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.

Oh, wait.

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.


  • Having read the responses to femfreq’s criticism of no female protags in Xbox’s new games, I really, REALLY needed to hear a guy call his fellows out on their crap.

    So thank you for continuing to do just that.

  • “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.”

    *sputters with laughter – quietly high-fives CW and walks off*

    • It’s seriously the best response to all those Men’s Rights creeps I’ve seen. You know the ones, those guys who turn every discussion about feminism or misogyny into a discussion about how feminists are actually sexist because nobody is paying enough attention to all the problems that men face.

  • Keep up the good fight! Men will always be men and women will always be women. Millions of years of evolution make it so. BUT there need to be rules of politeness so society works. We just all need to be aware of trying to find that balance to be a productive and responsible members of society.

    • That’s not actually correct! I am very good friends with a number of men, women, and folks of other genders who were not always said genders, millions of years of evolution notwithstanding!

      But yeah, any time somebody whines and “political correctness” it sounds like somebody’s trying to weasel out of basic politeness, and that’s just silly.

  • “my post was not about making writing and publishing better for men”

    But if the trolls etc listened to you/anyone rational or just went away, it’d be far better for us men too. We don’t want to work/live in an industry that treats people like that, completely aside from our readerships etc, it’s just not fucking right.

    • This isn’t meant to be dismissive but — is there more question there?

      Yesterday’s post toward the end tried to make it clear that a lot of what I’m talking about can and should apply to different races, religions, sexual orientations, genders, etc.


      — c.

  • Chuck, you truly hit the core of the issue, and in a way that will allow many who have poo-pooed the “dominant culture” argument to hear. Thank you for your passion for a fair world and not adding to the suffering level. We love your clear, powerful (demented) voice. Keep on!

  • Can I just say I adore you? Because not only do you talk about these issues, and bring them to people’s attention – but you do it in a way that actually enables me to have a good time reading about it, instead of just getting depressed and ragey and exhausted. So: adoration. (Non-creepy-stalkerish variety, that is).

  • “Women should just fight back.” Women should just fight back??! HMOG, women HAVE been fighting back for far longer than 105 years. Suffragettes suffered and died in the fight to obtain the vote for women. Yes, they did. Read about Lady Constance Lytton (aka Jane Warton) whose health was so broken by imprisonment before it became known who she was that she was paralyzed and spent the rest of her life as an invalid. Read about Selina Martin who was brutalized, force-fed, and kicked down a flight of stairs. Read about Emily Davison who died for the cause.

    Women have been fighting back. Women have also tried reasoned discourse in the 40+ years I’ve been in the fight. To no avail.

    What have we been fighting for? The very reasonable request to be treated fairly and equitably. To be treated as human beings To be treated with respect for what we bring to the table. Not one of us has ever envisioned taking anything away from men. We know what that feels like and we don’t like the concept.

    Why should we have to fight? Why should it be necessary to fight just to be treated as person rather than a thing? No reasonable person should expect that we should. But we do have to fight. Continually.

    • You shouldn’t have to fight. But, until a world exists where all families teach their children that all people are equal in worth and that they all deserve equal respect, we will and must continue to fight. Because what is the alternative? We have to teach our children by word and action that acceptance is not a requirement for respect when it comes to the endless variety of things that make people different. That idea is still too tough to swallow for what I speculate is a majority. So we fight, most of us at abysmal levels that we would be ashamed to quantify. But fight on we must, until tolerance no longer exists for anyone to treat people in any manner that is anything less than acceptable.

      • You’re right, of course. I do believe the words are there in teaching our children tolerance and affording others basic human dignity and respect. Too often, though, those words are parroted without true understanding. And children are quick to see the conflict between words and actions.

        The “why” of my questions, I believe, stems from my own naivete and lack of understanding that there could exist the belief that those who are different (in any way) are somehow less than. It is my opinion that those who hold these beliefs think that treating those “others” fairly and decently somehow diminishes their own personal power, as though personal power were in finite supply and must be guarded at all costs.That saddens me. Treating others with respect is empowering, not a diminishing of power.

