Tag Archives: sexism

If you’re a straight cisgender woman writing m/m romance, sorry, you are not striking a blow for equality

Stahp

[Dear people reading this in the Year of Our Lord 2017: I don’t know where you’re all coming from, or why you’re coming here now, but I wrote this literally years ago and don’t give a shit anymore, so please be aware that when you feel the need to register your disagreement with me, all you’re doing is clogging up my inbox with opinions I don’t care about regarding a thing I don’t care about. Which annoys me. Given that, I’m locking the comments. Thanks and enjoy your stay.]

Just to get my argument clear in the headline.

A lot of things have prompted this, and nothing in particular has. The truth is that this is something I’ve been feeling for a while. It’s something I’ve wrestled with a bit, given that two of the novels and two of the novellas I’ve sold have been marketed as m/m romance, though I’m not cisgender, nor am I straight. It’s something I’ve gotten shades of since I started really being aware of m/m romance as a genre, and since I started understanding the uglier side of it, it’s something I’ve come to understand features heavily in a lot of parts of the slashy areas of fandom. In fact, if something in particular prompted this little tantrum – aside from some very self-congratulatory stuff I’ve seen recently about standard m/m romance doing exactly what I said it isn’t doing up there in the headline –  it’s a good recent piece by Jim Hines about the times when something just isn’t your thing to make a story out of.

So when a reader says they don’t want white people writing about their culture, and that they don’t want me specifically to do so, I find myself struggling. And I think it’s good for me to struggle with it. I refuse to write books where I pretend other cultures don’t exist. But I also recognize that there are stories I’m simply not qualified to write well, that no matter how respectful I might try to be, my story wouldn’t be true. (An odd thing to say about fiction, but I hope you understand what I mean.) And I know that sometimes I’m going to screw up.

Here’s something you have to do if you’re in a position of privilege and you’re writing about people who aren’t: ask yourself if it’s your story to tell. Ask yourself every single time. You may not arrive at an easy answer. You may not arrive at an answer at all. But storytelling is very fucking political, and you owe it to you, your story, your characters, and everyone who might ever read it to ask the question.

You may want to tell the story. No one can stop you from telling the story. But at least be honest with yourself about what you’re doing and why. And I cannot escape the feeling – not least while so many publishers of “LGBT” romance almost entirely ignore the L, the T, and frequently shove the B into the whole “menage” category – that the reasons why a lot of m/m romance exists are not tasteful.  To borrow from Hannibal/Thomas Harris, they are not tasty.

Then I found this.

Amy began by saying that “love is redemptive” and if any group needs the redemptive qualities of love, it’s gay men.

are you seriously

Writing about two men falling in love is completely different than the traditional romance. For one thing, both characters are equals, each with his own power.

are you seriously

“In fact, in many ways, I feel like a man,” Josephine stated in her British accent. This realization makes it easier for her to bypass all the traditional tropes found in mainstream romances.

“I’m tired of women’s nasty, mean games, and don’t want to write about them,” Amy added. Backbiting and undermining of friends’ goals and aspirations aren’t often found in gay romance since men are more direct in their interactions.

oh my god

Mary echoed this thought by saying, “I don’t want to write about bitchy women.”

tumblr_n3je956RLE1r67kwvo1_500

I should be clear that I don’t know what the sexual orientations or gender identities of these people are. But just. Meoskop at Love in the Margins has a way more coherent takedown of this abomination and I recommend you read it. Regardless, I’ve seen this before, I see it a lot, and it’s this attitude that actually keeps me away from most m/m romance. I write it sometimes, sure. But for the most part I don’t wanna read it.

Look, I know about all the arguments that transformative works – out of which a lot of this springs – allow for queer readings/reimaginings of existing canon and that’s great. I buy that argument, because what I’m buying into is the possibility of it. But in practice, no, and that extends to m/m romance in general. In practice what we have is a tremendous amount of stroke material featuring white cisgender traditionally attractive mostly able-bodied gay men, written by and for the consumption of straight cisgender women. And you can’t claim to me that this is all striking a blow for queer equality and have me take you seriously.

