Me, as a useful representative example
For those of you who haven’t been following this, and I’m glad you haven’t, here is an article from The Daily Dot for backstory.
The short form is that some people said some not nice things about me in a public space, and the story has been picked up as an example of sexism in part because one of the people saying those things works for my publisher. Silvia Moreno-Garcia has done a good analysis of the sexism in what’s going on, so I’m not going to rehash that. Instead I’m going to talk about how this affects me.
I feel weird about this.
I feel weird because it wasn’t news for me. For years, I’ve known that there was a segment of folks on sff.net that profoundly did not like me, and that they were saying unpleasant things about me. I knew that a guy in contracts hated me. But I’d decided to ignore it because, honestly, he’s a professional and he did his job. The fact that he didn’t like me… Sad, but not career-damaging.
So, on a personal level when comments like these come to my attention, I just laugh and move on. I don’t waste my story-brain on constructing a narrative about how they’ve wronged me and what I can do about it. They are well within their rights to dislike me and to say so.
But then a ton of lovely people started emailing me about The Daily Dot article and telling me how sorry they were that I was getting all of this abuse. I was taking the day off the internet to spend with my husband. I do that once a week, because love. Anyway, point being that I usually leave my phone on, in case my parents need to reach me. It kept pinging.
So I told Rob I was going to go online for 45 minutes to see what was happening. I looked. Saw the article. Read the comments. Laughed.
Then I replied to the messages saying, “Honestly, I’m fine. Four years in office inured me to this so mostly I’m just laughing.”
And this is the part that I feel I should draw attention to — I was “mostly” laughing. I was also having mild stress reactions. Dry sweats, elevated heart rate. I was ready to shrug them off as, “Meh, doesn’t materially affect me. I’ve seen worse.”
Until someone pointed it out that I was basically saying, “I’m inured to being abused, because I was abused for years.” See… the things those folks are saying in that public forum? When I was in office, they would email that bile directly to me and because I was an officer, I could not chose to ignore it. I had to read every single one. And I had to reply politely to them. Strangely, sometimes I had trouble doing that, but a polite response was the one that was expected. Now? Being out of office for two years, I can say whatever the fuck I want, but most beautifully, I don’t have to read the emails.
So this is why I feel weird about writing about this. My impulse is to tell you all that I’m fine and that this has no material affect on my life. And that is true. But I also know that I am a useful representative sample of the abuse that happens to other women.
I know that there are a ton of women who have received similar messages — and can we stop pretending that sexism is happening because it’s SFWA? Sexism happens all the time. It’s visible in SFWA because people are actively fighting against it.
Too many places, too many women, get this sort of unwelcome attention and commentary about what they were wearing but no one does anything. It’s always, “Laugh about it” or “Just shrug it off,” or “Ignore it and he’ll go away.”
You see how well that last is working?
So, I really, truly am fine. But watch what happens to me now that I’m posting. Read the comments when they happen. Note the people who say that because I’m talking about the abuse, I must be begging for attention.
Take me as a useful representative example. And know that I am not an isolated case.