A few years ago, during Black History Month, one of my students of Anglo-Saxon lineage asked: Why don’t we have have White History Month? I replied, We do, they’re called January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December at which point several of the non-Anglo-Saxon students in the room exchanged fist bumps and high fives.
I understand. When for all your history you’ve been on top (literally, in many cases) any change that threatens that privileged space is scary. I got another lesson on how scary the world has become for white privileged males like myself yesterday when Mary Jo sent me Danuta Kean’s Women’s history month promotion sees bookshop ‘silence men’s voices’ from The Guardian. Kean writes:
A bookshop in Ohio has made a graphic illustration of the position of female writers by leaving only books by women visible to its customers. The change, made to mark women’s history month, has provoked an angry reaction in some quarters, with accusations of sexism and censorship.
Eight members of staff at Loganberry Books in Cleveland turned the spines and covers of books by men to face the wall in the shop’s 10,000-title fiction section. Harriett Logan, the bookstore’s founder and owner, told the website Heat Street the intention was to illustrate how women’s voices were drowned out.
“In essence [we are] not just highlighting the disparity but bringing more focus to the women’s books now, because they’re the only ones legible on the shelf,” she told the online magazine. She added that although she had conceived the display to make a point, when completed it had an even stronger impact than she had expected.
Good on Logan. I’ve shopped several times at Loganberry books (although I must confess, I buy most of my books from Mac’s Backs) Just as people afraid of change see the phrase: Black Lives Matter and see White Lives Don’t Matter so, apparently did people discover Logan’s promotion and see a threat to their own safe space. Kean continues:
The shop has divided opinion online. Novelist Susan Petrone tweeted: “If @loganberrybooks had just done another display for #WomensHistoryMonth, nobody would be talking about gender disparities,” while thriller writer Joe Hill, son of Stephen King, tweeted: “Wouldn’t it be interesting to try this with your own TBR pile for a while? Might try it with mine.”
However, not all reactions were positive, with complaints that Logan should be running a “men’s history month” [See above, JH] to balance the promotion, and that the display was not about women’s voices, but about “hating men”. Editor and writing coach John Ettorre tweeted: “Simply unbelievable. Promoting women’s voices by symbolically silencing men’s. By an independent bookstore! Shame on you, Harriett.” He added: “Did they settle on this path after deciding burning books by men was just too over the top? I’m stunned.” [Emphasis mine, JH]
Logan responded to Ettorre’s comments by inviting him to the shop. “Come visit,” she tweeted back. “It is quite striking—eye opening. and, obviously, temporary.”
Some complained the move was a form of censorship that “insulted customers” and made it difficult for them to find an item. “This dumb broad is why so many women-run businesses go belly up,” one poster replied to a comment on Heat Street about the practicality of the display.
I’ve known John Ettorre as a writer, blogger and fellow supporter of Cleveland’s Blogfather and journalism treasure Roldo Bartimole for more than a decade and I’m also stunned. I did not think that John would write such a tone-deaf message. His tweet puts him in nefarious company, as a read of the comments on the Heat Street illustrate.
The shame, John, is on you, not Harriett.