We Don’t Do That Anymore


While writing about CONvergence and SkepchickCon this year, I mentioned that women warning each other about Big Names at conventions was nothing new.

My friend Lynne Thomas (a guest of honor at last year’s CONvergence) archives the papers of several F&SF authors at Northern Illinois University. A quick look into the magazines will disabuse you of the notion that these sorts of public battles arose with the internet.

They will also tell you that women being leery of elevators or harassment from big names at cons is nothing new. Isaac Asimov’s butt-pinching predilections were well-known in the day. They were also fondly tolerated–by men whose butts were, of course, inviolate.

The rare books collection at NIU DeKalb, where Lynne is curator, is currently hosting an exhibition in honor of Worldcon returning to Chicago for 2012, the seventh time Worldcon has been held there. The exhibition features a wide variety of Chicon memorabilia, including programs as well as manuscripts, magazines, and books that are connected to both Worldcon and Chicago.

It also contains a fair amount of correspondence exposing the back-room workings of Chicon III. It is in this correspondence that we can find how the conrunners of the time treated Asimov’s harassing behavior. To be explicit, Asimov was well known for pinching the asses of women who were unlucky–or unwarned–enough to get on an elevator with him alone.

(A note about the correspondence included here. The NIU archives curate this material. They do not necessarily own the copyright to it, only to the pictures. I have permission to use small versions of the photos for illustration purposes. Larger versions can be found by clicking on the pictures. I do not have permission to publish the full text of the letters. If you are visually impaired, the excerpts I’ve included should give you what you need to know to understand this post. If you feel you need to read the full text for context, please email me using the button on my sidebar or leave a comment to that effect with a working email address.)

11 December, 1961 letter from Earl Kemp to Isaac Asimov

This first letter is addressed from Earl Kemp, chair of Chicon III, to Asimov. Kemp had a request, “based on your delightful wit, and frankly your reputation”. That would be Asimov’s reputation for nonconsensual butt pinching, otherwise known as sexual assault. Kemp wanted Asimov to deliver a speech at the masquerade, one of the central events of many F&SF conventions.

Specifically it should be delievered at the masquerade and should be something on the theme of THE POSITIVE POWER OF POSTERIOR PINCHING. They went on to say that we would, naturally furnish some suitable posteriors for demonstration purposes.

The suggestion was made to Kemp in jest, but Kemp liked it enough to ask Asimov in earnest. And how did Asimov respond?

14 December 1961 letter from Isaac Asimov to Earl Kemp

Quite favorably, as you can see from our second letter.

I have no doubt I could give a stimulating talk that would stiffen the manly fiber of every one in the audience.

The audience, clearly, was made up entirely of those who had “manly fiber” to be stiffened, despite the fact that enough women attended these conventions that there would be bottoms for pinching.

Besides the real reason is that I will have to ask the permission of various people who are (or would be) concerned in the matter. If they say ”no”, it will be “no.”

That was how sexual harassment and assault was dealt with at the genre’s major convention back in 1961. Everybody knew, and not only was it not stopped, but it was encouraged. Tee-hee. Isn’t it funny. Let’s put the guy on stage to tell us all how to enjoy this wonderful thing. Because “us”, like the audience at the masquerade, excluded everyone who wasn’t male. Women weren’t considered at all.

Things have gotten a little bit better since then. The general political situation outside fandom has changed enough that any conrunner has a good idea of the volume of protest that a “witty” speech on sexual assault would bring. The Harlan Ellison incident was met with a very loud outcry. (See the comments on that post for more about Asimov.)

Photo of conduct guidelines page from 2012 CONvergence handbook, titled, "What do you say to a naked lady in an elevator?"Some conventions spaces have gotten downright wonderful. WisCon, which was started by feminists not thrilled with the rest of the convention scene, has pioneered the way (from my limited perspective) on issues like accessibility and safe spaces and easily spotted, non-threatening security staff. CONvergence has adopted many of the measures and innovated more, with the anti-harassment posters for this year and a clever code of behavioral conduct that tells everyone how they expect people to get along.

These things aren’t universal yet, however. There are places where “us” is still a pretty exclusive group. This is particularly true when hard choices have to be made between the historical “us” and the inclusive “us” or when “us” is being asked to include people who might be less than perfect–unlike, of course, the rest of “us”. We have a ways to go.

Sigrid Ellis, a comic-book author and co-editor of Chicks Dig Comics, mused on something relevant to this after witnessing an incident at this year’s ChiCon that she only slowly came to recognize as harassment.

I was talking to Elise Matheson over lunch, and she gave me permission to share a private conversation she had elsewhere that is germane to my point. She was discussing an educational poster campaign for another convention, one based on the CONvergence “Costumes are Not Consent,” “Don’t Be a Dink,” and “Don’t Harsh the Squee” campaign.

Elise said that one of the slogans under discussion was “We Don’t Do That Anymore.”

We don’t do that anymore. Think about that for a moment.

