Return of the Girl Cooties

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.

And Chuck Wendig has a good post about why men should speak out about misogyny and rape culture and another good post about diversifying your bookshelves.

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.

ETA: Bryan Thomas Schmidt responds again with a variation of “The lurkers support me via e-mail”.

This entry was posted in Books, Links and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

54 Responses to Return of the Girl Cooties

  1. Sgaile-beairt says:

    two thoughts….one, the nebulas are the more famous award, but doesnt sfwa also give the norton award?? can we say, cognitivedissonance ??

    two, andre norton ‘s books, are CHOCK FULL of romance….

    • Cora says:

      Oh, there is a lot of cognitive dissonance going on here, including that SF books full of romance are suddenly okay if men or long time established women write them.

  2. Pingback: [links] Link salad has heard that the forests will echo with laughter |

  3. Misa Buckley says:

    Thank you for the mention.

    There were two reasons I posted the counterpoint. The first is that I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve not experienced any sexism, though possibly because as a new author writing novellas I’ve just not been “out there” enough. Not having that experience made me feel unqualified to add my voice to those who had.

    Secondly, I really wanted to encourage female writers and fans of SFF and SFR that positive male attitudes existed. Since I did have experience of that, I decided to post something that, though while extremely personal, ought to be shared to negate the negativity.

    • Cora says:

      Thanks for commenting, Misa. I also think it’s important to point out that those sexist jerks are a minority, albeit a noisy one, among SFF fans and pros. And let’s not forget that a lot of men (Jim Hines, Chuck Wendig, Jason Sandford, Chris Gerwel, John Scalzi among others) spoke out in support of women in this discussion.

  4. Estara says:

    On a selfish note: I bought a Loncon 3 attending membership in order to guilt myself into finally going abroad again for the first time since 1997. With the broadband net and books I’ve become such a huge stay-at-home like you wouldn’t believe.
    I had hoped to see you, Li and Andrea Höst there, but I can totally see where you’d lose all patience and think it a waste of money.

    • Cora says:

      I haven’t decided whether to go or not either way. After all, if I don’t go next year, I may have to wait another ten years till Worldcon is in Europe again (unless Helsinki gets it in 2015). Besides, I haven’t been to London in almost ten years now, which is way too long. And if you and Andrea are going to be there, that’s another point in the pro column.

      • Estara says:

        Andrea is definitely there, she said she had bought an attending membership on Goodreads… then again we could all fall over dead tomorrow (can you see that I’m not feeling so well, currently, heh) so …

        I really want to manage to go there. 97 wasn’t just my last foreign travel but also my last London trip. I really miss actually speaking English. The internet and typing only go so far.

        • Cora says:

          Well, if you and Andrea are both going to be there, then I know at least two people at Loncon, so maybe I’ll go after all. I should probably decide soon, before the membership price rises any further, but I always feel strange planning so far ahead. After all, who knows what might happen in a year.

          Hope you’ll feel better soon, BTW. I’m a bit stressed out myself at the moment with the end of school rush. But we’ve got only one more week to go, then I can relax for a bit.

  5. ralfast says:

    Thank you for the mention and link. I have to admit that my post wasn’t the most inspired, but then again, other writers said what I could not much better.

    • Cora says:

      Well, I think your post was good, that’s why I linked to it. And like I said to Misa below, it’s important that men speak up, too, if only to show that sexist and racist jerks like VD and his ilk are a noisy minority.

  6. Natalie L. says:

    This is a great round-up. I suspect I know who BTS is referring to with the Omarosa reference but their website is currently password protected so I can’t confirm.

    Calls for civility when people are angry with extremely good cause do not sit well with me. At all.

    • Cora says:

      My problem with the Omarosa reference was that “Omarosa of SF” was obviously some kind of slur, but I had no idea who or what “Omarosa” was supposed to be, since whatever TV program she appears on doesn’t run over here. I’m still not sure what’s wrong with Omarosa that her name is used as a slur – a baptist minister and TV personality who was engaged to Michael Clarke Duncan doesn’t sound like a bad person to me.