  • Chuck, your heart is in the right place and your blog was right on.
    Men and women are different. Yin to yang. Each has strengths and weaknesses but they complement each other.
    Recognizing the value in each human being has been an ongoing argument since humankind learned to talk.
    Your links on cover art got me thinking that men DO write harder, usually less sensitive. And women generally DO have a gentler more inward view. No attacks for generalizations, people, please. I’m just pointing out differences.
    We’re wired differently. That doesn’t make one better than the other.
    I have found that two points of view, two people; in my case male and female, working together, pulling in the same direction, works very well. Male and female don’t always agree, but the two working together, cover all the bases.
    So again, good article, Chuck. Glad to see you addressing it. No complaints here.

    • I find this view troubling. Yeah, there are some differences between men and women on average, but there’s also so much cultural baggage and differences of upbringing and role expectations that I’d be deeply leery of claiming to know exactly what, where, and how. But even if this average is inbuilt, hard-wired, and unambiguously true, the choice to emphasize it when dealing with actual individuals is a social gesture that has consequences. There’s so much within-group variation in both men and women that holding individuals up to the average tendencies of their gender is deadening to all but the most gender-conforming members of either group–never mind the people whose gender identity doesn’t fit that binary.

      When you think of men and women as different in particular ways, you are more likely to notice where particular people fit those stereotypes than where they break them: that’s simple confirmation bias. Maybe you’re completely right that men write harder, women write gentler–but that encourages you to miss both the hard-writing women and the gentle, introspective men. The fact that you and others hold this view also encourages women who might write hard to gentle their voices and men who might write gentle to toughen their presentation up. And I, for one, find that kind of pressure pretty unfortunate.

      And yes, that negative pressure goes the other way too: men who write hard and women who write gentle aren’t lesser writers than people who run counter to those. Further, the ways women express themselves that men tend not to use need to be a heck of a lot more valued than they are, and part of the fight is teaching people that female perspectives and female ways of writing and speaking are valid.

      But I don’t want these writing-related gender expectations to be boxes people are shoved into.

      On the roles and confirmation bias thing, you may well have seen this article when Chuck linked to it not long ago, but it’s so awesome that it deserves to be posted all the time:

    • This argument: “But men and women are different, damn it! It’s a biological fact!” Is really common. It’s called gender essentialism. Let’s for a second assume that biologists, anthropologists and psychologists all agree about the degree to which biology drives gendered behaviors and attributes than are not purely physical (and comes up with a way of accurately quantifying them), I find the yin and yang idea very problematic. Very few traits or yes or no, off or on. A person is not either nurturing or not nurturing. A person is not either cooperative or competitive. People of both sexes vary around a mean for pretty much every trait except the ability to make sperm or eggs.

      There is no yin and yang for height, or mathematical ability, or liking to play with dolls instead of video games, or liking sports, or being verbal, or being intuitive instead of analytical (assuming one can’t be both anyway) or wanting to be a firefighter instead of a nurse or schoolteacher. We are all individuals, and we all will fall well within the normal range of values for the “opposite” sex with regards to at least some traits.

      Even if you’re right, and gender roles have nothing to do with socialization and are just all driven by internal predilection, there are clearly a hell of a lot of men and women who are not “average” for their sex in any of a million ways, and there always have been. There is no Yin and Yang. There are a bunch of overlapping bell curves. The problem with gender essentialism is that it tends to pathologize people who fall too far away from the “average” for their sex in some regard (tells them they’re yang when they should be yin or whatever) rather than accepting that they’re in their own place in the distribution. I’m not saying you mean to do this, but if you really think that male and female talents or viewpoints will “always” balance or complement one another, you may be disappointed.

      Even if our personalities and differences are 100% biological (and I really don’t think they are).

  • OK, I will add my negative comment.
    I am woman and I don’t feel week.
    When I read article like you wrote yesterday, I feel ofended.
    Because I am a woman, who can take care about her self and articles like yours make me feel that I am something that need very special attention, and that I am poor litle thing that can’t care about it self.
    I think anti-sexism is in some way kind of sexistic.

