To be “the first”–to stand up and to stay up.

3 Jun

The original draft for this post dates from July 2012, after Sally Ride died, and some retrogrades started bleating and crying. The final impetus to publish it came from reading Foz Meadows inspired and profane rant, and Ann Aguirre’s powerful post,  both of which were born of the appalling sexism demonstrated in the last issue of the SFWA’s quarterly bulletin (link to scanned article over at Radish Reviews, scroll down).

I am angry at the blatant sexism and misogyny and stupidity displayed by the assholes–but I’m also more than a little dismayed by all the comments stating surprise. “I can’t believe this is still happening!”


Have you not read the news lately? glanced at the covers of magazines? the posters for movies? talked to people anywhere?

Misogyny is alive, well, and utterly pervasive–it truly is everyfuckingwhere.

It’s so easy to say, Oh it’s just those old white farts in (fill in community of choice).

Science? I’ve got you covered:

After Sally Ride died, Debbie Schussel, for example, came out and said

…many Americans are remembering Sally Ride, who died today at age 61, as though she were some sort of American hero for being the first female astronaut. She was not. Not even close. Instead, she was the beneficiary of militant feminism, in whose ranks she was proudly present, along with blatant gender-based affirmative action. Many male astronauts and astronauts-in-waiting were far more qualified, had more experience, and had been waiting much longer for a ticket to ride on the space shuttle. But they were passed over because NASA had just instituted affirmative action and wanted to please feminists.

Ms Schussel takes advantage of all those women who, before her, defied the status quo and ‘benefited’ from being women–the first woman to hold public office, the first woman to attend medical school, the first woman to light the Olympic fire at the inauguration of the Olympic Games (Norma Enriqueta Basilio de Sotelo, Mexico 1968)

Without someone daring to deviate and breaking that barrier where only men were allowed to do–whatever it was. That barrier where it’s automatically assumed that there must be many men more qualified, better able and more talented than any woman–Ms Schuseel and others like her would not only have nothing to bleat about–they wouldn’t be allowed to do so.


Quick, name six female plastic artists known the world over.





Frida Kahlo and…?

Yeah, I’m coming up blank–and I’m going to venture to say there’s no other female artist whose name is instantly recognized, even if the person hearing it/saying it can’t recognize the work itself. This not because there aren’t mobs of phenomenally talented women artists–it’s because they are not as well known as many, often nowhere near as talented, male artists.

Ask yourself why not.


Leaving the current SFWA fuckery aside: Nora Roberts outsells Stephen King, and Dame Agatha Christie still outsells pretty much all other crime writers; Dorothy L. Sayers’ writing is a thing of utter beauty–and yet, in most lists of “100 best books” how many of the titles usually listed are written by women?


Give me 5 female world leaders of the last 50 years. Now tell me, how many of them were referred to as bitches, ball-busters, man-haters, and unnatural? How does the percentage of murdered female presidents/prime ministers compare to that of murdered male presidents/prime ministers?


Please share in how many countries men need their wives’ signed and notarized permission to have a vasectomy, or where they are required by law to have medical testimony as to the risk to their health if they reproduce, in order to be allowed to have one. Hint: I can name a handful where women can’t have their tubes ligated without either or both–and at least one in which, even with both documents, it’s left at the discretion of the ObGyn whether or  not to ligate. And let’s not even go into the whole abortion issue here (this is long enough as it is).

Popular culture?

One word: gaming.

Okay, two more words: Anita Sarkeesian.

Or how about these other two words: Disney princesses.

Are we truly still surprised?

The scariest part is that misogyny is so fucking prevalent, we barely see it anymore.

There’s an image going around that depicts ten young teenage girls in cheering outfits. The caption lists the names thus: “Top row (L to R): name, name, name. Middle row: name, name, name, UGLY HOE. Bottom row: name, name, name.” And people LOL and commiserate that UGLY HOE is, indeed, ugly.

A woman posts a picture of her 15 year old daughter holding up their recently adopted female German Shepherd, and a long time member of the community comments, “That’s one fine looking bitch–and the dog’s not bad looking either” and no one says a fucking word about it for days.

A number of teenage boys rape and otherwise sexually abuse teenage girls, take pictures/video of the assaults, post them online, get caught and are arrested–and their female relatives/peers start a hate and defamation campaign against the female victims, calling them sluts and telling them they provoked their own victimization.

Ten years ago, while I was ranting about my daughter not putting enough effort in school, my long-time ex said (paraphrasing from memory), “Well, it’s not like she needs good grades, she’s pretty enough.”¹ (If you know me any, you can picture my reaction to that bit of wisdom.)

~ * ~

And when women do complain–we are not fucking inferior, we are not fucking objects, we are not fucking asking for it just because we are women–we are called shrill, hysterical, feminists.

Yes, indeed. Women who object to being treated as not quite human are feminists²

So what are we going to do about it?

I don’t know about others, but I am going to do what Ann Aguirre, and Foz Meadows and Anita Sarkeesian and the like are doing: I’m going to stand up. I am not going to be quiet and fucking dignified while people treat me as a second class human.

~ * ~

Also, what Lori said, and what John Abramowitz said, and seconding Robert Morris’s suggestion:

I would suggest rather than a Women in Sci-Fi Con only, poll the women authors and see what male ones they would like to invite along. Nothing says your on the wrong side like exclusion and lost marketing opportunities.

Let’s encourage daughters to be “not just a girl” but all they can be³. Let’s teach men and women of all ages that women are people too.

~ * ~

¹ The saddest and most infuriating part of this, is that this man truly and absolutely adores both of this children–and yet couldn’t (still can’t) see anything wrong with the sentiment. Even though his second wife is as qualified and skilled (if not more) in his field (IT) as he is. The good part: when my daughter announced, at 14, that she wanted to be a surgeon, and my ex repeated the sentiment, it got her so mad that she raised her overall GPA from a mediocre 2.3 to a 3.8 in less than three years, and is now doing her Pre Med at a very nice college.

² Feminist is an insult the same way liberal is an insult.

³ Not affiliated in any way, shape or form–I just love the message (read it all, I’m betting you’ll like it too)

2 Responses to “To be “the first”–to stand up and to stay up.”

  1. Lori 03/06/2013 at 10:21 PM #

    I was at the drugstore after work and a little girl (maybe 4 years old) was buying a birthday card for her father. She was with another man (uncle? Mother’s boyfriend? dunno) who told her that the pink card she picked was agirl card and she needed to choose another.

    I couldn’t correct a stranger but I cringed. What a horrible message to pass along.

    And you’re right. What we have to do is speak up. Shout. Refuse to be silenced. And remember we’re fighting for our daughters and all the women following us.


  1. This, most absolutely, this! | Her Hands, My Hands - 06/06/2013

    […] found this comment by Elizabeth Moon to Ann Aguirre’s post on the SFWA sexism bullshit to be amazing and so on the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: