jen_qoe: (akima_san Croft)
So here's the thing - there's been a lot of chatter lately about genre sexism and convention harassment and such like.  Good well reasoned points have been made, useful information has been given, emotions have gotten extremely high on all sides, anti-harassment procedures are becoming more obvious and appearing at more conventions, all of this is a good thing.

But there have been a few comments here and there that keep sticking in my brain and won't stop bugging.

"But it happens in other areas of life..."
Well, yes. That's not the point.  Conventions are our turf. They're supposed to be a safe place where we can hang out with other like minded people, talk about geeky stuff and not worry about extra garbage like getting flack for choosing to wear something fun.  (Corsets are not an excuse to get handsy. Mini skirts are not an excuse to get handsy.  Funky punk gear and tattoos is not an excuse to be rude about a person. Cleavage, no matter the size or coverage, is not an excuse to turn into Benny Hill.)

Other areas of life are not the issue here.  It's our people, those people who should be better than all those other not-our-people, being assholes in our favoured places of socialisation that is hitting the buttons. And unlike many other areas of life, conventions are spaces where we can actually exert some control over our environment and the framework of interactions within it, and expect a reasonable response when the problems crop up.

And, personally, I expect my genre peeps to be evolved civilised respectful human beings as standard.  And most of them are. Even when they've been drinking for six hours straight.  Actually, especially when they've been drinking for six hours straight - it's seems to be one of those convention attendee superpowers.  (Convention bar staff used to always tell us how surprised they were at how nice and quiet most SF convention drunks were. Apparently the corporate conference drunks get really lary... but, I digress...)

"It seems to be more prevalent in US conventions/you don't get that kind of thing in the UK..."
Bollocks. I know women who have experienced problems with gropers and creepers and the like at conventions going back twenty or thirty years when they first got into the fandom thing, and endured it throughout their many years of conventioning afterwards. I know women and men, straight and quiltbag, who experienced dodgy things in the last couple of years.  For some of them it was their first convention, for some of them, it was old news. Some people stop going to certain UK conventions because of it. UK fandom is not a precious paragon of virtue in this stuff.

"I've been going to conventions for XX years and I've never had it happen to me/seen it happen..."
I'm happy for you. Really. Doesn't mean it hasn't happened or that people haven't been affected by these total assholes who keep thinking civilised behaviour doesn't apply to them.  And honestly, in saying this kind of thing, while it may be accurate for the person who got lucky with their con experiences, it still carries an implication that it couldn't possibly be happening to anyone else and kinda dismisses the experiences of those that have had something creepy happen to them and they get enough doubts about that as it is.  (You misinterpreted it. You're overreacting. It's just their/your sense of humour. He/She/Ze/They're lovely really. You're being oversensitive. They only do it when they're really drunk. You smiled too much. They were just flirting. You should have told them to go away. You should have smacked them one. You should have told someone else and they'd have done something.)

These things are difficult to talk about at the best of times.  Hell, they're difficult to think about at the best of times and a standard coping mechanism is to block it out and move on, and make a note of who to avoid and where and when.  And even the slightest hint of dismissive language from someone else can be crushing and stir things up all over again and make you never want to mention it as a thing that actually happened.

"But we shouldn't forget the good men..."
Well yes.  But also no. See, the thing of it is, the decent men and women at conventions and in other genre related things aren't the problem here. They're the majority. They're the ones who'll help out when some creep's trying it on and rescue you.  (And, by the way, why do people need rescuing in the first place? People shouldn't need rescuing from anyone at a convention! How is that a thing we still accept as normal?) The problem is, the other ones. The people no-one talks about in public but, if you're lucky to know someone who knows someone, will be the people you're warned about.  (If you don't know anyone to get the warnings from, then you're left thinking it's just you when they try it on. And wouldn't it be easier to not go to another convention or volunteer in an organisation if this is the thing you're going to get from the people you meet...)

And, look, I get why people are wanting to big up the nice folks, I could share plenty of stories about the men and women in the genre who stepped in to be awesome, that's not the point. We shouldn't need to give cookies to people for not being creeps. Not being a creep should be the standard expectation for a person.  And people aren't talking about the creeps to publicise how generally awful genre people are and bewaaaaare the terrible cesspit environment of the SF convention and that's all you can expect from everyone ever if you dare go to one.

