Alisa Krasnostein is World Fantasy Award winning editor and publisher at Twelfth Planet Press and part of the Galactic Suburbia Podcast Team. She was Executive Editor of the review website Aussie Specfic in Focus!.
Currently working on a PhD in Publishing, in her spare time she is a critic, reader, reviewer, runner, environmentalist, knitter, quilter and puppy lover. She is a fulltime Mum.
As Galactic Suburbia approaches our 100th episode – that’s about 150 to 200 hours of talking about specfic publishing news and chat! with a feminist bent – we’ve been working on a thing. Last week I found myself reviewing our Spoilerific Book Club episode onJoanna Russ, recorded way back in July 2011. In that episode, on discussion on a chapter in How to Suppress Women’s Writing, I made this comment about gatekeepers:
… other than when a lot of the male gatekeepers are actively pushing women – for example the Science Fiction Mistressworks or when they’re actually talking about it – I’m still listening whether or not you’ve forgotten to talk about women, I’m still listening as a woman and I hear you not talking about women. And I hear those gatekeepers and they meet and they review, they talk about what was brilliant this year and unless they actively switch on that “Whoops! We better talk about women!” they actually revert back to Paolo Bacigalupi and Ian McDonald and blah, blah, blah, and you forget about women. “And I know, … Mary Robinette Kowal she’s really good better mention her.” It’s what she talks about in The Female Man, where it’s lip service and it’s not real and I think she talks about it in this book too: unless you actually push yourself beyond your own boundaries you will stay in the centre, the dead centre. And it’s not true that women aren’t writing, it’s that you don’t notice them because you don’t think they are as good, and that’s not changed in forty years.
We’ve been talking about this subject for a long time – I’ve been actively involved in the ongoing discussion since, I dunno? 2005, maybe? I didn’t invent it. I didn’t invent the arguments. Joanna Russ wrote The Female Man in 1970. Women have been writing letters to the editor since the beginning of the pulp magazines way back in the 30s.
At Swancon this year, I took the opportunity to have a little celebration about the Twelve Planets project. I spoke about it on the night and talked about the political motivations of the project. Back in 2009/2010, we were really having a lot of conversations about the gender imbalance of awards ballots. Here some graphs I prepared earlier.
The Ditmar novel winners by gender is perhaps the most damning. In 2009, when we were having this discussion, 4 women in the history of the award had won. And then another woman won in 2010 to make it the first time a woman won in a consecutive year. This is particularly interesting given that the Ditmars are a popular vote, determined by the community. This is what we as a community think. That in 50 years there were only 4 novels written by women that were worthy of winning.
Here’s a different pie chart. This one looks at lifetime achievement awards. These can be awarded by a panel or by a single person. There are a few awards mixed up in here and each award is independent of the others.
Or another way, let’s take say the Peter McNamara Award, here are the winners by gender:
And here is the breakdown of gender of the judges (one person is asked each year to choose a worthy winner):
From this, we might deduce that men really dig the career achievements of men. But actually some years a female judge has awarded a male winner.
The breakdown of the Chandler Award is even more profound:
This gives some of the context of finding myself sitting in a Mt Lawley cafe one fine day in 2009 with Jonathan Strahan discussing such things – the lack of women winners, whether this pertained to the quality of their writing or perhaps how much they write. Maybe it’s just that men write more? The discussion has a lot of aspects to it, but on that day, this is how this discussion went, below is an excerpt from the speech I gave last month at Swancon:
This project has been quite a ride. It was conceived way back in 2009 when we were having many discussions on the male dominance of awards shortlists and whether this related to how much new fiction by women was or was not being published. Jonathan said to me, well, if you really believe in Australian female writers, why don’t you publish a whole lot of it in one go and see what happens. If you don’t think there are enough women being collected, why don’t you release a collection a month? This is when I realized I needed to stop drinking so much when I hung out with him.
And so the Twelve Planets project came into being. I chose a variety of female writers for it – well known writers, writers I had enjoyed working with before, writers I wanted to work with, talented writers I wanted to draw attention to. It’s been a really interesting project for a whole lot of reasons. Each writer was given 20 – 40 000 words that were to be in 4 stories. Some wrote to the minimum and some to the maximum word count. Some wrote a suite of interconnected stories, some wrote to a theme, some wrote entirely unconnected non-themed collections. What was interesting was what each writer wrote when given the opportunity to write *anything* they wanted and know it would be sold. Novellas that are really hard to sell became a bit of regular sight (I love novellas). Margo Lanagan gave me a very Australian work taking the chance to write something that would be less sellable to overseas markets. Someone asked me at Swancon when trying to choose a volume, which ones weren’t horror and I have to say, actually only a few. I had to coin a sales phrase of “soft horror”
So then, what of the experiment? The original idea was to publish all 12 in one year, one a month. I pulled back from that because I was still doing short print runs rather than POD and the whole project was costed at about $25k. It also turns out that life happens and writing takes time (who knew?). We’ve published 9 so far. And here’s the awards results tally:
14 Aurealis Award nominations and 4 wins
16 Ditmar nominations and 3 wins
a Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award
a World Fantasy Award nomination
2 Shirley Jackson Award nominations and 1 win
2 15th placings and 1 7th placing in the Locus Awards
5 Australian Shadows Award shortlistings and 2 wins
1 Tiptree Award longlisting
and 1 ACT Writers and Publishers Award
Though the full awards cycle relating to volumes 8 and 9 has not yet played out.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what that means, in the context of the original dare, I mean conversation, with Jonathan. The project itself, when I stand back and view the stories of all 12 volumes as one project – 50 stories in all – is a really interesting narrative. It’s one I’m very proud of. And at the same time, we’ve seen a shift in the way the awards play out. Perhaps voters and readers became more conscious of their habits? Perhaps women suddenly started writing. Perhaps women suddenly started getting good at writing? Certainly my own project suggests that if you support women and provide avenues for their fiction, they write at a very high standard.
But I still didn’t really know what it all means.
And then yesterday, I came across an article that was written about the State of Play in Australian specfic. It was split in two, one section dealing with SF and F and the other dealing with Horror. This latter half of the article was presented as an authoritative snapshot of the Australian Horror scene right now. It listed several Aussie small presses and talked about some of the writers. However, it omitted Twelfth Planet Press completely.
My response was to raise this, via a medium I regret – Twitter. I regret that as in order to get your point across you need several 140 character tweets and that is cumbersome and confronting. I’ve had great multiplayer conversations on Twitter before. I don’t think I’d rate this as one of those.
There’s long been discussion about the gender imbalance in Horror, not just in Australia, but I’ve certainly been keeping an eye on it at home. Here’s an example, Midnight Echo is the flagship magazine to showcase the writers belonging to the Australian Horror Writers Association. Here’s the gender balance of the fiction they have published. So far, no woman has edited the magazine solo and only two women have edited it at all. (However, Kaaron Warren is to edit the next issue.)
