An Open Letter to Dave Truesdale
I wanted to applaud you for the exceptionally thorough review Tangent Online put together for Lightspeed #49, June 2014, the special “Women Destroy Science Fiction” issue. I was always deeply appreciative of TO‘s detailed reviews of Black Gate — starting with our print issues, and continuing without a hitch when we switched to publishing online — but we never enjoyed anything as elaborate as the 15,000-word round-robin review you assembled for this issue of Lightspeed.
Seriously, kudos. I’m certain it wasn’t easy to coordinate. I’m also glad you recognized just how important this issue of Lightspeed is. John Joseph Adams and guest Editor Christie Yant have assembled what is clearly a landmark issue of one of the most important publications in the genre. You and I have both seen the ridiculous claim that “women have destroyed science fiction”… watching a group of 109 talented women co-opt that phrase and make it their own is uplifting and frankly empowering to both sexes. I know you agree with me on that.
But I think you really put your foot in it with your closing comments, particularly where you say “science-fiction hasn’t a racist or sexist bone in its body… Not once have I personally seen a smidgeon of racism or sexism.”
I have to call bullshit on you, buddy. In those 18 months you were working for me as Managing Editor of Black Gate, from early 2001 to 2002, and while we were buying fiction together, we were blatantly, nakedly sexist — and I think you know it.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. How could I possibly have been sexist? You passed along numerous stories written by women to me for consideration — and in fact, you strongly championed several, urging me to publish them. Established writers like Nancy Varian Berberick, newcomers like Devon Monk, and many, many others. You’ve stated elsewhere that the sex of the writer doesn’t concern you when buying a story, and after working closely with you, I know that to be a fact. No one is challenging your credentials in this regard.
But here’s the thing: you can buy fiction from women — and even champion them — and still be sexist.
How is that possible? It’s simple. We welcomed women who submitted… as long as they played by our rules. We launched a heroic fantasy magazine — heavy on the sword & sorcery, thank you very much — and crafted guidelines for what we perceived as a masculine, male-dominated sub-genre, and clapped ourselves on the back every time we bought a story from a woman who managed to jump over the bars we set.
But there wasn’t a single woman writer on the table of contents of the fiction section for our very first issue, launched in November 2000.
We certainly didn’t make any special effort to attract women writers (or readers, for that matter). We were sexist by gross omission. Our obsession was with pleasing our audience, whom we somehow believed to be 80-90% male. We took the stereotypes of male adventure fantasy, and codified them in our Submission Guidelines. We were deluged with submissions, and somehow took that as evidence that we were doing something right.
And it hurt us. We didn’t attract women writers the way we should have — the way we needed to. We had a golden opportunity to attract and develop a new generation of Leigh Bracketts and C.L. Moores. And we blew it.
How could we attract women when the subtext of everything we did told them they weren’t welcome? And because we didn’t attract them, we weren’t able to discover and nurture women writers the way we should have. It became a closed loop: we published a huge percentage of male writers, and that in turn told women they weren’t welcome.
Of course, there were many tenacious women who overlooked all that, and sent us stories that were so awesome we had no defense, and had to buy them. Amy Sterling Casil, Devon Monk, Julia Blackshear Kosatka, Ellen Klages, ElizaBeth Gilligan, Elaine Cunningham, Tina L. Jens, many others. Brave souls, all. They have my eternal gratitude.
You know who else has my gratitude? Those men and women who started compiling and reporting statistics on the percentage of women writers in genre magazines. They included Black Gate in one of the first of those reports, scoring us at an abysmal 29%. Here’s how I reacted, as I reported back in 2011 in my article Solaris Rising, Women Falling?
Someone (I honestly forget who) did the math on the first six issues of Black Gate and figured out that I’d published only 15 stories by women, out of a total of 51 – roughly 29%. Right about this time Rich Horton started reporting on the percentage of fiction by women in his yearly short fiction summations. At first I had exactly the same reaction as the old guard – this is a load of crap. I pick the very best stories sent to me; case closed. I deeply resented any implication otherwise, and considered the entire argument a waste of time.
I was, in short, a complete idiot.
All that righteous indignation was preventing me from understanding three important things:
◾it’s not always about editorial taste;
◾it’s only a criticism if you make it one; and
◾while I might not immediately care about those figures, many of my readers cared deeply.
Once I got past all the suspicion that I was being criticized, I realized that I was being given a golden opportunity to improve my magazine, and to understand what my readers cared about. And most importantly, to understand why my magazine wasn’t attracting more female writers.
That was the wake-up call I needed to take a long, hard look at what you and I were doing when we started buying fiction for Black Gate all those years ago, and face up to the mistakes we made.
We were sexist. We didn’t mean to be, we didn’t do it on purpose, we had great intentions. But we were.
The comments section of that article, as I recall, got pretty heated. Some of our steadfast male readers — none with any editing experience, naturally — challenged my reasoning. I’m not going to re-hash all that, but I do want to highlight one critique that came up again and again. A reader named “Black Dynamite” posed it most succinctly, I thought:
Mr. O’Neill, you yourself said: “Sure, I was buying the best fiction I could.”
THAT should be the ONE AND ONLY thing for a magazine editor to take into account.
This was the fallacy at the core of the arguments against me. Disregard all this “sexist” nonsense, O’Neill. As long as you’re buying the best fiction you can, you are unimpeachable. Let the women howl.
I’m not going to re-cap the argument, but I do want to reprint my response to that particular claim. Here it is.
That seems logical on the surface. Let’s try that theory out.
Suppose you start a magazine. Your expert reading skills allow you to pick out the best submissions you get. Suppose you get only 10 submissions, and you select the best five.
People tell you your magazine is crap.
“BUT!” you exclaim. “I was buying the best fiction I could. THAT should be the ONE AND ONLY thing.”
Unfortunately, that’s not enough. Your magazine is still crap, because you’re not attracting the right talent.
So you bust your butt. You advertise your magazine online, you go door-to-door. Finally you get 1,000 submissions.
People tell you your magazine is still crap. You’re not attracting fantasy writers. And they’re right.
So you bust your butt again. This time you advertise in fantasy magazines, go to fantasy conventions. You get 3,000 submissions.
Your magazine is still crap. You’re not attracting enough pros. To get better, you need to pay better rates, solicit up-and-coming authors personally, attract better writers.
Your magazine is getting better.
But now people are telling you your magazine doesn’t have enough women writers.
“BUT!” you exclaim. “I was buying the best fiction I could. THAT should be the ONE AND ONLY thing.”
But you’re not.
You’re only attracting those writers you make an effort to attract. And if you don’t care to make an effort to attract women – and writers of color, and international writers – then you’re only making a half an effort, and your magazine isn’t as good as it could be.
Perhaps you simply don’t care to attract women. That’s your prerogative. But don’t pretend you’re doing everything you could, because you’re not.
And have the courage to admit what you’re doing, instead of shouting “I just select THE BEST POSSIBLE FICTION.” Because that’s not being an editor. That’s just called “reading.”
Here’s my essential point to you, Dave: you don’t have to view what Lightspeed has done in issue #49 as a personal attack on you, or on the field you love so much. You see science fiction being implicitly maligned by all these writers, shouting out cries of “sexism!” and “racism!”, and you rush headlong to its defense. I get it. I do. I know what you’re doing, and in some ways I’m proud of you for it.