Talking about the bad ones is more a case of saying, look, there's these serial assholes who plenty of people quietly know about but for a variety of reasons, no-one has done anything about them or their dodgy behaviour and that's not right. It has never been right. And now there's enough people talking about what the moronic assholes are doing for people to realise they weren't the only ones being targeted and that, actually, some of the perps behaviour was just a bit shitty so lets make it stop.

And the not being alone in this thing is a strong component in all the talking about it over bloggage and social media. Because that guy that you thought was a bit pervy but didn't make a thing of it, because, obviously, it was a minor thing, or your fault, or whatever... that guy? Turns out he did it to other people too.  And they weren't alright with it either. And they had their doubts, same as you. And it doesn't matter that other people don't see that side of him, or dismiss it for one of the many reasons these things get dismissed for, because there are people who have seen that side of creepy guy and aren't willing to let it slide anymore.

"But men get creeped on too."
Yes, they do. That sucks. No one should have to deal with being harassed by anyone. Transgender people also get harassed at conventions. So do people of colour. And it's not just men who do the shitty things. Women do it too.  And it's not only the women who are targeted. Men are targeted too.  (Yes, I know, binary gender descriptives. Forgive me that one. All-folks get targeted. All-folks do the targeting.)

That being said, there is a higher level of men creeping on women. And there's underlying societal currents related to the concept of men being afraid of women laughing at them and women being afraid of men killing them, and someone did a really good post on this recently which explains it properly, but I can't actually find it now. Argh!  ::headdesk:: But man following woman around has a whole bunch of different connotations to woman following man around.

"But geeks score high on the Autistic/Aspergers spectrum/are naturally socially inept...so you can't really blame them.."
Stop it right now.  The Autism/Aspergers thing was debunked somewhere, but I can't find the link at the mo... (Argh! Total linkfail today!) Read this thing here about the socially inept excuse though.

Also that socially inept thing? Works the other way too. The people that the creeps are targeting are also often socially inept, and thus unable to actually react to the creeps in a way that would stop the harassment, or have them say anything useful about it later to anyone else.  In these cases, the victim's own perception of their shyness/generally being socially rubbish creates a feeling of self-blame as, obviously, their own personality 'defects' were a factor in not stopping things they didn't like when anyone with a bit of nous would have laughed/said something witty and/or rude and generally cut creeper-dude off at the pass.

"It's just good natured flirting."
Subjective. If you know the person you're doing sexy banter with then you'll know how far you can go, and when to stop. Otherwise what's good natured flirting to one person, is awkward and embarassing and oh-god-please-shut-up-and-go-away to another. And even for those of us with a low tolerance for it, flirty conversation can still be fun, just don't be an asshole about it. And please don't be dismissive of the people that don't have the kind of personality/sense of humour to put up with/say anything about a constant unwanted barrage of the X-rated stuff.

So, yeah, talking about con harassment is good, but please just be aware that some of the well meaning comments can be a bit triggery to the people who've experienced these things.
jen_qoe: (bfs)
So then, the BFS awards shortlist has now been published here. Which is nice. Bit of an odd mix this year and first impressions are: um, hello, can we have some more women on the shortlist sometime soon? Ta. Also, good grief, look at all that horror. Wasn't there some fantasy and SF on the long list? I'm sure there was somewhere. (Alas, can not find a link to it to check as the only link I could find led to the longlist voting form - which has, of course, been taken down...)

::headdesks:: at the amount of horror. Not that there's anything wrong with horror but this being the British *Fantasy* Society you'd think there'd be enough members voting for fantasy stuff to get at least one or two more things up there...

Whinging aside - very pleased to see that Strange Horizons made the shortlist in Best Magazine. And m'friend Jan E. has made it to the Best Short Story shortlist (she was stunned and amazed and is currently incoherent!)

So women visibility count - (which I'm fairly certain Juliet McKenna has also mentioned somewhere...)

