Science Fiction/Fantasy organizations, such as conventions, writer’s groups and others have all had to reckon with diversity and inclusion issues in recent years, as well as with blowback from folks who feel it’s perfectly fine for their organizations to stay lily white, and excuse it by saying that they’d have to cater to “special interests” in order to attract a diverse crowd. “People of color, women, Queer people just don’t get gaming/anime (yeah, I can hear the snickering from here)/SF/etc…”
Gaming, video and tabletop, as well as media in general, have been dealing with this issue in recent years as people of color (POC), women and queer folks have finally been able to get the message across that we’re sick of watching the same stubbly white dude do all the things while the rest of us are stuck being rewards, scenery, cannon fodder, villains, and murdered as a source of angst to drive Stubble McPastyface’s story forward.
I will be honest with you, I wanted to like DC’s Titans, and I may yet go. back to it, but I am not here for the fridging of three women in two fucking episodes. Yes, it’s awesome that Starfire is a black, openly bisexual woman, but you killed three fucking women, two of them to drive manpain, and the third to drive Raven’s storyline. That’s not awesome. It’s lazy storytelling, and misogynistic as fuck.
Honestly, you could have achieved the same effect (Raven running away) by having her mom outed as a member of creepy dude’s organization, and then you could bring her back in countless other roles (savior, enemy, obstacle…). But no, lazy.
Doom Patrol is likewise on thin ice with me. I like a lot about it. But why did Cyborg’s mom have to die instead of his Dad, or both parents? And I’m not thrilled about Cliff’s wife, either. We’ll set aside the problematic nature of the Crazy Jane character for the time being, but that is also bullshit.
And I get when people get grumpy about being told about the problematic shit in shows, books, games, comics, media they love. Trust me, when I started paying attention to all this it felt like I wasn’t allowed to like anything if it wasn’t above reproach.
It took me a while to internalize that that isn’t true, and a lot of reading. You can like problematic shit, but be aware it’s problematic. You really need to interrogate the things you love, and ask yourself some hard questions.
Having been in on the ground floor of trying to make a convention more inclusive, it is hard work. You have to buck a lot of tradition, and a lot of members of an organization who don’t see anything wrong with the status quo because it has served them really well as is for a very long time. Fan organizations in the Pacific Northwest have been very white for a very long time. And when we started including panels like “Writing the Other” and “Being an Ally 101,” we got a LOT of pushback.
We had to fight to get a panel about “LGBTQI Youth” not labeled 18 and over, because to a lot of people the only facet of queerness they recognize is sex.
For all that the champions of the status quo and other conservatives bleat about liberals and progressives being “snowflakes,” I have never seen a group of people get their knickers in a twist faster than those folks when confronted with calls for accountability for their casual racism/homophobia/misogyny/transhobia.
Once during a panel I stated that if someone told you that what you had just said was racist, the best course of action would be to apologize for what you did/said, and promise to learn and do better. When I said that, an older gentleman in the audience yelled that he wasn’t going to apologize for slavery because it wasn’t his fault.
First, no one asked you to apologize for anything other than your own actions.
Second, why, when someone asks you to be accountable for the words you speak or the things you do, does your mind automatically leap to the assumption that people are demanding you apologize for slavery?
I’m really glad that someone else on the panel was able to field that one, because I was stunned immobile.
Now that convention is one of the most diverse of the old guard SF/F fan conventions in the area, because the leadership has actively been working to promote it to people of color, and other “Non-traditional” fans, and continues to do that work.
Like I said before, I hate the phrase “Non-traditional fans,” because we’ve always been here. Since I got involved in conventions the early 1990s, women made up about 50% of the attendance, but you’d never know it from how people talked about them. And if you ask the older members of convention fandom, it’s pretty much always been that way.
Queer folks, women, and people of color have always existed in fandom, ALWAYS. Our visibility just hasn’t been welcomed by the cis, het, white dudes who assumed they owned fandom.
This is what I find so frustrating. Yes, these folks may well be new to attending events, but they’ve always been there. ALWAYS.
And let’s face it, if you can’t imagine a future or fantasy world full of diverse faces and personalities, your imagination is sorely lacking.
If your fantasy is all white and mostly male, with women relegated to trophies or scenery and POC existing solely as servants or villains, this says far more about you than those of us who reject that.
You can imagine a world where balls of slime are sentient and have a complex culture and society, but not a world where women have agency.
You can imagine a world where dragons talk and unicorns dance, but you can’t imagine a world where a person of color is your equal.
Yeah, those say a LOT more about you than about those of us who reject your works.
And when people ask you why you made those creative choices, because you don’t get to pretend that these facets of your writing “just happened,” they are choices you made, the proper response is not to exclaim that you’re not going to “cater to snowflakes” or “apologize for slavery.”
Yeah, it sucks to get called out for fucking up. Trust me. It still happens to me. But you fucking deal with it and move on. You don’t blame your fuck up on the people pointing it out.
Own it. Then fix it.
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