      Come to think of it, I have read the “Omarosa of SF” thing before, on the blog of a conservative leaning but generally sane SF writer. Still, I wish more people would realize that not everybody in the world watches the same TV programs or follows the same sports and offer a link, when making potentially cryptic references. I have called Christopher Priest the Marcel Reich-Ranicki of SF on my blog, but at least I included an explanation who Marcel Reich-Ranicki is (Holocaust survivor and curmudgeonly literary critic who had his own TV show in Germany for a while).

      BTW, Bryan Thomas Schmidt has gone on to “The lurkers support me in e-mail” now. Really disappointed about his behaviour in all this, since he always struck me as basically decent, even if I don’t agree with him politically or philosophically.

      • Natalie L. says:

        Omarosa was known for being outspoken and prone to pot-stirring while a contestant on Donald Trump’s reality television show (and I know this without ever having seen an episode!)–now, as to whether or not she actually is a pot-stirrer, I don’t know, as the editing on those shows takes a lot of things out of context.

        And of course he has. Bless his heart. I’ve never heard of him before this week and I can’t say I’m terribly impressed with his behavior in general.

        • Cora says:

          So it’s a case of “woman dares to speak out and gets crap for it”? Then the reference is probably more apt than Bryan Thomas Schmidt realises.

          • Sgaile-beairt says:

            and ‘woman of color” too….that was a big part of the convo about omarosa & the audience being encouraged to see her asthe “bad guy; when the show wasrunning ((i didnt watch but my co workers did & talked about it all the time….)

            • Cora says:

              That’s even nastier then, if Omarosa was set up as the “bad guy” largely because she was a woman of colour with opinion. I sometimes have problems recognizing that “person of colour with opinions” is a negative stereotype in the US, cause we don’t have that particular stereotype, though we have others (mainly “immigrant or person of colour as victim”) that are just as problematic.

              I’m very sick of the ugly stereoptyping in reality TV in general. Even worse is that the people who are negatively stereotyped on such programs (in Germany mostly working class and lower class people) is often the same demographic who are watching those shows.

          • Sgaile-beairt says:

            yes!!!! divide & conquer, it blew my mind that people who hated being bossed by clueless jerks irl,were all gaga for the hairpiece!! classist propaganda, amazing….

            & the word “uppity’ does doubleduty, here….

            • Cora says:

              It’s definitely a “divide and conquer” tactic. I see this a lot with my students, particularly the students from lower income families. They watch these reality shows and gross-out comedy and laugh about the stereotyped stupid and lazy underclass people, unaware that this is exactly how the world will see them some day.

              A while back, some of my students were retelling jokes about students attending the so-called “Hauptschule” (Germany divides up students according to academic ability and class background/income at the beginning of junior highschool, whereby “Hauptschule” is the lowest track intended for students who are not academically gifted and will be doing bluecollar work some day) that they’d heard on the show of some gross-out comedian the day before. “Uhm, you are Hauptschul students…”, I pointed out, “…so why are you telling jokes about Hauptschul students? After all, those jokes are making fun of you.”

              “Oh, but we’re not like those stupid Hauptschul students”, the kids replied.

              “No, you’re not”, I agreed, “And neither is the class ahead of you or the class directly behind you. And if none of the Hauptschul students at our school are actually like the stupid Hauptschul students from those jokes, did you ever think that maybe the stupid Hauptschul student is just a prejudice peddled by people like that comedian to keep kids like you down?”

              That got them thinking.

          • Sgaile-beairt says:

            oh wow….good on you for opening their eyes to it, its a lot harder to work out in the usa, bc we supposedly don’t ‘have a class system” and or its all race based,even tho the same ones who say that wil l make “redneck’ jokes the next min, or,say something abt their enemiesbeing relegated to “flipping burgers; and not recognize it….

