Last week, I shared the following post on my Facebook page:
Sadly, this is the real reason I left my position with SCBWI (you’ll need to read the blog post below to understand what I’m referring to). It wasn’t because I was too busy. I mean, I am, but I would always make time to serve my local kid lit community even if it meant forgoing sleep and letting Sponge Bob babysit my children while I planned a conference for my region. Unfortunately, given everything I knew about this situation and the truth about how SCBWI handled it, I could not in good conscience continue to give my time to this organization.
When the New York Times asked for a statement from me regarding this situation, this was my response:
“Understanding that the women who are pointing fingers at Jay have acknowledge their relationships and flirtations with him were completely consensual, I am truly troubled by this situation as a woman, a survivor of sexual assault, and a mother. As a mother of a boy, it’s frightening that women can turn a consensual relationship with a peer into one-sided blame. As a mother of girls, if this is our society’s new reality, how do we raise strong women responsible for their own decisions? The fallout from their choice to engage in a relationship with a married man does NOT belong lumped in with women who have been victims of sexual harassment or assault. The only people who are victims here are their spouses.
What should be a powerful movement is now being called a ‘witch hunt’ by many because of accusations like this from former mistresses. I know I’m not alone in my frustration to see the #metoo movement muddied in this manner.”
I will continue to work hard to raise a son who respects women and to raise women who respect themselves. Part of that is standing up for what is right (like taking my book rights back from a publisher who won’t accept books with LGBTQ characters and stepping away from an organization that would misrepresent a situation like this to save face).
In the end, all we can do is pray everyone involved learns the lessons they are meant to learn so they can grow and become better humans. I believe that is possible for us all.
**Included: Link to Jay Asher’s blog.**
After speaking to my dear friend who was quite upset over my post, I want to make it very clear that I am in no way trying to dismiss the #MeToo movement. I want to see the #MeToo movement make life better for all of us—women and men—bring attention to unhealthy and hurtful behaviors, put a stop to sexual harassment, bring awareness to less obvious actions that can make people feel sexualized, and even make people less inclined to make personal decisions that will leave them feeling “less than.”
Sometimes in the passion of our best intentions, we swing the pendulum too far. We cannot trade one toxic behavior for another. Sadly, that is what I see happening too often with accusations destroying lives. We can likely all agree that there are instances being lumped into the #MeToo movement that do not belong there.
Flawed humans making poor personal decisions in their private lives, like mutually consensual affairs between two adults, don’t deserve to be put in the same category as rapists and sexual harassers.
I won’t discuss my co-writer’s situation beyond how it pertains to me. Unfortunately, I have been put into a drama that I did nothing to create. I’d prefer not to know everything I know, but given the timing of it all, it would be impossible for me not to be part of the discussions as this all impacted the promotion of my last book. And given the timing of the accuser’s friendly email to my co-writer, the announcement of our book the next day, and her subsequent email to SCBWI just 19 days later, I can only logically conclude somehow me writing a book with Jay after I had been warned to “stay away” from him are all related. That reality is truly heartbreaking. I feel somehow responsible, and yet I’ve done nothing wrong. In the end, I did not come to my decision to leave an organization I’ve served for nearly a decade lightly. That decision was made based on tangible facts and literally hours of prayerful consideration.
Even though friends advised me it could negatively impact my ability to continue working in children’s literature because of the influence this organization has, I cannot in good conscience leave without letting my friends and professional peers know why. If being silent when something is grossly wrong is a requirement for working in this industry, I’d rather not be part of it.
Every choice I make is done in love and with thoughtful consideration for how it will impact my son and daughters. And I don’t believe it serves my daughters to allow them to think their poor decisions make them a victim. We don’t learn our own life lessons if we blame others for our mistakes. As a strong woman, I want my gender to be given the same opportunities as men. But I also expect us to be held to the same standard. However, the double standards exposed through some of these claims have been difficult to swallow. And allowing these double standards to continue without a fight doesn’t make the world a very safe place for my son. In the end, I have been pulled into this drama because of accusations against my co-writer, but ultimately it is my children I’m fighting for – our actions and behaviors are determining the society in which they must live. And as things are now, it’s not a very healthy one.
I have heard more than one female friend say, if a few innocent men need to go down to further the cause, they’re okay with that. What if that innocent man is your brother, father, husband, or son? I refuse to accept this mentality.
One of my favorite comments on twitter that perfectly sums up how I feel about this comes from author Christina Sommers in reference to a situation going on with Junot Diaz which very much parallels what my co-writer is currently going through. “Activism without justice or compassion is frightening.” I don’t see justice or compassion in lives being ruined at the drop of an accusation.
You can agree or disagree with any of these thoughts. Differing ideas and values have never deterred me from caring about people, so I will think no less of you if we agree to disagree. This is the last I’ll discuss any of this online, but I wanted to make certain it is clear, I support and value the #MeToo movement even if I take issue with the way some have chosen to use it. I value it enough to demand that we reevaluate how it’s being used so we can reflect on it as a movement that improved our society rather than diminished it.