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Thread: The Latest SFWA Controversy

  1. #26
    Delerium ex Ennui Xelebes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JChandlerOates View Post
    lol. What if it's buried up to the hubs?
    The Chev got stuck, the Ford got stuck. . .

  2. #27
    Sophipygian AW Moderator Alessandra Kelley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BethS View Post
    What was in the original column that started all this? Does someone have a scan of it somewhere?
    No, but I will type in excerpts from issue #200's article: "Resnick & Malzberg Dialogues: LX: Literary Ladies (Part 2)" which takes up eight full pages (I can't find issue #199 with part 1 at the moment).

    All ellipses are theirs. Anything I left out is marked with <redacted>. All transcribing errors are my own.

    At the very beginning of the article is one of those large-type excerpts in boxes, which I quote in full:

    She was competent, unpretentious, and beauty pageant gorgeous ... as photographs make quite clear. Tell the succeeding generations all about her, please. -- Barry
    (Note that "she" is never named in this extract.)

    The article starts out as a straightforward nostalgic reminiscence. One page in Barry Malzberg brings up Beatrice Mahaffey:

    [Barry Malzberg]

    Almost synchronous with her [Catherine Tarrant's] entrance was that of Beatrice Mahaffey as Raymond Palmer's assistant editor when Palmer left Amazing to originate a series of his own magazines (beginning with Other Worlds) and I will leave it to you to introduce her; you knew her from the SF community of your early years and were, with so many, an admirer. She was competent, unpretentious, and beauty pageant gorgeous ... as photographs make quite clear. Tell succeeding generations all about her, please.

    Mike

    Ah, Bea Mahaffey...

    She was the only pro I knew in Cincinnati when we moved here from the Chicago area more than a third of a century ago. She was incredibly generous with her time and reminiscences, and I spent a lot of time with her, on the phone and in person, duting the first few months when I was learning my way around town.

    Anyone who's seen photos of Bea from the 1950s knows she was a knockout as a young woman.

    <four paragraphs with a possibly apocryphal story about Isaac Asimov redacted>

    Another story is from nonagenarian Margaret Keiffer, who lives just a couple of miles from us. She's the widow of super-fan Don Ford, who ran the 1949 Worldcon, and founded both Midwestcon and First Fandom. Don also created CFG (the Cincinnati Fantasy Group), the venerable local club to which Carol and I belong. According to Margaret, during its first few years of existence CFG was populated exclusively by men. Then Bea joined. Then the members' wives got a look at Bea in her swimsuit at the 1950 Midwestcon. Then the club's makeup changed to the 50% men and 50% women that has existed ever since.
    There may be more that I missed. The article goes on for six more pages.

    I note that jealousy is slyly ascribed as the motivation of the women who joined the fan club rather than the possibility that women joined because they saw a woman was a member and so realized that they might be allowed.

  3. #28
    all hail zombie babies! CrastersBabies's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alessandra Kelley View Post
    I remember the notorious issue #200 of a few months back. When it arrived I looked at its cover of a busty barely clad heavily made-up chick with every muscle clenched standing over a dead frost giant in snow covered mountains, rolled my eyes, and tossed it in the magazine basket.
    What I find interesting is that chainmail bikinis and lingerie armor are kind of the laughing stock of artwork these days.

    Sorry, Frank Frazetta, but your stuff was "neat" when I was 9.

    I'm no longer 9.

    While I can appreciate the pulpy-ness of your contribution to fantasy art, I find it kind of gross, ugly, and laughable now.

    I get it if it was a shout-out to the "olden days" here, but yeah, so not my thing. I want a real woman who can kick some real ass and that woman has decent armor.
    Last edited by CrastersBabies; 06-01-2013 at 08:59 PM.
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  4. #29
    Inappropriately math-oriented. slhuang's Avatar
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    Interesting. I blogged about this last night and by this morning it's already rocketed to being my second most popular post of all time. I've had hundreds and hundreds of hits through search engines alone (variations on "resnick malzberg sfwa"). It's 10:30AM and this is already the busiest day my blog has ever had.

