Gender Imbalance, Again. Mansplaining, Again. Bleh.

Gender Imbalance, Again. Mansplaining, Again. Bleh.

The latest entry in the Gender Imbalance Hall of Fame appears to be Solaris Rising: The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction edited by Ian Whates. Of the 21 contributors there are 4 women[1].

You may facepalm now.

But, you see, the editor totally knows that this whole gender imbalance thing is a probem. This is why his other anthologies have more women in them! And that makes this all okay.

The thing is, as an editor, it’s almost inevitable (given the aforementioned imbalance) that you’re going to fall foul of somebody’s opinion somewhere. I’ve just released the TOC for Solaris Rising, an anthology I’ve been commissioned to produce for (you guessed it) Solaris. … Already the book has attracted a drearily predictable comment of “How’s that mistressworks thing goin’?” from Nick Mamatas. It’s strange, but last year when I released the anthology The Bitten Word (ten female authors, seven male), nobody accused me of being a feminist. Nor was gender commented on that June when I released Anniversaries (seven female authors, two male). I suspect that next month, when I release a new collection of stories by Liz Williams – A Glass of Shadow – with an intro by Tanith Lee and cover art by Anne Sudworth, no comment will be made then either, nor when I release the next NewCon Press anthology Dark Currents in 2012 – which looks set to once again feature more female contributors than male. The detractors are very selective, it seems.

Shorter Ian Whates: WHERE ARE MAH COOKIES?!!

Someone call the wahmbulance and pick this mansplaier off the ground before he hurts himself.

Footnotes

  1. Oh look, Paul DiFilippo is in it, too! That’s a sure sign of quality… /sarcasm[]

Editorial Work Is Hard

Or so says Claire Light:

…how do you — not “become a good editor” but — change the way you do business so that your editing becomes more than an exercise in futility? Here are some steps:

  1. Go out an read diverse stuff. This is not hard. There is google. Go to google and look up “African American fiction anthology,” “Asian American fiction anthology,” “New Women Writers,” “LGBT Fiction” etc. Check these books out of the library. Read them. Then pick the two or three writers whose stories you liked the most AND WHOSE STORIES YOU HATED THE MOST, and read a book each by them. Look them up on wikipedia and find out who their influences and mentors were and read a book each by them. Etc.
  2. Go to Wiscon, Diversicon, Gaylaxicon, whatever, and talk to people who don’t look or talk like you. Ask them what they’re reading and what they think you should be reading (the answer to these two questions will usually be different.) Take notes. Then GO READ some of what they told you to read.
  3. Send your calls for submissions out to all the people of color you know and ask them to forward it. Follow up with them a week later and ask them where they sent/posted it. Sign up for those lists/groups and follow up on those lists/groups a week later with a personal invitation from the editor to EVERYONE ON THE LIST to submit work. Also go here and send calls for subs to these folks and follow up. ALWAYS FOLLOW UP!
  4. If you are a real editor, then you live in a real city with real readings. Go to them. Ask around for the POC/LGBT/Women’s/whatever readings and attend them. They will be mostly boring or painful. That’s how it is. You have to dig for gold. Keep going. Every time you go, talk to two people you don’t know, especially if they look like they’re in charge or if they know a lot of people. Ask them to recommend other readings in the city you should see. Carry cards and call for subs fliers with you. EVERY SINGLE TIME you see writer you think is remotely good, hand them a flier. In fact, hand them to writers you don’t think are that good either, and ask them to pass it around. Do this in every city you go to.
  5. Keep doing this. This is not a remedial course that will eventually finish, after which, you will now be diversified. This now how you do your job. Keep doing your job.

If anyone was looking for a primer on this subject, they would do well to read the whole post.

Creating Better Magazines

Yesterday at Tor.com I nattered on about what it takes to create better magazines. Was at work when it went up, so I didn’t get a chance to post about it. The conversation in comments is actually interesting, though there does seem to be one person determined to make me out as a person who hates white people! Or something.

Also, Mike Ashley STILL hasn’t answered my open letter! Sadness.

Once More, With Feeling: Intersectionality

Once More, With Feeling: Intersectionality

Or: why the Male Only Table of Contents issue is about both Gender and Race

So over on Marguerite’s blog editor Mike Ashley of the Mammoth Book of White Men Fail Mindbowing SF explains that the stories he was looking for, those that blew his mind with science, aren’t usually written by women, and therefore that’s why he couldn’t find any to include. Women are writing about people, you see, not necessarily science. Whatever. But, as I pointed out there, even if this was a valid excuse for an all-male TOC, that does not explain the lack of POC. A white male friend then pinged me, privately, to say: but isn’t that confusing the issue? Are you criticising him for having only men or no POC? And the answer is: both. And, not surprisingly, the two issues are intertwined.

To wit: when anthologies like this hit the Internets and we look at the TOC it’s very easy to notice that there are no women. It is therefore very easy to comment on and get angry about this fact. It is also easy for editors to come along and address only this exclusion, usually by saying “I didn’t pay attention to the bylines” and “women don’t write the kind of stories I was looking for” or “I don’t want to include them just as tokens”. Because at that point editors can pass it off as taste, and not even one based on gender, but on types of fiction.

But.

