To be exact, they never really went away, because the multiple discussions about sexism and racism in SFF and what to do about it are still going on, which deserves another link round-up. Mostly, this one involves posts of note that I’ve missed before. Hereby, I focus mainly on the SF romance portion of the debate, because the ongoing discussion of sexism in the SFWA Bulletin as well as the appalling racist attacks on N.K. Jemisin have been exhaustively covered elsewhere.
BTW, I now have a new series widget which easily lets you navigate series of related posts. I’m not quite happy with the look and will probably customise it as time goes on, but it works.
Blanket trigger warning, since some of the links as well as the body of the post involve descriptions of sexual harrassment and assault as well as stuff that’s just plain WTFuckery:
Librarian Jenny Kristine Thurman a.k.a. Jenny Gadget has written a great open letter to the SFWA, particularly concerning the racist remarks of Theodor Beale a.k.a. Vox Day which were broadcast via the SFWA twitter feed. Found via Radish Reviews.
I missed this earlier, but Foz Meadows has a great rebuttal to the whole “women are ruining SF with their romance and their girl cooties” thing at the Huffington Post.
At Renegade Robots, Emily Ann Rice responds to both Foz Meadows and Stuart Sharp and points out that even classic SF often had romance subplots.
Geekmom takes on the twin controversies about sexism in the SFWA (apparently, VD hasn’t yet gone nuclear by that point) and whether women are ruining SF with their romance and also throws in some bonus DC Comics and Anne McCaffrey discussion.
Gini Koch, author of some very enjoyable funny romantic SF, reacts to both the SFWA uproar and the debate about SF romance and asks why women are still forced to justify why they write what they want to write. She also offers this theory why the mere existence of women who write SF combined with romance (and fantasy combined with romance) has upset certain members of the old male guard so much:
Perhaps what’s upsetting these men is the fact that it appears women seem to be better at writing science fiction the majority of readers want right now, which is, most likely, the real cause of all the misogynist brouhaha — girl cooties be entering the realm and stealing the readers! And, no one could read both soft and hard science fiction, let alone other genres, don’tchaknow. So these men bluster and accuse the men and women who point out that they’re being dismissive, rude, misogynist, and stupid of being the bad guys. Okay, I get it — as Elton John said, sorry seems to be the hardest word.
I think Gini Koch may have hit the nail on the head here. In the eyes of certain male (and some female) SFF fans and pros, the problem is not so much that women are writing SFF and polluting it with their romance cooties, but that these women are selling and that they are often selling better than male writers of “proper” SFF. Indeed, a couple of years ago at the peak of the urban fantasy and paranormal romance boom, there were often several urban fantasy or paranormal romance novels, mostly written by women, on the New York Times or USA Today bestseller list every single week, while the only non-romantic SF and fantasy books were either new books by hugely popular writers such as Robert Jordan, John Scalzi or George R.R. Martin or the occasional media tie-in. Charlaine Harris alone had ten of her contemporary southern fantasy novels on the New York Times bestseller list at one point. So those books which are supposedly contiminating the genre, those books which many SFF readers try to pretend don’t exist, those books are selling and often outselling core genre works by male writers. So maybe the true problem is not that Charlaine Harris exists and that she writes about vampires and werewolves, but that she outsells John Scalzi and Robert Jordan while doing it.
SF romance author Starla Huchton responds to the SFWA kerfuffle, Stuart Sharp’s mansplaining of SF romance and the generally shitty way that women are treated in the genre community and also reveals how the whole thing has made her question herself:
Instead, I am stuck in an endless loop of questioning what I’ve done in putting out a *gasp* Science Fiction Romance novel, alternating with being extremely angry at what I’ve been reading about the SF community lately. […]
Because of this, because of this “boy’s club”, I have to sit here wondering if I’m up for the battle ahead when it comes to Maven. I’ve actually been thinking about this issue a lot lately, and long before this recent hubbub started. What I’m facing is not a battle only on the Science Fiction side, but on the Romance side as well. In organizing my book blog tour for the end of June, I’m finding myself on the defensive. I have to convince Romance readers who may view SFR as “Science Fiction? Like with aliens? Pass.” that my book is something they would probably really enjoy given the chance. There are no aliens. There are no space ships. Yes, there is science, but it’s accessible, not some foreign language only rocket scientists and geneticists can understand. It’s for everyone. And then I have to turn around and convince SF readers that it’s not all “touchy feely girly things” as well. Add this ingrained misogyny to the mix and wow, do I have a fight on my hands!