“Redeeming” gay romantic relationships is patronizing. Focusing on cisgender male erotic relationships to the exclusion of other queer identities because you find that stuff hot is erasure. Reducing the significance of characters to gender and sexuality – especially in the interest of depicting erotic sexual activity – is fetishizing. I’m not the first person to say this, but now I’m gonna be another one. And sure, you can do the whole #NOTALLGAYROMANCE thing and you’d be technically correct, but when one of the largest m/m romance review sites clutches their collective pearls over any depiction of sexual activity that isn’t entirely cisgender male dudes with other cisgender male dudes, that’s at once gross and majorly indicative of some deep problems that have direct connections to not only ugly misogyny but to some very toxic homophobia:

The reduction of complex human identities to sex acts is essentializing. It’s dehumanizing. I’m guessing that most of us have heard someone at some point say something like “I have nothing against those gays. I just don’t want them flaunting it or anything.” Which really means I want them invisible. I don’t want to have to confront the fact that they exist because they threaten me.

I get that a lot of us like some porn, and I get that sometimes we just want our porn and we want to not have to perform sociocultural analysis of it before we make use of it. But that’s why I said what I said above. Write what you want. Read what you want. Just please, please be honest with yourself about what you’re doing.

And don’t you dare claim that you’re doing something progressive on behalf of populations to which you don’t belong. Because you aren’t. It’s not your progress to make. And I’m getting really tired of seeing straight cisgender women congratulate themselves for it.

[ETA] Read Writing the Other by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward. I mean, pretty much every writer should.

No more princesses, no more castles

Note: Here follow major spoilers.

I’m not sure when, in the course of playing The Last of Us: Left Behind, I actually started laughing aloud in delight. It couldn’t have been all that early on. When I think about it, I think it might actually have been the minigames – and I can’t even bear to call them minigames because they weren’t that at all. They were games, yes, but they were games that I was playing with my friend, and they were games that I was helping Ellie play with her friend, and the two blended together and the “minigames” became a desperately joyful grab for the last vestiges of childhood. Throwing bricks at car windows. Messing around in a photo booth. Playing in an arcade. Trying on Halloween masks. These didn’t feel like tacked-on activities designed to bloat the content. They felt real, vital. I was laughing as I played them, and for a few minutes, laughing, I managed to forget about the end I knew was coming.

~

One of the worst ideas to come along in gaming is that we somehow need to make games for “girls”. As if anyone who isn’t a (usually white) straight, cisgendered man needs something carefully and prettily packaged and handed over with such delicacy, so that neither it nor the recipient breaks. Here, here is your game. The rest of us will go on with ours.

What a poisonous fucking concept. Honestly.

Continue reading

Sunday Linkdump: All the cars upturned talk like the trains

Heisenberg

Be aware: There is a lot. Without further ado:

  • This week in awesome: An artist is making a map of Manhattan using only handwritten directions from strangers. It’s about as great as you’d expect.
  • “Man Creates Very First Website for Women Ever”. No, this is not an Onion headline.

    Where is the Gawker for women? The ESPN for women? The Awl for women? The Slate for women? The Onion for women? Perhaps when Google finally launches a search engine for women, we will be capable of locating the websites targeted at us, so that advertisers may sell us things. For now, we will read Bustle.

  • Breaking Bad as Hamlet. I don’t totally buy it, but it’s an amazing comparison.
  • “Mark Millar and Todd McFarlane: Ladies, Comics Aren’t For You”. And here’s where I would register my outraged shock if I had any. Shock, I mean.

    Comics aren’t for women. And if women do like comics, they shouldn’t, because testosterone, and that’s not the right platform for them. But for those women who do read comics, it doesn’t matter how they’re portrayed. Because women don’t read them, you see, so it’s not necessary to write characters that will appeal to them. So if you’re a woman, and you’re reading comics, first of all, why are you reading them? Second of all, don’t expect anything that appeals to you.

  • Related: Do villains really need to commit “taboo” acts for us to get that they’re villains?

    A cowardly bully, who snivels and whines when any hurt at all comes their way, isn’t just a villain that people hate. He or she is a villain that people despise. It goes back to what people mean when they say a “bad guy.” Someone being “bad” isn’t just about actions, it’s also about character in the old-fashioned sense of the word. And when the focus is on “bad character” rather than atrocity, it’s possible demonstrate that a villain is despicable without showing any crime at all.

  • Also related: Warren Ellis on why we do need violent stories.

    We learn about things by looking at them and then talking about them, together. You may have heard of this process. It’s sometimes involved in things like science. It’s also the system of fiction: writing things in order to get a better look at them. Fiction is how we both study and de-fang our monsters. To lock violent fiction away, or to close our eyes to it, is to give our monsters and our fears undeserved power and richer hunting grounds.