But you know, maybe women don’t write great horror? Maybe they don’t submit? Here’s some other stats from Midnight Echo,
But this is very interesting, if we look at the Aurealis Awards winners for Horror Novel over time, only 1 ballot has ever had more novels written by women than men on it:
Yet, the women who do make it onto the shortlist seem to write ok:
However, my response of pointing out that I found it “interesting” that my press and the Twelve Planets were neglected from the state of play of the current Horror scene was a kind of shock at watching exactly how women just go unmentioned and the goalposts get moved to work around them, quietly excising them from the discussion. The Horror portion of the article in quiestion has since been updated by the author to include TPP and also this particular paragraph has been reworked:
The Australian genre literary scene is full of nationally- and world-renowned Australian horror writers such as Cat Sparks, Kaaron Warren, Lucy Sussex, Sean Williams, Rocky Wood, the wonderful Will Elliott, Sara Douglass (vale), and Amanda Pillar.
My issue with this paragraph, and with the article itself, is not that it failed to namecheck women, many women were in fact namechecked. But what was interesting to me was when the adjective “horror” is omitted from the above sentence, as it originally was, it renders all the names after it as outside of the pool of “horror writers”. It’s an example of this moving the goalposts. I’m always incredulous to see that done. It’s just one word but completely changes the meaning. And sure, call me sensitive, narcissistic, ambitious, a case of sour grapes, attention seeking, (all words we like to use in the direction of women we don’t like and never used in the direction of men for similar actions) and emotional (which interestingly was how my response was characterised – decide for yourself) etc but this piece and this conversation don’t exist in a vacuum, don’t exist without a history and context.
The thing is, I came full circle back to that conversation I had with Jonathan that day in 2009. Because the argument had been – well you need to publish more women and then they will win more awards – and I set out to do and achieve that and then … women were still omitted from the discussion. In other words, it didn’t matter what I did, or maybe how many or how prestigious the awards were that women in Australia win, they are still going to be written out of/forgotten about in the conversation. (It occurs to me that Jonathan’s suggestion might work in a patriarchal world order for men.)
My discussion with the author of the article revealed that he did not do it intentionally, and I believe him. He had not in fact read our work. It’s not like this was for Wikipedia or for an academic journal or an historical assessment and recording of the scene for all time. But actually, both these things are exactly the point. The way women are rendered invisible from history is by this unintentional omission from the narrative we tell each other about ourselves and our history. Gatekeepers pass on the information and it’s heard and repeated down the line. And when someone asks you off the top of your head to name your favourite author or a great work, you’re likely to grasp at something easy to hand. And what’s easy to hand is what’s repeated over and over, from one person to the next, in one retelling of our scene to the next. (Quick name a famous brilliant SF female author that’s not Ursula K Le Guin! – Now, how long did that take for you to do?)
I decided long ago that if I wasn’t part of the solution, I didn’t get to complain about the problem. I consider myself a gatekeeper and I hold myself to this bit of what I said in that Galactic Suburbia podcast: “I’m still listening whether or not you’ve forgotten to talk about women, I’m still listening as a woman and I hear you not talking about women” and I gotta stand up and point it out because otherwise I’m a silent participant.
I’ve apologised to the author of the article for the way I went about speaking out. I’ve spoken on GS before about the limitations of Twitter and I feel I should have acted differently. I do though feel icky about feeling like I need to apologise for my tone in some way. The author and I have had a chat and I would like to consider us having walked away as friends. He has already reworked the article. And I appreciate that the publisher was open and willing to make those changes.
I feel sad that in the end, the whole thing kinda came full circle.
Edited: Please note that the editor of Issue 9 of Midnight Echo let me know that there was one female writer of nonfiction in his issue which I had incorrectly attributed. Additionally, the cover art of Issue 9 was by a female artist. This was not previously captured. Both figures in this article have been updated to reflect those changes (originally the Nonfiction in Midnight Echo showed to be 100% by men and the artwork as 81% by men). I also added in the chart on the gender breakdown of the interviewees as this is not included in the Nonfiction chart. I’m interested in who is chosen to be interviewed, across magazines. That will be data I intend to present at a later date.
I greatly appreciate the opportunity to have my data scrutinised and errors pointed out. I consider this process integral to the robustness of my work and as part of the peer review process of my PhD and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to correct these as I proceed.
This week is a bit of a countdown for me as by Saturday, the baby is deemed cooked enough to be able to be delivered at the hospital I have chosen rather than at the women’s hospital specialising in preterm and emergency type deliveries. It is a big milestone because it says the baby is able to survive outside the womb etc.
I had my doctor’s appointment yesterday and started working on my birth plan. I have to say that choosing a doctor is one of the most important things (and privileges) to me. With my various and unrelated medical issues coupled with some mental health concerns, I chose a doctor that my sister recommended since a friend of hers with complications had seen her and my sister had seen once or twice during her own pregnancy. I prefer to see women doctors. Something that became obvious to me when I was first sick with Crohn’s disease is that women’s parts and women’s hormones can affect progression and symptoms of diseases differently to men and if you don’t experience those quirks, you may not instantly account for them. Or understand them. Which was the case for me describing issues with exacerbation of my Crohn’s symptoms at certain times of the month to my first few (male) doctors.
I instantly liked my doctor on the first appointment when I asked her if it was true I was having a “geriatric pregnancy” – a term, by the way, I have only heard male doctors use. She scoffed at the term, rolled her eyes and said, “oh yes, cause you’re *so* ancient”. My GP had given me the same response. Instant bond.
Yesterday, I had a frank and open discussion with her about things and my concerns. I’m so happy with how supportive she is – she’s very professional and calm and cool but also very funny and concerned that I have the experience I want. I haven’t yet asked if there is a teleportation option though, which is really the experience I want.
What strikes me most about pregnancy so far is how much difference there is for me in knowing something intellectually versus experiencing it emotionally. For me, I guess a lot of my feminism was intellectual. I’ve argued for and believed in it vehemently since I was very young. And my views have not changed. But I’ve come to understand a lot of issues at a deeper level, having not really thought a lot of them through at more than an intellectual level. This is something my friends had warned me about. But it’s still quite something to actually live through.
Obviously there is all the judgment stuff that you experience. You can’t walk five steps without people having to tell you how to do something, based on how they did it. As though all experiences are the same. That’s been my first lesson – my pregnancy experience is mine, and unlike anyone else’s. For a start, I have Crohn’s disease. I went in with a few symptoms which pregnancy heightened. I have food allergies and intolerances and am vegetarian. All of which means that the ways in which I can deal with different symptoms and issues is going to be complicated. So many people told me “you wait til [insert horrible symptom or craving] happens” and you know? Most of that shit didn’t. I didn’t have heightened sense of smell (my smell is already pretty heightened normally), almost no smells turned my stomach (maybe I couldn’t stand peppermint for a bit?), I haven’t had any real cravings (like, maybe strawberries? And I would have eaten maybe 3 or 4 punnets in the last 8 months?), in fact I’ve had almost no appetite for most of it, I felt nauseous constantly til 22 weeks. I felt very tired for a lot of it. In fact, I’ve only really started to feel *good* in the last couple of weeks. Yesterday, the midwife said she thought that was the first time I’d said and sounded that I felt well the whole time. I haven’t had much swelling though I have had carpal tunnel. And I can’t much sleep. And so it goes.