            ….oh and i wish i had a dime for every time i heard us conservatives envying your stratified schoolsystem, here!! bc god forbid they (or their precious sprogs)) have to associate with their ‘inferiors” as peers, for any time at all….

            • Cora says:

              That’s part of the reason why it’s nigh impossible to reform the stratified school system (it’s not all bad, it just needs to be more flexible and recognize that a kid’s academic performance at age ten is not and shouldn’t be an indicator for future success), because certain parents don’t want their kids to associate with immigrant kids or children of a lower class. This has actually gotten a lot worse since I was at school. I attended the academic track at a state school together with the children of doctors and lawyers, engineers and priests, but also the children of farmers, forklift drivers and impoverished single Mom. Nowadays, I still teach the children of farmers, bluecollar workers and impoverished single Moms as well as a lot more immigrant kids than were around in my day, but the kids of the doctors and lawyers and engineers are gone, sent away to private school, so they won’t have to look the less fortunate in the eye. Sigh.

          • Sgaile-beairt says:

            the ppl who were complaining abt us not having a german style school system, were sending their kids ((us) to catholic school, supposedly for a better education than public schools, except that it turned out we were getting a worse one in a worse environmt….bc the children of drs and lawyers and pilots arent magically popped into being as lovers of learningby their birth, they just feel entitled to straight a report cards bc of it….the real reason for most of them is to avoid said hoi polloi here thru private schools….which sabotages all schl reform from the start, here, too….

            • Cora says:

              We’ve got much the same problem with private schools here. Because they often have barely enough teaching personnel and no substitute teacher system, every sick teacher means loss of lesson time. The Catholic schools are usually pretty well organized (and sometimes the only schools in some smaller towns in heavily Catholic regions) and the Waldorf schools do their own thing, but Protestant schools tend to have problems. Never mind that the children of doctors and lawyers and pilots who attend those schools can be as much pains in the backside (and with less cause) as the kids from deprived lower class families. There is also a certain resentment fostered among the private school kids for the kids on the non-academic tracks in state schools. I see it often when talking to kids in the extended family and neighbourhood who attend private schools or their parents, when I get those “Oh my God, she has to teach those horrible underclass kids” looks. You even get those prejudices from otherwise perfectly nice teens who have never ever met one of those “horrible underclass kids”, because they have been isolated from the less fortunate since birth.

