Challenging Responses To Sexism And Misogyny
Yesterday I wrote a thing about sexism and misogyny (and rape culture and slut shaming and, and, and) inside writing and publishing. And it’s generated some good discussion and, more importantly, discussion that was fairly well-mannered. You know, mostly.
Just the same, I’ve seen some response around These Olde Internets that have me cocking an eyebrow so high I think it’s floating above my head by about six inches, so I think I’ll take a short post to address some of those responses. I’m not going to call out individual responders –I’ll just generalize the comments and offer my own in return.
Again: potential trigger warning.
“He’s Just Doing This For Attention.”
Well, duh. The purpose of the blog isn’t to fall down a dark hole where nobody will read it. I’m throwing it out onto the Internet! A magical, unreal, ephemeral place driven by the Attention Economy. Of course I want eyes on the post. Of course I want attention.
I want attention on it because it’s something I believe in. And I think it’s a conversation we need to have. I know, I know — you think I’m self-righteous or alternately that I’m just doing it to capitalize on page views. Newsflash: I can’t do anything with page views. Like, they don’t each become a Mario Brothers coin that bounces into my wallet. I can’t eat page views. I’ve tried. On yesterday’s post I purposefully left out any of my normal shilling self-promo book links at the base of the post because I didn’t want to sell books merely by dint of waving my arms and getting attention about a controversial topic.
This is not the first time I’ve spoken out about issues that affect me, or affect publishing, or affect my friends and acquaintances and idols in publishing. If I am compelled by an issue I’ll talk about it. And I’m glad that it got attention. That’s the purpose! That’s the goal!
“But Women Sell Well And Look At All Those Lady Authors!”
…oh. Oh. Oh! Damn. That’s a pretty good point, I guess. The bestseller list has women on it. And certainly the bookstore is full of books by women. Well. Huh. I guess we’re done here, then. SHUT IT DOWN, MIKE. CLOSE UP THE BLOG. LOCK THE DOORS.
I hope one of you will coordinate the parade! I demand ponies.
That doesn’t fix the problem.
You mean the cultural problem still persists regardless of dollar signs and bestsellers? You mean all the problems I mentioned yesterday — cover design and panel inequality and creepers and rape culture and institutionalized bias — still happen anyway?
As I said in the post yesterday, this is a crap argument. So stop making it.
“But What About The Men?!”
The men are fine. Not to be crass (though when has that stopped me before?) — men basically have this stupid fleshy protuberance in their pants that often acts like a Key to the Kingdom. It’s weird, but it means that we’re doing just fine in writing and publishing. Don’t derail this conversation and make it about you, Guy Who’s Not Successful Because He’s Not Very Good But Wants To Blame It On Women Because It Distracts From His Rampant Inadequacy.
Point is, my post was not about making writing and publishing better for men.
Because, c’mon, son.
You wanna write that post, hey, go for it.
“No, Really, You’re Being Sexist Toward Men!”
Oh, fuck off.
Sexist toward men?
Are you shitting me?
I saw way too many people say that my post was sexist because it didn’t present a balanced view — despite being a post with the word “misogyny” in the title, not “misandry” — and now some dudes are doing exactly what I said they’d do, which is pout and stomp their feet because they’re not allowed up at the podium. Guys, you get the podium all the time. Particularly us white dudes. It’s time to share. It’s time to let go and let some other kids play with your toys.
When you see someone with a sucking chest wound don’t cry about the splinter in your thumb.
You want to write the post about how you’re being oppressed, hey, find your own corner of the Internet and scream it so the cheap seats can hear.
You’ll forgive me if I stay over here.
“Women Should Just Fight Back!”
Another sentiment: if women want equal treatment they need to fight for it.
This presents a number of problems as an argument.
First, it assumes that they aren’t fighting for it already. (And they are.)
Second, that fighting for it frequently translates to, “Kick him in the balls,” or “Get aggressively up in his face.” Now — I admit, if some guy is getting grabby whether it’s on a panel or in an elevator, I am all for you turning his wiggly bits into cock-smash pate. But this is often presented as a response to instances like when women are demeaned on a panel, or when, say, Harlan Ellison grabs Connie Willis’ breast on stage. You do realize that being too aggro, particularly in public, can end poorly for the woman, right?
Third, the idea that if you don’t fight back, you basically agreed to let it happen. Never mind being overwhelmed by fear. Never mind being uncertain how it will affect you professionally if you say something and make waves. Never mind a cultural bias that suggests women should just shut up and suck it up (see Betsy Dornbusch talking about how one author cherishes Barbie as a noble image for little girls because Barbie maintains her “quiet dignity”).
“There Are Better Posts To Read On The Subject.”
Yes! There are! Which is why I linked to several of them yesterday.
“This Is All Politically-Correct Clap-Trap.”
My post referenced a “panty tornado.”
I have little interest in political correctness.
I have little fear of offending. My books can be very, very offensive.
I have quite a lot of concern over being hurtful, on the other hand. Because there’s a lot of hurt going around in this world and I don’t find it valuable to add to it.
This isn’t about being politically correct.
This is about correcting a grave imbalance.
For the record, nobody actually said the word “clap-trap.” That one’s all on me because it’s a great word and we don’t use it enough shut up no you shut up.
“But It Doesn’t Serve The Story!”
Worst excuse ever.
I hate this excuse. I hate it like I hate the DMV, hemorrhoids, airline travel delays, and bad coffee. I hate it because it suggests that writers are not in control of their own stories, that they are merely conduits for some kind of divine unicorn breath, some heady Musefart that they can’t help but gassily breathe onto the page. I AM VESSEL. STORY IS LOA.
I hate it because it absolves you of ever having to change anything — whether that means changing a character’s race or sex or even just making edits to improve a story.
I hate it because it allows you to rely on lazy crutches, institutional biases, stereotypical culture patterns, and a whole lot of horrible shit-ass storytelling.
I hate it because it excuses you from making effort or taking responsibility.
Like I said yesterday — I’m not saying you have to make every story some kind of Social Justice League, some weird Pokemon grab where you make sure your story has one of everybody who’s different from you. And I’m not saying you can’t tackle challenging issues like rape culture in your fiction. The goal is to not play into those lazy habits, those stereotypes. The goal is to not exploit, to sexualize, to contribute to the overall pattern of a world where Middle-Class White Dudes are the speakers and the listeners. The story doesn’t control you. You are its boss.
The audience would much rather you be confident and responsible than a lazy shrugging half-wit who falls into the river and lets it take him wherever it goes.