    And I've blogged about controversies in SFF/fandom before. This is something bigger. People are looking for news. It heartens me to see -- I feel like real change comes when a critical mass of the population stands up and says, "No more." Hopefully this is one of those times.

    Quote Originally Posted by Filigree View Post
    Do I enjoy having my skills as a writer and artist doubted by the Old White Men who used to run the world? Sure. But I also deeply resent the implications that I am nothing but a helpless victim, part of a culture of victimization, and that I must be protected from All Bad Things by never having to see them in the first place. I can decide what offends me, and how to respond to it.
    I do not think that "refusing to provide a platform for sexist asshattery" = "making women into victims who have to be protected from All Bad Things lest they be offended."

    People don't want the SFWA's public face to be represented by abusive sexism. Saying you don't want your professional organization to endorse something is not the same thing as saying "oh noes my delicate sensibilities can't handle seeing this in the world."

    (BTW I'm angry at them, Filigree, not you -- I think we agree more than disagree.)

  5. #30
    Cultus Gopherus MacAllister SuperModerator Medievalist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Filigree View Post
    But I also deeply resent the implications that I am nothing but a helpless victim, part of a culture of victimization, and that I must be protected from All Bad Things by never having to see them in the first place.
    I don't think that's the motivation for most people objecting to Resnick and Malzberg's columns. I think it is that they are publishing them in the official organ of SFWA as representatives of SFWA and they are in both columns insulting large numbers of their fellow SFWA members—members who pay for the privilege of membership.

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  6. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrastersBabies View Post
    What I find interesting is that chainmail bikinis and lingerie armor are kind of the laughing stock of artwork these days.

    Sorry, Frank Frazetta, but your stuff was "neat" when I was 9.

    I'm no longer 9.

    While I can appreciate the pulpy-ness of your contribution to fantasy art, I find it kind of gross, ugly, and laughable now.

    I get it if it was a shout-out to the "olden days" here, but yeah, so not my thing. I want a real woman who can kick some real ass and that woman has decent armor.
    This isn't just a female issue. The armor and weapons that some fantasy illustrators give men is laughable, too.

  7. #32
    I think Resnick's article was horrible, and that cover was kind of embarrassing. (It looked like a Dragon Magazine cover circa 1982.) But I'm not sure who the editor of the bulletin is or how much oversight the SFWA President has (or had) over its publication. Arguably he probably should have been paying closer attention.

    Does the fact that whoever was responsible for publishing that cover and that article, sans rebuttal, really mean the whole SFWA is hostile? It seems like Resnick has gotten a lot of blowback, and if he's reacting petulantly, well, he's entitled to respond, and also entitled to get raked over the coals when he keeps digging a deeper hole.

    There are some Grumpy Old White Men in the SFWA, but the officers seem pretty consistently aware of their membership as not a Grumpy Old White Men's club, if not always perfect in their responses.

  8. #33
    Cultus Gopherus MacAllister SuperModerator Medievalist's Avatar
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    The editor is Jean Rabe. It is a stipended position.

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  9. #34
    Mildly Disturbing Filigree's Avatar
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    Medi and Slhuang, thanks. I know we agree more than not, just based on previous posts. And I do think that SFWA can be better organized and responsive to members' needs.

    I've now read some of the critical responses to the Resnick letter, and those writers have a point. The original text did come across as slyly misogynistic at best, with a healthy dose of manufactured outrage on the side.

    But I've seen that from the other camp, too. Take this as another plea for moderation, from someone who will probably never have a direct interest in the organization.
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  10. #35
    Sophipygian AW Moderator Alessandra Kelley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JChandlerOates View Post
    This isn't just a female issue. The armor and weapons that some fantasy illustrators give men is laughable, too.
    The laughable armor is a creaking old antiquity in fantasy art, but does still show up.