    (And I don’t even mention the need of some feminism activists to put more woman into certain possitions. What if woman just don’t want to do the job? If they want, they will find their way, like amazing Yahooo CEO and like hundrets of others women CEOs, politicians, scintists…).

    But there is no rape culture in Europe, just regular rapes in dark allies and the europian women has probably better rights.
    And I always thought that US is so forward in such things. I am from post-communistic country, and I have to admit I didn’t have even the slightest idea, that life in US is actualy so bad :(

    • I sympathise with your sentiments, I really do. But you have to realise something: in general the publishing industry (whether novels or comics or whatever) is horribly biased against women. Its great that women have fought back, are fighting back, and will continue to fight back. But, who says that they have to do it alone? Are some men not supposed to have a conscience where we realise that things need to change and that we should be the agents of that change as much as women are? We are already in a position of authority aren’t we, by default? Refusing an offer of genuine help from the other gender is a case of being close-minded. The message that people like Chuck and everyone else who talk against these issues is that you don’t have to fight alone. We are not fighting your battles FOR you, we are fighting them WITH you.

      There’s a big difference.

      • I would argue that the battles are not women’s battles at all. It’s simply another case of people mistreating people because of differences. The labeling only serves to blind us from the true nature of our problem. It allows us to come to a decision that we aren’t the targets of the mistreatment and can therefore choose not to intervene. Let’s make it about all of us.

    • I understand where you’re coming from, but I respectfully disagree. I don’t think Chuck is saying that we (women) need to be taken care of. The impression I got was that men need be willing to stand up for women, too. If I see a man being abused or mistreated because he’s a man, should I not interfere because it’s a male problem? For things to change, women and men have to work together.

      Some feminist movements are like you say, but most are just saying that there are many qualified women for those positions. Why aren’t there more women *in* those positions? It’s a valid question.

      Life in the US isn’t that bad. I hope you don’t think that all (or even most) men are like this. I actually had a much bigger problem with getting touched and harassed when I was in Europe than I do living in the US.

      There is rape culture and more than just “regular rapes” in Europe. In the US we have more awareness regarding things such as date rape, which has led to higher reporting rates. European statistics are often qualified with the disclaimer of being mostly rapes by strangers or aggravated acquaintances. The fact that there are people who think that it’s okay to assault women (or men), or that the victims asked for it because of the way they acted or dressed shows that this unfortunate cultural acceptance of rape or assault is prevalent across the pond as well.

    • Considering that the article STATED that men don’t need to be fighting these battles, just stop acting like dicks and try and foster a world in which said battles aren’t even necessary, I’d suggest that perhaps you only SKIMMED the article?

    • I don’t think that Chuck’s post suggested women were weak at all. And to add to that, he says outright (in point 17) :

      Women are not our damsels in distress. We are not rescuing them from the onrushing train of sexism and misogyny (I’LL SAVE YOU FROM THE ANGRY OLD SCI-FI WRITER, LITTLE NELL). Our job is to facilitate the conversation and to foster a healthy, safe, kind environment. Our job is to signal boost and to cheerlead awesome women and, ultimately, to not be dicks about any of it.

      So no, he did note say that we are weak. He said that we deserve to be encouraged when things aren’t going our way (just as hopefully we would cheer on any other person who is having some difficulties); he said that guys should just not be jerks…

      He’s basically saying “Let’s be human Excellent to each other.”

      (At least that’s my take on it all.)

  • If one more person derides treating women with respect as political correctness, I’m going to scream. It’s not political correctness, it’s human decency. Do anyone BUT sexists and racists play the “politically correct” card? It’s become code word for “this comment/article is going to make my blood pressure explode my arteries.” It’s become a derogatory term for allies of equal rights. And frankly, I don’t think it has any other meaning, at least not since 1989. Thank you so much for calling this one out!

    • I think there is such a thing as “political correctness” in the pejorative sense. But it’s pretty damned rare, compared to the number of times you hear it used as leverage for shouting down someone who is simply asking to have their viewpoint considered and treated with respect.

