Tag Archives: gender

Why It’s Important (And Why We’re Still Talking About the SFWA Bulletin)

bulletinI’m coming in late to discuss this particular issue on the blog, for one fairly specific reason – as a member of the SFWA and an incoming Board member (I don’t officially step up to my position as overseas regional director until July but it’s hovering there on the horizon), I’ve been spending a lot of time on the private member forums, discussing the issue, reading member comments and joining in the plan for ‘where to go from here’ as far as making constructive change to the SFWA publications. I’m also trying to figure out in my own head the delicate balance of ‘conflict of interest’ as far as me personally making any kind of public contribution to the discussion. Which is, I imagine, something I’m going to have to get used to.

For those of you just joining us on this one, you can probably catch up on the SFWA Bulletin topic by looking at this link post from Jim Hines (and whoa, he’s been updating that one, so many links, a very useful page to direct anyone to who thinks that the anger about this issue belongs to a ‘minority’), the column under discussion scanned here, and especially Foz Meadows on “Old Men Yelling at Clouds” – a breakdown explaining exactly what was wrong with the Resnick/Malzberg column, point by point, so no one else has to.

The SFWA’s official response (so far) includes an announcement of a task force to address problems with the Bulletin, and the President, John Scalzi, taking responsibility for (but not in any way defending or excusing) the recent issue.

If anyone is wondering, by the way, why a whole task force might be necessary, I would direct you to Mari Ness’ excellent breakdown on the many ways in which The Bulletin hasn’t been meeting its own stated mission, let alone the needs of the SFWA membership. There’s a lot of work to be done here, and it’s far too much to put on the shoulders of a single person.

So, that’s the background.

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Gender, Fantasy & Female Pirates

Some great posts doing the round this week, some in response to my Historically Authentic Sexism in Fantasy post, and some being independently awesome but theme-relevant.

Foz Meadows follows up on my post with an incredibly impressive horde of links about women in history, in support of the very important point that Your Default Narratives Are Not Apolitical. Writing sexist or male-centric narratives into your stories is a choice, regardless of how much thinking you put into that choice.

Hoyden About Town, meanwhile, called for some recommendations of fantasy novels that treat women like people, and they haven’t had nearly enough of them yet. Go, recommend, and read!

J. Michael Melican talks about his own personal revelations about gender, sexism and fantasy – some thoughtful stuff there, particularly in how to take uncomfortable feedback as a writer that you may not be doing it right yet, despite the best of intentions.

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In Which My Mum Is Proud and My Armchair Looks AWESOME

My library (with me in it) was a centrefold in today’s Hobart Mercury, along with a great article by Bec Fitzgibbon on genre, gender and publishing. Is gender equality the next big thing in literature?

This pic courtesy of @beesncheese who achieved something I never have, by capturing a picture of my mother smiling at the camera, rather than diving behind the nearest rosebush to avoid it. All my other pics of her smiling have only been achieved by the judicious application of grandchildren and stealth.

Lego for Girls

So, LEGO is going to start including girls. Or, rather, they’re going to try to make up for lost time (market) by pitching directly to girls and their toy preferences, in a separate line, LEGO Friends, from the standard boy sets.

Which is, you know, what they have been doing all along with Belville, a rather grim dystopia of pink cottages, ponies and jodphurs. Only now they’re going to do it in lavender and aqua! There’s a great critical article about the problematic nature of this line at the Mary Sue.

I have mixed feelings. From the Business Week article, it does look like Lego are working hard to look at what girls want and need out of toys, rather than just spraying pink on ponies and hurling it at them, machine-gun fashion. But while I agree that yes, my six year old would probably prefer to play with the LEGO Friends mini-figs that look like real girls instead of little yellow barrels with faces, I’m also concerned that as with Belville, this new line will be an excuse not to be as inclusive as they could be in the standard Lego sets.

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Smart Women Saying Smart Things

I have been gathering a pile of interesting links for blog posts all week, many of them linking to each other and building upon each other in a fascinating conversation about writing, reviewing and gender.

Reviewing and Writing as Women’s Work

Nicola Griffiths on how the gendered gaze affects our perceptions of how “hard” or “soft” science fiction actually is (and how sexual it is).

Madeleine Robins on the insidious, internalised cultural pressures of “nice girls don’t brag or draw attention to themselves” and how that works against promoting your own books as an author.