    The major issue is the near-universal relegation of women to eye-candy roles when that is but one of a myriad of roles males are permitted to have.

    Or, to keep on topic in this thread, what in perdition does any editor's physical appearance have to do with how well he or she does the job? And what business is it of anybody's to comment on something as irrelevant as an editor's appearance in a professional trade publication?

  11. #36
    practical experience, FTW Andrhia's Avatar
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    Thanks for posting that, Alessandra.

    You know, now that I've seen the original offending pieces... they don't strike me as so outlandishly offensive? I mean I had been expecting a lurid account of some woman's attributes in a swimsuit, given the heat of the controversy I've been seeing around the Twitters.

    Though that follow-up rebuttal... hoooo boy. That's really, really not cool.

    I've long been an aspiring SFWA member as a sort of benchmark for legitimacy, and this doesn't turn me off the organization at all. Every group of people will screw up sometimes, it's down to what happens afterward. It sounds like SFWA is planning to take this seriously going forward and make a plan to prevent it from happening again, and I find that very heartening.

  12. #37
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    Yeah, I think the Barbie piece was far more offensive. And probably sensitised people.

  13. #38
    A Gentleman of a refined age... thothguard51's Avatar
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    I am not sure what to think or how I feel. The image I saw was rather tame but I understand the complaint.

    I grew up on Frazetta and Vallejo covers for SF and Fantasy. Yes, the scantly clad girls on the covers for a 10-13 year old boy is what drew me to the book, but it was the story behind the covers that kept me coming back.

    Today, not so much, but that does not mean I still do not appreciate the artwork from yesteryear or today and the skill of the artist.
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  14. #39
    Sophipygian AW Moderator Alessandra Kelley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrhia View Post
    Thanks for posting that, Alessandra.

    You know, now that I've seen the original offending pieces... they don't strike me as so outlandishly offensive? I mean I had been expecting a lurid account of some woman's attributes in a swimsuit, given the heat of the controversy I've been seeing around the Twitters.

    Though that follow-up rebuttal... hoooo boy. That's really, really not cool.
    I agree. I looked at those initial comments and they struck me as the sort of thing one rolls one's eyes at and says "Oh, grampa!"

    Or rather, they would have been if the comments were made in a casual conversation rather than under the sanction of the official organ of a professional organization.

    I gather that the original protests were mild backchannel murmurings about the offensiveness and disrespect shown.

    Under the circumstances I think the proper response ought to have been a quick apology along with an acknowledgement of the inappropriateness of the comments.

    Unfortunately, what happened is that the offenders dug in their heels, came up with justifications for what they did, and started attacking the protesters.

    That sort of thing never ends well.

  15. #40
    MacAllister's Official Minion & Greeter AW Moderator Ari Meermans's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alessandra Kelley View Post

    I gather that the original protests were mild backchannel murmurings about the offensiveness and disrespect shown.

    Under the circumstances I think the proper response ought to have been a quick apology along with an acknowledgement of the inappropriateness of the comments.

    Unfortunately, what happened is that the offenders dug in their heels, came up with justifications for what they did, and started attacking the protesters.

    That sort of thing never ends well.
    Yes, exactly. As an outsider looking in--and as much as I deplore the lack of editorial oversight in the original article--the most regrettable action was allowing Resnick & Malzberg to use the organization's membership magazine as their own personal platform for the rebuttal. The unfortunate consequence of this action has been to make them the face of SFWA in the eyes of many and, now, no one can be blamed for thinking their viewpoints are sanctioned by the organization and its officers. This lack of leadership and oversight does the entire membership a grave disservice.

