"We would gladly have listened to her (they said) if only she had spoken like a lady. But they are liars, and the truth is not in them." - Joanna Russ, in The Female Man, 1986
"Lady militants are always like Joanna, hitting you with their umbrella, smashing your bottle of whisky — because if they are not, WE WILL NOT LISTEN." - Phillip K. Dick, 1974
(quotes via the great book by Helen Merrick, The Secret Feminist Cabal, which I am reading at the moment)
girliejones and cassiphone, among others, have been getting criticised this week for comments made about the Before They Were Giants anthology, a reprint anthology notably lacking in women. The argument has been roughly that because the anthology selection wasn't a deliberate act of misogyny (and indeed, the editor James Sutter has been quite reasonable and apologetic in his response) that the complains should have been made far more politely — that they should have been made directly, not publicly, been made only in a most mild and reasonable way that no one could possibly be offended by, in short, that perhaps they were right, but they shouldn't have said it, or at least not loudly enough that people heard.
And we are still having this conversation in the SF field after at least 35 years. If just politely helping people become aware of the issue worked, we wouldn't still be talking about it. And yet, it keeps happening, again and again. People are still putting together anthologies without even thinking about gender as an issue — and the only way to make them think about the issue is to make sure it isn't thought of as just a nicety, just another thing to try and improve that fellow editors will give you hints about (like font choice, or cover layout), but rather as something that is a major mistake if you get it wrong, something that will attract not mild criticism but anger. Anger is entirely appropriate. No one should expect not to get publicly called on their big mistakes, rather we should all endeavour not to make them, and learn to handle them gracefully when we do (as, to his credit, Sutter largely has).
While this is a post about a controversy in the SF world, of course I can't make a post about how to handle sexism this week without people thinking about EFA and the controversy over its handling of sexism allegations. Certainly some of the issues are the same. I know I want to respond as an individual, because the board/chair response does not represent the opinions of this individual board member at all, and I'm thinking about how best to do that (and I don't think this journal is the place for a public comment on that issue). But I do want to say that I have enormous love for alexmoon right now, and I'm personally terribly apologetic for the way the organisation has disappointed her, and so many others, this week. More on this later.
I would appreciate it if no one smashes my bottle of whisky this week, though. It's cold, and I have a cold, and it has been rather a difficult week, and I've been finding a little Talisker in the evenings makes it a little more bearable. girliejones, cassiphone, alexmoon? Sláinte!