Sherwood Smith on the gender imbalance in SF reviewing and how Important Books tend to be those on Manly Subjects of Manliness and yet books about/by women mysteriously turn out to be Not Important, and isn’t that an odd coincidence? Also, how important it is to realise that if your literary tastes differ from the accepted standards of what is Good, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with you. In closing, in response to Madeleine Robins’ post, she also points out that the mythical women who don’t push themselves forward enough (and are therefore responsible for people not realising women can write good books) tend to be highly criticised by society when they actually do push themselves forward. Yes, still.

Owlectomy on how a gendered perspective of a novel’s subject can absolutely mess with your instincts about whether it is worthy of an award, and it can screw with you even if you are a woman and a feminist. Her description of the Joanna Russ Fairy is epic and must become a staple of critical language:

And the Joanna Russ fairy said, “If you think that family and love and grief are not inherently important topics, you might as well put some zombies in your Pride and Prejudice and be done with it.”

Juliet McKenna on how insidious Default/Lazy Sexism can be, and how easily people slip into the idea that fantasy is a genre for and about men.

Timmi Duchamp at Aqueduct on reviewing as a woman, reviewing marginal and mainstream work, and why we need more diverse critical voices.

Miscellaneous but Still Awesome

A powerful essay by Farah Mendlesohn about the work of Diana Wynne Jones, her literary influence, and why she was so terribly important as a writer. (not all that unrelated to the previous section, now I come to think of it)

Nisi Shawl on Race, Still – essential reading for anyone in the genre. And yep, this one’s not all that unrelated either.

Diana Peterfreund announces that Errant, the medieval-awesome-women-with-unicorns novelette that was one of my favourite pieces of short fiction last year, is available as an e-book. If you didn’t get hold of the antho it was originally in (Kiss Me Deadly) then I can recommend this one very highly.

Image found thanks to Ragnell – I have seen this fantastic cosplay group around the web all over the place but this is the first time I saw so many of them in one image. It may well be the awesomest thing I have seen in many months.


Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have noticed an outburst of vague but delirious joy a couple of days ago. I can now reveal why it was so!

I have been invited to join this year’s Tiptree Award jury. I think anyone who has been following my blog for any amount of time would realise how much this means to me! Certainly anyone who, ahem, listened to the most recent Galactic Suburbia would be in absolutely no doubt (for those keeping score, I was invited between the recording of that podcast and the uploading, how’s that for coincidence?)

So yes. I am delighted to join Karen Meisner, James Davis Nicoll, Nisi Shawl, and Lynne M Thomas for many long and crunchy conversations about gender this year. Hooray!

Good Listening and a Souffle of Links

So school is back! I’ve been lucky enough to be able to shift most of my workload to, well, now, so that the last several weeks of the summer holiday were all Mummying all the time. Now, of course, I have to go from nought to typing maniac in 60 seconds, and I’m not *entirely* sure I remember how to do it. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, here is a delicious mix of tidbits from the internet over the last week or so and some great things I’ve been listening to while catching up on the housework, supervising trampoline time, and sewing an Alice in Wonderland wallhanging.

Ben Peek wrote a post which completely blindsided me, about an author who embodies perseverance, the one who to me sucked up the bad times and pushed through them, and the one who should stand as an example for new authors… The twist is, it’s me!

N.K. Jemisin writes about gender assumptions/associations surrounding epic fantasy, and why anything that deviates from the masculine norms of the genre are seen as suspect. There are some brilliant, intelligent comments about gender, romance and the male gaze. Lovely stuff.

Alisa posts about Twelfth Planet Press award eligibilities for the coming awards season. Have you nominated for the stuff you can nominate for yet? Don’t forget that all of us who were at Aussiecon can nominate for the Hugos this year. Would be lovely to have some Aussie names on that ballot.

This amazing, powerful post by Juliet Jacques
about being a trans woman and a football fan really affected me, to the point where I read through her whole year’s worth of columns about transition. I can really recommend these for anyone looking to educate and inform themselves about some of the issues affecting people trying to transition. I found it a real eye opener, and she’s an entertaining and funny writer with it. Plus, football fan!

Jim Hines had some pointed things to say about the ‘self publishing ebooks is totally the way to make a career sing like a canary’ people and the way that ‘ebooks are the future’ so often gets turned into a bashing of commercial publishers and their methods.