But it’s not an attack, buddy. Really, it isn’t. It’s a group of science fiction and fantasy writers who see something that we didn’t, and they’re speaking up about it. More than that, they’re doing something about it in a marvelously positive way.
You didn’t see the sexism in science fiction because, like me, you were part of the problem.
You’re better than that, Dave. I know you are. Most of the men and women writing unflattering articles about you right now — including the talented E. Catherine Tobler, who tells the story of when you called her out of the blue to discuss a story she’d submitted to Black Gate — know you’re better than that, too. They’re just a little cranky with you at the moment.
[And serious kudos for calling Catherine all those years ago, dude. I’m not sure I ever called a writer who submitted an unsolicited manuscript to Black Gate. Talk about going above and beyond the call of duty! You never once complained about your telephone bill, either.]
Anyway, thanks for listening. I know we had our disagreements back in the day, especially after you left Black Gate. We didn’t speak for a few months, then. It was Jay Lake who brought us back together, gentleman that he was.
I know we’ll get past this disagreement, too. I just saw all the things being said in the blogosphere about my old friend Dave Truesdale, and I knew I had to speak up. I know you don’t need me in this fight, but I thought I’d speak up anyway.
John, very nice article. I hope Dave takes it well and with an appropriate attitude.
I have to admit, when I first began writing full time, I focused on my perceived “masculine, male-dominated” audience, that supposed “80-90% male” group. I did not set out to be sexist, and I suppose one could argue I was not. Either way, I thought I was writing for a very particular audience, so I focused my efforts in that direction.
It did not take long before I realized my mistake, my many errors. The majority of readers who contact me are, by far, female. I don’t know without adding it all up, but my guess would be the majority of my reviews have been written by females. I feel lucky to have those readers, and I am grateful for them. I’ve yet to receive a complaint about myself or my writing being sexist, but that’s not the point, because my readers have given me the gift of a new way to think. I hope I can give them what they’d like.
These sort of posts make me glad that I’m not an editor. Good luck to all of you guys that are.
> I feel lucky to have those readers, and I am grateful for them. I’ve yet to receive a complaint about myself or my writing being
> sexist, but that’s not the point, because my readers have given me the gift of a new way to think. I hope I can give them
> what they’d like.
I think that was more insightful — and more useful — than anything I said in my comments above. Well said indeed, and thanks for sharing!
> These sort of posts make me glad that I’m not an editor. Good luck to all of you guys that are.
Thanks — but it’s not all drama, you know. The con parties are great. 🙂
John, your article and the thrust of it is important and very much needed. Having been through the various gender wars in sf and fantasy, writers are still faced with the truth that people don’t simply buy the best fiction they can find, because when they look for fiction, they may reject fiction written by heterosexual men or women or gay men or women out of hand. If you don’t read the fiction because you are put off by the gender of the writer, then you’ll not know if it’s good. If you read it out of a sense of duty or because your friends are reading it, but you harbor a prejudice, that prejudice will color your reading of that book. Markets are not gender-blind as they are not genre-blind.
John, thank you for the tone of your open letter and kind words—sincerely appreciated. Which makes it difficult for me to attempt to set the record straight on several points, but which must be done. John, this is very awkward for me, not pleasant.
Your repeated use of “we” made me squirm in my seat more than once. As slush reader I was taking all my cues from you as to what you told me you wanted in the fiction department. Sword & sorcery, fantasy adventure, heroic fantasy, all those sorts of stories. I had nothing to do with the decision making process when it came to the specific genre or sub-genres of fantasy fiction you wanted for your magazine. My job as first reader was to try to choose those stories that best fit that bill. Yes, I was billed as Managing Editor for that first issue of BG, but let’s be honest, that job consisted primarily of reading the _fiction_ submissions. I was the slush reader and nothing more. _You_ were the only driving force behind what you wanted to see. Not “we.” I came home from work every day from my non-stop delivery job, tired, and read slush all night for nearly a year. I didn’t have time to go out and solicit material from anyone, save for the rare con or two I went to. And at one con in particular I solicited stories from authors I knew (Jeff Ford for one), and you bought another from a gay writer from whom I solicited a story. But as far as promoting BG to all and sundry, that was your job as publisher/editor.
While I sent you stories from both men and women I think it should be noted that at least one—and I think a couple more—did indeed have female heroines; they weren’t just stories written by women but otherwise in the “male” mold with male protags, but had actual female protagonists. They were good stories and I’m glad we saw eye to eye on them and you published them.
So I sorta rankle at all the times you said “we” in your open letter to me. Please don’t acknowledge your own sexism and then tag me with it by using “we.” I think this is extremely unfair. At the start, reading the slush, it was a back and forth process for both of us. You were trying to refine to me what you wanted from the stories I sent your way, and I was trying to refine my selection from what you told me you wanted. Therefore it was natural at first that I would send you pretty much all kinds of fantasy; from them you could winnow it down and let me have a better understanding of what would fit with your vision of what you wanted in BG and what wouldn’t work. It was a very normal process.
That said, in that exploratory startup process I sent you the best of the slush for your approval or rejection. Stories of all stripes of fantasy (Ellen Klages’ “A Taste of Summer,’ a Nebula nominee and very much a Bradbury-type story and not s&s at all—and with a young female as the lead; and Jeff Ford’s bizarre surrealistic award-winning “Exo-Skeleton Town” which was definitely not s&s or adventure fantasy, either) I sent your way, some written by women and some by men, and some with male protagonists and others with female protagonists. Where does this “we” come in when it comes to this statement (which I use a representative example; a stand in, for all of the other instances where you used “we”): “We certainly didn’t make any special effort to attract women writers (or readers, for that matter). We were sexist by gross omission.” Attracting writers and readers was your job, John. I was busy reading slush. From the slush I gave you female writers and female protagonists where I found them—if the stories were good enough to pass on to you. And several of them _were_ good enough because you published them. I did my job—sometimes going _outside_ of the kind of fiction you said you wanted because the stories were just too good to pass up without letting you see them (again, Klages’ “The Taste of Summer,” Nebula nominee featuring a young female protagonist as the prime example).
Moving on. You took the next lines out of context: “science-fiction hasn’t a racist or sexist bone in its body… Not once have I personally seen a smidgeon of racism or sexism.” You left off the first two words, words making all the difference in the world. The sentence reads, “The _field_ of science fiction hasn’t a racist or sexist bone in its body.” I purposely emphasized the word “field” to draw a distinction between the greater body of SF and _individuals_ who commit sexist acts and should then be dealt with accordingly. Because SF as a field is one of the most open, diverse, welcoming genres of fiction there is. All groups have problems with a few individuals, but I don’t think it’s fair to tar the entire organization with a sexist or racist label as _some_ are more than wiling to do. That’s all I was getting at. Wasn’t trying to say there was no sexism, racism, or homophobia in the field, but that it centered on a few individuals; the genre of SF by great majority has a fewer number of bad apples than does the “outer” world. This is all I was trying to say. Agree or disagree, but this has been my personal experience. Yet you chose to clip two lines, place them together (…) to present another visual of what I said. That’s not fair.
Another line from your Open Letter: “How could we attract women when the subtext of everything we did told them they weren’t welcome?” I didn’t tell them anything except, in essence (in 99% of the cases) “I’m sorry this story doesn’t meet our needs,” or “I liked your story very much and am passing it on to the editor for his decision.” No subtext to those statements. And there was no “we” involved.