  7. Pingback: Update on the Recent Unpleasantness — Radish Reviews

  8. Bryan Thomas Schmidt says:

    Cora, I appreciate your kind words, and I have a lot of respect for you as well. I also appreciate that you’ve attempted to be fair. To be honest, the overreaction, and that’s exactly what it is, to my SFWA post calling for civility, NOT silence, from people in discussing any issue, not just women’s issues, has taken me aback, particularly the passive aggressive insults hurled at me on twitter and blogs by people who have had no interaction with me ever. I’m a kind guy. I care a great deal about people. And I care about discrimination. The SFWA post, by the way, is still up. I took it down briefly to make a few clarifications but promptly put it back up. The address changed, but I didn’t feel the need to go around to these people and give them the correct one for obvious reasons. It’s ironic that on a week in which I was mourning a woman who had huge impact in my life, one of many for whom I have great respect, as she stops chemo for her cancer, I am being labelled as anti-women, when I am anything but. I have, as I said, made considerable effort to invite racially diverse writers equally to my projects and as many females as males. I pay them the same. My coeditors and writers can confirm this. As far as deleting posts, I deleted two comments: one, from someone who was harrassing me for not agreeing to post a link on my own blog that she wanted on there. The other responding to my response. The other two deleted posts were my responses to both because without the first post, they all became relevant. But since this person chose to attack me and make the comments about her desire for me to post, NOT what I actually wrote, I took her out of the equation. Don’t regret that. How would you respond to me if I demanded you posted something here? And what if I then harrassed you for saying you weren’t sure if it was appropriate? As with everything else, that has been misconstrued and blown out of proportion by people who never understood what I was saying in the first place and then set about to act in the very ways I was saying are inappropriate response. So be it. I have chosen not to engage in dialogue with those people at the advice of publicists and others because it’s fruitless. They don’t really seem to want dialogue. They want me to admit I’m wrong and they are right. Maybe my wording was not clear, for that I am sorry. Which is why, as I said, I made it clearer in the resissued post here: But it seems every time people get up in arms about issues in SFF these days, it turns into mudslinging comments such as wankers, regressive, outdated, condescending, sources of “sexist douchebaggery,” “misogynistic,” “majority men in power,” “hideous, backwards, and strangely atavistic,” “blithering nincompoops,” antiquated, “deeply offensive,” “at best stupid and at worst censorious,” “sexist dippery,” gross, “never ending stream of sexism,” shitty, prehistoric, and, perhaps most colorful, “giant space dicks. Is one really expected to engage with those who use such rhetoric and hyperbole? Seriously. And that’s not necessarily about me. I’m not even going to flatter those people with quotes. Lastly, Omarosa is a reference to the Apprentice thing, and it’s one applied to the person in question by friends of mine which I borrowed. I will not dignify her with a name, because she’s just publicity hungry and troublemaking. But she delights in making trouble for anyone she can and can be found involved in any such frenzy, no matter how unproductive. I believe you know me to be capable of rational, considerate conversation from our past encounters. I would hope you’d give me the benefit of the doubt on this as well. I am not going to apologize for calling on people to calm down and actually dialogue when they are using such rhetoric. Really. No one is listening to each other, and no change is occurring. Instead, they are all seeing who can yell the loudest, insult the most, etc. And it’s sad, because I’d like to see discrimination a thing of the past. I’d like to see SFF a community united around our many commonalities, not divided by these differences. But that can’t happen until we actually can talk to each other without insults. As response to my posts have shown, we have a long way to go. That’s sad. Thanks, Cora. Have a great day and keep up the great blog work.

    • Cora says:

      Thanks for the clarification, Bryan. And for the record, I’m sorry about your friend.

      I agree that debates in the SFF community as well as in fandom in general can get heated and rhetorics can get ugly. Personally, I try to keep my own posts at least reasonably polite and only snark at those like Vox Day who really deserve it, but it doesn’t always work out. In this particular debate, I didn’t see any of the really ugly insults like the ever popular “die in a fire” except in the two posts made by Theodore Beale and the anonymous hate mail comments directed at Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Ann Aguirre and E. Catherine Tobler. But then I didn’t read every single post or tweet ever made, so it’s possible I missed some. And it seems to me that your call for civility was widely misunderstood, because you explicitly singled out criticism of Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg as examples of incivility, but not the accounts of misogynist abuse at the hands of male pros that e.g. Ann Aguirre or Delilah Dawson described or Vox Day’s racist screed at Nora Jemisin. Of course, you may not have seen those posts when you made your own, but it gave off the impression that you wanted people who had been at the receiving end of sexist or racist abuse to shut up.

      I generally try to present all views of an issue including linking to people I don’t agree with. Hell, I linked to Vox Day – twice. Regarding comments, I think I blocked two comments in the history of this blog, because they were rude and abusive. One of those commenters was a guy with whom I’ve had run-ins before and whom I have written off as an arsehole best ignored. Some people are best left alone and your commenters may well have been some of those. I was only confused because Jim Hines commented somewhere that you had blocked him and he doesn’t normally strike me as unreasonable, even if I don’t agree with him in every issue, e.g. I quite like urban fantasy cover art.

