My Two Cents: Sexism in Science Fiction & Fantasy

Yesterday I read a very thought-provoking post by author Delilah S. Dawson on the topic of sexism in the publishing industry — specifically in the science fiction/fantasy arena. I can't even begin to summarize her words in any way that will do justice to her experiences, so take a moment and go read her post…I'll wait.

Finished? Good. My turn.

Before you dismiss the idea of sexism in the industry, I'd like to point out that Delilah's post (which had received 67 comments the last time I checked) was inspired by another one written by bestselling author Ann Aguirre (435 comments at last count). While I've never experienced anything nearly as traumatic as either Delilah or Ann have at conventions, I've been very cognizant of the attitudes they describe and I've been on the receiving end of snubs and patronizing airs from both writers and readers. I've never been much for conflict (perhaps it's the pacifist Doukhobor genes I inherited from my father's side), so at the time, I chose to ignore the snubs and put them down to just plain bad manners. But when I read stories like Ann's and Delilah's, I realize that it's about more than just ignorance. It's hurtful, it's demeaning, and it's wrong.

Folks, this isn't about flag-waving or whining. It's about a pervasive attitude that needs to be hauled out of all its dark, nasty little corners and into the bright light of the 21st century. Writing a good story has nothing to do with an author's gender, and the ability to enjoy a good story shouldn't have anything to do with a reader's gender either — or his/her race, culture, or anything else. Do I think this issue is symptomatic of a greater one? Yes, because doing anything well has nothing to do with gender, race, culture, or anything else…but that's a bigger problem than I can begin to address here.

So I'll stick to the one at hand.

Ann and Delilah are right. It's time we started speaking out about sexism in our industry or — just as with anything else that we tuck away and ignore — nothing's going to change. I'm still not expecting myself to be very good at the whole conflict thing (it really isn't in my nature), but neither am I going to sit back and let others fight my battles for me. The discussion has begun. I'm choosing to participate.

What about you?

Addendum: Since I posted this, other writers have spoken out, too. Male writers who are just as appalled by the fact that we even need to be discussing this topic…again. You can read Chuck Wendig's posts here and here, and another by Paul Anthony Shortt here.

Leave a Reply 10 comments

EmmyRook - June 8, 2013 Reply

I just read your post and went and read Ann’s post. It’s disheartening and sickening that in the year 2013, people are still so unenlightened and misogynistic. I read all of Ann’s 6 book Sirantha Jaxx series. It is without a doubt Sci-Fi. Sure, there are feelings and a little romance, and it’s from a woman’s perspective. But Sirantha is a kick-ass, take no prisoners, heroine. Anyone who bothered to read the series would know that. The romance is there, but it’s definitely not the main story line and the series is certainly not all sex and “filth” as one comment to her post stated. The worlds Sirantha, March and Vel live in are varied, complex and richly developed, as are the characters themselves. To discount her writing, or that of any female author, purely because “women can’t write….” makes me sad for the criticizer who is robbing himself and others from the experience of a truly great read. And as for the male authors who discount a woman’s work, well… Ann’s books sold out at the con, so I would daresay, sour grapes gentlemen????

    Linda - June 8, 2013 Reply

    It is discouraging, Emmy, but I truly believe there are enough good people out there (men and women both) to make a difference…IF we start to speak up and speak out.

D. D. Syrdal - June 8, 2013 Reply

About the second day after all this started up online, I saw a tweet from a man I follow who was already tired of the whole thing. It was all I could do not to ream him a new orifice. We have to keep talking about it, keep it in the spotlight, or everything will go back to business as usual.

    Linda - June 8, 2013 Reply

    I so agree, D.D. — and some of us *looks in mirror* need to start talking about it, period. Just because it hasn’t happened directly to me doesn’t mean I can keep pretending it’s not happening at all.

Heather - June 8, 2013 Reply

Linda you & I arw friends on FB & I posted this there as well. I was thrilled to see that one of my male author friends was the first to comment & repost. He wanted to make sure that everyone knew about this & his disgust towards it.

    Linda - June 8, 2013 Reply

    Honestly, Heather, I think the majority of men are very supportive of women — whether as authors, in another occupation, or in general — we just need THEM to start speaking out as well. Kudos to your author friend!

Paul Anthony Shortt - June 11, 2013 Reply

While I’ve always been interested in examining gender inequality in fiction, and issues within the SFF scene, it wasn’t until my daughters were born that I took a serious look at how bad things are. I admit there’s a somewhat selfish element to my interest. I simply don’t want my daughters to grow up feeling like they’ll be treated as less than a man. Every time I see a story about this, all I can think is “what if that was Erica or Amy?”

I just hope that I have the guts to speak up if I ever see a woman being treated the way Ann Aguirre and Delilah S Dawson (and other women all over the world) have been treated.

    Linda - June 11, 2013 Reply

    Sometimes I think it’s human nature not to notice things that don’t affect us personally, Paul. What we need is more men to think about this issue on the level you’ve done…and then to speak out about it. Time for you to write a blog, too? 😉

Winifred Haley - June 27, 2013 Reply

Folks, this isn’t about flag-waving or whining. It’s about a pervasive attitude that needs to be hauled out of all its dark, nasty little corners and into the bright light of the 21st century. Writing a good story has nothing to do with an author’s gender, and the ability to enjoy a good story shouldn’t have anything to do with a reader’s gender either — or his/her race, culture, or anything else. Do I think this issue is symptomatic of a greater one? Yes, because doing anything well has nothing to do with gender, race, culture, or anything else…but that’s a bigger problem than I can begin to address here.

    Linda - July 5, 2013 Reply

    My apologies, Winnifred, your comment got caught in my spam filter! And yes, I fully agree that this issue is symptomatic of a greater one — and a pervasive one. Hopefully we can get the discussion rolling and make some changes to it.

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