I like this as an educational poster slogan. “We.” It reminds us all that we have all been a part of a cultural of sexual harassment at conventions. We have been harassed and not reported it. We have crossed boundaries and not known. We have been told we crossed boundaries and not known how to make amends. We have witnessed and not intervened.

“Don’t Do That.” But now we know better. Now we have been educated and informed. We have strategies and plans. We have people and institutions that we can trust to help us navigate the muddy waters of harassment.

“Anymore.” We have failed in the past. We intend to fail less in the future.

We won’t fix everything. We can’t stop harassment completely. But we can fail less. We’ve already made some progress. Now it’s time to make some more.

Comments

  1. says

    Isaac Asimov’s butt-pinching predilections were well-known in the day

    I got thrown out of Worldcon in Boston for offering to push his face in for groping my g/f in the elevator. I made a bit of a stink (loudly!) about the issue and, of course, I was the problem… Geeze, that was back in 1980 I think it was.

  2. says

    Asimov’s knowledge of women seemed to be limited to the fact that you could have sex with them. He apologized for how this affected his writing, but not real life.

  3. JediBear says

    I think I didn’t really want to know this about Asimov (one of my favorite SF writers and a childhood hero.) But I think it’s best that I do now.

    The truly remarkable thing about the Asimov story is that Asimov considered himself a feminist and was quite vocal in his support of equality for women.

    He was a man of his time and however lucid his thoughts on other matters, it seems he couldn’t overcome his privileged blindness in this area. Similarly, Lincoln was a racist.

    This is less about Asimov than the culture that shaped and tolerated him. We don’t want to be Those People.

  4. says

    I already knew about Asimov’s creepy behavior, but these old correspondences are some of the most repellent artifacts I’ve ever seen of the rape culture that enables sexual harassment.

    Ing: Precisely. There were and have always been men who did not act like that.

  5. JediBear says

    @Ing #4,

    If Asimov were still out there assaulting women in elevators, his behavior would certainly be a matter of importance. However, the man has been dead since 1992.

    I really wasn’t trying to make excuses, as there are really no excuses for that sort of behavior. My aim was more to point out that the point under discussion wasn’t really “Asimov was a terrible person.”

    In retrospect, I’m not sure that adds anything to the discussion. I guess I’m still an idiot. I’m sorry for that.

  6. Rodney Nelson says

    When he was a professor at Boston University, Asimov had a reputation for one-night stands. Fredrick Pohl commented on it:

    Accordingly, he began supplying his lacks through a series of affairs.

    I don’t know the identities of most of his partners in the affairs, but as it happens I do know where he had them. That’s because on one later occasion he and I agreed to meet for some purpose in the lobby of a big old Boston hotel just off the Common. When Isaac got there he looked around, grinning, and volunteered that this was the place where he used to take his girlfriends. But he didn’t say who those girlfriends were, and I didn’t ask…But by the latter ’60s, he had become a good deal more adventurous. On meeting an attractive woman — one who was not obviously the Most Significant Other of some male friend–he was inclined to touch her–not immediately on any Off Limits part of her anatomy but in a fairly fondling way. (When I called him on it once, he said, “It’s like the old saying. You get slapped a lot, but you get laid a lot, too.”)

  7. says

    What a wonderful find. Thank you very much for posting this. It’s nice to be reminded of some of the good things. I admit I’ve forgotten this, but it certainly was Ike. (There are better stories about him but not here, not now.)

  8. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Disgusting. Fucking disgusting.

    I love Isaac Asimov’s short stories. But I had to put down a collection of them in extreme distaste recently because I can’t stomach the way he treats women characters. They’re cardboard props interested only in fashion, how their husbands feel, and whether another woman is going to out-gossip them. It’s not just careless, it’s like. . actively stupid and cheap.

    The Stepford Wives was not an inspirational novel, Asimov.

    And you, Earl Kemp—I can only say I’m glad your generation is close to extinction.

  9. julian says

    Yeah that’s not creepy at all.

    Man am I glad I didn’t grow up caring about the founders of skeptical thinking. They really don’t seem like people I wanna know.

  10. says

    What we can’t do anymore is idolize people. Asimov did a lot of great stuff that he deserves a ton of credit for. He was ahead of his time in some ways, but maybe even a little behind is time in others. What we do now is look right at it and be real about it.

    Jefferson and Sally Hemmings would be a good example. We don’t throw out all of Jefferson’s political work, but we don’t sweep any of his life under the rug either. He did stuff we don’t do anymore.

    Then there’s Richard Dawkins. We honor the good stuff he did, but we call him out on the bad stuff, the dismissive, privileged stuff.

    And hopefully society will feel the same way about us someday. As Tina Fey once said; “I really hope in a hundred years people will look at my work and say “Wow, that’s kinda racist.””

  11. Robert B. says

    We Don’t Do That Anymore

    Ha! I saw a woman’s butt get pinched in an elevator just a couple weeks ago at Dragon*Con. The coward did it on the way out so he was gone by the time anyone – including the woman – realized what just happened.