    • Thank you for your comment. I often want to scream too when anyone calls treating others respectfully as “political correctness.” It’s not political correctness. It’s simply following the moral code of “do unto to others as you would have them do unto you.”

  • Regarding all this, I think if the characters seem real enough, then people would be able to make their own conclusions.

    Now, regarding something else, and I promise I’m not nit-picking, it’s just something that I’ve had lots of trouble over time: can anyone recommend a good website for how to use commas? Both US and UK versions would be great. Eg.,

    “He said,” said the American, “Something like ‘Hello World’, and then promptly departed from it.”

    Reason I’m asking is that I thought about it when I’ve read this, “I hate it like I hate the DMV, hemorrhoids, airline travel delays, and bad coffee.”

    Should there be a comma after “delays”? I think there should be (as it’s a list), but I am not 100% sure.



    • Max, it’s called a serial comma, or sometimes Oxford comma. Some places require it, others say it’s not needed. There are times when it clears up the possibility of confusion in certain instances, however. I usually use it.

      IIRC, in the US, commas always go inside quotation marks, and in the UK they’re typically outside them. Just as a general guide. If I can find the place I bookmarked, I’ll come back and post it.

      • Thanks Daniel. That’s what I think as well (UK vs US), and yet I feel like there’s always plenty of room for the commas to get all freaky.

    • Not a website, but a book by Robert Bringhurst called “The Elements of Typographic Style.” If you can’t get good advice from the grammarians (I think even they aren’t sure any more), listen to a typographer. In the US, the comma goes inside the quotation marks, as does any punctuation that has to do with the quoted material. If the punctuation is for the sentence outside of the quote, it stays outside of the quote. In Canada, according to Bringhurst, the comma goes outside the quotation marks.

      So in the US, you would have:

      “He said,” said the American, “something like ‘hello world,’ and then promptly departed from it.”

      I’m leaning toward commas between every item on a list, but have seen it both ways. Language changes because a bunch of people get it wrong and others repeat their mistakes. Like the way everyone says “jive” nowadays when they mean “jibe” because they don’t know it’s a sailing metaphor.

    • If this were true, then all book covers everywhere would be sexy and those would correlate directly with sales. Since this is not true, what is your argument?

  • Chuck–wanted to thank you for yesterday’s post and today’s rebuttal. As it turns out, I looked through my own library and found it was mostly female authors. I have one John Irving and one Chuck Wendig and about everything else of my own personal collection has been written by women.

    Pretty much this reflects an estrogen escape in my life (married + 4 sons) but when I look at the reading lists I had as a student, and my teen son has currently, I see only works by men. In his entire honors English curriculum he had only one paper (of 6) that featured a female author–and it was a short story.

    If we want to change the male-centered publishing dogma, perhaps we should teach our kids to read great works by female authors. Some of my son’s fav reads were Harry Potter, Hunger Games, both written by women. But, one would argue these commercial titles aren’t Literature. Perhaps. Yet, I’d rather him read about Katniss saving society from a corrupt government than Hester Prynne meekly surviving her outcast status.

  • I find the comment about women not fighting back to be insightful. It’s hard to fight back when someone drugs you and rapes you while you’re unconscious. That’s a different situation from not fighting back when someone says something obnoxious. The repercussions for sticking up for yourself can vary. If I’m confronted by an asshole at work, I have no problem saying, “It’s hard to be a high fivin’ white guy, isn’t it?” and enjoy watching him splutter and back down and maybe *think* for two seconds. If I’m on the street and some random creep says something, maybe the best thing is to run. So yes, I think women do “fight back” the best way we can…but at the same time, there is a certain amount of what I can only describe as “inner work” – not just assertiveness or self-defense training, which can be useful, but a real understanding, which many say they believe but then behave as if they don’t – that women are just as valuable and inherently worthy as men. And there’s a feedback loop of reinforcement that makes that difficult to build from the inside.

  • June 11, 2013 at 12:40 PM // Reply


    Congratulations. You have just introduced a new religion, to which I am a rabid adherent.

