Kari Sperring* introduced the utterly magnifient tag SFFragette over on Twitter a few days ago, as a term to embody the push-back against sexism in SFF. It now has a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, and a blog.
These are fantastic places to follow the ongoing discussion. I ottally lack the spoons to link to all the great posts and talks that are happening, so if you’re one of my readers and have any interest in the topic, there’s your source for news.
That said, here’s a link I think says some important things: What we talk about when we talk about con harassment. It’s not a scintillating post title, but it’s written by a man, and largely directed at men. The thing that particularly stands out about it to me is his discussion of the of “I’d have broken that bastard’s teeth!” response when faced with a discussion or report of harrassment. (Note: this is not a men-only response by a long shot, but it does seem to be a nearly universal one among men. I am not trying to persecute anybody by bringing this up.)
I have seen several people say words to the effect of “but this is a problem throughout society, why is SFF being called out for it?” Someone–whose blog I didn’t save–essentially said, “Yes, but the SFF community is my particular pool, so this is where I’m choosing to expend my energies.” I think that nails it. Besides, in this context, the SFF community is freaking huge: the overlap with gaming, comics, cosplay, means the potential ripple effect is tremendous.
*If you like Carol Berg or Guy Gavriel Kay, you should be reading Kari’s books. I’m just sayin’.
social media, social change
My fandom is a mess. Not just my fandom. The halls of my chosen career, too. SFF is a mess, in a political sense, with regards to sexism and racism. There’s the very recent problem with the SFWA Bulletin (type SFWA into Google and that link is the first thing that comes up), there’s the nobody-is-surprised news that Tor editor Jim Frenkel has had a formal report filed against him for sexual harrassment, there’s there genuinely bizarre fake geek girl hubub…it all goes on and on, and it’s being discussed hugely in the community.
On a larger scale, the same is being discussed world-wide. Womens’ rights in general, the pervasive “rape culture” (which I enquote not because I’m dismissing the phrase but because it’s a relatively new one to me and I’ve seen it used a great deal in the past six months), abortion rights. Beyond that is the rapidly changing tide regarding marriage equality* and gay rights, and beyond that, the world-wide revolutions where we’ve seen governments shut down internet access to the best of their ability in order to prevent real news coming out.
While all of these things are certainly worth talking about, what I’m actually noticing and wondering is how much social media is forcing a critical mass on topics which have previously risen, been debated, and fallen away again. There is now always someone willing to pick up the baton; someone who is easily accessed in a way that just a few years ago wouldn’t have been possible. For a long time I thought it might just be my particular circle of friends hitting some (or all) of these topics, but when major traditional news sources are picking up the stories, carrying the debates, and using the terminology, it’s becoming clear that it’s not just my left-leaning liberal feminist friends who are on this particular boat.
A friend of mine said a couple of years ago, when we were discussing a particularly offensive ad, that he wasn’t surprised misogyny was on the rise; it was a recession, men were out of work, out of work men felt threatened, threatened men make haste to belittle women. I suspect he was on to something. But I’m also seeing this crest rising, and I’m wondering if it’s approaching an unbreakable speed, thanks in large part to the power of social media offering outlets and support.
Not that I imagine things are going to become sunny and non-sexist overnight–it will indubidably be a continuing work of decades–but if people are beginning to have the confidence to speak out en masse, with strangers shoring up those who are brave enough or who have need to speak, it’s possible the the tide could turn. And I really do wonder how much or if social media is affecting that sea change. (Okay, have I worked enough water metaphors in there? I think so.) If it is, then for all the irritating aspects of Twitter, Facebook, even Livejournal at times, they’re worth it for the chance to become the change we want to see in the world.
*Report on twitter the other day, after a 5 year old had the DOMA strike-down explained to him, he went on to explain it to his 2 year old brother: “It’s GREAT news! It means we don’t have to marry GIRLS!” *laughs and laughs*