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Rape Culture at UofO: Come at Me, Bros

Trigger warning for discussion of rape and rape culture.

Screen shot 2014-03-03 at 2.59.43 PMMy friend Anne Thériault of The Belle Jar wrote a post a few days ago about an incident at University of Ottawa wherein several male members of student leadership gathered to chat about Anne Marie Roy, president of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa. Ms. Roy had apparently beaten a dude for the office, and these dudes were not happy. They went on for several screens talking about how someone should “punish her with their shaft,” speculating about what venereal diseases she might have, and offering to buy beers for a guy who says he’s going to “fuck her in the ass” on someone’s desk. You’ll find the whole disgusting mess over on The Belle Jar. Here’s an excerpt from Anne’s article, which you should go read right now.

Someone punish her with their shaft. Someone punish her with their shaft. This is the type of thing that’s said about women in positions of power – not a critique of their policies, but a threat of sexual violence. Not a comment on how they do their job, but graphic fantasies about how they should be sexually degraded. Nothing about their intelligence or capability, just a string of jokes about how riddled with venereal disease they are. This is misogyny, pure and simple. This is slut-shaming. This is rape culture.

As I’m sure you can imagine, Anne was immediately subjected to verbal abuse of the sort women who dare to speak out on the Internet will be familiar with. But then Anne Marie Roy received a cease-and-desist letter. From CTV News in Canada:

The letter — which identifies the four participants as Michel Fournier-Simard, Alexandre Giroux, Alexandre Larochelle and Robert-Marc Tremblay — threatened legal action against Roy if she did not “destroy” her copy of the online conversation and stop sharing it with others.

It wasn’t long before Anne Thériault received a similar letter. These individuals have now withdrawn their threats with regard to Ms. Roy. Anne is still waiting to learn whether she will be sued for her blog post.

Every single day, women are silenced when they try to speak out about rape culture. Every day we are told that “it’s not rape culture” or “it’s just how guys are,” which sound to me like conflicting statements. Why are guys just “like that”? Duh, because of rape culture, which Matthew G. P. Coe defines thusly in his follow-up at the Good Men Project:

Rape culture is the gradual normalisation, through, for example, jokes, commentary, and apologia, of the exertion of one person’s will over another, through the use of coerced or forced sex acts, such that such exertions become acceptable or justifiable as either hypothetical or practical actions.

Every time a conversation like the one Anne Marie Roy and Anne Thériault have helped bring to light takes place, it reinforces this culture of rape as acceptable. It reinforces a culture that treats women as objects, as products for men’s consumption, as sex toys, as less than human. And it reinforces a culture where women remain silent when things like this happen. Or as Anne says,

If these men face no consequences for their actions – indeed, if they are able to press charges against Roy for publicly addressing their comments – what are the students going to learn from this? They’ll learn that rape is a joke, that women can be terrorized into silence, and that it’s useless, maybe even dangerous, to speak up. Are these the lessons that we want our student leaders to be instilling in the heads of seventeen and eighteen year old kids?

I’d like to ask each of you to think about how you can help shine a light on this bullshit and show the world that we will not be silent. As for me, I’m looking forward to my cease-and-desist letter. Oh! I probably won’t get one unless I include at least part of the conversation, so here you go, bros:

screen-shot-2014-02-28-at-1-57-41-pm

And here’s my call to action:

Join me by writing your own post, reblogging/sharing Anne’s post or this one or Matt Coe’s or all of them, and tweeting on #UofOrapeculture. Let’s shine a frakking Klieg light on these assholes.

Update: All four members of student leadership involved in this conversation have resigned their positions. (I missed this article previously. Apologies.) No word on whether legal actions will continue.

PSA: Trolls who comment here will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)

Related:


Why I Am Out

Guest Post by Fran Stewart

Fran surprised me with another wonderful post today in honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance. Enjoy. ~Rosie (TDoR 2013)

via The Guerilla Angel Report

via The Guerilla Angel Report

My name’s Fran Stewart, and I’m a transgender woman. “Transgender” is an intensely personal term, and it means different things to everyone who uses it. To me, it means that I was born with a body that didn’t make sense to my mind, and now I live in a body that fits me much better into the world. You might well know a transgender person and not be aware it. We’ve learned over the years that it’s wiser to keep it to ourselves.

