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 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.

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138 thoughts on “Me, as a useful representative example”

  1. <<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.<<

    "Heads they win, tails you lose"

    I really feel bad that people have such visceral hatred in them. I try to be a nice guy, try to get along. When I get smacked with the hand of visceral dislike, it stings, hard. And that's just a fraction of the crap you're getting, here. A small fraction. It isn't right.

    Maybe I (and others) should just fill your IRL mailbox with postcards and other lovely things. Counterprogramming.

  2. Is this group overall an older generation? Because that sort of nonsense doesn’t fly with people my age. I can imagine a lot of people in their twenties thinking ‘that can’t be saved’ if there are so many racist, unempathetic, ‘can’t control their inappropriate feelings toward others so they lash out’ people in it.

    Don’t they want sci fi to continue on beyond them? What sort of example are they expecting to set with hatred?

      1. It does not contain all of you, but the older you are, the more blatant sexusm was tolerated as a part of the overall culture, so there’s a higher chance you either benefited from sexism (especially if you’re male) in some way, trained yourself to ignore really blatant sexism as a way to maintain a job and a social life, or you were a trailblazer, or you changed later on.

        The first two are common even today. Back in the Mad Men era or before, it’s not surprising that was more common.

        1. 54 year old woman, here. While sexism was particularly rampant while I was growing up, it was also the beginning of the feminist movement. I grew up in a household where “work” existed–not “men’s” work or “women’s” work, just work, and that was with two parents of (obviously) the generation previous. So…my brothers and I learned how to roof a house, fix a carburetor, change the oil, dig ditches, buck hay bales and set fence posts. My brothers and I learned how to cook, sew on a button, make a buttonhole and clean a house.

          A very long way to say (My! But how garrulous we become as we age!) that jerks come from all eras. I am acquainted with young men of 20 who think “slut-shaming” is right and proper and an 83 year old gentleman who believes women belong wherever we want to be.

    1. I think the guy who said the worst of it is about my age. Though I’ll grant that I’m 45, so that does not make him particularly young.

      Some of it is a generational shift, yes. These always happen, but the grumbles used to happen in person or at parties. People aren’t used to how the internet works and that conversations online are like talking in a room with an intermittently live microphone. You never know when something you say is going to be broadcast to the entire school.

    2. I don’t know what generation you belong to, but I’m in my mid-30s and tend to interact with people ranging from their 20s to 40s/early 50s mostly. And as much as I would like to write this off as an “older generation” problem, it is most decidedly NOT. Sexism isn’t relegated to “older people” and painting it as such has the (albeit unintentional) result of making it out to be less of a systemtic problem than it actually is. And plenty of “older people” are getting right pissed off that their contemporaries are STILL engaging in this sort of sexist bullshit because that’s what they’ve been fighting their whole lives.

      It’s more of a “culture problem” than a generational one, IMO. Yes, “younger” people might be more comfortable with call out culture, but that works both ways – while more people are speaking up against discrimination – sexism, racism, heterosexism, etc – the level of vitriolic pushback isn’t necessarily dying down, we’re just getting to see it more often because the internet makes that stuff harder to hide.

    3. I really don’t think it’s fair to make this an age thing.

      Some of the vilest, most disgusting misogyny I’ve ever seen has come from young men, and the geek community is no exception to that.

      We talk about how people are ‘products of their time,’ but everyone living right now is doing so in this time. Anyone who chooses to be a bigot on the internet has access to the resources to educate themselves about race, gender, and other forms of oppression. I’m not yet thirty, but I still needed to be educated on this stuff as an adult, because I had my head stuck somewhere terribly unfortunate.

      My parents are AARP members. They don’t send people horrible abusive emails, or refuse to apologize when someone tells them they’ve done something hurtful. They don’t pretend they get to be jerks because of when they were born. So if someone older than me wants to blame their willful ignorance on their age, I can’t stop them–but I’ve met too many conscientious people of every age to indulge the lie that age and bigotry go hand-in-hand. There’s no such thing as too young or too old to learn.

      1. Wow, a little harsh aren’t we? Please try not to make it sound as though I’m out to get older people.

        My point was to have hate so ingrained in an organization was something that used to be the norm. The fact that people feel comfortable letting it out in the open is surprising. Most of the young idiots who blast their narcissism in gaming and such do so on a small level. They mostly can only hurt individuals. These people have the power to hurt a genre.

        Admittedly, I moved from the South to a big city, so my experience is one of increasing liberalism and that might color how I see the world.

        However, Mary got to the root of my thoughts in that saying something on the Internet is probably much more powerful than people realize. We are at a point in this country when racism and sexism are finally bad things. Those people are in the fringes for the most part and I am used to them saying those thing in hushed groups. Having leaders open about it is a different story. One that leads me to believe they haven’t jumped on the ‘that is really not ok’ bandwagon that pervades younger organizations (like the place where I work).

        1. I’m sorry that my initial comment read as harsh. I didn’t intend it to.

          Around this whole situation with the petition and the fallout, there have been a lot of folks pointing out the average age of the petition signers, and several people in their age cohort expressing that they find it hurtful to be tarred with the same brush.

          It’s pretty clear that some of the people who participated in the discussion didn’t realize that they were holding a microphone in a public forum. And I agree that to the extent that people do feel comfortable saying this stuff in public, it’s because they either honestly think it’s okay or they resent the fact that it’s not. I just don’t think that comes down to age in any meaningful way.

        2. “We are at a point in this country when racism and sexism are finally bad things. Those people are in the fringes for the most part and I am used to them saying those thing in hushed groups. Having leaders open about it is a different story. One that leads me to believe they haven’t jumped on the ‘that is really not ok’ bandwagon that pervades younger organizations (like the place where I work).”

