From the blog of Vicki Hinze—a writer for whom I have a great deal of respect.
OBJECTIONABLE GRAPHIC CONTENT AND RWA
WARNING: This is an edit-free zone…
“I know of no more disagreeable situation than to be left feeling generally angry without anybody in particular to be angry at.” –Frank Moore Colby
For the past several days, I’ve heard from and read an awful lot about RWA’s policy on graphic content on book covers. Like fire that burns hot and bare-bone clean, word on the policy has spread throughout the industry and beyond it. Complaints of censorship are rampant. Authors and booksellers and bloggers and those who just like to complain are having a hell of a bonfire.
And I’m sitting here, completely befuzzled, and wondering why.
When you get beyond the emotion–which is admittedly difficult, particularly for those with a horse in the race–here’s the situation in its simplest form:
1. RWA is a not-for-profit organization.
2. Not-for-profit organizations must comply with federal law.
3. Federal law defined pornography. (Americans had a lot to say on this!)
4. If RWA associates by affiliation with book covers that contain federally-defined pornography, then it violates laws for not-for-profit organizations.
5. IF RWA violates laws for not-for-profit organizations, it loses its status as one.
There you have it in a nutshell.
The members of RWA elected to be a not-for-profit organization. They elected a Board and charged it with complying and following the dictates the members set forth. That includes not freaking up the works so that RWA loses its not-for-profit status.
If the Board violates the law and RWA loses its not-for-profit status, then its members must be ready to incorporate and pay corporate taxes. (Bet the members would be totally ticked off about that! If the Board goofed and cost RWA its status, members should be ticked off about that.)
But in all the ranting and raging going on, I haven’t heard one member suggest RWA nix the non-profit status and go corporate. None have agreed to it, either. So why all the fuss? The Board didn’t write the laws, they’re just complying with them.
This matter is just that simple. The Board is following the dictates of the members–protecting the organizational structure implemented by the vote of the members and retaining its nonprofit status. The Board is complying with the federal law that we Americans implemented.
And now this Board is being burned in effigy for doing its job.
Why is it that we elect members we know to be smart, dedicated to the interests of the author members, and wise enough to seek professional counsel when needed, and then we rip them apart for protecting our interests? I fail to see the logic in it, and I certainly do not see anything constructive in it.
In the past three days, I’ve heard outrageous remarks against the Board and remarks so hot they make you wish you had asbestos ears. Comments against the Board and against individual Board members. It’s not only unfair, it’s taking cheap shots and it’s appalling.
The members of the RWA Board are volunteers. They were elected by the membership. They work hard in thankless, consuming jobs and they deserve a lot better than they’re getting from those they serve. This issue isn’t emotional for the Board. It’s legal. The law isn’t emotional, and neither should members be when rendered its interpretation. Even if you don’t like the impact it has on you personally.
If you object to the Board’s action, fine. That’s your right. But as a member, then it is also your duty to provide an alternate solution. Do something constructive to correct the problem, don’t kill the messenger. The Board is merely the messenger.
As clearly as I can see this situation, you’d have the same choices I mentioned above: Work for RWA to retain its not-for-profit organizational status, or not.
If not, then I suggest you petition the members and move for RWA to alter its status to that of a corporation. Then you can put whatever your conscience and the applicable laws allow on your book covers. I don’t expect the membership will be eager to sign that petition, incidentally. I know I won’t. But you do have the right to go for it.
You know, those of us who have been members of RWA for a very long time have seen issues like this one come up now and then. The problem with them is that those who scream the loudest are often ones that never bother to ask the Board why they’ve done what they’re doing BEFORE they start screaming.
In the past, these screams have brought a fair amount of ridicule from other organizations and from the mainstream media, and I suspect that this time and this situation will as well. It’s a shame that while romance writers work their backsides off and spend a fair share of money to improve their image, they then destroy any inroads they’ve made by flying off the handle without first being informed. Last I checked, the RWA Board did not have the power or influence to change federal law.
I, for one, am weary of that ridicule and of the negative associations that accompany these rants. I fight for what I believe in; absolutely, I do. But when I fight a battle, I investigate so that I know what the battle is–before I fire the first missile. I eat fewer words that way (saves on middle-age weight gain). And I issue fewer insults that I later must regret and apologize for making.
Can’t help but wonder: how many who have burned the Board and spewed personal criticism and cries of censorship will actually apologize to the Board? How many will send an “I’m sorry” email for accusing them of acting inappropriately by handling an earnest discussion that contained verbiage the law requires them to avoid in executive session so that the profanities would not be incorporated in the minutes and forever a part of RWA official records? Why was this action, which was protective, interpreted as an attempt to hide something from the members?
For those of you who have asked my position on this situation, I hope this is clear. And for those of you bent on firing outraged missiles back at me, I hope that you will back up two paragraphs and read that paragraph again–twice–before launching that strike. If you’re still inclined, well, may I suggest a walk in the park or something else relaxing that offers perspective?
Trust is earned, one book at a time.”
–Vicki Hinze http://vickihinze.com
Note: I edit books and professional correspondence. But I do NOT edit email or this blog. This is chat time for me, so if the grammar is goofed or a word’s spelled wrong, please just breeze on past it. I’d appreciate it–and salute you with my coffee cup.
You are permitted to use the blog post above in its entirety, free of charge, provided you include the following text:
Copyright 2005. Vicki Hinze
Vicki Hinze is a multi-published author, who has a free library of her articles on writing–the craft, business and life–at http://www.vickihinze.com.
There are a couple of things in there I don’t really get and/or agree with, but for now this is just a view of the flipside.