A couple of weeks ago, the news broke about Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg and the dialogue they had published in the SFWA Bulletin. They were complaining about how once upon a time, “lady writers” and “lady editors” didn’t worry so much about all this equality nonsense. If male SF writers wanted to judge them on the basis of their looks, those ladies were appropriately grateful. Not like these young whippersnapper women trying to write SF today, as if women’s tiny brains could ever possibly understand such complicated subjects as…you know, science. They were being bullies, and thought they were well within their rights to behave that way. Suddenly, after people began calling them out on their behavior, the word ‘censorship’ was being flung around, directed at all the folks who didn’t like Resnick and Malzberg’s comments. A number of writers have been talking out here in internet-land, and Jim C Hines has gathered their thoughts all in one place for your convenience.
I just finished appearing at ConCarolinas, a wonderful SFF con in Charlotte, NC. On Friday night, I sat on a panel called “Writing The Other” which was about putting aside one’s privilege in order to create characters who were not the same gender, race or sexual identity as oneself. The moderator introduced herself to the room and included the fact that she is currently a Marine Corps aviator, specifically piloting C-130 aircraft. An older man in the audience (alsp a con guest) raised a hand, and with the most condescending tone, told her that there was no such thing as a Marine aviator. The Marines had soldiers, he said, but only the Air Force had real aviators. The moderator didn’t rip the guy a new one (even though she’d have been well within her rights to do so, and I think the whole panel would have been cheering her on) but she calmly managed to let the man know he’d angered her. He insisted it was all just a joke and that he teased some family member the same way, and the panel moved on.
I wanted to think it was a one-time mistake, but the next day, that same man was moderating a panel I was on. Three separate times he referred to me not as ‘Misty’ or ‘Ms Massey’ but as ‘the young lady.’ There were three of us on the panel, and I had my name card propped right in front of me, so figuring out my name wasn’t difficult. The problem was in how he perceived me. I was not a writer to him. I didn’t need a name. He couldn’t even catch on that I was a 50-year-old woman. To him, I was the token girl in the room. I was furious at him and at myself for not calling him out in front of everyone. I should have, because bullies depend on their victims keeping quiet. I was ashamed of myself for letting it go by.
Was this the most horrible thing that’s ever happened to me? Hardly. I could share the stories about men in writing groups telling me that there were no such things as female pirates, so I must have been on drugs when I came up with the idea. Or the time I was 15 and babysitting my little sister while she played in a park and a middle-aged stranger interrupted my reading to tell me that I was “built like a woman”. This time, the offense was minor, thank the stars. Over the last two weeks, we’ve heard terrible stories from women in the community. The trouble is that allowing bullies to get away with small cruelties increases their power sense, and tells them that bigger, more vicious attacks are also okay. It’s time to make this crap stop. Whether it’s coming from famous writers like Resnick and Malzberg, or local celebrities at a small con, whether it’s physical assault or verbal abuse, it’s still bullying. If you’ve been a victim, tell someone. Tell a trusted friend. Tell the world. On your blog, or someone else’s. Hell, tell me right here if you want to. I’ll listen. But don’t try to pretend that whatever happened to you isn’t important. It is. Speak out.