Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Kathleen Hale continued...

So yesterday I wrote a post about Kathleen Hale and I got hit pretty hard. Most of the focus seemed to be on the fact that I said Kathleen Hale was brave for writing the article. It also seems a number of people think I was defending Kathleen Hale for stalking her reviewer. Let me make one thing clear. I would never, ever, ever encourage or defend anyone who hurts another person and by hurt I mean physically, psychologically, or use any sort of scare tactics.

I also strongly encourage all writers not to react to reviews or reviewers. I often think the best thing we can do is walk away and stay silent. I do think I said that a number of times in my post.

Like many other agents I have experienced threats. I've never been physically attacked, thank goodness, but I've been frightened enough to not open the office door and frightened enough to advise reporting an email or letter to the police and frightened enough to leave a conference early.

My article yesterday was based entirely on her piece in The Guardian, an article that stated that names had been changed. For obvious reasons I assumed that meant the reviewer she was talking about. I've since learned that's not the case which does make me doubt her reasons for writing the piece. That being said, I stated very clearly in the beginning of my post that I was basing it on The Guardian exclusively. What I said was not meant as a defense of Kathleen Hale. It was an explanation of how I understand how a review can get inside an author's head. I wasn't standing behind her, but I was relating to the many authors out there who found themselves obsessed with the negativity of a review or reviews. Thankfully most never go so far as to track down their reviewer.

Someone who commented on my post had a cover photo promoting free speech. Thank goodness we live in a place where we are allowed to put ourselves out there and express our opinions and thank goodness we live in a place where people can give their opinions on our opinions. Part of that freedom should include safety. We should be allowed to safely say what we mean.

The thing about free speech, and writing, is that no matter how much we love what we do, putting ourselves out there, through our writing, as authors, as bloggers, as reviewers, is terrifying. It is terrifying to wait and see what people say. It should never be terrifying enough that we fear for ourselves or those around us.

The part of my post that seemed to get the most criticism was the part where I said Kathleen Hale was brave. Before you stop reading to comment please hear me out. She was not brave for stalking someone. My reasoning for saying that was my own interpretation that she was confessing to her misdeeds and maybe admitting her mistake. That's the problem with writing we all interpret things differently, no matter how hard the author tries to make it clear to everyone. I did not intend for people to think I was defending her actions and for that I'm definitely sorry.  I'm mostly sorry that anyone thinks that I would encourage stalking or scare tactics.

--jhf


8 comments:

Anonymous said...

So the lesson is: don't write a blog about something without doing your research first.

Artemis Grey said...

Okay, no need to be an asshat, Anonymous.

I think the best thing we can take away from this entire Kathleen Hale debacle is just a list of lessons in what not to do, and how not to act, no matter how hurt we are by reviewers.

When I first started to read her article in the Guardian, I was pleased to see that she was owning up to what she'd done. As I read farther, however, and in retrospect, after reading a great deal more about her and about 'incidents' that have involved her, I see a pattern of inappropriate behavior, followed by a 'fess up and apologize' move, and then calm until the next 'incident' in which she acts inappropriately. I also found the innuendo that her response was primarily based on the fact that the reviewer said her book contained characters who were 'rape apologists' and 'condoned stalking' and thus, as a victim herself, she took immediate and acute offense and reacted brashly.

The problem is that (and I had trouble finding articles that linked her accused rapist to conviction in regard to her name specifically) even if she IS a rape victim (I presume she is, even without finding specific evidence) she DID write characters who made fun of mental illness and light of stalking, and sexual violence. And then she acted JUST LIKE THEM by stalking the reviewer of her book.

I respect that she acknowledged her misdeeds, but it doesn't excuse her, and from her history, I fully expect her to continue the behavior, and possibly escalate her actions.

I resent her for trying to use her 'victim status' to as a valid reason for her behavior. Especially since it would represent a form of PTSD, something which she literally makes fun of in her own writing.

Robin said...

One of the things that has, I think, been angering readers and bloggers about some of the laudatory reactions to Hale's piece is that people who make a living in a community where critical thinking, reading, and writing should be second nature, are accepting her account wholesale, despite some pretty obvious red flags.

Jane Litte wrote a very reasoned breakdown of the Hale piece, but I don't know how many people who sympathize with Hale have actually stopped to consider the issues Litte raises: http://dearauthor.com/features/essays/on-the-importance-of-pseudonymous-activity/

No one deserves to be stalked, assaulted, or harassed for speaking or acting lawfully. And despite all the authors and others who have supported Hale, I have yet to see readers who argue that an author deserves to be stalked, assaulted, or harassed.

But many of us are beyond depressed to think that Hale is now the standard for journalistic ethics in publication, production of evidence, and convincing argumentation. No community that claims to value literacy should stand for that.

The Writers Canvas, Author Elaine Calloway said...

Wow, I haven't been by the BookEnds Blog in over a year and at that time I think you had stopped blogging.

Glad to see you're back and hope all the various comments don't make you go on hiatus anymore :)

I'm an indie author, I've had my share of 5-star and 1-star reviews, and agree that the best thing to do is just not respond. Most of the time, I go look at what the reviewer has said about other books. When I realize they give NYT bestsellers 2 stars and I got 1 star, I don't feel so bad :)

Elaine

Melodye said...

Hale reaped the whirlwind, no doubt about it. I appreciate that you've afforded everyone a safe forum in which to share their own experiences and perspectives. Too, that you've clarified your position in a way that invites further dialogue.

No minor dust-up, this. There are casualties on all fronts...and also, lessons. I hope we'll remain open to other points of views as we consider the possibilities.

writtentoourhearts.com said...

The way I took her words was that she was just talking about what she did. She didn't see anything she did as a misstep.

cheffojeffo said...

I would have been much more inclined to see your point about it taking courage to admit such tremendous wrongdoing if, at any point, Kathleen Hale had shown remorse.

About as close as she got was to say that it was a personal bottom, which is still just Kathleen talking about Kathleen. As if this misadventure was something that happened to her.

Remorse is about understanding what effect you have had on others. That takes courage.

Anonymous said...

Based entirely on The Guardian, I'm still not sure how anyone could come to the conclusion that she was brave.

She did something morally reprehensible and then then wrote a piece completely lacking in apology... There is not a single apology to the woman she stalked. A woman who would clearly feel unsafe knowing someone has been stalking her, and Hale couldn't even say "sorry". How is that brave?

So Hale admitted it. Imagine an article where a man admitted to cheating on his wife in an almost playful tone without a single regret, all the while implying his wife had pushed him into infidelity. Would that be brave too? I don't think so.

She also said she only changed the name of her author friend, not the blogger, though I understand you read it the other way... And it sounds like you also understand how disgusting that is, a scare tactic that I'm appalled The Guardian would allow.

Hale clearly understands the concept of changing names, since she did it once, but she couldn't afford her stalking victim the the courtesy. That's definitely not bravery.

I appreciate the attempt at clarification in this post, however I'm not sure why you repeatedly say that it was based solely on The Guardian. Based only on that, Hale was awful.