  16. #41
    Benefactor Member Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ari Meermans View Post
    Yes, exactly. As an outsider looking in--and as much as I deplore the lack of editorial oversight in the original article--the most regrettable action was allowing Resnick & Malzberg to use the organization's membership magazine as their own personal platform for the rebuttal. The unfortunate consequence of this action has been to make them the face of SFWA in the eyes of many and, now, no one can be blamed for thinking their viewpoints are sanctioned by the organization and its officers. This lack of leadership and oversight does the entire membership a grave disservice.
    This is completely what I've been struggling to articulate, both to myself, and to the few people I've discussed this with. I don't know enough about the inner workings of SFWA to know if this represents their institutional position or not, but I know that as a struggling writer who would like to be published some day, I've found their web site to be an invaluable resource. So I really hope it does not.
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  17. #42
    MacAllister's Official Minion & Greeter AW Moderator Ari Meermans's Avatar
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    I really don't think it does represent their position. I think it's a classic case of dropping the ball. Competent oversight and forward-thinking leadership are critical to any organization, especially so to one of SFWA's size and diversity.

  18. #43
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    It isn't just the Bulletin that's caused an issue, but how it was handled. When the first issues were brought up on the SFWA forum, the reaction was for some members to attack anyone who brought it up, and keep at it until the conversation was killed. They were careful not to cross the line of direct insult, but they'd beat people down in other ways. Like replying to every single post on the issue in a hostile way, to the point where they were dominating the discussion. It turned what could have been a relatively easy discussion ("The whole chainmail bikini thing is sexist." "Yeah, we'll give her proper armour next time.") into a battlefield.

    Next, there was a comment on Barbie being great because she maintained quiet dignity. You know, like the SFWA members who'd raised the initial complaints on the forum hadn't. The complaints raised about this got the same round of hostile responses.

    Somewhere during this, it was rationalised that the Bulletin ought not to get this criticism because it was like a discussion at the bar at a convention. There wasn't a pause for thought that maybe convention culture also had an issue if this is what would happen to a woman who stopped by the bar.

    All of which was followed up with the last column. I haven't checked the forum this time, because at this point, I don't really want to know. But it doesn't change that we got here because the reaction to complaints was slapping the person complaining. Using the Bulletin was one route for doing so, but it wasn't the only route.
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  19. #44
    MacAllister's Official Minion & Greeter AW Moderator Ari Meermans's Avatar
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    Ah, I see. As I mentioned, I'm an outsider; I don't have the creds to be a member, so I obviously don't know the inner workings. But, you know, Polenth, what you're describing is still a lack of leadership issue. One hopes Stephen Gould can provide the top-down leadership and focus on the business of SFWA that's missing.

    Dues paying membership or not, the organization needs a code of conduct and it needs to be enforced--on the forum, at conventions, in its publications, everything that's representative of and is the face of SFWA. When an organization's public image is as badly damaged as SFWA's is right now it can't afford to do otherwise.

    Also? I do realize that in certain ways our forum is different, but can you imagine the behavior you describe being tolerated here at AW? I can't.
    Last edited by Ari Meermans; 06-02-2013 at 08:49 AM.

  20. #45
    Mushroom Polenth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ari Meermans View Post
    Ah, I see. As I mentioned, I'm an outsider; I don't have the creds to be a member, so I obviously don't know the inner workings. But, you know, Polenth, what you're describing is still a lack of leadership issue. One hopes Stephen Gould can provide the top-down leadership and focus on the business of SFWA that's missing.
    Yes, that side of it comes down to leadership. That's not to say I think the previous leaders were bad people or agreed with what was going on, but it's clear they were avoiding confrontation with older members (at the expense of newer members). They improved things around the edges instead. But if you punch me in the face, giving me cupcakes won't stop it hurting.

    What the new board will do remains to be seen, but I'm not sticking around for that. It's a voluntary club and I gave it more chances than I probably ought to have done (mostly because I liked voting for the Nebulas).
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  21. #46
    I've read the six page rebuttal and the anecdote about Beatrice Mahaffey.

    Let's start with the original anecdote: It's fascinating. What a great snapshot in time for those of us too young to have experienced that period of SciFi. More importantly, Beatrice Mahaffey's looks play a role in the above-mentioned snapshot.

