You know, I really, really didn't want to talk about the cousinjean thing

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Title: You know, I really, really didn't want to talk about the cousinjean thing
Creator: st_salieri
Date(s): August 11, 2005
Medium: online
Fandom:
Topic:
External Links: You know, I really, really didn't want to talk about the cousinjean thing, Archived version
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You know, I really, really didn't want to talk about the cousinjean thing is a 2005 essay by st_salieri.

The post was in direct response to the controversy regarding cousinjean who'd recently solicited money so that she could take a year off of her paid employment and write Buffy fanfic instead.

Some Topics Discussed

The Post

You know, I really, really didn't want to talk about the cousinjean thing. I didn't feel a need to contribute yesterday, since other people discussed the issues more clearly than I could. But what's bothering me now is some of the fallout.

I want to emphasize right at the top: these are just my feelings. They are not meant to insult those who feel differently. I mean, that's sort of the point of this post: letting people be justified in their feelings.

I've been seeing a few statements of disgust at the way that the fandom reacted to the debacle. The word "mistake" has been used in reference to cousinjean's actions, as well as "human". I've seen "vicious" and "pile-on" to refer to the fallout in her lj and on FW. And that bothers me.

I think that some of the comments that were made in her lj were unnecessarily vicious. But I believe that there is such a thing as righteous anger. Anger is not always a sin, and the anger at cousinjean was justified. Was it expressed in the best way? Maybe not. Certainly not by all of the posters. But where others saw vicious hatred, I saw hurt and anger. I think it's important not to negate those feelings of anger.

Fandom is a community, and that community has to be self-policing if it's going to survive. What I saw was the fandom acting to protect itself. Maybe it went overboard, maybe not. But that reaction was, I think, a healthy thing. And frankly, if she'd offered a sincere mea culpa rather than a self-justifying goodbye post, it would have calmed the waters considerably.

I don't mean to be vicious. I do honestly feel sorry for her. I think she's a very talented writer, and I love her fics. I feel a lot of compassion for the mess she's in, and I'm honestly a very forgiving person. But this mess is entirely of her own making. She hasn't been "driven out of fandom." She drove herself. If she's feeling ostracized, it's because she ostracized herself. I don't think what she did is an unforgivable mistake, and I'm still hoping that she'll decide to learn from that mistake and come back. It would take a lot of humility and some honest apologies, but it could be done. She may have lost some friends and readers over this, but I'm sure there are plenty of other people who would love to give her another chance.

I think this is a wonderful fandom, with people who honestly care about each other. What I saw yesterday did not, on the whole, represent a particularly ugly side of fandom. Anger is good. And even though forgiveness is a wonderful thing, I think it's important not to quash that anger, or to put a guilt trip on those who felt justifiably upset. They are allowed to feel their anger, whether or not others find it distasteful. I have a lot of compassion for the situation she's put herself in, but she's not the victim. I don't think she should be treated like one.

ETA: And on the other hand...I think I've run out of hands. Seriously, I'm not trying to justify bad behavior on anyone's part. You can feel angry or feel sick or just not give a shit -- my point is that there's no "right" emotional response. People feel what they feel.

Excerpts from the Comments

[sdwolrpup]:

I don't have a problem with the anger, as I felt it was justified; my problem stems entirely from the (I felt) unwarranted personal attacks where people were calling her names, specifically demanding she leave fandom, and insulting her. And quite a few of those were from people who stated they'd never heard of her before. You can express your anger without having to call her a twat and a retard.

And the attacks really aren't going to help someone not be defensive, either. Not that she shouldn't have apologized, because what she did was wrong, but as a dispassionate outsider, it sure seems like it would be hard to swallow all of that vitriol and say "I'm sorry." But I'm stubborn like that. Heh.
[st_salieir]:

I don't like the personal attacks any more than you do. Some of that was completely vicious, and there are better ways to express anger.

And yes, it would be very hard to be humble and apologetic after so many people descended on her lj to yell at her. I'd be incredibly defensive myself. (And I'm stubborn too. :)) But I think what's bugging people is that she's asking people to put themselves in her shoes, and yet she doesn't seem to be looking at the issue from their point of view. I think the smallest acknowledgment that she'd misjudged things would have helped smooth things over.