I am out. Though I want the world to treat me as the woman I am, to simply BE a woman, I tell my secret.

I am out because I’m a storyteller, and some of my best stories happened when I was (or thought I was) a boy. Heck, some of the real gems happened while I was transitioning! The words come easily to me.

I’m out because it’s funny! When you get your leg hair caught in an Epilady, you can either laugh or cry, and laughing is just more fun in a group.

I am out because I’m proud. Hiding my past makes me feel like I’m ashamed of it. I’m not. This is how I was born. If I’d been born in a taxi, would I be ashamed of it?

I am out because I pass for “normal,” what ever THAT’s supposed to be. When you’ve seen me on the street, you’ve seen the woman I am, not the man we all thought I was. I can tell you my secret and surprise you, and be safely able to fade back into anonymity.

I am out because I want to learn and teach. There’s more about the spectrum of gender than I can ever know, and I’ve seen more than most. I don’t like feeling ignorant, and It’s worth learning I was wrong to find what is more right. Every discussion, I get to teach and learn things.

I am out because every person I tell is one less person who might freak out when Uncle Lloyd says she’s actually Aunt Vanessa or when the new woman at work has a rather deep voice and a notable Adam’s Apple.

I am out because I still have support. I told my family—they still love me. I told my friends—they still surround me.

I am out because I have money. Unlike many transgender people, my secret never cost me my job, or my marriage, or my safety net. I had the rare insurance that covered most of my therapy and surgery.

I am out because I have a home. I’ve never been thrown out of an apartment, exiled to a back seat or an underpass.

I am out because I’m lucky—I have never been screamed at in a mall, spat on by a passerby, chased out of a bathroom. Instead, when I’ve revealed my secret I’ve had fantastic discussions and meaningful debates, even with complete strangers and clergymen.

I am out because I’m alive—nobody ever beat my skull in or buried me in a shallow grave. Nor did I drink myself to death to save the world the trouble.

I’m out because I am a minority’s minority’s minority: a lesbian, transgender woman, who is happy, strong, secure and loved. I tell my story to give hope to the many who are miserable, sick, afraid, and alone.

I am out because I’m angry. I’ve been to groups. I’ve heard all the stories I describe above, over and over. Your mothers and fathers, your children, your uncles and aunts, shamed, ostracized, brutalized, cast aside, expurgated from your history. Wonderful, kind people. Fine people, ground up even finer for want of the tiniest amount of love, the smallest benefit of a doubt, the least amount of patience.

I’m out because with all this good fortune, I feel the need to push my luck. Good things happen when I tell my story: looks of shock, laughter, hugs. More often now, the best thing: “Really? Huh.” And then a shrug as we move on to more important things. That’s the world as it should be. It costs me nothing to be an ambassador, to answer questions. To pay back all the patience and good grace that I received.

I’m out because I can see the future. The kids I meet are even less nervous about gender and its spectrum than I am. Crossplay and fluidity allow us to figure out exactly who we are. The games they play evolve too fast for terms to even keep up. The Internet is awash in children reinventing gender.

I’m out because although the world can be horribly cruel, I find that the best way I can make it better is to live like it could be otherwise. I tell my story for those who can’t, or don’t dare to, tell their own. I speak for the murdered, the suicides, the institutionalized, the browbeaten, the homeless, the sorrowing wounded I met at every support group, the fatherless, the friendless, the child-bereft, the shamed, the terrified. Because I am proof that it DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THAT WAY.

TDOR14memorialSM

Image by Make Me a Sammich

I am out, on this Transgender Day of Remembrance, when we note the HUNDREDS of transgender people brutally and violently killed this year, because…because it’s so easy to make it better. To ask “Is it sir or ma’am, please?” To say “Why should I care what bits you were born with? You’re a woman!” To say “I don’t understand, but I love you and I’ll try.” To say “You look good today.” To say “What’s your damn problem? Leave her alone!” To say “Please tell me about it, when you’re ready.”  To say “Let me teach you some basics.” To simply say “Around me, you don’t need to be afraid, or watch your words, or be on edge. Just be yourself, the best you know how.”

