This Fifty Shades of Grey controversy just won’t go away. The most amusing part of it is watching presumably sane and occasionally rational people invoke irrelevant arguments to defend a badly written porn novel.
One of the latest “controversial” decisions to not acquire the book for a library comes from Maryland. The reasoning seems pretty straightforward. The library has a policy against buying pornographic books. The librarian thinks Fifty Shades is a pornographic book. Thus, she didn’t buy it. QED. This isn’t rocket science, people.
But some librarians are outraged (!) that a library wouldn’t stock a particular book, so outraged that they write letters to their local news outlet quoting the ALA claims about censorship left and right.
Think about that for a moment. What cause would possibly get you to bother writing a thousand words to your local news site about how important it is, and for free? What would be worth wasting that much time? And if you did waste that much time, wouldn’t it be a good idea to address the actual point of contention?
For some people it might be arguing against something that was truly dangerous to a community, you know, like a deliberately leaky nuclear power plant or a homeless shelter being built in the neighborhood.
But no, for some, it’s that the library won’t purchase porn. The writer got sooo angry about this particular topic that logic just slipped right out the window. For example:
County library director Mary Hastler has denied censoring the book. However, by the American Library Association’s own definition, censorship is “the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons — individuals, groups or government officials — find objectionable or dangerous. … The censor wants to prejudge materials for everyone.”
I understand selection policy. But Ms. Hastler also states that “a lot of the reviews that came out very publicly and quickly identified these books as ‘mommy porn.’ Since our policy is that we don’t buy porn, we made the decision not to purchase the series.”
This is a clear admission that she decided to censor these books because of their sexual content, an act that is both unprofessional and unethical.
My first clue that clear thinking wasn’t a priority was providing the ALA’s heavily flawed definition of censorship, a definition of censorship so bad that it doesn’t even include the one definition of censorship that we can all agree upon.
Then there was that “however,” as if quoting from the flawed definition was some sort of logical trump card. She just said, “she says she wasn’t censoring the book; however, some people who like to pretend there’s censorship everywhere to make themselves seem courageous for fighting against it say she did.” I’m convinced!
Another clue was that she included the refutation of her own (and the ALA’s) flawed argument while making it: “Since our policy is that we don’t buy porn, we made the decision not to purchase the series.”
Thus, saying that’s a “clear admission she decided to censor these books because of their sexual content” is ridiculous. Instead, it was a “clear admission” that the director had a selection policy and followed it, which leads me to believe the writer doesn’t in fact “understand selection policy.”
But it gets worse. Instead of arguing that the book isn’t porn, which is really the only argument in this case that matters, she claims that “There are plenty of other romance and erotica titles in the library’s collection that contain graphic sexual scenarios,” mistakenly thinking this is an argument for buying the book.
The easy reply: two wrongs don’t make a right. If there are other pornographic books in the collection, and the library policy is to not purchase pornography, then the appropriate response isn’t to buy Fifty Shades, but to remove the books that were mistakenly purchased from the collection. Thus, she just provided the motivation for a series of book challenges. Way to go!
She also claims that “It is not the library’s place to determine what it makes available to the public based on subjective opinion.”
Ahh, subjective opinion, as opposed to that objective opinion you’re displaying. Gotcha.
But isn’t that exactly the library’s place? If a library has a selection policy, and a librarian decides what books to buy or not buy based on that policy, how could it be anything other than exercising “subjective opinion”?
Far from understanding selection policy, the writer is implying that libraries can never have a selection policy because no one could possibly follow one except subjectively, and that’s just not right. How is your defending Fifty Shades anything but stating your “subjective opinion” that libraries should buy this book, especially given how bad the argument is?
The hits just keep on coming. “”50 Shades of Grey” may not be enjoyable for everyone, but it certainly may be of interest to local book club readers, romance and erotica fans, and even non-romance readers whose curiosity is piqued by its recent popularity.”
She’s basically saying that there will be people who want to read this book for free. However, since it’s true of just about every book published, is that really an argument? What porn book wouldn’t possible be of interest to erotica fans? Is there any book that might not be of interest to some group of readers? Yes? Then buy every book published!
Then she runs back to the ALA for intellectual support, which is always a bad idea.
“Unless the decision is based on a disapproval of the ideas expressed and desire to keep those ideas away from public access, a decision not to select materials for a library collection is not censorship.”
Ms. Hastler’s disapproval is censorship under these criteria. She should not cheapen our profession by saying she is not doing something that she clearly is doing.
No one has even bothered to prove that the library director disapproved of the “ideas” expressed in Fifty Shades. The question hasn’t even been addressed. For all we know, she loves “mommy porn.” She also loves following library policy. Thus, her unproven “disapproval” is evidence of absolutely nothing.
Librarians shouldn’t cheapen our profession by making lousy arguments about nonexistent censorship and by claiming people are doing things they clearly aren’t doing.
The rest is more boilerplate nonsense implying that a librarian not purchasing a porn book in accordance with library policy “hurts us all.” Um, sure it does.
So this librarian wrote an entire subjective opinion article in which she doesn’t once address the actual point of disagreement, probably because she can’t.
It’s a lot easier to argue against the red herring of censorship than prove that the library doesn’t have a policy against buying pornography, and that even if it does Fifty Shades isn’t pornography. When I see librarians making that argument instead of avoiding the issue entirely, I’ll take them seriously.