    SciFi was a man's world back then, and that story tells us that having a beautiful woman involved in the industry cracked the door for other women to get involved in the community. Someone mentioned above that the inference in the story is that jealousy drove those wives to join the CFG. I understand how one could get that from the words, but when I read it, I took it as "Why, if a beautiful woman like that can be involved, so can I!"

    Is that the kind of thing that would happen today? No, of course not, but this was more than 60 years ago. That thought process is alien to most of us, but it was the norm for the time, and I think it's important to be reminded of that now and again. Pretending it didn't happen back then would be weird. Context is king, and that little anecdote is all about context.

    I believe that beauty or the lack thereof has no place in discussing someone's job performance, but that anecdote wasn't about job performance, it was about a sea change in the makeup of the CFG, an influential organization in SciFi. As such, I personally think it was appropriate for an industry trade publication.

    If Resnick and Malzberg had argued that Bea only got her job because she was hot, or had they said she wasn't much of an editor, but boy, what a looker…

    Yeah, that would have been off the charts wrong. But that's not what they did. Recalling that she was beautiful and offering a story where that beauty played a role in the development of the SciFi community…that's interesting.

    In short, I just can't get bent of out of shape about that story. It's a tempest in a teapot. In truth, I am more knowledgable for having heard it.

    The Rebuttal

    The six-page rebuttal, on the other hand, was a mix of good stuff and stupid stuff. At best.

    On the stupid side was Resnick and Malzberg adopting the language of the far right ("liberal fascists"). I found that particularly appalling. That's just me, of course, but it greatly detracts from their arguments.

    Worse, they approached the controversy with a sanctimonious air that did nothing to help them make their case. They played the victim card, and I imagine that has contributed to people becoming angry about this. I know that's what I found most offensive.

    On the good side was the central message about the danger of censoring and self-censoring. On that I agree wholeheartedly. I come from the liberal school of thought that says free speech means protecting the stupid just as much as protecting the good. Sometimes that applies to a trade journal just as much as it does to the public square.

    In this case, people complaining about their anecdote is the stupid that needs to be protected. Anti-white washing history with a politically correct paint brush is wrong and counter productive. We can't learn from the past if we don't understand it, but I will definitely stand up for the complainer's right to complain. Talking about these differing perspectives is the key for all of us to learn and grow.

    I understand that many of the people who are outraged about the anecdote and the cover—I didn't see the cover, but it sounds mind-numbingly cliché—think that my comments are the stupid. I understand how it's possible to read that anecdote and get lost in a miasma of moral outrage, but protecting both of those disparate outlooks within our community will most likely make us stronger.

    This is SciFi we're talking about. That part of their rant resonated with me. I don't think it should be ignored just because they had the bad taste to surround it with the stupid.

    Note that I am not saying we should tolerate sexism, but I didn't see any sexism originating from Resnick and Malzberg in either the original anecdote or their response to the criticism.

    Missed Opportunities

    The real point here is that Resnick and Malzberg are guilty of not knowing when to cut their losses. A six-page response talking about how the community has changed over the years, about how SciFi and Fantasy have dealt with sexism and misogyny through the decades…that would have been great. Just acknowledge the criticism—with or without an apology—and use the opportunity to offer the next generations even more context.

    That would have been the smart thing for them to do. That would have been the valuable thing for them to do.

    But even though they played the victim card and embraced the language of the far right, I'm not interested in burning them at the stake or even seeing them fired from their column in The Bulletin (note that I am not a member of SFWA, nor am I eligible).

    It bothers me seeing those kinds of calls. It bothers me seeing my fellow SciFi writers demanding that two of their own be castigated for not toeing the line they want toed. It bothers me seeing writers and authors fanning the flames of conformity and intolerance.

    We, of all people, should be able to discuss these issues without gleefully demonizing each other. To be sure, not everyone in this thread has done so, but there's enough of it there to give me pause.

