I didn’t want to write another blog post this year. It’s been a bad year, to put it mildly, and I wanted some time to regroup before I started writing again. It was going to be a new blog in a new year, full of good, positive things.
I despise the kind of blog that is simply a series of reactions to the ideas of others rather than a place where at least I’m pretending to possess an ounce of original thought. I do not want to be the kind of writer that participates in an endless whirlpool of reactions and debates regarding other librarians.
My Twitter feed was all in an uproar this morning regarding a blog post by Will Manley, a librarian that I’m not familiar with, but that’s not saying much as I tend to haunt the blogs of youth services or LGBTQ-friendly librarians. In any case, librarians were livid. I was trying to not read it, instead attempting to sort of read around the outrage. I know, I know. I could have gotten off of Twitter and learned to basket weave or something, but I didn’t. I read this post by Mr. Manley. And then, like a real jerk who should absolutely know better, I read the comments.
Mr. Manley feels that ALA’s Code of Conduct will inhibit free speech and free thought at ALA conferences. Yet, I find ALA’s expectations of us as librarians to be pretty much predictable:
We recognize a shared
responsibility to create and hold that environment for the benefit of all. Some behaviors are, therefore, specifically prohibited:
Harassment or intimidation based on race, religion, language, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, appearance, or other group status.
Sexual harassment or intimidation, including unwelcome sexual attention, stalking (physical or virtual), or unsolicited physical contact.
Yelling at or threatening speakers (verbally or physically).
This is just a portion of the CoC, but you get the point: Don’t be a dick. Don’t sexually harass people. Don’t touch people unless they make it explicit that they want to be touched. Don’t use racial slurs. Don’t intimidate people. Don’t be a jerk.
I find myself offended by authority figures pretty much on the regs, yet nothing about what ALA is asking of us is beyond what I’d expect. Yet, Mr. Manley is very concerned. He’s afraid that this will stunt intellectual and creative conversation. He’s afraid someone will call him out for saying bad things about Neo-Nazis. He’s afraid that the ALA is going to put Sarah Silverman, Chris Rock, and Howard Stern behind bars.
Now, look, I’m a Jewish girl with a foul mouth, so I love Sarah Silverman. Give the Jew Girl Toys is my favorite holiday song, hands down. If she read from her book at ALA, it would be amazing and I’d be totally down for it. Otherwise, do I really want a Silverman-wannabe on the exhibition floor hurling racial slurs at librarians? Do I want Howard Stern making pointed comments about women’s body parts? I don’t. Call me an enemy of free speech. I don’t care. I am not down with harassment based on race. I am not down with sexual harassment. Going to ALA conferences is part of my job. My place of work pays me for my work day and I’d like to go to work without being harassed or bullied. I don’t want to be called racially charged names at my job. I don’t want to be intimidated or touched or stalked at my job. OK, I don’t want these things happening to me, period, but if they occur during work hours, you best believe I’m reporting you. And you best believe I am going to make sure you face the consequences. I want the freedom to remain unharassed and unmolested. This trumps your desire to make edgy jokes. Trust me, though, Manley supporters, you’re not as revolutionary as you think are. You’re not pushing the envelope. You are no Sarah Silverman.
If people are so terribly worried that rules concerning harassment and stalking will curb their ability to express themselves, I’m concerned about what exactly they’re trying to express.
I’m not saying that white men can’t get harassed or bullied, but I’m curious if it’s as widespread as it is with People of Color, the LGBTQ community, and women. Has Mr. Manley been afraid of going to his job? Interacting with certain co-workers? Opening his email? Walking alone at a conference? Has he regularly feared for his safety? I have. And I’m more concerned for my safety and well-being than I am about whether or not I can bust out with homophobic slurs at a panel.
The comments got considerably ugly, with one man named Messina calling everyone a pussy. At first Mr. Manley applauded this show of bravado and supposed edginess, but eventually withdrew his enthusiasm.
At first Mr. Manley said this Eagles quote paired with a gendered insult made his day, but he later deleted his own comment. Before he did so, I wanted to talk to him about it:
Mr. Manley’s major concerns have nothing to do with providing a safe place for women, but more about whether we’d treat the Eagles well at ALA Midwinter.
The Eagles suck, just so you know. They’ve been irrelevant for a thousand years. So, I’d be against it, just for the record.
After my comments about the Eagles being irrelevant, their number one fan, commenter Messina expressed his outrage:
OK, I might have also hinted that out of touch librarians were irrelevant as well. I’m not sorry.
And the above screen capture really reflects what Manley’s post boils down to: Sharing privilege. Messina, and to an extent Manley, have had the privilege of being safe at conferences. The idea of letting the rest of us make a go at obtaining a similar environment is just infuriating. Their idea of harassment and bullying is the idea that they can’t say whatever they want without consequence. For many women, POC, and LGBTQ folks, harassment is more than experiencing annoyance when a pink-haired Jewish librarian calls you irrelevant. It’s fearing for your job, your safety, your physical autonomy, and your dignity. If me calling you a silly little name on the internet is the worst harassment you’ve seen in your life, consider yourself very lucky.
I didn’t want to write this blog post, but I’m sickened to tears with this kind of nonsense and I’m bored with the echo chamber that contains sentiments of misogyny. I expect so much more from librarians. We’re well-educated and many of us work with the public, so I’d hope we’d be more sensitive to the needs of different kinds of people. I thought we’d be more aware of the privilege we have (and believe me, as a white woman, I have plenty. I’m learning how to be responsible with it all the time. I know I screw up. We have to want to learn to be better, though). White male librarians: When it comes to issues of harassment and safe spaces, your first reaction should not be, “BUT WHAT ABOUT ME? WHAT ABOUT ME?” Librarians are in the business of information. You have the ability to learn why a Code of Conduct can be so vital to the women, and others, in this profession.
For more on this topic, please refer to the Librarian in Black’s post (I’ve linked to this before. Still relevant) and Coral Hess’s post, found here.
Come on 2014, I swear! Only posts about flannel boards and the Rainbow List and my favorite kinds of glitter! From here on out! I promise!
Who am I kidding? Honestly.
Love and Libraries, Ingrid
P.S. At the time I wrote this, Mr. Manley’s blog still existed. He took it down, so this links to an EverNote version. Sorry for any confusion.
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