One of the things that I absolutely believe in, and try very hard, however imperfectly, to put into practice, is the idea that as long as we are willing to truly listen to those around us, we always have opportunities to learn, and grow, and hopefully change ourselves for the better. I make mistakes all the time – mostly small ones, but occasionally some of them are world-class – but when I do, and I either see it myself or am called out on it, I do my level best to listen, and change, and rectify it, as much as I am able.
Right now, in Children’s Publishing, the field I love, there is a huge explosion happening of women coming forward to share their stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault, and it is EXACTLY what needs to be happening. That any woman in our industry has been afraid to come forward to share their story is a travesty, and I think that we can all do better at not only listening, but also believing them – and then supporting them by actively participating in the efforts needed to make change happen so that they can feel safe not just now, but in the future.
I have always been very proud to work alongside the many women I have met in publishing, and proud to call many of them my friends. I have always tried to be respectful of them as individuals, and of the work they do. And I have always tried to be an ally: one who listens, ALWAYS believes, and who steps in to implement change when something like this cresting awareness of sexual harassment is brought to the fore.
So, it was with absolute dismay, shock, and utter sorrow that as I was reading the extraordinarily long comments thread under a recent high-profile industry story on harassment, I found someone had added my own name to that list. Anonymously.
I absolutely respect those women who are able to step forward to offer accounts of the ordeals they have been through and name their accusers. I believe them. All of them. But I also believe the anonymous ones as well, to a large degree. I think it’s a reality that some women, maybe a LOT of them, may not be in a safe place where they can say things outright under their own names. I believe people should be heard. And I am more than willing to be one of those who listen, believe, apologize sincerely, and try to change to back up the apology.
I have made a lot of mistakes in my life – but I try to be as accountable as possible. And if the comment which named me had been truly anonymous, I might have already posted something in an effort to somehow make amends to that person who was too afraid to use their name in sharing their story. But I didn’t do that here, because I suddenly realized I knew who the commenter was. When she posted, she inadvertently left her profile pic on the comment. So I knew exactly who it was, and my heart absolutely sank, because this was someone who had at one time been a very trusted and dear friend. And now she had added my name to a thread regarding sexual harassment that was being shared with the entire world.
What was worse, was there were not even any actual accusations to address: she said my name should be added to the list of men to steer clear of; acknowledged that she was not herself a victim, but had “witnessed many falling prey to his ‘wholesome charms'” and that “He has used and abused many along his ‘path’ to curry favor and his ‘apprenticeships.’ Stay away from this person.” That’s it. No actual accusations, and no names. Just a vague warning on a thread about sexual predators.
I immediately sent a message to her, expressing my deep hurt over what she had written, and my bewilderment about why she wrote that at all. I received no response. I had seen the thread and the comment late Sunday night; sometime midmorning on Monday, the comment was deleted. But the damage had been done.
People all throughout the industry had been reading that thread – and taking note of the names. People started sending me screenshots, confused and hurt and wondering why my name was there. Most people who reached out questioned the validity of the comment. Some did not. And now the article has gone viral, and being shared EVERYWHERE. Lists of the names are being shared on twitter. Lists of books by the authors named are now appearing on Goodreads suggesting those books are to be avoided. And the more things are retweeted and shared far from the original source, the more likely it is that people assume the list was compiled accurately – and in my case, it was not, as my name is no longer attached to that article.
I’m not going to speculate on what her thinking or motives are, or why she chose to do what she did. But her own website has for years prominently featured covers of the books she helped me with, and as of this writing, they are still on display there – as is the same author photo that was attached to the comment that had been posted, then removed.
Right now, my career and my reputation are in jeopardy because of this single comment under that article, which was not even from someone who had been victimized or harassed. If someone had been named, I could have listened, apologized and tried to make amends if I had done something to hurt them, inadvertently or otherwise. But that isn’t what happened. Someone I knew well, whom many people know has at times had a contentious relationship with me, who still uses my books to promote her own work and website, chose to try to libel me anonymously, and it is simply not right.
When all is said and done, each of you will believe what you choose. I needed a statement of my own, vetted by mutual friends who could vouch for its accuracy, to counter the things that are continuing to be spread. I appreciate you taking the time to read it.