Lists and Why We Make Them

Lists and Why We Make Them

Remember a couple of weeks ago when there was a lot of discussion and debate about Bridget McKennitt’s list of authors, etc. that she was boycotting due to RaceFail? Yeah, I’m a little late in posting my response to it. The subject has been marinating for a while and I finally have some time to sit and pound it out.

I can’t find it in myself to condemn Bridget for that list even though I don’t agree with everything about it — for instance, I don’t think all Tor books should be on the NO list, though I can certainly understand why she feels/felt that way. Still, I don’t think that what she did was so terrible because it’s what all of us do, we just don’t necessarily do it on the Internet.

By that I mean that we all make lists. Some of us keep our lists in our heads, some keep private notes, some make the items on their lists public individually. All of us have lists of writers, book series, TV series, directors, producers, actors, whatever and whoever that we refuse to deal with in the future for a variety of reasons. As a POC and as a woman I often have lists that specifically relate to sketchy crap around race or gender in the media I partake of. Though I may not have the list compiled in one post, anyone who reads my blog for a few months at a time will get a pretty good idea of who or what might be on that list. I have a pretty good idea of the lists of people I know well or read regularly.

My reasons for keeping certain authors on my list varies — sometimes it’s purely based on their fiction, sometimes on their actions in the world or words they utter or post on the Internet, and sometimes a combination of both.

Everyone does this. And there’s nothing wrong with it. At the basic level these lists help minimize the waste of money and time on things that are almost guaranteed to annoy, anger, or bore us. For POC, women, and other minorities there’s an extra layer — lists help us protect ourselves and each other. I may warn a black friend of mine off of a book series or author I know to be sketchy or problematic on race or even outright racist and offensive. Because why should another person waste their time or money just to be offended or deeply hurt?

This is probably at the center of my internal conflict — while I understand why some would see that list as a bad thing, as being similar to TNH’s assertion that she would be seeking out the real names behind the LJ handles for unknown reasons, as being kinda witchunty, I cannot separate the action of making such a list and posting it publicly from the cultural/social reasons for needing to make such lists. It’s not just about personally boycotting authors or companies you disagree with, it’s about warning other people that this author, this book, these people in power are not safe. When you’re a minority this is imperative, because there are so, so many unsafe places and we can’t avoid them all, but protecting ourselves even a little helps us get through life without ending up in the clocktower with a rifle.