Saturday, June 17, 2017

Sexism in SFF - Part 1

While I was at Book Expo America, I ran into Zoe Quinn.  I probably made a fool out of myself because I really dig strong women. And I feel a kinship with women who overcome whatever vindictive men throw at them. But after I fawned like a fangirl and she let me pet her sparkly jacket, we had a pretty good talk about sexism in the Geek community and how incredibly rampant it is. I've been doing a lot of thinking about that. After all, we as geeks, nerds, wierdos, whatever really were fairly marginalized until a couple of years ago, when suddenly the whole world realized that Dr. Who and superheroes were amazing. So, one would think that we would work diligently to avoid making others feel that way. And, at least if you read the novels that we are putting out, we are a pretty socially liberal group, which at least implies a certain set of ideals regarding equality and diversity and whatnot. Yet, it seems that every year or so there's some new trauma (and drama) inside of our community. Whether it's Gamergate or Sad Puppies or the rampant sexual harassment at conventions it seems readily apparent that our theoretical ideals are not being applied to our everyday lives.

I went home, and I started talking with people about this conversation. Then, I started talking about the microcosm that is the local SFF scene. I live in a liberal city, and own a business in a liberal business and yet. ..

-And yet of the publishing houses that I can name off of the top of my head, I can only think of one other that is not owned by a cis white straight male.
-With a few notable exceptions, outside of my publishing house women write romances or cozy mysteries. The rest is No! Man's Land.
-Inside my publishing house there is one author who will ADMIT that I have gotten him better sales than anyone else. Will ADMIT that he likes the way I do things better than anyone else. ADMIT that he likes the cover that I made for him, and still goes with the boys' club and hasn't shown up to sign books at one of the events we attend for years.
-And yet I've been told the names that I've been called by a couple of the other publishers. How I'm a bitch. How I "don't have what it takes" regardless of a record that tells a different story. Let's say that again, even though I have an education, a track record, documented growth, I'm a bitch who doesn't have what it takes.
-And yet it seems like when it comes to local awards, panels, events, I'm fairly frequently overlooked even though I can hold my own using whatever measuring stick you like. Sales, events, number of titles released, awards won. Whatever. I can sell out of books sitting 50 feet from Neil Patrick Harris in NYC, but can't get an email returned in my hometown.
-and yet I was part of an online writing group. Recruited members. Ran a writing contest. Complained to the owner after my winning story -after I-was ripped apart online. It was sour grapes, plain and simple. People complained about unfair wins until the owner of the site went from public vote to weighted within the group vote to within the group judges to outsider judges. Still, talented people are talented and so talented people won lots. This was over the top, though, and I told him so. Got to read an email he sent to others about having to deal with my "whining and bitching." Yep, when the dudes in there complained about stuff, he changed the voting format. Sent me emails telling me to stop teasing them. When I did, I was "whining and bitching."

I don't know. Maybe it's that I'm new. I'm relatively new to the publishing world and I'm still new to town. Maybe it's that I have a different idea of what makes a show "worth it" to show up to an event, an idea based more on dollar signs than other things, so I'm kind of out of the loop. I network in Atlanta, in NYC. I fellowship at church. If I'm working I'm WORKING. Not that I don't want to hang out with everyone. I'd love to. Over coffee or a beer. At a get together. Not at work, though. At work I'm looking for money. So maybe that's it. Maybe it's that I've gone toe to toe with a couple of people over a couple over shady business practices, royalties not paid and books not represented. Apparently that's not allowed. I can be abrasive when pushed, I know that. So maybe I offended the wrong people.

Or maybe it's that you can be a female publisher, but you cannot be loud. You cannot be assertive. You cannot call the guys out on their crap. You cannot be successful. You cannot be unapologetic. Not if you want to be allowed in the sandbox. You can if you're an author. Then that's flavor, and you get invited to the booth to bring people in. But not in leadership. Because even in the hallowed halls of science fiction and fantasy you can be a Black Widow - ready to kick ass in service of the dudes around you, but you'll never be Cap. You'll never be Tony. You can be Black Panther's drop dead gorgeous assistant, but not the Panther.

We are ahead of the pack, we geeks. For every Harley Quinn there is a Wonder Woman. There is a River Tam. But from where I'm sitting that glass ceiling still looks pretty intact. We still have a long way to go.