Tag Archives: sexism

people actually concerned about sexism do not go around saying that women should shut their dumb faces about it

Look at me, raising my head up in the internet. Hello, internet! I’m a lot of words this month! I haven’t been doing my usual Friday Links while Nanoing, but there are a couple of things I wanted to make an exception for.

untoldSarah Rees Brennan has written a really important essay on TheToast.net about being a woman in the publishing industry, or any industry that requires self promotion, and how differently the universe reacts to women’s self promotion. It’s sad but a must-read: A Female Author Talks About Sexism and Self-Promotion.

So, women are often left in a situation where if they want to succeed, they have to promote themselves, via being a person on the internet. And then, people say: “Lady, when you promote yourself, it is bad.”
(Sarah Rees Brennan)

Malinda Lo has written a companion piece, also on TheToast.net, about her own experiences in self promotion as a queer woman, and how more mainstream events/promotions for her YA books about lesbians mean having to come out all over again: A Second Female Author Talks About Sexism and Self Promotion.

I don’t believe that creative individuals should have to grow thicker skins. I believe that if you’re out there creating art, you should make sure you’re as open and thin-skinned as possible, so that you can feel every damn thing that arises in you. You need to be able to fully experience those emotions so you can use them in your work, but only within reason. I draw the line at letting mean-spirited criticism into my mental space.
(Malinda Lo)

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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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A Year in TansyRR.com

The response to my Tor.com post on “Historically Authentic Sexism in Fantasy” has been pretty overwhelming. Not only have there been many, many readers over there (the comments thread is still going strong, though it has turned overnight into a discussion about gender in children’s fiction which… is not a bad thing to be talking about?) but over 2500 people have tuned in to this blog to check the post out here, since Thursday. That’s… a lot, by my standards.

So if you’re here for the first time, hi, I’m Tansy! I write books, and talk a lot.

Here are some other Gender & Pop Culture posts from this year that I’m quite proud of:

Sexing Up the Classics
Mothers & Daughters, Battle-Embroidery & Bears
Babies & Bicycles: Watching Call the Midwife
Hack, Slash, Squish: Gender and Sex In Season One of Game of Thrones
What Geek Girls Wear (is none of your business)

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Historically Authentic Sexism in Fantasy. Let’s Unpack That.

A great, thoughtful article at the Mary Sue on one of my pet topics: the common justification of sexist fantasy fiction being that it’s historically authentic.

I am BUSY today, far too busy for a rant, but then I felt one coming on, and was worried I might end up with a migraine if I tried to stifle it. You know how it is. So let’s talk about sexism in history vs. sexism in fantasy.


I agree with pretty much everything said in the Mary Sue article: when you’re writing fantasy inspired by history, you don’t have to take all the ingrained sexism of historical societies along for the party, and even when you do, you don’t have to write women in a sexist or demeaning way. Your fantasy will not break by treating women as if they are people too.

But my rant is actually not quite about that stuff at all. It’s about history, and this notion that History Is Authentically Sexist. Yes, it is. Sure it is. We all know that. But what do you mean when you say “history?”

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Cheesecake Fantasy and Other Good Causes

Fantasy, as a genre, is often embarrassing. I like to tell myself that it’s not as bad as it used to be, in the days when Gor novels were sold unironically, and almost every book cover had some kind of gross, bizarre representation of the “female” form in chainmail/fur bikinis, regardless of the contents of the book itself. (Worse of course was when the books did reflect the art, but for every awful sexist fantasy novel you could almost guarantee the cover would be twice as bad)

And you know, fantasy art hasn’t left behind that old fashioned, male-gazey tradition any more than comics has, though I think you can certainly argue that fantasy art has generally improved in this area across the board, while comics have steadily got worse over the last several decades.

Still, I know plenty of women readers who wouldn’t touch “fantasy” with a bargepole, though they might have enjoyed books like Harry Potter, Twilight and the Hunger Games very much. Why is the genre tag still too blatant and embarrassing for these readers to contemplate? I suspect it’s very much because of things like this Charity Pin Up Calendar, and the art style it represents: Women as Sex Objects.

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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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Giants and Superstars

Farah Mendelsohn linked to a post announcing a new book of important reprints in our field:

“Long before they were household names, all of the superstar science fiction and fantasy authors in this anthology were just fans with stories and dreams. Now, for the first time ever, fifteen of the genre’s most important authors have come together to show off their first published SF stories, many of them rare and never before collected… An invaluable look at the origins of speculative fiction’s greatest minds, and bursting with insightful advice for beginning writers, this book is a must for any science fiction or fantasy fan, aspiring author, or teacher.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it? But then take a look at oh hell yes here we are talking about tables of contents again and what do we find?