Ugh. This whole thing is ugly, isn't it? Quick, give me a fun topic to talk about. Oh! I think I'm starting my Firefly marathon today. :)
[skylee]:

I was going to comment too, but your reaction is exactly what I was going to say. There seemed to be some people who just jumped in because "ooh, kerfuffle!" and then attack her like that, many of them repeating what others have said before about her situation. If it's me I can't imagine myself apologising after that either.

But then again, maybe she should have apologised and realised that it's a bad idea right after the initial post. :P
[makd]:

It's a good fandom; she goofed; she was told off about it. Her leaving - and the way she left - her choice.

And, of course, the sadness throughout the fandom. It was just painful to watch the implosion and the explosion.
[st_salieri]: Yes, implosions are no fun to watch when they hit so close to home. And what I find sad is that it could have been smoothed over. Sure, there'd be some hurt feelings on either side, but I think she could have recovered if she'd acknowledged right off the bat that she'd made an error in judgment.
[rainkatt]:

what I find sad is that it could have been smoothed over. Sure, there'd be some hurt feelings on either side, but I think she could have recovered if she'd acknowledged right off the bat that she'd made an error in judgment.

I agree wholeheartedly with this. She clearly didn't expect the pile-on that she got, which I suspect made her incredibly defensive.

I nearly didn't post over there, but finally felt I had to add my 2 cents. I tried very hard to not bash her, but I was appalled at the sense of entitlement there. She was basically asking for her flist to fund her sabbatical. We all would like that... I found that the people who donated or promised to, who were then taken to task by the commenters, and who then reversed position, saying they hadn't thought it out, could serve as examples to CJ. They were immediately embraced by the group, and forgiveness was swift.

I did find it interesting that some of her defenders were at least as rude and mean as the people they were accusing of being rude and mean. (And one of those thought that "entitlement" was too harsh a word, and saw nothing wrong with what she asked in the first place, as in "where's the harm?" I think there's lots of harm in the sort of over-stepping she did, similar to where the harm is in just asking for a deal on a piece of merchandise that's clearly marked. In some situations, this behaviour is expected and encouraged, but in others, it's offensive, and you have to be able to know the difference. I think CJ broke the rules, and that's what's got everyone so riled, much more than the betrayal of her co-writers, the legal issues, and the pure gall and ignorance she's exhibited.

It would be nice if she showed us what a great lesson this has been for her, if she had apologized nicely, instead of doing a snotty edit, but she may not be ready to do that, and she never may be. If she doesn't learn, if she never apologizes genuinely, that in itself says something about her. And it's enough. It's not our job to go further, but I have no problem with the anger, and in most cases, the way it was expressed. Some people did go over the top. That always happens, especially when they feel deeply, but I'm not defending it at all.

Now we all need to go do something fun.
[swsa]: I have to admit, I was really pissed off over this. She hit some personal buttons and I reacted pretty strongly. And because I'm fairly close with several people who are still friends with her and are feeling really confused and upset, I do feel somewhat badly over my reaction. Until I remember that she was absolutely serious about wanting strangers to support her for a year, despite the fact that her own personal circumstances are probably better than about 90% of my flist. Then the anger returns. In other words, yeah, I pretty much agree with you.
[st_salieri]:

I've got the mixed feelings myself. I think the thing that put me on edge in her initial post was the bit about requesting donations from those who have "read and enjoyed" her fic -- in fact, that they'd donate what they'd pay for a hardback novel because she's written the equivalent of "several" novels for fandom already. And that's the entitlement thing: "Look at everything I've done for fandom. Now you owe me."

I'm not angry. I'm just tired of the whole thing now. But I think the people who do still feel angry shouldn't feel ashamed of that.
[deborahw37]:

I didn't have a problem with the initial reaction from her F-list and co-writers, I did have a problem with other people asking their F-lists to go over and tell CJ what they thought of her, frankly the point had been made and well made and in my opinion, didn't need belabouring.

I'm not defending what she did, I'm not saying that people didn't have the right to be angry but in my opinion the response was disproportionate. A mass of flames wouldn't undo any potential damage and once CJ had been made fully aware of how ill judged and foolish her actions were there seemed no need to keep hammering the point home.

