I’ve just heard about the claims of Kate Losse that my novel, The Circle, was somehow based on a work of nonfiction she wrote. I want to make it clear that I have never read and have never heard of her book before today. I did not, in fact, read any books about any Internet companies, or about the experiences of anyone working at any of these companies, either before or while writing The Circle. I avoided all such books, and did not even visit any tech campuses, expressly because I didn’t want The Circle to seem to be based on any extant companies or upon the experiences of any employees of any extant companies. Because The Circle has not been released, it’s my understanding that Kate Losse has not read my novel yet, so I trust that when she does read it, she’ll understand that I have not read, and certainly never lifted anything from, her book.
Losse wrote in a blog post on Medium:
Likewise, society makes assumptions about women that make us guilty by default: Our work is supposedly minor, less valuable, and limited to the personal, where the work of a white man is presumed to be “universal,” “essential,” and relevant to all. This assumption is how, when I published The Boy Kings — about working at Facebook for five years and the impact Facebook has had on society — the media made the sexist assumption that this book was not important, because how could a woman writing about technology be important? How could a woman doing anything be important? The assumption the media makes in these instances is that something is not important unless a familiar, male, white face does it. So when Dave Eggers decided to write his story about a young woman working her way up through Facebook, The Wall Street Journal called it a treatment of “the essential issues of the day.” From all appearances, it is an unnervingly similar book, and I wrote it first (and I imagine mine is more authentic and better-written, because I actually lived and worked in this world, and am also a good writer). The difference is that Eggers is a famous man and I am not.
It matters because powerful, creative, important voices are being silenced and replaced by the voices of the same men you already know and have heard from — men who aren’t necessarily better at writing about these topics. Another reason it matters is that, in the case of big tech companies like Facebook, the way power is structured means that you, too, are being treated like a feminized, powerless individual, regardless of who you are. Facebook assumes that you, its user, aren’t as smart as Facebook’s engineers, that its algorithms know what is best for you, that you won’t notice or care if your privacy is violated, and that even if it violates your privacy or shares your content without asking you, it will get away with it. Facebook is the Man, and you are his servant, regardless of your gender or race. On Facebook, we are all women, making ourselves respectable in hopes that society will be nicer to us than it is to others. “Like me.” we say, because likes are all Facebook will give us for our work.
P.S. BYE Dave Eggers. I see you. Signed, “Mae Holland.”
P.P.S. If you are interested in the view of a woman from inside the corporate social networking monolith, please read my words before or in place of Eggers’. I promise you it will be worth it.
Readers: How do you think this drama will play out?