If you don’t know of it already, please google “kidlitwomen” and read at least a few of their posts.
These writers have been making me rethink some things and recharge my literature battery and, yes, inspiring me. It’s not usually what I’d call “fun” to look back on lost opportunities to stand up for yourself or others, which has happened more and more as the #metoo movement has come and stayed and challenged us. It can be a struggle to figure out what I personally can do to change all these rusty, hurtful, and broken cultural dynamics. So what I love in these posts is that – while there is reflection on what has been – these amazing writers are very forward-thinking. Change might be hard, but it will build a better someday for all kinds of kids, as well as us grown people, allies or not.
Life in Libraryland mirrors the struggles in the “real” world, because, well, it is the real world. I often think about what I could have done differently in patron interactions that didn’t go as well as I’d like. There’s a lot I can’t control, however. Some people walk into my library world with no intention of showing me any respect or kindness. Maybe they have had a bad day. Maybe they don’t really know what they’re doing, but their boss is making them do some ridiculous online thing they don’t understand, and of course, the boss is assuming they have internet and computer access at home, which they don’t, and before they even walk in the door, they are angry at the world and, by extension, me, the person who is in front of them not doing exactly what they want as fast as they want. There are all kinds of anger and despair and frustration that build up before people walk in the door. I get that.
But sometimes there’s an added layer to it, one where mostly older, white men think it’s ok to bully, accuse, threaten to get you fired, or make other inappropriate and unhelpful remarks, all while you are supposed to be “helping” them. Nobody enjoys being on the receiving end of that, and when I get around to thinking about it, I feel pretty strongly that they would not behave that way to the men I know, even if that man did not have a clue how to help them and I did.
Do we call that spade a spade, though? It’s harder than you might think. We all want to provide good customer service, and our society has been training women from birth to get along, be nice, not be aggressive, and so on, although we certainly like to think that’s changing. I’ve occasionally been able to talk people down if I can figure out what’s upsetting them and what they need, so once in a while, it all turns out ok. I spent years in social services, so I came into this gig with some previous experience dealing with really angry people. If I could deal with that screaming and scary-on-a-good-day dad who was enraged we were trying to help his daughter graduate (long story), I know I can do all right for myself when jerks are in front of me now, although all bets might be off if I’m on cold medication or you’re the fifth person who’s making my day.
Anyway, these moments can seem unsettling and very not empowering. I know I was socialized to try to make others happy first and be quiet when boys talked all through my youth and college years – you don’t want to see the list of long left-behind incidents that have been popping into my head these days – but things can change. I can be forward-thinking, too. I can find new ways to stand up for myself and the readers I have the luck to influence and the writers I have the privilege of reading. So think about it, brothers and sisters. Let’s find a way to leave the screaming hot messes in our worlds behind and boldly go somewhere new.
And also read some interesting essays and good books, too. Always.