Some of you may know about the implosion that has been happening with Romance Writers of America (RWA) since before Christmas (and really for years). For any who don’t know and are interested, there is a good recap that is a list of the daily events with links to posts or other documentation. This is being updated daily.
I have been a member of RWA since 2013 and have served on several boards and committees or helped run events through the years. I have made countless friends, established professional connections, and seen my career flourish thanks to workshops I’ve learned from, events I’ve attended, and the people who’ve helped me along the way.
And I am heart-stricken to say I, like so many, have been blind to the fact that other RWA members who fall into various marginalized groups have not had the same experience.
Here’s the thing…I can’t say I am surprised.
As a woman, I have experienced microaggressions and discrimination in many situations–as a previous professional in the male-dominated tech industry, but also as a woman dealing with (sadly) other women. Some overt, like being blocked for jobs or opportunities. Some so subtle it made me want to scream. All it takes is a look or a comment, something others in the room miss, but you know was targeted at you. Even careless remarks, unintended to hurt, can carry a great deal of sting.
Writers, of all people, should understand that words matter.
Even within RWA (with all the good experiences I’ve had) starting as a self-published author, I was made by some to feel that wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t a “real” author. And it felt awful.
How much more terrible for any person to experience any kind of exclusion or discrimination over and over and over about who they intrinsically are. In small, subtle ways and larger, explicit ones. In personal ways and from the organization that is supposed to be helping and providing a safe space for all.
In a genre promoting love and hope, why are we not seeing it for everyone? Love is love is love.
Regardless of who is or is not at fault, the ways in which both sides have handled things, and whether or not RWA as an organization can rise from the ashes of this fallout and regain the trust of its membership, it seems to me one thing is clear–we should do better.
I should do better.
As an author who falls in the white, heterosexual, able-bodied group (ADHD is something I’ve been lucky enough to learn to use for me rather than battle against, so I don’t personally count that for myself), I should work the hardest and be the most determined to do better.
I have friends and family, loved ones close to me, who fall into a myriad of marginalized groups, and I want to do better for them. As an author, whose works are read by total strangers who might then go out into the world and reflect my words, I want to do better for them. I know I will stumble and mess up and show my ignorance and get things wrong as I go, but please know that I am trying.
I am a far, far cry from perfect and, while I would sincerely hope not, have no doubt that contained in the 30+ previous works of mine are microaggressions or offenses thanks to ignorance, carelessness, or a perception of the world seen through privileged rose-colored glasses. Absolutely unintended, but that doesn’t matter if my words caused harm. If I hurt anyone with my words, spoken or written, or with my actions, I unequivocally apologize. I will also be continuing to listen, to educate myself better, and to read back through my old works to fix them as I am able (something I had already started prior to this).
The situation imploding RWA is complicated, messy, ugly, and heartbreaking. It is a difficult time for members as we all decide what is best not only for ourselves personally and professionally, but for our chapter(s), and the organization as a whole. Readers, please know that we also keep you in our thoughts as we move forward and strive to do better.