    That's what prompted me to write this long ass post.
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  22. #47
    Sophipygian AW Moderator Alessandra Kelley's Avatar
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    GeekTells, I appreciate your analysis. But I disagree with the characterization that is is a matter of fanning the flames of conformity and intolerance.

    This is no more conformity or intolerance than a kindergarten teacher telling a child she cannot twist another child's arm behind his back is conformity or intolerance.

    It's no more conformity or intolerance than telling someone that anti-Catholic jokes are unacceptable is conformity or intolerance.

    It's no more conformity or intolerance than telling people they should clean up their own dogs' waste from other people's property is conformity or intolerance.

    There is this basic tenet of civilization:

    That if one says or does something that betrays a lack of consideration, a demonstration that one had not considered the other person a full human being, or considered them at all, one immediately stops doing it and apologizes.

    This is to make clear that one did not mean the action as an attack.

    To do anything otherwise is not a neutral action.

    To do anything otherwise, whether to justify or rationalize, to brush aside as jovial highjinks, to complain about people being offended by the action, to declare that one meant only good, or to declare that what one did was not really harmful, makes the offense a deliberate one.

    It confirms that one does not actually consider the complainants as full human beings.
    Last edited by Alessandra Kelley; 06-02-2013 at 02:47 PM.

  23. #48
    I read all of your post and appreciate the acknowledgement, Allesandra. I selected the quote below because I think it strikes at the heart of the matter.

    Quote Originally Posted by Alessandra Kelley View Post
    That if one says or does something that betrays a lack of consideration, a demonstration that one had not considered the other person a full human being, or considered them at all, one immediately stops doing it and apologizes.
    Making your point a given for the sake of argument, how did Resnick and Malzberg violate this? Whom did they not consider a full human being in either the original anecdote or the rebuttal? To whom did they not show consideration?

    This is an honest question, by the by. I mention that because it can be easy to misunderstand text arguments.
    Tech journalist & aspiring fiction author...GeekTells.

  24. #49
    They've been very bad, Mr Flibble Mr Flibble's Avatar
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    I think Polenth hit the nail on the head here. (Note, I'm not a member so haven;t read teh forums, but from what I've seen elsewhere, from various camps, this appears to be the case)

    It was the reaction to people pointing out a problem with the original piece that became the problem, from what I gather.

    A few people pointed out that the original piece was a bit off

    They were told on the forums to, basically, STFU. Such a mature reaction...anyway, then it looks like, and feels like to teh original complainers and various other women, that they are not welcome there, unless hey shut up about any sexism they see, because the dudes know best. Oh, and then the rebuttal, which sounds like two butt hurt 12 year olds.

    The original people who gently complained (and others watching) feel unwelcome, unless they do as they are told like good little girls.

    Bugger that.


    See, this is a conundrum for women (and this is a classic example of it). If you don't shout, no one listens, or they shut you down

    If you DO shout, they have a go at you for shouting and say you're just being stroppy, overemotional woman. And they often still don't hear what you're saying, because they're too upset that you shouted.

    No win scenario

    By posting that original blog post though, it made a few people listen. Which is good. But it shouldn't have come to that -- the forums should be a place for every member to say their stuff without getting shouted down. Not just the guys. Unless of course, you want to alienate half your membership?

    Hopefully it's been a wake up call though. People don't have to just sit back and take it...which will probably upset a few people, but hey.




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  25. #50
    Inappropriate Charmer Saanen's Avatar
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    I'm still one pro sale away from being able to join SFWA, but I have friends who are members. I have friends who qualify but chose not to join. The members I know use SFWA basically as a networking opportunity--it doesn't offer a whole lot of other benefits to most writers, from what I've heard. If that networking is closed off for women, why would women want to join?

    Frankly, SFWA has had too many fuckups and too few accomplishments for me to want to give them my money. I thought things would get better under Scalzi, but apparently at core the group hasn't changed. For a professional organization, many of its actions are incredibly unprofessional.
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