• Politics,  SFFragette

    Good Guys & Responding to Womens’ Sexual Harassment

    A friend of mine over on Facebook posted link to this article, Why Women Smile At Men Who Sexually Harass Us, which is a good article full of things that are tiresomely familiar to virtually all women and apparently continue to be surprising to many, perhaps most, men.

    I think it’s a good article for men to read, because what prompted her writing it was how the author’s boyfriend, who is, by her estimation, one of the good guys, responded not only to her being harassed, but to her *reaction* to being harassed.

    Here’s the thing. There are very few men of my acquaintance that I wouldn’t consider to be among the good guys. Men who would never dream of behaving in the ways described in this (or so very, very many other) articles, who find it appalling that anyone *would* behave in the way described. And that’s good. That’s great. That’s wonderful.

    It’s also amazing how very easily they–these good guys, these men who are absolutely trying to Do Right–miss the mark in how to react when this kind of thing happens to a woman they’re with, or even when they hear about it happening.

    Women respond the way we do because we’ve learned, whether consciously or not, what to do to ensure the most positive outcome for ourselves when we find ourselves in these kinds of situations, and honestly, women aren’t kidding when that #YesAllWoman hashtag trends. We have *all* found ourselves in a position of being harassed, and smiling uncomfortably and trying to ignore it and being polite when we’d rather scream or kick or run but there’s no one to hear (or listen) or help fight back (because we’re mostly smaller and mostly aren’t going to win a physical altercation) or anywhere to run to.

    I came across this quote a few days ago and I think it’s hugely relevant to what I’m about to say here. It’s talking about cat-calling, specifically, but you ought to be able to see how it applies more broadly:


    Because what gets me, and what gets me every time, is how enraged and how immediately prone to violent threats so very many men* become when shit like this happens. How they react by escalating, or thinking women should escalate. How THEY wouldn’t respond with a tight smile (except that’s not true, because almost all the time when we’re confronted with racist or sexist or homophobic or misogynistic behaviour that’s exactly what we *all* do), THEY would confront the guy–and how in that situation they sometimes do.

    First off, that’s looking at the situation from the male point of view. It’s making it about the male friend’s (completely happenstance, because he’s not always going to be there) position in the scenario, and right there, that stops being helpful, even when a man is really, really trying to be one of the good guys.

    But second, and more relevantly to what I’m coming at here, is that if men want to be any actual use in that kind of situation, they need to stay calm instead of getting snarly and confrontational. They need to say “this isn’t okay” without bringing on the aggression themselves. Yelling, threatening, puffing up, all of that is absolutely no use, because then you know what the woman who is being harassed has to deal with?

    Two men who are behaving like shitheels. One of them is her harasser and one of them is nominally her friend but who is in that moment making the situation worse for her. Because now somebody is Trying To Defend Her, but doing so in a way that could in fact potentially bring on violence, and so instead of the tension of politely ignoring the first jackass, she’s now trying to defuse and manage a situation that’s been magnified, which is what she was trying to avoid in the first place.

    Honestly, going silent is more helpful in the immediate than getting confrontational, because what people who act like this are *looking* for is a reaction. But in the long term, and I’m not just talking about street harassment but about general sexist(racist/homophobic/misogynistic) commentary, *by far* the most useful thing men (in particular men, because broadly speaking men listen to other men more than they listen to women) can do is say, “That’s not cool, why would you say something like that, I can’t stand here and listen to you talk that way about somebody,” in as casual a manner as possible, and do it every single time. Not when there’s something big at stake, but when it nominally doesn’t matter.

    It’s *incredibly* difficult. It’s so. very. hard. We’re trained not to make a fuss. Women are trained even more than men, but generally we’re all socially conditioned to keep conflict to a minimum and let it blow over while we maybe exchange uncomfortable looks, but that will never. ever. change. anything.

    Years and years ago a friend of mine, who is generally an extremely good person but came from a culture where this was considered okay, used ‘gay’ as a slur. I called him out on it. Told him that wasn’t appropriate and I’d thank him not to use that term again my house or my hearing. We were both, frankly, mortified by me saying it. But a couple weeks later he said to me, “Ever since you said that to me I’ve had to think about EVERYTHING I say,” and that’s the point.

    And that was with somebody who was a good guy. He was able to hear it from a woman and respond appropriately. Huge numbers of men can’t or won’t heed that kind of commentary from a woman, which is why we need men to say it too, all the damned time, in a calm and reasonable manner, until it stops being necessary. Which isn’t going to happen in our lifetimes, but it won’t happen in *anybody’s* lifetime if we just let casual sexism(etc) go because it’s more comfortable to not speak up in a calm, rational way.

    I’m not saying anything new here. I don’t know that I’ve got enough reach for it to get out of my echo chamber. But it’s a thing that seemed important in the wake of reading the linked article, and if it makes anybody take a deep breath and reconsider whether they’re about to be helpful or not, it’s certainly worth posting.

    I swear to God if I get one “not all men” on this I will drop an anvil on you.

  • CEMurphy

    fan fiction

    I should not even post this, because it is a shitstorm in the making, but OMG.

