A few weeks ago a Tumblr user, virjn (the username virjn is no longer in use) posted a few thoughts on best-selling, mega famous Young Adult author, John Green.

Her original post has been shared on Twitter, Tumblr, and countless other sites but in case you haven’t see it we’ll share it here as well.

“I bet John Green thinks people don’t like him because he’s a dork or a nerd or whatever, when in reality it’s because he’s a creep who panders to teenage girls so that he can amass some weird cult-like following. And it’s always girls who feel misunderstood, you know, and he goes out of his way to make them feel important and desirable. Which is fucking weird. Also he has a social media presence that is equivalent to that dad of a kid in your friend group who always volunteers to ‘supervise’ the pool parties and scoots his lawn chair close to all the girls.”

 

Virjn did not tag Green directly in this post, nor did they outright accuse him of anything.

But this short post in one corner of Tumblr grew legs. It was reblogged and reblogged and eventually another user, astro1995 (who also appears to have deleted their Tumblr), suggested they would continue to push the post until John Green “was forced to defend himself.” And then later, a third user tagged Green directly.

And a few weeks later  he did respond:

“You want me to defend myself against the implication that I sexually abuse children?

“Okay. I do not sexually abuse children.

“Throwing that kind of accusation around is sick and libelous and most importantly damages the discourse around the actual sexual abuse of children. When you use accusations of pedophilia as a way of insulting people whose work you don’t like, you trivialize abuse.”

Now since John Green is such a big name, with such a big media presence, the story was picked up by the mainstream media. And what followed was some mind blowing examples of irresponsible, click-bait, journalism. Headlines such as, “‘Fault In Our Stars’ Novelist John Green Hits Out At Paedophilia Allegations” started making the rounds. These kind of headlines deliberately implied that a teenager had accused Green of wrong-doing, rather than simply stating that he gave her the creeps. Why? Because the latter makes for a much more compelling news story.

But it was arguably not the journalism that escalated the situations. The situation escalated when other Young Adult authors decided to circle their wagons and come to John Green’s “defense.”

For those who are not familiar with the Young Adult community, it is a small one. Many of the best selling authors know each other and often, they’re friends. Big names like Maureen Johnson, Sarah Dessen, Chuck Wendig, and Maggie Stiefvater rushed to assure the internet that their friend John Green was not only not a pedophile, but also not creepy at all.

A few days ago, teen blogger, Camryn Garrett, wrote a thoughtful piece on the Huffington Post Teen Blog about why this response from YA authors was troubling. In this piece she points out that the people rushing to Green’s defense were also rushing to publicly shame a teenage girl for sharing her opinions, and noted that these best selling authors were failing to recognize their own privilege and position of power. She makes a lot of great points but this part in particular really stands out:

“Am I supposed to just tolerate all of the older men in my life who make me uncomfortable? The men who have more power than me because they’re older and more respected?”

The response of John Green’s peers to the Huffington Post piece  has been a truly upsetting and disappointing thing to witness over the course of the last few days. These authors, people who on any other day claim to speak for teens, communicated in the form of tweets, tumblr posts, open letters, and even comments in USA Today that they are unwilling to listen to the voices of their key demographic. Maggie Stiefvater expanded on her comments in USA today on her personal tumblr, offering the following insensitive advice to those who might find John Green creepy.

“To those folks who say that John Green makes them feel uncomfortable in any way: John Green is not in their house, or school, or real life. If he makes you feel uncomfortable; easy fix — watch something else, read something else, don’t go to his author events. I don’t like Woody Allen; I don’t watch Woody Allen movies; I don’t read Woody Allen interviews; I would not frequent a blog written by Woody Allen.”

This may be easier said than done for many teens. With the success of The Fault in our Stars, and the upcoming release of Paper Towns, John Green’s name and face are all over mainstream media. But more importantly, are we to understand that if someone makes others feel uncomfortable, or in the case of Woody Allen, is actually accused of sexual assault, the answer is to not talk about it?

It is an understandable compulsion to jump to the defense of your friends, especially after people (not the original poster but other Tumblr users) deliberately called out John Green to defend himself. However, when you are the adult and the people you are rushing to condemn are teenagers (and primarily female), you may need to take a step back, look at the power dynamic at play, and consider if your defense is actually needed.

Other authors, like Shannon Hale and Tessa Gratton, took a different approach. Instead of rushing to condemn the original poster, or whether Garret should have written her HuffPo piece, they tried to have more of a dialogue about the situation, regarding reader interaction and online engagement.

Someone called John Green creepy on the internet. It may have been aggressive, but that is not libel as so many of his defenders might have you believe. He is also not the first male celebrity to be called creepy, nor will he be the last.

There is actually some truth in Green’s response — if you accuse someone of molestation or sexual assault, simply because you don’t like their work, you are doing something damaging. You are making it more difficult for those with real stories to speak out. But that’s not what happened here. What happened here was that a number of young adult authors escalated a situation that didn’t need to be escalated. They decided that their position and their experiences were qualification enough to determine what other people’s comfort levels should be. They let down the community of people that they should be championing. And that is significantly more damaging than someone calling John Green creepy on Tumblr.

[Editorial Comment: In an earlier version of this piece we mentioned that  virjn had deleted her Twitter account. However, we were mistaken and have updated the article that it was actually a change in username/url]