      • Bryan Thomas Schmidt says:

        Actually, Jim is reasonable when he agrees with you. When he doesn’t, it’s like talking to a brick wall. He sees what he wants to see and hears what he wants to hear. And he refused to accept that things were over the top in regard to people’s reactions to issue that I was pointing out, and every time I brought it up, condescended to me. We used to be friends. I’m a fan of his writing, but it got old. He’d interrupt conversations I was having that didn’t even involve him on FB, and I just got tired of it. So cut him off for a while. I rarely do that, but sometimes, enough is enough, and frankly, he was pushing buttons that tempted me to respond in a way I don’t want to, so it was better to just sever contact.

        • Cora says:

          I haven’t had all that many online interactions with Jim and I have disagreed with him on occasion. Never had any issues with him, though. Again, I ask you to take this elsewhere, since it did not originate on my blog.

  9. Bryan Thomas Schmidt says:

    One more thing, the lurkers. Well, there are comments on my posts of support. I just chose to quote a couple sent by email because I have had a number of emails, from men as well as women, expressing support and they have said, they are afraid to comment for fear of being attacked by those attacking me. That’s the kind of environment we’re in here. Criticize me for that all you want, but I think it’s relevant to point out. People are afraid to be honest with each other because of the attack dog mentality. It truly is sad.

    • Cora says:

      I don’t doubt that there are people who may not feel comfortable speaking out in public, particularly after a whole lot of people have been attacked and even threatened. I’m privileged in that regard, since I’m an ocean away from most of the sort of people who send rape threats to others. However, “The lurkers support me in e-mail” is something of a cliché in situations like this and your post pretty much hit the stereotype.

  10. Bryan Thomas Schmidt says:

    And by the way, the quotes I used are from Andrew Fox’s post. I expected to have a chance to review my comment and it posted right away. But that can be found here. He lays out an argument about how inappropriate the rhetoric is and how it’s not conducive to dialogue and did so, quite well, I think. Regardless, it’s hard to want to engage in dialogue with people who come to you first in attack mode. What do I have to gain but more frustration and disappointment? And then when they whine about how irrelevant I am because I won’t talk to them on their terms or engage with them in the environment they’ve created, it rather convinces me I’m dead on in my refusal. Although, as I said, my publicist and others have told me nothing is to be gained from engaging with such people. Hence my ongoing silence. In fact, I’m only commenting here because we’ve had such good interactions in the past, and you, at least, appear to want to be fair about it. Thanks.

    • Cora says:

      I’ve seen Andrew Fox’s post. I was with him until he started talking about “liberal fascism” (which is oxymoron) and began quoting a books about “Liberal fascism” that would be considered rightwing fringe thought over here in Europe and started going on about evil straw Communists being at the root of everything.

      • Bryan Thomas Schmidt says:

        Heh, I don’t agree with all of his conclusions either. And yes, I think you’re right about picking that example misleading people. Personally, it was just the freshest example on my mind. Beale/Day is ridiculous and should be ignored so he goes away. Seriously, he just craves drama and attention. If no one gave it to him, he’d shut up. I sincerely believe that. Because no one wants to hear his nastiness. As for the other things you mention, of course, I don’t support those. But I can’t keep up with all those posts and didn’t see them. I am in the midst of tons of deadlines. I see this kind of nastiness in debate happening on even the smallest stuff, like, perhaps, my post, for example. It really gets out of hand quick. For example, I am now being called racist for the Omarosa remark. Well, I was not even thinking of race when I used that example, although I got the term for the person involved from my friend’s African American wife. My point was the behavior pattern is similar. I tend to not think much about race. It’s just not something that matters to me, in the sense that, I’ve been surrounded by diversity for so long and enjoyed it’s benefits, that that’s just not how I distinguish people. I notice male vs. female because it’s pretty hard not to. But I don’t think “look at that black guy” and such. I think “look at the guy in the blue sweater with the funny expression” or something. In any case, this thing has been so blown up and people so demanding of me, that I just decided not to debate it with people who’ve already made up their minds. You, on the other hand, who can be fair and reasonable, have pulled me from my cave, so to speak.

