Most people in the romance sphere know that something went down in the last week on the RWA PAN (Romance Writers of America’s Published Authors Network) mailing list. I’m not going to rehash that because it’s long and complicated and has brought to the RWA’s attention that their forum rules aren’t prepared for the land of social media. To err on the side of caution, I won’t be repeating anyone else’s words.
But I will be repeating my own.
Over the course of the spirited debates of the last week, the idea was raised multiple times that in recent years, the RWA Board of Directors has been choosing to spend their focus and resources on initiatives that only benefit a small percentage of (marginalized) members. This was deemed unfair, or even in a few extreme cases, reverse discrimination.
This is wrong for a lot of reasons. But the main thrust of it is a fundamental misunderstanding about the difference between equal treatment and equal opportunity. To explain my thoughts on why it is vital that the RWA continue to aggressively advocate for its marginalized members, I wrote this: (briefly edited to remove specific references)
Imagine that publishing is a beautiful shopping center erected in the middle of a bunch of communities. If you can get there, you can do your business, and life is good.
Imagine that the RWA came into being to make it easier for people to get to that shopping center and do their business. Their mission statement is to help people cross the space between where they are (their community) and where they want to be (doing business.) They fix roads that fall into disrepair. They arrange carpools. They show up with buses sometimes and in general, though they’re not perfect, they make it easier to get to the store.
Now imagine that some communities aren’t connected by roads. They have to walk on foot, while everyone else drives. It takes them longer, it’s harder, a lot of people give up. It doesn’t feel fair. They want the RWA to help them build roads. Once the roads are in, they won’t need any more maintenance than anyone else–but that road has to get built.
Some people are strenuously objecting to the idea of diverting resources to building roads that only help a single community. They want it to be fair–as in the RWA gives the same amount of help to everyone.
I want it to be fair, as in the RWA makes it equally possible for everyone to get to the shop.
Sometimes you have to build the road first.