Monday News: Massachusetts finally criminalized upskirting, more on Harlequin’s troubles, a personal reflection on sheikh romances, and @GSElevator loses his book deal
Massachusetts bans ‘upskirt’ photos, closes Peeping Tom loophole – A mere two years after the original criminal charge was filed against a man for taking upskirt photos on public transit, the Massachusetts legislature managed to re-write the law so that it explicitly applied to these types of situations. I know people have been cheering the legislature for its allegedly quick response, but if you look back to 2004-2005, you will see that the state had an example of a federal peeping tom law to work from, which explicitly targeted upskirt photos, among other forms of electronic surveillance and image capture. I also find it interesting that the Senate President focuses on the moral dimensions of upskirting, essentially saying that the law jails people for immoral behavior. While there are definitely ethical issues here (and upskirting would certainly qualify as a crime of moral turpitude), can’t we just focus on the idea that women have a reasonable expectation of privacy under their clothes, and that it should be and now is illegal in Massachusetts to deprive them of that?
“We are sending a message that to take a photo or video of a woman under her clothing is morally reprehensible and, in Massachusetts, we will put you in jail for doing it,” Senate President Therese Murray said in a release. –Reuters
Love Affair With Digital Over For Romance Publisher Harlequin? – A more extensive analysis of the declining revenue story about Harlequin, including an interview with Harlequin CEO Craig Swinwood. Swinwood claims that the company is “in transition,” which I sincerely hope is true. As I’ve remarked before, Harlequin’s focus on and willingness to sell directly to readers has made it a valuable player in the Romance publishing marketplace, and I believe that the continued viability of that market depends on the vitality of the greatest diversity of writing and publishing players.
A decade ago, publishers like Harlequin only had to compete among themselves to attract and retain authors; now they have to compete with the option to self-publish, too. For its part, Harlequin, like many other publishers, is scrambling to offer authors more and better service. Swinwood pointed out to me Harlequin’s Author Network, a dashboard where authors can check sales, get market intelligence and have all their questions answered by a concierge service. –Forbes
The Sheikh’s Prize Is Usually White by Natalie Storey – An interesting, honest, and very personal contemplation from a white reader of skeikh romances that does not shy away from the more difficult issues of race, culture, and constructions of the exotic. The way she touches on the problematic fact that the white woman becomes the cultural outsider in these books made me think of Reina Lewis’s wonderful Gendering Orientalism: Race, Femininity and Representation, and Jennifer DeVere Brody’s fantastic work in Impossible Purities: Blackness, Femininity, and Victorian Culture.
But my interest in sheikh romances doesn’t end simply with wanting to believe in their depictions of cross-cultural love. I had never read any of the books before I traveled to Jordan, but their stories were so recognizable to me that I began to wonder if their narrative is so pervasive that it influenced the way I lived and loved without my knowledge or consent. I’m sure this suspicion developed from reading romance novels alongside Orientalism and other writings by Edward Said, which show how some cultural narratives are so deep-seated that we hardly notice them for what they are or whom they misrepresent. But there’s a difference between Said’s orientalism and that in the romance novels. Orientalism demonstrates how stereotypes of Muslims and Arabs have been embedded in popular culture and academia and how they continue to circulate, perpetuating fear and racism. The romances cope with the stereotyped images of fear and hatred of Muslims and Arabs in the popular media by reversing them to love. I think the romance novels’ reaction to hate bears some similarity to my desire to understand the Middle East for myself, the desire that propelled me to Jordan, helped me learn Arabic, and led me to begin a relationship with a Jordanian man. The romance novels seem to contain a positive message, but their reactive love relies too much on a fantasy of racial and cultural difference. Exoticism, in the end, objectifies others as much as hate.–Los Angeles Review of Books
Book News: @GSElevator Author Loses Book Deal – Despite the fact that Simon and Schuster admitted that it knew about the fiction that was @GSElevator’s twitter experiment, Touchstone has cancelled publication of his book. There’s an interesting email from LeFevre posted on the NPR blog, but no real explanation for the cancellation. –NPR