  12. says

    It was either 1985 or ’86, I think, that I met Asimov at a small sci-fi convention. It was all of two minutes before he said something creepy to an under-age friend of mine (he couldn’t have known her age, though) with his wife standing right next to him, her face fixed with a pained grin.

    While the last year’s events have awakened me to a huge amount of subtleties and nuance about harassment, at least I knew back then that at that moment, Asimov was out-of-line and an embarrassment.

  13. iiii says

    There is a scene in Asimov’s _Murder at the ABA_ (1976) in which an unattractive woman caresses the viewpoint character in what she imagines to be a seductive manner. Our Hero is thoroughly creeped out, and takes a moment to consider the possibility that the many women *he* had touched without permission might have been similarly repulsed by his advances.

    Which makes any intimation that generational blindness rendered Asimov incapable of understanding that his behavior was problematic into so much sheep dip. He’d thought about what it was like to have some creeper feel you up. He kept right on groping girls at cons.

  14. says

    No, that was different. He wasn’t a creeper. He was a great author of every genre and influential humanist, so women should have been honored to get groped by him. That’s way different than if just anybody started groping women at cons.

    I suspect this is something like Gene Roddenberry: He supported the ERA and thought women should be ale to work any job they wanted, so it wasn’t sexist for him to treat women like sex objects.

  15. says

    Stephanie, I’m missing something here. I tried to locate you but couldn’t find you. Would you care to take this private? Contact me?

    I am very easy to locate and contact. I am who I am and there should be no doubt about that.

  16. Forbidden Snowflake says

    Lymie, I quote:

    I like this as an educational poster slogan. “We.” It reminds us all that we have all been a part of a cultural of sexual harassment at conventions. We have been harassed and not reported it. We have crossed boundaries and not known. We have been told we crossed boundaries and not known how to make amends. We have witnessed and not intervened.

    Do you think the “we” who were harassed and did not report are all male? What about the “we” who witnessed and not intervened?
    “We” is not all male. “We” is everyone who lived with that shit and treated it as a fact of life, from either side of the fence.

  17. Steve Morrison says

    iiii@16:

    I think I can top that one. This is from Asimov’s murder mystery A Whiff of Death; the hero, Professor Brade, is musing about a colleague whom he dislikes:

    He was crude, surely. His pet delight lay in his numerous off-color stories which, to give him his due he told with excellent techniques. He maintained an air of mock flirtatiousness which was constant and undiscriminating. He rolled his eyes ferociously at secretaries, technicians, and graduate students (female) alike. He had a way of placing his arm casually about the shoulders or waist of women he might be standing next.
    There seemed to be no offense in it. At least no woman in Brade’s experience had screamed or slapped him or complained to Littleby. And there were times when Brade wondered why this was so. Did Foster possess an animal magnetism visible (and pleasing) to females only?
    It was with a certain delight then, that he had heard, quite by accident, that Merrill Foster had another first name by which he was known to every girl across the length and breadth of the chemistry building—“Handies” Foster.
    Brade mouthed the name now soundlessly. “Handies” Foster. It seemed to degrade the man, put him in proper perspective.

    In hindsight, it sounds as if Asimov based Professor Foster on himself! And if so, he knew perfectly well how the women he groped felt about it and did it anyway. (And this novel was written clear back in the 1950s.)

  18. Lymie says

    Yes, I saw that FS, but it seems like victim blaming, I just do not share that interpretation of the educational poster slogan. Not a big deal.

  19. Bruce Gorton says

    Aw, crap. Asimov was always one of the figures I really respected, and his Foundation series helped form a lot of my political outlook.

    To read this about him is just a little heartbreaking.

  20. callistacat says

    “He was a man of his time”
    That’s the excuse, regardless of which time he was a product of.

    Oh, and Earl Kemp, I really, REALLY hope you don’t have any daughters or grandaughters or neices.

  21. says

    I dislike “We Don’t Do That Anymore” because it’s a lie. We do it constantly. It implies the problem is solved and the culture is fixed, and that’s not true. It’s no different from Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” banner.

    My vote would be for “Let’s Not Do That Anymore”–a call to action, not a rest-on-your-laurels statement that doesn’t hold up under a moment’s scrutiny.

  22. says

    Rose, first, let me thank you for being generally awesome on this topic.

    I’m ambivalent on “We Don’t Do That Anymore”. There are the risks of complacency that you note. At the same time, however, the statement defines the community as those who don’t accept that behavior. It treats basic respectful behavior as a standard. That can also shift the culture.

    I don’t know which is more important here and now.

  23. Orielle says

    I took the “We Don’t Do That Anymore” slogan as a kind of idealization, the way kindergarten teachers will say, “We don’t hit others” or “We use our words.” The teacher’s totally aware that part of “we” sure does hit others, but could stand to be reminded, and the reminder puts everyone in the same group–hoisting up the kids into maturity, by including them in a group expected to be mature.