But this whole thing has taught me that experience is individual. And whilst advice is helpful, it’s not always useful or applicable. I think also there is a difference between people who are genuinely listening to what you’re going through and providing a supportive ear and some suggestions versus the people who just want another chance to work through their own horror story by downloading it on you or by trying to one-up your experience. With the latter, I am developing a technique whereby I smile and nod and flick elevator music on in my head. That’s the *polite* and *feminine* way to deal with the driveby when really I want to be able to just tell em to piss off. But you know, that would be “aggressive*.
I have a new respect for women who try many times for a successful pregnancy. I always understood the emotional turmoil of losing a baby. But I never really thought about the physical aspects of that. After going through my first trimester, and being aware that mine was not even the most extreme of experiences, I began to think about women who try and miscarry multiple times. I do not think I could go through that 5 or 6 times and feel so unwell each time only to then have such a devastating outcome (on the other hand, I was lucky in my pregnancy so how can I really understand the flipside? Of really wanting a baby, of carrying it inside you to term and not being able to?). And the physical strain as well of being pregnant – I now look at women who have 5 or 6 babies and I just marvel at how much toll that takes out of you physically – the pregnancy, the birth and the feeding afterwards. (And bearing in mind that not everyone has the same experience as me, I guess if you have relatively few symptoms and easy births, this whole thing would be a lot less taxing and a lot more enjoyable).
The freedom of choice is something that is at the forefront of my mind right now. There are a lot of choices. A lot of ways of doing things. A lot of things to prioritise. And a lot of options and methods which will only become apparent as to which one is right for you and your baby when your baby arrives. We took our parenting classes and we listened to a lot of things. I was most interested to note that whilst last week’s class on feeding stressed that it’s everyone’s choice whether to breastfeed or formula feed, no time in the class was allocated to going through the formula feeding option. We throw the word “choice” around a lot but we attach the act of judging to it in the subtext. I’m already aware of how much judgment others like to place on the choices you make. And I know this is only the beginning. Something I’ve been working on in this pregnancy is learning to set my own boundaries and enforce them. But the thing I’m realising I really need to work on is giving myself permission to feel the freedom in my freedom to choose. To make my choices and not be weighed down with the imagined judgment from others about that choice. Because if I can’t do that, I am not truly free. And I’m learning, that in this game, I will always lose.
This is a very hard post to write. In fact, it’s so hard, I’ve started trying to write it several times over the last couple of years. Every time, I’ve made it part way in and then decided it was better, politically, to just shut up. Let it slide. It’s not *so bad* after all. And there are ways to cope with these things, silently, and on the side, aren’t there?
I’ve learned that most people can see the elephant in the room. I’m just the one who always has the need to point to it and then ask everyone else if they can see it too. Whilst I haven’t necessarily written about this stuff before, I have openly spoken a lot about it on Galactic Suburbia.
Overnight, Elise Mattheson came forward and spoke up about her reporting of sexual harassment at Wiscon. What strikes me most starkly about this is that hers was the first formal complaint about this particular person. I have been aware for several years about this person’s behaviour and I have avoided him at cons since being warned. I was aware of his behaviour at World Fantasy Con in 2010 and of other incidents with people I know. I’m not shocked that it was the first formal complaint but I’m aware that for every time we don’t openly speak out and report incidents, we contribute to the ongoing status quo of allowable/acceptable behaviour in our spaces. As our Chief of Army recently just said – the behaviour you walk past is the standard you set.
I was watching discussion last night on Twitter about harassment at cons. And I found myself questioning some tweets about whether I thought some cases were really harassment. I mean, sure, I’d feel pretty shitty in that instance if it had been me, but did it really constitute harassment? And when I interrogated my own thought process on this, I realised it’s because I’m used to a lot of this kind of behaviour through spending four years with 75% male classes in engineering school with males 17 to 22 years of age. And then again in postgrad in the same school but to a lesser degree. And then ramped up again when I went out into the real world and into a male dominated field – in my first job I was the only woman in my section and usually the only woman in meetings. After that, I ended up in female dominated sections but usually was the only woman when I went to business meetings. You have to grow a thick skin, you have to learn to smile and smooth over situations. You have to learn how to clearly let the other person know their behaviour was inappropriate and unacceptable whilst still being on the side of “professionalism” when you do so. I didn’t always succeed. I was better at it when it came from people other than my bosses.
But my point is, I have a thick skin when it comes to a lot of this kind of stuff – I’ve had to handle it for years in my day job – both sexual harassment and also just plain old sexism. It means, I probably let a lot more stuff slide than others might do and I voice to shut down stuff too.
So all that said, I’ve still found myself pulling away from conventions at home. I no longer really enjoy most of the aspects of conventions. I’m lucky because I have a lot of friends that I enjoy catching up with at cons and I can spend most of my weekend in the bar or out at restaurants deep in conversation with them. I’m also lucky because being a publisher, I can have a dealers table and I can spend the rest of a con weekend at my table. I can still catch up with people, I can still talk about my books, I can still pitch and get pitched projects and I can still check in with my writers to see how they’re going with what they’re working on.
But I’ve long since stopped going to parties for example and I don’t really participate in programming anymore.
I don’t feel comfortable at parties. I’ve been touched and groped inappropriately and without invitation at more than one of them and by people whom I see openly and vocally acting as “allies” and discouraging sexual harassment. I often wonder if they are aware of how they (have) behave(d) or whether they don’t realise it. Are they clueless or with intent? I’ve also been privy to the warnings about members of our community – don’t stand next to that one, make sure you don’t sit too close to him/her, don’t let yourself be alone with them etc. We circulate warnings about people. I do my best to warn those who do not know. I’ve had my own encounter with someone whom I’ve been reluctant to ever really publicly call out. I was drunk. He was not. It was not at a convention. He is known to you. It wasn’t flirting, I don’t think I could have misinterpreted his actions. He was a bit aggressive. I’d spent the evening on the phone texting this guy I liked, in and out of the room to take phonecalls with him. I don’t think I could have been making any invitations for the behaviour that happened. But still, even now, I wonder if I misunderstood what happened. I was drunk, but not that drunk (I’m too much of a control freak to ever be that drunk). I asked others about it later – is this acceptable behaviour among friends? Maybe it was me? Maybe I was too much of a prude? He never ever mentioned it again. And never understood why I avoided interaction with him. He’s not been nice to me since. I don’t think it was my fault. I still feel gross and yucky about it.