Furthermore this became a huge kerfuffle and is now all over the net, thus increasing the possibility of lawyers seeing it and making the much mooted damage to the fanfic community rather more likely than had the argument taken place within a single F-list . Even the deleted post has been screencapped and is now at multiple locations . If this had been dealt with within CJ's immediate circle of contacts it would surely have been better for all concerned.
[kracken wakes]:

If this had been dealt with within CJ's immediate circle of contacts it would surely have been better for all concerned.

I completely see your point, I really do. However, what she was proposing to do didn't just affect her close personal friends - it affected everyone in the BtVS fandom and everyone in any fandom which infringed on WBs or FOXs copyrighted materials and what has kept it going is that she didn't seem to realise that what she was proposing was illegal.

I'm sorry she felt the need to withdraw from fandom but as a BtVS fanfiction writer, I have the right to feel angry about being placed at risk from legal action. I have the right to feel disappointed and concerned that a member of the community would place the community as a whole at risk and I have the right to feel astonished that someone who has been a member of the community for some considerable time apparently woke up one morning and decided that the rules of the community no longer applied to her.

...and I do understand how you feel. However it seems to me that the fact that this affair has now got so much publicity could end up increasing the risk of legal action, so it's a lose lose situation.

I'm not overly concerned that she's withdrawn from fandom, that's her choice, but I do hope that this whole sorry situation will blow over with no lasting damage done.
[vampiresetsuna]: Good point- I also think that a lot of the reaction was justified and in the name of protecting the fandom; fandoms have norms, and acceptable social rules for behavior. What she did crossed them, and the responce to the norm violation was all of the comments, fandom_wank, and emailing that went on... in a weird way, it's really interesting.
[st_salieri]: It's kind of interesting from an academic perspective, isn't it? omeone studying fandom mores and principles could have a field day with this entire affair. Of course, I'm sorry that there just ended up being a lot of hurt out of this whole thing.
[jamalov29]:

Be angry with someone is good. Anger is not distasteful, it's only a way to say we disagree and we don't understand. But be insulting or spiteful is obviously not.

The people expressing their thoughts in CJ's journal were, for a great majority , terribly mean and harsh. A few talked reasonably and politely al- thought they were legitimately upset or angry. So the fandom surely went overboard. And I don't believe that the reactions were as healthy as you said.

Cousinjean is entirely responsible for this mess. As much as you , I feel sorry for her. And I don't think the people who have called her names yesterday would feel guilty today because some of us had found them rude.

...Yesterday I was really lost. More than surprised by some reactions , especially the way people were expressing their ideas in Jean's journal.

I still think that this fandom is a very lovely place to be! - and I return the compliment : especially with people like 'you' in it:) -

What was the most disturbing for me was to realize that there were scary and violent persons ready to tear you apart if they think it's justified.

All of this will fade in a few days. It was like my first 'war' , you know , and I was feeling very emotional about it. Cousinjean is such a wonderful writer , she gave me such memorable ( spuffy ! ) reading pleasure.
[anniebee]:

I'm glad to see your coherent thoughts on this situation. I too feel bad for her; she was one of the first writers I happened upon when I found Buffy fanfic. She made a HUGE HUGE HUGE mistake; I think that she was just so rudely--yes, they may be right but they were so RUDE--smacked down that it hurt too much to appropriately apologize. I hope that in a little time she can see the truth in some of the respondents' posts and attempt to make amends.

I just wish that people would let it go. Really. It has now snowballed into this huge thing and even if she does apologize, I don't think that people will take her seriously.

I just don't understand people sometimes.
[st_salieri]:

I would love it if she'd try to make amends eventually. Maybe the best thing she can do is just lay low for a while until everything calms down a bit. As I said, I do think that there are plenty of people in the fandom who would love to give her a second chance. After all, most of the anger didn't seem to be about her original post -- I think it was the passive-aggressive, unapologetic way she tried to justify her actions in later posts that rubbed people the wrong way.

And yes, some people who replied were rude. But although some of the responses were on the harsh side, they were truthful. Sometimes a harsh response is necessary to get someone to see their mistakes, even if it hurts.
[truecrystal]:

OK. My take on the cj thing:

I was pissed. PISSED. And as a person who has worked her entire life and watched others struggle to make ends meet (some of them on my flist AND hers), hell yeah I took it personally and responded as such in her LJ. But I don't feel bad about what I said or how I said it.