This has gone on too long and I don’t have the energy to go through your letter line by line, but I think you get the gist from my examples of where I think you missed the boat. Again, and sincerely, thank you for the kind words. As for the rest of it, speak for yourself and please don’t include me in your own personal admission of sexism when all I did was read the slush, and send you the kind of stories you said you wanted to see—except for those few times when a story I knew wouldn’t fit was so good I had to let you see it anyway; one of which was, again, written by a female, with a female protagonist, and an eventual Nebula nominee (and an early feather in BG’s cap). As publisher/editor you were the head honcho and promoter of BG. It was your baby. You set the tone and atmosphere. I read the slush and did the best I could. I didn’t promote any sexist attitudes by _reading the slush_.
And here’s one last line I take great issue with: “You didn’t see the sexism in science fiction because, like me, you were part of the problem.” Horse-hockey. Speak for yourself. I never bloody said _instances_ of sexism never occurred at any SF function, but if you factor in that there’s been an SF con of some sort or other pretty much every weekend in the U.S. for a good 3 decades, and all of the hundreds of thousands of fans (easily millions by now) who have attended them, the odds are that 99% of _everyone_ hasn’t spotted any sexism either. It doesn’t _make_ one a sexist or “part of the problem” because one hasn’t seen or experienced any, for ghod’s sake. What kind of sane logic leads to that conclusion?
It was a lot of work but also a lot of fun being first reader for BG, and I do thank you for the opportunity and experience. It was a great experience to have been a small part of, and I certainly enjoyed reading the stories. You and BG, the writers and fans all gave BG a good run and you have earned a lot of well deserved credit for it.
I’ve said pretty much all I needed to say in this post, so I doubt if I’m up for any protracted back and forth. My full opinion on these issues can be found at the special Lightspeed review Tangent Online has posted.
Be well, John. You’re a sincere, well-meaning man at heart, and this is a very good thing.
PS: I ask that anyone wishing to reply to any of my comments, please read the Tangent Online special Lightspeed review first, and my “Closing Thoughts by the Editor” before posting here. It will save all parties immeasurable amounts of time, energy, and frustration. Thanks.
> If you read it out of a sense of duty or because your friends are reading it, but you harbor a prejudice, that prejudice will color your reading
Well said. But I still believe that nothing obliterates prejudice like being widely read (and widely traveled, but being widely read is much cheaper!)
Thanks for the thoughtful response. You’re absolutely right that I set the editorial direction of the magazine, and the ultimate fault for sexism at any level was mine.
Though to be honest, you weren’t simply the slush reader though, were you? You were the Managing Editor, with full authority to speak on behalf of the magazine — which you did, frequently, with announcements on the BG newsgroup, and in all your dealings with hundreds of writers. I remember the 18 months we worked together to launch the magazine as a fairly collaborative affair; I’m sorry you feel you were no more than “the slush reader.”
> As for the rest of it, speak for yourself and please don’t include me in your own personal admission of sexism
I have to admit that I’m more than a little surprised that, while you don’t dispute my characterization of our behavior as sexist, you sincerely believe you came out of it lilly white. If that’s true, why didn’t you call me on it? Why didn’t you say something? You certainly had no qualms arguing with me on virtually every other aspect of the magazine.
But I won’t harp on that. I have more important things to discuss.
Dave, one of the things I recall best about our time together was how hard you worked. You had a really fine reputation — it was one of the reasons I reached out to you for help when I started Black Gate. You acted with scrupulous integrity, and everyone I met spoke highly of you — and I mean, _everyone_. You had built a lasting legacy in the field with Tangent Online, the SFWA Bulletin, and numerous other projects. You worked diligently to build on that legacy, and I know how important it was to you.
Dave, I have been increasingly dismayed to find that your reputation is sorely tarnished. When I stumble across a mention of Dave Truesdale these days, it’s not due to your tireless efforts with Tangent Online or elsewhere. No, among many other things, you’re known as the man who suggested Tempest Bradford needed “an emergency bitch-suction operation” for daring to make accusations of sexism, or for your angry petition against perceived political correctness in SFWA, or for loudly challenging the very assumption that sexism still exists in science fiction. In short, you have a reputation for attacking people — especially women — and sometimes in some pretty appalling ways.
Over and over again Dave — at conventions, on blogs, in e-mail messages — when I encounter your name these days, it’s not with the respect you once commanded. You still have a legacy inside the genre. But it’s as a man who is widely and profoundly disliked.
And that’s not fair. Frankly, it makes me mad. Truly, I can think of only a handful of fans who’ve contributed to this genre the way you have.
But boy, Dave…. you have really pissed off a lot of folks. I mean, a LOT OF FOLKS. And right at the moment, they are the ones defining how Dave Truesdale will be remembered when he’s gone. And it ain’t going to be pretty.
Now, I screwed up as editor at Black Gate, especially in the early years. I made a lot of mistakes. But I’m trying hard to atone for them. To face up to what I did, and to talk about it honestly; here, and elsewhere.
Perhaps you truly are different than I am, Dave. Perhaps you didn’t make a single mistake when you worked at Black Gate, and there isn’t a sexist bone in your body.
Or perhaps — just maybe — we were both a little bit guilty. And perhaps you’re having some trouble facing it, because of the hard line stance you’ve taken for so long, and because you’ve made so many enemies with long knives and longer memories, who are just waiting for a moment of weakness to pounce.
Only you can decide which it is. My advice, if you’re willing to listen? Take a long hard look at what we did. Take credit for your successes — and they were many! — and admit your mistakes. Ultimately, I think you’ll find you’ll learn a lot more from the mistakes you admit to.
I know I have.
“How is that possible? It’s simple. We welcomed women who submitted… as long as they played by our rules. We launched a heroic fantasy magazine — heavy on the sword & sorcery, thank you very much — and crafted guidelines for what we perceived as a masculine, male-dominated sub-genre, and clapped ourselves on the back every time we bought a story from a woman who managed to jump over the bars we set.”
this may be the all time dumbest thing I have EVER heard an editor say…. an that is really saying something.
By your logic the women who run publishing houses that produce dime store romance novels must also be sexist towards all men.
After all they built a publishing line of romance novels — heavy on the heaving bosoms & throbbing loins, thank you very much — and crafted guidelines for what they perceived as a feminie, female-dominated sub-genre.
Those sick, sexist monsters.
Its almost like that’s what a magazine & its editor does. They create a property around a specific genre or sub-genre & then you as the editor choses the material that is suitable for the publication.
That’s not sexism, that’s freedom of choice, as in “I choose not to read your publication because it doesn’t interest me.” That doesn’t mean you bend over backwards changing what your publication is about to attract me, the same way dime store romance publishers don’t suddenly start to do so.
Because if its sexist when you do it, it must also be even more sexist when they do it since there are more of those kinds of publishers.
Or are you going to try to be the next champion of the holy order of “its only sexist when men do it.”
If someone else chooses to be sexist or racist, that is their responsibility. They are the ones who have to look themselves in the mirror every morning. Each of us can only choose how we want to act, how we want to be and what we personally want to stand for. If we make mistakes we may not be able to make amends, but we can try.
Thanks John for all you do on the behalf of your bloggers and readers. I’m in both categories and grateful for your past help.
