’t be an outlandish conclusion to draw, based on their comments. Should Caucasian Americans never write about any other people in any other country? Or an American member of a race other than one’s own?**** Is that forbidden?
Flashback to an old episode of M*A*S*H, and something Hawkeye says about the McCarthy trials (“Are You Now, Margaret”): “Testify before the committee? You’ve read about the committee. They make it very simple for you. You can either hang yourself or your friends. Or both. Whatever you do, just showing up can cost you your career.” To me, these lines are eerily prescient of our current situation with the self-appointed guardians who decry cultural appropriation, “racefail,” sexism, homophobia, etc. over…well, for example…one word in a rather long novel. People who would have one race never speak of another. And so forth. Don’t agree? You can stay quiet and be branded. Or you can speak out and be branded.
… We’re talking about one word, used positively to describe a character I care for deeply. That’s how bad this mess is. We’re talking about nitwits who think writers are better off breaking their hands and keyboards. And the truth is that it is those people who have failed, to understand art, to understand the process of art, and even to understand the nature of the struggle for equality in this and all nations, for “whites” and all other races.
… This is my fight, too, as a transsexual and a lesbian and someone who struggles daily with mental illness and as an artist. And I will not stand by quietly and watch it made a mockery of by idiots who cannot tell the difference between the “good guys” and the “bad,” between literary criticism and shrill screeds (of 142 characters).
Jesus Harold Christ.
Sorry, it’s been a bit since the last time I read that, and I’d forgotten just how shockingly ignorant, privilege-blind, and willfully obtuse it was.
Silk was Kiernan’s first published novel (originally published in 1998, revised in 2008 — I don’t know, off the top of my head, which version Bee reviewed, but Kiernan quotes the 2008 version in her own post — but, either way, let’s remember that, given the author’s age and background, she would’ve had things like Long Duk Dong from “Sixteen Candles” lurking in her mental background. That is, like pretty much anyone who grows up in America, especially people above a certain age, grew up with deeply racist shit in the background radiation of their lives, while being told that racism ended in the 1960s with things like the Voting Rights Act.
All of us grow up being taught bigoted beliefs, thoughts, expressions, and so much more, and with bigotry so deeply embedded and so sharply contrasted with overt, unambiguous race hatred that we fail to recognize it for what it is. When we unintentionally express a bigoted idea? It’s an inevitable result of the power structure into which we were assimilated, and the only shame is in refusing to accept that one has done so, in refusing to learn to do better.
Kiernan could have maybe thought about why the term “exotic” is offensive even when used positively. She could have not leaned on a fucking dictionary definition to try to defend her use of that same word. She could have taken five fucking minutes to do a bit of Googling to maybe try to understand where Bee was coming from.
But she didn’t.
And this is far from a isolated incident example of Kiernan racefailing hard. (Note: I found these by looking through tags on CRK’s LJ; more on that below.)
- May 14th, 2012 (archive link): Kiernan blames Black people for North Carolina’s Amendment 1 passing: “Or, worse still, the crazy shit black pastors are saying to defend the role they played in getting North Carolina’s Amendment 1 passed and to justify their outrage at the President. For example, have a look at this article on the aforementioned CNN: ‘Is the Black Church Guilty of Spiritual Hypocrisy in Same-Sex Marriage Debate?’ (I fixed the capitalization in the headline). The answer is ‘Fuck, yeah. Are you an idiot?’” (For those who may not be familiar with it, Amendment 1 was the amendment to North Carolina’s state constitution defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. It was struck down in October 2014. Blaming its passing on Black Christians is as racist and detached from reality as blaming California’s passage of Proposition 8 (a similar message) in 2008 on minorities who came out to vote for Obama — which was also a thing that happened. (My better half and I cut off a long-standing friendship because of said former friend blaming doing precisely that.) In Durham County, where Black people and whites are represented in roughly equal proportions — about 45% of the population — Amendment 1 was voted against by a two-to-one ratio. The reality is that the measure passed because of conservative rural voters — and rural counties are more white than urban counties, not less.)
- July 8th, 2012 (archive link): Kiernan sees some people pointing out something potentially problematic in a PSA, and goes on an extended hyperbolic, whitesplaining rant that descends into language that approaches “looking to be offended” and ends with questioning the sanity of the people she’s ranting about.
- Minor case: July 18th, 2012 (): Entry is titled “Girls Who Whine About Cultural Appropriation and the Boys Who Love Them.” (bolding mine) Also, while she doesn’t make mention of it, the person who she says she had to restrain herself from assaulting was a woman of color.
- July 24th, 2013 (archive link): in which she rants about tribalism, which she appears to equate with people wanting their identities recognized and validated, as far as I can tell.
- November 10th, 2014 (archive link): Kiernan puts in her two cents about last fall’s discussion (specifically, because the larger debate has been going on for years) of the World Fantasy Award being the head of HPL. She stated that her feelings are “mixed,” but the only substantive comment she made was to quote China Miéville: “I think Lovecraft is an astonishing visionary writer.” However, she linked to the interview in which Miéville made the comment, and, if one follows the link, one finds the full quote: “I think Lovecraft is an astonishing visionary writer, and the source of his vision, in many cases, is race hatred.” Which … says something rather more scathing than what Kiernan apparently decided she wanted to hear. And, if I may be so bold, declaring her feelings “mixed” is, in and of itself, problematic; have a look at what Dr. Nnedi Okorafor had to say about him, including the poem she was shown.