I’m out because so far it’s worked for me, and I’ve seen my good fortune spread. I hope that if you read this far, you will keep it going, and that one day November can become a month of thanks and family, unalloyed with sadness.

Memorializing 2014

Memorializing 2013


Also by Fran Stewart:

Lessons in Fear: Finding Balance as a Trans Woman


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Lessons in Fear: Finding Balance as a Trans Woman

Guest post by Fran Stewart

Fran is a dear friend and a great writer I was thrilled when she said she wanted to write a post for MMAS. I hope this will not be her last. ~Rosie

Image via Fotolia.com

Original image via Fotolia.com

I started my girlhood very late. I’d reached my mid-thirties by the time I realized there’d been a mistake. Up until then I’d muddled through life as the straightest, most translucently white suburban male nerd you’d expect to see. When I came out as a transgender woman, I had a lot of catching up to do.

Fear paralyzed me in the early days: will I lose my friends? My family? My wife? Would people laugh at me in the street? Would someone beat me up for being “a he-she?”

I want to talk about a different fear today, though. I wasn’t used to one of the fundamental assumptions most women make every day: I am now a target—not just for being a T or a lesbian, but simply for being female. Just as my salary automatically went down, my risk of rape, robbery, and general mishandling jumped.

My friends began to point out risks I took without thinking. I’d jog one block down an alley to my parked car instead of walking three on the street. I’d assume the friendly intent of anyone who talked to me. I’d walk whistling through dark parking lots at night. Growing up male in a small, safe town just doesn’t breed much situational awareness.

Some people, though, went deeper. “You talk to panhandlers? I’d never do that,” I heard. “You can’t just walk down a dark street. Stick to the lighted areas. Think of what might happen.” I heard a difference in the warning tone:  you’re not afraid enough.

Amidst the dizzying swirl of neoadolescent emotions, something about that message went against my grain. Not afraid enough? I was terrified to walk out of the house! I rehearsed for hours how to answer the phone with proper feminine vocal pitch. I cringed at every checkout line, waiting to hear “sir,” expecting a disapproving eyebrow raise, the look on every face that says I see you and I know what you’re up to. Now I’m not being afraid enough?

I related one story to a therapist: in a crowded public area, an aggressive panhandler stopped my wife and me in a paid parking lot. “It’s after six,” he said. “Street parking’s free! There’s a spot right over there. I’ll even hold it for you. I just ask you give me part of what the pay lot would cost.” I looked. I could see the spot he was pointing out. I agreed.

After moving the car, we gave him several dollars of the ten-dollar parking fee. “That’s it? That’s all I get after all the money I saved you? Come on! Screw you!” We apologized and walked away. My wife was upset at the risk I’d taken and my lack of awareness.

I explained my thinking: the street was busy—a plaza full of people. The man was polite initially and correct about the street parking. I felt I’d weighed the risks.

“You can’t talk to people like that. You can’t know what they’re going to do.”

“I don’t think so,” the therapist replied. “I’d never have done that. You can’t talk to people like that. You can’t know what they’re going to do. I don’t think you’re used to thinking about these things the way women do.” We discussed the event for half an hour; I left perplexed and frustrated at her flat denial of my reasoning.

I straddle a mental crevasse: for thirty-odd years I was reared as a man. I was an Eagle Scout. I had to fend off military recruiters in high school. I had no idea what lessons I should or shouldn’t have learned to be a healthy, normal woman. I looked to role models to learn those lessons. But this one still felt wrong. Was I missing something when I assessed the situation? Was risk assessment just useless for women?

As I asked more people, a divide emerged. Some friends adamantly agreed with the therapist: couldn’t I see how dumb I’d been? Some said I’d done okay, though unusual for a woman. A few said I was spot-on—women shouldn’t take shit from people for being women.

Then an activist friend, a sharp-minded New Yorker whose advice I’ve always prized, told me a story. She was at a subway stop late at night and a creep accosted her.

Without thinking twice she turned on him. “Are you serious?” she yelled. “Get the fuck out of here! What’s wrong with you?”

