I am mentioned in the School Library Journal thread that names and shames men who have been inappropriate in their conduct with women in the field.
I wish I could say that the entire comment was false, but I would be lying to you and to myself. I have always prided myself on being “good”. I thought I had a good handle on what that was. It turns out I was wrong. And I have to be accountable to you and to myself. I have repeatedly abused my social power. I have made unwelcome advances in professional settings and that is not okay.
This is humiliating to write, but it is also necessary, because I believe in the #MeToo movement and I 100% support women coming forward to name men who have made them uncomfortable, or worse abused them.
When I first found out I was being named, I was shocked. I figured it was someone who had a bone to pick with me or an Internet troll. I decided to ignore it and let it blow over.
But I was lucky, because one of the women I harmed is a friend. She sent me an email.
It began: “Remember how we met?”
And it was like being hit upside the head with a sledgehammer.
Because I do.
We met at a convention when I first went pro, around 2012. I hit on her so aggressively that she finally said “If you don’t knock it off, I’m going to get up and leave.”
I did knock it off, and I was lucky I did, because it resulted in a years long friendship that I would be a worse person without.
And then I realized why I hadn’t thought of that incident, why I had been shocked when I was first mentioned in the SLJ piece. Because I didn’t see the behavior for what it was.
And of course my next thought was, if I made her uncomfortable, maybe I made others uncomfortable too. And it turns out I did.
The rest of her email confirmed it:
“Now think about being a young woman without a script for extricating herself. Think about the fact that you are a successful author. Think about knowing that you have a lot of friends.
Without intention, you have caused someone to feel unsafe. It looks like multiple someones.
I’ve seen you flirt enough in exactly the same ways that I wasn’t surprised to see you on the list. Not because I think you are intentionally awful, but because you are unaware of your position.
You are a good guy. There’s just stuff that you need to knock off. The thing is that this stuff is so normalized that it’s easy to overlook or brush past. And I’m sorry that I didn’t talk to you about it sooner.”
She’s absolutely right.
I am a big guy with a loud mouth and, intentionally or not, I can project an uncomfortable amount of intensity. I have tried to be cognizant of that and thought I was doing a good job of it, but once I got to thinking about our first meeting and let myself truly see the way I have behaved, frankly, I’m not surprised to see my name on that list either.
I’m mortified that I have made another person feel this way and it has me questioning my sense of self, who I thought I was. I do not want to make excuses or give explanations. All I want to do is offer an apology. To anyone I have ever made uncomfortable, or question their safety, I am so sorry. The thought that anyone wouldn’t feel safe around me is a kick in the teeth, but it’s one that I’ve earned.
If you’re a friend who is thinking of stepping in to defend me, please don’t. The culture only changes if people own their behavior, without excuses, exceptions or defenses. I did this. It’s mine to carry.
Once I post this, I will be donating $500 to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which advocates for ending behavior just like this.
I’m on the board of Drinklings, a publishing happy hour here in New York City. The thought that anyone attending that event would feel unsafe is unacceptable, and so I’ll be resigning from the board immediately.
If you’re someone I frightened or made uncomfortable, you have my apology, for what it’s worth. As ashamed as I am of myself and as much as it hurts to write this, I am glad that movements like MeToo and TimesUp are dragging this stuff out into the light, and that the culture is beginning to change.
I love this field. In the coming weeks and months and years, I will do everything I can do be part of making our community a safe and welcoming space for *everyone*.