Oh, and as a bonus, she really hates trigger warnings, and did so well before it was a thing to hate on among certain circles, like some sort of asshole version of a hipster. Some examples:
The gist of them, if you don’t want to bother clicking on them or risk reading them, is that, hey, being triggered was good for her and helped her get over her some of her trauma, and so therefore people SHOULD be triggered. Because it’d be good for them.
In response, I quote Scott Alexander’s response to this idea from his superb essay The Wonderful Thing About Triggers:
They say that “Confronting triggers, not avoiding them, is the best way to overcome PTSD”. They point out that “exposure therapy” is the best treatment for trauma survivors, including rape victims. And that this involves reliving the trauma and exposing yourself to traumatic stimuli, exactly what trigger warnings are intended to prevent. All this is true. But I feel like they are missing a very important point.
YOU DO NOT GIVE PSYCHOTHERAPY TO PEOPLE WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT.
Psychotherapists treat arachnophobia with exposure therapy, too. They expose people first to cute, little spiders behind a glass cage. Then bigger spiders. Then they take them out of the cage. Finally, in a carefully controlled environment with their very supportive therapist standing by, they make people experience their worst fear, like having a big tarantula crawl all over them. It usually works pretty well.
Finding an arachnophobic person, and throwing a bucket full of tarantulas at them while shouting “I’M HELPING! I’M HELPING!” works less well.
And this seems to be the arachnophobe’s equivalent of the PTSD “advice” in the Pacific Standard. There are two problems with its approach. The first is that it avoids the carefully controlled, anxiety-minimizing setup of psychotherapy.
The second is that YOU DO NOT GIVE PSYCHOTHERAPY TO PEOPLE WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT.
If a person with post-traumatic stress disorder or some other trigger-related problem doesn’t want psychotherapy, then even as a trained psychiatrist I am forbidden to override that decision unless they become an immediate danger to themselves or others.
Oh, and above, where I mentioned using her LJ tags to locate the example posts I’ve linked? Well, I went there looking for an entirely different racially-loaded, problematic sort of rant of which she’d repeat a variation on a regular basis, before I and my SO stopped following her on LJ (and, in fact, were why we stopped following her and stopped buying her books). These were posts in which she blamed developing nations and their carbon dioxide footprints for hastening the apocalypse — i.e., in trying to achieve something like the standard of living in the developed the world, they were dooming the planet, implying that they should be content with not developing and leave the white people alone to enjoy wealth.
So all of this is to establish a couple of things:
- Over and above it being in no way acceptable for a white person to condescendingly explain to a person of color that something isn’t racist, Kiernan’s history shows very little evidence of awareness of racial issues. On the contrary, her defensiveness of Lovecraft is typical of white fragility: note that she takes the description of Silk as racist to be, indirectly, accusing her of being a racist, and, similarly, her post about the World Fantasy Award seems to be typical of the belief that if one admits to Lovecraft’s vehement, vocal racism being not only a major part of his person but underlying much of his fiction, that admission will, in turn, imply that one is a racist for enjoying it. (Never mind that HPL’s opinions on race were indistinguishable from Hitler’s.)
- Kiernan appears to be dismissive of the pain others experience that are not echoed within her own, personal experience, and shows little respect for perspectives that, in particular, call for artists to be respectful of their audience and what may be actively harmful to the audience. When Rafael Albuquerque asked DC to pull the Batgirl Vol. 4 #41 variant cover because the people who’d been critical of the cover had been getting death threats from GGers, her response was to make the image her Facebook cover photo (archive link) and call criticism of the cover “censorship.” (Mind, the criticism was happening because the image was wildly inappropriate for the audience Batgirl vol. 4 is aimed at, and extremely at odds with the portrayal of the title character therein — a tribute to The Killing Joke has no place in a comic book about an awesome, badass, independent Batgirl aimed at pre-teen and teenage girls.) A quote attributed to both Banksy and Cesar A. Cruz is, “art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” (Cruz wrote a poem titled with the phrase in 1997, but without the “art should” part: “To Comfort the Disturbed and Disturb the Comfortable: Onward children of the sun”; it can be read here. Both versions, in turn, riff on something Finley Peter Dunne once said about the institution of the newspaper.) Kiernan is fiercely protective of the “disturb the comfortable” part, calling any attempt to moderate such censorship, and shows no sign of ever having cared about the “comfort the disturbed” part that I can see.
Taken together, along with her stated desire for Bee’s career to crash and burn, these items do not present the picture of a victim. This is someone who shows no sign of sympathy for when words or art might cause actual, real harm to people — not “disturbing the comfortable,” but, for example, retriggering those who are already traumatized, or echoing and reinforcing hegemonic structures that tell women they are powerless, that tell people of color they are other — and who protects the privilege she does have, using it to punish a person of color for pointing out how endemic racism had informed her work.
And here’s the kicker. The original cover art for Silk:
Yep, that’s a dreamcatcher on the cover. And a dreamcatcher figures into the plot in a big way. Kiernan may be aware that it’s cultural appropriation to do so, but given the post I mentioned above, she may not care about it any more than some other white people I could name.