She chased him out of the station in a cloud of shame. “When I told my boyfriend about it he was really worried about the risks I take,” she said. “But this is me. I didn’t think about it—I just did it.”

This is the most valuable lesson she’s taught me: there are as many ways for women to look and act as there are women who’ve ever lived. Anyone who tells you there’s one right way is selling something you don’t need.

“You’re very lucky, in a way,” she said. “You’re redefining yourself. Choose what kind of woman you want to be—what bits of the old you to keep and what new stuff to bring on. Be your own kind of woman.”

So, years later, what’s the result? A new balance. I’m more aware of my surroundings in public. I’ve taken a great self-defense course. I don’t take my safety for granted. But I also feel strong in public. I consider my risks but then walk confidently. I smile at strangers. I do these things because that’s the kind of woman I am.

I feel sad to say that I’ve lived a charmed life, though I feel I have. I’m living the life everyone should have by right: my own.

franquote.png

Image by Rosie


Also by Fran Stewart:

Why I Am Out


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


How to Treat a Broken Heart

brokenheartSomeone I care about has been going through a rough time recently, and talking to her reminded me of a time not very long ago when I felt much as she has been feeling. It was one of the worst periods of my life and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy*, so seeing a friend going through it made me wish I had a magic wand to make the pain go away. But I don’t, and we have to live through these things in order to get to the other side of them, so…

I thought back to the things that helped me through the hardest weeks of that time for me, and this is what I came up with: Not a cure, but a reminder that when the world treats us cruelly, that is the time when it’s most important to treat ourselves gently.

To treat a broken heart:

  • 2 cups of water (taken often—to rehydrate your powdered soul)
  • 1 cup of warmth (applied constantly as long as required)
  • 1 cup of family and friends (as needed)
  • 6 heaping tablespoons of forgiveness (for yourself first and others second—keep the jar handy)
  • 1 truckload of sleep (and another truckload as soon as you need it—repeat as necessary)
  • Breathe. Even when it hurts.

Wishing you all love and joy and freedom from pain.

Love,

Rosie

*Almost. I can almost say this honestly.


I’m Not Offended

by Sid

STFU-Sit_down“Don’t get offended.”

“People are so easily offended.”

“It’s the ‘in thing’ to be offended by something.”

Shut up.

It isn’t about offense. It’s about acknowledgement, disappointment, and standing up for change. Every time you say some version of “don’t get offended,” what you’re really doing is trying to control the conversation. By painting my words with the “offended” brush, you strip them of their worth and value, and often create a straw effigy that looks and speaks like me, but sounds like a whiny child.

I’m onto your game. You cannot control this conversation anymore.

What you so abrasively call offense is often first the acknowledgement of a social issue that needs change. Let’s take a recent example I posted to Twitter.

This was for a game that I enjoy quite a bit. You have a handful of playable characters, and you can switch them up pretty often, because you usually die a lot. It’s part of the charm of the game. All the playable characters are white. I posted on the forum, not because I hoped to get an insightful answer from the playerbase, but because I like to go on the assumption that things like that aren’t intentional—that they’re oversights.

Now, once I saw a couple of replies to that forum post, I didn’t go back to it, because I know what will be there—scathing remarks about offense, political correctness, and so on. But all I did was acknowledge that the game world does not reflect the real world.

change

(art by banksy, image via icanvasart.com)

I acknowledged it, I was disappointed, and I stood up for change.

Now, one forum post isn’t a movement, but standing up for change doesn’t have to be a huge gesture. In fact, most of the time, it can’t be. Big gestures (marches, protests, and the like) get a lot of attention and can definitely raise awareness, but without the small gestures—the day-to-day standing up that we can each individually do—the larger ones are meaningless. Change can be inspired on a large scale, but must be implemented piecemeal, bit by bit, as we slowly seed it into the culture around us.

You keep telling me not to get offended, but I’m not. We hear or say “offense” and we think of pearl-clutching and people who say, “Oh, my stars!” and people who can’t hear the word “fuck” without casting a disapproving look. None of those are me. I’m not “taking things too seriously” when I politely wonder why a movie fails the Bechdel test. Rather, I’m acknowledging that a film could not have two named female characters talk to each other about something other than a man, I am disappointed in that, and I am standing up for change.

You can’t strip my words of value just because you would rather I stay quiet. I know how to counter you now. You can keep telling me I’m offended, but you’ll keep being wrong. And if your goal is to make me stop talking, you will fail.

power

Especially for AC.

I’m not “one of those people who has to bring race and gender into everything.” I’m one of those people who acknowledges there is a problem, and I’m not ashamed of that. I’m one of those people who is disappointed there still is problem, and I’m not ashamed of that.

I’m one of those people who stands up for change in the small ways that I know how. I will never be ashamed of that.


Read Sid’s previous MMAS articles in Sid’s Stuff. Follow her at @SeeSidWrite.


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Seattle Summer 2013 Meet-Up

There Will Be Sammiches

This Saturday I’m hosting the first-ever Make Me a Sammich Meet-up. It’s going to be a purely social event with no agenda (not even a little one*), just a great view from Seattle’s Jefferson Park, good company, and, of course, sammiches.

Mmm...sammiches.

Mmm…sammiches.

I know it’s short notice, but if you live in or around Seattle, I hope you can join me. I’ll have some goodies to give away.

And did I mention sammiches?

 

*Light bulb!


Violations and Villains and Apologists. Oh My.

Image via morgueFile.

Image via morgueFile.

“Violation” is a word that keeps coming up for me around dealing with betrayal. When you secretly bring a third person into a committed two-person relationship, you violate not only loyalty and trust, but you eliminate informed consent. Would I have consented to sex with my ex if I’d known he was having sex with someone else? Absolutely not.

My ex created a situation where any intimacy between us happened essentially without my informed consent. I consented to intimacy with a person who had committed to a monogamous relationship with me. I did not consent to share my body with someone who was sharing his body with another person while pretending I was the only one. So, in effect, he did not have my consent. He removed my ability to consent.

Not that we were having much sex. As I’ve said before, he told me he lacked drive. I got complacent. He went out and got laid. But at the time I learned of the affair he’d been having for months, he was actively trying to “work on our intimacy” which means he was actively working on having more sex with me while he was having sex with someone else in secret. The sex we were having, then, was not entirely consensual, was it?

So yeah, the more time passes, the more grave his crimes seem to me, and the less able I feel to forgive him. The more I process, the more I realize that what he did—that what people do when they perpetrate this violation upon one another—was abuse. To me, he is a villain. And that means that when I encounter people who tell me that they want to be my friend, but that want to be his friend too, and they hope I understand, I don’t. I just can’t.

I’ve tried. I really, truly have. I’ve done my best not to feel resentful, but the resentment is there and I’m starting to realize it’s there for a reason.

When I was raped at 12 years old, my neighborhood split down the middle. There was the “Me” camp: the people who believed me when I said I’d been raped, and there was the “him” camp: the people who just couldn’t believe that a guy they considered a friend could possibly be a rapist.

When an ex beat the crap out of me and I ran away to my dad’s place halfway across the country, my dad joked that I’d probably pissed him off and when the guy called, he put me on the phone so I could, you know, face the music and resolve things. A few days later—before I really knew what happened—I was back with my abuser.

A while back Sid wrote a story about how it felt when one of our friends dropped my ex from Facebook while maintaining a friendship with her abuser–a guy whose abuse had never turned physical and so even she hesitated to use the “A” word.

Here’s an “A” word for you: Apologism. It’s what half my neighborhood engaged in when I was raped. It’s how my dad dealt with the fact that the guy who beat me up was a lot like him. It’s what our friend did when she told Sid her abuser wasn’t really like that.

It’s what people do when they decide that a person who abuses other people is essentially just a good guy who made a mistake (or a series of them—hey, he had a tough childhood) and let him off the hook for bad behavior. And more and more often I find myself asking why it is that people insist on apologizing for my ex simply by reminding me that they feel they must maintain friendships with both of us.

Of course, I have no way of knowing what sort of consequences my ex may have been subjected to at the hands of our mutual friends. But I do know that I’m aware of no consequences dire enough to satisfy me, and he has certainly made no amends where I’m concerned (except to throw some money at the situation). And some of our friends were his friends first–I know that some will feel the need to maintain loyalty to him, and I totally understand if that’s the choice they need to make. (I recently took the liberty of unfriending his whole family on Facebook, not because I don’t love them, but because I know they are unwaveringly loyal to him and it hurt me too much to see them there.)

sandI also know that I need my close friends–the people I hang out with–to be people who do not feel the need to maintain a friendship with my abuser. I don’t have the energy to deal with the strain of spending time with people knowing they probably just hung out with him last week.

So, I guess this is just to say that I’m working on my boundaries. Some people in my life might notice that I’m a little quieter, a little less likely to socialize. Or maybe they won’t. But I will be spending my limited energies not on people whose choices say that my abuse doesn’t really count but on those who bolster and uplift me and remind me that I am truly loved.


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Confessions of a Feminist Butt | The Outlier Collective

Today I have a guest post up at The Outlier Collective for their week of conversation about Feminism. Have a look at this and the other contributions, as well as the conversations that have ensued. Fascinating stuff. I’m proud to be a part of it!

Here’s an excerpt from my post:

Why it took 47 years and six months or so for me to get to that place, I’m not certain, but I do know one thing: I had met the type of feminist who feels the need to speak up every single time someone says something that might be construed as sexist in any situation, and I did NOT want to be one of them. I don’t remember ever saying, “I’m not a feminist, but…” but if I did, then I was–I was a Feminist Butt. I wanted everything feminists want, I disliked everything (most) feminists dislike and work to change, but I did absolutely nothing to promote equality, and I certainly didn’t call myself a feminist because yikes, what if someone thought I was one of those feminists?

Read Confessions of a Feminist Butt at The Outlier Collective.


10 Signs that Feminism May Not Be For You | The Outlier Collective

This excellent post by The Belle Jar appears today The Outlier Collective as part of a guest blogger series on Feminism. (My contribution appears tomorrow.)

10 Signs that Feminism May Not Be For You 

I’m typically a huge proponent of the idea that feminism is for everybody. Feminism is for ladies! It’s for men! It’s for non-binary individuals! Feminism is for teenagers and small children! In fact, I’m even pretty sure that at least one of my cats is a feminist, although the other one just prefers to think of herself as a cat-ist, because that’s less political. Regardless, I’m usually of the opinion that feminism, as a philosophy, can and should be embraced by everyone.

Lately, though, I’m not so sure. I’ve been seeing a lot of questionable behaviours and comments, many of them coming from purported feminists. I’m starting to wonder if some people might want to re-think whether the feminist movement is right for them. With that in mind, I’ve created a handy-dandy list of ways to tell whether or not this movement is for you.

Read the 10 Signs that Feminism May Not Be For You.


Their Fear is Justified (or Why Speaking Out In Your Community Is Important)

Guest post by Zachary Jernigan

I asked Zack for a post in response to recent kerfuffles, debacles, and all-out flame-wars in the science fiction community. For background, read Chuck Wendig’s series (links to third post, where you’ll find links to 1 & 2), “Calling for the Expulsion of Theodore Beale” on Amal El-Mohtar’s blog, and “The Readercon Thing” at  Under the Beret


misogynistsattack

Created with Pulp-o-Mizer

Hi. My name is Zack, and I’m a science fiction and fantasy (sf&f) geek.

To be clear, I’m the particular kind of geek who only really cares about sf&f literature (novels and short stories, in other words). Movies, comic books, video and tabletop games: I think they’re neat on a theoretical level, but I have no practical interest. Nonetheless, I know a lot about them because I associate with other geeks, most of whom are enthusiastic partakers of all forms of media.

lf there’s one thing that’s true about being a geek, it’s that one can’t escape being inundated with information about all of geekdom.

Most of the time, this situation produces awesome results. I get to see what other geeks are crazy excited about, what they hate, and what arouses their disdain. I love passionate people and their strongly-held opinions, and geeks are among the most passionately opinionated people you’ll find in this world.

Of course, I said “most of the time” for a reason.

It stops being awesome when geeks open their mouths to espouse hate.

It’s happened a lot lately, which is why I’m writing this now.

