Monday, April 13, 2009

Lessons from Amazon

This #amazonfail censorship fiasco has had some interesting side-effects. First of all, it's been a great illustration for a discussion the dangers of censorship with my children. My tech-savvy older son immediately signed on to twitter to help the cause and had lots of ideas on how consumers can protest. We're all looking forward to seeing how this plays out. The right-wing is known for being noisy, but maybe progressives are just a little tired of taking it all "maturely." And that includes Amazon's decision to take in loco parentis powers to protect their readership from sex and homosexuality. Except Hugh Hefner's brand....

Another interesting side-story has been to watch how people react (including myself) on the comments boards. Some find it hard to believe Amazon would do such a thing--it must be Christian trollers. (If so, Amazon still owes us an apology and a public statement of their intention to support free speech). Some accuse gays of being too sensitive. Some authors just sighed and said, "well, I guess there's nothing we can do." My immediate reaction is to fight, write letters, boycott. Now I know well, very well, that a little guy can't do all that much. But a lot of little guys can. And sometimes a little guy can at least make some difference. A small difference is a big difference. I have to say my heart is gladdened by the outcry to this Amazon policy. Last Thursday, I thought I might struggle alone to get my girl reinstated, but it turns out tens of thousands of authors suffered the same fate. Together I think we can do something.

The ironies of this debacle are also interesting. This happened the same week Judith Krug, the woman who started Banned Books Week, died. Lyrical and lovely Anais Nin is relegated to the de-ranked dusty back room. Henry Miller is not. Anti-gay books stay right up front because they lie and don't label themselves "gay/lesbian." The inspiration for my novel, Ihara Saikaku's The Life of an Amorous Woman, gets to stay in the front under the lights, although its heroine is a true nymphomaniac who has thousands of sexual encounters and a hundred abortions. The book was banned by the Japanese government in the 1930s for its sexual content. And frankly, if you're looking for a bad example for kids, Oharu is way worse than Lydia. So, Amazon, take your lessons from Japanese militarist fascism and remove Saikaku as well!

Yesterday I was feeling a bit wounded by all of this. Attacked. I'd thought our society was opening up to intelligent, honest sexual expression. The small bookstores were not friendly to erotica, but at least we had Amazon. But maybe that wasn't quite true. When I thought of writing again this week, I felt a little scared and tired. But you know, this morning I realized that I'm still a fighter and I will fight on.

One dirty story at a time.

4 comments:

Erobintica said...

Just think Donna, you're in good company. ;-)

neve black said...

D,
Here's hoping their whole ridiculous glitch backfires and let's see erotic sales hit the roof!

I'm in for the fight!

Donna said...

I'm in GREAT company!

And yes, Neve, it would be great if there could be an erotica backlash, lol

MB (Leah) said...

I still don't get why Amazon would do this. They are a business and relegating books to a hidden back room where people can't find them is so illogical.

I really love how fast this became a firestorm all over the net. Especially Twitter, which Jeff Bezos has a huge stake in currently. Ironic huh?

And the power of bloggers is amazing. I looked and already larger more main stream newspapers are picking this up and I wouldn't be surprise if it's on CNN very soon.

Plus the fact that there is no rhyme or reason to their censoring except that GLBT and erotica have specifically been targeted. Even then, not all of it.

Gay right's groups will be all over this and it will hurt Amazon. I personally will not buy from them unless and until this is straightened out and I have a lot of books on my wish list and pre-order. They aren't the only bookstore in town.