    Sharon Lee/ of Sharon Lee & Steve Miller is doing an open Q&A, and posts a response to a question about fan fiction over here.

    Fan fiction is an incredibly touchy topic, and I thought Sharon responded with an enormous amount of grace and intelligence in her explanation of why she doesn’t like or support fan fiction of their universe.

    I should not, of course, have read the trackback links on the blog entry.

    One heavily weighted version of those responses is “I won’t read anything by writers who don’t condone fanfic of their universes,” which I think is stupid, but okay, that’s the reader’s decision, fine.

    The other emphatic response is “The authors of these works have no right to tell me I can’t write fic in their universe,” with bonus “what is their fear, that someone will DO IT BETTER?”

    Let me come right out and say that this is bullshit.

    Look, I have written more than my share of fic in the day. I freaking *love* playing in somebody else’s universe. I have written more words of X-Men fic than comprise the entire 11 book Walker Papers series. I wrote an entire Highlander novel, which, while intended at the time for publication, has been essentially relegated to fan fiction, and has been posted online as such.

    And know what? If the owners of those properties hit me with a cease and desist? That would absolfuckinglutely be within their rights.

    Would I think they were being poor sports? Yeah, probably, especially with Highlander, which is a moribund property right now. If it was something like the Liaden Universe®, which Miller & Lee are actively pursuing and make their living from? I might still think they were poor sports, but I would totally feel it was their right to be poor sports about it.

    And, y’know, nobody in the goddamned world can stop somebody from writing fan fic, but a fic writer does not then have to post it on the internet. Back in the day, of course, people wrote fic and snailmailed copies of it to each other, which got them an audience; today you post it and anybody can access it. This is magnitudes of difference in scale, and yeah, frankly, I think it’s relevant. If you want an audience for your stories that badly, write something original instead of in a universe the authors don’t want fic written in.

    The argument that nobody’s making a profit from it? Arguable, because on fic sites there are advertisers who do make a profit, so I don’t know where to come down on that line. But presumably the fic author isn’t making money and the original author isn’t technically losing any, the argument goes who does it hurt? Well, perhaps nobody, but not hurting still doesn’t actually make it okay for people to post stories in a universe the authors have specifically asked them not to.

    So what do I personally feel about fic? Well, look, I flipped out so gleefully over Faith Hunter‘s Jane Yellowrock that I wrote a fic of her world WITH MY OWN CHARACTER IN IT and sent it to her. And then we wrote an entire novella, proudly proclaimed as “fan fiction by the authors themselves”, and put it up for sale. Because we are the owners of those copyrights, and we’re allowed to play and profit in those worlds for that reason.

    Back before URBAN SHAMAN was released, I admit I thought I was totally down with fic. Then URBAN SHAMAN came out and within weeks somebody asked if they could write a fic about (spoiler) Joanne’s son. I was like, DUDE. THAT’S BOOK EIGHT. BOOK ONE JUST FREAKING CAME OUT. GIVE ME A CHANCE!

    The truth is, I don’t really care if people write, or even post, fic about my books. I don’t know if they have. Let me also emphasize this: I do not want to know if they have. If they love the worlds enough to write fic, I’m delighted. Am I afraid they’ll do better than I will? Not even vaguely. Am I afraid they’ll fuck up the characters beyond redemption? Eh, not really, because at the end of the day it’s a bit like Raymond Chandler said about movies: my words, my books, are still safe on the shelves. From my perspective, fic writers are not going to change that.

    But ultimately, we are talking about intellectual properties, about the way authors make a living, and about their right to exercise their discretion regarding that intellectual property and their income in the way they choose. I say that it is bullshit for fic writers to claim that a writer does not have the right to say “This is not okay,” about fan fiction. The arrogance is appalling, and I can only conclude–hope, assume–that people who take that stance are very young indeed, and that they might someday grow up to be people who not only love an author’s work, but respect that author’s right to create boundaries around that work.

  • Comics,  Fandom,  Movies

    refrigerators, with spoilers

    Friend of mine over on Twitter accidentally set me off on Women In Refrigerators by asking what it was about Rachel’s death in The Dark Knight that upset me so much. It’s that they fucking killed her. She’s the only woman in the first two movies and they fucking killed her for the angst of the hero(es). I’m the only person on earth who liked Katie Holmes’s Rachel more than Maggie Gyllenhaal’s, and I was still so pissed and upset over it that I can’t watch the movie again, despite Heath Ledger’s stunning performance as the Joker, which I would like to be able to watch again, thank you very fucking much.

    Anyway, I was trying to summarize, which isn’t easy on Twitter, so I sent him to read the Game of Shadows response I wrote, and I realized as I was re-reading it that I was wrong: I’m not going to see the third Sherlock film. Not unless it’s made absofuckinglutely clear in the trailers that Irene Adler is back.

    I don’t know exactly when that changed, but probably somewhere around the time when I determined I wasn’t going to go see a JLA movie if they didn’t get a Wonder Woman film off the ground first. I guess I’ve reached some kind of saturation point. :p

    (Oh yeah, go vote for Last Days!)

