Can’t stop the signal: SFWA struggles with sexism

As a SFWA member (an Associate who barely qualified, but hey) I feel I should say something about the latest controversy. Adding my testicularly-affected voice to the discussion, as author Chuck Wendig points out, is not to be a hero, but to side with those against misogyny and sexism and boost their signal. Silence is agreeing by default. (Thanks to author and friend Stephanie Dray for pointing me at his posts on Facebook and for teaching me a lot on these topics over several decades.)

(I recommend Chuck’s three posts on the subject which are great except for his rampant ad hominem attacks, which make him lose the argument instantly. Here is Karina Cooper’s guest post on his blog which is a must read.)

Perceptions of treatment or behavior between humans are reality. If someone thinks you are being a dick to them, no matter what you or others think about that criticism, there is some truth to it. Just keep telling yourself that, especially when someone tells you that you have offended them and you can’t understand how.

The contributions of women to early science fiction was a great subject for Resnick and Malzberg to cover – I learned a lot. Considering female authors, agents and editors from the early decades of sci-fi as a group is necessary because of rampant sexism and misogyny have swept them under the carpet. Discussing them together was the only way to really communicate their massive, relatively unheralded contributions to the genre.

And I cringed when they discussed one woman as a ‘knockout’ and referred to ‘lady editors’. Both were unnecessary and sexist.

But Resnick and Malzberg’s ragey rant at their critics in issue 202 was nasty, over-the-top and did ten times more to boost their reputations as sexist than anything their critics have said about them. That is on them and Jean Rabe, the editor, because she should have said ‘this is the draft you stick in a drawer and never, ever publish. Now go write something for public consumption.’

Here’s an example from Penny Arcade of how to recover and respond after falling for the trap of responding to ad hominem attacks by people who are offended by something you did or said (it has to do with transgender issues).

SF/fantasy is both the most progressive and regressive genre. It is the home to lots of immature males that romance, mystery and other genres are not. It is also the home of society’s dispossessed, disabled, shunned and discriminated against who are looking for equality and justice. It reaches for a more perfect future while pining for brutal medieval times, like the Bulletin cover of the barely-clad female warrior.

But at its heart, SF/fantasy wants to nudge itself and society toward justice.

So to those who want to walk away from SFWA because of some members’ attitudes/treatment of women, or old guys, or political correctness, you are not helping. The organization didn’t take a position that women, gays, non-whites, atheists or any other group will be treated poorly (unlike other organizations who make it their official policy). SFWA has a multitude of voices and opinions. It needs more voices and participation, not fewer.* Especially when the discussion is heated and their are people acting poorly on both the right and wrong sides.

*Full disclosure: I have not chimed in on the SFWA discussion boards on this issue, because I have not participated on any discussion. I’m still in the shy-fanboy-how-the-hell-did-I-get-admitted-to-the-Justice-League phase.

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