Old Men Yelling At Clouds: SFWA Sexism


June 3, 2013 by Kira Lyn Blue

This! I hereby proclaim Shattersnipe the Champion of Ranters. And she does it so articulately, too. I’m in awe. I’m calling her in next time I want to make a feminist argument.

shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows

Warning: some talk of rape, explosive ranting.

As an Australian who now lives in the UK, I’m used to hearing about publications, conventions, writers’ groups, book giveaways and other SFFnal coolness that I can’t actually buy, attend or participate in on account of their being located in or otherwise restricted to the US of A, a country I tend to envisage as one of those freaky undersea fish with a luminous, prey-attracting barbel that lures you in with the promise of democracy and culture and New York, and then savages you with its monstrous teeth, fascism, bigotry, and New York (a city I’ve never visited, but which I nonetheless feel qualified to make jokes about Because Television). What this means in a practical, everyday sense is that, even when certain American things become accessible online in whatever manner, I tend to forget that fact, and so place them in the…

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8 thoughts on “Old Men Yelling At Clouds: SFWA Sexism

  1. MishaBurnett says:

    I’m not trying to start a fight–honestly I’m not. However, I really don’t understand why unrealistic fantasy depictions of women offend real live women. I’m not saying that it shouldn’t offend you, I really would like to understand why it is offensive.

    Now, I do understand that the SFWA is an old boys network and always has been, and I completely understand the outrage at some of the remarks that have been made in defense of the cover. I can see how this particular incident touched off a powderkeg that has been brewing for decades. So you’ll get no argument from me about the basic content of the article you’ve reposted here or the articles that it links to.

    However, I am curious about why that particular cover was the flashpoint. Can you explain why it was offensive to women? I really do want to know, and I promise I’ll listen.

    • Yes! Hang on, let me grab my soap box and we’ll get started!

      Ok, all set. Ready?

      The image does not offend me.

      Someone’s probably going to take away my Liberated Woman card for admitting this, but I am not violently opposed to warrior women in skimpy “armor”. I may have mentioned that I’m a gamer and you won’t be hearing me complain about gear for female characters being cut provocatively. In fact, as soon as WoW introduced item transmogrification, I went hunting for “tankinis” for my characters. Yes, I know, how shameful of me.

      I actually went digging for more information on this topic after first seeing on Tracy Embor’s blog because I didn’t understand the hullabaloo. I mean, I see the argument for how it objectifies women, and if I was to “hero-up” and go fight the good fight in real life, you bet your ass I’d be fully armored. I get the arguments, but generally speaking I tend to think of it all as just fantasy.

      Part of the problem is that there just aren’t many non-provocatively dressed and posed heroines on the covers of sci-fi and fantasy. That specific cover isn’t demonic or anything, only what it represents as a larger issue within the industry.

      I think where Reznick and Malzberg got themselves into trouble was that they not only completely dismissed any concerns or objections over the cover, but they also then went on spouting sexist, racist, and misogynistic BS in a lame attempt to justify the cover.

      How hard would it have been for them to say, “You’re right. We hear you. We should totally start making some more realistic portrayals of female warriors and giving them some armor that might actually deflect a blow.”?

      But they didn’t. And that’s the problem.

      • MishaBurnett says:

        Thank you, I do understand that. I do think that, in general, cover depictions in fantasy and science fiction tend to be unreasonably attractive (I always wonder how vampires blow dry those ebon locks without being able to see themselves in a mirror) but I can see that showing female characters in particularly impractical gear makes them seem less effectual. (The barbarian in a loincloth look at least allows for freedom of movement.)

        Put in that perspective, I do see how that particular cover raised concerns about how women were seen in science fiction in general, and, as I said, some of the responses from the old boys network were quite offensive.

      • It’s a good question because what you asked is exactly what the good ol’ boys never bothered to. They were not open to other opinions or other depictions of female warriors.

        And I’ve always assumed vampires have minions to do their hair for them 🙂

  2. cptam1947 says:

    I, as a guy, totally agree with her. I am a sexist moron also, but I am getting better. All of my female characters are equal to their male counterparts. After reading this article I feel bad, that men, as a sex, are still strapped to the table of sexism and feel the need to open their mouths and try to defend an attitude that should be extinguished with an ocean of water. It doesn’t matter what happened then, then was yesterday, move on and grow as a person, mature as individual, and realize that it is wrong. I am forced to see the man (I can’t recall his name) as a dork. He wrote about the future, saw the turmoil of racism, sexism, bigotry, and a host of other failings and decided that we, as a people, would not eventually rise above it all. Someone should reach out and smack him with the hardest phallic symbol available.

  3. katemsparkes says:

    Brilliant. Thank you for sharing! I often know when things piss me off, but I’m never able to articulate WHY quite this well. Reading this made me go “HELLS YES!” several times.

    • katemsparkes says:

      (Though if the term “idiot” is ableist, my writing is just a powder keg waiting to explode. I have a character who calls herself an idiot or moron several times, and I use the word bastard, which might offend children of unmarried parents…)

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