April 13, 2009

AmazonFAIL: Update on Feminist, LGBT Books Removed from Sale Rankings

You may have heard this weekend that books on Amazon.com had been labeled “adult” and de-ranked — and, not coincidentally, the books affected happened to deal with LGBTQ themes and feminist health and sexuality topics. Twitter hasn’t stopped buzzing.

Books without rankings as of Sunday night included Gore  Vidal’s “The City and the Pillar” and Jeanette Winterson’s “Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit,” as well as titles by our colleagues and friends: Jessica Valenti’s “Full Frontal Feminism”; “Yes Means Yes,” which Valenti co-edited with Jaclyn Friedman; and “S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College” by Heather Corrina, who writes about the Amazon debacle here.

Deanna Zandt wrote a piece for Women’s Media Center today explaining that this was probably not a homophobic, misogynist campaign dreamed up by Amazon. Rather:

It’s far more likely that a group of tech “enthusiasts,” let’s call them, organized some sort of campaign over a holiday weekend (when Amazon was likely operating with a shoestring staff) to delist books they found objectionable. When I say enthusiasts, I’m referring to loosely associated hacker-types who enjoy wreaking havoc purely for the sake of the havoc. Rarely do they have a formal political agenda. Often women, particularly feminists, and queer folk are the targets (though recently, one notorious group called 4chan targeted and found a teenager who had posted a video of himself torturing a cat).

Not that we should feel much better about it:

It would be easy to dismiss this, and other cases, as Internet-gone-wild making the world unsafe for women and LGBT folk. Somewhat harder to discern, and admit to ourselves, is that the anonymity and freedom that the Internet provides pulls back the curtain on our culture: at work are the illusive mores of misogyny and homophobia that continue to shape our culture and lives.

Wired has more.

Update: Jessica is hearing this was no glitch.

Update #2: Deanna posted a follow-up. And another.


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