Note: writing this in good faith, and uninterested in a public filleting of any of the people involved. Also uninterested in a flame war.
Even upon a cursory reading of the review, a couple of things are apparent:
1) While one of the reviewers claims to have never seen an incident of sexism within the genre, the review itself textually manifests sexism. It *is* an example of sexism in the genre. It’s got mansplaining, tokenism, at least one gendered insult, tone policing…
2) The fact that the reviewers don’t seem to understand that reflects a flawed understanding of what sexism is. Also unsurprising, given that most people have a flawed understanding of what sexism is. I’ve been a self-declared feminist since I was twelve — going on twenty years now — and I couldn’t have given you a solid definition before, oh, 2012 or so.
And moving on from there:
3) If there is a single person on Earth that has not perpetuated sexism against women, I’d sure like to meet him or her.
4) That’s right — her. Sexism is so prevalent, so insidious, that women often internalize it. So much so that yours truly, a self-declared feminist since seventh grade, still slips up and uses a gendered slur, and as recently as a few years ago slut-shamed another woman or three.
5) Because, you see, we are bombarded with sexist messages from our culture constantly, from the media and government and water cooler conversation and etc. An example: have you ever noticed how quickly criticism of a female public figure turns to her looks? Being a woman makes it easier to recognize sexism, but it provides little to no defense against absorption of paradigms such as that.
6) Which is why I’m uninterested in filleting these guys, and also disagree with the above commenter that being sexist is entirely a matter of choice. Sure, being a raging misogynist is a choice, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. There’s a continuum. Ridding oneself of sexism takes work, especially for cisgendered men, who are handicapped in this by the blind spots male privilege affords them.
7) Thus I applaud the OP, and hope that the reviewers can stop with the knee-jerkery long enough to read some Feminism 101.
8) I’m not sure if science fiction is more or less sexist than other genres, and I also don’t think it matters. Its presence hurts both the genre as a whole and women within it.
9) I entirely disagree with the review’s conclusion. It’s the sexism in genre that drives people away, not talking about it. If anything, elevated consciousness about the issue is likely to attract female fans rather than repel them, IMO.
10) Because women generally don’t have the luxury of not experiencing, witnessing, and noticing sexism. For me anyway, the fact that other people in the SF/F community will notice it and call it out gives me the courage to stick around.
John: what a brilliant blog post. Thank you for giving me a little more faith in the world. I am very proud of Black Gate right now.
“Just the slush reader”?
I call bull-pucky.
Hi, no one knows me. I’m Nathan. I’m the Managing Editor at the Drabblecast and the Assistant Editor at Escape Pod. (It’s the same job, really. With the same head editor these days, which is more of a weird coincidence than anything else.)
Now, I refer to myself as the King of the Slush-Monkeys, because my job in many ways is primarily about filtering the slush to a few choice bits for editorial selection, but that’s a self-deprecating joke. J-O-K-E. If I’m not more than a slush-reader, well, that’s my fault for being a lazy asshole, and more pertinently, it’s still the key, central position for determining the character of a magazine that runs unsolicited submissions. I am the one who sees the raw material we have to work with. I’m the one who decides which authors even get a shot at the brass ring of publication. Being a gatekeeper is Srs Bzns and is not “just” anything.
And when we find out (as Escape Pod did recently) that our published ratio is almost seventy percent male, well, that’s on me, too. Even if I read the slush blind (and I generally do – not out of principle, but just because of the way threaded e-mail works and because at this point cover letters are like banner ads to me: I don’t even perceive them unless I force myself), if we’re getting a skewed ratio, then the problem is that we’re *not bringing in as many submissions as we could*. If we want better stories, we need more options. If you’re panning for gold, you don’t refuse to run certain types of silt through your pans because someone once told you that kind of dirt never has gold in it. You darned well put all the dirt you can through your filters because you are looking for GOLD and when you FIND gold you will be SO HAPPY for SERIOUS.
Anyway. This blog post was excellent. Mr. Truesdale’s response to it was self-pitying nonsense, and that’s coming from a man who has been doing the exact same job description as he had for a combined total of five or six years, between the two ‘zine/podcasts. I had to register just to comment on what a jackass comment he left. I may not use my own power and position to accomplish anything useful, but that doesn’t mean it’s the fault of the position. Managing Editors of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your bizarre self-esteem issues and whining excuses!
P.S. – Plz send more science fiction stories to Escape Pod, authors who are female! *waves semaphore flags, does a little jig* If you could see what our slushpile looks like, you’d send us your stories out of pity!
[…] Dave Truesdale responds to criticism made of him by a man! And is kind of gross while doing it (he keeps trotting out a story by Ellen Klages like it’s some sort of trophy). Here’s a pastebin of the comment in case the white on black at Black Gate makes your eyes bleed. […]
> By your logic the women who run publishing houses that produce dime store romance novels must also be sexist towards all men.
I’m not going to judge how other editors run their houses, thanks. I ran a magazine for a long time. It was a true labor of love, and I appreciate just how much blood and sacrifice goes into running a publication, and a business. I’ve made enough mistakes of my own that I don’t really feel equipped to judge sexism when I haven’t seen evidence first hand.
However, you’re clearly prepared to pass judgment so, please, share your wisdom with us. And by all means, please continue to call us “dumb” and use other insults, as nothing works better to sharpen our appetite to learn.
I await your further wisdom with breathless anticipation.
> Thanks John for all you do on the behalf of your bloggers and readers. I’m in both categories and grateful for your past help.
And thank you, Barbara. Which reminds me! When will we see another of your excellent posts? Don’t make me drive down to Texas to ask. 🙂
> There’s a continuum. Ridding oneself of sexism takes work, especially for cisgendered men,
> who are handicapped in this by the blind spots male privilege affords them.
Splendidly, splendidly said, and I wish I’d made the same point.
Sexism isn’t a binary condition. The world isn’t divided into those who are sexist, and those who aren’t. We all exhibit sexist behaviors, and becoming aware of them and being constantly vigilant against them is the best defense.
> It’s the sexism in genre that drives people away, not talking about it. If anything, elevated consciousness
> about the issue is likely to attract female fans rather than repel them
Bingo – and exactly right.
Thank you, Cecily.
> Thank you for giving me a little more faith in the world. I am very proud of Black Gate right now.
Derek – thanks for the support. There was a brief moment after I posted this when I regretted doing it, and thought it would be grossly misinterpreted. I’m very grateful that hasn’t happened.
> I’m Nathan. I’m the Managing Editor at the Drabblecast and the Assistant Editor at Escape Pod.
Welcome, Nathan. Thanks for your comments.
> Plz send more science fiction stories to Escape Pod, authors who are female! *waves semaphore flags, does a little jig*
And to everyone else: THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT. Was that hard? No. But this is the kind of attitude you need for your publication to be perceived as open towards women.
For the first four years we were in business, Black Gate never did this. It was a huge mistake. We were perceived by some as a market hostile to women, and WE DID NOTHING ABOUT IT. Please, don’t make this mistake yourself.
Nathan, I wished you’d worked for us, all those years ago. Keep reading slush, my friend. And may you find many treasures!
For what it’s worth to anyone–and I’m sure it won’t be worth anything to those who are bound and determined to tar and feather me regardless of what I say–I was also at the same time I was slush reader for BG, was editor of the SFWA Bulletin and editing Tangent. I was trying to juggle three important positions at once. Not whining, just explaining the situation.
