According to the membership guidelines of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) website, I’m qualified to be an associate member for two of my short stories and possibly an active member if you count my Cat and Bones novels as UF verses PNR (I don’t, but many people do). However, I’ve never applied for associate or active membership. Up until a couple months ago, that wasn’t a deliberate decision. I kept meaning to, but one thing after another took up my time instead. Then, the first sexism scandal* broke when an outspoken misogynist ran for SFWA president (you can read author Jim Hines’s post about it here). After reading some of the would-be president’s posts (such gems included “Why Women Ruin Everything” and thoughts about how the real threat to Western civilization is female equalitarianism – his word, not mine), I was surprised that he was even allowed to run. The decision to let him do so was defended by many SFWA members as freedom of speech. While I understood that, it still left a sour taste in my mouth. The SFWA is a private organization that can, if it chooses, decide that discrimination isn’t in line with their standards and thus not allow it by their members. Or at least, not give it a podium by permitting such persons to run for office within the organization.
Anyway, when that happened, I agreed to disagree with the SFWA’s decision and largely left it alone. It helped that Mr. Sexist lost the election by a landslide.
Then a new firestorm about sexism broke out. To get detailed write-ups on the whole story, author Jim Hines has a link-heavy post here (can you tell I read Hines’s blog a lot?). There are also screen-snaps of various quotes in Trisha Lynn’s write-up here. In summary, it started when two male authors posted an article in the SFWA bulletin that was supposed to be about the contribution of female editors/writers in the genre and somehow devolved into a discussion of which “lady editors” and “lady writers” were better-looking in general and how one looked in a bathing suit (because that’s TOTALLY the same thing as discussing their professional merits). Then in the following issue, women were advised by another male author to be more like Barbie. Yes, that Barbie, because “She has always been a role model for young girls, and has remained popular with millions of them throughout their entire lives, because she maintained her quiet dignity the way a woman should.” (italics mine on that last part).
Now, there’s nothing wrong with a woman being dignified. I strive for that myself oftentimes, particularly now (note how this post isn’t peppered with angry howls of profanity – go dignified me!) But before I point out how it’s insulting to be told how my entire gender should behave by someone who isn’t of that gender, do I need to list all the reasons why a plastic, my-measurements-aren’t-even-possible-in-nature doll isn’t a good example of a role model for girls?
I assume most of you are sane, so I didn’t think so.
Then, after the completely unsurprising outcry these incidents generated, in the next issue of the SFWA bulletin, the same male authors of the aforementioned “lady editors” article aired their hurt feelings about being called sexist. Let me sum it up: If you’re upset that we said these things, then (a) you’re for censorship against free speech or (b) you’re a liberal fascist (same claim, really).
In response to the outcry over this, SFWA president John Scalzi opened a task force to “look at the role of the Bulletin within the organization moving forward” and also wrote a post about the matter. I’m glad Scalzi agrees these are legitimate concerns that affect all SFWA members/associates and isn’t falling for the “but it’s just whining from a few liberal fascists!” defense, but I also heave a weary sigh of agreement with author Jenny Truman’s Tweet: “Why, @
sfwa, do you need a task force to determine if your own members should be given professional respect within your own publication?”
It does seem like a no-brainer to me.
Until it’s a no-brainer to the SFWA, too, I’ve decided not to apply for any form of membership. Some might argue – fairly – that more female writers should join to combat the problem from within, but I’ve got too many other things to do than spend my time arguing over why I’m worthy of the same respect that’s automatically given to a writer with a penis. My refusal to join hurts the SFWA not a whit, of course. They are now, and have been, a thriving and largely well-respected organization, but it’s my stand on the matter anyway. If their policies change in the future, I’ll look forward to applying.
Now, back to writing.