Yet she’s the one whose voice is boosted. She’s the one who is called victim. Why? White privilege, of course.
All of which is to demonstrate what I said at the beginning of this digression about Kiernan: it is always dangerous for an oppressed person to call out a person who is privileged on that same axis of power — be it a person of color calling out a white person for racism, a woman calling out a man for sexism, a trans person calling out a cis person for transphobia/cissexism, et cetera — because social power structures support and encourage retribution, in order to continue oppression, rather than understanding or learning. This is even more true when the person being called out is surrounded by a group of similarly privileged friends who are likewise socialized to protect systemic privilege by punishing subaltern who are insufficiently deferential and courteous. The first place Kiernan discussed Bee’s criticisms? Her own LiveJournal, where she controls the discourse absolutely, and has a ready-made cheering section to echo and affirm her own biases. And the actions of Mixon et al. have been an exercise in precisely this, in punishing a marginalized person for (among other things) calling out the privileged on racism, homophobia, and misogyny, for uncritically repeating tropes and themes that reinforce rape culture and hetero/cisnormativity.
Now, one more note, before we proceed to the next part. I want to make something clear: I thought long and hard about releasing the information in the next bit. The continuation of the campaign to silence and isolate Bee ultimately decided the matter for me, in particular such matters as the just-asking-questions-style insinuations that Bee might hire people to physically attack her critics (uh, no, why should anyone even have to type this? — and these insinuations date back to Liz Williams making them in 2012), Mixon and Rachel Manija Brown portraying Mixon as analogous to the women who’ve stood up against GG even while their foundation has more in common with the Zoe Post than anything the people standing up against GG have produced, and Rochita’s own protestations about “speaking truth.” Time for some sunlight, then.
The reality is, MacFarlane’s criticisms of Shadowboxer were partially on Bee’s behalf, because Bee would not break Requires Hate’s silence, for reasons that should now be manifestly clear. Rochita pressured her to do so anyway, as the email screenshots presented below reveal. (There is a third party on these emails, but I’ve obscured their identity because I’m not going to drag them into this mess without their consent — at least, not any farther than they have been — even if I’ve been less than impressed with their silence.)
No, Bee neither conducted nor contributed to any effort to “suppress” Shadowboxer — on the contrary, she specifically refused to do so, explicitly because, once again, it is dangerous for persons of color to call out a white person for racism, especially when the person being called out has both systemic and professional power over them. I’m not going to speculate on why Rochita’s public story is so at odds with what actually happened, but if one considers the power dynamics — exemplified in the success (particularly in the short term) in Mixon et al.’s efforts to silence and shun Bee — the answers become rather obvious.
- She and her associates have pressured con-runners to disinvite speakers from panels and readings, constraining their ability to do business.
Note the weasel-word pluralization there — the only person this story matches up with is Athena Andreadis, who was puzzled by her not being invited to participate in ReaderCon 2014 the same way she was in 2013. Rose Fox contacted Mixon to correct the record on this — Bee had nothing to do with this. (Note how Rose Fox describes Mixon’s response — Mixon for some reason finds Andreadis’ conspiracy theory more plausible than the ReaderCon runners simply deciding not to re-invite Andreadis.)
To understand why Andreadis was not invited to ReaderCon 2014, we turn to a panel she led at ReaderCon 2013, one which was opened by a talk she gave. The title of the panel was Women’s Bodies, Women’s Power. The description:
Athena Andreadis (leader), Alex Dally MacFarlane, Kate Nepveu, Vandana Singh, Sabrina Vourvoulias. In many times and places, cisgender girls and women have been evaluated by their bodies, including their choice of dress, sexual behavior, virginity, and fertility. Juxtaposed with this are the mystification and taboos surrounding menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. This outlook has migrated wholesale into speculative literature. It’s still standard fare in fantasy for women to lose (or be thought to lose) any extranormal powers they possess when they first have penetrative sex, menstruate, or become pregnant, from André Norton’s Witchworld adepts to Zamia in Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon. Athena Andreadis will explore the tropes and assumptions around this issue, including variants applied to trans* and non-binary characters. [bold added]
And here’s some comments some comments that were shared with me (the source asked to remain anonymous):
Andreadis organized and moderated a panel on tropes such as “menstruation = loss of magical power” in SFF, positioning it as a sexist issue, which it is, but it also requires a certain nuance re: trans and non-binary people. Andreadis did not bring that to the table. The panel throughout was very cis-centric in language, including Andreadis’ 15-minute talk at the beginning.
1) Andreadis (who self-identifies as a [cis] woman) talking about how, well, she doesn’t really understand what it means to be a “woman” — that wonderful thing cis women do where they erase trans and non-binary people’s oft-painful (un)certainties about gender by talking about uncertainties that don’t stop them IDing as cis women, as if it’s all the same
2) after an audience member asked for definitions of “cis” and “trans” (which was answered by a non-cis panelist) Andreadis went off on a tangent about how cis and trans receptors, wow, aren’t words interesting?
such relevance, many interesting, wOW
tl;dr it was very uncomfortable and unpleasant and Andreadis’ attitude was very indicative that she only “cared” about non-cis perspectives for the cookies.
