Head’s up – if you hate my aggressive blog posts. Steer clear of this one.
Having had some time to think about the latest clusterfuck in the mystery/crime community in 2018 (of which there were many), I think there are a few things to address that covers not only the Fairstein debacle, but others as well.
So first – deep breath – I think it’s perfectly fine that people don’t know about behaviors or beliefs. I see a lot of folks expressing disappointment in themselves and shame, and I can appreciate that, but I don’t think it’s the right path. Are there people who SHOULD feel ashamed when things like this happen? Absolutely. Folks who set up events like these are ultimately responsible for vetting the people they bring in. That Fairstein was voted in by the MWA board lies on all those writers and readers. Frankly, that level of laziness or potential alignment with a shitty person says all it needs to say for me and establishes exactly how I’ll view the organization moving forward.
And again, that’s not on anyone else but the decision makers. Even if you make the argument that everyone was ignorant to the problem, sorry, when you take a role of responsibility you are taking the initiative to put in work. If that responsibility isn’t what a person signed up for, well, then maybe agreeing to taking a station solely for its shininess on your CV was a bad choice.
Second – as always, it took a woman of color to call out the bullshit, didn’t it? This is more where my grievances lie. The idea that marginalized people are always the ones that need to clean up the mess—that need to prioritize paying attention to all these things as a default—that shit is appalling. Don’t get me wrong, I know we’re at the start of getting anywhere near a shiny castle on that road, but it’s still frustrating.
Of course, the responses have been middling and condescending from Fairstein and a handful of others, as to be expected. As I write this, the MWA has been dead silent as they examine the virtues of maintaining an author nobody has heard of for Grandmaster even in the face of her being neck deep in one of the most controversial judicial railroadings in NYC history (which is saying A LOT when you look at the last 30 years).
Because evidence isn’t even enough when there’s privilege to maintain.
I can’t play the game the way other marginalized writers do. I’m not great at balancing my emotions to keep people comfortable, so I come into these things spicy and frankly, I think it’s justified (and a privilege I have since I am not anywhere NEAR shit on the way others are). I’m also not paid to be the “civilized” version of myself you’d meet in an office environment. Nah, you get loudmouth, Bronxy Angel for life.
So anyway; a point. I should have one of those. I can’t speak for everyone and to everyone. I can only speak for myself. I see people always go on about joining and changing things from within, but I’ve come to realize that the option is seemingly futile on many levels. You can’t change minds when they’re made and we’re up against some antiquated, dust bunny jammed, decaying mindsets here.
So, what the hell do we do?
Well, for one. You cut off the cash flow. The funny part about these orgs and conventions is they charge writers for access (to programs, events, and all the soul-crushing disappointment you can eat thanks to the cliques and rampant systemic racism).
That’s an easy start – say goodbye to my money. I don’t care to fund ugliness while running up a muddy hill with ice skates on—yeah, I can do that shit, but I’m the only idiot covered in mud. I can take that money and send it elsewhere—to places that try to make change and support diverse writers/fiction. Sisters in Crime, the Left Coast Crime even in March, and many other groups are out there. I can take the money saved on my dues and go buy a stack of books by authors who deserve the money (which is 100% what I did instead of reupping my MWA membership).
Ultimately, I think I’m done having people tell me how to make a change I want to see. I would rather go to where the people are open to working together; not depending on me to do all the work while they pat themselves on the back.