  24. Forbidden Snowflake says

    What Orielle said, including the same example that I would have used.
    Is there a name for that type of speech? “The prescriptive descriptive” or something, perhaps?

  25. Andrew Porter says

    I see all the brave people here posting stuff about Earl Kemp, who they do not know, hoping his generation—and he too presumably—dies off. Using their anonymous “handles”, so no one knows who they really are.

    How brave of all of you.

    How about all those WW2 soldiers who kept pin-ups of girls in their barracks and wolf-whistled USO tours? Should the Nazis have won the war instead?

  26. says

    By “all”, Andrew, you mean Josh? Plenty of people know who he is. Met him in meatspace and everything. Were you feeling some need to do so yourself?

    Also, you’re not only invoking Godwin’s Law, but you’re talking about my grandfather. If you’re suggesting he would have had someone asked someone to give a lecture on sexual assault, we’ll be having some words.

  27. Neil in Chicago says

    Ms Daisy —
    I am in complete agreement that pinching women on the butt is simply and clearly unacceptable.
    I am in complete disagreement that it is in some way equivalent to rape.

  28. says

    Earl, since you seem confused about this based on your comments elsewhere, let me be quite clear. Your first comment here was nostalgia for the good ol’ days of glorifying sexual assault. Your second was an invitation to contact you privately.

    That will not happen. Not on your life. Don’t try to say anything to me you don’t want public, even if you do figure out how to use the contact buttons in the sidebar.

    I’m rather a big believer in sunshine, especially where this sort of issue is concerned.

  29. Tim Pratt says

    How about all those WW2 soldiers who kept pin-ups of girls in their barracks and wolf-whistled USO tours? Should the Nazis have won the war instead?

    Because… looking at a poster or wolf-whistling a performer on stage is identical to sexually assaulting someone at a convention suite? Have you never heard of the fallacy of false equivalence? (If not, congratulations! You just independently invented it!)

  30. Janice Hillman says

    I don’t believe that anyone was ever in doubt about Asimov’s status as a lecher, back in the day. Let it not be forgotten that as well as all the other books cited already (and some of those quotes are indeed telling), he also penned one called “The Sensuous Dirty Old Man” which was, apparently, a skit upon the sex-manuals trend in 1970s publishing. (I haven’t read it, and don’t care to; I have a hard enough time recalling what I used to see in Asimov’s writing when I was 14, without adding to the strain on my suspension of disbelief.)

    Rose Fox and George W both hit the target squarely, as I see it. Thanks, both. Let us not, indeed, do like that any more.

  31. David K. M. Klaus says

    Wishing, even out loud, that someone were dead, whether one individual or a “generation” (however one is defining the word in context) is not a death threat.

    Before wishing anyone were dead again, however, let us remember what happened when King Henry II of England said “Will no one rid me of that meddlesome priest?”

  32. says

    Ah, but Stephanie didn’t say that! She breathed, as we often do, a sigh of relief that some of the oldest and stubbornest bigots will soon be gone. Unfortunately, I won’t be that far behind them.

    Asimov ran around on his first wife, including at conferences. I’ve seen apologia explaining that “she didn’t give him what he needed.” No, she was just his support system. If he were honest, he’d have divorced her instead of cheating.

    I have a vague impression that he met his second wife at a conference. And probably she accompanied him to future conferences so that she’d know with whom he was sleeping (her).

  33. David K. M. Klaus says

    My reading of the above was not that Ms Zvan said it, but someone who signed himself “Josh, Official SpokesGay”.

    Regardless of who said it, my suggestion stands that is isn’t a good idea to say such a thing — Your Mileage May Vary and all that.

  34. The Crafty Trilobite says

    I believe the story – I met Asimov only a few times, and one of those times, he mock-flirted with a female friend of mine age 18 (i.e., about 50 years younger than the Good Doctor then). But it’s worth noting that she giggled and AFAIK, never considered it offensive. Asimov apparently got a lot of other positive feedback for heavy-handed leching and flirting. The concept, ‘a person of his time’ has to include the fact that a lot of the supposed victims of that time seem to have been fine with it — and those who were upset were not taken seriously by most people, not just by Asimov. Nor have I yet heard about anyone who walked away traumatized – his conduct appears to have been at the nuisance level, no worse. Obviously it would be a lot better if Asimov had taken the issue seriously and stopped. It may, however, be asking a bit much for one person to be a polymath, an excellent writer, charitable, witty, progressive, AND ahead of his time on sexual mores. In short, without in any way condoning groping, can we give the guy a break?

  35. Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom says

    Crafty Trilobite: No, I don’t think it’s either fair or necessary to expect someone who is otherwise extremely intelligent is too stupid and backwards to understand that sexual assault is a bad thing. Why do you?

    David K. M. Klaus: Perhaps if you actually read what was said, you’d note that it was merely a statement that thankfully, those who are, as so many of his defenders say “of their time”, are, even if they choose not to avail themselves of the social progresses made, not going to perpetuate the errors of the past forever. Nothing more.