This, it is quite apparent that Andreadis’ panel was, despite the bit about trans people at the end there, operating from a fundamentally cissexist, biological-essentialist, trans-erasing perspective, and it seems quite reasonable to believe that the con staff were not comfortable with re-inviting her in that light.
The source for the allegations about Andreadis? Andreadis herself, as her blog post reveals (archive link). Andreadis had not been invited back for ReaderCon 2014 after her 2013 panel, and she was having trouble selling fiction, and so, somehow, she convinced herself that Bee was behind it. Somehow. She began outing Bee as RH in one-on-one communications, well in advance of , and it came as a surprise to Bee, as she mentioned in this email to Nick Mamatas:
Note that Andreadis appears to also blame Bee, by implication, for the difficulty she’s had in selling her short fiction (her supposition that Bee had contacted other editors).
I tried reading some of the stories she did sell.
I think there is a much more plausible explanation for Andreadis’ failure to sell much of her fiction.
And that doesn’t even touch on the other issues in her rant, such as using her time running a lab as the basis for an Internet diagnosis, which rather than convincing me that Bee has any sort of personality disorders, suggests that Andreadis may not have been a very pleasant person to work for. Though perhaps her perspective was less self-centered back then, and it’s only after leaving that job that she’s begun imagining conspiracies.
Though the lack of self-awareness? That’s anyone’s guess.
- She routinely accuses people of doing the very harm to her that she is in fact doing to them — of stalking, threatening, and harassing — when they have done nothing except try to get as far away from her as they can.
Mixon is implying that Bee is engaging in DARVO (Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender) — this is not true, for a few reasons. One of the chief ones is that the people who’ve been stalking, attacking, and/or harassing Bee — e.g. James Worrad, Liz Williams, Creepalicious/Roguey, Ann Somerville, various people at FFA — have not, as a rule, been people who’ve been on the receiving end of her shitty behavior (despite their illusions otherwise).
Furthermore, much of what Mixon portrays as “stalking, threatening, and harassing” was frequently “tweeting without using mentions in conversations with friends” or “responding to them showing up in her mentions/on her blog comments.” It also fails to account for Bee having entered these fannish spaces because she was a fan, and how that means one is likely going to keep running into the same people. After I started hanging out on Twitter, I encountered — pretty much randomly — people I’d known from the Highlander fandom twenty years ago, and the Gargoyles fandom from not much later than that. Fannish circles are like that.
And, lastly, some of the people with whom she does have a history have, themselves, condoned or actively engaged in harassment and stalking against her. Laughably, Mixon states on her May 1st blog post (archive link) “I have no desire to see her receive the same treatment she’s meted out for so long; not from GamerGaters, Vox Day, PuppyGaters, her own stalkers, nor anyone else.” And yet she fails to acknowledge that her own sources are included in that number — including Creepo. (Well, at least she finally concedes that Bee has stalkers.) Also Mixon dismissed Bee’s rape threat as invented in her February 2015 blog post (archive link), apparently because Bee suspected it of having come from a poster or lurker at FFA.
Also, the fact that Bee has spoken up about the attacks against her has in and of itself been a source of criticism against her (archive link). That sounds an awful lot like when GGers say that women who receive threats shouldn’t speak up about them.
- At least one of her targets was goaded into a suicide attempt.
Alright, let’s talk about this. The person in question has talked before about how she’d rather not have this brought up again and again, but Mixon et al. keep bringing it up, so I don’t really have a choice here.
First, note the weasel wording “at least one.” This is to imply that more than one person attempted suicide after interacting with Bee, and, furthermore, there’s the word “goad.” This is to allege that the suicide attempt was Bee’s explicit goal for the interaction, and that her statements were calculated to achieve that outcome.
We shall see that this is untrue, and to believe that it is true would require that Bee have some sort of superhuman understanding of psychology and a specific person’s triggers.
May 24th, 2012: Cat Valente makes a post on her blog about her love for the British Isles, and how it’s rooted in the fantasy fiction, mythology, and folklore she grew up with. Kari Sperring, a woman from Wales, took exception to it, feeling that Valente’s post reduced the United Kingdom to a “theme park,” and that such made her uncomfortable. Sperring elaborates further in a second comment, which is the one to which Bee replied. The substance of her complaint is that, to her, the British Isles are generally reduced to either (a) “the myths and mysteries” or (b) “the root of all modern evil, because of the empire.” And that, because of her accent, these are laid at her feet, which she feels is both unkind and unfair, and is comparable to how Valente is treated in the UK.
That may be true, as far as it goes, but Bee points out that any such things happening to British culture(s) are dwarfed by how the British Empire, and Western imperialism and colonialism in general, have been doing the same to non-white cultures for centuries, and it continues to this day, erasing and drowning out those cultures’ own voices. The conversation continued on Twitter later on (screenshot below), and it was this latter conversation that Sperring later declared to have been the proximate cause of her subsequent attempt to overdose.