          You’re still generalizing based on your personal experience.

          Racism and sexism aren’t being considered “finally bad things” so much as people are less willing to *keep quiet about sexism, racism, ableism, and so on.* The amount of pushback that is happening *across age lines* when people speak up about experiencing discrimination, both on an individual and systemic level, demonstrates that the culture at large still has a long way to go in learning that microaggressions are just as much if not more of a problem than overt, individually-directed discriminatory actions.

          The people who are spouting flat out racism in the vein of “whites only” and sexism such as “women should stay at home” may be more relegated to the fringes, but 1) they’re still very loud and influential and 2) they’re still far more common than you might think.

          I am glad for you that you’ve only experienced people saying those things in “hushed groups” because it’s ugly seeing it out in the open, but that is decidedly NOT how a lot of other people, especially people who lack white privilege, or male privilege, or cis privilege, have experienced discrimination. It’s been pretty straight up and in our faces for most of our lives and it’s really not all that surprising when “leaders” in social groups espouse discriminatory behavior and ideas.

          I will second Annalee’s assertion that some of the WORST misogyny and racism I’ve seen has come from “young people” – and it’s often in response to having it pointed out to them that just because the Civil Rights Act was passed, it doesn’t mean racism is dead, or that because women were given the right to vote and not be fired for being pregnant (which only happened in 1978, btw), doesn’t mean that sexism is dead, and DAWG forbid you point out how something they just did or said is racist, sexist or homophobic because they’re progressive, damn it, so nothing they say can be racist, sexist or homophobic, clearly anyone criticizing them is just being an over sensitive harpy.

          (and some of this has also come from older people, too, so it’s really, really not just relegated to generational lines)

          Please consider how your own personal experience isn’t necessarily representative of the larger whole, because these generalizations about how this stuff “doesn’t pervade younger organizations” isn’t actually helpful.

        3. So I will just keep quiet, then, shall I? I really don’t see what’s wrong with me commenting based on my personal experience, since that is the only experience I know.

        4. Your comments about ‘young idiots’ in gaming doing so ‘on a small level’ are…not accurate. The hateful misogyny in online/video gaming is so pervasive and vile that it is a constant and ongoing issue within the industry – which sees both customers taking their money elsewhere, and talented women taking their talent and going to work on other things (because who wants to get sexualized death threats on a regular basis?).

          Yes, society is slowly getting better; yes, young people are more likely, as a demographic, to reject these things; but you are repeatedly minimizing the problem because you haven’t personally run into it much. That is unhelpful.

        5. One last thing though. I want to defend my millenials because many of us have grown up in a ‘that’s just wrong’ kind of world. A good number of us do think differently about hate, so if the tone of your corrections comes across as calling them racist, I’m not surprised that the reaction you see is overly defensive.

          And I wanted to thank Annalee for not seeing the worst in my comments. Thanks.

        6. Also, I may be naive and optimistic and unaware of the depth of the problem. I am fine with that. But right now I feel more like a punching bag. If your goal is to educate people, you’re not doing a great job of creating a welcoming space for learning.

        7. I think that young people in some subcultures can be just as bad as, or worse than, the older generation are. Geek and gamer culture are especially bad in that regard.

          You mentioned that we’re at a point where racism and sexism are finally bad things in the mainstream and while that’s mostly true, I think there should be some concern that those fringes you mention have been artificially broadened and normalized because of the way social groups on the internet tend to collect and grow. If you’re a skinhead living in Harlem (for some weird reason) you’re not going to have a lot of local support from your community, but if your social life is largely online the way a LOT of the younger generation is ATM, then your community is at least as much ideological as it is geographical. It is that ability to find strong support almost anywhere that sustains and promotes the echo chamber of hate that used to be provided by the KKK or even just the unthinking reflex discrimination of a generation that grew up with racial segregation.

          On top of that, the John Gabriel Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory has a role to play. People are (in my experience) far more likely to portray a more extreme version of their views online because there is no accountability in the way there would be in person. While they may not behave that way offline there’s a certain amount of the mindset that stays with them and while they are probably partially conscious of their own inflated behavior the behavior of their social peers will register as genuine at some level. If they were asked, most people would acknowledge that at least some of the vitriol their peers spew is more extreme than what they would express in person, the way people are generally wired means they won’t stop to question it.

          My fear is that the next generation or two will be *worse* than the old guard because of these factors. The ‘Boomer’ generation doesn’t (generally) grasp a lot of high tech on the instinctive level that people who grew up with it do, and their social skills/training are from an era where communicating with other people was mainly tied to a specific person by necessity. Talking to a person on the phone still registers as ‘in person’ to those trained responses, to some degree. GenXers and younger though… I’m 33, and over half of my life has been deeply entangled with a web presence. Young enough to instinctively adapt to and incorporate new tech as it develops, old enough that I’m still horrified by the swarm of misanthropic shriekers on Xbox Live. People younger than me have a real chance of growing up in an environment where being a horrible bastard to other people is the norm.

          “Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.” – Robert E. Howard, via Conan the Cimmerian. Until there are social consequences for being a terrible person in cyberspace, it’s going to keep acting as an incubator for this kind of thing. Systems that force using your ‘real’ information are an attempt at that kind of enforcement, but I think they’re approaching it the wrong way. That’s a whole different conversation though.

          TL;DR: You’re less likely to see the Klan burning crosses nowadays, but finding equally toxic social groups is just a search string away. We haven’t outgrown our failings yet.

        8. I’m just going to jump in and ask y’all to be a little gentler.

          Stephanie? Let’s go out for coffee this week. I totally get what you are saying, so I think I can explain the trigger you accidentally discovered.