When one notices that these anthologies also don’t include any writers of color, either male or female, that complicates the issue, doesn’t it? It’s no longer just about whether men write these kinds of stories and women don’t. Because men of color write science fiction, too. Are we then going to even begin to say that they write more about people and not about science? Of course not. Stupid people are more likely to whip out, “But their stories are about race and only black people care about race!” Those people are wrong on both counts.

The same mindset is at work in both cases. It’s not “women/POC don’t write the kind of stories I was looking for,” it’s: I only like/read/understand/connect to/care for stories about white, male concerns.

That is a problem. Because SF, be it mammoth or mindblowing or sciencey, is not just about white, male concerns. And any anthology of SF or fantasy or horror that essentially posits the white male concerns as representative, normal, baseline, or default is an anthology made of fail. Because that is not what the genre is right now. Maybe 20 years ago. Hell, maybe 10 years ago. But not now. Not in the future.

As I said at Readercon, the future of this genre is women, people of color, people of different classes, people outside of the default American culture, people outside of America, period. When people ignore or suppress or marginalize this truth, be it intentionally or through laziness of mind, as appears to be the case here, you are In The Wrong in every way imaginable.

Understood?

Jonathan Strahan Apologizes

I’ll crosspost this on FSF blog when I get a chance unless someone else beats me to it.  I feel that this deserves just as much attention as the issue that caused it:

The truth is that under the pressure of needing to deliver and of my other work, I overlooked gender balance as an issue in the closing couple months of preparing Eclipse Two for publication. There is no doubt in my mind that I should have paid more attention to this, and it is something I sincerely regret.

[…]

Writers dropped out as always happens (and this is no reflection on them), and I wasn’t paying attention to gender balance. More women happened to drop out than men, and when I went to solicit stories close to the deadline I went to writers I felt I could impose on, that I had a relationship with, and they were all male. I should have been more aware, and made sure I maintained the kind of balance I’d started out with. I didn’t, and I regret that.

[…]

Know also that I genuinely understand why there has been anger and frustration about the TOC for E2. I wish had done a better job of maintaining gender neutrality in E2, and I will continue to try and do so, in this series, and in my other work going forward.

Read the full post here (it’s worth it).

Now, there are probably many discussions we could have about whether Strahan is sincere or not and other related subjects, but I am going to choose, for now, to accept what he says at face value.  I reserve the right to change my mind should the future belie his stated commitment, but I will hope for the best.

A scenario for you

A scenario for you

If a white person calls me a nigger, that’s pretty racist, right?  I mean, if someone is willing to use that particular word against me, that’s not a mistake, that’s not an oops, that’s not a slip of the tongue.  That’s a pretty clear cut situation.

Okay.  Now let’s say that “Bob” calls me a nigger and I go: “You racist! OMG.”  Would you expect rational people to then say, “But Tempest, Bob is really nice.  In the past, I’ve never heard him call anyone a nigger before.  He didn’t call Jamal a nigger last week.  And he marched on Washington with Martin Luther King!”

No, you wouldn’t expect that, would you?  And even if that did happen, wouldn’t your reaction be, “The dude called her a nigger you idiot.  It doesn’t matter what he did or didn’t do before this moment, that is some fucked up racist shit.”

Maybe Bob doesn’t always have racist tendencies.  Maybe Bob has an unconscious bias.  Maybe Bob was having a bad day, was drunk, just had a fight with his wife, whatever.  That still does not negate the fact that, in that moment, Bob pulled out some racism and hurled it at me.  And we don’t need to see Bob do it 10 more times over the course of several days, weeks, years, etc. to be able to peg that instance as A Bad Thing.

Right?  Right.

So, why is it then that whenever the gender bias thing comes up, people say “Well, you can’t judge on just this one instance” or “Statistically you need more data”?  No.  No, you really don’t.  Because it doesn’t matter what happened before.  If someone does something that smacks of sexism in one point in time, that is a problem at that point in time.  We don’t need statistics to tell us that the one instance was wrong.  More data can show a pattern, sure, and that makes things worse.  But the absence of a pattern does not make things better.  Because the wrong thing was still done.  Plain and simple.

We seem to have gotten to a point in this community where sexism and gender bias is a nebulous, hard to pin down thing that people don’t want to admit exists or require extraordinary evidence before they’ll admit it exists in one place.  Even when it’s as blatant as Bob calling me a nigger.  (As proof, I cite the Harlan Ellison boob grab incident.)  It’s not really a problem, some say.  It’s not a problem until you can prove it over the course of five volumes, others say.  It’s just you people looking to fight about something and then you’ll forget about it later, still others say.

No, people.  You need to stop.  Because, as with many prejudices, it is not okay to ignore the individual instances of wrongness until you can prove some sort of pattern.  Because each time it comes up, some yahoo will always claim it as an individual instance.  Take it from a person who has had to deal with both large scale and individual level prejudices all of her life: You do not win by ignoring the small stuff just as you do not win by only worrying about the small stuff and ignoring the bigger problem.  You win by pointing out and eliminating both.

So the next time you feel the need to say something about how it’s “just one anthology” or “just one year’s worth of a magazine” or “Just” anything, stop and eat a cookie.  Better yet, knit.  It’ll keep your fingers busy.