Read those exchanges, and if you can figure out how they could have possibly been “goading” into a suicide attempt, I’d love to hear it. They were civil, albeit rather blunt, and certainly didn’t constitute an attack. In fact, the other responses to Kari’s comments are considerably more caustic — see, for example, Cat Valente’s husband’s reply. I don’t know why Sperring pointed to that Twitter conversation as the trigger; it may well have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, but it’s difficult to look at it either in isolation or in conjunction with the exchange on Valente’s LJ and comprehend how those two, in and of themselves, could be construed as “goad[ing] into a suicide attempt.”
I also note that a few weeks later, Sperring posted a cultural imperialism bingo card to her LJ (archive link), and acknowledged Bee as one of the sources, so perhaps she’d also learned something from that exchange. Also, after Bee learned of Sperring’s attempted suicide, she contacted her, with Aliette de Bodard acting as an intermediary in order to make a sincere and detailed apology. (Also note that Sperring was “deeply unhappy with Liz Williams … for forcing her hand.”)
- She has issued extremely explicit death, rape, and maiming threats against a wide variety of people across the color, gender, sexual orientation, and dis/ability spectrum.
The only thing even approaching a rape threat that was verifiably posted by her was a post on RPGCodex in which she responded to another poster who’d been dismissing the seriousness rape by calling for his rape in a manner that was clearly not intended as a genuine threat. (I’m not ignoring the “dog rape” allegation — just that I’ve already discussed why it’s bunk. And note that my points aren’t based on some preconceived notions about guilt or innocence, but on the details of the allegation itself.)
As for the rest? They were in the same rhetorical space as “nuke it from orbit” or “die in a fire” — distasteful, rude, and the kind of thing Internet rhetoric should generally be getting away from, but not actual threats. If you want to know what actual threats, rather than angry, vitriolic rhetoric, look like? All of the trigger warnings: what Anita Sarkeesian gets on a weekly basis, or how about a sample of what Bee receives?
What Bee was doing was clearly facetious rhetoric, either with friends or in reviews and comments, as a way of expressing rage and hurt over the many ways SFF either ignores or condones racist behavior and racist tropes, or in response to people showing up in her @ mentions or her blog comments to challenge her on behalf of Oppressed White People. Compare that to the above, where it addresses the subject directly in the second person, public visibility is unimportant to the person sending the threat (and, as we see above, something they actively seek to avoid — those were sent by anonymous Tumblr asks and by anonymous email).
It’s also worth noting, again, that rape — its appearance without trigger warnings, its use as a plot device, encoding rape culture ideas and tropes in fiction (intentionally or not), people dismissing its gravity or trauma, or any number of other things that may be rape apologism or what-have-you — has long been a rage trigger for her. This anger shows up in the reviews of Cindy Pon’s Silver Phoenix and Fury of the Phoenix she posted (see below), for examples; alleging that she made rape threats (aside from the ill-considered post at RPGCodex, which, as I said, was in response to someone dismissing the trauma inflicted by rape, and is also typical of the forum’s culture) is an extraordinary claim that would require extensive evidence to be plausible. The only thing even close to the alleged “dog rape” incident was another screenshot from RPGCodex (again, one provided by Creepo), wherein she told someone to “go suck a dog’s dick.” Vile by most standards, but, again unremarkable on RPGCodex.
- She and her supporters argue that she punches up, but the truth is that she punches in all directions. The bulk of her targets — despite her progressively-slanted rhetoric — have been women, people of color, and other marginalized or vulnerable people.
Ah, yes. Here we come to Mixon’s self-described “statistical” analysis.
Mixon clearly knows how to use Excel (the little arrow on her tables is a telltale) and what a proportion is, but any expertise she has re: demographics is from the school of Dunning-Kruger. She gives the appearance of rigor, but her utter lack of knowledge in how to analyze this sort of data is laid bare in a number of ways. (And I’m extending the benefit of a doubt to assume incompetence rather than malice.)
The first example? Her comparison group to “prove” that Bee disproportionately targeted people of color is children’s book writers, a group so disproportionately white (in both authors and protagonists — and protagonists are also disproportionately male, for that matter) that Lee and Low Books is launching a diversity survey that a number of other publishers, as well as a review journals have already committed to.
The reason she gives?
They were the only one she could find stats on.
In 2012, LiveJournal’s English-language user base was biased towards women; of those who specified gender in their profiles, 55% were women, 45% were men (20% did not identify). Moreover, my experience with LJ communities like 50books_poc is that they skew towards women, particularly women of color, more so than LJ in general, let alone the general population. Choosing children’s lit, which is profoundly disproportionately white compared to the general population, let alone the demographics one might expect for either most of the forums/platforms Bee was active on or the subpopulation of SFF with which the RH blog was focused — that is, populations in which subaltern groups, especially intersectional populations (i.e. people who are subject to systemic oppression on multiple axes of race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, ability, and so on), would be expected to be present in higher proportions than the general population. Even if you constrain it to published writers, the “direct competition” that some allege she was targeting would be those published in the same semiprozines in which Bee has been published. It wouldn’t be that difficult to go through, say, Clarkesworld’s list of back issues and/or Beneath Ceaseless Skies list of authors as an attempt at a ballpark picture of demographics.