        9. Stephanie, the problem isn’t commenting from your experience; it’s generalizing from it.

          It’s great that you work for an organization where the prevailing attitude is that this stuff is not okay. I’m not being sarcastic when I say I’m glad for you, and I’m glad that organizations with that attitude are out there.

          But I’m a Millennial too, and I work in an industry full of Millennials where this stuff is so okay that even daring to exist as a woman is likely to generate rape and death threats.

          The people who get up on stage at tech events and show porn in their slides, or talk about how moms don’t get tech, are fully aware they’re speaking in public. The people who post sexualized death threats under their real names, on social media accounts where they list their employers in their bios, are aware they’re speaking in public. The companies whose job postings do everything but come out and say ‘no women need apply’ are aware they’re speaking in public. Those people are overwhelmingly from our generation and Mary’s.

          No one’s calling all Millennials racist. We’re just saying that Millennials are no less racist (or sexist, etc) than any other generation.

          What’s going on with the SFWA isn’t because it’s not a ‘young organization.’ It’s just a microcosm of what’s going on in the wider geek community, which is in turn a microcosm of what’s going on in society as a whole.

          Things are getting better because people are struggling to improve them. Some places are getting better faster than others. Making broad generalizations about how Millennials know better erases the experiences of people like me, who’ve been the target of really vile bigotry from Millennials. And it erases the experiences of older folks who have been in this struggle since before we were old enough to join them.

          No one’s telling you not to share your experiences. We’re just asking you not to assume that your experience of the young people you know is universal to all young people.

        10. Stephanie, please consider that you, yourself, are being rather harsh when you frame those who disagree with you as unfairly picking on ‘millennials’ in general and you in particular. First, some of the people you’re jumping on are millenials. Second, nobody here is calling you names or suggesting that your opinions are less valuable because of your age.

          Finally, may I gently suggest that the “well I’ll just shut up then” response, even if heartfelt, is counterproductive? MRK maintains this space; if somebody steps out of line or is insulting to you, I am confident she’ll deal with it appropriately, not expect you to fall silent.

        11. I’m right on the line between Gen X and Millennials myself and believe me, I roll my eyes just as hard at comments in the “Oh those young people, they just haven’t learned or gotten any life experience yet” vein because those are just as condescending.

          I really don’t think you’re a bad person at all, Stephanie, and I can sympathize with feeling like you’re being jumped on for making what you felt was a positive, contributive comment. I’m going to second Annalee (again, because she’s right on point) that the problem isn’t that you’re sharing your experiences at all – it’s that you’re apparently assuming that your experience among other (mostly) young people is universal to all young people. Pointing out how that generalization isn’t actually helpful isn’t a knock against you *personally*, it’s pointing out a flaw in reasoning that’s otherwise well-meant.

          You say “I may be naive and optimistic and unaware of the depth of the problem. I am fine with that” – I’m taking it to mean that you’re acknowledging that your perspective may be a bit narrow in some places and that you’re open to learning. That’s great – no one expects anyone to come to these conversations fully informed and *everyone steps in it from time to time.* That’s to be expected. But it really helps when, if you find yourself being defensive, to step back and pause for a moment to think about why you got the reactions you did, rather than defensively focusing on *tone* – because a lot of the time, and as we’ve seen in the discussions about Truesdale’s petition, *tone* is being used as a convenient excuse to dismiss what people are saying *even when it’s relevant and something that really needs to be said.*

        12. Nisi Shawl has some great points about why fighting sexism with ageism is problematic, although I know nobody here intended to come off that way. I wish I could find it or relate her points half as well, but I’m sure Mary will ‘splain it just as well at coffee!

          Love, hugs, and a commitment to stick up for all my sisters,

        13. “I really don’t see what’s wrong with me commenting based on my personal experience, since that is the only experience I know.”

          That’s true.

          And now other people with a different experience are speaking up. Since the only experience you know is your own, it might be a good idea to listen and learn from what other people are telling you about their experiences, without being defense (and fwiw, I don’t think annalee was harsh in her initial comment at all).

          And I can hear the rebuttal now: “Well why do *I* have to listen to *them* tell me I’m wrong because of their experiences, but *my* experiences don’t mean that *they’re* wrong!”

          Because sexism, racism, and other -isms have a nice, long history where one group says “I don’t see any problem, my experiences have all been fine” while the other group says, “Well, my experiences have been NOT fine.”

          And because…well…you’re wrong. Your experiences are not wrong. But the opinion you’ve formed from your experiences is somewhat in error. Easy mistake to make, especially when you’re in groups of people who do share your values, both online and out in the world.

          Sexism is SUPER prevalent in young adults. It’s foolish and maybe even a little dangerous to think it isn’t. Oh, social awareness and outspoken championing of equality is pretty wild among young adults too, I’m not saying for a second that it isn’t. But it’s easy to think, because that’s often the loudest and getting the most press, and it is so nice and heartwarming, that it’s the reigning attitude. And that’s the dangerous bit. Because the sexism of the younger crowd, it’s often a lot subtler, until it isn’t. And then it blindsides you.

          A number of my friends teach/have taught college courses–mostly English courses, so lots of composition and class discussions about themes, etc. They’ve all got their share of horror stories. One used to regularly update us on ignorant, sexist/racist/bigoted things his students said or wrote. His 18-20 year old students, who held attitudes that I thought would have come from 50-year-olds. And heck, half the time it would be from the girls in the class. We kept a bingo chart for how many times Friend was basically told by a girl “I don’t need feminism.”

