This morning, as I was spending my daily time on Twitter, I was slapped in the face with the latest conflict in the book community, defined by the popular hashtag: #fakereadergirls.
A man and booktuber by the name of Steve Donoghue recently put up a video titled “Last Week in BookTube!”. Now, this is similar to the kinds of things we do as bloggers or booktubers: we give a wrap up of the week, spotlight certain bloggers/tubers who have shared some great stuff about books (sort of like my Spotlight Saturday posts!). Steve opened up by criticising book conventions such as BEA and the popular book bloggers who have shared all their vlogs and videos of their experience there. From there, he went on to criticise the booktubers themselves, pointing out many things about the amount fo viewers they have, that they don’t have the same love for books as ‘normal’ readers do, referring to their expensive and professional editing and much more.
Fellow book lovers and booktubers responded, taking offence to the claims he made. Which is perfectly understandable in my opinion. Many of his claims were fairly inaccurate, such as his claims of popular booktubers not being real readers or lovers of books and instead, only doing it for the consumerist, commodity purposes.
But there leaves hanging the question of where #fakereadergirls came from. Simply, Twitter blew up with this after Steve made a comment under his video, again criticising booktubers who film professional videos with ‘fancy lights’ and ‘wearing blush’ as being fake readers. This was taken as sexism and female book lovers all over Twitter began to speak out against his comment. And so came the flood of makeup + book pictures and tweets.
After investigating the argument, scrolling through endless tweets going against Steve and also from watching his video, I understand why people reacted so badly. He was clearly in the wrong and made some very hurtful comments to many booktubers who put time and effort into what we present based on their love for books. But let’s explore this issue because there are many sides to this and specifically in terms of Steve’s “sexist” comment, there may have been some form of miscommunication – possibly.
Let’s talk about this wave of feminism that has sparked from Steve’s comment on YouTube. Many female book lovers were offended by the idea that he was hinting: that girls who wear or like makeup can’t be true lovers and readers of books. Quite frankly, I’d be outraged too – in fact, after learning more about the conflict on Twitter, I posted my own post on Instagram, explaining how I, as a lover of makeup, am more than capable of being an intelligent and book-loving person. There are arguments claiming that Steve did not refer specifically to women, and indeed in his comment, he makes no reference to any gender specifically. While he refers to booktubers sitting in front of their cameras and lights, “wearing blush”, there is no reference to women.
But can you really blame us for not taking it as a personal attack to us as female readers? It’s the girls who dominantly wear makeup and wear blush, so in saying something as specific as that is going to invoke some sort of sexist theme behind it. Some people on Twitter have claimed that this reaction by the public is a miscommunication of what Steve has said. And maybe it was – maybe he didn’t intend to target and criticise female readers in particular. But we are responsible for the things we say and he is responsible for indirectly making a potentially sexist comment. After all, why would he explicitly add “wearing blush” into it if he was referring to booktubers as a whole? Miscommunication? Misguided intent? Possibly. But Steve, mate, you are still responsible for the things you say.
WAS IT RIGHT TO HANDLE IT THIS WAY?
Do I agree with how Steve’s comment and video have been handled by the book community? I think it’s fair. We live in an age of the Internet, where everyone has the free choice to share their opinions. Just as Steve shared his opinion, the book community has the right to say something back. Surrounding the conflict, there was this idea of mob mentality that came from the mass reaction of the book community. The book community’s handling of this situation, in my opinion should not be considered as mob mentality. As a book community, we are a group of people who come together, drawn together based on the same passion and love for books. That’s what a community is. As one community, we speak up and we debate against things that may be hurtful or offensive to fellow members of our community.
One thing I may disagree on is attacking and criticising Steve as being sexist. This is because of that miscommunication that could possibly have occurred through his comment. It’s easy for us to associate “wearing blush” with women, because naturally, women are definitely the ones who wear the most blush – I mean, I wear blush! I posted an Instagram photo, joining in with the #fakereadergirls. But I did this not to criticise Steve, but to criticise the idea that was potentially delivered through what he said: the patriarchal ideology that women can’t have brains and beauty. Our society today has largely moved past this, but, as it seems – not completely. Think of the TV show Beauty and the Geek: how are the women portrayed there? (From what I remember, they were beautiful but dumb). I made my post because I hate the idea that we are defined as being one or the other: smart or beautiful. Because, why can’t we be both?!
WHAT WE SHOULD REALLY BE FOCUSING ON
There was so much focus on Steve’s ‘sexist’ comment that it seems to have drowned out what we should’ve collectively been arguing against. Steve’s main and biggest point in the video was that popular booktubers are not the real readers – they use their fancy cameras and lighting to speak to thousands of their fans/viewers to not share their love for books, but instead advertise them as commodities. He points out that these booktubers have moved away from what really matters which is the love for books.
This is what we should be criticising. Just because the quality of their videos is better, seems more staged and because they have more viewers, does not mean they love books any less. Sure, these booktubers are popular and are given books by publishers and authors to read and to promote. But this is due to the professionalism they show, the dedication they have in creating videos with great quality. I constantly desire to have a blog that is professional, looks amazing. I want my bookstagram to look fabulous (and I’m still yearning for a really great camera or the equipment to take great quality photos, sigh). Publishers and authors look for this professionalism and they notice it. Just because these booktubers are associating with the book industry does not mean that they are no longer doing what they do for their love of books. Their ‘fancy lights’ and ‘fancy editing’ are all a show of how much they want to commit to what they are passionate about.
I wouldn’t spend hundreds of dollars on a new keyboard if I wasn’t passionate about playing piano. I wouldn’t splurge and spend $100+ of books in one go if I didn’t love them so much. I wouldn’t spend money purchasing a blog domain if I wasn’t sure of how serious I wanted to share my passion for books to the world.
We are a book community. Whether we are more popular or less popular, no matter how many followers we have or whether publishers send us books or not, we are all here for one main reason: to share our love for books.