If I don’t speak truth I can’t seek truth. — Ursula K. Le Guin, The Eye of Huron
So much about the world these days leaves me feeling impotent. It seems like terrible things happen in a fire and windstorm that no amount of compassion can put out. For me, it can feel like a physical ache. It hurts in my heart and I feel it in my shortened, rage-filled breath. And yet, I often feel like this anger mounts and mounts and would burst in any other vessel. A firework locked in a safe, no place to let the pressure out.
When all of the #WorldCon76 controversy started and then came to a head, I felt so low.
To WorldCon’s credit, they’ve brought on a fantastic programmer in Mary Robinette Kowal to help fix the programming issues. But, still. Things like this shouldn’t happen.
But the truth is, not doing something is going to do the same thing that safe might do to a firework–pull out all the oxygen so the fire dies. That’s unacceptable.
The only thing to do is fight. And I need your help.
I can’t actually slap people (something, something pacifism), and I don’t know how effective writing my congressperson will be at effecting broader social change.
If there’s one thing I can trust to get a change started, it’s the internet.
(after all, if the internet can make rickrolling someone and the tide pod challenge a thing, we can also use those powers for good.)
What I need from you.
I’m still planning some outings for WorldCon and for those of you who show up, please make the effort to find me so I can feature you and your favorite underrated author on Instagram, but …
I want everyone to be able to work together for positive, community-wide change.
So, email me.
I’ll be posting video clips and text snippets from you. Email me some text or a video clip of you (30 seconds-1 minute) about your favorite authors. Include the authors you love who are persons of color, neuro-atypical, queer or who have a disability.
I want you and I to shout their names to the internet. Together.
Feel free to do your own posts using #diversityis4me
Message me on twitter or reach out to me at Bree.LowTea@gmail.com.
Well, I know it makes me naive and ignores a lot of fandom’s history, but damn if I don’t want it to be a haven. Science fiction and fantasy espouses some of what is best in humanity, and so I always hope that the people who love it will continue to espouse acceptance, love, and hope as well.
And so I made the best of the puppies.
And I forgave people who were internet jerks.
And people just keep giving me more and more strife.
Probably you’ve heard by now that there’s another dumpster fire in science fiction fandom. I wish this were less surprising.
TL;DR – Nothing that has come to light is great. I’m going to work to make it better. Here’s a plan, albeit limited by time, space and assistance.
I turned off my phone to sleep, and I woke up to news that the WorldCon 76 team had:
- Changed a person’s gender neutral pronoun bio to using the wrong pronouns
- Not put new Hugo finalists, largely persons of color and younger authors onto panels
- Sent dress codes to some individuals but not others “asking” that they dress professionally
Because, hey, it’s 2018 and why not?
I get it.
Conference running is really tough. Like on a scale of 1-10, probably an 8 or 9. I know; I’ve helped host thousands of people for academic events. Even in a place where you’re not coordinating dozens of panels and participants on top of booths, celebrities, vendors, and guests, you’re doing a lot of work.
But that doesn’t excuse shitty behavior
So, let’s talk about this.
Shitty thing #1 – Screwing with bios and using personal pictures on programming
Well, this is easily one of the things that makes me the most mad. Program creators requested bios and photos from authors and other hugo-nominees and panel participants. +1 for having people explain themselves. Except they didn’t.
Bios were edited, including switching someone’s gender pronouns.
People’s professional pictures were skipped and personal facebook pictures (listed on private accounts) were used instead.
I cannot even fathom why this was considered ok.
Guess what, if you ask for a bio, as long as it isn’t wildly unprofessional or lewd, you should stick with that bio. In particular, you should NEVER change someone’s own pronouns. If someone tells you their pronouns, you accept those pronouns and move on. You aren’t the arbiter of pronouns and I promise you don’t know someone’s gender better than that person knows their own.
I would very much appreciate a public apology from @worldcon2018 for rewriting my bio to change my name and my gender.
I have never, ever used “he” pronouns.
After many similar exclusionary actions, this is the last straw, I am honestly not sure I can safely attend. pic.twitter.com/agazsY1rmV
— Bogi Takács PERSON, 100% migráncs (@bogiperson) July 23, 2018
Using someone’s personal photos rather than a supplied professional one is a weird and invasive combination of ignoring privacy and not presenting your organization professionally. Just…What?
Shitty Thing #2 – Dress Codes
Rather than going on and on about this. I’ll just say, sending dress codes to some but not others isn’t ok. Hugo award nominees have enough on their plates, if a sparkly unicorn dress is their preference, it’s their damn night. Do what you will. I don’t care if someone is a man in a kilt, a woman in a miniskirt, or someone in a gender non-conforming outfit you don’t think is “pulling it off.” The nature of dress codes, in particular those espousing professionalism are both sexist and classist. I’m not here for that and I’m not here for it not being universally applied.
For a much more intricate look at the relationship between sexism and dress codes, here’s a fantastic piece by Everyday Feminism.
And this series of tweets shows a lot more at stake than who wears what type of heels.
Hi. My name is Elsa Sjunneson-Henry. I’m the managing editor of the Hugo Finalist magazine, @FiresideFiction, and last week when we all got angry about dress codes, I also got worried.
Because the email about dress codes ALSO talked about access needs at the ceremony.
— Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, Fancy Cyclops (@snarkbat) July 23, 2018
Shitty Thing #3 – Not Including Members On Panels Because They Aren’t “Popular” or “Well-Known” Enough
Hugo nominees, in particular many of the younger nominees and those who have diverse backgrounds weren’t put on panels. Some of them have been receiving emails saying that they aren’t well-known enough to be placed on them.
This is ridiculous on two fronts:
1- Hugo nominees are definitionally well-known. To be nominated, you MUST have a not inconsequential presence and respect within science fiction and fantasy. PLUS, in theory at least, over the last five or so months, people have been reading those works and watching those movies and looking at that fan art. They have been a highlight in the community.
2- There is no way to make our fandom last without incorporating new voices. New voices are important to science fiction and fantasy. Without them, there will be no growth, and, frankly, growth is exactly what SFF needs.
At the very least, I’m glad I’m not living in a world limited to Heinlein and LeGuin. I want innovation and new perspectives, because this genre set needs that to maintain its lifeblood. And I want SFF to be around for a long, long time.
Fine, Bree, But What Are You Doing About It?
Right now, I’m talking to folks about setting up some outtings in San Jose. I understand this isn’t the same as at-con participation, but at the very least we can be a community that accepts one another. I’ll be working to get us accessible transit and will announce any outing plans soon, both here and on YouTube.
I’m bringing a fuck ton of pronoun stickers. I want to normalize inclusivity. The only way to do that is to make people realize that their world doesn’t have the rigid limits they think ought to be there and to call folks out on their incivility. If you show up at WorldCon, hunt me down. You can have a pronoun sticker for your badge.
I’ll be wandering with my Instagram stories going on throughout WorldCon. I want to talk to people about their favorite works, especially those that are debuts, new to you authors, #ownvoices, and that feature intersectionality. I’ll be posting frequently throughout the week.
Other things. Right now I’m open to suggestions. I want to help build community in places where community should be. Let me know your thoughts about what events or other activities you think should take place. Tweet me, comment, plaster my insta and YouTube with suggestions. Let’s make it happen.
Featured image photo credit: Facepalm Glax by Mattia Basaglia © 2017-2018 CC BY-SA