The Cult of Anger: Which Wolf will You Feed?

snarling-dog-e1360684279321There’s another bruhaha brewing in the M/M romance genre right now, one that seems to have escalated in a little mushroom cloud on Twitter in the last 24 hours.

I don’t know how it started. I know that I’ve seen statements that both anger and insult me. It feels in part like another attempt to tell women we can’t write in certain genres, but it’s more than just that, I believe. The statements and counter-challenges have been flying with the force and unpleasantness of monkeys throwing their own dung. I’ve read comments that the only ‘authentic’ story is written from the perspective of a gay man by a man, and that anything not written by a man is not only crap, but fetishistic crap as well. I’ve seen an unexpected backlash against trans characters being included in certain stories, and strident statements that the M/M genre was created by cis-women for cis-women readers, so there–along with an unhealthy bashing of the female gender by these same women authors. Which is simply mind-boggling to me.

I can tell you I don’t write M/M romance because I wish I was male. I like being a woman, thank you very much. I do write in this genre because I find it more interesting and challenging to me as a writer, and because I can identify more with feeling like an outcast and having to hide who I really am than I do with the heroine of the average traditional romance novel.

I’ve seen a lot of people trying to define M/M romance to include what they want it to include and nothing else. I wonder sometimes if these people aren’t expecting fiction to be something like what is posted on a fanfic archive, where tastes and kinks can be so tailor-made to a person’s likes or dislikes that you can follow tags to get a story created just to your individual specifications.

Personally, I think it would be incredibly boring to choose to read only stories that matched all my personal preferences. Sure, it would make it easy for me to go shopping, and I’d be reasonably sure of liking the product purchased, but I’d never be challenged in any way. I’d never have my eyes opened to things outside my realm of experience, and I would very likely miss out on some amazing works because they didn’t meet my narrow criteria for stories I wanted to read. Frankly, there’s something out there for almost everyone. The spectrum is long and there are many shades of color along the way. I love Jane Austen. You don’t. We both love historical romances. Does that mean every historical romance must be a Regency–and that it must be written by someone who actually lived in the Regency time period? I think most of us would say not.

The kerfuffle has been like opening a can of vegetables your granny put up two summers ago, and discovering it’s gone putrid inside when you weren’t looking.

I don’t know why this same argument keeps coming up, nor why it seems to get uglier each time it does. I don’t dispute that gay literature, gay romance and M/M romance are different things to different people. What I don’t get is why we seem to have to keep drawing lines in the sand and daring people to cross them. Why we have to keep building clubhouses so we can post “Boys Only” on the door, or create our mud pies and then stand snarling over them like angry dogs.

Maybe it’s because so many of us are angry. So many of us are starving. We’ve been deprived and denied of our rights at work, and among our families. We’ve had to fight for equal pay and respect from our peers. We’re stressed. We’re exhausted. We’re bombarded daily with hostile, negative messages. And we’re looking for someone to blame when we fail to achieve the American Dream we were promised as long as we worked our asses off, played by the rules, and did everything right.

I certainly believe that is the appeal of certain right-wing candidates. They are tapping into this well of hostility that boils so very close to the surface these days. I believe it is the driving force behind GamerGate, and men bashing women online, and people behaving like trolls on websites, and people leaving harsh reviews because it gives them some sort of mean satisfaction.

It’s why I come home at the end of a long day, and instead of making smart choices about dinner, I say, “The hell with it!” and order pizza. We got reamed, damn it. We’re owed. We deserve it, we tell ourselves, even though we are only hurting ourselves in the end.

I don’t know when we got so mean and angry. All I know is that I’ve seen interactions change over the last decade of being online, and I have to tell you, I don’t like what we’re becoming. I refuse to play. I refuse to feed that wolf.

Two wloves proverb