    Andrew Porter: See my response to Mr. Klaus. Also, it’s quite a luxury to have the power, safety and social privilege to not require a pseudonym. Perhaps you should meditate on those power dynamics.

  36. says

    David Klaus, since you resorted to copypasta, I’ll add this everywhere I notice your comment:

    Your concern for clarity is commendable. You might want to note that the same results can be achieved by reading carefully.

  37. says

    @44 Crafty Trilobite: “Obviously it would be a lot better if Asimov had taken the issue seriously and stopped. It may, however, be asking a bit much for one person to be a polymath, an excellent writer, charitable, witty, progressive, AND ahead of his time on sexual mores. In short, without in any way condoning groping, can we give the guy a break?”

    For being a polymath, excellent writer, charitable, witty progressive, yes. We admire him for those things. For being an obnoxious lecher, no.

    He was apparently not a criminal, but he also didn’t make any effort to be ahead of his time on that score. So that aspect of his personality, we’re not obligated to admire or excuse. As a practical example, I’m not getting rid of the couple dozen books by him that I own, but I won’t list him as an exemplar on gender relations either. What’s so complicated about that?

  38. David K. M. Klaus says

    Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom:

    > “Perhaps if you actually read what was said….”

    I did. What was said:

    >> “I can only say I’m glad your generation is close to extinction.”

    To me that reads at the minimum a gladness that a group of people will soon be dead, at the maximum a wish for the same. I happen to think that sexism, racism, creedism, agism, etc., are not functions of the age of the believers in them, that evil attitudes can be held by both the young and old, just as good attitudes can be held by both the young and old. I would hope that nobody in this forum would be indulging in agism.

    As for the use of proper names, I have never considered that a matter of privilege as someone with the most expensive personal computer system as their own private possession can use a pseudonym while someone homeless using a computer at the public library can use their legal name. In ASCII we are all equal, as it were.

    When talking about people in the third person and discussing allegations of unsavory behavior, it strikes me — for me — to use my name as a mark of personal integrity, not a matter of privilege. I don’t claim that as a fact, just as a personal observation for myself in a context such as this. If someone else feels sufficiently threatened or disempowered that he/she thinks he/she can only comment safely under a pseudonym, that’s understandable and appropriate for her/him. We all have individual circumstances with which we have to deal.

    (And I am not saying anything against your self-name. Anybody’s name is their own business, not mine.)

  39. says

    I happen to think that sexism, racism, creedism, agism, etc., are not functions of the age of the believers in them…

    You happen to be wrong. I explain it here.

    I have never considered that a matter of privilege as someone with the most expensive personal computer system as their own private possession can use a pseudonym while someone homeless using a computer at the public library can use their legal name. In ASCII we are all equal, as it were.

    Again, you are wrong. There were many good analyses of the inequalities of using real names that were written when Google+ started up. I recommend reading up on some of those.

  40. David K. M. Klaus says

    gwen says:

    > “You DO know Asimov’s son is in prison for sex related crimes. I believe they involved children.”

    Are you saying that you think that criminal sexual behavior is a genetically inheritable trait?!?

  41. Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom says

    It’s nothing like ageism, more pointing out that there are some attitudes that were more permitted then than now, and despite the progresses being made, those who do hold such antiquated views who choose not to educate themselves, and become more humane people will at least do the rest of us the favour of not reigning forever. It’s only a threat if you perceive the existence of time itself as one.

    And please, please educate yourself a little on power differentials, harassment, and the need for pseudonymity as an option. Just because you don’t have to fear for your life doesn’t mean the rest of us enjoy the same luxury, and bigotries don’t magically vanish when the people who hold them get online.

    That Asimov’s son also was a sexual predator is very telling. Kids learn so much from their parents.

  42. David K. M. Klaus says

    Ms Zvan, I have met young, old, and middle-aged bigots, and met young, old, and middle-aged people who could serve as community exemplars of the attitudes we should hold toward other people and the way we should treat them.

    We have different opinions from our reading and personal experiences with other people. I don’t dispute you if you say that in your experience and reading you have found liberal and progressive tendencies to be a function of age. My experience and reading tells me what I’ve already stated. We live in different “universes” from the people who are our friends to the books we’ve read to our relationships with science fiction fandom to the ages we are to the cities in which we live. (I don’t know your age, but it’s statistically unlikely we’re the same age; I don’t know where you live but I suspect we are in different cities.)

    My experience is what it is, as yours is yours. I don’t presume to tell you that what you’ve learned is false in your life, but I do maintain that what I’ve learned is true in my life.

    I have no familiarity with Google+. I am on Facebook, where legal names are required, and I am on LiveJournal, where virtually nobody uses their legal names. I see advantages and disadvantages to both protocols.

    Please don’t misunderstand me: I am not in any way saying your opinions where they differ with mine are wrong based on my life as I’ve lived it. I would hope you would not say the opinions I hold where they differ from yours are wrong based on your life as you’ve lived it.

