Already, this has been a hard post to write. However, I feel that leaving this post unwritten would truly have been harder. I think we were all pretty astounded last month when we read this article (and linked through all the posts therein) from The Daily Dot about sexism in the SF community. Immediately, I felt something needed to be said. That this issue needed to be addressed in some way. I was pretty outraged.
I’m glad I waited. I think my initial shock at what had transpired went something like this:
“Sexism in the SF Community? Really? That’s outrageous! Are we talking the same SF community that I’ve been reading and following for the better part of my adult life? The same community who reads/writes/discusses novels and short stories which redefine gender stereo types at nearly every turn. That same community that gives everyone a voice? You’re telling me that voice is all talk? That the left hand knows what the right is doing and chooses to flat out contradict it? What you’re telling me is that this genre is a lie!”
But who was I to say this? No one wants to hear about inequality from a 23-year-old white guy who’s straight. It just doesn’t carry the same weight. And so, nothing was said.
The next phase of my reaction was rather introspective, and sadly, another false conclusion. I’d been reading this stuff growing up, studied it a little in school even. I can read between the lines. I’ll concede to the argument that every space ship is a flying penis, and that every virgin chained to the side of a slab is ripe for the taking. But so what?! Peace must be won throughout the galaxy and we will win it regardless of whether it lies at the end of a plasma rifle or the end of a sword. And my god is it cathartic.
I think my logic in that last paragraph was something like: SF is sexist, I enjoy SF, therefore I must be sexist. And I was ready to own it.
But that isn’t me either. I kept coming back to all the strong female characters I’d read over the years. And not just the vixens (although who doesn’t love a good vixen). It was all the women characters. The more they struggled, the more they overcame, the more I loved them for the stories they told which were different from the ones that I knew as a man. And the female writers were more inspiring.
Then it hit me. Maybe I’m exactly the guy who should be talking about sexism in the SF community. The stereo types would say that it’s likely I’m exactly the misogynistic pig that would exploit and benefit from the status quo. And the more I try to identify with this predatory construction, the more I realize how far from the truth (for me) that construction really is. And that is when I realize that my voice matters too.
So now that I’ve gone on and on about how important my voice is, it’s time to use it. Ladies, continue doing what you’re doing. Keep writing and telling stories. Keep calling the men out on their bullsh%*t. At the very least it will keep us from a false sense of security. And Men . . .
No more bullsh%*t. That is all.
Nietzsche: “Mistrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful…the hangman and the bloodhound look out of their faces. Mistrust all who talk much of their justice! … And when they call themselves the good and the just, do not forget that they would be pharisees, if only they had – power.”
Keeping that in mind, let’s unpack, not to mention deconstruct, a phrase from the original article you linked to:
“Making SFWA more progressive and inclusive”.
Let’s peek inside the package, unwrap and unpack. OK, to begin with:
“Progressive” does not, as is implicit in the construction, equal: “The Good Wise people who believe Good, True Wise Things.”
In actual viewed-from-outside fact:
“Progressive” = “The self-description of certain people in a particular place and time holding one set of opinions.”
SFWA is an organization for SF&F writers, a trade organization, not a political advocacy group. It’s not the “Progressive/Conservative/Libertarian/Whatever Science Fiction Writers of America”.
“Progressives”, libertarians, conservatives, Serbo-Croatian anarcho-nationalists, Salafist Muslims, Catholics, Marxists, fascists… all welcome as long as they qualify under the bylaws.
Next that little “and inclusive”. Which contains the implicit assumption “if you’re not “progressive” you’re drooling to (illegitimately) exclude.
Which is… ah… let’s be tactful here… so not true. It’s a rhetorical trap.
Specifically, it’s an attempted framing attack. Something on the order of: “Have you stopped beating your spouse yet?”.
It’s an attempt to define the terms of discourse in advance so you automatically win. Sort of like an ad-hominem argument, but with a second landmine concealed within it.