Bitch’s List

Bitch Magazine, a feminist quarterly publication focused on pop culture, recently posted to their blog a list of “100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader”. I subscribe to Bitch, and I have read many of the books on this great list… but as I scrolled through the comments on the post, I noticed something was going on.

After complaints from commenters about several of the book choices, Bitch decided to review the books they’d gotten complaints about, and subsequently removed three books from the list:

A couple of us at the office read and re-read Sisters Red, Tender Morsels and Living Dead Girl this weekend. We’ve decided to remove these books from the list — Sisters Red because of the victim-blaming scene that was discussed earlier in this post, Tender Morsels because of the way that the book validates (by failing to critique or discuss) characters who use rape as an act of vengeance, and Living Dead Girl because of its triggering nature. We still feel that these books have merit and would not hesitate to recommend them in certain instances, but we don’t feel comfortable keeping them on this particular list.

We’ve replaced these books with Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley and Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden. Thanks to several commenters who pointed out the need to include these excellent books on our list. I’m excited to add a few more rad girls to our list and I can’t say how happy I am to know that there are WAY more than 100 young adult books out there that tackle sexism, racism, homophobia, etc… while presenting us with amazing young adult characters. Young adult lit has come a long way. We’re really excited to keep talking about feminist-friendly YA books on the blog. (Posted by Ashley McAllister on February 1, 2011 – 2:41pm)

This is disturbing to me. I don’t think I’d feel this way if the books had not been put on the list in the first place, but to remove something because someone complained? It seems bordering on censorship to me. And as many others suggested, why not note next to the book title that it may be triggering to some readers, instead of removing the books altogether? It just doesn’t seem like this decision was in the best interest of anyone, especially not young feminists looking for a good book. Other authors whose books were featured on the list have asked that their works be removed in protest of the removal of the first three, and because they do not want to be associated with censorship.

Personally? I’m disappointed in Bitch, my favorite feminist magazine. And I’d like to close with this comment in response to Bitch. I think it sums up beautifully the issues raised by this incident:

So many things are triggering for rape victims. Being brushed up against on a subway train, walking down the street and seeing a very sexual ad campaign, watching a movie with a rough loves scene–all of these things can be triggering. Trust me, I’m one of those triggered victims. But censoring a list of literature to not include such titles lets rapists win. It tells victims that they don’t deserve to have a story. It tells young women that their experiences that may keep them from living full lives IS something to be ashamed of.

Blatantly removing a title because it could be “triggering” doesn’t give respect to the reader. Going into the book, they usually know what they’re getting into. Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, Sarah Dessen’s Just Listen, Daisy Whitney’s The Mockingbirds–all incredible titles that have “triggering” content but that tell a story that needs to be told. Too many young women never speak out, and you are part of that by censoring a title just because someone protested the “triggering” content. Abuse toward women is an epidemic and literature that brings it to light is to be commended, not condemned. Until you understand this, you probably shouldn’t be labeling anything on this blog as “feminist.” (Posted by Anonymous on February 1, 2011 – 5:20pm)

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