    Or, you know, the premise for a new book. Can’t decide.

  • Your post yesterday was great. (I’m planning on linking to it on my next Feminist Monday post, in fact.) Thanks for that. It’s very well done. However, one point I’d like to add is that there seems to be this impression that sexism is only a problem because of OLD CRANKY MEN. (Case in point: how just about everyone talks about the SFWA Bulletin issues.) Umm. No. Sexism has nothing to do with the age of the male in question–much as I’d love to believe otherwise. Unfortunately, young males are displaying disturbing levels of sexism too.

  • Wow…you mean your shit-excuses for “hate comments” didn’t immediately question your weight, sexual activity or your appearance? What’s that like? Seriously, there have been trolls blogging into their corners of the Internet and whenever they complain about a woman’s post it’s immediately “Well, she’s fat, who would rape her anyway?” or “she’s never had sex in her life, that ugly whale”. At best, they just call the author irrelevant and mediocre.

    Your hate comments all treat you like you have something more to offer the world than a pretty face. I’m slightly jealous.

    I didn’t get into it much yesterday because I’ve said my piece (mostly) on my blog. But I went from being in one male-dominated profession (percussion) to publishing. Granted I’m still “new” at the publishing thing (my debut comes out in November, woot!) so I’ve not had the experiences of being on panels or groped at cons…but I’ve had my share of sexism in the drumline/percussion arena. At a rehearsal I tilted my drums up (didn’t take them off, just adjusted them) and one of the other drummers (who wasn’t wearing his at the time) asked, “What’s the matter, bitch, does your pussy hurt?” How is that even remotely okay? Oh, right. Society tells him that he’s allowed.

    I didn’t say anything. I didn’t smack him. I just kept my mouth shut with “quiet dignity”. Partially because I was surrounded by men. I know now that at least two of them would’ve had my back if I’d gotten scrappy with the asshole. But at the same time, when someone says something that is so blatantly offensive, it’s like getting smacked in the face with a squid. You’re just thinking, “Where did that come from and how the hell am I supposed to respond to that?” You’re kinda stunned by it all.

    Anyway, that incident was 12 years ago and it still boils my blood and makes me feel shame. I’m tired of that shit and I hate seeing it here in my new home in publishing.

    And I’m rambling.

    Anyway, thank you again, Chuck, for your posts. And for a safe place to talk about these things civilly.

  • Yes, yes, and YES. I was inspired by Delilah’s and Ann’s words, too, though your post (this one and yesterday’s both, actually) is far more eloquent than mine. On behalf of myself, my daughters, and women across the planet, THANK YOU for speaking out.

  • Thanks for your posts, Chuck. Great to know that there are guys out there who get it and aren’t afraid to help change the pervasive “well, that’s just how it is, so suck it up” attitude.


  • Nice posts. I thought you did a good job of getting it out there, but sadly, it’s not just that some people fail to grasp the problem, but that they don’t want to. It’s that they really, really feel that a change in the status quo is going to take something they cherish away from them. The screams of “censorship” and “OMG you’re just being PC” have been used very effectively to shut people down (kind of the way liberal and feminist have been for quite some time), or to derail the conversation into an argument about what censorship is and whether liberal and PC ness are “bad, horrible things.” So the issue at hand somehow gets forgotten. I know that this comes up in personal conversations I have with more conservative friends as well. Just seems like this has become the “go to” approach.

  • I love you, Chuck. You know this.

    But I find it truly hilarious that your post yesterday garnered a metric shit ton of attention around the internet while similar posts by women (including the awesome women you linked) either go ignored or are met by the worst kind of response. To the point where there is an entire thread on a pretty prominent writer’s forum about how you’re so awesome and what a great guy you are while nary a word (much less an entire thread!) has been said about Ann or Delilah.

    Not that any of that is your fault. Your post is well intentioned, acknowledges your privilege, and gives props to the ladies that have been saying it and living it. But it really goes to show how deep the issue goes when people would much rather hear common sense from a straight cis-gendered white dude, to the point of celebrating his “bravery”.