I very sympathize with her sentiment, because the stories told by many female writers about how they were disrespected and mistreated does make me question myself, too. For example, I had been seriously considering attending Worldcon 2014 in London, though I didn’t buy my membership yet. But all of these experiences as well as all the stories we’ve heard in the past few years about women being groped, harrassed and even raped at cons make me wonder whether I should go at all. Because I don’t want to find myself at the centre of a “obscure female writer punches out established and beloved male pro after he tries to grope her” controversy.
Of course, it’s always just a minority of men who treat women badly and make them feel unwelcome and uncomfortable. For example, SF romance author Misa Buckley offers a counterpoint to the negative con experiences with male pros that other women have reported and recounts a positive con experience she had with a male Stargate castmember.
Puerto Rican SFF writer Rafael R. Piñero comments on the whole SFWA and women in SFF discussion and cheers on the many women who spoke out about the sexism they have experienced in the SFF community.
Meanwhile, Bryan Thomas Schmidt believes that the whole SFWA sexism/racism uproar was an excessive reaction to a minor misstep and calls for civility, because those writers who got angry and/or snarky in response to the SFWA uproar might put off editors from wanting to work with them. Never mind that a lot of those “young writers” have established audiences and fan bases and are actually outselling the established male pros. The link goes to a screenshot BTW, because the original post seems to have disappeared.
Now I’ve had some interactions with Bryan Thomas Schmidt in the past and he commented on this blog on occasion. I’ve always found him a good guy, though we don’t agree on many issues. However – and I’m sorry to say this – but his call for civility was ill-founded. For while the Mike Resnick/Barry Malzberg columns, the Barbie article and the Red Sonja cover may have been the initial spark, the discussion has long since moved past that point. We have had women writers like Ann Aguirre, Delilah Dawson and Rachel Caine speaking out about how they were belittled and mistreated at conventions by male writers. We have had women writers like Ann Aguirre, Silvia Moreno-Garcia and E. Catherine Tobler getting hate mail and rape threats for daring to speak out. We have had Vox Day flinging appallingly racist and misogynist crap at N.K. Jemisin and other writers and editors. And when women writers are told that their books aren’t worth “the shit on the shoe” of an established male pro, when writers of colour are called uncivilized and incapable of civilization, when women get death and rape threats, then the time for civility is past. Because there is nothing civil about rape threats.
This discussion is no longer about an ill-advised column by Barry Malzberg and Mike Resnick (and IMO it only became beyond the pale when Malzberg and Resnick started yelling about censorship and liberal fascism – the “lady editor who looks good in a bikini” was eye-roll inducing, but nothing more). It’s about the way that women and writers of colour are treated by many in the SFF community. And for the matter, I did not see all that much abuse hurled at Malzberg and Resnick. True, a lot of people expressed that the regular Resnick/Malzberg column was kind of old-fashioned and some people talked of straight white men (which Resnick and Malzberg are), their age was mentioned on occasion – often in the sense of “Well, they’re old. They don’t know any better” and one or two may have used the word “dinosaurs”. But that’s nothing compared to the abuse hurled at N.K. Jemisin or Ann Aguirre or Silvia Moreno-Garcia or E. Catherine Tobler or Delilah Dawson. As for hurling abuse at Theodore Beale, sorry, but he had it coming. Besides, it’s perfectly okay if Bryan Thomas Schmidt still likes Mike Resnick’s and Barry Malzberg’s books. I still love Isaac Asimov’s writing and you can pry my copies of the Foundation trilogy or the robot novels or The End of Eternity from my cold dead hands. The fact that Isaac Asimov apparently had the habit of pinching the bottoms of female fans doesn’t change the fact that his creation Susan Calvin is still a role model for me and one of my favourite female SF characters of all time. Though I’m glad that I never got to meet Asimov, because this way I get to remember him as a man who wrote all of those wonderful books that meant so much to my teenaged self and not as the creepy guy who pinched my bottom.
At Radish Reviews, Natalie offers a strongly worded response to Bryan Thomas Schmidt (who apparently also deleted comments that disagreed with him and banned the respective commenters, which is totally not cool, unless those comments were actively abusive) and also points out how close his post comes to the tone argument. Bryan Thomas Schmidt replies to his critics with a post that’s not very encouraging. I wondered about the Omarosa reference, since the only Omarosa I could find is one Omarosa Manigault, a US TV personality who was engaged to the late Michael Clarke Duncan.
