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Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

Time Event
12:53p
Gender Balance in Genre Fiction

The fine fellows over at SFSignal have held another Mind Meld, where they ask writers and editors and other luminariesin the field (bright and dim) our considered opinion. This time the topic was "gender balance in genre writing: is it an issue and what to do about it if it is."

Here is the link.

The spread of opinion was, as always on divisive issues, wide.

My own advice for a solution for the inequality between the sexes, if that indeed is a problem caused by human malice, and if that is indeed a problem worth fretting over, was to cultivate a philosophical attitude, patience and forbearance, or else to write under a pen name. I doubt this will be the most popular response. In an age when thin-skinned whining is regarded as a moral good, stoicism is regarded as unethical.

I note with interest the assumptions made in certain responses that are not addressed. Some respondents simply assumed (or, to be precise, did not take the time and trouble to write down whatever their justification might be) that fulfilling a quota of male to female writers was in and of itself desirable, independent of the quality of stories written, and independent of the number of writers of either sex who happened to be in the available talent pool. Some of the answerers just seemed to assume, as a matter of crusade, that it was harmful to have fewer women writers in some anthologies or publication lists , no matter what.

I don't get it. I just don't get quota thinking. How is LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS a better book or a worse one if Ursula K. LeGuin is shelved next to Keith Laumer ( a male writer) as opposed to, say, Tanith Lee (a female writer)?  If there are more Laumer books published in 1969, and more Lee books published in 1996, what change, if any does this really have on the adventures of Genly Ai and Estravan on planet Winter?

The best comment came, as one might expect, from the sparkling Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

When I became the first female editor of F&SF, I received a LOT of hate mail immediately-because of my gender [sic]. One letter said I could not edit because I lacked a penis. I kid you not. I later asked Gardner Dozois about this letter-if there was an editing trick I had somehow missed-and he graphically explained to me how the penis could be helpful in editing, but of course, he was joking. The writer of the letter was not.

 

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6:14p
The Coldness of the Heretics
As I mentioned below, the fine fellows over at SFSignal ask writers and editors our considered opinion about something called "gender balance". I assume this has to do with Latin grammar, since "gender" is a part of speech. The biological differences between male and female are called "sex" not "gender." 

Here is the link.

The spread of opinion was, as always on divisive issues, wide. 

Let me comment on the worst comment in the lot, and use this as an excuse to write an overlong screed on a topic only tangential to it:

Some writing embraces, celebrates and perpetuates the dominant culture. Sometimes that is written, edited, and published by the people who most benefit from it. Sometimes it is written, edited, and published by people who do not benefit from it, but who have internalized it too well. I would argue that to consciously embrace and celebrate the dominant culture through an act of writing, editing or publishing - or even reviewing/acknowledging -- knowing the inequities and injustices that the dominant culture is built on, is an unethical act that perpetuates the worst of that culture's inequities and injustices.   

This was written by a person, or perhaps a small animal, named “Cat.”

I hope the disproportionate absurdity of the sentiment expressed speaks for itself (it is an unethical act to review or acknowledge a book complimentary to Western values, because the West is built on evil. So don’t review STAR WARS or acknowledge STAR TREK because Virginian planters kept black slaves, the Romans conquered the Gauls, and the Homo Sapiens wiped out the Neanderthals).

I hope the illogic involved is likewise obvious (Only within the ethical context of Western values, Judo-Christian and Greco-Roman ideals of justice, individualism, and pity for the underdog, it is regarded as an evil to side with one’s forefathers against the stranger or sojourner when one’s forefathers are arguably in the wrong. Oriental ethical systems make patriotism and family loyalty paramount. The Muslim has a broader standard, since Islam is a universalist religion, but no pity is obligated for the infidel, but instead, a positive obligation to war, to pillage and to conquer. Hence, we cannot reject the West except from Progressive philosophical ground; but Progressivism is unique to the West, a heresy of the Enlightenment, so to speak, that can grow out of no other intellectual tradition.)

So seeing no need to dwell further on the lack of proportion and the lack of logic, I should like to emphasize the dismal coldheartedness of the world-view expressed. I submit that it is an inhuman world view.

 

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