#

Before I go on, one thing:

There are no links in the following post for a couple reasons.

One, I’m fairly sure this blog’s (amazingly cool) owner Rosie is going to provide a few, from which point you’ll be able to ping-pong around to a whole slew of other links, many of which will anger and inspire you by turns.

Two, if you’re really interested in the subject I’d encourage you to do a little experiment in order to see just how pervasive the problem that I’ll be discussing has become. Just type in “science fiction sexism” into your Google machine and see how many hits you get. You’ll end up in many of the same places that Rosie’s links took you, and a whole lot more besides.

Why do I endorse this activity? Because I think it’s important to see just how simple it is to be informed about the happenings in a scene — a scene you may never have thought twice about. If you’re inspired to look a little further into (the mostly) wonderful and welcoming world of sf&f fandom, so much the better.

#

You know when you’re at a gathering of extended family — let’s say it’s a 4th of July barbecue — and you overhear a conversation you wish you hadn’t? Someone, an uncle or aunt maybe, says the word “nigger?” Or “cunt?” (Or whatever other words you associate with prejudice?)

And you’re like, Whoa, whoa, whoa… WHOA. Hold up. We’re not that kind of family.

That’s how I’ve felt lately, over and over again.

Now, in all fairness I was only adopted into the sf&f community recently — around 2010, three years before the publication of my first book — but I’ve grown to love the folks in it. To say they’ve welcomed me with open arms is to do them a great disservice: they have, so often it shocks me, been my advocates in trying to get my career off the ground. People who are as different from me as one could imagine have offered heartfelt congratulations on my small accomplishments, debated me with civility, and forgiven my occasional trespasses.

My experience, in other words, has been overwhelmingly positive.

And so it hurts — it angers to white-hot flame — to see how vociferously the men (clarification: mostly men) of my newfound and much-beloved community have behaved of late. The defense of a way of life, of a mindset so retrogressive and thoroughly lacking in compassion, makes me afraid for people.

I was at Readercon last year, when Genvieve Valentine was harassed repeatedly. I didn’t know about it at the time, but you can bet I was horrified to hear of it. And then I watched in even more horror when the convention’s board gave her harasser a slap on the wrist in direct contradiction of its own harassment policy. Hardly an encouraging development for women who want to attend the convention this year.

(Just so you know, the organizers did eventually do the right thing. I’ll be at the convention again this year, in part to see if the controversy produces a positive result.)

Anita Sarkeesian? She’s receiving rape threats. Why? For simply challenging the video game industry on its portrayal of women. Trolls line up to tell her what an insufferable bitch she is, to tell her what she needs is a good cocking. They are, point in fact, an almost neverending legion — which I suppose is not surprising: Yesterday it was reported that a Microsoft employee made a rape joke while playing a new game in front of thousands of people at the recent E3 conference.

These are just two examples among many, more of which are being reported all the time.

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Of course, I’m not just afraid for people (though that is obviously the most pressing concern).

I’m embarrassed. I don’t want to be associated with any scene, no matter how tangentially I’m related to parts of it, that produces and endorses the kind of mindsets recently on display. I hate how it misrepresents the rest of us, how it warps perceptions of what is overall a very well-intentioned group of people.

I want better for my adopted community than to be relegated to the status we are increasingly in danger of being relegated to.

In order to avoid this marginalization, we need voices shouting in opposition.

We need people — men just as much as women, all of us unafraid of stepping on toes (I don’t kid myself that this isn’t riskier for women; it always is, and will continue to be until the situation changes) — insisting that equality is not a subjective matter.

It is not open for debate, the issue of prejudice, of undeserved privilege. I’m tired of hearing that it is.

It is not a matter of free speech. You are not being censored. I’m tired of hearing that there is a force telling you that you cannot be you.

You, Mister (or Misses) Bigot, will still be free to be as fucking stupid as your atrophied heart desires, but you will not be free to have a voice everywhere. If you espouse a hateful rhetoric, one that objectifies women and encourages violence against them, you will be shouted down by our culture, by our collective weight of Objective Rightness. You will not be allowed to act on your hate publicly and push others down. You will not be able to get away with pinching asses, putting your arm around the shoulders of complete strangers, making unwelcome suggestive comments.

