Twice recently, I’ve been accused of taking things too personally online. So I’ve been trying to decide what that means, exactly.
The first time was on a mystery fan listserv I’ve been a member of for years and years. The topic of vampire books came up, and several people jumped in to say how awful vampire stuff was and how they couldn’t wait until the trend went away. I was really surprised by the vitriol. It hurt my feelings, too. My novels have been straight mysteries, but I do write paranormal short stories and edit urban fantasy anthologies. And there are other writers of paranormal mysteries on the list. So I posted that I was really disturbed by those reactions, and that it was the first time I’d felt unwelcome on this list. This was particularly true because I knew some of the posters personally, not just online.
Some of the responses were positive, along the lines of “Don’t let a few bozos worry you,” but a couple of indignant posters said, “We’ve got a right to our opinion!” and “Why are you taking it personally?” Another declared that he’d never read anything I ever wrote because I had dared to discuss my emotions and hurt feelings.
I let it go after that, but I couldn’t help wondering why it was such a bad thing to take comments personally. I know not everybody likes paranormal books, and of course people are entitled to their opinions, but I’ve got an opinion, too. And in my opinion, there’s an important difference between “I don’t like vampire books,” and “Vampire books are crap!” And I think if you make a statement like “Vampire books are crap!”, people who write vampire books are going to be offended.
The second incident was on a general writing group. A woman quoted what she said was an old saying: “Best sellers are evil smellers.” I commented that I found that amazingly offensive, that some of my books had been on bestseller lists and many of my friends were on best sellers. (In fact, the previous day one of my BFF Charlaine Harris had just found out she was going to be #1 on the New York Times list for the third week. And to link back to the other incident, she writes paranormal books.)
The response was again to ask why I was taking it personally, adding, “I was referring to an ‘old saying’ that I’ve heard repeated many times.” First off, I have never heard this old saying. (I Googled it, and though I found the phrase “best smellers”, that was as close as it got.) Second, plenty of old sayings are really offensive. Stuff like, “A woman’s place is in the kitchen.” And once again, I’m not sure why I shouldn’t take it personally. As I said to her, “If you heard me say women named <her name> have funny looking feet, wouldn’t you take it personally?”
Maybe I am nuts for taking these blanket statements personally, especially online. I just keep hoping for a scenario like this:
Person on list: Short people are stupid.
Me: You may not realize this, but I’m short. Are you saying I’m stupid?
Person on list: No, you’re not stupid. I’m sorry I said that.
Personally, that’s a conversation I’d love to see.