I Hope Gandhi Is Right

growup So there was Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg being sexist assholes. Jim Hines kindly put together a linkblog on the responses. (Incidentally, John Scalzi stepped up, as SFWA president, LIKE A BOSS.) Andrea Phillips notes the sea change.

We have enough critical mass behind gender equality now that ongoing reports of sexism are being treated as a problem, and a serious one, too. Better, there’s a snowball effect in play: Some of the men (and women!) who didn’t really think there was a problem before will see, have seen exactly how people are treated when they speak up. Increasingly, you’re seen as a total dinosaur or a total dick if you persist in engaging in problematic behaviors. Anita Sarkeesian, bless her, had to live through some horrible things — but she did so publicly, and in doing so persuaded a vast body of people who hadn’t cared about this stuff before that there truly are some awful things out there, and that it’s worth fighting them.Andrea Phillips

Then Ann Aguirre spoke about how she’s been treated as a SF author who just happens to have girl bits.

I had slightly better experiences at WorldCon and ArmadilloCon, but I suspect it wasn’t as bad because I was roaming around with Sharon Shinn, who has more power and cachet than I had at that time. But I still encountered more than my share of fans, who dismissed my work. At that point, I was disheartened, and I stopped attending SFF cons entirely. I decided I’d rather spend my travel money otherwise. To quote my wonderful friend, Lauren Dane, “If I want to feel bad about myself, I’ll go swimsuit shopping.” My professional work shouldn’t be impacted by my gender, my appearance, my religion, my sexuality, my skin tone, or any other factor. The fact that it is? Makes me so very sad. I’ve had readers and writers stare at my rack instead of my face while “teaching” me how to suck eggs.

I’ve been fighting this battle for five years now.

And now, here’s the second thing: I’ve been made aware of a post (that I’m not linking to) from a guy who is swinging at me again. Why? Because I’m getting my girl cooties all over his SF. He implies I’m incapable of grasping sophisticated SF references due to my gender–that I don’t actually write SF because it has women, sex, and feelings in it. I’m so tired and disheartened right now. The one bright spot was my experience at KeyCon in Canada, where I was not only made to feel welcome but valued. Not a single soul at the con questioned my credentials or my quality of fiction, due to what I don’t have in my pants.

But I’m still here. I’m still writing. You cannot shut me up. I will NOT SIT DOWN. I will not stand quietly by anymore. I am a woman. I write SF. And it’s not acceptable to treat me as anything less than an equal. I won’t stand for it. And I won’t get your fucking coffee.Ann Aguirre

It took less than an hour for her to start receiving hate mail for that post.

Part of why I’ve stopped going to conventions and cut WAY back on events and signings is, as I’ve said, deadlines and the energy drain of being an introvert and dealing with crowds of people. A larger concern is safety–I’ve been followed around and harassed at cons, both as a fan and as a guest. I’ve been on panels where not only have I been belittled and insulted for happening to have girl bits, but I’ve been followed from them by mansplainers who in at least one notable instance, tried to corner me in a crowded hallway and wouldn’t stop even when con security was alerted by onlookers. I suppose this is made worse by the fact that I was often pressed into service as a moderator because I won’t tolerate bullshit if I’ve been nominated to that position. *shrug*

And yeah, the hate mail. My email filters send most of it to killfiles as evidence for law enforcement if someone takes it into their head to become even more of an asshole than my usual stalkers. Still, some creeps through, and it’s often nauseating. Even though it becomes somewhat routine–oh hey, another “shut up and go back in the kitchen”, right next to another rape threat, ho hum, they’re all working off the same script I guess–one still doesn’t get “used” to it. I suspect that’s what the idiots who send hate mail bank on, the fact that any reasonable person will feel like throwing up after reading their filth gives them a sense of power. Any response is a victory, I guess.

Andrea Phillips, above, quoted Gandhi–“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

I hope he was right, because this sort of shit makes me so. damn. tired. And one day, maybe I’d like to choose to go to a convention and not have to worry about being cornered or harassed. Or open up my email without getting nauseous.

It’d be nice.

  • R Morris

    It seems to me there are three primary aspects here of this abuse directed toward women who write in sci-fi and fantasy and what fans can do.

    1. Stupid and or anonymous hate mailers who bully believing it makes them better to have ‘put you in your place’ Not sure what I can do about those except raise my children not to be like that and hope they die out.

    2. Stupid NOT anonymous behavior of fans, moderators, staff, publishers and other authors at cons. That I think we (the fans) can do something about. I would ask the female authors to note which Cons treat them the best. We will try and support those more. Which Cons don’t, you don’t have to be specific just say you don’t feel welcome. We (the fans/consumers) will pressure them to change whatever it is that our authors don’t like about the Con. Don’t attend unless you are comfortable with the other guests, moderators and security. When you depart an event we should be around to show any malingerers who can’t understand your views that there are a lot of us who do.