It makes me feel like, no matter what I achieve, I can still be reduced to just a sexual object, who can be overpowered and plied with. And maybe that was the intent.
(If this was you, and not me, I’d be encouraging you to call him out, make it known, take back your power! I’d kick and scream and tell you he doesn’t have power over you. I’d have your back and I’d go in and fight for you. I’m aware of the hypocrisy. I write this to illustrate that it has nothing to do with who you are and I understand why people don’t come forward and don’t speak out. If there wasn’t an issue with coming forward, there likely also wouldn’t be an issue to come forward about.)
I don’t go to parties anymore. It’s no fun to spend your evening making sure you’re on the other side of the room as a serial harasser. It’s even less fun when those people seek you out to come and speak to you and the whole time you’re trying to smile sweetly but you’re thinking “please don’t grab my boob, please don’t pull me onto your lap”. I prefer the bar and intellectual discussion and debate. That’s why I go to cons. But I want to be clear, our cons *are not* safe spaces. No matter how many times you say something aloud, that doesn’t make it so. I’ve been touched and grabbed in the act of “friendly hugging” in front of the registration desk or passing someone in the suddenly narrow corridor on my way to a panel.
In the last couple of years, I’ve pulled away from being on programming at conventions too. Programming is an excellent way to network, to promote your work, to make connections and to build your profile. That’s what everyone told me and that’s why, when I was first starting out with Twelfth Planet Press, I wanted to be on programming. And it’s why I continued to say yes to programmers long after it stopped being fun. In my experience, I found them to be highly combative exercises where I had to fight to be able to get a word in edgewise, often not called on or allowed to speak at all, or it was an exercise in belittling the work I was doing and discouraging anyone in the audience who might be remotely thinking any of this gig was fun. I’d walk away from them depressed, despondent, maybe with a sore throat, or bored out of my brain cause I hadn’t brought my knitting for the hour session in which I never got to speak. Having moderators on panels is newish here and for a long time, I’d find myself the only woman on the panel, maybe I didn’t even get a microphone or the one being shared would never be passed down to me on the end. My opinion was rarely sought and rarely valued. I think worse than being spoken over is that polite waiting til you’ve finished and then the rest of the panel carrying on as though you never said anything at all. The last Swancon panel I was on, I actually stopped actively fighting for sound space and waited to see how long it would be before the other person on the panel stopped talking – 30 minutes.
Programming just wasn’t fun. And that’s one of the reasons we started Galactic Suburbia. Look what happens when you don’t get derailed, belittled or not allowed to speak. Instead of doing programming at conventions, I’ve been paid to give 15 minutes to 1 hour talks and lectures on exactly the same material by universities, schools, writers organisations, other (nonSF) conventions and as a guest speaker at a charity dinner. Instead of doing programming, I’m available for the same discussions in the bar and at my dealers table. But just to reiterate, our spaces are not safe spaces just because we say it so enough times.
I’m writing this post for solidarity. I don’t want to walk by behaviour and accept it as the standard. I want to say that the kind of behaviour being spoken about online at the moment doesn’t just happen at *their* cons, over *there*, by *those* people we don’t know. I’ve found kindred spirits and lifelong friends in the SF community. I’ve been supported, encouraged, nurtured, taught and loved by this community. I’ve been supported through some of my toughest life moments. I’m a better, smarter and more caring person because of this community. I met my husband and I’ve changed my career because of it. I’m finally happy in life, and it’s a lot to do with the friends I’ve made here. I’m me again. But that doesn’t mean that some of these years haven’t been the hardest and most confronting too. It doesn’t mean that everyone is supportive, nurturing and caring. It doesn’t mean that everyone wants the best for everyone else. And as much as we love this community, we need to be sure that the behaviour we walk past really is the standard we want set.
Yesterday, I came home from running errands at about 9am and started following Senator Wendy Davis’ filibuster in the Texas Senate to stop the voting on an abortion bill. I’ve been vaguely following issues relating to new abortion bills being proposed in different US states, mostly via Planned Parenthood and other affiliated groups, through Twitter since the lead up to the US election last year. The increasing power of the conservative, across the globe, both in terms of in government and in the kind of governing they are doing has been concerning for some time. And with similar hanging over our heads here at home, things look grim for women’s rights to do with health access, among other things. Bill SB5 seeks to shut down almost all abortion clinics in Texas by requiring abortions to occur at ambulatories instead. It also seeks to limit abortion-inducing drugs and to ban abortions after 20 weeks.
Going in to watching Senator Davis filibuster, I didn’t really know a lot about the specifics of the bill, SB5. I knew that it had passed the House and had failed in the Senate and this Special Session had been called by Governor Perry (remember him?) to revote on it. I knew that she had to filibuster til midnight, almost 13 hours, to prevent the vote. And that they’d had many sessions in the week leading up, debating elements of the bill. As I tuned in – the Texas Tribune had the session streaming through their website (via Youtube) with a clock ticking down til midnight – and followed on Twitter (the hashtag was #IstandwithWendy), I learned that she couldn’t just talk for those 13 hours, she had to talk on topic. For 13 hours. I tuned in when she’d been speaking for about 9 hours. She looked heroic. She was strong and powerful and engaging as a speaker. For all those hours, she couldn’t stop. Not to eat, not to drink, not to go to the bathroom. And she couldn’t lean against the dais. Many jokes on Twitter referred to The Hunger Games. She’d worn bright pink sneakers for this battle and she stood there talking about the bill.
Immediately, I was captivated – watching a real live female role model launched in full throttle battle. Here was a woman fighting, gallantly, eloquently, passionately, intelligently for all women. (Photo taken from Buzzfeed)
And I learned a lot about the bill itself in listening to her speak – I wished I’d tuned in earlier, in fact. It still floors me that people who clearly know nothing about human biology are so hell bent on legislating in great detail about it. I mean, I guess, it makes sense – the female body is like magic, and we must fear that which we don’t understand. But here is a debate that over the week had seen discussion of Roe V Wade ruled not germane. Not germane to legislation on abortion!!! And a female (!) Senator who actually thought that rape kits performed abortions. When we dumb down politics, and we belittle experts, this is the kind of lawmaking that happens. Other issues with the legislation itself included setting time limits on procedures in relation to the “post-fertilisation date” – which no one, not even doctors can pinpoint. And doctors gave testimony to that fact earlier in the week. What a convenient way of passively moving the dates even more conservatively for procedures so as to make sure you’re in compliance (if you’re not sure, you are going to be more conservative in estimating that date, some women ovulate during their period for example). I gathered from her speech that there was another aspect of the legislation which related to “irreversible physical impairment as a result of pregnancy” – that could be used as a reason for abortion? And that with no other qualifiers to that, Senator Davis asked would incontinence be considered to meet that criteria, for example. She was highlighting that whilst the bill is technical, and in some ways deliberately pushing for limiting abortions (towards eliminating them), they also didn’t really seem to actually understand the full mechanics of conception, pregnancy and childbirth and the full implications of enforcing elements of the bill.