Best Novel: 5 noms, Sam Stone (for Demon Dance) is the only female author
Best Novella: 5 noms, no women
Best Short Story: 5 noms, 2 female authors (Jan Edwards with Otterburn, Sam Stone with Fool's Gold)
Best Collection: 5 noms, no women
Best Anthology: 5 noms, 1 women co-editor (Allyson Bird with Never Again)
Best Non-Fiction: 5 noms, no women
Best Artist: 5 noms, no women
Best Small Press: 5 noms, no female editors/publishers
Best Magazine: 5 noms, 1 female editor! (Susan Marie Groppi for Strange Horizons. Woohoo!)
Best Graphic Novel: 5 noms, no women as primary creators

::headdesks again::

Having said that, though, the list for Best Newcomer is happily nice and diverse. Without naming names, as we apparently don't do that... noms from the BFS/Fcon membership = 14 authors. Of which, 7 are female! (I swear I'm not making this up!) We also have an interesting balance between fantasy, SF & horror (F: 8, SF: 2, H: 4) covering both small press (2) and big press (12), with both adult (10) & YA (4) books. 4 authors are PoC. Now m'fellow judges just have to finish reading them all... ;-P

(For comparison, last year there were 5 noms for Best Newcomer, of which: 3 female authors/2 male authors; 2 fantasy, 2 SF, 1 horror; 4 big press, 1 small press; all adult; 1 PoC)
jen_qoe: (layla miller)
Ah, December. Apparently some people have snow. Lower Earley, however, is sunny and snow free. (The joys of being a valley girl! Apparently our weather doesn't act like wot it does in the rest of the country.)

So, what news?

Well, Kari Sperring fans can soon look out for an interview of the fabulous award-winning multi-talented genius lady in the upcoming BFS Journal (being the new megamix hardback publication the BFS is putting out in a bid to merge Prism, Dark Horizons and New Horizons. Or something. I? Have no idea.) The cover is gorgeous though. BFS members can expect it as soon as it's back from the printers.

It's Women in SF week over at Torque Control! Go check out the many fabulous posts and discussions about women in sf!

If you're in need of some fun stories to brighten your December, go see the fantastic December Lights project organised by Stephanie Burgis and Patrick Samphire. Me, I loooooove Undead Philosophy 101 by Stephanie Burgis.

Women & Hollywood make mention of how Helen Mirren kicked ass at the Women in Entertainment Breakfast There is a video. And delicious quotes. (Helen Mirren also kicks ass in the film RED. Just sayin'. :-P)

M'good friends Pete and Jan (they of Wyld Stallyns. Wild Stacks fame) have now been made the editors of the BFS' Dark Horizons, and, thusly, are looking for subs.

-

On personal newsie bits -
The Nano thing - duly done so my record of making the 50k in November goes unblemished. (Huzzah!)
OU status - Fiiiiinally got the results of the last course/module/thingy back. Passed it! 85% on the examinable part, 75% average on the coursework part (which is, apparently, a bit weird as most people get lower marks for the examinable bit.)
Now, just got to fight my way through the current course from hell then see how many course/module/thingies I can get done before the prices rise astronomically thanks to the Bastard!Government!Trolls! Ahem. Yes. Studying is fun. Really. ;-P
jen_qoe: (Default)
(This is a long one, you have been warned…)

Another thing that happened over Fantasycon weekend was the explosion in the blogosphere over the all male content of the BFS’ newly launched In Conversation book. The book: In Conversation: A Writer's Perspective, Volume 1: Horror, edited by James Cooper is intended to be the first in a serious of interview collections, with the two following volumes covering fantasy and SF.

Things were first picked up by Maura McHugh, with debate springing up on the blogs of Cheryl Morgan, Christopher Fowler and Publishers Weekly.
Then yesterday the Guardian picked up on it with an article by Alison Flood.

Commissioning Editor and BFS Chairman Guy Adams has issued a public apology and from his reactions when the issue was mentioned for the first time during the BFS AGM on Sunday, he is genuinely horrified that he didn’t notice the lack of women in the book. In Guy we trust. :->

Debate has wandered to the BFS Forums and a thread on the BFS’ Facebook page with responses switching between those that think the gender of the writers is unimportant and those that think otherwise. (Also, the phrase ‘feminist claptrap’ got used, but we won’t touch that one.)

For what it’s worth, this is my take:

When a fiction anthology is widely open to submissions, then of course, you take your chance on what stories the editor likes. Editors are quite capable of picking good stories that fall outside their normal reading comfort zone and no-one in their right mind is going to refuse a good story because of who’s written it (or who hasn’t).

When a fiction anthology is filled by commissioned pieces, then to fill it with all male authors seems somewhat archaic. (Unless that's the particular point of the anthology!) If the editor’s tastes don’t naturally run to stories that happen to be written by women (or anyone who isn’t the standard white male), then the editor needs to expand their reading or talk quietly to someone who can clue them in to what else is being written that might fit the theme of the book.