So that’s the links done. Now for the listening…

The latest Salon Futura podcast has a great round table discussion about small press publishing featuring our own Alisa Krasnostein (plus Sean Wallace and L. Timmel Duchamp) – those of you mourning the lack of a Galactic Suburbia episode this week (sorry, we’ll be back with all guns blazing next week!) may like to check it out. There’s also a cool interview with Ann VanderMeer about her editorship of Weird Tales which was great to hear, especially the bit where they both start talking about Peter M Ball and unicorns.

My Big Finish obsession has been continuing apace. I have been relistening to all my Ace and Hex plays, and really enjoying the first two seasons of the 8th Doctor and Lucie Miller, which were designed to fit the tone of New Who a bit more firmly than the monthly series. They’re fast paced, funny and character-crunchy 50 minute episodes, with some fantastic casting. The whole first season is great, though the quirky Horror of Glam Rock (featuring Bernard Cribbins before he joined RTD’s Who crew) by Paul Magrs is a stand out, as is the exceptional two part finale, Human Resources.

I’m currently on the finale of the second season, which features a return of the Sisterhood of Karn and (quite possibly) Morbius, though I haven’t yet heard him with my own ears. The standouts for this season were Max Warp, a quite stunningly outrageous Top Gear parody with spaceships and Graeme Garden, and the comedy-romance-tragedy of The Zygon Who Fell To Earth (featuring Tim Brooke Taylor and Steven Pacey), but I also really loved the creative anachronisms of Dead London and the splendid historical heist story Grand Theft Cosmos. The return of the Headhunter, who is officially my favourite female villain of Doctor Who’s history, was a cause for much glee.

Elsewhere, I also discovered the Big Finish Comedy Podcast, which was released fairly recently as a limited series of 5 minute episodes to promote the Mervyn Stone mystery novels by Nev Fountain, which revolve around a script editor of a defunct cult sci-fi show of the late 80’s, who also solves crimes. The podcast is a great introduction to the character and his world, and over the course of about half an hour of bite sized, highly entertaining interviews (the conceit is that this is a DVD extra for “Vixens from the Void”) presents and solves the mystery of who killed the actor who played the quirky translator robot Babel J. It’s very funny, featuring among other things the note-perfect tones of Nicola Bryant, and absolutely free.

There is more, I expect, but I’m sleepy, and it’s school tomorrow!

Selling Sexist Stereotypes to Six Year Olds

(via Blue Milk)

So, this one gets me where I live. The overly gendered toy market and the advertising that goes along with it is a constant frustration for me, as a mother of two girls. We’re not just talking about pink or blue packaging here. There is a huge divide between the products created for girls and those for boys, and this vid shows something about how confronting that can be for parents who actively think about this stuff.

Boys, in Toydepartmentworld, get to be warriors or builders. Even the building toys that are mostly directed at them are often quite violent in the story that goes along with them, or the advertising associated with them. Girls, meanwhile, get to be sparkly princesses or shopping queens.

The ads targeted at children are gross parodies of the gendered advertising aimed at men and women. The whole thing seems designed to create the four wheel drive and fashion magazine purchases of the future. Which, of course, it is.

The vid quite rightly points out that pushing these kind of tight, limited gender boxes on children at such an early age can have quite awful and far-reaching consequences. At a time when they are learning how to be human and how to find their place in society, a time when everything they learn gets soaked into their consciousness like a sponge, two of the biggest messages they are internalising is that boys must be strong, violent and controlling, and that girls must be pretty, glamorous and domestic.

It’s not just advertising. Of course it’s not just advertising. Our children are absolutely complicit in this rigid stereotyping of genders. I feel at times like de-brainwashing Raeli from the ideas about gender she and her friends come up with in the playground is a full time job. It’s like they spend their entire lunch break sitting around and wilfully constructing the most limited and small minded social constructs for themselves.

