What I said, but better…

I don’t often post just to point you somewhere else, but sometimes it’s worth it. Sophia McDougall is one hell of a writer on gender issues in modern SF&F. This was first brought to my attention by her post in response to Steven Moffat’s unbelievably mysogynist comments that half the Internet seems to know all about, and the other half seems blissfully ignorant of and even defensive-about-in-ignorance. To be fair, since the whole Riversong thing there’s been less of the ‘Yes, I’ve heard he’s secretly sexist, but I don’t believe it – he writes such strong women!’. Sophia’s post came out before the ‘My whole purpose in life – becoming an archeologist and a badass, everything – was to catch up with the Doctor because I love him and need him to complete me’ second-half-of-season reveal. When I read it, I felt like the scales fell from my eyes. Now it feels generous.

Given the number of times I’ve seen her post linked to I was surprised to find that no one I spoke to at the SFX Weekender had read it. So, in case you missed it, here, complete with full and damning quotes from the Moff himself, is one post you should read: Capes, Wedding Dresses, and Steven Moffat.

But that’s not the post I started this one to draw your attention to. It’s this: SFX Weekender and the Nudes in the Metropolitan Gallery. She points out a number of things that I had missed, and (again) makes a case I want to put forward better than I could. I didn’t notice the gender disparity in panels, but then I only went to two, one of which was the Q & A with the kickass Eve Myles. But yeah – Sophia really would have been an ideal person to have on a panel, especially when relative unknowns like my mate Dave (who, for all his good qualities, only had his first book come out on the Thursday of the SFX Weekender itself – promotional, yes, but perhaps not an authority) got a look in alongside the obvious choices, like China Mieville.

Anyway, where mine is one person’s point of view, Sophia’s post has breadth, style, and nuance. Go read.

5 thoughts on “What I said, but better…

  1. Ro,

    I’ve been giving your last point a fair bit of thought, if only because it’s never pleasant to find yourself held up as an example of something you wouldn’t personally go along with.

    Putting aside the (admittedly problematic) possibility that the panel organisers simply came up with topics and then tried to fit in the writers they knew they had on hand according to what they knew of their work, it seems worth pointing out that I never expressed interest in being on a panel, for reasons of self-promotion or otherwise, and only found out I would be when Angry Robot let me know a week or two beforehand. Since all the Angry Robot authors in attendance were on at least one panel – including Anne Lyle, who doesn’t actually have a book out yet – I suspect our presence had more to do with enthusiastic lobbying on AR’s part and little to do with the prejudices of the panel organisers.

    Of course, I have no idea on what criteria the rest of the panel guests were selected on. It’s evident there was a little wiggle room, at least, since two authors – Sam Stone and Raven Dane – were added to programs at the last minute. And, to be clear, I’m not denying that there was a gender imbalance, since there very evidently was, and it didn’t reflect the ratio of male and female writers I personally ran into (roughly sixty to forty, I’d say). I’m just not convinced the reasons for that imbalance were solely due to a desire on the organisers’ part, conscious or otherwise, to exclude women. For one thing, there should definitely have been more editors, anthologists and bloggers on hand; if there had been, I think that would have skewed the numbers further in the right direction. The emphasis on sci-fi – a notoriously male-dominated publishing genre – probably didn’t help matters either.

    • Hi Dave,

      I’m sorry you felt you were being held up as an example of something you wouldn’t go along with, that was not my intention and hoped that you would not take it that way when I said it. I’m sorry it came across that way. I entirely expect that in most cases panels were composed of people whose publishers were lobbying on their behalf because they had stuff coming out. Similarly, I never indicated in any way that I thought the organisers desired to exclude women. I think they just didn’t think of it, and that’s the problem. As is assuming that SF is a male genre, or that the SFX is dominated by SF, which it demonstrably wasn’t.

      It’s possibly telling that publishers weren’t pushing their female writers more, but that in itself is a complex issue. I know, for instance, than most of AR’s female authors are not based in the UK, and therefore couldn’t make it. They had a much bigger presence at EasterCon last year. Presence or absence of ladies from one publishing house or one panel does not mean anything, from several it is significant of something.

      Most of all I want to emphasise that the above was not intended as any kind of in depth post – I made my points in the previous post, which didn’t mention the panels at all because I hadn’t been to sufficiently many to witness a gender imbalance (except for the four-to-one ratio in the Just a Minute, which I still thought was better than nothing, and even if it couldn’t resist going in for sexist jokes at one point, the audience boos and China Mieville’s voicing against it did much to make me feel better). I can understand that this point stood out to you as I mentioned you in passing, but I really only meant to highlight that I felt Sophia had raised an interesting point I hadn’t thought of that I felt was worth considering. Like I say in the post, I intended no comment on you personally – I mentioned it only to draw a contrast between a debut male author being on a panel when an established female author like Sophia whose work was highly relevant to several panels (including the one you were on) offered herself as a guest and was not even responded to. This was specifically responding to the point that Sophia raised and mentioning of you was only because I was aware of you as being on a panel as a debut author. Obviously having your first novel out is also a reason to be on a panel. I didn’t get into the details of it because it is essentially not my point – it’s Sophia’s. I was merely noting it as interesting, and not in any sense intending to critique you.

      I hope you won’t mind if I say that I have more than tired of talk about the whole SFX gender issue. There are points you make that I could easily let myself get het up over, but I desperately want to let this issue drop. I hope you can respect that, and that this response explains any confusion about what the original post was about – i.e. basically a signpost to Sophia’s.

  2. Sure … I was responding as much to Sophia’s post as to yours, which was perhaps a little unfair. I really just wanted to make it clear that I wasn’t on a panel because I lobbied to be there. I don’t doubt for a moment that there were many people, male and female, who’d have had more (and more interesting) things to say than I did – and would have stood a better chance of getting a word past China Mieville 🙂

    • Never thought that you did, and I don’t think Sophia did either; nor that you didn’t have interesting things to say – I’m sure you did! Alas, I couldn’t hear anything from the trader’s stall, hence not really commenting on the panel balance myself.

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