    3. Professionals Stupid people. I’d prefer to let SFWA handle it’s own. But at same time if there are Author who are particularly offensive let us know. I am more than happy to drop jerks from my list of authors I support.

    Just my thoughts.

  • barbie doll

    When I grduated from college a friend (female) went on the the University of Washington Medical School. At that time there was one female restroom in the basement of a multistory building for the workers. By the time she graduated from Med School there were female locker rooms. Those who are in power or benefit from the status quo never like change. Fear also plays a big part. I suspect you are younger then my oldest child. I feel so bad that things haven’t really changed at all. All I can say is keep trying . Also DO NOT patronize those people who degrade others and then say it is their own fault that they are being degraded.

  • wolflahti

    I have never been able to figure out how to deal with stupid, hateful people. I want to understand them, but there simply isn’t enough there to grasp, to derive any meaning from. You know that arguing with them is a waste of time; the best you can do is leave some comment that more-astute people will understand, but that is a petty victory at best, a form of preaching to the choir.

    I end up opting to just ignore the stupid people, but that seems like a cop-out as well, that I should be bringing something to the fight instead of walking away.

  • Jess

    As a fan I want to thank you for all your work.

  • Jennifer

    I love Ursula Vernon’s take on the issue:

    http://www.redwombatstudio.com/blog/?p=5537

    And

    http://www.redwombatstudio.com/blog/?p=5539

    Thank you for writing wonderful stories and putting yourself out in the world by writing them.

  • Thank you for going through all the Bullshit you do so that you can write amazing stories for us to read. I had no idea things are so bad for women in this industry. I can only hope this get better with time and keep supporting the authors I love!

  • The stuff about the hate mail really scares me. Writing is hard enough without knowing that, if/when you get published, you’re going to start getting graphic threats in your mailbox. Reading about all the abuse being heaped on women writers makes me wonder if I should just give up on the idea of publishing my work. Do these trolls harass all women writers, or just the ones who call down men?

  • Lili

    It’s not just publishing, it’s a risk taken just by living in the current world we have. There’s no way to avoid the assholes, and staying quiet is no guarantee of safety. *shrug* Progress is being made, but it’s not painless or linear.

  • Jilrene

    I had no idea authors get hate mail. That makes no sense. If someone doesn’t like what an author writes, they have the option to NOT BUY IT. Those of us who DO like that author’s style will continue to purchase it. Honestly, this is wrong. I don’t know how to fix it, other than rearing my children to respect everyone.

    On a lighter note, I love your writing and hope to read your work for many more years! Thank you.

  • Very true — anyone can get stalked, especially if you’ve got an online presence. Sigh. (Thanks for the reply.)

  • Shay

    Dear Lili,
    Your post brought this to my attention. Now my only complaint is that No-one has yet to post the original two articles in entirety (#199/200 and 201). Issue 202 is very well defined and available. I like to make my own mind up about things, which means I want to read the source material.

    Without reading the original two articles to jump on any band wagon would be an uninformed choice. If what is being touted in general is accurated I can understand the issue and the furor that has risen around it.

    Unfortunately i cannot agree or disagree as without knowing what they were defending from the original dialogue post irresponsible

  • Hate mail sisterhood fistbump… but I wish I wasn’t giving it. I hope Gandhi’s right, too.

  • TinkerBellHiddenTiger

    As an aspiring writer and a woman who has worked in a male dominated industry for most of my life your post made me extremely sad! I had no idea there was such discrimination in the writing world I always assumed that ones writing was taken on the basis of quality and content. With all the non de plumes floating around out there how can we possibly pass judgement on an indiviuals writing because we are aware of their gender. I suppose the bias does swing both ways though, I know that if I am in the mood for a good love story and I pick one up with a man’s name on it I am dubious from the start and this tends to tint my reading eye slightly (or alot depending on the proximity of ice cream and tissues). Like Carolyn Keene who would have been hard pressed to find readers if her Hardy Boy’s series had been emblazoned with her name instead of her alias we are being pressured accept the fact the genre is gender dominated………how sad and short sighted we are.

  • Emily A. Knight

    Idiots will always exist. This is a fact we all know, loathe, and have to deal with. I can’t count how many times I’ve been looked at as “less” as a writer, because of the fact that my “squishy bits” are in a different place (to borrow a lovely phrase from a female gamer). I was one of -two- women in a freelance writing course in college. I was writing SF. I was the only writer in there doing SF, so I was already working hamstrung. Nobody else knew the genre I was working in, so the course was less than useful for me. I also remember turning to my table mate one afternoon, after looking over his story, and simply stating, “You have a dead woman in a trunk, in the middle of SoDak in JULY…. for three days… and the smell hasn’t attracted attention yet?”

    Cue jaw drop from the guy, and the sputtered question of ‘So?’. Having to explain decomp and acceleration thereof, to a guy writing horror was… rather amusing. He’d missed something, pretty important, but nobody else was even thinking along those lines. They just accepted it…. for some reason.