Furthermore, there is no indication that Mixon considered statistical weighting. The number of incidents, the nature of the incident (even if one accepts that a scathing review or calling out for e.g. racism, sexism/misogyny, homophobia, or cultural appropriation qualify as “attacks”), statements from putative victims (such as N. K. Jemisin’s statements on Facebook that she had never considered Bee’s reviews to be attacks nor did she see herself as a victim), or reliability of or support for the account — these do not enter into consideration at all; it’s a binary yes/no. This further contributes to Mixon getting these numbers that seem so damning — instead of considering the three separate blog posts she wrote taking apart The Windup Girl over its staggering and manifold racism, or the angry, hyperbolic venting about him that is so often cited, Bacigulpi is treated exactly the same as a random anon with an extraordinarily vague story: a point to go in the proportion pile.
And, recently, I was linked to secritcrush’s post explaining her decision to vote No Award for Best Fan Writer, in which she rattles off five white men who Bee had criticized sharply but that did not show up in Mixon’s list. With the already small sample size, their inclusion (if one considers scathing criticism “harassment” or “abuse,” which, as I’ve stated, is both absurd on its face, and offensive because of how it devalues actual harm) would have a substantial effect on Mixon’s estimates.
For a comparison and counterexample, I turned to FFA (a source Mixon cites and defends, despite its inherently unreliable nature), and pulled from two sections of their wiki lists individual people that they appear to consider Bad Actors: “SJ Warriors” and “SJ Failhards” (chosen because Bee’s entry is in the former, and another person with a much more recent and even lengthier history of problematic behavior is in the latter). As far as I can determine, only five separate individuals maintain these entries, and some of the other people FFA has a hate-on for — which appears to hinge on whether or not someone “annoys” an FFA poster more than anything else, and once someone is in that bucket, their past bad actions are treated has happening in an eternal now and any positive actions are roundly ignored — sufficient to merit an entry are elsewhere in the wiki. (More on that in a bit.)
I looked over what was readily publicly available about each person, and assigned values to four indicator values, based on gender identity (cis man (0) or not cis man (1)), race (POC (1) or not (0)), sexuality (LGBTQIA+ (1) or not (0)), and ability (1 if some sort of cognitive, neurological, psychological, and/or physical challenge/condition is mentioned in the information I was able to find, 0 otherwise). If the information I found did not give me a clear indication, I assumed a value of 0.
I found that, under the naïve estimate, in this cohort, cis men are profoundly underrepresented, and queer persons are overrepresented, compared to the general population; compared to Mixon, cis men are even more underrepresented, and POCs are about the same. I then used that word count in each wiki article as a proxy for attention, as expansion of said articles appears to normally stem from discussion threads on the community itself. Weighting the entries by word count, I found that FFA still gives a profoundly disproportionate amount of attention to people who are not cis men, and gives even greater attention to persons of color than Mixon claims Bee did. Furthermore, over half of the wiki article content is focused on queer persons, which is even more out of line with the general population than the naïve estimate.
FFA target statistics
- Persons who are not cis men: 85.11%
- Persons of color: 27.66%
- Queer persons: 34.04%
- Persons with psychological and/or physical conditions: 10.64%
- Persons who are not cis men: 82.69%
- Persons of color: 40.84%
- Queer persons: 52.12%
- Persons with psychological and/or physical conditions: 19.93%
Note that this data set does not include their article on Vox Day, but it also does not include Aja or a number of other people with similarly-flavored entries (i.e. mocking, and an exhaustive collection of alleged misdeeds). An eyeball check of the wiki suggests that the above numbers, if anything, understate the focus FFA has on marginalized people. And this is a very superficial analysis; to get a better idea of the population and intensity of the subjects of FFA’s mockery, derision, and attacks, one would have to do extensive analysis of the threads, which I’m not going to do in my free time. (I have much better things to do.)
Ultimately, though, what both my own quick-and-dirty number crunching above (and Mixon’s own attempt at statistics) suggest is that it is unlikely that Bee’s targets of criticism were chosen randomly.
To which I say: … well, duh.
secritcrush points out that the population of 50books_poc was skewed towards (a) women and (b) persons of color, so someone she encountered there would be more likely to be from a subaltern group than in the general American population (let alone Mixon’s disproportionately white comparison group). When she moved on to reviewing on the RH blog, she was reviewing things that caught her interest for one reason or another — she picked up Silk, for example, because she wanted to read a speculative fiction book about queer women, and the book delivered on that. (Hell, the review had some positive things to say, rather than being uniformly negative, and Bee’s criticism of the racist tropes in the novel was pretty mild, a reflection of subconscious, cultural bias on Kiernan’s part rather than Lovecraft-like race hatred.)
Someone running a review blog on their own time, acquiring the books they read on their own rather than by way of publisher ARCs or what-have-you, is absolutely not going to have a review profile that looks like a random sample. Even if you look at a professional critic and the demographic profile of the authors they review, it’s almost certainly not going to look like a random sample, though it’ll likely be closer to a random sample of the genre(s) that said critic reviews than an amateur review blogger’s profile might.
secritcrush also points out that, despite Mixon’s portrayal, Bee wasn’t criticizing her peers at the time she was running reviews on the RH blog — she backed away from those sorts of posts as her own fiction started getting published.
- She has single-handedly destroyed several online SFF, fanfic, and videogaming communities with her negative, hostile comments and attacks.
