Comment Policy

My last post has 97 comments at the time of writing. While I did think a post with the words “rape” and “James Bond”  in the title might get more attention than I’m used to, this was unprecedented. And, as I do not write and put things on the internet with the intent that nobody shall see them,  I’m very pleased about this! Thank you, to everyone who linked it around and almost everyone who commented. However, it does raise some issues that I haven’t had to think about much before. As far as is possible, I want this not to be a “don’t read the comments” kind of place, and I am distressed that to some extent, last week, that was the kind of place it became, with people who would like to discuss sexism without being subjected to sexism reporting feeling tense, saddened and excluded from what was in many ways a great discussion, and a minority of obnoxious  and denialist comments  getting more attention than the thoughtful, knowledgeable ones.

So, although I am a sporadic blogger and thus unlikely to be able to host a regular commentariat here, and it may well be that nothing I write explodes like that again, I think I need a comment policy. So here is one.

All comments will continue to go to moderation by default. Nothing gets though unless I approve it. This way, people can comment and discuss (albeit not at high speed) and if anyone does anything particularly ghastly, it’ll quietly gather dust in my inbox, unseen by anyone else, rather than sitting there on the page upsetting people until I can nuke it.

For the most part the rules here are pretty standard. You can’t be  racist, sexist, homophobic, biphobic, transphobic, generally a bigoted bastard here. You can’t be abusive. Very egregious examples may get kittenhammered because kittenhammering looks like fun and I would like to try it. On this occasion I let every comment through, (until one gentleman decided that being asked to modify his behaviour in my space was an outrageous imposition on his liberty and therefore chose PRINCIPLED DEFIANCE, it was a little like the last hours of Joan of Arc) because I didn’t think anyone had overtly broken the letter of those as-yet-unspelled-out rules, even if some strained the spirit. No one actually lapsed into hate speech. But going forward there’s going to be an additional rule, and commenters will have to pass a slightly higher bar than “not actually and obviously abusive”:

Here it is: You cannot attempt to substitute condescension for an argument. There are areas of my life where I can’t stop people  patronising the fuck out of me, or out of others, at least not without having a lengthy, energy-consuming argument. But here I have this beautiful “trash” button, and I am going to use it, and I am not going to waste time justifying it. You can go to your own blog or anywhere else that  will have you, and sigh and tut and fume. But you can’t do it here.

I’m talking about things like this:

“Secondly I think that you don’t understand the concept of ‘realistic fantasy’” (I have published three books that could quite reasonably be described as realistic fantasy).

“Maybe you want to re-write this piece now after doing a bit of actual research.” (I did plenty of research, and you don’t set me homework, thanks.)

“Its the “Nights Watch” in ASOIAF not the “Black Watch”. If you can’t get a very simple fact about a book series then how can you expect people to take you seriously?”

(All right, this one was sort of adorable, and I would let it through again, but it’s probably not a kind of adorable we aspire to be, is it?)

I’m also talking about things like this.

In summary, if you find yourself tempted to address me as if I’m a disappointing student and you’re a professor I’m anxious to please, unless you are in fact Dr Sally Mapstone (who can talk to me however she wants) spare us both the time. If your absurdly condescending comment is unintentionally hilarious it is possible I will let it through to hold up to public mockery, but you can’t count on it. And if you have got through, but I warn you to stop doing something, take it seriously if you want to go on posting here.

The same principles apply to other users,  and other forms of “’splaining” — If you want to explain something to another commenter that you don’t think they understand, be very sure you’re neither lecturing them on their lived experience nor assuming you have greater expertise when what you actually have  is more maleness, whiteness, straightness, cisness or other form of privilege.

If you don’t think you broke any of these rules and can’t see your comment it’s probably just that I haven’t got to it yet, or conceivably that it got mislabelled as spam. If it’s been a while, you can try reposting or ask me to look for it.

With all that understood, welcome,  please have at it.


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  1. Posted June 5, 2013 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Hi Sophia,

    I’m halfway through your Romanitas trilogy – nearly at the end of Rome Burning – and am fully supportive of your condescending responses to some of the condescending remarks ‘The Rape of James Bond’ garnered. Although I did laugh when you said ‘The Black Watch’ instead of the ‘Night’s Watch’ – sorry! I’ve read them all so thought it was funny. Didn’t quite understand the need for some of the comments to be so condescending about it though…

    Re. your views on the way rape is handled and utilised in fiction – personally I think you’re bang on the money. It’s certainly made me think a lot about the way authors and readers treat the subject.

    Anyway, keep writing – I’m really enjoying the Romanitas Trilogy.

    Hope to see you round one day.


