Conflict at the Science Fiction Writers Association

This has not been a good year for the SFWA, sexual equality wise.
First, for the 200th issue, they used a cover of a swordswoman in a very small halter-top and a chain-mail bikini bottom (I didn’t hear about this until recently, as I joined right after), rather than, say, armor or any sort.
Inside the issue, in discussing great editors they had known, Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg referred to one female editor from the 1950s (a very respected one, I gather) as “a knockout.” Which I gather (again, I haven’t seen this issue), was not a standard they applied to any of the men they talked about.
Then in 201, C.J. Henderson discussed branding andmarketing and cited Barbie as a textbook example of a brand that despite 50-plus years and lots of variation, never loses sight of the core brand. He then went on to add that part of her brand was “that she maintained her quiet dignity as a woman should.” An assessment of womanhood that had nothing to do with the point of the article (he also mentioned that when Barbie got her college degree, she never acted as if Ken didn’t want her to be successful. I think Mr.Henderson’s making another point there about women in the real world). E. Catherine Tobler expresses her less than enthused response, including that the organization she belongs to gave all this the stamp of approval.
And then, in 202, Malzberg and Resnick unfortunately decided to defend themselves against what they saw as a wave of criticism being flung at SFWA and themselves (scans and excerpts here). It would have been more persuasive if they hadn’t trotted out every argument in the book: They were being complimentary, would anyone object if they’d said that about a man, why is it wrong to mention women are attractive, they are so totally not sexist, OMG CENSORSHIP!
Which is, I suppose, why I wanted to mention the current storm here: That is the standard response, not only on sexism but racism, gay issues, religious issues, etc. That the speaker obviously didn’t mean to say anything wrong, so therefore they didn’t say anything wrong. They have no sexism/racism in their heart, so they couldn’t have said anything sexist/racist. And anyone who shouts them down is calling for censorship!
And I suppose it’s possible that someone in this fight is indeed calling for censorship (however you define that)—I’ve only read a fraction of what’s been discussed. But equally certainly a lot of the people are not. They’re simply saying “This shit is sexist, don’t run articles/pictures like this.” Which is a reasonable request, especially when the stuff is sexist, more so when you’re paying dues to the group responsible.
Malzberg and Resnick also have an absolute right to argue back, but these are not good arguments. Equating criticism with censorship is never a good argument, let alone invoking well, if we can’t say this, what if the government starts saying who you can have sex with? If the censors get away with this, the next step is Nazism or Stalinism!
That’s not a slippery slope, it’s a gigantic leap across an abyss.
John Scalzi, current SFWA president, has a reasoned response online here.
I had intended to post a whole bunch more today, but instead of being swept away by countless demands on my time, I was swept away by laziness, and the opportunity to do next to nothing. And it felt good!

3 Comments

Filed under Personal, Writing

3 responses to “Conflict at the Science Fiction Writers Association

  1. Pingback: More writing links | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Ironically although this post discusses SFWA, I’m not tagging it for the SFWA Twitter feed | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: Hugo disputes again (and John C. Wright) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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