          And part of the problem is the idea that “sexism is over.” That we’re tired of talking about it now. And then sometimes it’s not subtle at all. The stereotypical fedora-sporting angry-brony is usually a guy in his 20’s (and if we’re talking personal experience here…), the guys who did the “who needs feminism” meme in response to the “I need feminism because” were generally in their 20’s as well. In a way the young anti-feminists are almost scarier than the older ones (“almost” here because they usually don’t wield as much political or corporate power)–if the older ones were sexist because they grew up in a different time, then it was often an ignorant sort of sexism. It was just as gross, and just as hard to stop, but it was ignorant. These days, a lot of the younger anti-feminists have an ANGRY sexism. “If I’m always gonna get called out for having privilege, FINE, I’ll just go for it.”

          It’s a cultural problem, as others have said, and it’s a culture we’re all steeped in. It’s not that age has nothing to do with it.

          I understand wanting to defend your age group, though I think the statement that “that sort of nonsense doesn’t fly with people my age” is an ignorant and incorrect one, especially paired with the assumption that therefore it must be old people behaving so badly. I understand wanting your experiences to be just as valid a cross section of the issue. And they are valid. And they do showcase positive trends. But it’s still a very small sample size.

        14. If my experience of people my age has been that they are generally more tolerant, and yours has been that they are no less tolerant than anyone else, how can we determine which conclusion about the world is correct?

          I have been struggling with this all week and, if my experience is unusual, I’d like to see some data if you have it.

          Though, I would like to clarify, pretty much every opinion that comes out of my mouth is intended to come complete with an “in my opinion/experience/etc.” filter, so I was a little frustrated when no one understood that/could read my mind.

        15. “If my experience of people my age has been that they are generally more tolerant, and yours has been that they are no less tolerant than anyone else, how can we determine which conclusion about the world is correct?”

          Experience shows that we cannot let people generalize from their own experience.

          Like, a few months ago I got involved in a discussion about rape in the military. And someone who claimed to be a military officer described his experience. In his unit there were 6 rape accusations by women, and 2 by men. As it turned out, all six of the women were lying about it. The court-martials confirmed that and they were all punished severely. But the two men were telling the truth and their attackers were discharged from the service. He generalized from his experience to say that women who say they were raped are usually lying.

          Well, was he sure the women were lying? Yes, he served on all the court-martials and he knew. I wasn’t there so he said I had no right to argue otherwise.

          It turns out the Army has set up careful approaches to study the problem and try to correct it. They let women who have been raped get treatment and counseling if they agree not to press charges, so women who are afraid of repercussions if they report it can still get treatment and can be counted. They did surveys among women who left the army, who could tell the truth without being punished. They found that military rape is a serious problem and is getting somewhat better, along with statistics like half the raped soldiers did get medical treatment, and half of those felt it was adequate treatment.

          If we let people generalize from their personal experience it will bring us a whole lot of grief.

          We must establish that personal anecdotes are irrelevant unless they support our narrative. So if your experience fits the general truth, say so! But if it does not, it is unhelpful and you owe it to the world to shut up.

          (It goes without saying that your own self-interest is not served if you show that you are personally privileged, but if you describe how you are a fellow victim you will be welcomed.)

        16. J Thomas, I am not sure if I am reading your last two graphs correctly. Were they meant to be straightforward or more ironic?

          If the former, “So if your experience fits the general truth, say so!”

          That illustrates my initial rhetorical question well. How is one to know what the ‘general truth’ is (especially in this scenario)?

        17. >J Thomas, I am not sure if I am reading your last two graphs correctly. Were they meant to be straightforward or more ironic?

          I’m reaching the point it’s hard to tell the difference.

          “Political correctness” started out as a derogatory term that communists used to refer to the party line that communists who favored the USSR had to follow. The rationale was that they were working together for change, and if they all agreed then the result would be better than if outsiders could see them disagreeing about anything. So whether or not a claim was objectively correct, it was “politically” correct, the right thing to do. But many communists felt it was better to actually work out what was right than to do something wrong because the Party thought it would get the best result.

          Later, conservatives picked up the term and used it in the same derogatory sense. And some leftists tried to reclaim the phrase — they used it with a completely straight face to mean what the conservatives derided.

          I think it’s probably better to try to find the truth and work with it. If we don’t do that, after awhile people will start to distrust us unless they are so firmly committed to our goals that they don’t care about getting it right either. But when I say that, I get shouted down a lot. And what if I’m wrong? If I make it look like there’s dissention in the ranks that could have bad results, and when it doesn’t actually lead to any useful changes — what good is it?

          >If the former, “So if your experience fits the general truth, say so!”

          >That illustrates my initial rhetorical question well. How is one to know what the ‘general truth’ is (especially in this scenario)?

          If you are part of the movement, then the ‘general truth’ is whatever the movement says it is.

          If you are not part of the movement, then the movement will likely not have a lot of tolerance for you. They intend to accomplish important goals and you are in the way. Better to get out of the way unless you in fact want to obstruct them.

          If you’re looking for actual truth, statistical data can reveal some. But it takes very careful interpretation. When people answer questionnaires, sometimes some have reason to lie, and also the exact questions they are asked can make a big difference. A lot of wishy-washy people will be swayed by the wording and the wording of previous questions. Unless you go to primary sources it’s easy to get conclusions that are way off.

        18. Ok, I think I understood you correctly then. Thanks for that.

          That is the exciting thing about statistical data on what people think and feel. With anecdotes, they are necessarily colored with mental jumble, but you have no easy way of interpreting what went into them. With survey data and statistics, you can feel around for people’s thought processes and try to reach as many possible conclusions from straight facts. There is no extra color from the filter of a third person source, so it is easier to suss out the many reasons why a person may say what they do based on the process. Plus, it is a bit closer to representing the whole.

        19. “With survey data and statistics, you can feel around for people’s thought processes and try to reach as many possible conclusions from straight facts.”

