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I have a question

Dear SFF Community,

Most of the time, I'm proud to be part of you. I'm proud to be part of a community that Matched It For Pratchett and regularly raises money for Talking Books for the Blind. I'm proud to be part of a community that is strongly, vocally, actively working to ensure our space is fully accessible, convenient and pleasant for people with disabilities. I'm proud to be part of a community that set up the Carl Brandon Society and Con Or Bust. I'm proud to be part of a community which, on seeing institutionalised racism, sexismn, trans*phobia, homophobia, hostility to people who reject gender normativity, turned around and, yes, argued, long and loud and continuously, but also set out to clean house and make ourselves better. Very few other groups linked by common interest have done that. Most of them seem to prefer to gaslight and bully those who raise such issues. I'm proud to belong to a community that sees its own shortcomings. Yes, we could do better. We can always do better.

There are some great things going on in our community right now. Nine Worlds is working to create and maintain a con environment that is welcoming to PoC, QUILTBAG people, fans with disabilities, new fans. Many cons now have and enforce Codes of Conduct aimed at fostering inclusivity and safety. Con committees are working to find ways to recruit new fans, younger fans. SFWA is working actively to end a culture of normative sexism and racism. Women writers are banding together to address equality in bookshop promotions. Writers of colour are speaking up and working to address the inequality they face. People from across the fan spectrum are supporting and signal-boosting them.

And we are all rooted in the societies that raised us, societies that are, mainly, institutionally racismt sexist, tran*- , xeno- and homo-phobic, hostile to people who face physical and mental challenges, wqhich blame the poor and underprivileged for their difficulties. We were most of us raised in cultures that fostered this, often unconsciously. We are surrounded by images and actions which reinforce an unequal status quo. It awes me that so many in our community fight this, in both their cultures and themselves. IT awed me that we stand up to those who are within the community who seem to revel in their prejudices and tell them, No More.

But, right now, I have a question for you. Why, when we fight these battles, do we so often resort to the same old patriarchal norms? Why do we reserve our greatest spleen for *women* and defend our right to do so? That, I put to you, needs addressing and it needs addressing now. I really don't want to comment on Loncon 3 and Jonathan Ross: enough has been said and said in all kinds of ways. My personal view on it, for those who will demand to know such things, is that I think the chairs made a mistake here. He is a fan, certainly, but he is also controversial and divisive for well-rehearsed reasons. At the same time, he's very popular, particularly with the younger demographic and would certainly have drawn in new, younger attendees. So I can also see that the chairs had reasons on their side too. I don't think the chairs are bad people. I know both of them, have done for years, and they have both worked long and hard for inclusivity in UK fandom. This time, trying for one kind of that, they made a mistake in another kind. We all make mistakes. They don't -- they shouldn't -- cast us into pits of hellfire for all eternity. If that were the case, then the Vox Days have won: they don't care about making mistakes, they just carry on. If we throw each other out of the lifeboat one by one, we end up with no-one.

That's one thing. But I want to go back to my question. Why is the worst reserved for women?
Here's what I saw: a woman, who is a survivor of bullying and class oppression, expressed her concerns over the material that might be used by Mr Ross and how it might affect her. A large number of people, male and female, lit into her for daring to express her fears in public, for being 'mean', for being out of line.
Women must be Good.
A young woman, who is related to Mr Ross, tried to reassure her and was distressed by all the things that were being said. Another woman, the mother of that young woman, stepped in to defend her daughter. She perhaps did not do so tactfully, but she was faced with an upset and unhappy child. And, a number of people lit into her for daring to express her feelings in public, for being 'mean', for being out of line.
Women must be Good.
Both the adult women are now silent on twitter. One has felt driven to delete her account. These women have in fact spoken to each other calmly and come to mutual understanding. But people on all sides -- pro-Ross and anti- him -- are continuing to abuse both these women. I'm seeing more of that than I am people questioning his form of comedy or the chairs' decision. I'm seeing women as a group involved in this being demonised in the press and on social media, for being strident mean girls, bullies, sell-outs etc etc etc.
Because Women must be Good.
Neither of these adult women committed a crime. It's not a crime to be distressed and triggered about potential harassment. It's not a crime to feel the need to defend your child verbally. But people are using the tone argument on both of them, because women Must Be Good. They are demanding complete recanting and surrender. They are demanding recognition for a perceived right to abuse women.
Because women must be Good, and a woman out of line is far worse than a controversial man or a questionable decision.
This is patriarchy at its best, using us to undermine each other. I've seen you, men who position as allies, poking fun at that first woman, implying her concerns are trivial, stupid, blamable. I've seen you, women who I love and admire and support, demanding a right to punish a woman for being married to a man you disapprove of. I've seen male allies and vocal feminists falling straight into the patriarchy trap and blaming the women.
Shape up. Look at who is gaining here. Not us. Oh no. The winner> The system that says women must bear responsibility for policing and controlling male behaviour, that women must adapt their bodies and thoughts and actions to suit male expectations and desires, that women must attain to and keep far higher standards than men at all times, that Women Must Be Perfect.
Mr Ross will not be hosting the Hugos. The concerns the community had over inclusivity and safety were heard. Inclusivity and safety won out.
Yet somehow the long term winner seems to be patriarchal thinking.
And I want to know why.

Don't be part of the problem

I've just seen yet another man, in a comment thread, say that the men who harass women at cons are 'clueless' and possibly on the Autistic Spectrum and, well, what can you do? He see it going on, but these poor guys don't know any better, it's a shame, what can you do?

I may be angry about this/

I remember fandom discovering the existence of Aspergers. I remember who self-diagnosed. I remember when it became part of the package thrown at women who said 'no', alongside 'but this is my safe space because I was bullied and you have to say yes because it's my safe space and you're spoooiling it and it's my safe space so you haaave to and you're a mean cow because it's all about me and how I missed out and you haaave to.' To these guys, I'm not a person, I'm an amenity at the con for their consumption.

I know people, adults and children, with genuine Aspergers and Autism. They don't, in general, treat me as an amenity. They understand 'no', usually. They don't manipulate and emotionally blackmail and bully me.

The 'he's clueless' defence is, quite simply, part of the problem. It enables the behaviour. It supports it. A lot of these creeps only listen to men -- women, after all, are of about the same status as chocolate machines. Every time a man shrugs and says, of another man he sees harassing a woman, 'oh, he's clueless', he contributes to the problem and continues to uphold the culture of harassment. Every time a man listens to a 'clueless' friend complain about a woman who has distanced herself or said no, and then goes to the woman and tells her to mend her ways (yes, this has happened to me) or passes on the idea that she's a mean bitch, he's part of the problem. Every time a man singles out a woman and lectures her about how she's doing being-safe-at-cons wrong and how she *should* behave and what she *should* do and how she's causing her own problems, he's part of the problem.

The woman's behaviour is NOT the problem. The problem is how the men behave. Pure and simple. The length of my shirt isn't an invitation. The colour of my hair isn't an invitation. Nor is my chest, or where I am, or who I am. Its not difficult. Women are people. Please treat accordingly.

And if you see another man making a woman uncomfortable, don't shrug and say 'He's clueless'. Don't be part of the problem.

Edit: this piece by Jared Axelrod is of interest here, too.

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