Other elements of the bill put further requirements onto women seeking an abortion. And discussing this aspect of the bill was where it all ramped up. This bill required women to go back to the location of where the procedure was carried out, or where the medication was given, within a set number of hours of the abortion occurring. The Senator raised several issues related to this – that most women actually go back to their GP for that check up rather than the abortion clinic, that it would be hard to know when the abortion occurred if medication like RU486 was taken, and that these ambulatories (which is where all the abortions would now have to be carried out if this bill succeeds) may be far away from where women live. She was discussing the huge burden this places on a woman (as well as expense) in a time of particular stress and placed it in the context of another, related bill that had recently been passed that requires all women seeking abortions to have a sonogram before they can obtain one. Her argument was that this is a lot of requirements to be met, in about a two week timeframe, whilst also considering expense, travel, physical and emotional discomfort etc.
It was at this point that the Republicans called a point of order that this – reference to this other bill – was not germane to the argument. This would be her third warning if upheld. She quickly explained the relevance and then there was deep discussion, off mic, about whether she had breached or not. After some time, the President came back and declared that she had indeed been talking off topic, and that this was her third warning. The gallery cried out, and started chanting “Let her speak” and so did I. (This photo also taken from BuzzFeed shows protestors there to support Senator Davis filling the Capitol Rotunda. The Gallery was also full.)
It’s ridiculous to think these two bills are unrelated and not relevant to each other. As though the requirements to meet them don’t compound. Actually, it’s not ridiculous at all, it was the first example that I watched of this group of men working to use the “rules” to silence a dissenting woman. If we say it’s not germane, then you’ve broken the rules. And we decide what’s germane. Ahhh that old moving the goalposts chestnut.
Several other Democrat Senators were there to help her with her filibuster. They’d been trying to break in earlier to give her a break by asking her if she’d yield to questions, but she refused to yield. (I assume they were friendly questions but I don’t know that – they could have been from Republicans. I did not properly train for this.) Now they stepped up to pick up on the filibuster and try and keep it going – they had about two hours, from memory, to go and I really didn’t think they’d succeed. But gosh it was fascinating. They began asking questions relating to procedural questions – can they appeal decisions but they were also asking if they could appeal the decision of like who could speak first and who could bring points of order and in which order different senators had been speaking. It was a thing of beauty to watch. One senator got the President all tied up in knots as he couldn’t follow the logic of the question and the senator kept re-asking and reexplaining his question for about 10 minutes. In the end, they had to adjourn for another ten minutes whilst I think he drew him a diagram of the question which had to do with which order different senators had asked what. This is important and I’ll get back to it in a minute.
At this point Senator Watson got the floor and spent about 30 or 40 minutes arguing as to whether they should be able to let the floor vote on whether Senator Davis had breached this issue of germaneness. He argued that the previous two points of order had been voted on by the floor and in this case, the President had made a ruling. And he questioned whether this was by the rule book.
In between these two senators essentially filibustering, Senator Van de Putte kept trying to take back the floor. She had originally started this new round of filibustering by asking for an explanation of what the other two points of order had been and what they were in relation to because she had not be in the room when they had occurred. She had been at her father’s funeral. At Her Father’s Funeral. Stop with me for a minute and think about how you would feel on that day. And whether the thing you would feel like doing after a day like that would be to come back to work til midnight. But there she was. And she was also brilliant. When she was allowed to speak, that is. She was one of the senators who had been speaking and there was some contention on who started speaking when, she (and I, cause I’d been watching) maintained she had had the floor and had not yielded it. In the meantime – that 40 minutes of discussion – someone on Twitter had managed to get a message to Senator Van de Putte about the actual rule in the rulebook relating to germaneness – that it was three points of order relating to germaneness, specifically, that ended the filibuster. In Senator Davis’ case, she had two warnings on point of order relating to germaneness and one relating to interference.
(Now, this is really interesting. Another Senator had helped her earlier in the day adjusting her back brace and this was deemed as out of order. In researching to find his name (which I failed to do) I found that in arguing for her not to have a warning in this case, they raised that time that a Republican Senator had been filibustering in that very room and had been surrounded by Senators of both persuasions as he was allowed to change his ASTRONAUT BAG that he was wearing so that he could relieve himself. I mentioned that whole moving of the goalposts thing, yes?)
But Senator Van de Putte was not allowed to even argue this point of whether Senator Davis really had 3 strikes and was out because she kept being shut down by Mr President. There was about 11 minutes left til midnight at this point, and Senator Van de Putte’s frustration at both not being allowed to rightfully hold the floor nor put forward her point led her to this:
That cheering? Yeah that was me at home too. And it is for someone FINALLY saying what those of us watching had been frustrated with – we’d watch men debate for nearly two hours on whether a woman could be allowed to continue to speak. We’d watch a woman trying to also argue for this woman to be allowed to speak and for her, and her alone, to be continually shut down within seconds of speaking compared to men who were allowed to filibuster. And that, ultimately, this filibuster was about letting the women of Texas the freedom to make choices about their own bodies.
The silencing of women couldn’t have been more visually displayed than those three or four hours that I sat there.
And that cheering just kept on going. At first, the people outside the room thought it meant that the bill had been defeated, then they learned that it was about drowning out the President. Later the President said that they’d used “Occupy tactics” to prevent them doing their work. I dunno. It felt very much like people trying to be heard. And frustrated that they were not being given the chance to do so. Or maybe more about not being *listened to*. They tried to clear the gallery but the time expired before the crowd quietened down. Meanwhile, in the remaining minutes – 2 or 3 to midnight – senators were gathering down near the front and then they were calling the roll as the time expired. At first, I thought maybe they were voting on the motion – of whether Senator Davis had breached the issue of germaneness. Or whether they were voting on the appeal of the point of order that had been raised. But after midnight, there was a declaration of an overwhelming majority voting for what sounded like the bill.
And noone knew what was going on. And the mics had been turned off. And there was mayhem. And surely that’s not how laws of government get passed? I remember shouting at about 12:03 – they are voting anyway!!! Nothing can describe the feeling of my stomach dropping to the floor as I stood (in solidarity with Wendy) and watched them conduct the vote ANYWAY. If they were going to change the rules to suit themselves, after making her adhere to them for 13 hours, what did any of it matter? What was the point of the filibuster at all? If she’d not been stopped and had made it all the way to the end, would they also have voted anyway? Were they always going to make the outcome theirs no matter what?
Worse than that, they started to say that the voting had begun before midnight. And they changed the official record on their website to show that had happened. Suddenly there were two versions of the timeline being circulated on the internet – a Before and an After. Did they not know that 200 000 people had watched them conduct that vote after midnight? Did they not realise that people would have had the original timeline open on their desktop?
