And because certain words have more weight than others it is important that they are used appropriately.
Years ago when I was still skydiving I remember someone posting about an incident where someone had died and throwing around words like “negligent” and “fraud” when those words did not in fact apply.
About a year ago on one of the writing forums someone kept calling authors who report issues to Amazon “snitches.”
This week with the blow-up on SFF Twitter I’ve seen people throwing around words like “grooming” and “rape” and “gaslighting” and “sexual harrassment”.
When those words are justified, then they should be used. Absolutely use those words that have the appropriate weight to them when they apply.
But today I saw someone Tweet that a very big-name author had been accused of rape. So I followed the link they provided because I’ve been trying to figure out why this particular author who I’ve met and liked was listed as one of the current crop of perpetrators.
(I have a pretty good spidey-sense for creeps and this guy didn’t set any of them off.)
So I saw this irresponsible Tweet that said he’d been accused of rape and I followed the link provided, and what I found on that link was someone who was basically saying that the content of this writer’s stories was rapey and exploitative and that because of that content people had been hurt by it.
Not that he himself was a rapist. But that he was questionable because he had chosen to write about a world in which rape occurred frequently.
Somehow that post was turned into a Tweet that said this man had been accused of rape. If he has, it was not in the linked post.
Worse yet, the reason this man had been under discussion in the first place was because another author had posted a list of names they’d been told about in private messages and then followed that list up with a bullet list of things those men had been accused of without saying which had been accused of what action. (And, for the record, rape was not on that list of actions these men were alleged to have committed.)
Even worse still, rather than stick around and own what they’d started that author who kicked the speculation off in the first place by posting that list and those actions deleted their entire Twitter account. That left only the circulating rumor about which authors had been named as harassers when some of the actions on that list may not have risen to that level.
This is someone’s life and reputation we’re talking about here and a string of irresponsible characterizations have suddenly painted this man as a potential rapist.
Another instance I saw this week was that someone was accused of doing something inappropriate. In that accusation thread a lot of people said, “I’ve been through something similar, it sucks”. Not that this particular person had done something to them as well, but that they had found themselves in a similar circumstance and felt similarly used by it.
From that one very vocal person took those “I’ve been there myself” generic responses and Tweeted about how multiple people had made the same accusations against that person. NOT TRUE. At least not anywhere I could find it.
These allegations are occurring in a community of writers. And, I would hope, readers. Not only that, the allegations are (in some cases rightly so) ending people’s traditionally-published careers.
It muddies the waters to misapply weighted terms and to misrepresent the claims that have actually been made.
If someone did something bad, then by all means call them out. Hold them accountable.
But use the correct words.
We’re writers. Words have weight. We should use them appropriately.