          Yes, but it still takes a whole lot of careful interpretation.

          First, the sampling could be biased. It does not apply to people who aren’t like the sample.

          Second, it’s extremely easy to misinterpret the data. Like, recently somebody claimed that the US population supports Israel so much that we will surely go to war with Iran. They quoted a survey which showed overwhelming support for Israel.

          When I looked at the survey, it said that more than 70% of their sample preferred Israel to the Palestinian Authority, while only 8% preferred the Palestinian Authority to Israel. 20% had no preference or didn’t know.

          To my way of thinking this showed how much Israel is slipping in US opinion — 30 years ago no more than 3% would have preferred palestinians, no different from statistical noise, and it would have been more like 90% than 70%. But more important, there’s a big difference between preferring Israel over the PA and going to war with Iran so Israel can keep their monopoly on nukes.

          By the time you finish interpreting statistical data there’s lots of room for disagreement and varying opinion. And the data tends not to tell you what you’d want to know.

          Like, the army rape study. A larger number of male soldiers got raped than female, because there are so *many* male soldiers. But they didn’t study rape, they studied “unwanted sexual contact”. I think if they had to do one or the other this is the right one, but it isn’t exactly rape. I call it rape anyway but that isn’t exact.

          They found that a whole lot of the women who got raped in the army had been raped before as civilians, while women who had not been raped as civilians tended not to get raped in the army either. That suggests a variety of possible speculations. Like, maybe some women are privileged in ways that tend to deter rapists, and whatever signals demonstrate that carry over into the military. There are lots of different ways it could go. But the study gives no hint about explanations. Any speculations about that fact remain sheer speculation.

          As “big data” gets cheaper and more available, we might be able to get more conclusions. But I expect that careful interpretation will still be the limiting factor.

      2. To Laura,

        I appreciate that you may have seen/heard some truly horrifying things. I would like to understand the issue better.

        Have you read any research by social scientists/non-governmental agencies/non-profits into this issue that you could point me toward? I am especially interested in large-scale studies and aggregated survey data, etc.


    4. I think it’s dangerous to portray this sort of thing as primarily a problem in older generations. I teach high school, and I see this kind of mentality all the time, in students and in (young) teachers as well.

      The more we try to explain it by ascribing it to age, the more we blind ourselves to the fact that some of the younger crowd are also part of the problem.

      1. Maybe part of the problem of ongoing sexism (and other ills) is a failure on the part of society as a whole to acknowledge that each new generation is a blank slate that must be taught morals and ethics. Racism and sexism could be viewed as grown-up versions of the sandbox social scene, where the “fat kid” or the “foreign kid” or the “icky girl” is ostracized, taunted, or tormented because of their difference. Just because society has made strides against sexism doesn’t mean each new wave of kids doesn’t need to be taught that it’s wrong (not to mention illogical). Every kid is a little barbarian until shaped otherwise, as most teachers and parents can probably attest. Hope that makes sense.

  3. Wow, Mary.

    Not that anything I could say could possibly have any meaningful impact on you or the situation, but I’m appalled enough that I feel like I need to say something anyway.

    First, the sexism thing. It baffles me that people can be so wound up in their own issues that they have to hate people for being [insert category here]. But… I’m probably not alone in this, and there’s nothing really new about it.

    But second… the thought of ire like this being directed at you, specifically. I don’t know you- not really. I do, however, follow you and read a lot of what you write- both published and up here on your blog. I listen to you every week on Writing Excuses. For all I ever see, you’re nothing but one of the more positive influences on a very large community of people.

    For whatever little it’s worth, I find the whole thing pretty upsetting. I very much admire you, and find it pretty disgusting that anyone would direct the hate engine in your direction.

    1. I’m with Chris. This behavior is beyond disgusting.

      But I can see, Mary, why you didn’t want to say anything about it. You were being a professional and did your best to stay above the fray. I applaud you for this stance, as it was difficult and you endured far more stress than you needed to . . . and I also applaud you for coming out and saying what happened to you now, because I’m sure it wasn’t easy to explain, much less put it all in context.

      My late husband Michael once told me that he thought many men were Neanderthals — well, he actually said something a little worse than that, but still polite (Michael rarely swore, but his icy politeness was something you did not want to see — you’d almost rather _want_ to see him swear than that) — and that a whole lot of consciousness raising still needed to be done.

      Michael was 43 when he said that; had he lived, he’d be 55. So to me, age is irrelevant . . . what is important is the man’s attitude, and whether or not he understands that men and women both deserve to be treated with respect until/unless they prove they are not respectful themselves.

      I’m very, very sorry you did not get the respect you’d earned from many of these obnoxious jerks from the SFWA, Mary. You deserved better, you still deserve better, and I’m completely astonished that such terrible people are in positions of power and would rather tear people down for something they cannot help — their gender — rather than try to figure out whether someone’s work is good instead.

      I’m extremely angry on your behalf, though I know you can take care of yourself, and I’m frustrated that you have endured so much utter nonsense. But I’m glad you’re still out there fighting, that you’ve for the most part taken the high road (not easy, as I said before), and I think ultimately these idiotic people who’ve caused you so much distress will get theirs.

      Let’s hope they’re in the process of getting theirs right now, in fact.

  4. I had started to say “I can’t believe anyone could hate you; you’re such a lovely person.” But, as you point out, it’s not really about you (or, at least, not just about you). The sad fact is, this kind of thing happens to a lot of people for a lot of “reasons” every day. No matter how much you dislike someone or why, there’s just no excuse for treating them like they’re not a person. Good for you for drawing attention to this since there are countless people who feel that they can’t do so.

  5. You had to deal with that vitriol for four years? While writing 3 books and editing a zine (and making puppets)? You’re made of sterner stuff than me. Bravo!