  • Also also related: Why it may be a good thing that video games “devalue life”, and why it might open up some opportunities to rethink the meaning of death.

    This fixation on interactivity obscures the fact that games are also a computational medium, based on models and protocols, codes and commands, simulations and rules. By assigning literal, numerical values to life and death, games are necessarily going to “cheapen” them to some extent – but, as we’ll see, this cheapening can render the form peculiarly suited to exploring what life is worth in the era of biopower and computerized risk assessment, drones and cloning, artificial intelligence and data mining.

  • N.K. Jemisin: “There is no neutrality when bigotry is the status quo.”

    Put simply, SFWA must now take action against bigots in order to prove itself worthy of being called a professional organization. SFWA’s leadership is going to have to choose which members it wants to lose: the minority of scared, angry people whose sense of self-worth is rooted in their ability to harm others without consequence… or everyone else.

  • Orson Scott Card: Now officially disconnected from reality in every meaningful way. Also howlingly racist, in case anyone wasn’t sure about that.

    “Where will he get his ‘national police’? The NaPo will be recruited from ‘young out-of-work urban men’ and it will be hailed as a cure for the economic malaise of the inner cities.

    In other words, Obama will put a thin veneer of training and military structure on urban gangs, and send them out to channel their violence against Obama’s enemies.”

  • (TW: wow racism) Amazing series of photos: “A Day in the Life of the Ku Klux Klan, Uncensored”. The only real issue is that it’s sort of implicitly presented as if any of the images are a surprise or are skewering common perceptions of the KKK, when in fact they are all exactly what I would expect.
  • “Of course all men don’t hate women. But all men must know they benefit from sexism”.

    These days, before we talk about misogyny, women are increasingly being asked to modify our language so we don’t hurt men’s feelings. Don’t say, “Men oppress women” – that’s sexism, as bad as any sexism women ever have to handle, possibly worse. Instead, say, “Some men oppress women.” Whatever you do, don’t generalise. That’s something men do. Not all men – just somemen.

  • “Thoughts on the Trending Hashtag: #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen”.

    Recently I had lunch with a good friend, and he asked how I felt about getting my major in Women and Gender Studies since he heard that it’s basically learning about white women, which I’m inclined to agree with. The primary feminist group on my campus simply ignored my critiques that women of color were not being truly represented by them. Instead, I was simply told, “Oh well, we believe in equality for all.” I can even think of a few times when I was on Facebook and saw white women post articles about women of color, ignore my comments regarding my own experiences as a Latina, and carry on talking to other white feminists discussing something that they have no real clue about.

  • Bayou Corne, Louisiana is disappearing into a sinkhole 24 acres wide and about 750 feet deep. There are reasons why this is happening.

    Bayou Corne is the biggest ongoing industrial disaster in the United States you haven’t heard of. In addition to creating a massive sinkhole, it has unearthed an uncomfortable truth: Modern mining and drilling techniques are disturbing the geological order in ways that scientists still don’t fully understand. Humans have been extracting natural resources from the earth since the dawn of mankind, but never before at the rate and magnitude of today’s petrochemical industry. And the side effects are becoming clear.

  • Finally, from me: a post on the systems of cultural capital built up around print books and the spaces they occupy, placed in the context of a world that features increasing numbers of ebooks.

    Of course the spaces themselves in which one goes to experience books are laden with differing degrees of cultural capital. Independent bookstores tend to be more prestigious than chains. Independent bookstores with lots of antique shelving that’s high enough to need those cool rolling ladders tend to be more prestigious than a little hole-in-the-wall used bookstore. You stand in these spaces, a hardcover first edition in your hands, surrounded by whispers and wood and that fantastic old book smell, and you can think Aha, I am a Cultured person in a Cultured space and I am Experiencing Books.

Hope the bridges all burn your life away.

Theodore Beale and oh my effing God this again

Once again SFWA is going through a Thing, and once again I haven’t said much about it, at least not here. Some of it is that I’ve been busy with book-writing and dissertation but a lot of it is that I’ve just been too tired and dismayed by it all to do much more than type a few disgusted sentences on Facebook and Twitter.