I’ll stick to my belief that it was not my role to be the primary front man in promoting BG to the world, and to let folks know what we were about, the kind of fiction sought, etc.
When I did have the opportunity to make it to a con or two I did my best to convey to those I asked for a possible contribution what John told me he was looking for.
John mentions those who now dislike me for my certain stances on this issue. All I can say is that when you consider the sources then I’m not too worried about what they think. There are plenty of people who agree with much, if not all, I’m trying to get across to folks, who understand where I’m coming from, and whose opinions I respect much more than those who make no attempt whatever to give an honest reading or understanding of what I’ve been saying over the past few years. They choose to misunderstand, and then make it their life’s mission to destroy the messenger or anyone else who disagrees with their sometimes radical viewpoints, that even some in the feminist community disagree with and choose to distance themselves from.
I think the definitions of feminism and what constitutes it today are so general and so broad and so all-encompassing, that the game is rigged so that just about _anyone_ can be accused of some form of it, to the point where people are afraid to speak about it, or try to rationally discuss it, for fear of being accused of sexism by those who control the very language and definitions.
Theodore Sturgeon’s famous line comes to mind: “Ask the next question.” Well, I ask Who sets the definitions of what is considered sexist today? Some revered person in the feminist community who wrote a book about the feminist ideology? Do a couple of outspoken members of the feminist community write their theories of what _they_ believe is sexist? Are these theories just picked up then by other feminists and touted as consensus truth? I mean, who sets policy and is this policy never to be examined or challenged, and has it evolved over time to the point where certain new “code words” are deemed sexist if used by otherwise well-meaning folks, even other feminists?
Forgive me for not just accepting every new dictum that comes down the line from this or that feminist blogger. Like we tell ourselves in other areas of our life, whether it be politics or religion or anything else: challenge the authority, go to the source, do your homework, decide for yourself what works for you–or doesn’t.
If asking hard questions about what constitutes sexism or a true understanding of feminism and the why and wherefores of its goals, and by what authority we’re supposed to _accept_ such rules of behavior–down to how we must speak and act… If merely asking difficult questions labels one as sexist, then we’re in big trouble.
Sturgeon exhorts us to Ask the next question, but a certain subset of feminism wants to make this a sexist offense and seeks to destroy any earnest questioner by making them out to be enemies and something to be marginalized and shouted down at all costs.
Is this the way it is to be, in of all places the science fiction community, where to rebel against authority is the norm for many among us? No one likes to be told or forced what to do or say, yet a _certain subset_ of the legitimate feminist community tries to squelch serious questions aimed their way by any means at their disposal.
And it’s not right, regardless of how just or noble any cause is, which the basic tenets of feminism are.
John wrote: “I don’t really feel equipped to judge sexism when I haven’t seen evidence first hand.”
But John, when I said the same thing about not personally seeing any sexism first hand at conventions, certain feminist bloggers jumped all over my case, and even you said that maybe it was because I wasn’t looking for it. I caught all kinds of grief when I said it.
And now you turn right around and say the very same thing, that you can’t judge the sexism because you hadn’t seen any first hand experience of it?
I happily offer you this rope so you can climb out of the hole you just dug for yourself. 🙂
And, because there’s no hypocrisy in the radical feminist community at all and they always play fair, I wonder if the same people who gave me the bizness for my assertion will give you the bizness as well. Or if certain offenders–at their sole discretion–will get a pass…
I wouldn’t worry about it, though. You can always nuance and massage what you said and all will be forgiven.
> And now you turn right around and say the very same thing, that you can’t
> judge the sexism because you hadn’t seen any first hand experience of it?
Sorry, Dave. I happen to think there’s a difference between being asked to pass judgment on sexism among people and an entire industry I’m not familiar with, and commenting on sexism that occurred when you and I were doing it.
I realize the difference may escape you. But it doesn’t escape me.
[…] Nathaniel Lee: […]
Please stop using me as your poster child, and get your facts straight.
1) You did not reacue “A Taste of Summer” from the slush pile. John O’Neill asked me if I’d send him a story, and I did.
2) That story was never nominated for a Nebula, or any other award.
(I’m fond and proud of it, but do not give it airs it did not earn,)
— Ellen Klages
I love (what I see as) your more mature attitude toward the genre. There’s a very straight forward reflection of this in the English blog Pornokitsch, which is reviewing all ten of the novels on the Gemmell long list in accordance with ten or so criteria.
The final criterion:
Is it a reactionary piece of shit? As always, if a book is bubbling over with race- or gender-fail, I think we should call it out. This is a simply a matter of the award’s dedication to excellence. I think many of the finalists over the past few years have demonstrated that epic fantasy can be suitably epic and fantastic and successful without pandering to the failmarket.
I LOVE the word failmarket. No pandering to the failmarket… Words to put on the masthead.
Great to see you here. I loved your Tor.com article/speech on “The Scary Ham!”
And, um, y’know, I appreciate you giving me credit for soliciting a story directly from you. I just wish I had the same memory.
To be honest, I have the same memory as Dave… that he gave me “A Taste of Summer,” and confessed it was way outside the guidelines I’d given him, but that he begged me to read it.
In fact, if I remember correctly, you and I didn’t meet until the World Fantasy Convention, at the Black Gate launch party — where you entertained us all with tales of the Tiptree auction at Wiscon. By that time, I think I’d already purchased “A Taste of Summer.”
Sorry if my memory is faulty… those e-mails are long gone, or I would double-check!
Ellen, please accept my apologies. Obviously my memory has done me a severe disservice. Did you send your story to me or John? Did it perhaps make the Nebs prelim list for that year and this is what I was thinking of? I didn’t just make my–obviously wrong–claim up today, but have thought this was the case with your story for years.
To the absolute best of my recollection (and that was what, a good 15 years ago now) I know I read your story because I then discussed it with John due to its decidedly non-heroic fantasy/s&s nature.
Extreme mea culpa and apologies. (It was still a feather in BG’s cap to have published it.)
It was a long time ago, and memories are tricky things.
No, John, we’d not yet met, but you had talked to a friend at a con and said you’d like to see a story from me, and she passed that information on, and I thought I was sending it directly to you.
Perhaps not. Once it left my mailbox, I don’t know what process it went through. I was surprised and pleased when you bought it, though.
I think I had Ellen’s story mixed up with another of BG’s early stories, one that at least made the 2002 Nebula Preliminary ballot: Eileen Cunningham’s “Iron Joan.” Credit where credit is due, and in this case it goes to Eileen Cunningham for her fine short story, one that also came from the slush—but I wouldn’t swear to it. 🙂
The Nebs information on “Iron Joan” can be found here:
Er, make that Elizabeth Gillgan as the author of “Iron Joan.” Shesh, what a day!
Dang it. “Gilligan” and “Sheesh.” Time for a break from the computer I think…
I see I failed to leave an impression on Mr. Truesdale, so allow me to elucidate.
If you ask different women what sexism is, you’ll likely get different answers. Because, y’know, we’re individuals with different opinions and stuff. Though I think there is general consensus in feminism that sexism is essentially this:
1) Man = good, woman = not good. (Phrase originally coined by feminist blogger Sady Doyle.) Feel free to substitute virtually any adjective that can be used to describe personal attributes positively in place of “good” — smart, capable, etc. Further, “man” and “woman” extends to “man stuff” and “woman stuff,” whether that “stuff” has a direct association with women (e.g. childbirth) or a cultural association with women (e.g. romance novels).