  6. I want to take the amazing books of fantastic authors like Margaret Weis, NK Jemisin, Ursula LeGuin, Robin Hobb, Trudi Canavan and of course Mary Robinette (though I could make this list far longer). I want to take these books (hard cover versions of course) and smack each and every one of these terrible misogynists over the head.

    It is 2014 for God’s sake. How the hell could people be living in this society and not recognize and WELCOME the contributions of such fantastic authors. I hope that there is a generational shift and such attitudes will fade.

  7. Mary, just chiming in to say I support you. I–and many others–love your work, and appreciate how you keep speaking out against these jerks.

    I have gone through similar things, and I suspect I know this reaction you’re talking about. On an intellectual level, you don’t want to show that this affects you, because then they will have power over you–but it does. It causes your hands to shake and takes away your ability to focus. I’m especially sorry this had to happen in the middle of your date with your husband. That’s positively the worst 🙁

    I was going to say “outlive them, and spite them all,” but these aren’t all older folks, and its unfair to older fen to tar them all with the same brush. So I’ll simply say: live a good life, and spite them all.

    1. At the airport – I think what I tried to say earlier did not work. I should have realized what would happen as a result of the petition. I hadn’t read the article, but realized yesterday that of ALL THE PEOPLE who’ve spoken out, you’re the one selected for special vilification. You’re beautiful, thoughtful and spent countless hours benefiting SFWA in countless ways. You’re wonderful, talented, and the world is a better place to have you in it. It occurs to me today that when this type of thing happens, we should feature it as much as possible. Because I only and ever see the best people receiving this type of abuse. And abuse – it is.

        1. Amy is wonderful, and she is spot-on. I didn’t tweet anything yesterday because I didn’t want to add to the pinging of your phone, and now I feel like I should have.

          You are the best of us. Those attributes I most prize in myself and in my friends, you stand as a shining example of all of them. WWMD — What Would Mary Do — is an exceedingly useful gauge for professional behavior, and oh the delicious depth! It has “WMD” right in the acronym.

        2. I love you, Mary. I am glad to see that a lot of healing and love is coming forth now. Please feel it and know that the assault was unsuccessful, weak, and sad. Please don’t forget – when the attacks are like this, it’s truly a good thing no matter how it hurts, and it cannot help but hurt, as when one does right – it’s not expected it will arouse and attract cruelty and injust commentary and behavior. I’d like to say this will be “over” at some point (women will no longer be singled out and vilified in Whack-A-Mole fashion whenever they pop up their heads), but I think not. There will always be good people doing the right thing, and those with envy and resentment and other Cardinal sins who want to strike out against them.

  8. Just a general statement of support (to you, and to all) – because, seriously, it is such bullshit that anyone has to deal with this junk. I often don’t understand people.

  9. I’m an old fud, pushing sixty-five. I’m also a white male. I remember the introduction of the term male chauvinist and all the changes that came after. But, really, it’s now the second decade of the 21st century, and we’re still dealing with misogyny? How long does it take for some people to catch up? It makes me wonder what their mothers did to them.

  10. *gasp* But your LEGS were showing! You hussy!

    Seriously, though, I’m sorry to see you have to put up with this in two thousand effing fourteen. I’ve been driven out of geek spaces by less. I’m glad to see people are aware and speaking out, but it saddens me that lovely people still have to put up with it.

  11. Just wanted to chime in and say thank you so much for offering yourself as “useful representative example” in this context, but also in a role model sort of way. For me, the world feels less sucky when people like you and @scalzi (and many others!) are out there demonstrating what a combination of hard work, intelligence, humor, and professionalism can look like.

  12. “Watch what happens to me now” – well, in my case, being reminded of your name made me go and buy “Shades of Milk and Honey” from Audible, which I had been meaning to do for some time. And I’m enjoying it very much. So I’m glad some sexist idiot had a go, otherwise I might still be unaware of just how good your work is.

      1. Ah, so THAT’S your evil scheme, then, isn’t it?

        Well, it’s working – I’m finally picking up a copy of Shades of Milk and Honey as well.

        I hope you’re happy!

  13. As you know Bob, Mary is a talented performer and writer, a generous teacher, diplomat and cat wrangler. To meet her is to instantly like her.

    All to say, you know how many of us in the community think highly of you. Thank you for sharing and posting this.

  14. There’s a kind of “using your strength against you” thing that happens with a woman–and I think the abusers count on it. You, being treated to bile and contempt, are damned as a whiny girl if you complain…and if you “can take it” (and you feel that as a professional and a grown-up, that you should) then there’s nothing to stop the abuser from being abusive.

    Yes, the apparent anonymity of the internet beguiles some people into working themselves into a froth and spewing all over the place without the sense that their target is a breathing human. But some people also just don’t care who gets hurt. Some people even enjoy using the excuse “I didn’t think it would get back to her” to hurt. Some people are just shits.

    For what it’s worth, I love and admire you as a person, as a colleague, as a grownup and professional, and as a writer. And I’m forwarding this post to my daughters, who already know that this kind of shameless stupidity is out there, but need to be reminded from time to time.

  15. The combination of:
    a) a category-hating person,
    b) who has no grace, class, courtesy or dignity,
    c) with Internet access
    …ensures the world will suffer from troll plagues until one or all of the above items are rectified. Ideally the day will come when a) is no longer an issue and I’d love to be around to celebrate that momentous event.

    Fighting trolldom via impositions on b) and c) is not the answer. It often merely magnifies the problem.

    Instead, you fight a troll with your own grace, class, courtesy, dignity and your Internet voice.

    You are not an attention-craving whiner, Mary. You’re a fighter.

    May I just say thank you for that.

