When Your Friends are Accused of Sexual Harassment

Last night, a friend was discussing the recent #metoo movement into children’s literature. I’ve been following the #metoo movement off and on, and I’d recently seen a backlash start to emerge, as quite a few people were posting about how they couldn’t stand how much credence anonymous accusers were getting, and how we needed to slow things down instead of destroying careers over baseless accusations. Up until then, my general stance was that the #metoo movement is a positive, if difficult, process. Something each person needs to go through, to recognize sexist, harassing behavior and stop it.

But my friend mentioned a few names (just first names) of people who had been accused, and they were names I recognized. Not just recognized. They were people I was friends with. Good friends with. Myke. Dan(!) But it couldn’t be them, could it? I was sent off to scouring the internet, trying to figure out who accused whom, when, of what. And I was led to this post on School Library Journal, where the comments section was basically outing whomever people had seen harass other people.

I was relieved to see that the accusations against Dan Wells were later retracted, and he has blogged about his reaction here. But it wasn’t that way with all my friends. Myke Cole is a guy I know and like. I roomed with him at Boskone several years ago. I look forward to seeing him at cons, and we share the same agent. He was accused. He has since blogged about his response, and I really respect him for being as open about things as he has been. James Dashner has now lost his agent over the accusations. I don’t know him well, but he’s friends with many of my friends.

On the one hand, I can see why people are upset about the anonymous accusations. I can see why the “witch hunt mentality” discussions are arising. People gather in an anonymous forum, lob a general “So and so harassed me and is a creep” without any sort of explanation, and suddenly so and so is put on a blacklist, his career ruined?

Some of this is complicated by how broad “harassment” can be, and how its definition can vary from one person to another. In the worst cases in the news, it involved rape. Using position of power to force others to do humiliating things. In milder cases, it can be about inappropriate touches. Leers. Creepy flirting. To conflate all these behaviors and punish them all the same would be a mistake. Making an unwanted pass at someone at a party is very different from groping someone, which is also different from outright rape.

But on the other hand, I understand the need for anonymity in these cases. People in positions of power (or perceived positions of power) can have a real dampening effect on accusers. People who have been harassed fear to come forward, because there is a very real and very vicious backlash against many of the harassers. So they become victims twice, first when they are harassed, and then when they’re torn apart publicly by fans of the author they accuse.

So where do I come down in it all? Because I think that’s a very important question to ask yourself. Failing to engage in this discussion is the same as dismissing it, and I definitely believe dismissing it is a mistake. Have I ever done or said anything at a con or conference that came across as hurtful or harassing to others? I hope not. But I also realize I’ve got a mouth that sometimes says things without thinking. And that sometimes casual comments can cut other people. I look to Myke and Dan’s posts for cues on how I might be sure to be a part of the solution, not the problem. It’s very interesting to me that Dan responded with continued support of the #metoo movement, even after being falsely accused. People calling for an end to that movement might want to think about that response some.

But beyond all that, there’s something more I wanted to say to the people who are claiming “It could never be _______,” and then justifying their defense because of the number of interactions they’ve had with that person and never been harassed or seen harassment. Just because you haven’t seen it or experienced it doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. It doesn’t invalidate the experiences of those other people.

People are complex. They have good sides and bad sides. We have all done things in our lives that we should not have done. Serial harassers will out. An accuser comes forward, and they’re followed by more. Many voices join together, and action is taken. I’m reminded of the people who come forward after a serial killer is caught and express surprise. “I never would have thought it was him.”

It’s not like we walk around with scarlet letters across our foreheads, proclaiming our sins. We are good at showing one face to the world. The acceptable face. Hopefully we’re all trying to become better people, but it can be a rocky path.

In areas where there are clear victims, I believe those victims have a right to be heard, even anonymously. Especially if that’s the only format they’re comfortable coming forward. They shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed because they’re finally coming forward. If it’s a one off, hopefully it will catch someone before they become a serial harasser. If it’s the very rare case of a false accusation, it will do the same thing. Cause a person to reflect, change behavior if necessary, and move on. But if it’s a deeper problem, it needs to be stopped.

Those calling for an end to the #metoo movement should stop. You can’t choose to be out of this. Or rather, you can, but not without being complicit in what continues to happen.

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It’s Often Not about the Performance. It’s about the Competition.

I’ve been watching the Olympics since they started last week, and I was very excited to see Shaun White’s gold medal run last night in the half pipe, as I was to see Chloe Kim’s gold. We let Tomas and DC stay up late last night to see the final runs, and it was pretty riveting stuff.

As I was watching, I compared my investment in the event with the amount I was invested in the female halfpipe a couple of days ago. It was markedly different, and I wondered why that was. Kim and White both have compelling stories. There were strong reasons to root for both of them, but for Kim’s runs, I wasn’t on the edge of my seat, eyes glued to see what would happen.

The difference, of course, is the competition. In Kim’s event, she was in the lead the whole time. She seemed like she had the rest of the field simply outclassed. Her first run was a 93.75, which put her in first place by almost eight points. The second round, someone came within four points of her, but by the third round, everyone knew she’d already won.

With White, his first run was a 94.25, only a bit above Kim’s. But there was someone in second place with a 92. Already, he seemed more vulnerable. That score didn’t feel as ironclad. Like Kim, White fell during his second run. But for White, someone stepped up and took first place. Suddenly, he was losing by a point. So when he went down for his final run, everyone knew he’d have to do better. Everything was on the line. Kim ended up with the higher score, but White ended up with the better story.

In writing, this is something that can be easy to forget at times. I’ll be working on a novel and trying to get the main character just right. I want them to be relatable and realistic. I want my readers to be invested in what happens to them. But often the solution to unlocking that isn’t found in the character at all. It’s found in the circumstances around that character. Who he or she is up against. The odds they’re facing.

