I had not intended to write this post today, but I got wind of a blog post by Mary Robinette Kowal via a blog post by John Scalzi, which I learned about through a twitter post from yet another party. This isn’t about Mary, but the topic she shines a light upon.
I’m a bit isolated from the topic of sexism in the spec fic community at large, in no small part because I don’t get to many conventions. Those I do attend are local and small, and as far as I know, don’t experience the sexism issues I’ve heard tales about. I suppose that’s fortunate because I get to see how a convention should run, smooth and without the problems I hear so much about from other cons. But it doesn’t give me any data on how pervasive the problem really is. I don’t know if it happens most of the time, or if a few incidents are shouted loud enough that the problem seems larger than it really is. Or, perhaps I just hang around the decent people and I don’t see the problems caused by others. I don’t know because I just don’t have the data to be able to know.
But the fact that this sort of thing happens at all makes me question how people behave when I’m not around. There was a time when people trusted clergy with their children, and we all know what happened when nobody was looking. I’m astonished that major conventions that have experienced the worst of the issues–the stalking, the groping, the horrible verbal abuse–in some cases push back to avoid putting any kind of policy into place.
What is wrong with us as a community of professionals?
Many moons ago, I was in college and a member of a fraternity. We weren’t the most popular by any means, but we were on good terms with the other houses. (Small school, not that many Greeks on campus.) The president of the most popular fraternity was always surrounded by people, he was the center of attention. He was well-liked by everyone. He was one of those guys who had thousands of friends.
One day, word quickly spread across campus that he committed rape the night before. The next time I saw this guy, he was drinking alone in one of the less popular bars in town. The crowds of friends–gone. As president of the largest fraternity on campus, he could have had dozens of people to defend his actions, to rationalize why what he did was okay–to tell the world how what he did was the girl’s fault.
That isn’t what happened. This guy’s fall from grace was about as dramatic as it could be, all because his fraternity brothers got it. There were no more incidents while I was still at the school. Nobody wanted to be that guy.
Why is it tolerated among professionals, then? Are we, the male spec-fic writers, truly as professional as we claim? Clearly, some are not.