Out of the shadows

June 17, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

I haven’t written any more about the David Davidar fiasco since my initial posts at the end of last week because, quite frankly, the whole affair makes me feel unutterably grimy. There have been further developments since my last post, which you can read all about on the Quill & Quire website, if you are of a mind to do so.

This post is meant to highlight something positive that has come out of a scandal that for a while there didn’t seem to have a single positive aspect about it. Earlier this week, a blog post with the title “What it Feels Like for a Girl” appeared online. The author used the Davidar scandal as a springboard for revealing her own experience with sexual harassment in the Canadian publishing industry. That post has since gone viral, getting linked by The Huffington Post and finding readers from publishing houses throughout Canada and the U.S.

Picking up where “What It Feels Like for a Girl” leaves off, novelist and publisher Stacey May Fowles has now provided what is to date the most measured, sensible, and reasonable take on the scandal, and the discussion that it has provoked:

So many of us, regardless of gender, have had a moment where we were unsure about the rules, about what is right and wrong in the workplace, and instead of talking openly about it we just follow the cues. The answers to “Am I allowed to say that? Am I allowed to do that?” are not always clear, so we, quite naturally, look to the leader. It’s easy to observe that the average intern pool is predominately female and the average publishing executive is male, that women on average make considerably less than their male counterparts, that according to reports a majority of publishing is female but only small percentage of that is management, and the power dynamics that result are undeniable. In such a small, connected industry, one rife with gossip, standing up and calling bullshit is near impossible.

I will admit that my initial reaction to “What It Feels Like for a Girl” was indignation. I did not believe that the experiences described in that post could be endemic to an industry in which the majority of workers are female (the fact that the majority of executives are male somehow escaped my notice). I no longer feel that way. The sheer volume of responses to that blog post claiming recognition and understanding have convinced me that the culture of harassment in the publishing industry is much more pervasive than I had initially imagined.

Which is why Fowles’s piece is so important. It does not convict Davidar – in fact Fowles goes out of her way to state that she is unqualified to discuss the specifics of the Davidar case. One of my own concerns throughout the past week has been that Davidar is undergoing trial by media before having had the opportunity to mount a defence – a trial in which he has already been found guilty. Fowles wisely avoids this temptation, instead focusing on the broader discussion that the fallout from this case has provoked. Bringing this discussion into the light of day is essential to anyone who wishes to avoid a repeat of the past week’s sad, divisive events.

Comments

2 Responses to “Out of the shadows”
  1. Panic says:

    Huh. I was wondering why you hadn’t said anything. I never said it happened throughout the industry, though, but rather the culture of the industry prevents those of us it happens to from 1) thinking it wrong at the time and 2) speaking out about it later. Turns out, it happens. A lot.

  2. Alex says:

    As this goes on I’m actually becoming more sympathetic for Davidar and his trial by blog. His treatment has been unfair. From the tendentious statement of claim (he was “wearing excessive cologne”!!), to Quill’s uncovering of an old account of his escapades as a young editor in India, presented “because it provides a not-irrelevant, pre-scandal glimpse into Davidar’s character,” but which just says that he liked to drink and “fall in love” (in particular with movie stars he got to interview).

    I don’t see how any of this is relevant to the case against him. He shouldn’t have to defend his life or his character, only answer to specific charges.