This is a post I’ve been mulling over for a long time, and I hesitated to write it for a number of reasons. Looks like it has turned into a core dump. It is motivated by the blowup in SFWA over a number of articles and the cover of an issue of the organization’s publication, the Bulletin. The topic has been described in detail ad nauseum all over the internet, so for the uninitiated, this is the abridged version of the short version. Two elder male white writers had a discussion of female writers and editors and opened a Pandora’s box by discussing the appearance of their female colleagues. Many people took offense. Another issue had a typical lightly clad female warrior on the cover. Another issue had the same two men defending their original article. Every issue poured more gasoline on the fire, and it continues today, several weeks after the last issue.
That’s the motivation, but not the reason for the post. It did get me thinking about racism and sexism in this country and in the various places within I have lived. I grew up in Waukesha, Wisconsin. It’s an area that was predominantly white, with a little Hispanic streak down the middle on a road called The Strand. I haven’t lived anywhere near there since 1988, so the demographics may have changed since then.
There were few black students in my high school, but from my perspective they were treated like everyone else at school. With a great deal of credit to my parents, I was raised to consider people equal. Growing up in a household that over the course of 35 years was home to over 100 Foster children of all nationalities only reinforced that perspective. Add to that three adopted siblings who are not Caucasian, a wife who is not Caucasian, and several second cousins with significant non-Caucasian DNA, plus living 10 years in Silicon Valley, where Caucasians were a mere 40% of the population at the time.
My parents also, for several of my older teenaged years, sheltered battered women. I got to see first hand what the unrestrained male with no self control or respect for women can do to them. Yeah, the black eyes and welts you see on the news or in movies–they’re real. They hurt, and they make a statement–a statement about the man who caused them.
What else? I went to grad school with women who earned PhDs in physics. I worked with women who were some of the best engineers I ever met. I’ve worked with female clients, management of major corporations, who know what they are doing and are better at it than most men I know.
All of this background and experience gives me the legitimate perspective to call out people like a certain candidate for SFWA presient and his “women belong in the kitchen” club followers. You are the obsolete male with delusions of machismo. I’ve read hisblog, and I will neither dignify it, nor will I help SEO ranking by linking back. The blog is a venomous cesspool of toxic hate and lament for the loss of white supremacy and male privilege defended by absurd rationalization. And this man wanted to be president of a very diverse professional writers organization to “fix it.” There are plenty of things wrong with SFWA, but none are caused by the diversity of its membership.
Assuming he gets wind of this post, and I have no doubt he will, I’ll be flamed before being thrown into the large trash pile of people who do not think the same way–the pile labeled “LIBERAL.”
Liberal, despite the fact I voted for Reagan, Bush I, Dole, and Bush II. I have been a member of the NRA for many years, and almost ran for public office in California as a Republican. The last of these didn’t happen because I moved to Arizona, where the right wing already ran things in this reddest of red states.
But I eventually quit the Arizona GOP because it no longer reflected my values. It became mean and corrupt, caring more about lining pockets than in doing their job.
Back in high school, there were two black students who stand out in my memory. One was male, and seemed like a fun guy to hang around, though he wasn’t in my circle of friends. The other was female, one of the brightest minds I had known to that time, and a damn good writer, too. I also had a crush on her, but never pursued it. That had nothing to do with the color of her skin. It had everything to do with being a teenager and not really understanding how relationships work or how to form them.
As I mentioned, from my perspective these two were always treated with respect and well-liked by the rest of the students. During the last month of my senior year, a group of us were outside sitting on the hill between the high school and elementary school and the discussion drifted to the male black student. I don’t recall the details or who said it, but like it was yesterday, I remember the words. “I don’t want anything to do with that nigger*.”
While I don’t remember who said it, but I do remember my opinion of that person going from somebody I respected to somebody I wanted no interaction with. It was heartbreaking because it shattered the illusion I had been under for nearly 18 years–that racism was something from the history books.
After that day, I started to see it all around me–My name is Tommy, and I became aware this year**. It is an ugly thing, as is the abhorrent attitude toward women I see all around me surrounding both this SFWA situation and life in general.
I am disappointed with my fellow Americans. I am disappointed in the woman in her mid-twenties who told me she believes women shouldn’t work but instead should stay home in the kitchen and be protected by her man. Yes ladies, indeed these women still exist, the anti-feminists.
I am disappointed with a former professor of mine who told the female student who ultimately earned a PhD in physics that he believes women have no place in the sciences, but he can’t fail her for that.
I am disappointed in youth sports league directors who disqualify a boys team because there is a girl on the team, and usually it’s a girl good enough to take the starting job away from any boy.
I am disappointed that Augusta remained a white male only club in practice, if not in rule of law, well into the 21st century.
I am disappointed that a co-worker didn’t like a fellow engineer for having the audacity to display his love for his homeland of Palestine.
I am disappointed that the Catholic Church, under the governance of the great John Paul II, in America raped little boys and covered it up.
I am disappointed that the color of somebody’s skin is a factor in whether a job is awarded.
I am disappointed that a woman with my same experience, education, and skill set who does the same job I do will be paid less because she is a woman.
I am disappointed that a white man can be astonished I like women who are not white. (I also like women who are white. I like women in general.)
I am disappointed that capable people still have to hide who they really are.
I am disappointed that lining a few fat cat pockets is more important than the stability of the largest economy in the world.
I am disappointed that my people are willing to trade freedom won with blood of our ancestors for a little security.
I’m disappointed in the woman working at the social security office who intended to change my child’s race on the ssn application because of the color of her father’s skin.
I am disappointed that corporate profits justify selling death bombs in the form of unhealthy food, and prices make it so only the wealthy can eat healthy.
I’m disappointed that good health insurance is reserved for people working for major corporations.
But mostly, I am disappointed at all the Americans I see and meet who don’t care about anyone but themselves.
Come on, America. You are better than this.
Happy Independence Day.
*This is just a word, and words by themselves do not harm. It is the intent behind a word that causes damage. My intent is to illuminate, whereas the incident I remember…
** With apologies to The Who.