A ranty, funny, dead-serious intersectional feminist blog.

SFFragette: Moving SF/F into the 21st Century

Woman-in-Space-Suit-Reading-a-BookThis week, after news broke of yet another sexual harassment incident at a convention, I decided I needed to do something tangible to help solve the sexism, misogyny, and harassment problem in the science fiction and fantasy community.

I’ve been a part of the community since I was 19 and attended Westercon in Portland, Oregon, and I have worked and played in the field ever since (nearly thirty years). It’s home to so many friends and is part of my family life. I have always thought of it as an accepting community, and it is in a lot of ways. There are few places where people can be pretty much whatever or whomever they choose and not feel judged, and SF/F fandom is one of them.

But it was an incident at Norwescon in Seattle a couple of years ago that helped me come to the realization that I had to start talking about feminism. Living it. That I had to stop being a Feminist Butt.

I was on a panel with two men where I was ostensibly the moderator. One of the men very helpfully took over moderation duties, ran the panel, and he and the other guy proceeded to do most of the talking. I gave up trying to do my job or get a word in edgewise at some point about halfway through and just waited (with what I hoped was a patient, not-bitchy look on my face) for it to be over. It wasn’t until I walked out of the room that I allowed myself to get really pissed. Two months later I started this blog.

It wasn’t an isolated incident (and the Internet is currently brimming with women’s stories of sexism, misogyny, harassment, stalking, and assault at SF/F cons), but my decision to come out as a ranty feminist was certainly not a result of my experiences in SF/F alone. And until recently I’ve been pretty focused on the larger culture and the video games community (my other home) where we’ve finally begun talking about these issues in earnest, and haven’t really given a lot of thought to the need for activism within SF/F. Then all hell broke loose, and it broke loose again, and a writer named Kari Sperring coined a hashtag that gave me one of those “Light bulb!” moments:

The conversation was already hopping on Twitter, so I ran over and created a Facebook page and posted some of the wonderful posts coming across that feed. The idea was to get people all in one place and start talking solutions. And as I thought about solutions, I realized what I wanted to see for starters was a presence at conventions to counter sexual harassment. To that end, I and my ultra-secret partner-in-crime began designing a badge idea to propose to the community as part of a campaign to achieve three goals:

  • Don't Harass Me BroProvide information on how to report harassers.
  • Act as safety liasons (someone you can go to for immediate assistance if security isn’t around).
  • Create an awareness among potential harassers that we are watching and reporting harassment.

It soon became apparent that we were going to need a website* and a Twitter account, so that achieved, I’m now engaging members of the community on the design, the slogan, etc. and am really encouraged by the response. I’ve also learned of two groups doing similar work (Nerdiquette 101 and the Backup Ribbon Project) and I’m looking forward to talking with them about what they’ve learned and how we can work together.

All this to say if you’re a reader, writer, or SF/F con-goer and want to help make positive change in that community, join the discussion. Chime in on the blog, Facebook or Twitter, write a blog post telling your story or giving your perspective, and consider participating in the upcoming campaign to be part of the solution at cons you attend. I’d love to have your help making SF/F the accepting, safe community we all want it to be.

*SFFragette.org domain active soon!

15 responses

  1. Loree Parker

    Rosie: I am the current Programming Director for Norwescon, and I stumbled on this post while looking for a piece of content from a previous convention. I’d like to chat with you about your experiences on this panel if you are so inclined.

    December 9, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    • Hi, Loree. I’ll get in touch privately to discuss this. Thanks!

      December 9, 2013 at 4:42 pm

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  4. cgretton

    I have a serious issue with basing the name on the term “suffragette”, which has a very problematic history for women who aren’t white. Isn’t this supposed to be a movement for all female SFF denizens?

    July 5, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    • Yes, it is, and I admit I was unaware that the term was problematic until this evening. I apologize for my ignorance, and would love to talk solutions.

      July 5, 2013 at 10:26 pm

  5. I know nothing about the IT world and gaming, only what I have read here and other places. Maybe this article is spot on;

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2338978/Men-dont-mature-hit-43—ELEVEN-years-women.html

    July 1, 2013 at 11:50 pm

  6. Reblogged this on Worlds Beyond Counting.

    July 1, 2013 at 11:34 pm

  7. sonofadiddly

    Reblogged this on The Secret Liberal Agenda and commented:
    I am all over this.

    July 1, 2013 at 9:08 pm

  8. Awesome. Just awesome. Gamers are a sickeningly misogynist bunch, and any man who feels the need to shut a woman down at a conference, in a game, or anywhere else, needs to be taken to task. It’s not up to the women to make nice, it’s up to the men to stop their disgusting behavior.

    July 1, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    • Thanks, M. Weebles. You’re right–we’ve been trained to be the peacekeepers, but I think we have to fight that training to effectively fight these battles.

      July 1, 2013 at 3:37 pm

  9. Rachel Holmen

    The Safety thing is important. I have been approached, YEARS after the events in question happened, by women who were harassed by a former employer of mine. All were deeply ashamed, as if THEY had done something inappropriate and had perhaps invited the harassment. There wasn’t much I could do except listen. (And Safety people are need 24/7 at cons.)

    Harassment is not always as overt as a body-grab in public.

    July 1, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    • ArgleBARGLE it pisses me off the way we have absorbed these messages that we’re meant to play defense and make sure we never, ever do (or say or wear or drink or or or) anything that MIGHT be interpreted as a come on or that we were looking for whatever bullshit some dude decided to perpetrate, whether that’s an ass-grab or just following us around and insisting on our attention.

      Sigh. Thanks, Rachel.

      July 1, 2013 at 12:18 pm

  10. Heather

    Seriously, Rosie, you re such a boss. Thanks for tackling all these things head on. I feel like I can never make the time I want so most of it is spent retweeting and sharing; thanks for giving a voice to so much of what’s going down.

    July 1, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    • Thanks, Heather! This work is what keeps me alive, truth be told. And part of that is people like you giving me love. <3

      July 1, 2013 at 12:15 pm

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