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Kids, Get off My Yard! *shaking cane* [Apr. 5th, 2009|04:57 pm]
oldcharliebrown
I'm going to be on vacation later this week, but I had to toss this out for discussion, from IROSF's latest column, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

"I see no discrimination against women in sf/f any more. None."

Wow.

and

"What amazed me was that the same group of people believed this to be evidence of gender bias in SF publishing. And as I poured through the names of the complainants on the site and on linked blogs, I realized that all of these people were much younger than I am."

Take that, you young'uns.

and

"One of the editors defended himself on the site, by stating he had invited women into his anthology, but the women either missed the deadline or bowed out at the last minute, forcing him to go to writers of his acquaintance who worked quickly and weren't already invited into the anthology. As a result, he produced the accidental womanless TOC."

This isn't probably Kris's fault for not knowing the full story of what actually happened to Eclipse, but it wouldn't have taken much research, surely? But more importantly, let's get it out in the open: editors ARE responsible for what's goes into their anthologies and magazines, according to their intended market. (I have to stress that). If it's men you're going after, then a male-dominated table of contents makes sense. Or female. Or if it's a mix of both, then a mix makes sense. And so on and so forth. It's called basic business principles. Nothing in business is done without knowing whom your market is. (Or at least I hope so).

Editors decrying that it's all they've got to work with, or going around and blaming women for not submitting enough material, well, that's just lazy, at the least, especially for our field. It's not like it's hard to make the effort to widen your pool of eligible contributors, if your goal is to appeal to both sexes.

But to proclaim point-blank that there's no discrimination left in this field? Hell, discrimination is alive and kicking, here in the United States, today, and no one would argue otherwise.  Our field is a microcosm of the world, and the same issues are reflected there, as much as anything. Nothing will change until we confront those issues head-on, and work together, but:

"I know that the arguments about gender bias in SF will eventually disappear. They're fewer and farther between now than they were when I came into the field, but they're not finished yet. (Although I think they should be. There are other things to argue about.)"

Nothing should ever be finished, btw, otherwise we learn nothing. Life is ongoing, as is change, experience, and a loot more. And what you may consider not important is important to others, and can't--shouldn't--be dismissed.

We shouldn't rest on our laurels, then, now, or in the future.
LinkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: benpeek
2009-04-06 01:38 am (UTC)
i think the problem with rusch's columns is that she doesn't research anything. the last one was just the same.
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From: kristinerusch
2009-04-06 03:33 am (UTC)
Interesting assumption. Like most assumptions, totally incorrect.

I research everything. I was a journalist for 10 years. Two sources, minimum. And unlike most folks who write on the web, I have the statistics to back up what I say.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch
www.kriswrites.com
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From: kristinerusch
2009-04-06 03:01 am (UTC)

Shaking cane

Hi, Sean:

Wasn't talking about Eclipse. Know nothing about Eclipse or what happened there. Was talking about another editor also mentioned in the MindMeld column. (It wouldn't have taken much research to figure this out, surely?)

Point blank: I am a woman in America. I KNOW discrimination still exists. Hell, I deal with it daily.

However, I am also a long-time pro in the sf field. I know most of the editors/publishers/agents in this field. No one actively discriminates. No one discriminates at all. I base this not only on knowledge of the people involved, but on the numbers. Look at all of the publishing statistics--books, short story magazines (on-line and in print), and anthologies. So what if one anthology screwed up? It's an anomaly.

Fewer women than men write pure genre sf. Most women writing sf write it in the romance genre--the largest genre in U.S. publishing written mostly by women mostly for women.

Stop fighting old wars. If you want to fight discrimination against women, start sending e-mails to the mainstream media for their coverage of Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama. Or volunteer at your local shelter. Or work in your community. But in sf...? Sorry. Discrimination against women in sf doesn't exist any more.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch
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[User Picture]From: shweta_narayan
2009-04-06 04:33 am (UTC)

Re: Shaking cane

Would you be willing to share which magazine? Eclipse is the only one I know where that was the excuse.
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From: kristinerusch
2009-04-06 06:41 am (UTC)

Re: Shaking cane

Lou Anders is the editor I referred to. He talks about what happened in the Mind Meld column I reference in my reply to benpeek above. And honestly, it's not an excuse. If you've ever edited, you'll realize that nothing ever goes as planned. Trying to get writers to meet deadlines is like herding cats.
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From: swan_tower
2009-04-06 09:13 am (UTC)

Re: Shaking cane

No one actively discriminates. No one discriminates at all.

These are two separate things, obviously, and while I agree with the first (mostly -- the community does still have its dinosaurs), the second is much less certain.

I really wish I'd saved the links for the two examples I'm about to cite, because then people could check out my sources. (And I could re-check them myself; at this point, I'm citing on memory, and I know that can be flawed.) But I can give two examples that demonstrate unconscious bias, even among people who honestly believe they aren't discriminating at all.

The first was a symphony orchestra that started having prospective musicians audition behind a curtain, so the listening judges couldn't see the individual. Not much changed; they were still accepting more men than women. (Disproportionately so, compared to the ratio of auditions.) So maybe the men really were better musicians? But then they put in a carpet, and suddenly the acceptances matched much more closely to the gender balance of the performers . . . because then the judges couldn't hear the women's high heels on the floor. At that point, the auditions truly were gender-blind, and the musicians were being judged solely on their ability. Women fared much better under those circumstances.