  2. Nicole H.
    Posted August 17, 2013 at 4:13 am | Permalink

    Thank you. I found this article both intelligent and reflective. It actually put words to many of the feelings and ideas I’ve had when watching film or television or reading a book; one of my main issues not being that there isn’t a “strong female character” present, but the fact there are little to no female characters at all and if there are they are highly lacking in depth or personality and tend to end up being boxed in caricatures I find no way of relating to. Unfortunately – or maybe it is fortunate, I suppose it depends on how you look at it – I have found this tainting my ability to enjoy certain media outlets. Take Pacific Rim (as a recent example for myself). What’s not to love? Guillermo del Toro directing a film about giant robots used to fight giant monsters attacking from under the sea – are you kidding me?! Hell, yeah! However, I found myself insanely annoyed by the fact that there were two female characters in the entire movie – one who did little more than serve as the SFC caricature and then die and the other who started out as promising, but ended up being reduced to more stereotypes than my brain could handle before finally giving up and bleeding out my ears. I wanted to like this character, but as it became more and more apparent that her purpose was to serve solely as a love interest, I grew to hate her. In part because I saw the potential her role could hold, but declined to acquiesce to and in part because the film also reduced the male lead character (who was highly likeable) to a stereotypical lunk doing things I didn’t believe he would all in deference to upholding her position as his love interest.

    Okay, so I will admit Pacific Rim is by no means great cinematic art, but it could have been really good. What it needed was a better script with some character development (all around, but with females in particular).

    That said, I think it’s easy to talk about the media that lacks in female roles and character development, mostly because there are so freaking many, but I think it’s also important to look for the shining examples of what can be done when thought and depth are given to roles. As I read your article, the Asian movie Chocolate came to mind. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. Ok, ok, YES, it is a female character (refreshingly, she is an autistic child, not a princess) who does martial arts and as a huge fan of kung fu films that is what initially drew me in. Imagine my surprise when I watched it and discovered that while yes, it did have kick ass martial arts scenes, it really wasn’t about Kung Fu and it wasn’t about men. It was about a relationship between a mother and a daughter, two characters who had complexities and flaws that were demonstrated in simple, often sweet ways. I was surprised the film started out with a female character’s perspective. I was surprised to see the male characters relegated to the background roles held mostly by women in film. I was shocked to find myself choking up and close to tears several times in what was supposed to be a kung fu film. It WAS a king fu film, but it was so much more. If you haven’t watched it, I highly recommend it.

    Another of my all time favorite movies featuring deep female characters is Chocolat (apparently, there is a theme going on here). I loved Juno. You mentioned Buffy the Vampire Slayer in your article and yes, I loved that show (with the exception of the sixth season, which I pretend doesn’t exist for several reasons I shan’t go into here). I think Joss Whedon has a talent for creating female characters that are interesting and real. He also features shows that tend to have an even number of men and women – Buffy and Firefly both being great examples.

    My question in all this though – and perhaps your next article can address this – is how can we start to change this? I don’t believe there is a simple answer. Media is dominated by men. I think a lot of the women involved feel they have to cop to the box of strong female – or their projects that are trying to get away from this and get real get taken over by men and are “altered to fit what the audience wants to see”. I can’t tell you how many times I have read articles addressing the question of “will boys want to see a movie with a female protagonist” or for that matter, “will girls want to see it”? That this question has to be asked is a bit concerning to me. I understand that Hollywood in particular is all about money, that it is a business and not art, but women make up most the population and yet we are being fed a bunch of stereotypes and, in my opinion, bull about what we should be, what we want and what we want to see. I don’t have daughters, but I would be pretty concerned about how to get them away from this line of feed if I did. As it is, I have two boys and I am concerned about it.

    I will stop here because this is an issue that goes beyond a response to your post, but you article really fired up my brain and my passion and I LOVE that, so thank you. I also loved the James Bond article, but I really will stop here.

  3. Diane N.
    Posted May 4, 2014 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    I know this is an old post, but I came across it as I was researching a novel I’m writing about life in the aftermath of rape. The story begins with a woman who was recently raped seeking help from her male cousin. But when the cousin is raped, she finds herself helping him instead. There’s also a supporting male character who is emotionally scarred after being raped under the influence of telepathy several years earlier.

    I chose to write about this subject for many of the reasons you describe, and I’ve made a conscious decision to make all rape occur off page because I want to emphasize the characters’ attempts to cope and get justice.

    I’ve been going to critique groups, and the most disturbing comment so far has been that it’s a good thing I’m showing how powerful the woman is up front so readers won’t think she’s lying. This came from a female writer! How will rape culture end when women are supporting it?

    I have a feeling criticism is going to get harsh when the man is raped, and I doubt anyone will publish the book. But it’s a story I have to tell. Have you ever had one of those stories that you just can’t stop writing?

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