I’ve seen anonymous comments stating this sort of thing, and yet nobody has ever named one besides 50books_poc, ever. So what, exactly, does “destroying” a community consist of?
I’d assume it’d involve an anomalous drop in community activity, i.e., posts and comments thereon.
So I went to he community archive page, and pulled down the post history, which conveniently includes comment counts. (These don’t include deleted comments — more on those later, when we get to that bullet point.) The community was founded in late August of 2007, so my data set includes data from there up through April 2015.
I used these data to generate three graphs: mean posts per day, mean comments per day, and mean comments per post:
Activity was initially anemic (not surprising, since LJ has been declining as a platform since about 2004), but had a huge spike in February 2009. Traffic declined steadily from there, and it appears to be due to decline in new posts, not declines in comments per post — in fact, by August of 2009, traffic had fallen to about a quarter of its all-time high, and never recovered; while it’s difficult to determine exactly when Bee began posting to the community from where things stand now, it’s very difficult to see the community’s waning activity as anything other than (a) a symptom of LJ’s continuing decline, and (b) a sort of natural progression as people moved on to other interests.
In fact, the big blow-up that apparently drove Rachel Manija Brown didn’t happen until June 27th, 2011, when Bee posted a scathing review of Cindy Pon’s Fury of the Phoenix (following on her discussion of Silver Phoenix’s problematic portrayals of women, on a WordPress blog where she’d been using the pyrofennic handle — again, linking her different handles together), criticizing the book over deep flaws she sees concerning its portrayal of women (very few named women, one of which appears to be reduced to a stereotype) and its sexual politics in general (no queer representation, arguable repetition of rape culture tropes), and that she also sees in it a “tendency to other Asianness and normalize whiteness” (in the comments).
About halfway down the page we find Rachel Manija Brown (henceforth RMB) coming down on Bee for flinging personal insults at Pon. While I agree that calling Pon a “stupid fuck” was out of line (and one of the reasons, I assume, that Bee specifically named Pon in one of her two public apologies), RMB invoking 4chan also was, and RMB did apologize for that — which Bee accepted:
It’s worth noting that others thanked Bee for alerting them to the attempted rape that apparently was in Silver Phoenix:
And, while RMB was not the only person who objected to Bee’s rather caustic language, moderator sanguinuity had this to say:
Here, RMB at least had the grace to concede that her white privilege may be blinding her to some issues.
Either way, the mods put up a post in which to have an open discussion concerning policy re: personal attacks and vitriolic language. You can read the post here (archive link). While Bee’s own comments are gone, because she deleted and purged her LJ (which is why there’s someone else using the name now, apparently a Canadian Stargate fan — but more on that deletion later), much can be inferred about what she did say, and, sure, a lot of it was pretty nasty, such as insulting other people for not having the same opinion she did on a book (“illiterate fuck” was what she told me was a go-to insult during those days).
Which would be, you know, why she apologized. And something she specifically apologized for.
At the same time, other persons of color expressed disagreement with casting most of what Bee had said in the Fury of the Phoenix review and comments as “personal attacks,” and state how difficult it can be to strike a balance between shutting down town policing (bad) and people using anti-tone-policing policies as a cover for personal attacks:
And that’s followed by a very eloquent thread (archive link) in which the dangers of overly aggressive policing of potential personal attacks are discussed, and Bee is also criticized for some ableist language, including a comment where she asked RMB “how do you cope with the internet or real life” — for which Bee apologized, in the same thread, in fact. As we continue, we find much of what appears to be mostly nuanced discussion about what is and isn’t appropriate. We do see RMB announcing that she’s left the community, saying that “[i]t seemed like [her] presence was having a bad effect on the community, and so [she has] removed myself from it.”
This would appear to be where Bee told Hesychasm to “go look up white women’s tears” (not accusing her of “crying white women’s tears” — a subtle but semantically relevant distinction); there is some discussion of how Bee asking Hesychasm about her ethnicity smacks of identity politics, and there’s some truth to that. There’s also some references to Bee apparently having asked people about their ethnicity prior to the run-in with Hesychasm, but no specific examples cited or linked (even if they’d gone to deleted comments, it would have given more weight to those statements if they had). (But nobody says anything about it when, say, Victor Ocampo publicly questions Bee’s identity: example (archive link) — although plenty of white people have done the same.)
- After an attack, she deletes her most inflammatory posts and accounts and departs, leaving her targets reeling and others who come later scratching their heads, unable to find evidence and wondering what all the fuss was about.
Yes, she’s deleted many things. Some of them show signs of having been “inflammatory” (which is not abusive or harassing), many do not. Their absence means that her stalkers and harassers and detractors can impute whatever they want, absent a screenshot. The only screenshot provided? She thought Hesychasm was white, and snarked at her about white women’s tears.
Bee has deleted two big chunks of content: the Winterfox LJ and the RH blog. She deleted the Winterfox LJ due to her RPGCodex stalker and the fact that they’d already begun combing her LJ for whatever tidbits they could find; when one deletes an LJ, one has the option of deleting all comments, including in communities and others’ LJs. Because the motivation was to minimize the amount of information the stalker could glean, she took this option, since she was not sure what sort of information she may have inadvertently dropped in them.