    And I am not defending sexism, creedism, racism, agism, or other derogatory -isms. I am stating the idea that what we know of life and what we consider “factual” can differ based on what we’ve lived and perceived.

  43. says

    David, you could have saved an awful lot of explanations there if you’d read the link I posted. I’m not talking about my experience or your experience. I’m talking about a documented effect between generations, discovered through sociological research.

  44. Forbidden Snowflake says

    When talking about people in the third person and discussing allegations of unsavory behavior, it strikes me — for me — to use my name as a mark of personal integrity, not a matter of privilege.[…]If someone else feels sufficiently threatened or disempowered that he/she thinks he/she can only comment safely under a pseudonym, that’s understandable and appropriate for her/him. We all have individual circumstances with which we have to deal.

    Wait, so you acknowledge that writing under real names is an freedom that some people have and other’s don’t, yet you don’t consider it a privilege? What exactly do you think a privilege is?

  45. Andrew Porter says

    Until I used Google, I did not know who Stephanie Zwan was. Sorry, but our paths have never crossed.

    I covered the story about Asimov’s son in SCIENCE FICTION CHRONICLE. He was, alas, as much an under-achiever as his sister Robin was an over-achiever. Insinuations that he “learned” sexual behavior from his father are low ones.

    If you want to know more about me, see my Wikipedia page.

  46. says

    @53: Asimov only briefly mention hsi son in his auto-biography. He said that David didn’t work and spent his time recording and organizing television shows and seemed rather angry with the press for trying to bait him into saying he was ashamed of his son.

  47. Andrew Porter says

    I went to the page listed about David Asimov and it was a diatribe, full of lies and rumors and half truths, and totally subjective. By contrast, here is how the story was reported in the San Francisco newspapers:

    http://tinyurl.com/9gl7cpv

    A very large difference.

    The investigators finally found that David Asimov used his multiple VCRs to edit the commercials out of shows he recorded off broadcast TV. They thought the worst of him, and had to back down.

    I reported this in my April 1998 issue, under the headline, “Isaac Asimov’s Son Arrested”, on page 9. I published a follow-up in the October-Nov. 1998 issue, headline, “David Asimov: Charges Dropped”, page 13.

    Have you seen that commercial with the young girl who claims you can’t put stuff on the internet if it’s not true? Here’s a good example. If you like, I can post the second article here in its entirety.

  48. David K. M. Klaus says

    > David Klaus, since you resorted to copypasta, I’ll add this everywhere I notice your comment:

    > Your concern for clarity is commendable. You might want to note that the same results can be achieved by reading carefully.

    Then why did you do the same just a couple of comments after mine on the File 770 weblog?

    Ms Svan, I didn’t “resort” to anything. I learned that to avoid confusion it was a good idea to quote the specific lines to which one was specifically commenting initially from fanzines as far back as 1976, then later on BBS threads, and after that, on Usenet. I commend your doing the same, although I would ask that you please not spam other weblogs everywhere you notice my making a comment as you did at File 770.

    I do read carefully, which is why I know what to copy in order to make my following comment(s) understandable.

  49. David K. M. Klaus says

    Forbidden Snowflake:

    > Wait, so you acknowledge that writing under real names is an freedom that some people have and other’s don’t, yet you don’t consider it a privilege? What exactly do you think a privilege is?

    Privilege is from the Latin, it literally means “private law”: The Rockefellers are privileged; the Kennedys are privileged; Mitt Romney, his wife Ann, and his sons Chip, Dip, Thrip, Skip, and Pip are privileged; Goldman Sachs is privileged; Citibank is privileged; Nation’s Bank disguised under the name “Bank of America” is privileged; Southwestern Bell/SBC disguised under the name “AT&T” is privileged. I am not. My wife is not. My sons are not. I don’t know you, but from your writing I suspect you are not, either.

    I have sympathy for anyone who would prefer to post under their legal name but fears to do so for any reason. For some, name or handle is a choice; for others handle instead of name is a necessity of safety. For some who are not in danger, handle instead of name is a way of avoiding responsibility for flaming. It happens. I don’t know what the reasons are for the choices other people make for online use — I could speculate in individual cases but it would be insulting and fruitless, so I don’t.

    I don’t feel privileged here. I considered using a handle, but decided that integrity required me to use my actual name because of the topic, even if I suffer some damage. That choice is always a matter for individuals to make.

    If this answer and my truth aren’t satisfactory to you, I don’t know what else to say.

  50. Forbidden Snowflake says

    I asked whet you think privilege is.
    In response, you cited the etymology of the word “privilege” (which is not the same as a definition), and listed a number of people and organizations which you consider to be privileged and a number of people which you consider to be not-privileged, without providing any argument as to why you consider it to be the case. So you haven’t answered my question.
    You appear to believe that someone either is or isn’t privileged, as opposed to having or not having a specific privilege, or being more or less privileged in comparison to someone else.
    My conclusion: yes, you don’t know what the word “privilege” means, not only in the sociological usage but in the everyday usage as well. A good start would be to look in the dictionary, which defines privilege as (first definition among five): “a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most” (though I would argue that “some” instead of “most” would be more accurate). The benefit of using one’s official name online without repercussions would be an example of this.