  • the essential kit
    Comics,  Crowdfunding

    Herein lies a rant.

    Look, I don’t know why it is that I get bent out of shape more easily over injustices in comicbookland than in sffland, but I pretty much do. I’ve certainly identified myself as a SFF reader longer (although by only half a decade or so, probably), but somehow comics tend to hit me right in the outrage.

    Here is today’s link hitting me in the outrage. The short version is that it’s Mark Millar (whom I have met and who is *insanely* charming in person), Todd McFarlane, Len Wein (the dude who created Wolverine) and Gerry Conway (the dude who killed Gwen Stacy) say “comics are a boys’ club and if women are objectified, hey, we only follow society, we don’t break new ground, it’s always been this way.”

    In a fit of anger I snarled “Wow. Dear Mainstream Comics Industry*: F*ck you. Now all I want to do is launch a female-led superhero comics line,” on Twitter, which inevitably got a washload of supportive tweets in response.

    Look. I have *thought* about this. I have thought and thought and *thought* about it, and honestly, I genuinely believe I’ve got the skill set to do it. But it would be to the exclusion of all else, and despite the cheery “this is a Kickstarter waiting to happen!” thoughts, the reality is that I’ve been a comics fan most of my life and in that time I’ve seen plenty of superhero lines come and go.

    The problem with starting a superhero *line* is that you bloom too big without having developed a sufficient fan base, and then you shrivel up and disappear (hello, CrossGen! shit, even *ElfQuest*, which *had* a fan base, bloomed too big and collapsed under its own weight). Starting with a *line* is mental. You start with a comic, *maybe* two, but probably one because this is a risky and expensive business (go read about my Dabel Debacle for just a *taste* of the expenses) and yes you might get a Kickstarter to soften the financial blow but mostly you’re still going to want to go with one title, digital only in this brave new world, and kill yourself getting a fan base in place so you can *afford* after 12 or 18 months to edge your way into a second title, maybe spun off in the same world, maybe a different world, who knows, and if you’re freaking fabulously lucky, five or ten years down the line you might have five or even seven strong-selling titles in your line–

    I have thought about this. And yes, of course I’d love to do it, but despite appearances, I do recognize certain limits of practicality, if not enthusiasm.

    Perhaps now is the time to launch the #TakeAChance Kickstarter, as a statement against the man. Or against those men, anyway…

    *To be fair, the mainstream comics industry is doing some cool female-centric stuff right now, including the Red Sonia stuff, the all-female X-Men team, CAROL FREAKING DANVERS, OMG!, etc. These guys are not the whole of the industry, but they did land right in my RAAR zone.

  • the essential kit
    CEMurphy,  Fandom

    extraordinary people

    So I was reading something–probably Kate Elliott ()’s fabulous The Omniscient Breasts–and some guy was commenting (to paraphrase), “Why would anybody want to read epic fantasy about women, who basically got married at fourteen and stayed pregnant their whole lives and never went five miles from where they were born?”

    I find the blindered attitude behind that to be staggering. I mean, unless this guy is working under the delusion that actually every male in history has left home, become a knight, discovered he’s the lost orphaned king of the land, and taken back his country…then who does he think he’s reading about when he reads epic fantasy starring male characters?

    Stories are about extraordinary people, regardless of their gender. Sometimes they’re ordinary and have been thrust into circumstances that makes their simple *survival* an extraordinary event; sometimes they’re the lost prince; sometimes they are nominally ordinary but have a gift or talent to see them through or elevate them. Or whatever. They are very rarely about the day to day life of Arthur Dent, needing to buy a new toothbrush and unable to find his left slipper. And thank goodness for that: we all have plenty of needing to buy a new toothbrush and being unable to find our slippers.

    I feel like this post ought to really be an impassioned tirade full of marching and singing and raising banners and the like, but when you get right down to it, 1. I hope like hell I’m preaching to the choir here anyway, and 2. it just seems so self-evident that doing anything other than boggling at the idea that somebody is that small-minded is kind of wasted effort.

    Although the extraordinary people aspect may tie into the problem a lot of women readers seem to have, which is that they found female role models in the books they read as children to be lacking. I never had that problem; it never occurred to me, and if it had, well, I didn’t (despite plenty of checking) have a door to Narnia in my wardrobe either, or a sword to pull from a stone, or six signs to seek, or mysteries to solve every few weeks, or a black stallion to care for, or what-have-you: of course these people weren’t like me, and to that end, the gender of the protagonists never struck me as an issue.

    It’s also possible that, as with Title IX, I am just on the cusp of a generation that benefited from women who had felt that exclusion growing up and were writing books to address the problem, and am therefore not quite able to comprehend what I intellectually know to be factual. I could list you dozens, possibly hundreds, of books I read with female protagonists, all before age twelve. And frankly, I couldn’t list nearly that many with (solely) male protagonists, which might mean the girls made more impression on me, or it might mean I just lucked out and read huge numbers of books with female protagonists.

    I got a little off topic there, didn’t I. :)

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