As for the RH blog? She’d begun selling her own prose fiction, and with it she’d moved away from reviewing SFF prose; moreover, her other harassers were using the blog contents as fuel for their ire. When she deleted the rest of the RH blog (save for the apology) later on, after she was outed, it was, again, due to stalker-related issues.
- She has stalked SFF fans online for months and years, simply for posting that they liked an author’s book that she did not, or for speaking up against her when she called their favorite author (often a POC) epithets like “stupid fuck,” and calling them “morons” for liking that author.
“Stalked”? 
As I said above, Bee was a fan moving in fannish circles, and a very specific fandom (prose SFF). Her encountering the same people in multiple places isn’t stalking, it’s how the bloody Internet works.
And do we really want to open up the can of worms about insults being slung about?
Shall we talk about Pat Cadigan calling people illiterate and “morons” when they were (understandably, I should hope!) freaked out about her tweeting at one of GG’s thought leaders? Shall we talk about Liz Williams being blatantly homophobic towards an out lesbian? Shall we talk about some rando FFA poster calling me “head-deskingly stupid”? Should I start searching through the Twitter timelines of various SFF people for all the times they’ve insulted people?
Hell, Ann Somerville, who people like Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and Athena Andreadis were happily engaging with right up until Somerville deleted her Twitter account, and who can be most recently found justifying calling Deirdre Saoirse Moen a cunt (archive link), and calling Shaun Duke a moron for believing in forgiveness (repeatedly) (archive link)? (Also in that same post, Somerville presents a wildly inaccurate version of what happened with Kari Sperring on April 29th; I wrote up an accurate version of events here, on my Tumblr — although Sperring has since locked her Twitter account, so my links to her tweets are not currently functional.) After deleting her personal Twitter account, Somerville uploaded the entire archive (archive link) she pulled down from Twitter. Shall we start unpacking that? I’ve no doubt it would be a very rich mine, should we really want to start talking about who has called other people horrible things.
- She has chased down positive reviews of authors’ works, to appear there and frighten reviewers and fans away from promoting the writers’ works, interfering with their ability to get publicity for their publications. Of the most extreme cases, lasting at least a year, two were launched against women writers of color.
, because the blog post does not establish such with any reliability.
My best guess would be that the two authors she’s referring to are Cindy Pon and N. K. Jemisin. Pon I discussed above, and, as I also mentioned above, Jemisin does not agree with the idea that she was a victim, or that scathing reviews constitute “attacks.”
Perhaps she means when Bee jumped on some people for enjoying The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, on two separate occasions, after posting in a different community (which she also didn’t destroy) about why she hated it. Once again, that behavior was something she specifically apologized for, and she’s never been anything but honest about it, to me or others. (Hell, back when I had none of my psych issues or disabilities diagnosed or dealt with, and when I was younger and much more full of myself, I also attacked people for having the wrong opinion, although not nearly so caustically.
- Her attacks have not diminished over time; they have simply become more skilled and difficult to deflect. As recently as three weeks ago as I write this, she was lying to her supporters to manipulate them into attacking one of her latest victims.
. While Bee may have been incorrect about Rochita having been the one to out her to Sullivan, “lying” would imply deliberate falsehood, and all of the public evidence pointed — strongly, as I discussed above — to that having been the case.
- She excels at shifting her tone and her strategy, seeming friendly and helpful one moment and vicious and harsh the next. She has mastered the crafting and dissemination of false narratives that seem persuasive to observers who are not familiar with the harm she has done in the past.
. Is this seriously meant to say that being able to be both friendy and vitriolic is the sign of being disingenuous or whatever it is Mixon is implying?
As far as “false narratives” go, I’ve demonstrated that several of the sources Mixon leans on are unreliable at best, if not deliberately lying, and Mixon herself quite dramatically misrepresented what happened between Bee and Mary Robinette Kowal (just as an example).
- In light of the harm she has done, her apologies do not even come close to addressing the damage she has done, much less undoing it.
With all due respect to Mixon, who the fuck is she to even begin to claim the moral authority to make such a proclamation?
Moreover, one cannot simply undo damage; that’s setting an impossible standard for any apology. There is no magical combination of words which will suddenly make the pain she did cause go away. Nor is it all that simple to undo all the damage and the rifts of distrust created by the white people (mostly white women) who used residual community anger to punish, shun, and attempt to silence a person who unapologetically spoke truth to power.
Did Bee cross the line? Yes, as discussed above. But the outing was happening in back channels because of several white women (and a couple of white men) still angry over RaceFail ‘09, and when the outing went public, they seized control of the public conversation, an effort which culminated not in accountability or truth, but a crowdsourced Zoe Post. The message I, and many others, received was that should we try to call out anyone in the community broadly seen as Good People for something problematic, we would be shouted down, strung up, and ultimately draped in the community’s collective sins to be sent out into the wilderness.
Bee cannot make amends if she is silenced and ostracized, nor can we hold the people who have harassed and attacked her accountable if we paint her unilaterally as malicious and invulnerable. Privileged people who do problematic things will keep doing problematic things if the people they hurt don’t feel safe calling them on it (whether it’s calling out or calling in).
Originally published at asymbina.tumblr.com.