The camera to the room got cut and we were left to find some guy with an iphone in the crowd outside who was streaming the scene through UStream. We waited for another hour as the Democrats continued to debate the legality of that vote. And eventually it was announced that the bill was dead.
But I’d lost faith. I’d lost faith that this fight – for equality – can be won. I’d watched the men in power blatantly massage the situation to get the outcome they wanted. I’d watched them lie and falsify the proceedings to make it look like it was above board. And I was watching mainstream media start to cover the outcome – that the bill was passed – none of those outlets had been following the proceedings, none of them had seen what had really happened and they’d just gone with the official story from the Senate. The only journalist covering the event was the guy with the phone, and the rest of us watching on Youtube and tweeting to Twitter. I wondered if this is how it happens – the slow apocalypse. I watched as I realised that what we think and feel doesn’t really matter, those guys are going to get the outcome they want. And they are unashamed by that. Why should they be? When you have privilege, you don’t feel bad about not sharing it. It doesn’t ever even occur to you that you should.
But it made me wonder – what do rules really mean? For me, I see many similarities to that whole “tone debate” – where women get told not to shout, not to swear, to speak/debate civilly. To be nice. If we want to be listened to. Well … you know what? Fuck that. You wanna know why we’re angry and why we can’t just speak nicely about how it feels to be silenced, ignored, stripped of our rights? Try watching a woman heroically play by the rules for 13 hours, to speak eloquently, intelligently, informed on the subject matter, get pulled up on imaginary breaches that don’t actually break the rules that the pedants are pushing, and in fact, have been allowed for others (men) in the same situation, and then watch the rules change anyway, after she won. So that she loses anyway. And then tell me what playing nice ever gets you. If it’s not a fair playing field, what does playing nice, speaking softly, actually get you? What has it ever got us? It’s yet to get us equal pay, equal rights, equal voice.
In the end, it was conceded that the vote happened after midnight and so the bill was dead. So the Governor has sent the bill back to the Senate for another special session scheduled for July 1. In other words, keep working on it til you give me the right answer. Which begs the question, why bother with the farce of process when the outcome is already decided?
This wasn’t just about an abortion bill in the US state of Texas.
As part of prepping and researching for my phd candidacy application, I’m playing around with lots of gender numbers in Aussie specfic. This is actually going to be far more intensive and fiddly than I originally thought and I keep coming up with extra ideas and tangents to run off in. Meanwhile, I thought I might throw various plots and snippets here as I compile them. At the moment, nothing really is part of any narrative or train of thought. I’m just amusing myself as I compile a looooot of different sources of information into something usable.
Today I played around with the achievement oriented awards. So these are more to do with rewarding individuals for their contributions to Australian SF/F rather than rewarding a specific accomplishment in the preceding year (like the Ditmars or Aurealis). We have three main awards for these – the A Bertram Chandler which is awarded by a jury on behalf of the Australian SF Foundation; the Peter McNamara Achievement Award for lifetime achievement; and the Peter McNamara Convenors’ Award for excellence.
So, first here are some pie charts of the breakdown of all winners for each award by gender:
You can see we’re hovering around that 25-30% average Russ talks about. The Chandler and the Peter McNamara Convenors’ awards decisions are made by juries. I don’t have the breakdown of those at the moment. However, the Peter McNamara Achievement Award decision is made by one person. A different person is selected each year to make the decision. Here is the gender breakdown of these judges:
So the breakdown by gender of the judges is the same as for the winners. But interestingly, when you look at who chose whom, only one woman (Helen Merrick) chose to award the Achievement Award to a woman.
Then I thought it might be fun to look at how many people won more than one of these achievement awards – how diverse are each of these awards? In total, there were 47 winners of these three awards. These 47 wins were won by 37 individuals.
8 individuals in the Australian SF community have won more than one achievement award but only one of these was a woman – Lucy Sussex. Shaun Tan and Terry Dowling have both won the Peter McNamara Convenors’ Award for Excellence twice – the only ones to have done so. And just one person – Paul Collins – has won all three awards.
A quick plug for the latest issue of the fanzine Journey Planet – Issue 13 – which can be downloaded for free here.
I was invited to contribute to a discussion following the decision for Eastercon 2013 to progamme for gender parity and Paul Cornell’s commitment to not being on all male panels. This discussion, in the form of many varied answers and opinions on the topic is presented in this issue of Journey Planet. It’s guaranteed to make you angry but what is really interesting is that everyone will be angry to different responses and to me that’s the most important thing. We are all different and we see the issues and solutions differently. And “women” are not one homogenous subset who all think and feel and see the world the same. I hope this issue kicks off respectful discussions with depth and I think, there are many paths up the mountain but the important thing is that the more we talk about it and the more we highlight the issues, the better chance we have of it being visible and in the forefront of everyone’s minds. Because then, with quotas or without, if people are thinking “hey we should ask this person” or “we should examine why we only have men speaking/writing/volunteering/participating on this”, we have a greater chance of them then asking why and considering the answer. I think that’s a huge step forward, no matter the outcome.
It’s a tradition now that stems back to the days of the early 2000s when the Yarn Harlot came up with the idea of starting an ambitious or challenging knitting project at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games and then pushing yourself to complete said project by the Closing Ceremony. Many many many of these projects required great tenacity and commitment to the task and very long days into the nights of knitting whilst watching the Games. And it became a thing – where knitters bonded with each other and their love of the Olympics – faster, stronger and higher and all that. There were badges of honour to win for those who completed their challenges and there was much bloggage.
This year, the fabulous (I mean seriously fabulous, other hobbies WANT a site like this) website Ravelry where knitters hang out, manage their projects and their stash, trade and sell and buy patterns and advice and hang out in the forums, was gearing up for this round of the Knitting Olympics with groups and teams being formed on the site for a group Ravelympics. I’d been getting together with my friend Sim to set up a Twefth Planet Press team
This morning, I discovered that the US Olympics Committee served Ravelry with this lawyer’s letter (taken from the Ravelry Forums and posted in full below, my emphasis in bold):
Dear Mr. Forbes,
In March 14, 2011, my colleague, Carol Gross, corresponded with your attorney, Craig Selmach [sic], in regard to a pin listed as the “2010 Ravelympic Badge of Glory.” At that time, she explained that the use of RAVELYMPIC infringed upon the USOC’s intellectual property rights, and you kindly removed the pin from the website. I was hoping to close our file on this matter, but upon further review of your website, I found more infringing content.
