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Jessica Mann and Sadistic Misogyny and Newspaper Accuracy

I just happened to be on twitter yesterday evening when tweets came through about the articles in the weekend's Daily Telegraph and The Observer.  Needless to say, so were a few others and a debate ensued.  What surprised me then was how this was suddenly news.  It had been debated before, on a couple of blogs, at the time Jessica Mann's original article was published in Standpoint Magazine.  But what appalled me yesterday was the inaccuracy in the reporting and it has now spread across the net today.

First the DT.  The headline was "Book reviewer quits over 'increasing sexist violence'". Well, no, she hasn't actually.  In Standpoint Mann concluded "So however many more outpourings of sadistic misogyny are crammed on to the bandwagon, no more of them will be reviewed by me."

The Observer. The headline was accurate, but oh no, the standfirst then said "Leading novelist says graphic depictions of sadistic misogyny have become so extreme she refuses to review any more fiction".  Again, no, Mann did not say she wasn't going to review any more fiction.  See above.

Today, this piece of news has been picked up across the Alantic.  Canada's Quill & Quire carries the heading: "Novelist stops reviewing because of rampant misogyny in crime fiction".  The first paragraph ends "…that she’s giving up reviewing any more fiction".  (Again see above.)  The New York Times kept it short and snappy and accurate.  The New Yorker also managed to maintain accuracy on Mann's words but shunted off into the big feminist debate.

Now for some perspective.  Jessica Mann is declining to read crime novels of a certain type.  These are the ones she sees as:

"Each psychopath is more sadistic than the last and his victims' sufferings are described in detail that becomes ever more explicit, as young women are imprisoned, bound, gagged, strung up or tied down, raped, sliced, burned, blinded, beaten, eaten, starved, suffocated,  stabbed, boiled or buried alive."

On this morning's Today programme, she was given just over five minutes to debate her thoughts, along with Selina Walker, Publishing Director at Transworld with responsibility for their crime list.  You can listen to that section here.  But for the perspective, do note that Mann said this type of novel for her was "a very small proportion" and probably less than one tenth of the 600 crime novels published annually in the UK.

She added that this "small proportion of books will not be in my review list any more".

So she's not giving up, she's merely passing on a few that don't suit her tastes and she's had the courage to say so.  I'd guess that others have already been doing this for a while, but in silence.

3 comments on “Jessica Mann and Sadistic Misogyny and Newspaper Accuracy

  1. cfr
    October 26, 2009

    Thanks for the comment Paul. Was aware of Steve’s post, but I wanted to comment on the accuracy of MSM reporting here and not the issue of the nature of the books in question.

  2. Maxine
    October 27, 2009

    Thanks, CFR. I would also “question the accuracy” as you put it 😉 of twitter, blogs etc also. I read as much “headline copying” and other ill-researched posts there as you have picked up in the MSM post-Observer (which I did read and remarked upon them being nearly 2 months late with the story, as Jessica Mann’s piece came out in early Sept. Martin Edwards was the first to pick it up I believe, through being a reader of Standpoint. He did not have a link so I asked Jessica for one which she sent me – hence my own post at the time on this topic).
    One might well expect MSM to be better researched than blogs/social media/other unedited, direct-to-web material. Some is, some isn’t, in both cases. I do wonder about these “Twitter waves” that go on as people whip each other up into a frenzy over some gesture politics or (sometimes) promulgate inaccurate assumptions. And it can be a kangaroo court. I have no liking for Ms Moir and what she wrote in the Daily Mail, but equally I found the Twitterlash unpleasant – so I did a “Jessica Mann” on some of the most strident, and unfollowed them.

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This entry was posted on October 26, 2009 by in crime fiction general and debate.