What To Do About Sexism In Our Official Publications

[Full disclosure – I am a member of SFWA and have written articles for the SFWA Bulletin. In fact, I had an article in the issue between the two controversial issues.  I also personally know several of the people involved in this.]

[EDIT:  There is an official statement and task force at announced at https://www.sfwa.org/2013/06/sfwa-bulletin-task-force-announced/ ]

Just like the last controversy concerning the SFWA Bulletin, I started hearing about it while my copy is in my PO Box with a good thunderstorm between me and it.  If you want a quick summing up of what’s going on, check out these two articles: Dear SFWA and Dear SFWA Writers: Let’s Talk About Censorship and Bullying.

My stance – and yes, this is the stance of Alliteration Ink as well – is the same as it was last time:

We – the guys who have perpetuated it for so long – must join voices with the women who love the same things we do. We must all say in one voice, repeatedly, that sexism is not okay any more.

When sexist bullshit raises its head, we have to ensure that there’s a clear message that it’s not okay in our community. That apologies are matched with actions, instead of justified with “reasons”.

There is only one available course of action:

We must clearly, consistently ensure that until those apologies are said, until those sexist behaviors change, that people behaving in sexist ways aren’t welcome in our fandom.

This isn’t something that requires balance.  This is not something that the racists and sexists and homophobes get to “rebut”.  This is not a matter of opinion or politics.  This is not a matter to be negotiated or mitigated or compromised upon.  This is a matter of being professional and treating all sf/f authors professionally.

This said, I’m glad to see the outgoing SFWA president – John Scalzi – quickly taking responsibility.

Additionally, I have confidence that the incoming president will continue promoting the organization as representative of all sf/f writers, and treating them professionally.  And my view of the organization as a whole is still mirrored by Damien Walter:

But for the actors in this particular controversy… well, I’ll sum up my feelings there by saying that I’m still not interested in getting involved with the financial fallout from being a public bigot.

Yes, there is a lot of sexism and racism and bigotry embedded in our culture.  Those of us raised in it – especially those of us with privilege – have a blind spot to it.   We must invite others to call us on our blind spots. We must listen when they do so. We must make sure we are not being creeps.  We must stop being defensive and mocking of those who criticize us.

And we don’t get to make the same damn mistakes over and over and over again.

How to make it right?

There needs to be a simple, public apology (good guide here) from all directly involved actors.  While it’s good (and necessary) that the leadership of SFWA is taking responsibility, I’m actually more interested in the actors involved apologizing.  Not as scapegoats or as patsies, but because I know them.  Because I know I’ve screwed up – massively – in the past, and worked to redeem myself.  Because I want them to see where they erred, and to work to improve themselves for the better.

Because the alternative is choosing between people who are choosing to be bigots and alienating more people from the fandom I love.

And that’s a damn easy choice to make.