I started following @EverydaySexism on Twitter a month or so ago, and it has been an eye-opener. A morning coffee with a cockroach in it, reminding me how ill behaved some men are.(Not that women are saints. At PROTECT they’ll tell you no one knows what a predator looks like, and plenty of women use society’s view of them as natural nurturers as camouflage for predatory behavior.)
I’m also twitter friends with cosplayers, people who dress up at science fiction and comic book conventions. Some are women, and many of them get groped by let’s face it, there’s only one word, assholes who feel entitled to grab a stranger’s ass or feel the need to inform a women they’ve never met what he’d like to do with her. And this is supposed to be taken in stride, because hey, who wouldn’t like to be called sexy, or beautiful, and isn’t that what it really means?
No, it doesn’t. It means you are there for my enjoyment, and you are less than a person.
To a lesser extent, we’ve seen more of this viewpoint in the recent SFWA debacle where two old dinosaurs waxed poetic about beautiful “lady editors,” and who looked great in a bikini, and then cried censorship when people complained. Then a writer seriously told these women to be “like Barbie,” and “maintain [their] quiet dignity as a woman should.” On what planet is that acceptable? SFWA President John Scalzi is taking the blame, but his brave martyrdom distracts us from men so entitled that they believe they are above criticism. “Lady editor” is the stupidest thing I’ve read in years. When I was a kid, women driving was rare enough that the term “lady driver” was still in use, and jokes about women driving badly were the norm. That was almost forty years ago. “Lady writer” sounds like something the idle rich do, to fritter away their time.
(Before you assume I’m commenting on hearsay, follow the links above, which will get you to the actual pages from the SFWA bulletin)
And the most common response to this vile behavior is to tell men “what if it was your sister/mother/daughter?”
How about some empathy? What if it was you?
You may not believe it, but I’ve had my ass grabbed at a convention. It was by a fellow who mistook me for what is known as a “bear.” I didn’t punch him out, as you might imagine. I was too shocked. I felt like I’d swallowed an ice cube. That initial, unbelievable invasion of my personal space and objectification was something utterly new and alien to me. I stammered some veiled threat and he waved me off and walked away.
There’s a reason the pop-culture male nightmare is to be locked in a cell with a horny guy named Bubba. Because deep down, we men know how it makes women feel. But we say “that’s how it is,” and expect them to tolerate it.
Do I claim to how women feel when groped, even if it’s at a Science Fiction convention? No, because that was an isolated incident for me. It has never happened again, not at bars in Chelsea, not at Burning Man as thousands of mostly naked people chanted in the desert around a techno wicker man. I don’t walk around dreading it, expecting it, waiting for it to happen because it happens so damn often.
I didn’t write this for sympathy or whatever. I can remember it, but the only effect it has on me is a desire to catch one of these assholes groping a female friend of mine, so I can find out if he can swallow his own fist. As for “lady editors,” if science fiction writers can imagine unheard-of future civilizations, they can unshackle their brains from the ’60s when they were cocks of the walk, and start treating women as equals and not “lady writers,” who are so durn cute when they write their widdle stories and try to be like men! She thinks she’s a person, isn’t that adorable?
Really, fuck you guys. The best science fiction I’ve ever read was by women. Octavia Butler, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Alice Sheldon, who wrote under the pseudonym James Tiptree, Jr.
If you feel threatened by them enough to belittle them and tell them to get you some coffee, you can go eat a giant smelly space dick.