So, there seems to be a certain amount of this going on in various places recently. Firstly, SFWA had complaints about sexism in their recent bulletins, relating to both content and the cover, which led their editor Jean Rabe to resign. (A full apology was issued by the president of the SFWA, John Scalzi.) There was some discussion as to whether any of this constituted sexism or not. Quite a lot of people had something to say about this, publicly, despite the accusation of the complaints being made anonymously. Jim C. Hines rounds up a list here.
In the light of all of this, Ann Aguirre bravely shared some of her experiences of being a female SF writer at various conventions, including being told to make the coffee by one of her co-panelists, having the mic taken away from her and being spoken over, and generally having her work dismissed and belittled. She includes some of the responses at the end of her post, including such delights as:
“Your such a cunt. You need a good cocking. That would give you something else to think about.” (Punctuation errors preserved from original comment.)
According to other commenters, her work isn’t SF because it includes sex scenes (no one will have sex in the future?) and basically, because
“Its bitches like you that are ruining SF. Why cant you leave it to men who know what their doing?” (Again, errors preserved from commenter.)
Delilah S. Dawson also put her experiences on record. Kudos to Ms. Dawson for her courage and honesty.
Whenever a woman does choose to speak out about sexism, a great deal of the comments seem to fall into these categories:
1. RAAARRR! I’m a man. Women are a stupid collection of holes for me to put my mighty penis in. Everything they do is stupid. Feelings are stupid and weak. RAAAARRRR! Shut up bitch/cunt/whore! I’m going to rape you and kill you and rape your corpse!
Did that make you feel manly?
2. You pointed out that my sexist remark/behaviour was sexist! You’re trying to censor me! I’m being oppressed!
3. I’m not a sexist, BUT shouldn’t you be more ladylike about this? Have a sense of humour. Preserve your “quiet dignity“. Don’t make a noise or a fuss or swear. Be professional.
Ah, you mean sit down and shut up. But you mean it in a non-sexist way?
3. I’m not a sexist, BUT aren’t you just being a bit too emotional/hormonal/thin-skinned/hysterical about this? Writing is a tough world with lots of rejection. You’ll have to develop a thicker skin to deal with it.
Writers of both sexes are well aware of ups and downs of publishing. That’s not what’s under discussion here, unequal treatment is. Being angry is a legitimate response to an injustice, even if you are female. (Also, ever heard of the various male testosterone cycles?)
4. I’m not a sexist, BUT are you sure you aren’t just looking to take offence? Are you sure your heard that right? Are you sure you interpreted that correctly? I know I wasn’t there and you were, but I still feel qualified to explain to you that what happened isn’t what you say/think happened, even if plenty of other women say it happened to them too.
5. Men are discriminated against too! I shall continue the discussion as though you relating your experience somehow negates or dismisses mine.
Indeed they are, on the basis of race, religion and sexual orientation. Or even by the cultural bias that says men can’t be sad and women can’t be angry. Nobody is denying this. It’s not a zero sum game. There’s plenty of discrimination and asshattery to go round.
6. I’ve never seen or experienced this “sexism” of which you speak. Therefore it can’t be happening.
Ooooo-kay. You’re a man, right? Got any female friends? Why don’t you ask them about it? I’d do it over a drink, it’s probably going to take a while. If not, I refer you here, here, here and here for starters.
Elsewhere in the SF world, there’s been some speculation over who will play the 12th Doctor in Doctor Who. A few people have suggested that it might be nice, given the infinite possibilities available to a 1000 year old Time Lord, if he wasn’t white, or even *gasp* wasn’t male. I don’t have any strong feelings about the next Doctor because I’m not an uberfan of the reboot. However, here’s one reaction to that suggestion, pointed out by a writing friend:
“I can’t imagine this change happening to the Doctor any time soon as it would cause all sorts of problems. The first would be his sense of identity. For 1200 years he’s been male. What sort of psychological damage would it inflict if he suddenly found himself female? That’s like going from being the smartest kid in class to the dumbest in zero seconds flat. What sort of self would you have left if all the other morons in your class suddenly had IQs which made yours look like a joke?“
(Emphasis is mine.) While I agree whole-heartedly with the first part of this argument, that gender is a big part of identity (for humans, anyway), and that changing gender might present The Doctor with a new set of challenges, I have certain issues with the second part. Probably because my feeble female mind just can’t comprehend it.
Based on the guys I know, and specifically in this case, the lovely men I know who write SF, I’m going to believe these attitudes are the outliers; that the SF writing and reading community is still mostly an inclusive place that embraces differences, and is not stuffed full of sexist (or otherwise bigoted) douchebags. Feel free to prove me wrong in the comments.