Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Some Comments

So.

The internets--at least, large chunks of the parts that I visit regularly--have been full of brave, puzzling, insightful, frustrating, biting, ridiculous, praiseworthy and appalling things this past week or so. I can't claim to be particularly brave. This whole thing makes my stomach hurt. I'm bad with arguments, even friendly ones, and a lot of what I've seen has been rather unfriendly. There are exceptions, and others have said things far better than I will here. But the stomach-hurting is kind of why I do this writing thing in the first place, so for the sake of my own mental health and the few folks who read this, I want to put a few things on the record.

1. I wasn't there. I have seen the video.

2. It shouldn't have happened.

3. I was under the delusion that this was an isolated incident. Clearly--Haddayr's have-you-been-living-under-a-rock expression the other night at dinner was priceless--this is not the case. On the one hand I am probably astonishingly naive and optimistic; on the other this misconception probably has something to do with my con experiences, which consist (aside from a single media con to which, ironically enough, I went solely to see Harlan Ellison) entirely of WisCon, World Fantasy, and ReaderCon. I now realize that these things may be happening even there and I am simply too thick to realize it. I'm left wondering if I really have any clue what cons (or, hell, everday life) are like for my female friends. It's not that I'm not aware of the monolithic sexism that is still our framework; but I guess for the most part I've been picturing it as something more subtle than grabbing hands. I need to be more aware of this, and realizing that is one good thing that's come out of all the shouty.

4. Conflating the actions of an individual with the work of the individual doesn't help. Whether you're a fan of one or both or neither of the writers involved, whether in general you think one is charming and the other a jerk, is irrelevant. It's the action that is the issue. As a corollary, taking back awards already given is a pointless conversation.

5. Part of my discomfort with all of this, from the beginning, has been related to what appears, to my untrained eyes, to be a disconnect between generational schools of feminism. One prominent editor commented elsewhere (I'm doing this entry sans quotes (see #7) but I'll paraphrase) that she has had to deal with these sorts of things on more than one occasion in her career, and that she simply handled it on her own; that if the field had taken up grievance on her behalf, she'd have felt as if the control of the situation had been taken away from her. I've been wondering quite a bit whether Connie Willis doesn't feel that way. I feel like this point of view is not being acknowledged. Clearly, things have changed, and I agree completely with those who have said that these sorts of things just flat shouldn't happen; that no matter any given woman's ability to deal with violations of her physical space, she shouldn't have to deal with them. Yes. But, we didn't arrive at the point of being able to demand that without intermediary steps. There first had to be women who demonstrated as individuals that they deserved respect and would not surrender their dignity in the face of abuse. They did this on their own, against a prevailing point of view (even in other women) which figured they got what they deserved. I fear that by stepping in to advocate on Willis' behalf that the blogosphere--while well-intended--may have robbed her of agency in this matter. The option of dealing with it on her own terms was taken away. I don't say this to condemn anyone. It's a misgiving that others may not share. I think the fact that the focus was widened in order to open a conversation on the question of whether cons are a safe space is laudable. But when I see folks saying that it's not about Connie, I'm a little uncomfortable with that. Because it was, in the beginning, and since the very beginning of this she's never had the control.

6. Some of the commentary from the outer fringes of the genre has been puzzling to me. The idea that the speculative fiction community should, as an entity, be speaking out and taking action against Ellison is strange. First of all, I've seen a LOT of condemnation out there, much of it from people I love and respect. They may not be Grand Masters, but they ain't chopped liver. Second, SF isn't a private club, and there's no governing body. It's not as though the genres are separate countries. If this had happened between Norman Mailer and Lorrie Moore, would Toni Morrison and Garrison Keillor and Gore Vidal be expected to vote with their peers to censure him? Um, no. There is no kingdom of speculative fiction, and there sure as hell isn't a democracy. It's just us, where "us" = whoever cares.

7. I'm not a member of SFWA and I don't have access to the fabled magical private boards. I'm eligible, but the twin moons of inclination and fundage have not so far aligned. But seeing the atmosphere of paranoia and intimidation that's converged upon David's recent post has drained any and all inclination away.

8. Whether or not this is about Connie (see #5), it's really not about Harlan. It's not like people just got the news that Harlan can be a jerk. What it should be about, at this point, is looking at ourselves. Examining the behavior and attitudes that we participate in, perpetuate and/or condone. Thinking about codes of conduct for conventions, and an atmosphere of professionalism for awards ceremonies. You know, growing up a little bit.

Now I can sleep. Feel free to comment, but please, let's have done with the shouting.

5 Comments:

Blogger A.R.Yngve said...

You're right: it's not about Harlan, and it's time for some soul-searching.

During the past few days, blogging women have come forward with accounts of similar (or worse) incidents, some involving other writers.

And names have been named. Known names... people I used to admire.

After the initial shock, I realized that I had been naively ignorant about the "frat boy" behavior at conventions, award ceremonies and get-togethers in the USA.

Then again, I rarely go to conventions and only in Scandinavia. I used to read about American conventions only in fanzines, and those accounts never mentioned groping, predatory behavior or violence to women.

Now that "innocent" time seems like a conspiracy of silence. The 2006 Worldcon incident was simply the final straw.

You know what? If some people think SF fandom should be like an out-of-control college fraternity, then they should think again. Female SF fans don't need them, male SF fans don't need them, don't admire them -- whether they call themselves "fans" or "writers" or Grand Poo-Bahs doesn't matter.

Now, I'm not a prude. If a grown woman wears a low-cut dress that shows a lot of cleavage, men will look at it. That's not predatory, and if you don't want to men to ogle your cleavage then don't flaunt it.

But groping and grabbing, rubbing up against women, cornering them in a threatening fashion, stalking them... that is Just Wrong. It's not "manly". When a grown man behaves like that, he is less than a man.

This isn't a "feminist" stance. It's a humanist stance. If we are better than apes, the only way to prove it is to act better than apes.

3:27 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

Well said, sir.

I like your t-shirts, also!

10:33 AM  
Blogger A.R.Yngve said...

Thanks! I like your short stories.

1:57 PM  
Anonymous Muneraven said...

Of course you naively don't see the frat-boy, in-crowd crap that women are subjected to. That's no different than how I don't get what it must be like to be Black in America and the daily load of crap THEY have to put up with. I WANT to get it, but I'm a White chick, and I won't ever truly know that experience. Still, it means something that good men want to get it about women, and that a White chick like me wants to get it about African-Americans. All we can do is the best we can do to understand one another, and it DOES matter when we speak up and stick up for one another, even in a little old blog, dontcha think?

And boy am I with you on the growing horror with the science fiction community's in-fighting and bickering and posturing and . . .good heavens! Like you, I'm thinking I really don't ever, ever want to be a part of that.

Note to self: check this guy's blog and find out what he's written . . . :-)

1:37 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

All we can do is the best we can do to understand one another, and it DOES matter when we speak up and stick up for one another, even in a little old blog, dontcha think?

I think it does. I certainly hope it does.

As for the community ugliness . . . I'm hopeful, still, because I know a lot of sensible folks in SF. But, yeah. Ugh.

Thanks for stopping by!

5:38 PM  

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