Ok, I’m not going to rehash everything that happened. You can read the Daily Dot article here for a round up, as well this other piece covering it (those links have more links, it’s a rabbit hole). In a nutshell though, some dude who doesn’t even belong to SFWA started up a petition to battle the horrible plague of “political correctness” threatening the world of Science Fiction and threatening to outlaw all white cis male characters ever (Not. And I’m liberally paraphrasing, ok, satirizing is more like). A lot of authors I used to respect signed both the blatantly racist/sexist first version, and slightly less so second version, my posting about that on the Facebook page was what led to the storm of mansplanation that led to my last post. In the course of the entire kerfuffle, a different gentleman employed by a rather large publishing house shot off his mouth about Mary Robinette Kowal. He has since apologized, and she has accepted, because she is far too classy to point out that it was, in fact, kind of a shitty apology. For starters, any apology toward a woman that includes veiled threats to another woman is just… not quite sincere I’m thinking.*
What I do want to talk about here is what the microcosm of the SFWA thing says about SF/F/Geek Fandom as a whole.
Seriously, I’ve been writing about fandom’s sexism problems for… oh, at least since 2007, so seven years, give or take, and bitching about them on Livejournal since at least 2001. I’m not sure of the original publication dates for the first columns at Media Savant. Every fucking time I suggest female superhero costumes are too sexualized, that their bodies are ridiculous in explicitly disempowering ways (as opposed to male figures who are ridiculous in male power fantasy ways), that cheesecake art has no place in game manuals, that hey, female geeks exist, we’re here and we’d like you to quit ignoring us if we aren’t hot and completely discounting us if we are, I catch a ration of shit. Thanks to the New and Improved Draconian Moderation Policy ™ you guys don’t have to deal with most of it, or at least not the most egregious offenders, but that doesn’t mean they still aren’t there.
In fact, I can predict with a fair amount of accuracy what sort of troll comments I will get by the subject matter.
“I’m not a huge fan of D&D” = “Get back in the kitchen and make me a sammich!”
“Female superheroes/characters in fantasy art are overtly sexualized and unrealistic.” = “The men are sexualized, too!” and “You’re just jealous you fat, ugly, prude, slut!”
“The Penny Arcade guys ________________.” = “You should be raped to death, whore!”
Yeah, that’s a fairly representative sample of the worst of the worst. Honestly, by comparison, “Get back in the kitchen,” seems almost quaint now.
Those are not counting the guys who feel compelled to come here and explain to me my own fandom (wrong), the First Amendment (hint: they’re usually wrong), capitalism (also usually wrong), and evolutionary psychology (almost always wrong). Now, as I’ve said before, I don’t mind a good debate. The emphasis in that sentence is on the word “good.” A good debate includes supportable positions, perhaps even citations to back those things up, and critical thinking. As I’ve said before, attempting to explain to me how the First Amendment prevents me from calling you an asshole for voicing sexist and racist things is going to be met with laughing and scorn. I cannot count how many times I’ve had to explain that shit to people. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from the consequences of that speech. I am not the government, and am in no way obligated to publish your bullshit, or even give it the time of day.
Here’s the thing: There is no justifiable “other” side regarding sexism, racism or homophobia. Because the other side of the argument is, “It’s my right to not treat other people as though they are people.” That’s it. “I shouldn’t have to see gay people kissing in public!” Really? Because straight people kiss in public all the time. “A black superhero isn’t realistic!” Really? Because last time I checked superheroes weren’t realistic. Neither are orcs, elves, halflings and dragons. Sorcerors are right out. But black people really exist. So do women. So do POC and female soldiers. But it’s so much easier to believe in the historical “versimilitude” of orcs, elves and halfings than women or POC fighters… Okayyyy, then.
SF Fandom and Gaming, both RPG and Video, have reputations as “Boys’ Clubs.” In fact, one of the most common replies to women, POC, Trans and other queer-folk lobbying for change is, “Well, that’s the way it’s always been!”
Yes, but as our society has demonstrated repeatedly, “That’s the way it’s always been” does not translate directly to “and that’s the way it’s always going to be.” We are not helpless against society, we can make changes. And in light of how very quickly our society has BEEN changing in the last one hundred years, this rallying cry of “Well, that’s the way it’s always been,” is starting to sound as tired and ridiculous as actually is. We have a black president, we have gay elected officials, we have women all over the damn place, we have elected, out, Trans officials.
SF has always been the genre of change. The first interracial kiss on network television was a Star Trek episode. Don’t tell me that we can’t change and make the genre more inclusive. Gene Roddenberry had his faults, but I’m pretty sure he’d be sorely disappointed in you lot right about now.
SF should continue to BE the genre of change and imagination. So many things that were first thought up in SF literature have come to pass because they were just damn good ideas. And a lot of SF in the 60s was progressive and at least attempted to be inclusive, Ursula K. Leguin, H. Beam Piper (at least in the Fuzzy stuff).
When did we go from being the dynamic imagination of tomorrow, to the gatekeepers of yesterday?
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*Especially really dumb threats.