Judy Blume is the 77-year-old author of young-adult classics like Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. For her books — which explore coming-of-age issues with such frankness that they have been frequently banned — Blume has become something of a national cultural treasure, particularly to the several generations of young women who grew up reading her.
In other words, she's hardly the kind of figure you might expect to be championed by an online movement that is best known for its open, sometimes violent, hostility to women.
And yet that's exactly what's happened over the past few days, as the remnants of GamerGate, the incendiary online campaign that wracked internet culture for several months late last year, have seized on several recent Blume interviews about censorship in an attempt to turn her into a new symbol of the cause.
In the June 1 issue of Time magazine, Eliana Dockterman asked Blume, who is promoting a new book, about trigger warnings, statements preceding works of art that alert readers and viewers to potentially distressing content contained within. The practice of trigger warnings, particularly in an academic context, is chronically controversial, and has been the subject of heated debate recently. Blume responded with vehemence: "That is making my blood boil ... I mean, please! Let's grow up."
Then, in an interview later last month during the Bay Area Book Festival, Blume went further, facetiously speculating that "all books ... need trigger warnings, because in all books there could be something to bother somebody."
Several weeks later, her statements caught the attention of Christina Hoff Sommers, the contrary resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and self-appointed "Factual Feminist," who regularly writes and speaks about the dangers of overreaching political correctness on college campuses.
Sommers, tireless in her provocations of mainstream feminists online and off, became a hero of GamerGaters last year when she took up their arguments about the undue influence of political correctness on the world of gaming. The Twitter hordes and subreddits that still — months later — devote themselves to uncovering unforgivable lapses in "ethics in games journalism" call Sommers, affectionately, Based Mom.
And they read her tweets. Several influential GamerGaters tweeted about Blume's anti-trigger warning stance, which they see as part of the greater fight against nefarious social justice warriors in every domain of American culture:
The latter tweet, which proposes to enshrine Blume as a Based Mom alongside Sommers, has been retweeted more than 150 times, including by Sommers herself. And a topic in r/kotakuinaction, the subreddit where GamerGate never ended, Blume is the subject of a popular thread.
So will Blume take her place alongside Sommers on the pantheon of distinguished women who tell GamerGate what they want to hear? Don't count on it. As Blume told Bustle last month, "My life is about feminism."
Joe Bernstein is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Bernstein reports on and writes about the gaming industry and web culture.
Contact Joseph Bernstein at email@example.com.
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