2) The privileging of a man’s experience, viewpoint, or authority over a woman’s when there isn’t a defensible, inherently logical reason for it (e.g. the topic is medicine and he’s a pharmacist while she’s an advertising executive).
I don’t think it’s that what constitutes sexism has changed over time (though some words do change meaning of course; language is fluid and dynamic). It’s that the world has changed over time. Thirty or forty years ago, marital rape was still legal in many states. They were fighting different battles, and feminists have to pick them in order to stay sane.
Now, I could take an example of something sexist from a review of Mr. Truesdale’s (there’s at least one other besides the review under discussion), not to excoriate but to illustrate why it is problematic and how it hurts women, but as I wrote earlier, I’m profoundly unmotivated to risk a flame war.
However, as I also wrote earlier, the reviewers in question (as well as many other menfolk and some women, too) would benefit in their understanding from some Feminism 101. I’m linking a source here that I’m not affiliated to in any way. The individual post that I’m linking goes over the definition of sexism and also covers both benevolent sexism and unintentional sexism, and the entire site is a great 101 resource; I learned a lot from it: http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/10/19/sexism-definition/
The last line is appropriate (for my case; MMV certainly):
“In the end, though, the important thing to remember is that sexism is defined by the result, not the intent so when people are called out for having said something sexist, it’s not a comment on their intent or character, but rather on the message that was conveyed.”
Interesting article, Cecily. I don’t know if I’ll remember every detail of it because it gets into the tall grass, definition-wise, and there’s subsets of what constitutes sexism for certain situations, etc.
I did notice that in the Comments section following the article that several of the responders did not agree with some of the assumptions/premises upon which some of the definitions of sexism are based. Which tells me that the discussion is still very fluid and ongoing and what is for the moment a consensus on this or that definition of sexism might very well not be in the future as the discussion evolves and new points are brought up, or new books written on the subject.
I also noted that following a definition of sexism, that in several areas there were caveats, the gist of which was that while what is considered sexism by some is not necessarily so for others. So there’s plenty of wiggle room on the individual level in several of the definitions put forth, and even debate on what constitutes institutionalized sexism (see several of the respondents’ comments).
But I am pleased that you pointed us toward it, and I am glad I read it. There’s some of it I agree with and some I don’t. But it is definitely worth a close look.
First an observation, somewhat tangential to the discussion of sexism. A small press editor of my acquaintance relatively recently updated her guidelines to say she was specifically welcoming diverse fiction. She always had been in her own mind, and her guidelines had never said anything to imply they were UNwelcoming.
And yet, once she added that line, she got, in a matter of months, a greater quantity of fiction from PoC and non-standard cultures than she had got in ALL the YEARS prior to it.
Similarly, It’s easy and nice to say that not being overtly sexist means one is welcoming. That’s not, sadly, how it works for a lot of people.
(I always liked Black Gate. I mostly didn’t submit because I write few short stories, and fewer of those are S&S. But I have been a reader.)
And a point perhaps more on the topic of sexism: if your argument that your behaviours have never actually been sexist depends on debating the exact definition of sexism? The chances are, you’ve crossed the line, intentionally or accidentally, more than once for well over half your audience. This is not a subject where being an edge case is genuinely stretching boundaries, the way edgy slipstream magical realism stretches the boundaries of fantasy. Most often, it’s more of a no true Scotsman fallacy instead.
“We were perceived by some as a market hostile to women”
The association wit Theodore Beale didn’t help
You would have made a fine Jacobin, Mr. O’Neill.
I have a question. What is the overall percentage of male to female writers of S&S or Science Fiction as a whole? To me this is the number that would determine whether or not a publication is sexist in the submissions it accepts. If the overall percentage of male to female writers in S&S is 70% and 30% respectively then this is the ratio that a publication needs to maintain to be fully compliant with non-sexism in it’s submission acceptances.
Are we getting ridiculous yet?
Imagine a reader who grows up on C.L. Moore’s Jirel of Joiry stories, Tolkien right down the the last drop of the Silmarillion, and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies, among other fantastical things. She’s interested in swords, certainly, and sorcery, certainly, but the first book she picks up that looks like S&S turns out to be one of John Norman’s Gor novels. Well, that’s nothing she wants to read, and cover art that looks like the stuff on Gor books becomes a red flag to her for which other books will be hateful, about her and everyone like her.
Later, in college, she hasn’t read any Robert E. Howard yet, but her kindhearted geeky boyfriend persuades her to watch the classic Conan film with that bulky Swiss guy playing the lead. What is good in life, Conan? Yes, it’s funny to hear Schwarzenegger talk about hearing the lamination of the woman in that accent he hasn’t quite ironed out, but later, when our reader holds a volume of Howard in one hand and volume of Le Guin in the other and decides which book to buy, she thinks about what kind of character would regard the lamentation of the woman as a third of what is good in life. So which book does she buy?
She keeps trying to go to conventions, because that’s where her social circle goes, but after the 20th time she gets groped by some stranger and nobody has her back when she protests loudly, she leaves fandom for 15 years, and for most of that time takes refuge in, of all things, modernist poetry. Because after the Silmarillion and a few rounds with H.P. Lovecraft, even the insane Cantos of Ezra Bleeping Pound cannot be daunting.
Fifteen years later, she gets over her unrequited crush on fantasy literature and returns to the sf/f community to see what it’s up to. And what kind of conversation do you suppose she finds there? No girls can be real geeks, because some girls read romance novels.
Right, then. Joss Whedon fandom is looking better and better to our reader. The fact that she’s still curious about Sword and Sorcery at all suggests that her interest is either extraordinarily committed or tragically compulsive.
Does such a reader count, in your view, as a reader of Sword and Sorcery? If this person doesn’t count as a reader of Sword and Sorcery, might sexism have something to do with it? You, the arbiter, might not be sexist, but a whole bunch of other people’s sexism has been in play here.
Suppose, for the sake of argument, that right now, this evening, the overall ratio of male to female writers in S&S is 70% and 30% respectively. Each one of those writers has been living some kind of life, involving some kind of personal experience, in the years leading up to this moment. So has each one of the people who considered being a writer of Sword and Sorcery, but who is now doing or writing something else. Is it ridiculous for an editor to consider how the ratio might have gotten that way?
“I’m not going to judge how other editors run their houses, thanks.”
Sure you are. The second you made a positive assertion & announced that this positive assertion was sexism, you essentially made a statement about how other publishers run there publishing imprints.
An just in case you forgot the objective qualifiers for sexism you made, let me list them for you.
“We welcomed women who submitted… as long as they played by our rules.”
So you only allowed women in if there work matched your sub-genre.
“We launched a heroic fantasy magazine — heavy on the sword & sorcery, thank you very much — and crafted guidelines for what we perceived as a masculine, male-dominated sub-genre,”
You created a property about a specific sub-genre.
“clapped ourselves on the back every time we bought a story from a woman who managed to jump over the bars we set.”
You adequately judged properties on the basis of being within that specific set of criteria, as set up by yourselves, to get only the best example of that genre.
So using your own criteria for what is sexism in the print industry, you must also be calling out every publisher of dime store romance novels.
