Posts Tagged disability

The AmazonFail Backlash is an LGBTD Issue

–I was born in a system
That doesn’t give a fuck
About you nor me.

Zomby, “The Lie” (sampled from Sizzla, “Born in a System,” via Ricky L, “Born Again”)

The story of #amazonfail that’s being told:

Over a holiday weekend, somebody in France who works on Amazon’s internal database made one simple mistake. As a result, thousands of books were incorrectly flagged as adult, removed from the Sales Rank list, which made it difficult to find these books using Amazon’s Search function, which uses the Sales Rank figures to weight its results. A few authors found out about this, and, through the power of Twitter, a huge outpour of rage and anger sprang up on Easter Sunday. By Monday, after some frantic work during a holiday a weekend, Amazon issued an apology and fixed the glitch. End of story.

But the story hasn’t ended, even though the above explanation has been adopted by the general public, and perhaps the majority of the LGBT community, as well as some of those who had been most active on #amazonfail. I think we’re actually at the beginning of our fight to get to the bottom of this. First of all, this didn’t start over the weekend. As was fairly widely reported on Sunday, Craig Seymour, author of a memoir of his years as a gay stripper in D.C., experienced similar problems in February. He’s recently reconstructed a timeline of his struggle to get Amazon to take any notice. (For the record, Craig Seymour adheres in large part to the above story.)

Amazon’s fail did not begin over the weekend, or even in February, but in the summer of 2008. On July 13, 2008, a Kindle reader asked in an Amazon forum,

I’m just wondering why more lesbian ficiton writers haven’t made their work available on Kindle? Is there some drawback that is alluding me? Most books are available as e-books, why not Kindle?

Author Francine Saint Marie replied, two days later,

Hello there,

Almost all of my titles are published on Kindle and they’re selling, but Amazon refuses to post sales rankings for them. Without a sales rank, a title can’t make the “popular category” lists, and that makes it difficult for the target audience to find it. I have tried to resolve this issue, but Amazon won’t budge on it. My own research indicates that there are other titles in this genre also not ranked, but which, like mine, are definitely selling. Thus, I would have to conclude, based upon my own experience, that the Amazon/Kindle is simply not a very lesbian-friendly marketplace…

You can find both my paperback and Kindle titles by clicking on my name. Still others can be found by searching for FSM in the Kindle store. (On each of my product pages you will find an “also bought” list; those usually will be my other Kindle titles, too.)

Good luck on your quest and very best regards to you–

Saint Marie has posted her story on AfterEllen, and thankfully, it seems to be disseminating somewhat. I explained in my last post why the so-called “apology” is anything but.

It’s what’s happening now that’s really frightening me. The shitstorm on Twitter, people are now saying, was totally uncalled for, and those who participated in it should be ashamed of themselves. In particular, it’s an excellent case study of how homos (or “liberals” in general) are hypersensitive pansies who will irrationally support any random cause that comes along and sounds sufficiently scandalous. 

I’m a Victorianist, which means that instead of wasting all my time puzzling over this #amazonfail bullshit, I’m supposed to read nineteenth-century British novels. In Victorian novels, if women acted in a manner that might put patriarchal authority into question, they could be labeled “mad,” and put into an asylum against their will. Towards the end of the century, it was more likely to be the specific diagnosis of hysteria than the catch-all accusation of  madness–and this could lead to a “rest cure,” such as that depicted in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” In the twentieth century, this pathologizing of any form of resistance towards the status quo was more likely to find its target in gays and lesbians. In the twenty-first century, this pathologization continues. Women were liable to be dismissed as acting from irrational hysteria in the nineteenth century, and queers, in this beautiful twenty-first century of ours, face the same charge. We don’t need to give a fuck about what queers have to say, because they’re probably getting their panties in a knot over nothing.

Or: if gay and lesbian were unfairly classified as adult, then that’s just because gays and lesbians are more likely to seek “adult” content; they’re more likely to go for porn than normal people. This is how somebody responded (in part) to one of my comments on Mary Hodder’s guest blog on TechCrunch:

The least persuasive argument here is that “anti-gay books weren’t flagged”. But that’s because they aren’t sexually explicit. Let’s ask this question: does an anti-gay screed get a title GLBT in the first place? I doubt it, because what member of the GLBT constituency, going to that section of the bookstore to find their tribe and buy books, is going to want to have a nasty anti-gay book staring at them? The prudent bookstore would put that back in some other category like “sociology” or “health” or something.

It seems to me that those concerned about trying to screen out adult explicit content either consciously, with eyeballs, or automatically, with a set of tags like “GLBT” and “erotica” simply identified GLBT as a high-probability category for very explicit sexual material.

And in fact their action was legitimate because it *is* a category with a very high probability for sexually explicit material! There’s *nothing wrong* with that. It’s a free country. You can’t ban porn books anymore. You can’t ban even books with some graphic scenes in them. But if they re all in a group to in fact help customers find them better as a sales tactic and as a nod to identity, you can’t then later scream that they were “targeted” in a snafu like this.

I was born in a system that doesn’t give a fuck about you or me.* It doesn’t need to give a fuck about you or me because we’re just hysterical, oversensitive, irrational sub-people who make a huge kerfuffle over nothing. It doesn’t need to give a fuck about me or you because all we want is sex, anyways. I mean who could deny that? And we’re completely irrational when people flag gay and lesbian books as adult that are completely unerotic, because, let’s face it, there are very few books about gays and lesbians which aren’t pornography.

This mess tagged #amazonfail indicated a wound, and now that wound is suppurating. Over the weekend, we found out that gay and lesbian books could be disappeared, and nobody would care unless we raised a shitstorm. But now, the aftermath is all about reinforcing the most damaging stereotypes of queers. This isn’t a fight over censorship, it’s the fucking culture wars all over again. Instead of rendering visible the negative, dismissive stereotypes sexual minorities face, Amazon’s epic fail has resulted in the confirmation of those stereotypes.

Some commentators have noted that this outrage was connected in some way to the battle over same-sex marriage, especially due to the recent legalizations in Iowa and Vermont. For me, it was connected–but I don’t give a fuck about gay marriage, really, speaking for myself. I’ll fight (not to the death, I’m no fucking pseudo-Voltaire) for anybody to marry whoever the fuck they want, but I would never in a million years want to be married to anyone, even if unicorns turned out to be real and marriageable. But this whole equation of LGBT activism, at the present moment,  with gay marriage has not made me a happy dyke. I want to give a fuck about something that has to do with life and living rather than being normal. And the reason  why I jumped on the #amazonfail bandwagon was because it was completely different from the fight for gay marriage.** This wasn’t about being able to be normal, but being able to be. Which is still a major fucking issue. The system doesn’t want to give a fuck about you or me, as the aftermath of amazonfail has shown.

*I realize it’s heavily ironic that I start this post with an epigraph from the words of somebody who only gives a fuck about queers because he wants them to be killed. But that Zomby track is fucking killer, and don’t you dare torrent that shit, because I fucking give a fuck about brilliant underground dubstep producers.

**My other complaint about considering gay marriage as the LGBT issue is that it has resulted in the continued marginalization of transgender folk and transsexuals, discriminated against not just by the straight majority, but, all too often, by cisgendered gays and lesbians themselves. And what about people with disabilities? Are they also hypersensitive, or obsessed aboout sex? Or do they not merit mentioning at all, as is the case in the vast majority of accounts of #amazonfail?


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