Jenny Gadget responds to Bryan Thomas Schmidt and points out that the anger of many women and people of colour about being treated badly is not about him, but directed at all those who have found themselves at the receiving end of sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc…
Kate Elliott tweets about the question of civility in SFF and how – though she really prefers civility (I guess most of us do) – she can understand that people blow up at the same old shit happening over and over again.
Athena Andreadis points out that dealing with things like the recent gender and race idiocies in SFF and cleaning up the messes made by (mostly male) others is why there are so few perceived outstanding women in whatever field and why the women who are there are often ignored and dismissed, when their anger makes men uncomfortable. Great post, complete with reference to Virginia Woolf’s essay Three Guineas, a piece which I’ve always liked and which has attracted a lot of megative criticism it IMO doesn’t deserve. Athena Andreadis also published this great essay by Kay Holt entitled “Giving SF and fantasy the cooties”.
S.L. Huang also responds to Bryan Thomas Schmidt and points out that women and people of colour are really sick of the sort of racist and sexist shit pulled by the Theodore Beales of this world, because we hear it all the time. Indeed, her (assuming that S.L. Huang is female – apologies if this is not so) example of a woman who is consistently harrassed and can’t get the guy to back off only to be told she’s being incivil when she finally decks him reminds me of something that happened to me at school. I was in sixth grade and there was a boy who harrassed me, including sexually, all the time. There was a lot of sexual harrassment going on between grades five and approximately ten and none of the teachers ever did anything. They looked the other way and laughed us girls of when we complained. It was all just harmless fun, right, even if some over-hormonal teenaged boy shoved his hand under a female classmate’s sweater in full view of the teacher (whom I still want to slap for not intervening – too bad he’s dead and I even wrote his widow a fucking sympathy card about how inspirational he had been as a teacher, even though he’s the model for the teacher I never want to be). That particular boy wasn’t the worst of the bunch, but he was bad. And one day, I had enough of him and kicked him in the shinbone, hard. Whereupon my class teacher (not the guy who’s dead) happened to walk past and scolded me for kicking that poor boy and how I was such a nice girl and should know better.
Mind you, I’m no longer angry at the boys who harrassed me and other girls. They were just teenaged boys, shot full of hormones and with a serious lack of boundary awareness. But I am angry at parents who never bother to explain the concept of personal space, boundaries and consent to their teenaged children (It’s not just boys either. Girls harrass boys and occasionally you get same-sex harrassment as well), because they can’t or don’t want to see that their little darling has sexual thoughts. And in particular, I’m angry at the teachers who let the harrassment happen in front of their noses and didn’t intervene even when it was obvious that the victims were uncomfortable and on the edge of tears. Who blew off victims who fought back or complained and who laughed when a bad case of mixed signals (boy pursues girl relentlessly, girl snaps and tells him to just fuck off and leave her alone, boy threatens suicide with pen knife, teache laughs – yes, that really happened to me) blows up. As a teacher, I get to give the personal boundary and consent talk all the time (“Yes, it’s normal to have sexual thoughts. It’s normal to want to touch someone else. However, you can’t just touch or kiss them, you have to ask them first if it’s okay”), because the parents just don’t do it. And yes, it’s not pleasant (“They hired me to teach English, so why do I have to do sex education?”), but talking to the kids is better than looking away and pretend it’s not happening. Ditto for racism and homophobia.
Genevieve Valentine talks about similar things that have happened to her and every other woman, at school, in public, at work, etc… in this great post. Jamie Wyman describes similar experiences here. Both found via Radish Reviews.
And people like Vox Day, Barry Malzberg and Mike Resnick, Stuart Sharp, the unnamed male pro (and the con in question no longer has its GoH list for 2012 online, so we can’t tell who it was) who called Delilah Devlin’s book “not worth the shit on his shoe”, the men who harrass women at conventions and those who sente hate mail and rape threats to E. Catherine Tobler, Ann Aguirre, Silvia Moreno-Garcia are not overly hormonal teenagers whose parents never bothered to tell them how to navigate tricky situations. They are all adults and should know better. And while I may be willing to accept that Malzberg, Resnick and Sharp were really misunderstood, there is no excuse for VD and the anonymous hate mailers.
On a related note, at Terrible Minds, Karina Cooper has a great post stating why it is important to speak up about issues like sexism, racism and homophobia in the SFF community and elsewhere. The comments are uncommonly trollish by the usually Terrible Minds standards, though. Lots of “I never notice the gender of the author, I only read good books” (and of course “good books” all happen to be written by men) comments. Some of the worst and most dismissive comments on that post are by a woman BTW, which proves that misogyny in SFF is not an exclusively male phenomenon.