  16. I just wanted to let you know that I will be adding you to my reading list. I have not read any of your books previously but followed the blow-up through Jim Hines. I was amazed at the abuse heaped on you for apparently daring to be published and – my special favorite – wearing dresses on your web site (you could almost hear the words brazen hussy hanging in the air!).

  17. Just want to say yes, it is still happening in spades, and yes, Amy is right–you are a talented, beautiful woman who was once an officer, and it makes you a tempting target for men behaving like idiots.

    You rock–never forget it.

  18. When I first read some of the things said about Mary, I was angry. Really angry. My instinct was to charge into the fray and defend her against the vituperative malcontents who’d questioned not only her talent but her character. But Mary doesn’t need defending, and my own impulse to ride to the rescue of female friends is problematic in itself.

    I know Mary as a gracious and generous friend and mentor. I know Mary as a talented author, performer, and craftswoman. I have never known her to be shy, nor needful of others to fight her battles. So, while I am furious that people direct vitriol and derision as someone I care about, I do not worry about her. I do not wonder if she’ll be OK.

    Mary is an award-winning author and podcaster and a frequent convention Guest of Honor. She has served an officer position within the industry’s professional organization. She is recognized as a friend and colleague by the best and brightest of the genre. While it hurts me for Mary to be attacked, as it hurts me for any of my friends or any person I respect to be attacked. I do not worry about Mary.

    When I see these attacks, though, I see more than Mary. I see the woman discovering her love of the genre for the first time and thinking about attending a convention. I see a woman who fell in love with THE HOBBIT and wants to see what else is out there. I see women without Mary’s Rolodex and without the armor 45 years in performing and writing have calcified around her. I see women without Mary’s platform, without a website and a podcast and a Twitter following.

    I see through their eyes. I see the message that even at the highest levels of the genre. a woman is a nonperson. I see the girl who loves dragons and elves learning that a woman’s body is public property, to be commented on and dissected and through which all she says or does can be thrown away. I see the sickness that weakens our community while telling itself it stands for authenticity and tradition, for freedom of thought and honesty of dialogue.

    Mary’s tough. Mary can take it. She shouldn’t have to. No one should.

    1. I had a really long reply to this that is going to have to end up a blog post. So for now I’ll just say, “Yeah.” Surviving this long as a public person, you have to put up with a lot of shit, but I mourn for the voices we’ll never hear because they opted out of this cracked-out game before they even got started.

    2. I just wanted to say that this was the best reply I’d heard all evening, and that if every man stopped and thought through this as you did, the world would be a better place.

      No-one should have to form an armour 45 years in the making to take part in geek spaces or communities that read spec fic. It depresses me that there’s this extra hurdle that some people have to jump across to participate.

    3. Thank you sir.

      Your words resonate for all women, in all fields. It angers me that in 2014 women still have to fight this. But at the same time, knowing there are men like you-men that understand women are real, valuable people and deserve to be treated just like their male counterparts gives me hope.

      I came here via Jim Hines and cannot wait to read Mary’s work but I wanted to say thank you to you in particular for your words of support and to offer words of support to her myself.

  19. Mary, I’m so sad that you have to deal with this, and that you are just one of many. I am 67 and have been watching this kind of crappy behavior for way too long. And I’m still listening to my brothers talk smack that they think is somehow an acceptable political opinion, but is in fact just stupidity. Unfortunately, I long ago quit trying to argue with them about it because they just can’t hear. I am going to be sending you positive thoughts all day and whispering good thoughts into my grandson’ s ear so as to affect small change for the world

  20. I wish I were in any way shocked by any of this. The only part of this that does not shock me is your grace in handling it all for so long. Thank you for speaking. I wish you happy shiny things today to offset the nasty as much as possible for a bit.

  21. I am so sorry you have to put up with this Mary. It is absolutely ridiculous on one level and beyond unprofessional on another level.

    I also wanted you to know I’ve been saying I wanted to write for years and never really did anything about it. Since I took your class, I’ve finished 3 stories and sent them all off for submissions (haven’t heard back yet). I’m still squeezing in time to write, even though I have a 2.5 year and an 8 week old. Why I decided to finally start making a serious effort at one of the least optimum times in my life, I don’t know, but thanks for helping me get off my ass and do something.

  22. Thank you so much for speaking out.

    I am pretty new to writing sci-fi (though I’ve been a woman all my life) and I’m rather stunned to learn about this culture.

    Off to buy one of your books!

  23. Well, I just went off and bought one of your books. Because this uproar directed me to your blog, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed what I’ve seen so far of your writing. And because you are right, and they are not.

    And because I’m still laughing at, “I don’t think that calling me by job title is a particularly effective taunt.” It’s entirely possible you need a higher caliber of enemy.

  24. I’m not on but I hang out with people who are and heard there was a kerfuffle, again. A friend pointed me at this blog, and I will leave reading to this blog because you sound like an eminently sensible and pragmatic person who understands the dimensions of the problem. I don’t need to see it in action since I’m old and have lived it many times over. Beyond standing up to miscreants when you’re in a position to do so, there is no good way to handle ignorance and prejudice. They take the low road. The high road is a lonely place. Just know there are many of us who appreciate your standards.

  25. “Ignore it and he’ll go away.”

    You see how well that last is working?

    I know how poorly that advice works. Anecdote is not data, but I’m not taking chances; I never want anybody to use that method.