Honestly, I wish I could say I felt bad that she got piled on like she did, but I don't. A lot of it was over-the-top and I'm sure it was hurtful. But...well, welcome to the internet. She's not new; she had to know to some extent that she was opening a huge can of worms with this. And in light of the way she left, I'm pretty much convinced that she weighed the odds of *financial gain* against the risk of personally offending a ton of people and made a conscious choice to go ahead anyway. Even if I did give her the benefit of the doubt and she didn't think about who might have been offended/hurt/angered by her request, in my mind, that's actually even *worse*.

I hope she gets something useful out of this whole experience and I don't wish her ill at all. But I'm certainly not all torn up for her that things went down the way they did. And while I feel for her close friends who are struggling to figure out how to salvage relationships or even if it's worth it to do so (and who are, quite frankly, worrying themselves over the fallout from this whole thing more than cj herself probably is), I don't feel sorry for her. At all.
[superplin]:

Yes, sadly, I have to agree that there was nothing about the incident that rang false or out of character.

Very sad for everyone involved. Actually, considering some of the venom I've seen spewed over some truly trivial matters, I thought this whole wankcident was remarkably civil. It's obvious that Jean had built up a lot of goodwill over the years in fandom, and that cushioned the blow a fair bit. The blow, though, was inevitable, and rightly so.
[makd]: The entire Incident CousinJean? just very sad. pathetic....
[dkissam]:

Yeah, I was instinctively uncomfortable with the name calling, but because I don't know her or the name callers well enough to be able to have a strong opinion on whether I could feel it was justified (because sometimes I think it is, I don't know what all has gone down in those close relationships) it didn't really creep me out or anything.

I agree, she drove herself out of fandom, and did not make the apology that someone who actually realized what exactly she'd done wrong would've made. And if she'd made it, it would've counted a lot with a lot of the angry folks. That little "fuck off" icon that accompanied her "apology" was not helping her case at all, either.

But honestly, the asskicking she got? In mmaresca's journal vandalisimo made a great point: taking a year off to do nothing but sit inside and write? Ain't a good thing for your writing. Because you're not part of the world, and what're you going to say? It gives you less and less to say, insulating yourself like that. cousinjean seems so sheltered already from the anecdotes I've picked up about her that fucking up this royally and losing something important (though she may not have realized yet that that's happened) may eventually be an important and resonant experience for her. I know that I once fucked up in such a profound way that I lost good friends, gave people whose opinions actually were important to me an impression of me that was so counter to what I felt I was and the way I wanted to be perceived that it changed me in a huge way. It changed me about five years down the road -- well, at least that's when I went, OH FUCK! I *did* that? It took me five years to realize fully what I'd done. But it had a huge effect, and it was painful for all involved, but it was a truly significant part of my life, it's the foundation for so much of what I believe about the way people should treat one another, and it's 90% because of bad stuff *I* did and only 10% about the way other people reacted.
[st_salieri]:

When one of the fandom BNFs goes up in flames, the mess gets everywhere. :)

And yes, I agree that, on the whole, the response of the fandom, while heated in places, was very rational. I don't think anyone wants to see trouble for anyone in the fandom.
[hobbituk]:

I just wonder how long it will take her to realise that what she actually did was beg. Panhandle. Just like the people who accost complete strangers outside tube stations with their hand out, and then go home at the end of the day in the BMW that they have bought with the proceeds of their begging.

Do I feel sorry for her? Hell no. It seems to me she has enough self pity to go round for the rest of us. And has done for quite some time. Actually, if all this makes her grow up it will do her a big favour. In the meantime, all that free time she will now have since she isn't going to be online might mean she can actually "do" her writing instead of just talking about it.
[sylva rerum]:

Well, I think most of the viciousness was coming from the people who had never heard of her before and found out about the whole mess through other people's journals. And that kind of bothers me, because I think quite a few of them hadn't even read the original post and were just going on what they had seen others say. So I can't help but feel their actions were uncalled for and they should have just left well enough alone. Plus, I have a hard time believeing that the actions of one person could bring down a fandom, let alone multiple fandoms, so the anger of these strangers doesn't really seem justified to me. Her co-authors and readership? They're the ones who have plenty of good reason to be angry.

I'm rather astonished that people are still commenting in that post, though. It looks like people are just arguing amongst themselves now, even after they've won. Now that's tacky. :p

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