The month of June was a rough one for the Science Fiction Writers of America. The organization came under severe criticism for sexism, as the past three issues of its bulletin had included content that was, essentially, sexist. I debated about whether I should write about this myself. Run a search for “SFWA sexism” and you’ll find a plethora of articles and blog posts covering the topic: decrying the sexism; claiming that all of the decrying is “censorship” (which, in the last issue of the bulletin, was a claim of the authors who’d written one of the offensive pieces); begging people to please not hate the SFWA, because the articles in the bulletin boil down to the opinions of a minority of the membership and a total lack of discernment on the part of the bulletin’s editor (who has now resigned from the post). Whichever view someone sides with or wishes to debate, it’s already there. Given the plethora of posts, I wasn’t sure it was necessary for me to add to the din. But I thought posting would help me sort out my own opinions* and hey, it’s my blog**.
So: I’m not a member of SFWA. I don’t have direct access to the bulletins, but some digging on the Interwebs will reveal scans or PDFs of the articles in question. I’ve read enough of them to know that, even though I don’t consider myself a feminist per se***, some of the stuff written is pretty odious. Such as claiming that Barbie has been a mainstay in the toy industry because she expresses “quiet dignity, as a woman should” or something to that extent.
Now. I admit that I often express “quiet dignity” myself. But it is not because I feel that a woman must always express “quiet dignity.” It is because I am an introvert. It’s because, for me, being loud and “on” all the time is mentally and physically draining, and doing it for too long really could result in a breakdown of my mental or physical health. So yes, I’m quiet, and I like my quietness to have an air of dignity rather than crippling shyness.†
(Plus, it is just stupid to use Barbie as a role model for ideal woman- or femalehood, for all the reasons that countless others have pointed out over the years: her lack of realistic dimensions [12-inch waist, anyone?]; that Barbie seems to always require “stuff”; etc. etc.)
Anyway, I’d always kinda figured that if (when, rather, if I adhere to the power of positive thought) I became eligible for SFWA membership, I’d join. Some members, however, have left the organization as a result of this fiasco, while others who’d thought they’d want to join one day no longer wish to do so.
My thinking boils down to: Alas, jerkbags still exist in the world. Unfortunately, they probably always will. Statistics dictates that because there are still jerkbags in the world, some of them will creep into any organization of a certain size. The question, I think, is whether the jerkbags have the run of said organization. From my outsider standp0int, they don’t of the SFWA. So upon becoming eligible, I’d probably still join, at least with the SFWA as it is now. Because there are plenty of people saying “Look, these people are idiots and/or jerkbags. Please believe that the majority of us are not,” and from what I can see of the SFWA’s leadership, it’s made up of enough not-jerkbags that I can believe things will change for the better and they will try to avoid future jerkbaggery. That works for me.
Lastly, there is also the consideration of whether one can expect to effect change by one’s absence. Maybe. Maybe some people will think, “Huh. That person left because of XYZ (or me). Maybe I ought to change XYZ (or myself) somehow.”
Or maybe those people won’t care that you’re gone. Maybe they’ll just be happy that you went away so that they don’t have to think about their behavior anymore, because you’re not there to call them on it, and they can pretend it’s all fine. Sometimes, presence is required for change.††
*I have a maelstrom of related thoughts swirling about my head, so depending on whether I can get this articulate enough, I might do a mini series, of sorts.
**And to be blatantly honest, not many people will see this anyway.
***I’m more on the level where I recognize that much of history has misogynistic underpinnings or outright, um, overpinnings, and that yes, even in first world countries inequalities still exist, but feminism isn’t really a cause of mine.
†There is a difference. I highly recommend Susan Cain’s Quiet for both introverts and extroverts. It’s an insightful look at why introverts are actually pretty cool and should be running the world–or, at least might be better suited for running businesses.
††I hope this caveat isn’t needed, but my hypothetical situations do not relate to abuse of any sort. In no way am I saying that anyone should consider staying in an abusive situation. Safety first. I mean that.