By way of review, the USOC is a non-profit corporation chartered by Congress to coordinate, promote and govern all international amateur athletic activities in the United States. The USOC therefore is responsible for training, entering and underwriting U.S. Teams in the Olympic Games. Unlike the National Olympic Committees of many other countries, the USOC does not rely on federal funding to support all of its efforts. Therefore, in order to fulfill our responsibilities without the need for federal funding, Congress granted the USOC the exclusive right to use and control the commercial use of the word OLYMPIC a and any simulation or combination thereof in the United States, as well as the OLYMPIC SYMBOL. See the Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, 36 U.S.C. §220501 et seq. (the “Act”). (A copy of the relevant portion of the Act is enclosed for your convenience.) The Act prohibits the unauthorized use of the Olympic Symbol or the mark OLYMPIC and derivations thereof for any commercial purpose or for any competition, such as the one organized through your website. See 36 U.S.C. §220506(c). The USOC primarily relies on legitimate sponsorship fees and licensing revenues to support U.S. Olympic athletes and finance this country’s participation in the Olympic Games. Other companies, like Nike and Ralph Lauren, have paid substantial sums for the right to use Olympic-related marks, and through their sponsorships support the U.S. Olympic Team. Therefore, it is important that we restrict the use of Olympic marks and protect the rights of companies who financially support Team USA.
In addition to the protections of the Act discussed above, the USOC also owns numerous trademark registration that include the mark OLYMPIC. These marks therefore are protected under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §1051 et seq. Thus, Ravelry.com’s unauthorized use of the mark OLYMPIC or derivations thereof, such as RAVELYMPICS, may constitute trademark infringement, unfair competition and dilution of our famous trademarks.
The USOC would like to settle this matter on an amicable basis. However, we must request the following actions be taken.
1. Changing the name of the event, the “Ravelympics.”; The athletes of Team USA have usually spent the better part of their entire lives training for the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games and represent their country in a sport that means everything to them. For many, the Olympics represent the pinnacle of their sporting career. Over more than a century, the Olympic Games have brought athletes around the world together to compete in an event that has come to mean much more than just a competition between the world’s best athletes. The Olympic Games represent ideals that go beyond sport to encompass culture and education, tolerance and respect, world peace and harmony.
The USOC is responsible for preserving the Olympic Movement and its ideals within the United States. Part of that responsibility is to ensure that Olympic trademarks, imagery and terminology are protected and given the appropriate respect. We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games. In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.
It looks as if this is the third time that the Ravelympics have been organized, each coinciding with an Olympic year (2008, 2010, and 2012). The name Ravelympics is clearly derived from the terms “Ravelry” (the name of your website) and OLYMPICS, making RAVELYMPICS a simulation of the mark OLYMPIC tending to falsely suggest a connection to the Olympic Movement. Thus, the use of RAVELYMPICS is prohibited by the Act. Knowing this, we are sure that you can appreciate the need for you to re-name the event, to something like the Ravelry Games.
1. Removal of Olympic Symbols in patterns, projects, etc. As stated before, the USOC receives no funding from the government to support this country’s Olympic athletes. The USOC relies upon official licensing and sponsorship fees to raise the funds necessary to fulfill its mission. Therefore, the USOC reserves use of Olympic terminology and trademarks to our official sponsors, suppliers and licensees. The patterns and projects featuring the Olympic Symbol on Ravelry.com’s website are not licensed and therefore unauthorized. The USOC respectfully asks that all such patterns and projects be removed from your site.
For your convenience, we have listed some of the patterns featuring Olympic trademarks. However, this list should be viewed as illustrative rather than exhaustive. The USOC requests that all patterns involving Olympic trademarks be removed from the website. We further request that you rename various patterns that may not feature Olympic trademarks in the design but improperly use Olympic in the pattern name.
Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. We would appreciate a written reply to this letter by no later than June 19, 2012. If you would like to discuss this matter directly, please feel free to contact me at the number above, or you may reach my colleague, Carol Gross.
Office of the General Counsel
United States Olympic Committee
1 Olympic Plaza
Colorado Springs, CO 80909
Now, knitters are a mobilised and technosavvy bunch of people – there are 2 million users on the Ravelry website for example. So I have no doubt they will act in an interesting and powerful way. What I do find quite fascinating is the bits I have embolded. In one written letter response I read this morning, a knitter commented that the USOC could have just issued a trademark infringement. Nothing about this letter or their request would have been altered.
But instead of that, they felt the need to go that step further and belittle the activity and I think knitters everywhere. And I wonder whether they would have seen that as quite as necessary had the activity not been a stereotypically female one. If it were a drinking and dart board competition, for example, I wonder whether the word “denigrate” would really have come up.
And looking at the “true nature of the Olympic Games” of “ideals that go beyond sport to encompassa culture and education, tolerance and respect, world peace and harmony” that, by the way, are not owned by the USOC, let’s see. The Knitting Olympics is a shared focus where knitters from all over the world come together in one place (online), at one time of the year to participate in or to support from the sidelines as others challenge themselves. Knitters exchange patterns and techniques, skills and advice. It crosses language and culture – just take a look at Fair Isle or Japanese patterns that English speakers follow the graphs instead of the written directions. It becomes a means to meet new people and build new friendships. And um, sorry but I can’t remember ever seeing knitters behave in ways that were not tolerant or respectful. Knitting provides comfort and warmth. And many many knitters will gift or donate the product of their efforts.
I’m sorry, but just what about that *is not* in the Olympics Spirit? Cause if it’s not this, then I’ll cancel my Foxtel Olympics special subscription and go do something else next month.
I’ve never actually successfully finished my Knitting Olympics project before. It turns out, if you’re still working full time over the Games, two weeks is not enough time to reasonably finish a sweater. But, you know, now I’m fired up, I think I might just knit myself something. And maybe with those trademark rings.
Knitters might mostly be women, USOC, but I wouldn’t want to piss off people who know how to wield sharp pointy sticks.
Objective: This challenge hopes to help counteract the gender bias in reviewing and social media newsfeeds that has continued throughout 2011 by actively promoting the reading and reviewing of a wide range of contemporary Australian women’s writing. (See the page on gender bias for recent discussions.)
Goal: Read and review books written by Australian women writers – hard copies, ebooks and audiobooks, new, borrowed or stumbled upon by book-crossing.
Purist: one genre only
Dabbler: more than one genre
Devoted eclectic: as many genres as you can find Challenge levels:
Stella (read 3 and review at least 2 books)
Miles (read 6 and review at least 3*
Franklin-fantastic (read 10 and review at least 4 books)*
* The higher levels should include at least one substantial length review
So, I’m going to be a Purist and stick to speculative fiction :). And I’m also going to be practical and set myself the Stella Challenge level – 3 books and 2 reviews.
I think it will be a lot of fun and I want to encourage others to participate. There’s also a second part of the challenge WeLovetoRead2 which is also a really worthy challenge. I’m not going to participate in that aspect of it though, due to time constraints.
However, Twelfth Planet Press will be getting behind the campaign and will be offering a 10% discount on our books throughout 2012 which conform to the challenge. Either email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the link to your challenge post for a discounted invoice or let us know in the instructions for your purchases by including the link to your challenge post. In the meantime, we’re having a sale for December and are offering 20% off almost all of our catalogue.
