March 8 is International Women’s Day. Time to talk about awesome women, even though at least the SFF community is still stuck talking about a man.
International Women’s Day has never been a big deal in Germany, even though the day was initiated by an awesome German woman, Clara Zetkin. Celebrating it was always more of an East European thing, whereas the West celebrates Mother’s Day. Because all women are mothers obviously and popping out babies is the only important thing women do – sigh.
Therefore, I was quite surprised to see a poster outside a local Real store. At first glance, it looked like a leftover Valentine’s Day poster – a man presenting a bouquet of flowers to a smiling woman. However, the slogan on the poster said “Remember: March 8 is International Women’s Day.” So Germany is finally recognizing International Women’s Day, only to use it as an excuse for florists to advertise their wares.
On the the Jonathan Ross affair: My last post about the UK mainstream media rewriting what really happened got a lot of online attention. And I really wish we could stop talking about Jonathan Ross now, because there’s a half-finished post about the Avengers waiting to be written and another about unexpected links between Mad Men and Jerry Cotton, and besides it’s been a week since Ross’ eight hour stint as Hugo host.
Alas, we’re still talking about Jonathan Ross and about how a privileged guy with a history of problematic jokes aimed at women and minorities has suddenly become the victim, while those who objected to his appointment – many of them women – have suddenly become the bullies here.Besides, there have been some more really important posts made:
First of all, here is a post by Shaun Duke of The World in a Satin Bag that I missed during my previous round-ups. Now it is notable that Shaun Duke was one of the more vehement objectors to Ross’ appointment as Hugo host that I saw on Twitter in the first hour or so after the initial announcement was made. Interestingly, he hasn’t been mentioned in subsequent recaps of the event.
Here is another post made last Saturday immediately following the announcement that I missed before, this time around from Adam Whitehead at The Wertzone. It’s a nuanced post that both acknowledges Jonathan Ross’ fannish credentials as well as how problematic his brand of humour might turn out to be. Though I don’t fully agree with his choice of potential replacements. Mark Gatiss would indeed be a good choice, though Charlie Brooker would IMO be even a worse idea than Ross, but then I’m biassed because I don’t much care for Brooker and his work.
Flashforward a week and a lot of rewriting and reframing attempts by the UK mainstream media: John Scalzi explains that he has not commented on the Jonathan Ross isssue, mostly because he doesn’t really know what was going on and what the problem is and besides, he feels that everything has been sufficiently resolved.
But of course, the Ross thing hasn’t been resolved yet, largely because the UK mainstream media is attempting to rewrite what happened and recast Ross as the victim. Kameron Hurley has written a great post about just why many people got so angry at the Ross thing and even angrier at the attempts to rewrite what happened, in response to this clueless tweet by Patrick Rothfuss wherein he wishes that everybody would just stop being offended.
A lot of people were understandably angry at Patrick Rothfuss wishing that people with good reason to be angry would just stop being offended. And so a Twitter meme was born, in which people less privileged than Patrick Rothfuss or Wil Wheaton (who replied favourably to Rothfuss’ comment) let the world exactly how weary they were of being marginalized and excluded. The Daily Dot has a summary with lots of Twitter screenshots.
Just to prove that the SFF community is not the only place where scandals break out every five minutes or so, here is another literary scandal which is currently rocking the German cultural landscape. Unfortunately, all links are only in German – I didn’t find any English language reports about this incident at all.
One day after Jonathan Ross’ brief tenure as Hugo host, German writer Sibylle Lewitscharoff, winner of the prestigious Büchner award and several other big literary prizes, held a speech at the Dresden Staatsschauspiel theatre, wherein she said some very stupid things about in vitro fertilisation and that children conceived that way were not real people, but “half-beings”. Oh yes, and she’s also in favour of the biblical masturbation ban (Maybe try it sometime. And read some Lois McMaster Bujold, while you’re at it.) and hates feminists. The full text of Ms. Lewitscharoff’s rant can be found here, the audio version here.
Now Ms. Lewitscharoff has been going off the deep end for a while now – earlier this year I linked to her lengthy anti-Amazon rant over at Pegasus Pulp. But this speech really was mindblowingly stupid – crap straight from a dystopian SF novel of the 1960s and it didn’t even make sense then. What does the manner of conception have to do with whether or not a child is fully human? And why are we even having this discussion in 2014, 36 years after the first child conceived via in vitro fertilisation was born?
As always when a prominent person says something stupid, a lot of people are offering angry responses. I’m not going to link to them all, because in that case this post would be novelette length at least. I do like this response by Judith Schalansky, a lesbian writer who became pregnant via IVF and this one by publisher Jo Lendle, who also happens to be uncle of a kid conceived via IVF. Finally, there is also this delightfully snarky response by Sibylle Berg, who also wonders why on Earth people are seriously debating whether children conceived via IVF are human or whether being gay is acceptable in the year 2014, when those issues should long have been resolved and we actually have bigger problems.
Meanwhile, Ms. Lewitscharoff tries to justify her words with the usual, “Why can’t I be allowed to say what I believe? Why must I censor myself?” (Maybe she should write columns for the SFWA Bulletin). We also get the inevitable call for civility, this time courtesy of Jens Bisky (whose Dad was head of the Left Party for years), who believes we should civilly disagree with people like Sibylle Lewitscharoff rather than yell at them.
At the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Christoph Schmidt places Ms. Lewitscharoff’s fauxpology and the way she is casting herself as the victim of a pervasive “terror of virtue”, which persecutes people for speaking their mind, into a long line of renown German language writers who said something stupid, were called out on it and then complained about politically correct persecution and points out freedom of art does not mean that artists and writers can say something stupid without being called out on it. If anything, Christoph Schmidt misses several incidents, including pretty much every instance of “Günther Grass says something stupid” (happens about once a year except 2013, because Grass was ill) ever.
“Terror of virtue” is a reference to the latest book by Thilo Sarrazin, a politician (ironically a member of the social-democratic party) and former member of the board of the German federal reserve, who decided to give up that cushy post to write noxious books dripping with racism, classism, xenophobia, islamophobia, misogyny and pretty much every other -ism and -phobia you can name. Unsurprisingly, Sarrazin also views himself as a victim of persecution, which he calls “terror of virtue”. I won’t link to Sarrazin’s latest book, because the man deserves no more publicity than he already gets. Instead, read this review by Johann Osel, wherein he points out that Sarrazin casting himself as the victim of a witch hunt is kind of rich, considering that the man has been given the space to air his noxious theses in dozens of TV talk shows.
Now Jonathan Ross is no Thilo Sarrazin nor Sibylle Lewitscharoff, both of whom are closer to VD and Orson Scott Card than to Jonathan Ross. Indeed, the very comparison would be an insult to Mr. Ross and so far I think I have managed to refrain from insulting Mr. Ross.
However, the way these scandals progress is always remarkably similar. A privileged person – and I include Ms. Lewitscharoff here, even though she is a woman and daughter of a Bulgarian immigrant – says something stupid and hurtful, gets called out on it and yells “Persecution, witch hunt, liberal fascism, where is my freedom of speech?” And all too often, the mainstream media sides with the privileged alleged “victim” of virtue terror witchhunts rather than with those who are marginalized.