Short version, for the few people who read this blog and don’t know what’s going on: Theodore Beale (AKA “Vox Day” which is really just like are you kidding me what I know my name is goofy but WHAT), SFWA member and previous candidate for president of same (got 10% of the vote WHAT), said some mind-blowingly racist/misogynist/utterly hateful and borderline threatening stuff about author N.K. Jemisin and, as if that wasn’t awful enough, used the SFWA twitter account to publicize it. Amal El-Mohtar wrote an impassioned, well-reasoned call for his expulsion. Further discussion and debate and offensive asshattery ensued.

And it just makes me so goddamn tired.

This is the awful thing about when this happens. This is the awful thing about fighting this fight – and I’m well aware that I’m fighting it on a lower difficulty setting than many; I’m queer and female-assigned (genderqueer but sort of okay with my body as-is) but I’m also white and married to a cis-dude – it just makes you so, so fucking tired. Tired enough to want to give up. Tired enough to do what these assholes want and just say and do nothing. Rage is an excellent motivator, but there’s also deep weariness and despair.

Just like the other recent SFWA debacle with Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg, what was truly horrible about it – aside from the fact that it’s 2013 and WE ARE STILL FIGHTING THIS FIGHT ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME – was that all the work that women and QUILTBAG folk and People of Color have done in the genre and the organization and all the positive change they’ve brought about can feel like it was for nothing. That Straight White Men Being Horrible gets all the attention. It’s discouraging. People left SFWA over it and others are rethinking whether they want to join, and while that’s not me, oh my GOD do I get it. I’m eligible for active status now and my membership is up in November, and how this all gets handled will be a huge determining factor in whether I re-up/upgrade.

This is why tone arguments are so horrible, why they are so derailing. We’re exhausted. We’re angry. We are completely and utterly out of patience. If you’re part of the system that’s making us feel that way, we are under no obligation whatsoever to be nice to you about it.

“Vox Day” is a profoundly stupid pen name. By the way. While I’m Not Being Nice.

Some links from people who are, as usual, better at this than I am:

Foz Meadows – Reconciliation: A Response to Theodore Beale.

As members of the SFF community, there is only one acceptable response to Beale, and that is to shun him utterly; to excise him from our genre like the cancer that he is, from convention to blog to column, and to enforce that ban as thoroughly and determinedly as we are able.

Because if we don’t, our Reconciliation will mean nothing.

We will mean nothing.

Carrie Cuinn – Wishing Never Changed a Damn Thing

But we ignore trolls like him, right? That’s what I’ve been seeing all day. Ignore him. Ignore his post. Don’t read the comments. Stay off the Internet for an hour until the unpleasantness passes.

You know what? Fuck that. Go read his post (it’s linked above). Read the comments. See the vile things that get said out in the open in 2013. See what happens when we speak up about it. Don’t hide your head in the sand and pretend it’s happening to someone else and you don’t need to worry about it. Hey, I’m white, what do I care, right? No, it doesn’t work that way. Nothing gets better when we pretend everything is at acceptable levels of okay.

Reconciliation within the SFF genre, one writer at a time (or finally getting around to the SWFA kerfuffle)

Do you know what that post says to me?

“This is what happens if you try to make a difference. We like our organization just the way it is. And we define how women are portrayed in SFF. We like our bikinis. We like our women stupid and dependent on us. And we like them all white, because their prettier and sexier than you—well, okay, we’ll allow Asian girls, because they’re nice and quiet and subservient.. And if you try to say anything about it, we will tear you down, rip your head off, drag your name through shit, because that’s what you deserve, you monkey you. So go ahead and write your stories, little little girl. You can even join. But keep your head down, don’t make waves, and most of all, keep your fat lips shut.”

And a good overall roundup post: Radish Reviews – This Week in Racist Bullshit

I do wish more people had felt inclined to speak up when he attacked E. Catherine Tobler a couple of weeks ago instead of collectively deciding to ignore him in the hopes that he’d go away (with a few exceptions). I do understand that at that point he hadn’t done anything to warrant expulsion from SFWA–and as I was one of those keeping silent, I’m upset with myself here as well. Private support is one thing, speaking up publicly is another.

This doesn’t work with schoolyard bullies and it doesn’t work with racist misogynist fuckmuppets like Theodore Beale.

For what it’s worth, I’ve emailed the SFWA board in support of Amal’s call for his expulsion and have also called for the formation of an official Code of Conduct for SFWA members. Because apparently we can’t all be trusted to act like decent fucking human beings. Amal’s post contains contact info for the board. If you’re a member, or even thinking of becoming a member, and you find this whole business unacceptable, I urge you to get in touch with them and let them know your thoughts.