Generally speaking, if you want the climax to be memorable, you don’t do it by adding more pyrotechnics to the scene. You don’t get it by having the main character be even more awesome. You do it by raising the stakes. Making the opponents stronger and more fearsome. Increasing the odds. The Miracle on Ice isn’t remembered because the favorites won. It’s remembered because the underdogs pulled off the upset.

And there’s your bit of writing advice for the day.

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Heavy Meta #14: Interview with William Geller

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Up this week, a fascinating interview with William Geller, who’s been researching sporting and logging camps in Maine. To see all his books published at the Digital Commons at the University of Maine, head on over to here. I learned so much about things I knew nothing about during this interview. Check it out!

Right click to download audio file.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. I’m looking to get to $10/month to justify the amount of time I spend on this blog. I’m at $7/month so far. Read this post for more information. Or click here to go to Patreon and sign up. It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out.

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Happy Birthday DC!

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Hard to believe it, but DC turned ten years old over the weekend. We took some time to look back at the pictures from back then. We’d been in our new home in Maine for just half a year. It was our first winter, and we had no snowblower and no experience to draw on for how to run a house in a Maine winter. It was our old wood stove, we had much less insulation, we were getting pounded by tons of snow.

And into all of that, we had our second child come into the mix.

Frankly, I’m surprised we weathered it all as well as we did. We still love snow and still love winter in Maine, and if that first year didn’t do in our love for those things, I don’t know what could.

DC had a small friend party on Saturday, and then we celebrated her birthday yesterday as a family. Denisa and I got her various crafty things. (On her wishlist this year? A nice pencil sharpener, and pencil erasers. She inherited her mother’s penchant for asking for reasonable gifts.) MC got her a gift too: she gave her a cold. Actually, MC, DC, and Tomas were all in bed sick yesterday, so it wasn’t quite the huge celebration she might have hoped for.

She got to pick her birthday dinner and dessert. After being temped by mac and cheese and chocolate cake, she ended up going with . . . spinach soup. I am not making this up. Spinach. Soup. And sourdough biscuits. It was without a doubt the most un-kidlike dinner choice I’ve eaten. That said, I love spinach, and Denisa made a delicious soup. Tomas was less than enthused about the choice, however. For dessert, she asked for lemon poppy seed cake with strawberries and vanilla ice cream.

DC remains a wonderful daughter. She’s by far the most responsible girl I know. She takes her duties on the chore chart very seriously, and loves knowing what the rules are and how following them can help her. She’s become a much stronger reader this last year and is now working on finishing book 5 in the Percy Jackson series. She’s also an avid video gamer who beat Zelda Breath of the Wild not too long ago and is now working her way through Mario Odyssey and Splatoon 2. She’s always up for a board game or a craft project, and she loves playing her cello. Her room stays surprisingly neat.

Really, she’s just a great all around daughter, and I’m so happy she’s in our family. Happy birthday, DC!

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My Favorite Olympics Story

As we get ready for the Olympics to start tonight (well, technically they were already  on last night, which was this morning in South Korea, which means it was still today, right?), I’m pumped for another two weeks of thrills and chills. This is also the second winter Olympics I’ve watched since I ditched satellite. Having some experience with watching the Olympics online, I can that for a while, it left much to be desired.

NBC would stream things, but they wouldn’t stream everything, and there’s a BIG difference between streaming the live feed of an event and streaming it with NBC commentators. Yes, sometimes those commentators really irritate you, but when you’re watching a sport you don’t know a ton about, it’s difficult to tell when someone’s doing well if you don’t have someone there to . . . tell you that. So often I would just skip an event instead of watching it with the live feed.

These days, I believe they’re planning on doing a better job of that. (Though judging by the commercials on the app last night, they haven’t gotten around the “same commercials all the time” problem, though it’s a bit better. Why they can’t just have the internet run the same commercials as the TV is beyond me.)

Still, I discovered that often NBC would tap into some pool commentators. I have no idea who they were with. They were always British, so I kind of assumed the BBC, but I don’t really know that. The commentating was okay, and not slanted to any one nation, so I took what I could get.

However . . . four years ago, I was watching figure skating. The long performance, as I recall, so it was for medals. And I was watching it with the British commentators. From what I knew, there were supposed to be something like 8 or 12 people competing, but the commentators seemed convinced it was only 4. They really got into it, describing how it was a race to the end with these final four skaters, and after they were done, they congratulated the skaters who were in first, second, and third. They thanked everyone for watching, as the crew came out to fix the ice.

I kept watching, still confused, and still convinced there was more skating to come.

And the mic stayed hot. And a muffled British voice could be heard saying, “What do you mean eight more?”

Once the ice was fixed, the commentators came back on and did commentated for the other eight skaters. Didn’t miss a beat. Didn’t apologize for getting things wrong. Just pretended it had never happened.

And you know what? I didn’t mind at all. It was funny. I laughed. But I was there to watch figure skating, and I didn’t mind them screwing things up.

The moral? Sometimes you will do something totally idiotic, and you’ll feel like an idiot, but if you just keep going, you might be surprised how little everyone else minds. We’re the hero in our own stories, but we’re just extras in most everybody else’s. That can be depressing at times, I suppose, but when you’ve just made a big blunder? It can be great to keep it in mind.

Happy Olympics, everybody. Go USA! And Slovakia! And Germany! And I don’t really mind if some Czechs do well, either.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. I’m looking to get to $10/month to justify the amount of time I spend on this blog. I’m at $7/month so far. Read this post for more information. Or click here to go to Patreon and sign up. It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out.

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