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Food for Thought Friday

One of my favourite fragments of the internet this week is an interview with Tricia Sullivan, one of those authors I’ve been meaning to get my hands on from her debut novel, though somehow I never have. The interview is fantastic and very inspiring – I very much sympathised with her thoughts on Racefail, and how the way she writes and thinks about her writing has been powerfully shifted thanks to her observation of that huge online discussion which is often mischaracterised as having “achieved nothing”. I was also very interested in Tricia’s discussion of the Clarke Award and gender balance, and how she now questions the (male-dominated) definitions of the genre:

Since having kids, my view of womanhood has changed considerably. I’m conscious of the fact that my concerns are different from classically ‘masculine’ concerns, and are inadequately handled by much of the SF that is out there by male authors. If I want SF that truly appeals to me, I have to hope for more women to come into the field. In the same way, we need more POC…well, really any POC would be nice, actually.

As with racism, I think sexism nowadays is often unconscious. People won’t say to themselves ‘I won’t try that book because it’s by a woman,’ but they will say, ‘I won’t try that book because I like the ones with x, y, and z in them and this book has got j and m.’ And how can you argue with that? People can and do read what they want to. But I think that if you are a white male and everything you read is written by a white male, then it might be worth asking yourself if you shouldn’t consider expanding your tastes somewhat. Some tastes are acquired, but you can’t acquire a taste for something that isn’t on the shelves.

It’s so refreshing to see someone discussing the “well women write less SF so obviously have less representation in SF awards” concept but rather than leaving it at that (so that the responsibility falls on the female authors who don’t write SF or not enough of it) actively talks about why this might be the case, and why, as SF publishing shrinks, it is the women who get squeezed out first.

This topic was picked up over at Torque Control, both the lack of female winners of the Clarke Award but also the minute number of female SF authors published in Britain, and why this might be happening. The discussion in the comments has become rather epic, and while I don’t agree with quite a few of the opinions expressed in said comments (you can probably guess which ones as you read through them) I think the conversation itself is important.

While I’m on a gender theme (heh, you know it’s so unusual around here) I also ran across an excellent post at Geek Feminism about the culture of hating female characters in geek/fan communities. This is a topic I have seen discussed in various places this year – Sarah Rees Brennan has been particularly vocal at the criticisms she receives about her heroine, Mae, as compared to the general response to her hero, Nick (hint: he behaves far more badly and is a million times sluttier, but she gets the vitriole for kissing more than one person, for expressing opinions, etc.)

The article is rather brilliant in the way it dissects the kind of violent and ugly fan response to Gwen from Torchwood and River Song from Doctor Who, and is particularly pointed in the way it compares qualities they share with the male leads of those TV shows, and the way those qualities attract far greater negative response when displayed by a woman. I hadn’t even realised how many similaries there were between Gwen and Captain Jack, though I have long been uncomfortable with the invective used against her character, and not only by the Jack/Ianto shippers, though there is a long tradition of misogyny from slash fans, who often view female lead characters as a threat to their preferred pairing. I remember that when I was hanging out on the edged of the Harry Potter fandom, the levels of hatred and vitriole pointed at Ginny, Hermione and Tonks was somewhat boggling, even before the epilogue came along.

(I have a theory that people are more likely to blame the perceived failings of female fictional characters on the characters themselves rather than the author/writers, and this is certainly a prevailing trend in many fandoms)

The article at Geek Feminism very cleverly addresses the glorification of loudly despising female characters, and the way this can actually have an effect in real life as well, in cultures where women often get to “play with the boys” by dumping on other members of their own gender. Also the frustrating double standard where female fictional characters are often simultaneously criticised for acting “like men” as well as acting “like women”.

Food for thought! And now I go to clean the house.

I have portals; I know things

Gah, it’s been one of those days. The kind that makes you wish you had the kind of life where staying in bed all day was actually possible. Still, I have the recording of Galactic Suburbia tonight to cheer me up!

Over at the Voyager blog, I talk about my favourite fictional cities, and ask what your favourite SF/fantasy city is!

Someone on my LJ (hello anonymous person!) sent me an awesome link to this great “redesign Wonder Woman’s costume” art contest.

I also found (via @thirtysix on Twitter) a brilliant essay on the incidental misogyny in cyberspace, and the way that gaming businesses have failed their female customers. It’s an incredibly intelligent piece which includes a historical perspective on gaming & female characters in games, from the POV of a woman.

Over at Twelfth Planet Press, Alisa unveils two of the beautiful books she has coming out in time for Worldcon, with design by the ever talented Amanda Rainey: Bleed by Peter M. Ball (the sequel to the hugely successful fantasy noir Horn) and Glitter Rose, a boutique collection by Marianne de Pierres, the queen of Australian science fiction.