One final thing: It should not escape our attention that this whole string of incidents wasn’t racist or sexist in isolation but featured healthy doses of both.  These things always intersect. This is the nature of oppression and domination. We may have different arrangements of identity but we, the marginalized and minoritized, stand united. Or we should.

No matter how exhausting this gets.

The whole SFWA Bulletin Thing: Others have said it better, but my two cents

by Kimonas

by Kimonas. Guys? This is a Warrior Woman.

I haven’t had much time to comment on what’s been going on in response to Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg’s pretty goddamn horrifying column in the latest issue of the SFWA Bulletin – among other things I’ve been prepping a novel to go out to agents, yaaaaaay – but I’ve been following it, even if I haven’t been able to pull any coherent thoughts together that haven’t been articulated elsewhere by others way more better good at the articulating than me. But let me just go ahead and drop a link to Jim Hines’s fantastic link roundup post, which is worth looking through.

My favorite post on it so far, though I haven’t yet read all of them: “Old Men Yelling at Clouds.”

OK, you do understand that there’s a difference between saying ‘referencing her looks was unnecessary, and perhaps inappropriate given your evident obliviousness on the subject of sexism’, and ‘NOBODY IN THIS PUBLICATION SHOULD USE THE WORD BEAUTIFUL IT IS AN UNWORD AND BANNED FOREVER’, right? Nobody is censoring the word ‘beautiful’; we’re simply suggesting you needn’t have used it when you did. Similarly, if I say ‘stop threatening me with that knife’, I’m not saying ‘ban all knives’. I’m saying there’s an important contextual difference between chopping up carrots for dinner and my physical endangerment, and if that’s a distinction you’re either unwilling or unable to make, then I don’t want you anywhere near my kitchen.

I am really, really, really tired of people who are being called on their offensive levels of privilege interpreting that calling-out as “censorship” (Resnick and Malzberg then go on to actually fucking namedrop Stalin with the suggestion that this is how it all starts ARE WE SERIOUSLY FUCKING GOING THERE) but we sure do see it all the time, huh? And every time it gets said, it ends up meaning that we have to expend yet more time and energy actually explaining the definition of censorship to adults who can presumably read. It consistently blows my mind that we have to do this, but we do. They literally do not understand what it means. And they don’t understand, I think, because they don’t want to understand.

This is one of those things that I understand on an intellectual level but at a much deeper level I simply Do Not Get.

I teach introductory level college courses in sociology, and because of the angle at which I approach the material – all liberal angry feminist queer theorist social justicy – we have to cover the definition of “privilege” and we have to cover it very early on. One of the things I take care to explain to my students is that with privilege comes the delusion of being persecuted when your privilege is threatened. I give them the example of a classroom study – the citation for which I can’t find at the moment – wherein a teacher very carefully called on boys and girls an equal amount and gave them equal attention. And the boys perceived this as unfair.

It’s just the way the world is. It was working fine, why are all  these ladypeople trying to change it? Why are they so angry?

Some people are choosing to leave SFWA over this. It’s not a sudden decision and I don’t think anyone is making it lightly; this isn’t a recent occurrence but has been a problem in the organization for a while now. I’m not leaving, but I feel nothing but respect and have nothing but support for the people who have to honor their consciences and their obligations to self-care in this way.

What I really think is the saddest and most infuriating part of the whole thing is that, as Rachel Swirsky and Mary Robinette Kowal have noted, it obscures the hard work of the many women inside the organization, work that often goes unacknowledged anyway. These Old White Men start yelling at clouds and suddenly that work doesn’t seem to count for anything. That’s not right. It’s not right on top of a whole pile of things that aren’t right.

When about the best that can be said for you is that at least you and people like you will die off soon, you might want to reexamine your life choices is all.

If you want something seriously uplifting and pump-your-fist-fuck-yeah, though, this is pretty damn good.

Because when we choose to write stories, it’s not just an individual story we’re telling. It’s theirs. And yours. And ours. We all exist together. It all happens here. It’s muddy and complex and often tragic and terrifying. But ignoring half of it, and pretending there’s only one way a woman lives or has ever lived – in relation to the men that surround her – is not a single act of erasure, but a political erasure.

Populating a world with men, with male heroes, male people, and their “women cattle and slaves” is a political act. You are making a conscious choice to erase half the world.

As storytellers, there are more interesting choices we can make.