Fourteen men, one woman.

While Nicola Griffith is a very important writer in our field, it’s hard not to start pouring forth with all the obvious female names that are not included. And sure, there are many reasons why an author might not be included in a book like this, rights management being a big one, and sure, there are plenty of male authors who are not included, but…

One woman. Fourteen men.

This is a book that holds itself up as a document, as a teaching aid, as a resource to teach us something about the genre of science fiction. So far what it’s taught me is that women continue to be unvalued.

As Farah says, it’s shameful. It’s also disappointing. Is it really that hard to remember that if you are telling the story of science fiction, you are going to be held accountable for the story you choose to tell?

(Invisible) Women in Horror

I had heard vaguely of the SFX horror screw-up, but only today (via this great summary post from [info] nwhyte) found my way to the blog of Maura McHugh, aka Splinister to read about her correspondence with the editor of that magazine, about the lack of representation of female authors in the SFX Horror special. Maura objected to a general lack of women in the entire issue, but was particularly upset by a special feature in which 34 horror “experts” were invited to recommend “hidden treasures of horror”. They were all men – and all but one of them (Doctor Who & Being Human’s Toby Whithouse!) only recommended work by men.

Maura’s long post showing her correspondence with the SFX editor is worth a read, because it shows in paragraph after paragraph, the (by now) familiar sight of a privileged person who has been called on his (undoubtedly unconscious) sexism and that by extension of his publication and the industry he belongs to, and yet is not willing to accept or acknowledge that he has done anything wrong.

You could create a bingo card from his responses: they meant to include women, they thought about it, they intended to, but one article and two email correspondences went astray, and besides, there aren’t that many women in horror anyway, and if there are any, they don’t send their books to SFX, and they don’t make enough films, and when women do make horror it’s not really horror, and look, he has two anonymous female friends who confirm it’s not his fault, he meant well…

Besides, don’t you know there aren’t any women producing or consuming horror fiction and films?

Well, there aren’t if your only source of information is SFX magazine.

I’m not a big horror reader, but I see the same arguments being used that are regularly trotted out about women in SF. I have nothing but respect for editors and other people in positions of power who, when called on the inappropriate lack of representation of women, take that accusation seriously, and make an honest effort to do something about it in the future. Falling victim to unconscious bias does not make you a bad person. There’s no need to be defensive about it. But once it’s been pointed out to you… trying to pretend that it doesn’t exist is just silly.

As Maura says here, there is no excuse now.
Not just with horror. In science fiction. In literature. In film. In awards lists. It’s been pointed out too many times. If you’re still contributing to the invisibling of women (awesome verb by the way) then ignorance is not an excuse. Unless, you know, you’re also not listening to what women say…

Hmm. That would make a lot of sense, actually.

February was Women in Horror Recognition Month (ironic, no?). I recommend you celebrate by reading a Kaaron Warren novel. Or two. Or recommend your own favourite hidden treasure of horror in the comments.

she is too awesome for me to relate to

Some links on feminist issues, sexism & gender awareness.

Sarah Rees Brennan is writing awesomeness about women in fiction again, debunking all the dumb excuses people give for being more critical of female characters than male (features the big spoiler for The Demon’s Lexicon):

There are also issues with writing people with disabilities, people of colour, people who are gay. There are even issues with writing straight white guys, because they too live in a world where inequality exists, and this affects them too! All these issues! That’s why it is impossible to ever write any characters at all. And so all my writing goes like this ‘the void… BLANK PAGES … the void… BLANK PAGES.’ It’s very deep.

Cheryl Morgan talks about how to get women nominating for and appearing on the Hugo shortlists, and looks a bit at the psychology that means women usually don’t get fairly represented. In particular she suggests that women are more likely to disqualify themselves from being well-read enough to venture an opinion.

[info] coffeeandink on male privilege & perception of merit in comics – a beautiful illustration of the ways in which some men can unconsciously discount the work of women, particularly in geek-friendly arenas. This might be one to bookmark and point people to as a great example of invisible sexism at work.

A round-table discussion on how to define and redefine ‘strong’ when it comes to YA heroines.

Moving away from speculative fiction and geekery circles, here’s an interview with Natasha Walter about the return of sexism and the pressure on young girls who don’t feel they have a choice to opt out of porn culture.