The second example is writing-related, though in a scientific field. Readers for either a journal or a teaching position, I can't remember which, were given articles to evaluate. Some pieces had male names for the authors, some had female, and some had just initials. Another group was given the same articles, but with the names switched around. Both groups rated the articles with male names more highly -- not universally, but enough to be significant. The authors' names subconsciously influenced their reading of the articles, and the male ones got more respect.

I find it unlikely that these patterns can happen in music (an artistic field) and science (wrt writing), and yet we in SF are miraculously free of them. I find it even more unlikely when I recall a third example I saw raised once: the details of this one have escaped me almost entirely (which I regret), but the gist was that readers of a story are more likely to view a romantic component as dominant if the author is (or is perceived to be) a woman. If the author's name is male, the romantic component is more likely to be considered secondary to the rest of the plot.

I've said before, and I'll continue to say, that this argument would be a lot more productive if some enthusiastic sociologist could get us good data on the matter. But there are many steps in the process where gender discrimination can happen, and variable sets of them are likely to be in play in any given situation: all the way from the way girls are taught science in secondary school up to whether an editor feels a story is too touchy-feely for his SF magazine. But I don't think SF is magically immune to the kinds of subtle prejudice that still exist in the rest of American society, and I don't think shutting the whole thing down with a "problem solved" label helps shed light on it.

And, for the record -- I don't view it as a separate problem from discrimination elsewhere, either. I have sent e-mails to the media for the way they treated Hillary Clinton, and done other things to address the issue where I can. Our problems aren't as severe as those of rape and domestic violence, certainly, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't think about them.
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[User Picture]From: jeffreyab
2009-04-06 03:55 am (UTC)
Do you think the disappointment with Eclipse Two was due to Eclipse One's 50% female content raising expectations?

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[User Picture]From: shweta_narayan
2009-04-06 04:35 am (UTC)
I think it was more because Eclipse 1 had only male author names on the cover, despite having some big-name women in the TOC? That caused a kerfluffle, which I think resulted in Strahan promising to be more gender-sensitive in 2; when there was only one woman (iirc) in 2, that pissed a lot of people off, given context.
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[User Picture]From: time_shark
2009-04-06 04:33 am (UTC)
It would be nice to know what a real woman thinks of Kris' column, as opposed to a pretend one like Sean.

;-p
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[User Picture]From: shweta_narayan
2009-04-06 04:37 am (UTC)
I'm a real woman.
I think it's silly.
I would like to see her name her target, cite her sources, and share her statistics, rather than claiming she has all these because she is a Real Journalist.

I think it's also entirely possible for some older women, used to overt discrimination, missing subtle discrimination that the younger generation catches.

I can also think of several award-winning female SF authors who would laugh really hard at her conclusion, but don't know if it'd be kosher to name them *shrug*
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[User Picture]From: shweta_narayan
2009-04-06 07:07 am (UTC)

Oh man...

Rereading, I'm realizing that I'm horribly snippy here, because I was really annoyed about Sean being called a pretend woman (as though men can't care about women's issues). And that annoyed came out at Kris, who is the wrong target for it.

So I apologize for my tone here.
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[User Picture]From: rose_lemberg
2009-04-06 04:59 am (UTC)

I want to second shweta_narayan, and also

Recently, literary agent Kristin Nelson wrote,

"From my personal experience (and I really can only speak from that perspective), I truly believe that for literary fiction, it’s much easier to sell boy writers than gals. I know. Who can possibly make such a general statement but I have to say that I’ve encountered several worthy manuscripts that I’m rather convinced that if the writer had been male, the novel would have sold."

This one rather important agent thinks discrimination exists. She's not a journalist, but it seems she has an insider view of this issue. So it seems to me that the issue of discrimination in SFF is at least not as simple as Ms. Rusch would have it.

I, too, would like to see these statistics. I do a fair amount of quantitative research and often go through thousands and thousands of sources to prove a small point, and the numbers are always embedded in my analysis. Beyond simply showing these, I would like to see some analysis.
I am right now trying to conceptualize how such raw statistics would look and how one will analyze them, and it seems like a very complicated issue to me. It's not just a question of dumping a mass of data. What are your criteria? What are your parameters? Are you going to do questionnaires, or will you go by number of male vs female contributors? Will you count all SFF publications together? Will you separate pro, semi-pro, token, for-luv? Will you compare the number of old-timers vs the number of newcomers - in the field total, per journal? Will you look for reasons why the number of submissions from women is low in some publications?
Statistics/data gathering design for sociological research takes a lot of time. And this is a complicated issue.
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[User Picture]From: shweta_narayan
2009-04-06 05:14 am (UTC)

Re: I want to second shweta_narayan, and also

I'd add --

- Submission/contributor ratio?
- Would one look whether the low percentage of women in SF ties to the low percentage of women in the hard sciences (which has documented links to institutionalized sexism, iirc)? I think it'd be possible to approach this one obliquely, through the ratio of men to women SF writers who are also scientists.

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From: kristinerusch
2009-04-06 06:52 am (UTC)

Re: I want to second shweta_narayan, and also

Note that Kristen Nelson is only talking about literary fiction. Maybe someone should go on her site and ask how many of her clients are male and how many are female. How much trouble does she have selling women writers to romance, mystery, and sf editors?

I have a hunch Joyce Carol Oates and Alice Munroe and Toni Morrison would take except to the fact that women literary writers don't sell...

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[User Picture]From: ellen_datlow
2009-04-06 04:27 pm (UTC)
Of course, there are many other types of science fiction than just "hard" sf and it would be more interesting to compare the number of women and men writing and publishing all kinds of sf not just in the hard sciences.
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