You will find yourself increasingly marginalized by your baseless judgments and entitlement, pushed ever further into the corner.

You will be put on Time Out until you can behave like a rational adult. Sometimes, you won’t be forgiven at all, because it’s too risky to trust you again.

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It would be easy to say goodbye to all this, to quit thinking about The Problem of Being a Geek and go live in some virtual land free of idiots. I don’t need to concern myself with this crap. As I said, I haven’t been in the community for long. I could be like the respected author Nick Mamatas, who early this month announced his retirement from the sf&f community over some of the very issues I’ve outlined — and it would be easier for me than for him, being that I’m a relative noob.

And yet I won’t do that.*

Why?

Love.

I love how sf&f causes the reader (viewer, and/or participant) to look at the world in new ways. I love what I’ve already accomplished in the genre, and the potential I have to accomplish more. I love my friends, and the potential they have to do great things — as authors, as commentators, as people simply taking inspiration from what they read (view, and/or participate in). I love so, so much about the community that continues to bolster me.

More than anything, I love that I see change happening. The confidence I displayed above, when I used all those “You will…” statements? That doesn’t come from nowhere. It comes from seeing more and more people stepping out and asserting what is right. It comes from seeing our enemy on the ropes, throwing weaker and wilder and ever more desperate punches at us.

This is a war, and we’re winning.

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The sf&f community, of course, can be a metaphor. For anyone not in the thick of it, it’s perhaps best viewed this way. All communities, large and small, meatworld and virtual, have their problems. Sexism (and its even more disgusting neighbor, misogyny) is a normative throughout all of the world. It’s a universal problem, and perhaps always has been.

It’s important, for those of us who would have the problem solved for good, to take courage from developments. To not feel too much despair.

All those rape threats Anita Sarkeesian is getting?

They’re proof that she’s struck a nerve, that she’s aroused a defensive reaction from her attackers. They’re proof that the bigot’s bluster is just that — a pretense, a façade of confidence to cover what they really feel, which is fear.

Oh, yes: the fact that such men (in my particular community, but also throughout civilization) are frightened, desperately trying to hold onto what they have, is obvious to anyone with a brain. They’re scared of living in a world where they don’t have that one unearned thing that makes them automatically higher on the ladder than the “other” half the population. They’re petrified by the thought that they won’t continue to be listened to — coddled and made comfortable — simply because of that Y chromosome. They’re worried to death that someone, somewhere, is going to call them out, and that the voice will have hundreds of thousands behind it, a clear moral weight.

They’re afraid that the sun has already set on their unearned privilege.

And you know what?

Their fear is justified.

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*This isn’t said in criticism of Mamatas. I respect his decision to leave the sf&f community. I think it’s a gutsy, principled move, and I applaud him for it.

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Author Note, for those even more invested in this subject:

It may seem odd that I haven’t touched upon the recent SFWA controversy (which has been one of the most recent spurs to conversation on the matter of sexism and misogyny in sf&f), and I understand that. I chose not to comment on it for a few reasons.

One, I don’t want more people to make the following leap of ill logic: “The SFWA Bulletin had sexist stuff in it, thus SFWA must be an awful organization.” This is hardly the case.

            Two, I wanted to concentrate on more obvious examples of aggression towards women. As much as I disagree with some of the SFWA Bulletin’s content recently, it is mild compared to some of the reactions it has inspired, many of which are in my not-so-humble opinion bordering on the kind of behavior toward women I talk about above.

            Three, I had no intention of politicizing this post. The SFWA debate has become very politicized, and though I stand firmly on the left side (as I very nearly always do) I recognize that it is false to assume that encampment signifies actual conviction. The more politicized an issue becomes, the harder it is to convince would-be allies — those who’ve fallen on “the other side” of the debate because others of their political stripe did so before them — of your position. I’m speaking to anyone who cares about equality in the sf&f community, not simply to those individuals who are likely to agree with me on all fronts.


Zachary Jernigan is a writer living in Northern Arizona. His novel No Return (Night Shade Books) was published in March 2013. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction and elsewhere.


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