This would include: Avalon Books, Barbour Publishing, Cerriowen Press,
Champagne Books, Changeling Press,
Dorchester Publications, eHarlequin, Hearts on Fire Books, ImaJinn Books,
Medalion Press, Moonlit Romance,
Mundania Press, New Concepts Publications, Rocky River Romance, Rogue Publications, Sihoutte Books, Silver Lake Publications, Tigress Press, Triskelion Publishing, Venus Press, Vintage Romance Publishing, Whisper Publishing, Wild Horses Press & finally, Wild Rose Press.
After all, they all publish only dime store romance novels, they think they appeal to a mostly female audience, they have a criteria for entry that means authors must write to that specifically female audience: So tell me, given that it falls into all the categories you PERSONALLY announced where sexists, is it sexism? Or are you seeking to pick up the champion title for the holy order of “its only sexism when men do it.”
“I’ve made enough mistakes of my own that I don’t really feel equipped to judge sexism when I haven’t seen evidence first hand.”
Well now you have evidence: I’m telling you romance novel publishers all fall within your given criteria, so stop with the obfuscating & have the backbone to answer clearly: Are romance publishers sexist, given that they fall within all the criteria you personally just labelled as sexism?
Loose Ends Department:
I’d like to put into perspective and clear up something John quoted me as saying. To wit, John copied the following quote, that I “suggested Tempest Bradford needed ‘an emergency bitch-suction operation’ for daring to make accusations of sexism.”
This is an accurate quote. I said it. I daresay I wouldn’t use such language today, but here’s the perspective I think is needed. John had to go back to when I posted that quote something like 7 or 8 years (or close to that). I was responding to someone else’s post who Bradford had been having a run-in with. It should be noted that while John pulls up a quote from long ago, that the person I wrote it about—and several others of whom I term “the usual suspects,” –routinely and to this day are known to be exceedingly foul-mouthed, using the F-word as part of their reportoire, employing its several uses as not only parts of speech but in name-calling toward anyone disagreeing with them. Check it out. Search back the 7 or 8 years like was done to me and follow any of their several blog or Live Journal posts and see for yourself. It’s part of their usual lexicon when confronted with anyone with whom they disagree. In fact, one need not travel back 7 or 8 years and move to the present. One can find instances of this from just the other day in a couple of places.
But I lose it once—some time ago—and it’s dragged up as an example of something one is led to believe I have a long history of, when actually it’s the other way around and it is the person I was referring to then (and those like her now) who say worse on a routine basis, have for years, and no one bats an eye. All I ask is that these things be placed in context and perspective. In politics this sort of thing is done all the time; it’s called the politics of destruction, when someone in a news organization looks for “dirt” on someone.
Going to ignore the inane non sequitur about another genre upthread to address what Sarah said:
Exactly. This process is recursive.
SF/F books written by women get fewer reviews, are less likely to be shelved cover-up in bookstores (or shelved at all), and receive less marketing support from their publishers. And due to the work of bloggers, we now know that women are less likely by far to be published in SF/F mags.
These facts in the aggregate make SF/F a far less welcoming place for women on all levels, both in terms of reading SF/F and writing it. As Sarah points out, even if the ratios on female submissions and publications are exactly equal, there’s a reason that submission by women is so low (if in fact it is).
Since SF/F written by men is getting a disproportionate share of the reviews, accolades, awards, and mentions in SF/F media (blogs, online magazines, etc.), this leads to the perception that SF/F is by and for the menz, when that is far from the case.
This is a systemic problem.
I don’t think that He-Of-The-Unfortunate-Initials or one review or even the 10% or so of the fandom that is overtly sexist is really the issue, or even terribly relevant. And on an individual level, I think it’s getting better. Since consciousness has been raised over the last few years, I’ve seen more and more guys asking for recommendations of books written by women; dudes who have come to the realization that their reading is ridiculously SWM-dominated and actually seeking out diversity. On an anecdotal note, I’ve started conversations about diversity of setting (because medieval Europe gets boring, and there’s a lot more to the world) and they generated a lot of excitement just for the sake of entertainment. I have a blog dedicated (almost) exclusively to women in the genre and most of my readers are men.
I find this encouraging.
But, still — it takes a great many individuals working in concert to affect systemic change.
One example: there’s an online SF/F mag I follow that lists a well-cultivated list of new SF/F releases. Well-cultivated except, that is, that very prominent new releases by women that aren’t urban fantasy or PNR are frequently not on it.
Stuff like that needs to change. And since we have seen that many men are more likely to listen to criticism by a man than a woman, I think issues like this, and the OP’s efforts, are probably the direction that male allies ought to take in order to make things happen.
Yeah, this. As Sarah pointed out, people have experiences. Women see that some SF/F pubs are not interested in female protagonists (has happened), that they are under the impression that men won’t read hard SF written by a woman (has also happened); and may be harassed or called “fake” or any of a number of microaggressions within the fandom. And this is true for other historically marginalized populations as well.
Combating all that takes effort. Merely being satisfied with not being a bigot is not going to change it.
Whoops, I meant to quote this:
–A small press editor of my acquaintance relatively recently updated her guidelines to say she was specifically welcoming diverse fiction. She always had been in her own mind, and her guidelines had never said anything to imply they were UNwelcoming.
And yet, once she added that line, she got, in a matter of months, a greater quantity of fiction from PoC and non-standard cultures than she had got in ALL the YEARS prior to it.
Similarly, It’s easy and nice to say that not being overtly sexist means one is welcoming. That’s not, sadly, how it works for a lot of people.–
Addendum: I’ve heard from some black writer folks I know that they’d had very little to no luck with fantasy they’d written based on folklore and history within the African diaspora. I would imagine that stuff like that gets discouraging enough after a while that people stop trying. Hence the need to seek it out.
Here’s another accurate quote from Truesdale:
“Did you notice anything about the [Philip K. Dick] ballot? About how very vagina-heavy the ballot is? …But to extrapolate from the two books on the overwhelmingly white, pussy-laden PKD ballot that I have read, this year’s contenders are a solid pussy pride of tail-twitchin’ novels.”
Okay, so Truesdale is riffing on an earlier article about the Hugo ballot, and is using some of the author’s phrasing against her. And the comments are old, from a June 2007 F&SF article. (http://www.sfsite.com/fsf/2007/dt0706.htm) Still, they’re just breath-taking in their offensiveness, so much so that I’ve remembered them all these years. Truesdale says he’s never seen sexism in the field, so I have to wonder just what this is.
First, kudos to you for owning up to the “sin of omission.” I have been there and I have done that. Second, more kudos to you for being a class act, as always. Having the pleasure of knowing you in the actual world, and being proud of my association with Black Gate, I applaud the high road you choose to take here. I know you as one of the least sexist men I’ve met and come to know, and I know you champion women writers — the sheer number of talented ladies who belonged to our wonderful little Top Shelf writers’ group still astounds me, and your generosity to them is to be lauded. Great article and discourse. Rock on!
“It’s part of their usual lexicon when confronted with anyone with whom they disagree.”
Mr Truesdale, whether or not a group of people use the ‘f’ word is irrelevant to your motives in calling a woman a bitch. It’s a gendered insult, based on who she *is*. Now I’ve seen a lot of people criticising you, most notably over this:
(which is how I learned of your existence)
And that criticism (and any effing and blinding) has been related to what you’ve *done* (like reviewing a female-centric anthology and demonstrating the need for one by your own attitudes.) The ‘usual suspects’ are an amazingly large, diverse group of people who just happen to find things you’ve done really, really offensive.