This guy is pretty upset, I think. I tried to read the whole post but its loooong and it goes off on tangents and really, doesn’t really get much to the point. He was paid an advance of $65 000, six weeks after he signed his contract with S&S and apparently that’s not immediate enough for him – pretty standard turnaround where I work when you come on as a brand new employee but whatev. And he’s upset, I think because:
Your designer (who is good – I bet he’d have done good work if he ever saw my design brief) is not the problem.
No wait the designer is not the problem. Wait for it, cause publishers love to be told this one:
Okay, whatever. At least you spent some time implementing the three hour long design brief I wrote for the cover, giving specific recommendations and historical comps?
Alas, no. When I got the cover, they totally ignored everything about my audience, my goals, my notes I gave you guys, and whatever else. I re-wrote notes, and they were ignored. So much for “meaningful consultation”!
I’d list more, but it’s all the same sort of thing. Suffice to say, I kept coming with ideas that might or might not work, and getting back nothing or less than nothing in return.
So this dude is a debut author. And so of course, like many people who do things for the very first time, he knows everything about the industry. He knows what sells, he knows how to sell it, he knows how to run this business that he’s … oh, no, wait, that’s right. He’s never actually sold a book before.
But why I’m blogging this is not for the above or the other bunch of verbose ranting which you may or may not feel like ploughing through (oh my gosh does he not sell himself as a writer in that post! Or um, you know, someone I’d want to work with …) it’s for the UNNECESSARY use of the word “bitch” throughout it. You know, I get that he’s upset. I get that he feels like he needs to vent. I get he might feel like his back is up against the wall. But OMG! He feels like he’s being “treated like a bitch” and that that, THAT is the worst thing that could ever happen to him.
And this, just a few weeks after the mencallmethings campaign on Twitter.
Seriously. Some people are just cool. They’re talented and brilliant and ahead of their time.
I’m sick. And I’m catching up on random bookmarked articles. One of which was 10 Fantastic Banned Books that Talk about Sex. Book 6 is The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. You, like me, might have just reacted with What the ..? to that. You’re what now? It turns out that the first 49 years of publication of Anne Frank’s diary was a slightly edited version – her father transcribed her original diary and he nipped and tucked a few bits here and there. In 1995, to mark the 50th anniversary of her death, her unabridged diary was released and it contained this paragraph, which she wrote when she was 15:
“…Until I was eleven or twelve, I didn’t realize there was a second set of labia on the inside, since you couldn’t see them. What’s even funnier is that I thought urine came out of the clitoris…When you’re standing up, all you see from the front is hair. Between your legs there are two soft, cushiony things, also covered with hair, which press together when you’re standing, so you can’t see what’s inside. They separate when you sit down and they’re very red and quite fleshy on the inside. In the upper part, between the outer labia, there’s a fold of skin that, on second thought, looks like a kind of blister. That’s the clitoris…”
That a young girl might have to actually explore her own anatomy and then write it down – and that 50 years later, this might be considered to be “inappropriate for an eighth grader” – is entirely the point (thanks to @theducks for the link). In fact, so ahead of her time was Frank, that it was in the late 1960s and the second wave of Feminism that the Myth of the Female Orgasm had women reaching for hand held mirrors and peering at themselves to take a proper look and find their clitoris.
A description of a part of one’s body is hardly confronting nor automatically sexual. Part of me wonders had Anne Frank been Shmuel Frank, would that paragraph have been omitted in the first place and if it had been, would its replacement back in the text be thusly contested as inappropriate?
But more so, I wonder why the exact details of female genitalia are such a secret – so much so that many women find it all rather mysterious too. It’s really quite ridiculous, if you think about it. I saw this great graphic the other day that addressed why girls are conditioned to compete with each other – the premise was men/boys don’t want to be compared to a woman/girl and found to come short so instead, they head it off at the pass by pitting girls against each other. Compare girls to girls and make it cuthroat and competitive and then noone remembers that maybe boys could be compared to girls. I dunno how much I buy into that but it seems to me, if women don’t know that much about their anatomy, and the ins and outs of how it works exactly, then they won’t know if men are “doing it wrong”. I mean, that’s the whole kink with wanting to have sex with virgins, isn’t it?
I’ve had a ripper of a reading weekend this weekend and just finally finished the last 7 pages of The Female Man which I didn’t manage to do in time for the Spoilerific Russ Podcast.
And so I only just read the closing. And didn’t get to go all “awwwwww” on the podcast. Fave quotes:
Go, little book … Do not scream when you are ignored, for that will alarm people, and do not fume when are heisted by persons who will not pay, rather rejoice that you have become so popular. Live merrily, little daughter-book, even if I can’t and we can’t; recite yourself to all who will listen; stay hopeful and wise. Wash your face and take your place without a fuss in the Library of Congress, for all books end up there eventually, both little and big. Do not complain when at last you become quaint and old-fashioned. when you grow as outworn as crinolines of a generation ago … do not mutter angrily to yourself when young persons read you to hrooch and hrch and guffaw, wondering what the dickens you were all about. Do not get glum when you are no longer understood, little book. Do not curse your fate. Do not reach up from readers’ laps and punch the readers’ noses.
Rejoice little book!
For on that day, we will all be free.
I was all: No! Joanna will still love you and understand you! Oh. Wait. …
New episode up! Grab it from iTunes, by direct download or stream it on the site.
In which we discuss the SF Gateway and some great additions to the Women in SF conversation, Alex eats all the Bujold in one bite, and Alisa’s puppy does his very best to oppress us.
Alisa: Maureen Johnson on www.whyy.org/podcast; Twin Peaks; Mercy (not genre but interesting feminism);
Alex: sooo much Bujold (3rd, 4th and 5th omnibi, and Memory); lots of books, because of holidays! But particularly Heartless, Gail Carriger; Blackout, Connie Willis; Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, NK Jemisin… also Harry Potter 7 and Transformers 3.
Tansy: The Demon’s Surrender, The Holy Terror & Robophobia (Big Finish), Subterranean’s YA Issue
Pet Subject: Feedback from our Joanna Russ episode
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Critics who are too sensible to succumb to some version of She didn’t write it and too decent to resort to the (always rather snide) She did, but she shouldn’t have can often find other ways to dismiss the tuneful yodelling and graceful ice-sliding of those wrongly shaped – or wrongly tinted – Glotolog who somehow persist in producing art despite the obstacles arrayed against them. Motives for the dismissal differ: habit, laziness, reliance on history or criticism that is already corrupt, ignorance (the most excusable of all, surely), the desire not to disturb the comfort based on that ignorance (much less excusable), the dim (or not-so-dim) perception that one’s self-esteem or sex-based interests are at stake, the desire to stay within an all-male, all-white club that is, whatever its drawbacks, familiar and comfortable, and sometimes the clear perception that letting outsiders into the club, economically or otherwise, will disturb the structure of quid pro quo that keeps the club going.
- How to Suppress Women’s Writing, Joanna Russ, University of Texas Press, 1983