        • Cora says:

          Like I said before, I actually had to google who Omarosa was, because she is one US TV personality who never made it to my side of the pond. It’s difficult to say without watching the actual show (and watching reality programs is about as enjoyable as a visit to the dentist), but going by what I know of similar programs in Europe and by the fact that reality TV in general is built often on class and race/ethnic resentment, building up Ms. Omarosa as a sort of bitchy villainess does seem to be related to her race and perceptions of black women with opions. Which doesn’t mean that anybody referring to her is automatically racist. And your African American friend using Ms. Omarosa as a negative stereotype matches my observations of kids from working class backgrounds watching and laughing about reality shows specifically designed to denigrate people like them.

          I also understand that one cannot read all posts especially in a debate as heated as this one. Personally, I did not see more than one or two posts who said something unforgivably nasty about Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg. Besides, I am more interested in the “women are polluting SF with their romance and their girl cooties” part of the debate than in what appeared in a magazine I have never seen issued by an organisation I’m not a member of. The problem here, I think, is that we’re having several interconnected discussions at the same time which are all symptoms of a greater problem in SFF, namely the fact that way too many in the genre still treat women, people of colour and GLBT people as outsiders that don’t belong in the genre.

          As for Vox Day/Theodore Beale, he is so over the top that I sometimes wonder whether his persona isn’t the creation of some kind of shock comedian. But just in case he really is serious, he deserves to be rebutted, especially since he shows no signs of going away.

    • Beth says:

      I wasn’t whining, Bryan. I simply could not believe that you claimed to want a dialog, then deleted, or simply quashed in moderation, comments that disagreed with your position. It’s dishonest.

      There were others besides me who found your not-so-veiled threats about young writers damaging their careers to be quite troubling. Jamie Todd Rubin tried to post his concerns. You answered him in email, yes, but his comment never made it out of moderation.

      Finally, I would urge you to read Kate Elliott’s tweet series on #sfcivility, which Cora linked to above, but which I’ll link again here.

      And that’s it for me. I don’t want or need an apology from you, as you seem to think. (Why should I?) Nor do I want to attack you. I just want you to open your eyes and ears a bit more.

      • Bryan Thomas Schmidt says:

        No, before I even deleted your comments, I posted them and you were attacking me first for not posting it fast enough, then on twitter, because you didn’t like my response. It was whining. It was refusing to accept disagreement. And it was childish. I actually didn’t post Jamie’s concerns because he’s a close friend, and I made changes to clarify the post that addressed them, I then responded personally by email to his concerns and he hasn’t asked me to repost. His post would not seem accurate on the new version and I didn’t want to do that to him. Regardless, your behavior made me want you out of the equation. And stop harping on this because you and I both know how you jumped down my throat. I’m done reminding you of it.

      • Bryan Thomas Schmidt says:

        Oh, and before you reply yet again with denial. If I harrassed you and then said, hey, I wasn’t harrassing you, would that make you feel less harrassed? Would that make it okay? I’m not going to respond to you further on this.

      • Cora says:

        Thanks for commenting and clarifying your point, Beth.

  11. Bryan Thomas Schmidt says:

    Interesting also is that completely ignored in all this was my post a few weeks prior speaking to men about not sexually harrassing and how stupid that is.

    By the way, another great post put up the same day as mine is Cat Rambo’s which she’s gotten no criticism over. She read my post prior to posting and encouraged me to post with her for another perspective, and has been very supportive through this time. Her comment has been similar to mine: the reactions have rather proved my point in many cases.

    Anyway, keep up the good work on the blog. Hope the writing and everything else is going well.

    • Thank you for noting my article, Cora — and for keeping track of the topic. I wish you (and all of us) didn’t have to.

