Bennett North

SFWA woes


Man, SFWA’s been having some problems recently. Seems like every couple days, some new scandal pops up. To their credit, the administration has been dealing with the issues very promptly and professionally.

For anyone who hasn’t been keeping up on the news, this is what’s been happening:

* In SFWA Bulletin #200, (discussed here), Mike Resnick and Barry Malzburg discuss the physical assets of various “lady authors” and “lady editors”. Also, on the cover is a woman in a chainmail bikini. The chainmail bikini thing is nothing new, but is just icing on the cake.

* SFWA #201 (discussed here), C.J. Henderson writes about Barbie, saying “She has always been a role model for young girls, and has remained popular with millions of them throughout their entire lives, because she maintained her quiet dignity the way a woman should.”

* SFWA #202 (relevant excerpts here), Resnick and Malzburg defend themselves, and in their apology they still use the terms “lady editors” and “lady writers,” proving they missed the point. They also complain about their anonymous attackers, who were nowhere near anonymous.

Many people talked about leaving SFWA due to this whole thing. Understandable, but I think the reaction of the administration showed that no one thought this behavior was acceptable, and it was quickly addressed. Whether there will be permanent change remains to be seen.

But wait! There’s more!

The elections for the President of SFWA were held this spring. John Scalzi was stepping down, and one of the people running was a douchebag named Theodore Beale (aka Vox Day). VD’s personal beliefs are pretty foul. You can read all about them here but mainly they can be summed up by this one line he wrote in an article against women’s rights: “I very much like women and wish them well, which is precisely why I consider women’s rights to be a disease that should be eradicated.” He also spoke about removing the right of female members to vote. That might have been a joke, but with him, it’s pretty hard to tell.

Luckily he didn’t win the election, although he did get 10% of the votes, which was… troubling. N.J. Jemisin referenced this in her Guest of Honor speech at Continuum.

Now, to put this in context: the membership of SFWA also recently voted in a new president. There were two candidates — one of whom was a self-described misogynist, racist, anti-Semite, and a few other flavors of asshole. In this election he lost by a landslide… but he still earned ten percent of the vote. SFWA is small; only about 500 people voted in total, so we’re talking less than 50 people. But scale up again. Imagine if ten percent of this country’s population was busy making active efforts to take away not mere privileges, not even dignity, but your most basic rights. Imagine if ten percent of the people you interacted with, on a daily basis, did not regard you as human.

Today, VD responded to her speech with a vile, racist blog post. Not out of character for him, but he had it posted on the SFWA tweet stream. (SFWA members who include a particular hashtag in their blog posts will have their blog automatically posted to the twitter account). Since the post wasn’t SFWA related, it’s clear he only did it to be an ass. You can see some screenshots of his post here. In short, it was a racist tirade against “ignorant half-savage[s]” like her. A lot of people want to kick VD out of SFWA, and for good reason. It’s within the SFWA bylaws, and lord knows he’s not contributing anything useful to the organization.

I don’t think SFWA is an especially sexist or racist organization; this is just a public manifestation of an endemic problem. I feel like I’ve been seeing it all over the place recently (furious male gamers’ reactions to the idea of putting more female protagonists in games; racist and sexist rants about casting a black and/or female actor as the Doctor/James Bond/Spiderman/etc; I could go on). These things are cropping up with tiring regularity.

As a response to some of this, Chuck Wendig has a series of posts on sexism. Matt Wallace posted yesterday about how he used to be a sexist bag of dicks until he got better. Good posts, and hopefully they’ll inspire some people to be more active when they see this sort of thing.

The more I write this post, the more links I remember that I want to include. Before this post gets too much longer, I’ll bring this to a close. John Scalzi announced today, for no particular reason, that he’s going to match donations for the Carl Brandon Society, whose mission is to “increase racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction.” I think I might toss a few bucks their way, and I hope others are inspired to do the same.