May I also suggest that the author of this crapola has no business rules lawyering anyone about the definition of feminism or sexism:
You don’t get it, you refuse to get it even when led gently by the hand by your friends, and you blame everyone else for the fall out from your refusal to get it.
That’s toddler logic. You’re a grown man. Not attractive.
Kudos to Mr O’Neill for calling out a friend and recognising past failure. May the change of heart be permanent.
lampwick – and DTruesdale: Not exactly disagreeing with you, lampwick, but elaborating on why that particular phrase and its ilk were Horrible, and anticipating the obvious defense Truesdale will attempt as to why it’s okay, because it wasn’t his own true opinion of women.
If I read that editorial correctly, then, like Matthew Lane here, you, DTruesdale, state in that article that reversing sexist behaviour to demean men has the exact same effect as demeaning women.
I think there are reasons to do with power ratios why it isn’t as clear cut as you think, but it’s at least a not wholly insane perspective to take.
But that quote is more offensive if you don’t mean it than if you do. if you meant it, you’d be owning your words. I’d feel contempt for you as a human being, but at least I would know where you stand.
So why is NOT meaning it worse?
First: you ignored the power those words have to genuinely hurt even if not genuinely meant. And I mean shaking and ill and triggered hurt, not just “a smile slipped a half-millimetre”. Like a man who would never actually touch a fellow man against his will thinks it’s okay to make a prison-rape joke in front of someone who was sexually assaulted. No attempt was made to cope with potential laceration of the target audience even when the target audience was clearly not just the writer of the original article.
It also reduces any intellectual or intelligent point being made. That you led with offensive stuff without explaining it as a direct role reversal says much about poor judgement and equally poor writing ability, which makes the messenger more dubious; why should I believe anyone who has such bad judgement of the balance between making a point and hurting people willy-nilly?
More, it causes more than a few readers to be unable to actually get deep enough into the article to notice the caveat that it wasn’t your opinion, or the point under discussion. Any sane and decent writer would know that some people would read that opening paragraph, get slapped in the face, and click away – again, shaking and triggered in some cases, NOT just with a few fee-fees out of place – without caring to read enough to learn “Oh, that offensive screed? That was just a little point about reverse sexism.” Those people would never actually know you didn’t mean it, but they would still associate the words with you. And you might wave off those people as too sensitive to get your manly prose style or your point, but. No. Not everyone worth addressing is thick skinned. I know some sensitive highly intelligent people who are far more worth talking to. Driving them away, especially when the cure might have been as simple as an introductory paragraph? Makes the conversation poorer.
It made me SICK to read and I have stomach for a lot of sexist BS. But getting to the point of “By the way, that wasn’t what I really meant” made me SICKER. Because it meant you’d gone and sprayed buckshot in the vicinity of a lot of innocent people – mostly but assuredly not all women – THEN afterwards said, “Duck!”. THEN said, “Now, here’s the reason I fired the gun. It’s because I felt like someone did the same thing to me, and I didn’t like it. Aren’t I clever?” AND THEN told anyone who’d run away after the first firing of the gun and didn’t stay for the lesson, “Oh, and by the way? YOU were all too emotional to be worth talking to.”
That none of those people (Or at absolute most, one) were the ones whom you believed to have fired the gun AT you? seemed irrelevant to you.
You wanted to feel superior to the hypocritical female who was demeaning men. So you hurt a LOT of people who weren’t her. A little more compassion for your target audience, even an introductory paragraph before the full on triggering horror (The equivalent of saying “Duck!” FIRST), would have gone a long way.
John, I’m still waiting for that answer mate.
Are romance publishers sexist, given that they fall within all the criteria you personally just labelled as sexism?
An if they aren’t sexist when there editors do there job of being discerning about what they publish (note I said what & not whom), then why is it sexist when Dave did it?
I’m ready for your well written, intellectual answer whenever you care to issue one.
Is there a reason you’re grinding this axe so hard?
Lampwick (and Lenora),
You just don’t get it, do you. That F&SF column (the first part anyway) was _supposed_ to be offensive. A woman blogger was complaining about the number of males on that year’s Hugo ballot. In doing so she likened men to dogs. And used the F-word.
All I did was use pretty much (I had to change some of the background details because I was talking about the PKD ballot, not the Hugo) her exact wordage and switch it around to say the PKD ballot that year was too woman-author laden, and I likened them to cats because she used dogs. And I used the F-word because that’s what the original, offensive words were in her column. I then linked back to her original column to show that it wasn’t _me_ using the F-word and likening the male authors on the Hugo ballot to dogs, but that I wanted to show people how offensive (sexist) it could be by turning it around and getting their reaction.
I even made a definitive, clarifying statement to the effect that those were not my original words, but the blogger’s, and that I would never have written them myself, and that it was _meant_ to show how what she said sounded on the other foot–when I’d turned the tables on her own words. I made a specific point that if I had _meant_ what I wrote then I could be justly chastised, but that I would never had written them on my own.
But I guess it’s okay for a female to use the f-word and liken male authors on the Hugo ballot to dogs, but when I did it in reverse to show how it sounded, then everyone jumps on me. That’s hypocrisy and a double standard.
The more folks got offended and raged against me for pointing out the double standard at work, the more it made my point–because when I reversed the foul language and animal analogy, it was meant to arouse an emotional reaction. Just like hers did.
I did nothing but point out a double standard in a manner designed to do so in spades. And I’m called the sexist. The system has been rigged so that if an injustice is committed by a female they have an easy out by the way the rules are rigged (or overlooked), and guys are always somehow to blame.
Well, I’m not buying it.
A lot of people who read my parody/reversal thought it was funnier than heck, and wrote to tell me so–including several editors of magazines of lesser or greater visibility and/or circulation.
Every time someone writes how they were taken aback or made angry or outraged at that piece just convinces me I did what I set out to do even better than I expected.
I don’t like double standards and so I set out to expose one. That’s not sexist by any definition I know of, and if someone says it is then that proves to me yet again just how much the game is rigged against anyone who says or does or writes anything a few feminists don’t like. And I’m not buying what _they’re_ selling either.
And Lenora? Your unbelievable over-reaction to my reversal piece was way overplayed. For ghod’s sake, if something like that makes you physically ill and damages your tender psyche to the point of no repair, then you’re in for a difficult time in this life. I get a warm spot in my heart for some of you special little snowflakes, I really do.
But likening what I said to shooting a gun over someone’s head? That’s a bit much, don’t you think? The perpetually offended routine blown out of all proportion to what was actually said reveals quite a lot. Your post is so far over the top it’s almost laughable…but if that’s the way you want to play it then fine.
Again, the initial issue has now been taken off the front burner by distracting from it with long-ago dealt with stuff. Distract, character assassination, politics of destruction. Same old, same old.
And yet not a word about the women who demean men and swear like sailors routinely. You’ll note that in each instance where I am accused of anything, my words have been in _reaction_ to something else. I write about hypocrisy and double standards, I write about Political Correctness gone amuck in the Bulletin, where now certain common, everyday words can’t be used because someone doesn’t like them.
And yet the one who cries foul is the one held to blame. Something is not quite right here.