  51. David K. M. Klaus says

    Forbidden Snowflake:

    > “a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most”

    That’s what “private law” means, that they can do with impunity what the majority of society can not. “A law unto themselves” is another phrase for it. I cited specific examples to illustrate it.

    > The benefit of using one’s official name online without repercussions would be an example of this.

    Stuff and nonsense. The majority of people in the United States, I think, could use their own names online without difficulty if they so chose. Few people say things so controversial that it would cause them problems. The ones who do say such things (like me or you or [pick your favorite example peerson]) generally belong to one or more political minorities: real libertarians and anarchists (not Republicans), real socialists (as in belonging to an actual Socialist political party, not Democrats), Neo-Pagan religious (Wiccan/non-Nazi Norse Heathen/Church of All Worlds/marijuana-mescaline-peyote-LSD psychedelists), naturists/nudists, polyamorists or swingers (not identical to each other), etc. It is not limited to people in the Lording-over-the-rest-of-us-class the examples of which I gave.

    Yes, there are children, battered people, people with security clearances, people with nasty bosses, and such who must use pseudonyms for their safety. They are people whose right of choice has been taken away from them by power-over. Using one’s own name is a birthright, in my opinion, and those who are forced from doing so are being abused, not denied a privilege.

    If you perceive differently from me, pardon the pun, that’s your privilege. My perception is what I’ve stated.

  52. Forbidden Snowflake says

    Few people say things so controversial that it would cause them problems.

    But how many people have to worry about whether what they say is controversial?
    How do the fact that these people you mention are members of political minorities mean that this is not an example of a privilege? Why do you think that being extremely rich is the only kind of privilege someone can have?

    Using one’s own name is a birthright, in my opinion, and those who are forced from doing so are being abused, not denied a privilege.

    It doesn’t matter. It still leaves us in the situation in which some people enjoy a certain liberty, and others don’t. It doesn’t matter whether we draw the baseline at not having this liberty and declare those who have it to be privileged, or draw the baseline at having this liberty and declare those who don’t have it to be abused. Privilege, by your own favored definition, is just a liberty that some have and other’s don’t. Doesn’t matter whether you believe that all people should have it.

    In any case, do you agree that suggesting, as Andrew Porter did, that pseudonymity is a sign of cowardice, or claiming, as you did, that writing under a real name is a sign of integrity, is a failure to take into account the experiences of people who are less well-off, in this specific sense?

  53. Rodney Nelson says

    David K. M. Klaus #64

    The majority of people in the United States, I think, could use their own names online without difficulty if they so chose. Few people say things so controversial that it would cause them problems.

    I am an atheist. My immediate supervisor at work is a fundamentalist Christian. I do know know what her reaction would be if she found out about my atheism but I doubt it would be favorable. I do know she has googled my name (she told me that someone with my name had multiple arrest warrants in Pennsylvania). Rodney Nelson is not my real name (I’m interested in 18th Century British naval history, which gives the origin of my pseudonym).

    I prefer to remain pseudonymous because of possible ramifications which I would prefer to forgo. There’s the further point that it’s none of your damn business why I want to use a pseudonym. That’s what I want to do and that’s a good enough reason for me to use one. If you prefer to do something else, that’s your preference which I do not have to follow.

  54. Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom says

    Mr. Klaus: I say this not out of any unkindness, but because I can see that aside from the derailing copypasta, you do seem to want to engage in good faith: please, please inform yourself on some of the concepts and terminologies used here (privilege, issues around pseudonymity, the latter of which you’ve been linked to excellent information on). It will make actual discussion significantly easier for all of us. It will likely also give you a better understanding of where we’re coming from.

  55. David K. M. Klaus says

    Callistacat:

    Oh, and Earl Kemp, I really, REALLY hope you don’t have any daughters or grandaughters or nieces.

    I don’t entirely understand this. Are you saying Mr. Kemp is possibly inclined toward pedophilia or hebephila toward his own direct descendants, or are you just afraid they will be sexually harassed by others should they attend conventions?

  56. David K. M. Klaus says

    Rodney Nelson:

    I am an atheist. My immediate supervisor at work is a fundamentalist Christian. I do know know what her reaction would be if she found out about my atheism but I doubt it would be favorable. I do know she has googled my name….

    Atheists are one of the groups I should have mentioned who take risks by using their legal names. I am sorry you have to function under that kind of a boss.

    There’s the further point that it’s none of your damn business why I want to use a pseudonym. That’s what I want to do and that’s a good enough reason for me to use one.

    You’re absolutely right: it is none of my damned business. That why I said speculating on why an individual uses a pseudonym was fruitless and insulting, and why I don’t do it.

  57. David K. M. Klaus says

    Forbidden Snowflake:

    In any case, do you agree that suggesting, as Andrew Porter did, that pseudonymity is a sign of cowardice, or claiming, as you did, that writing under a real name is a sign of integrity, is a failure to take into account the experiences of people who are less well-off, in this specific sense?

    I am of the opinion that in some-but-not-all cases that the use of pseudonyms can be by “hit-and-run” commenters, trolls, who drop in to say something negative and provocative, and sit back and enjoy the lulz which follow. Those people are cowards, agents provocateur, or just jerks.

    I am of the opinion that some people need to use pseudonyms to protect themselves from abuse or further abuse, online, in meatspace, or both. These people are not jerks, not in the slightest.

    I try to live a live in integrity as I perceive it. That means raising my sons to respect women. That means respecting women myself. That means encouraging respect for women in online conversations. That means sometimes using my legal name instead of the easier route of using a pseudonym when the topic is serious enough, as this one is, even though I might take damage from it (which I am, a little bit, for having some contrarian opinions which I have expressed).

    I am not judging anyone here for their screen names. I am not inquiring why they are using the screen names they have chosen. I am addressing everyone with the same courtesy. I am not dismissing anyone’s writing because of the name under which they have chosen to write.

    I would wish that the discussion would get back to its original topic instead of somehow managing to be about me, which sidetracking was never my intention.

  58. David K. M. Klaus says

    Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom:

    Thank you for acknowledging that I am writing in good faith. I appreciate that.

    I have skimmed over some of the material to which you refer. I will read it more thoroughly as you and others have requested. If we are using different definitions and connotations for certain terms and phrases, that is certainly a barrier to communication. I’ve explained what I perceive, it’s only right that I better inform myself how many of you perceive the same terms and phrases.

  59. says

    David, you have the disadvantage of addressing a group of people who have been intensely discussing topics like these for over a year and who have been under assault for even having that discussion for basically the entire time. I apologize for the fact that you will face intense scrutiny because of these circumstances, even though you weren’t involved in them. It is not personal.

  60. Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom says

    Mr. Klaus: (feel free to call me Happiestsadist, the whole thing is pretty long), our host explains a lot of the reaction you’re getting at #72. For a long while now, discussions like this are a pretty much constant, intense subject among a lot of the people here. We’ve had a lot of really quite horrible attacks for even saying it’s something that needs to be discussed. So when someone shows up and wants to start at the beginning, some of us are kind of justifiably defensive/suspicious. It really isn’t personal. Coupled in with the cultural divide we seem to have, it can blow up kind of quickly through no intent of anyone’s.

    With regards to your comment at #68, I think Callistacat was referring to the depressing nature of growing up in a very sexist environment, which is a depressing, grinding state for a young girl to be in. For anyone, but especially knowing that her own family is ideologically siding with the people who despise her.

  61. David K. M. Klaus says

    Happiestsadist:

    I understand what you’re saying; I haven’t felt I was treated in a hostile manner until the two most recent posts in the other thread, which seemed to me to be flamebait, a (transactional analysis) game I have no wish to play.

    I didn’t realize I was coming into a group established as thoroughly as you and Ms Zvan indicate. It wasn’t my intention to stir up trouble or be irritating. I came here through the link from File 770; if people are uncomfortable due to my being here, I can leave without a flounce rather than continue to be an irritant outlier to a previously cohesive group.

    I really do support the idea of not sexually harassing women and not creating a sexually oppressive atmosphere. No attack was intended nor was being a thorn in anyone’s side.

    And I’m sympathetic to Callistacat, having had a similar youth. Sexism wasn’t involved, but my own family ideologically siding with people who despise me is a situation with which I’m all too familiar.

  62. Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom says

    You’re not being annoying, you’re just walking into something that you didn’t know was a long, messy discussion that has been filled with actual threats to the people (mostly the women) involved therein.

    The sexism (and racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, etc.) within SF/F culture is a very well-known problem. What this is basically coming to is that a lot of people who don’t benefit from that privilege/set of privileges are saying “To hell with that, I don’t WANT to celebrate that part of the past! I want to get past that!”, while other parts of that culture (typically people who do benefit from those privileges) are still pining for the good old days. The ability to drag the past, kicking and screaming if need be, into a more progressive present is something that we’re really only recently begun to get. The same argument is currently going on in the atheist/secular movement.

    Growing up with sexists isn’t just the knowledge that people aren’t on your side, though. It’s having to internalize all of the same misogyny yourself. As a child.

  63. Alexandra Fiona Dixon says

    I attended a Star Trek convention in NYC in the late 70’s when I was an undergraduate at Yale. Isaac Asimov was there, I went up and introduced myself to him as a fan and without another word he grabbed me and planted a big wet one on my lips. He was in his 50’s, I was barely 20.

    I didn’t mind that much. Seemed harmless since he was so old.

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  1. […] how that evidence is continually elided after being given. I pointed out that we’ve known harassing behavior exists in our communities for a very long time. I stated that staying out of the fight for equal treatment is a reasonable […]

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