I was debating whether to post this or not because when it comes down to author and writer organisations, I don’t know enough about the rules, what they are about, and I don’t have enough knowledge about them. But I quickly realised that no matter the rules, regulations and laws of author organisations, wrong is wrong and you simply cannot hide behind these rules when it comes to discrimination.
I came across a blog post that Courtney Milan posted a while back on how a chapter from the RWA (Romance Writers of America), the RWI (Romance Writers Ink), discriminated same sex stories from its contest, More than Magic.
The judges in the category apparently felt uncomfortable to read same-sex stories, so they banned them from the contest.
I then came across Hedi’s post about the situation, and please read it. It’s a must read: http://heidicullinan.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/rwa-shouldnt-be-in-the-business-of-discrimination/
So whilst I don’t understand the laws of RWA, this is my perspective as a reader from this rotten situation.
Firstly, how can a big organisation such as RWA allow this to happen? Surely there are laws against discrimination like this? But there aren’t any. They are a private organisation, so it’s all legal. But then I thought, surely the people at the top of the RWA would put a stop to this. But no. RWA’s response was that each chapter dictates and makes its own rules for chapter contests, and RWA will not intervene. So there are no two ways about it: RWA is and will continue to be an enabler for discrimination because of their laws and rules. They must know that it’s quite possible for there to be members in their organisation who would use their position to discriminate others, so as a national organisation, shouldn’t they set the tone from the top that discrimination is not allowed?
Nah, I guess not.
RWA’s site never ever loads, so I wasn’t personally able to read their statement. So a big thank you to Nadia Lee for sending me this. Here is RWA’s official statement in case the site is failing to load for others:
“RWA members are served by 145 local and special interest chapters, and those chapters are individually incorporated and governed. So long as chapters fulfill their obligations under state law, as well as RWA and chapter bylaws, and their programs and services support the professional interests of career focused romance writers, policy affords them rather broad latitude in determining which programs and services to offer. Absent policy governing chapter-level contests, RWA’s board cannot intervene in the decisions of individual chapters. Romance Writers of America does not condone discrimination of any kind. RWA’s policies regarding chapter programs and services will be discussed when the board reconvenes in March”
The RWI chapter were given the chance of getting other judges who would be willing to read and judge same sex stories that was entered in the contest. That was declined.
But instead of dealing with this issue, the RWI chapter cancelled the contest and published this response.
“After much consideration, RWI regretfully announces the MTM Published Author Contest has been cancelled. All monies received from entrants will be returned as soon as possible. We have heard and understood the issues raised, and will take those concerns into consideration should the chapter elect to hold contests in the future. Please note: our contest coordinator, Jackie, is a chapter member who graciously volunteered to collect entries and sort by category. It is unfortunate that she has become the object of personal ridicule and abuse. We recognize the decision to disallow same-sex entries is highly charged. We also opted not to accept YA entries. We do not condone discrimination against individuals of any sort.”
I love the part that mentions, ‘we also opted not to accept YA’. Aka why are you so freaking angry about this. We also said no to kid stories, and you don’t see them kicking up a fuss. /end sarcasm.
Each chapter of RWA has chapter autonomy (thanks Jane for explaining on twitter). I don’t understand why there can’t be one rule that states there will be NO discrimination in any of our contests, and that’s the one rule you all must abide. Same sex is not genre like YA. It’s not a genre fullstop. If you don’t want to judge a story that features same sex, hetro sex, unicorn sex, why not get another judge who is willing to read that story?
I know that not all RWA members are like those certain individuals in that chapter, and some are actively fighting what has happened, but when the top of the organisation allows this to happen, they are the ‘voice’ of the brand. It gives out a message that as a whole, RWA allows their members to discriminate because of a policy. Fair or not, as a reader the projection I’m getting is that RWA allows it’s chapters to discriminate because of rules. That is wrong. Wrong wrong wrong.
I know that as a reader this post won’t help, but hopefully by spreading the word it will raise awareness of what is happening and other readers will be aware because whilst as readers we can’t do anything, we can let RWA know that we think they are big buttheads for allowing this to happen.