Sunday, July 6, 2008

Men and Women in SF

Would someone on "Ambling" like to look at this discussion on SFSignal, and give me his or her impression? I am discouraged that this kind of discussion is still happening 30 or 40 years after the Second Wave of Feminism emerged.

One thing that did interest me about the discussion and the associated discussion about the Eclipse 2 anthology is my sudden realization that I am rarely asked to submit to by invitation only anthologies. I really think my work is competent enough, so I should be asked occasionally.

And why did my link turn out gray rather than blue? I have never managed to do this before.


Josh said...

Still blue on my end: I think it's blue when it's fresh and gray when the user's been to the URL it connects to.

Eileen Gunn said...

Eleanor, I did read the discussion and I think you should be of good cheer. Let Tempest (and others) handle it. It makes people our age depressed to revisit this issue, but there're lots of lively, smart younger women who can deal with it.

In addition, I have this to offer:


Timmi Duchamp said...

Eleanor, I don't think this "discussion" is a cause for discouragement. (I'm presuming you realize that this is an on-going dispute and not simply a response to the Eclipse contretemps.) Although this struggle calls to mind old battles, I think the younger generations of women writing f/sf are making the old argument on new, arguably radical terms. From the time of the backlash against feminist sf in the 1980s, because our numbers were so small (relative to the subtly sexist norm governing the genre, I mean), we expected that stories that didn't fall within the comfort zone of that norm would not get published. (Sometimes they did get published, but the likelihood of their getting published was low enough to ensure that women interested in being published tended to avoid writing many of those kinds of stories. & let us admit here that Ursula K. Le Guin was an exception.)

Now the situation has changed in several respects. First, the proportion of male:female writers has altered significantly. Second, there are a number of new publications (some of them web-based) publishing the kinds of stories that don't suit the (subtly) sexist norm, which is having the effect of changing women's perceptions of what kinds of stories are interesting & legitimate. & third, and perhaps most important, the notion of gender- and race-fairness has been an accepted social norm from birth for the younger generations of women writers. The result? They don't buy the terms on which women writers have from the mid-1980s until now been allowed to participate.

My own response to the frustration they are feeling, of course, was to start Aqueduct. It seemed to me that the growing conservatism of the genre made my work just about unpublishable, & I worried that others, bending themselves to the marketplace as most writers find it necessary to do, would stop writing the kind of work I consider vital.

I might be wrong, of course, that that is what this on-going dispute is about. But I think it's certainly worth thinking about in terms of what has changed over the last thirty years.

Liz Henry said...

Eileen, when you say "Let Tempest (and others) handle it. It makes people our age depressed to revisit this issue, but there're lots of lively, smart younger women who can deal with it."

I have to disagree! Don't let the smart younger women go it alone and please be there as older women in their support. I can't tell you how many times the very women I look up to, whose careers seem to be where I want to be going, email me or talk privately to say "Glad you said that and challenged that messed up situation, I couldn't because it would risk my career" or "I didn't because I was too exhausted, and thanks for saying it so that now I don't have to." That just means that whoever is talking is isolated and vulnerable. And will burn out all the more quickly.

On one level the private expressions of support were nice to hear but on the other hand, they'd make me angry that I was expected to bear all the weight of activism and speaking out in public.

Nancy Jane Moore said...

I must say that the level of discussion is much higher than in past years. People seem to be less defensive and more reflective -- acknowledging the problem and looking for ways to move forward (not just move on). I'd be pleased if we had something approaching this level of quality in our nationwide discussion on gender, as opposed to the "he wasn't really insulting her when he called her a ball breaker," which is the one we seem to be having.
I will once again mention Anna Fels's excellent book, Necessary Dreams, which I reviewed for Broad Universe's Broadsheet several years ago. One thing she said that really stuck with me: "The number, speed, and magnitude of changes in women's lives that have occurred over the last century are without historical precedent: women's life spans nearly doubled; birth control was discovered; women's legal, political, and educational rights were all won." That's not a long period of time for making changes; we must expect to do more to keep these changes. (I note that there's still a lot of fiction assuming the backlash against women succeeds, for example.)
One thing I've noticed here in the US: once we fix the most blatant problems of discrimination or other unfairness, the public discussion tends to assume everything is taken care of and there's nothing more to discuss. That's not true of either race or gender discrimination, either in SF or the larger society. There's more work to do.

Eileen Gunn said...

Liz, your point is well taken, and I am not telling older feminists to bow out, the young folks will handle it.

However, the Internet is the Augean stables of old ideas, and I really don't think everyone needs to wield a broom in every argument.

Plus, in that particular argument, I smell a troll or two. Someone is wrong on the Internet, and I can live with that.