But when it’s a collection of commissioned interviews purporting to give voice to the sixteen most accomplished horror writers around, then to not have a single woman in it is just ridiculous. And this goes double when it’s being published by an organisation that, by its own constitution, is there to promote excellence in the genre.

I love the BFS. I’ve grown up with it – signing up for the first time as a fresh faced wannabe writer at sixteen and then getting quickly pulled onto various committees for things as folks jumped on my enthusiasm for helping out with odd bits. The BFS has always been filled with many wonderful people and meeting them every year at Fantasycon is one of my favourite things.

What frustrates me is two things. One of them is the apparent dominance of the male authors when I know there are plenty of female authors in the BFS. They don’t seem to get talked about as much as the chaps, but it’s from seeing them at Fantasycon that I discovered their work. Authors like Juliet E. McKenna, Sarah Pinborough, Freda Warrington, Justina Robson, Storm Constantine, Pauline Morgan (and her alter-ego Pauline Dungate), Raven Dane, Sam Stone, artists like Anne Sudworth. Editor Selina Lock produces the excellent Girly Comic amongst other Factor Fiction titles with her partner Jay Eales.

I know there must be more, but the men’s names come to mind quicker than their female counterparts. Authors, artists, editors, both small and big press. I could list twice as many of the chaps twice as quick. I’ve seen them on the awards lists every year, and they’re always getting news items and interviews and the like inside the pages of the assorted BFS publications.

(Incidentally, the other niggle is the apparent dominance of horror over fantasy, but that latter is a debate we’ve been having for years and is never one that gets resolved.)

So gender balance and the BFS - you’ve only got to look at the awards list this year. When the long list came out it was excellent, filled with a good mix of everything by everyone. I was proud to be a member of a society that produced that kind of a list. When it got voted down to the shortlist… it was mostly horror and mostly men authors. Good authors and publications, true, but nowhere near as diverse a list as I’d’ve liked.

I do think it’s particularly brilliant that out of the four women that made it to the shortlist, two of them scooped the awards in their categories… Go Sarah Pinborough and Allyson Bird!

Without seeing the current BFS membership list, it’s difficult to tell if this is indicative of the membership as a whole being predominantly male (which does make the brash assumption that the menfolks only like the work the other chaps are writing. Which I’m certain is not the case.) Or if it’s just indicative of the people that bothered to vote.
(And what’s quite interesting is that of the two juried awards, both were won by men too… and I know there was at least one woman on each list that went before the jurors…)

So Fantasycon then? How was the gender split there this year? Out of the prebooked attendees (including guests) we had 89 female vs. 167 male. On-the-day walk-ins were also predominantly male.
Panellists? Excluding the on-the-day reading sign ups & launch-ees, 50 men vs. 12 women.
Film show? Difficult to tell from the list in the schedule, but 11 films and only one listed as written & directed by a woman (with a couple of films uncredited).

Story competition – now that one was better, from the 5 finalists, 4 that made it were women. (For completeness, the first round reading panel was 4 women to 1 man, the celebrity final judges 1 woman to 2 men…make of that what you will!)

And the really frustrating thing is, none of the mis-balance is deliberate. The committees of both the BFS and Fantasycon work their asses off to keep things balanced so everything gets covered and everyone gets a voice. There are always women on both the committees, some years they’ve been in the majority, and not a one of them have ever been shy about voicing their opinion about things.

Women have edited the publications, they’ve organised the conventions, they’ve written reviews and interviews and poetry and fiction, they’ve provided cover art and internal illustrations. And yet women are still outnumbered by the men in pretty much every aspect of the BFS.

I want this to change. I’ve wanted this to change since I first joined and that was way too many years ago, and the only way things are going to change is if people keep shouting about the female professionals in our midst. Keep submitting to the BFS publications and keep their names on the radar, make it so that there’s a bigger range of names at the front of people’s minds when it comes to choosing guests and panellists for Fantasycon, when it comes to possible contributors to commissioned publications, and especially when it comes to voting on the shortlists of the awards.

I mean, seriously, the last time a woman won the Best Novel Award was Tanith Lee in 1980!!! 1980, people! And that was the only time it happened too. Come on. We can do better than that.

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