      I believe Mr. Schmidt 1) has hijacked the thread and 2) still doesn’t get it (or, more likely, doesn’t want to). I put a comment on the Cat Rambo post he extols. I reproduce part of it here in lieu of spending more time trying to educate Mr. Schmidt:

      I’m far less likely to be willing to enter a “discussion” with someone whose past words and actions have consistently belonged in certain categories. For example, if someone says “The sun goes around the earth” and someone else says “The earth goes around the sun” the correct answer, contra Faux News’ “fair and balanced” fig leaf, is not “in the middle”. Also, if someone says “All humans are equally human” and someone else says “Some humans are more so than others” the solution is not (as it once was, de jure, and still is for non-males in many parts of the world) that some humans are half-human.

      • Cora says:

        I really wish we could start talking about something else, too, especially since we have been having variations of this discussion since the 1930s, but seeing how women and people of colour and GLBT people are still treated by parts of the SFF community, I don’t think it will end anytime soon.

    • Cora says:

      Thanks for the links, Bryan.

  12. Cora says:

    Just a brief reminder to Beth and Bryan (and everybody else) to stay civil. I’m pretty open with regard to letting people comment, but I don’t want any flamewars here, especially if they spill over from somewhere else.

  13. Frank Dellen says:

    I recently read this article by Deborah Kogan:
    (English original here:
    Big surprise: Women are treated like crap in other literary circles, too.

    I thought a little bit about this article and came to two conclusions: 1) It seems to me that there are more female sef-publishers. Of course, there are the outspoken males like Konrath & Co but the silent majority are women (my gut feeling though, I don’t have statistical back-up). And I guess that’s no wonder: all the hassle with idiot men is gone when self-publishing.
    Except for 2): The contempt of self-publishing is often full of derision of everything “girly-themed”. When you can’t actually do anything against female authors, you can at least smear and ridicule them.

    I also think the reason behind men throwing their poop at female authors probably isn’t the fear of losing sales but the fear of losing opinion leadership.

    • Cora says:

      Thanks for the links, Frank.

      Women writers of all genres (except perhaps romance and erotica, which are dominated by women and consequently at the bottom of the literary totem pole) have been speaking out about the way they are treated by the literary establishment for years. There is a annual VIDA study which analyses how many men and women are reviewed in major newspapers (a lot more men) and how many reviewers are men and women respectively (again, a lot more men). Germany is actually something of an exception here, since we have several prominent female critics (Sigrid Löffler, Iris Radisch, Ina Hartwig, Thea Dorn, etc…). And just recently, British writer Polly Courtney spoke out about how she turned to self-publishing, because her publisher kept marketing her books as chick lit, which they are not.

      It seems to me that there are more women than men self-publishing as well. And except for Joe Konrath, Hugh Howey, John Locke and Barry Eisler, most of the big successes are women as well, though that may be due to the fact that romance always accounts for approx. 50% of all fiction sold and romance is heavily female dominated. Maybe this is an accurate representation of the percentages of men and women writing or maybe more and more women are turning to self-publishing, because like Polly Courtney they are fed up with the way publishers are treating them and shoving them into “women only” genres.

      I agree that the contempt of self-publishing is driven by derision of anything girly. How often have we heard complaints about all of sparkly vampire romances and dominant billionaire erotica cluttering up the big e-stores, whereas no one ever complains about macho shoot-em-up thriller and doomsday prepper fiction (yes, apparently that’s a genre) cluttering up those same stores. Never mind that paranormal romance a.k.a. “sparkly vampire books” is largely trad-published.

      You may also be on to something that men fear losing opinion leadership more than sales. Because romance, a genre that is approx. 90 percent female), has long outsold anything else. But as long as the (male) literary establishment could pretend that those books didn’t exist and didn’t count, everything was all right in their little world.

  14. Ida T. Calhoun says:

    You know what? I’m sick of hearing that speaking up about sexism or racism will damage someone’s career. I’m just sick of it. Does Schmidt not realize that women and POC live with that same Sword of Damocles every single time we open our mouths? Does it not occur to him that this threat always hovers in our minds, and when we take a public stand, we do so despite it? Does he think he is somehow revelatory in shaking his finger at us this way?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *