Here we go again. Read this letter from a former member of the Science Fiction Writers of America.
It began with issue #200 of the Bulletin—all right, #199 if we want to get technical. It began with the Resnick and Malzberg Dialogues, a long-time feature of the publication. It began when two men sat down to have a dialogue about editors and writers of the female gender. How fantastic, I thought, because I, being a writer and an editor and female, had a keen interest in such things. I love reading anthologies such as Women of Wonder (and its sequel) and seeing how women impacted and contributed to this forward-looking and -thinking genre I love. I hoped they might include the women who inspired me and introduce me to many I hadn’t yet discovered.
That’s not what I found. I found a dialogue that seemed more focused on how these “lady editors” and “lady writers” looked in bathing suits, and that they were “beauty pageant beautiful” or a “knock out.” I am certain no condescension was intended with the use of “lady,” but as the dialogues went on, I felt the word carried a certain tone—perhaps that was a fiction of my own making. As I listened to these two men talk about lady editors and writers they had known, I grew uneasy. Something wasn’t right.
That sounds so familiar. But wait, there’s more!
The editorial staff (headed by a woman) vowed to improve, to seek more membership input. Issue #201 was little better—it included an article, written by another man, that told women to emulate Barbie, to “maintain our quiet dignity as a woman should.” I could not believe those words—yet there they were, in black and white. I asked my friends again—was I mistaken? Was I simply taking these words out of context? They were surprised, appalled, outraged. First at the idea that someone felt such a thing, and next at the idea that SFWA published it in the magazine which is part of our public presence.
Be…like…Barbie? To an SF audience? I’m surprised I didn’t hear the loud splat of a world-wide Picard facepalm.
So the little ladies complained and complained and complained, and then the men who started this all replied. Quit picking on us men, they said!
Issue #202 brought with it a “rebuttal” from Malzberg and Resnick, in which they used the words “censorship,” and “suppression,” and “ban.” In which they said those who complained about their article were anonymous to them, that the SFWA forum had become “the arena for difference.” Was it members who objected to “apparent sexism,” or was it a larger, darker, more hostile and threatening thing that wanted to suppress their dialogues?
In all the complaints that were voiced, there was never a call for censorship. There was never a call for suppression. There was a call for respect.
Whoa, man, deja vu. Deja vu all over the place. And really, there’s nothing special at all about atheism/skepticism, is there?