    Bah! Well … if they MUST hear it from one of their own, I’m glad it’s you. BTFO.

    • No, no, you’re not wrong — and I’m aware of the grim irony.

      That said, Ann’s post garnered her 500 (not universally positive, mind) comments, and I saw it signal boosted a whole helluva lot (Publisher’s Weekly, for instance). So, it’s not like this stuff is falling down a well. Delilah’s gotten some props (even if I didn’t) on Kindleboards about it (though I think they misspelled her name a few times). NK Jemisin did a great post about her GoH speech in Australia (for some reason having trouble conjuring the link) — and I saw that spread.

      The problem I think is less about the spread or the kudos and more about the negative reaction. I get trolling, maybe, or some disagreeable mail. Women who speak out against sexism get rape and death threats. That’s a whole other level of fucked up.

      [EDIT: NK Jemisin’s GOH speech: ]

      — c.

      • I know, and I’ve read and spread all of them. But what I’m really getting at is the differences is response. You have a literal thread dedicated to how great you are for speaking out. A thread full of virtual strangers fawning over you. Don’t get me wrong, I agree, you’re awesome. But no such adulation exists for these (or really any other) women. Any discussion dedicated to them, as a person and not their posts, are so full of venom and hate.

        That’s the difference I’m pointing out.

  • June 11, 2013 at 5:11 PM // Reply

    “Particularly us white dudes.”

    Whenever I read something like this (Scalzi made a whole post about) I am immediately reminded of this Louis CK clip:

    “I am a white male. How many advantages can one get? You can’t even hurt my feelings!”

    Awesome post, Chuck – yesterdays as well.

  • Wow to the ass-magnets who really want to argue about this stuff. And LOLZ at the same time. These types of men are becoming the minority every day. Soon, they’ll be just as outdated and lame as the chainmail bikini.

  • June 11, 2013 at 7:10 PM // Reply

    I disagree that yo are not trying to make things better for men. Equality makes it better for EVERYONE.

  • “But it doesn’t serve the story!”
    I share all of your reasons for hating this excuse–that it allows writers to be lazy, that it allows the perpetuation of shitty stereotypes, that writers try to use it to absolve themselves from taking responsibility for their work. To all of these excellent reasons, I’d like to add one more: this excuse carries with it a very strong suggestion that there is already in existence such a wonderfully versatile, all-purpose character that will fit very nicely into any role you can imagine, and that only in the most extreme situations should you consider making major alterations to this default template (i.e., white, straight, cisgendered, able male). Foz Meadows already has a fantastic discussion of the non-apolitical-ness of this default narrative setting, so I’ll just leave this here:

    • Seconding the recommendation of Foz Meadows’ post. It’s incredible.

      Chuck, thanks for continuing to speak up on this. We non-cis-dude folks need as many of y’all in our corner as we can get.

  • Gee. I go away to the pool for a day and to the neighbor’s for dinner and the whole world blows up AND I’m linked on Wendig’s blog. :)

    Seriously, Chuck. It’s them, not you.

  • Lots of excellent points, covering a wide array of subject matter. I tend to look at these types of things and say “Well, idiots are going to be idiots. I can try to educate them, but ultimately their change has to come from within.”

    Not saying I don’t do anything when I encounter ignorance, but rather that there are some people who would rail against gravity if they thought they had a chance of being heard. Most of the world is at least respectful and tolerant. Unfortunately the asshats are sometimes louder.

  • Malala Yousafzai fought back against men who tried ban girls from attending school. She’s still fighting, now for full recovery from gunshot wounds. Anybody who says that “Women should just fight back!” needs a forceful reminder that on our planet, in the 21st century, there are places where grown men shoot a 14-year-old kid in the head for saying that girls should be able to learn to read.

  • Excellent post (as was yesterday’s too).

    I echo what Kate Haggard says above about how a white guy can talk about this stuff without (mostly) falling foul of the usual sexist, violent comments that a woman usually receives when she waxes lyrical about the same topic.

    But I’m grateful to anyone , no matter which gender, who calls bullshit on the women-hating trolls on the Internet.

    What’s most astonishing to me is how angry these hate-filled people are at absolute strangers. What did they do to vent their spleens before the Internet? Did they kick puppies? Throw their granny out the bathroom window? Assault strangers on the street? Where has this anger, hatred and violence come from?

    I am so sick of being told I’m a hysterical female who’s over-reacting every time I challenge someone who is rude/sexist/ignorant towards me. I can handle it and do on a regular basis, but I am royally sick to death of having to do it. In this day and age. In 2013. If anything, it’s worse now than it ever was. I fear for my three nieces who are heading for puberty and wonder what kind of shit they’re going to have to face as they get older.

  • I’d love to see you do a “25 things” post about how to create a good female character. I’m just starting out as a novelist and your “25 things” on plot and dialog and story telling and characters were really useful. I want to make sure my female characters do not fall victim to my incompetence, and I’m worried that by trying to create a strong character, I will end up creating one that is patronizing or otherwise counterproductive. I know the general answer: make them authentic and three-dimensional. But if you have any more specific and useful tips on female character development, I’d love to see them.

    • I know, I’m not Chuck, but I just saw this comment and had to respond :) Just for the sake of full disclosure, I’m a female writer. Ok, moving on.

      I have a few thoughts,here. I appreciate and respect the fact that you have enough self- and social awareness, as well as respect for women, to ask this question. I have a nagging concern in the back of my own mind whenever I write male characters, or characters of another race/ethnicity than my own (white and Eastern European Jewish, for the record).

      However… I wonder if the ongoing, passionate, sometimes vitriolic or downright NASTY debates going on about gender and politics and writing are making people feel TOO aware, TOO concerned. It’s what I think of as the overall result of high doses of political correctness: the feeling that you’re walking on eggshells.

      The point is, we are all at risk of writing patronizing, ignorant, or generally terrible characters, unless all we do is create characters who are EXACTLY LIKE US. And then, not only would that be boring, but it would also make people point fingers and call us ego-maniacs. So unless we want to populate entire novels with variations of ourselves, we have to risk it. I guess I’m saying this to try to pull your question out of the male/female gender polarization, and make it much more universal, so as to avoid the walking on eggshells problem.

      So, concretely, what to do?

      Well, I’d suggest trying to be really aware of what you’re creating, for one. In other words, does your female protagonist have a tendency to whine and nag her boyfriend because she’s insecure, or generally an anxious person, or because she’s really not a very likeable person (and that’s part of the point of your story)? Or is she a nag because she’s just, you know, a woman?

      I know that’s a highly simplistic example, but you get the idea. Whenever I write characters who are way outside of my experience, and in that danger zone where my own sub-conscious stereotypes could get in the way, I do this a LOT. I ask myself why I’ve crafted this character in this certain way, and if I don’t have a good answer for the sake of the book, or a good answer drawn from that character’s psychologicl make-up, I change it.

      The other concrete thing I can suggest is research. Think about the kind of female character you’re trying to write (age, social class, race, career, sexuality, etc) and then see if you can either find a few women to talk to who are the same kind of person, or find some good autobiographies or memoirs of women like your character. I’m not saying this to suggest you should base your person off of the people you interview, but instead to just give you a sense of how this kind of person might operate in the world, how she might SEE the world.

      I hope this long diatribe helps… and thank you again for asking :)

      • YAY!

        Liz is my favorite person in the whole world at the moment. Thanks for that answer, and for the admission that you have concerns when you write male characters. I feel less insane now, and that is good.

      • Thanks, Liz. Your point about being TOO politically correct is well taken and I’m certainly not opposed to offending people in general, I just don’t want to do it on accident =).

        Your advice about justifying a character’s personality is also very useful. I’ve been developing my characters in part by “casting” them and then doing an imaginary interview with the “actor” or “actress”. As it happens, one of my “actresses” recently “told” me the same thing (sorry for all the quotes, it feels silly both with and without them). One of my characters is rather bossy and sort of a bitch. I asked my actress (done with quotes now) if that was offensive and the answer I/she came up with was essentially what you said: well, does she have a good reason for being a bitch, or is it just because she’s a woman.

        The practical point I got out of that was that the story needs to develop and justify why she acts that way, for instance by illustrating how she actually feels, why she feels the need to act that way. In addition to that, I now have your advice to question whether or not the personality is actually useful to the story or the character, or, again, was it just the personality I chose because she’s a woman. And on that, I think I need to do a little more thinking…just to be sure.

        • I love the idea of interviewing “actors” and “actresses” for your characters. That’s fantastic and I might borrow it. Is it also weird? Maybe, but I have a sneaking suspicion that most of the stuff I do when I’m writing could be considered terribly weird. I also think the weirdness is part of what makes it work so well. We’re writers; we spend our days with imaginary people. Some weirdness is necessary, right?

          I hope so. Otherwise I’m crazy.

          I’m not sure, though, that you have to explain and justify why a character acts a certain way. As long as YOU know why she acts bitchy and bossy, and you’ve fleshed out her history and her psychological make-up, my guess is that she’ll come across as a real, three-dimensional human being. How could she not, if you have sympathy for her, and know where she is afraid, and where she is raw, and how she acts to hide those feelings?

          If she’s your main character, you might need to explain it all outright in your book, but you also might not. It probably depends on the book. I’m saying this because I think it could be part of the walk-on-eggshells phenomenon; you’re aware and smart and trying not to be offensive, and the flip-side of that is being way too explanatory. My editor for my current book is constantly telling me to trust myself and my writing (and therefore cut the immense paragraphs of over-explanation). I offer the same advice to you :)

  • June 13, 2013 at 9:48 PM // Reply

    Sexism is clear not just in literature, but in everyday life, if you open your eyes to it.

    I have long been aware of the prevailing attitudes toward women, and particularly women who do not play the roles society tells them to play. Society has a way of punishing “errant little girls” whose behavior and appearance do not fit the mold — whether it’s by being born different, or simply by choice.

    There is a clear disparity in the treatment received by women and girls who fulfill the stereotypes assigned by looking and acting the way they’re expected, and those who either can’t or won’t. It’s a clear case of “haves and have nots”, where the females perceived as being the “hottest” have all the power.

    Our society equates beauty with virtue and value as a human being. When the local news presents a story on the death of a pretty girl, inevitably the story cuts to a female relative/friend crying about how “beautiful” the girl was — as if being physically appealing made her more of a loss than if she were less than attractive.

    Women and girls who are naturally beautiful are applauded for something they are not responsible for and did nothing to earn, while those who fail to “measure up” in one way or another are, at times, severely punished, ridiculed and ostracized.

    In our society’s obsession over — and glorification of — the physical appearance of women and girls, we overlook and trivialize their accomplishments, talents and who they are as human beings.

    This is where we as writers need to be more responsible. Instead of participating in the mindless circle jerk that is society’s current way of thinking, we need to break away and give voices to the downtrodden, to challenge the status quo.

    The value of a human life should not be measured by one’s ability to arouse another person.

  • “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.”

    Nice rhetorical work here.

    If a man disagrees, there’s de facto no merit to his points because his opposition hails entirely from his feelings of rampant inadequacy.

    All men can do about sexism and misogyny is serve as cheerleaders for women. Sounds like a noble sentiment. But if you stop and think about it, isn’t that the same BS attitude men have historically adopted toward women? If it’s not okay for men to do it to women …

    Also, men can’t be TOO loud in our cheerleading because then we’ll be “trying to save the day” (from previous post).

    So what are men supposed to do?

    Stand on the sidelines. Be quietly supportive. Allow women to dictate the future. Which is fine and good until you realize that women don’t live in a vacuum. Men don’t, either. What happens to one gender will naturally have an impact on the opposite gender.

    Apologies, but I want to have a say in my gender’s role in the future. That’s not being misogynist. And because I happen to disagree with a few things doesn’t make me a pathetic straw man racked by feelings of inadequacy.

    You don’t fix sexism with sexism.

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