Further Thoughts

Thinking about this gender debate it the shower this morning, it occurred to me that what irritates me about the whole process is how effectively it is derailed. First of all some women make what they hope is a reasoned argument, backed by facts, with suggestions for how we can move forward. Then a bunch of men spot the discussion and think, “ooh, a fight, let’s pile in!” They get aggressive, they get personal, and they try to wind people up. Finally the people who get targeted by these attacks fight back, complain about how unfair this all is, but put the blame on the issue, not on the way it has been distorted.

I’m sure this has all been said by Joanna Russ.

But there is always hope, and in response to all those people complaining about positive discrimination, quotas and the like I offer this article from today’s Observer. It is about something called the 30% Club, which seeks to significantly improve the proportion of women serving on the boards of major UK companies. It is backed by, amongst other people, the (male) bosses of Centrica (energy company), the Royal Bank of Scotland, John Lewis (major retailer) and Ernst & Young; and by the (Tory) government.

If they can do this, and recognize it is valuable to them to do so, can we not we manage something similar?

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10 Responses to Further Thoughts

  1. Martha says:

    Since this latest round of discussions started, I’ve been analysing my own book buying habits and must admit – with a degree of shame – that I have been as guilty as any man in the titles I select.

    I could raise the argument in my defence that I wasn’t aware of many of the interesting women writing in the field. BUT, since the start of these posts and meeting some of the authors at EUROCON, that flew out the window.

    I’m taking the pledge. Henceforth, half or more of my quarterly book order will be women writers. I’ve been making a list (checking it twice?) and now have: Lauren Beukes, Tricia Sullivan, the redoubtable Elizabeth, Amanda Downum, N.K. Jemison and that’s just for starters. Further suggestions welcome.

  2. I feel much the same. I seem to have missed the bunfight (not a regular SF Signal reader or checker-upper) but suddenly there are all these posts around saying things like “I don’t agree with attacking men” and “he’s a nice guy” and “let’s not talk quotas, people.”

    And I’m going “whuh? Who’s suggesting what now?”

    The thing that has most depressed me has been the number of people saying that there aren’t that many female SF writers anyway, so a minute percentage in anthologies is perfectly acceptable. It feels at times like I am in a completely different conversation/world to… well, a lot of other people, let’s put it that way.

    • Martha says:

      As a survivor of the Civil Rights Movement of the 60′s I think I can say that quotas judiciously applied have their place. Moreover, in this case the suggested quotas are also voluntary.

      Since we ‘now’ know there are strong interesting women scifi and fantasy writers out – what fun I / we are going to have discovering and/or getting to know them better.

  3. In undergrad (10 + years ago!), I remember attending talk about feminism by a Dean of Humanities. She showed us a newspaper article that declared: “Women break through the glass ceiling” — the reporter interviewed 2 women CEOs and took their existence as proof that feminism had won and that women now had equality.

    What followed from that opening was over an hour of charts and stats that showed just how little progress women have made in traditionally male work places (from lack of positions for women to discriminatory pay).

    The Dean argues that we live in an era where the tactic against feminist politics has changed … instead of ignoring the issue of inequity, those unwilling to give up positions of socio-economic power instead declare that feminists have won. It is time for them to stop fighting for equal rights, be quiet, and enjoy their successes (as dictated to them).

    I think that a similar argument is getting played out in this latest round of debate about gender in SF. People who like the status quo — an SF industry which favours men writers/fans — point out the women that do write SF, name a few examples, and then want the conversation to end.

    I guess my whole point is this: Whenever feminist debates get derailed, it usually means that they are hitting the soft spots of people who don’t want change (or don’t like thinking that they are part of a system that supports inequality). The solution the Dean offered: keep talking, keep writing, keep being “loud feminists.” I for one, hope to see this debate continue …

    • Martha says:

      I agree totally. You said it better than I.
      Let’s all keep talking………….

    • This is absolutely true. And while it was tucked into brackets, I think it’s very important to note there are many people who don’t want to admit they are part of a system that supports inequality. When I first started talking (loudly) about women and science fiction and the inequalities, I found some serious opposition from friends who were male, highly educated, lefty, whom I would have thought would be allies. After hitting my head against several brick walls I figured out two things:

      1) because they themselves would never dream of discriminating against a woman, the thought that this was still a thing in the world was genuinely baffling to them

      2) they honestly thought that when I or others complained at institutionalised or invisible sexism, we were attacking/accusing them as part of that mass of ‘all men’ and were not used to examining their own privilege.

      Often the people doing the derailing are not men at all, but women who don’t want to be labelled as angry feminists, or associated with them, and VERY often women who don’t want to be seen to benefit professionally from a feminist campaign, despite the fact that institutionalised sexism may still be working against them.

      Sadly it’s even harder to argue with people who mean well but don’t believe you that there’s a problem, than the unapologetic sexists. The latter can be written off (unless they’re in a direct position of power over you) but it’s easy to get in a loop with the former of explaining and explaining and EXPLAINING in the hope that they will finally get it.

      Sometimes they do. But it’s not always worth it to the people who have spent months/years /decades of their life patiently pointing out what others will not see.

      Also this goes some way to explaining how, when I meet a male ally who gets the whole thing, or discover a new one among my friends, I tend to collapse into a puddle of dazed gratitude.

      • Cheryl says:

        It’s like trying to argue evolution, or cl*m*t* ch*ng*. No amount of evidence is ever enough, especially when they have a personal anecdote that trumps it.

        And sadly the “nit-pick basic assumptions” tactic has become a very popular way for people to score points in online debate, so lots of people know how to use it.

    • Cheryl says:

      I know I said thank you on Twitter, but I wanted to do so again. The official hashtag, BTW, is #ShoutyFeminist.