shawnam (shawnam) wrote,

I can't ignore you any longer!

As many of my good friends and colleagues will attest, my overall attitude towards this giant digital community has basically been the equivalent of sticking my fingers in my ears and chanting, "Lalala, I can't hear you! " I've recently discovered that this won't work anymore. Even if I stay off the interwebs and keep my nose clean and my typing fingers innocent of slander and ridicule, I still end up in trouble, so I give up. Here is my neck--please direct me to the nearest guillotine.

Anyway, the first thing I wanted to address today is the tempest in a teapot that has been stirred up by the announcement of Realms of Fantasy's Women in Fantasy issue. Doug Cohen, the general editor, announced the issue earlier this week, and apparently a mini-firestorm immediately erupted on the basis of whether or not it's sexist that such an issue even exist. I decided to ignore that, as usual, since I thought it was silly. But then some more serious charges arose around Doug's choice of language in his announcement, and I can't ignore the issue or the internet any longer.

My kids have, over the years, discovered the hard way that irony, sarcasm, humor and even affection just don't travel well digitally. If you text someone a message saying U suck, the recipient has no way of knowing that you meant it affectionately, or as a joke, or utterly sincerely. 

So, Doug is a guy. I don't really know how old he is, but from my lofty perspective (which is how I choose to refer to my age), the answer is "not very." He's a hard-working, fantasy loving, football watching kid who is just now beginning to realize that there are certain things you just can't say on the internet (or in real life). Much like my kids, he's now finding out the hard way that what sounds good in your head sounds awful on the internet. I know he's not a sexist pig, and using the terms a) "girl writers only" and b) "ladies" was not intended in any way other than a) as a joke, and b) as a young male person's ignorance of how much we women hate to be referred to as ladies.  I also know that this ignorance is a sign that, yes, we still have far to go in the battle against sexist language and the underlying, unaware sexist attitudes, but we also need to just chill a little bit. 

What gives me the right to stand (or more accurately, sit) here and say this? Well, I started working in SFF field when in 1978 when the proportion of men to women was 90/10. I was the first woman to edit a major SF magazine, and the first woman to win a Hugo for doing so. I edited the first women-in-science-fiction anthology, A Space of Her Own back in 1983.  Since then the balance of men to women has shifted somewhat, but not as much as I'd like to see, especially in the SF venue. In fantasy the numbers are more even (I don't have any statistics to hand, but I'm basing this on my own perception after many years in the field), but still tilted towards the male. I think the idea of a Women in Fantasy issue Realms is perfectly legitimate and I honestly think that objecting to it on the basis of sexism is just silly. Objecting to Doug's choice of language in announcing it is legitimate, but he has apologized and is slowly but clearly learning his lesson is just what you can and cannot say on line. I too apologize to anyone who was offended by his words,but I do not apologize for fact of the issue's very existence. 

So now that I've got a blog (god, I can't believe I'm doing this!), I will post more often on topics related to the magazine and probably, as I get more comfortable with being in the crosshairs, other stuff as well, For now, though, I've got to get back to work!

ETA: I've  been reliably informed, and have even looked it up myself, that my Space of Her Own anthology was predated by about five years by Pamela Sargeant's groundbreaking Women of Wonder. Apologies and deep bows to Pamela!
ETAA (edited to also add!): I have further been informed that my feminist street cred is not nearly as old as I thought it was. Ellen has also reminded me about Virginia Kidd's Millennial Women, 1973 and several others that followed with Ursula LeGuin as co-editor, along with the name of Cele Goldsmith who edited Amazing stories and Fantastic while I was still in training pants. As I said to Ellen, it hasn't taken me long to learn how to be a blogger--like most bloggers I prefer to rely on my faulty memories and deeply held opinions.
Tags: realms of fantasy
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