  26. I have serious doubts about anyone’s sanity who doesn’t like you Mary. You’re definitely one of the most wonderful people out there. This sort of thing is ridiculous and while I understand that this sort of thing happens. It SHOULDN’T I think in 2014 everyone should have a little more understanding and intelligence unless they are 9. I’ve stopped trying to explain this sort of garbage but I managed to get outraged every time I see it anyway.
    I would just like to thank you for all you have done for everyone in Science Fiction and Fantasy over the past few years. You are my inspiration…

  27. I had this great thing typed out. And then it said “blog token not found” and I lost the whole thing.

    I’m still hiding in my depressive hole, Mary, but I’m reading. And this man sucks. We love you for all the things that you are. And hopefully this buries him professionally.

    Sending all my love and good thoughts. History will revile him and celebrate you as the amazing author and great VP you were and are.

  28. How dare you to have a body underneath that brain?
    Unfortunately I can’t add you to my “authors to read” list, you’re already on it.

  29. You’re not only a remarkable writer, a generous spirit, and a pupetteer of renown, you’re a real grown-up, you’ve got manners, and you know how to use them. I’m proud to be your friend.

  30. Julianna Drumheller

    Clearly the person who said these things has mental issues. His prudishness borders on pathological, and one has to wonder how much he must fear being enslaved to your feminine wiles, if he is titillated by the sight of a bare ankle on the beach. He seems to belong to that very “special” breed of cretin who believes a woman should be pretty or smart, but has no business being both (because, again, the terror).

    Anyway. While I agree with some of the other commentators that sexism is not strictly a problem for the older generation, I do have hope that things are changing for the better. You have helped inspire and influence a new generation of writers, who will be less inclined to put up with the bullshit in part because of the path you have already forged. So I wanted to say thank you for that. Thank you for speaking out about this and for being so dedicated to making the sci-fi/fantasy community more inclusive and progressive. The community needs more people like you.

    You have my support. And also, I think you’re a classy lady. 🙂

  31. Cynthia Gonsalves

    Mary: Thank you so much for keeping on keeping on despite all the dreck. And when I heard that there was a 4th Glamourist book coming out, I immediately went OMG WANT! (and then got!).

  32. As an author, and a man, I am appalled at the open hatred that is being spewed like shit from a hose at successful female authors. Seriously? Hating someone because they’re an innie instead of an outie? The only possible reason is that they fell out of the tree that they were swinging in and landed on their collective heads. Hate someone, if you must, because of their talent or lack thereof, not their plumbing.

  33. I’m sorry that speaking out against miserable people has made you a target of such ugly words. However, I WAS just looking for a new author to read! As I am a voracious reader, I buy a LOT of books. Here’s to new adventures with new friends!

  34. I believe you to be a useful representative example of talent, intelligence, and human decency. It pains me to no end that you, and countless others, suffer these unwarranted, unprofessional personal attacks simply for existing.

    I am equal parts amazed and disgusted that the hateful, hurtful comments made about you and (again, far too many to count) others are being argued as opinions worth defending in the public square.

    They are not.

    To this SFWA outsider and frequent Writing Excuses listener, all I can say is how I hope that the “Tipping Point” has been reached and this abusive behavior can now be curbed, slowed, and, one day, brought to an eventual stop.

    Some might say that it is a pipe dream, but it is a nice one to cling to.

  35. I submitted an article yesterday on a somewhat science-y subject. If I had known about this latest iteration of the “Girl can’t write good because girl” theme, I might have thought twice about submitting. But with your example, I don’t think I would have thought more than twice. You are awesome.

  36. It’s odd how I’ve suffered from sexism all my life, but am more angry that these d-bags are picking on MARY.

    Because she is really just a superior human being in so many ways.

    I am not, and will happily kick ’em in what they’re thinking with at such a time as Mary has complete plausible deniability and an airtight alibi. Cuz it’s not like these assholes wouldn’t go after me, too.

    I say this may be the ever so rare time when “they’re just JEALOUS” might actually be a teeny tiny part of the problem.

    And these (fill in your own pejorative) definitely did not get proper home training.

    @mechalith: interesting thoughts, well spoken.

  37. Thank you for sharing your experience. We need to keep talking about these things, not just ignoring them. People try to say that the experiences people talk about are not representative of the real world, that they’re one-offs. Unfortunately, that’s not true. We need to make it hard to ignore, and you’re helping. Thank you again.

  38. Those boys found ya threatening, didn’t they?

    You are absolutely correct: you *are* a representative sample. This kind of crap happens to women all the time. Ignoring it does not make it go away, and the harm that is done, the toll that it takes, in the aggregate? Immeasurable.

    For what it is worth – your openness here is appreciated, as is your work in the genre, as are your books. I likewise bought Shades of Milk and Honey today; it’s a delightful read so far, and I love Mr. Ellsworth already!

  39. You don’t need my support, Mary, and you don’t know me and I don’t know you. You don’t need other people to tell you that you are terrific, and are acting with your usual grace, brains and dignity. But you have my support and admiration nonetheless.

    I’m sorry you have to be an object lesson. But I am delighted and impressed by just how well you are doing it.

  40. I am grateful you spoke out about the impact this and all the other rabid attacks on you have made, and though I am not surprised it is happening, I am hopeful that the “population size” you represent will decrease.

    I’m one of those people who did not try and write spec fic for many years because of misogynistic treatment at the hands of the “old guard” at my first cons as a young woman. I came back to fiction after a decade in academia, when I realized that I didn’t want my children to give something up because other people didn’t want them to do it.

    You were one of the first writers I heard about and met, and your grace and determination to write and help others write inspire me still. Thank you, Mary.

  41. Well, I will be away from my keyboard quite a lot tomorrow, so may not be able to assist much on the incoming,horde of maniacs which will arrive on day two. So, please accept my thanks now for your willingness to step into the firing line in defence of others.

    I’ll be back when I can, but thank you for such a grand job you have done on making some people reveal their true colours…

  42. A male colleague of mine, who is an avid Si-Fi/Fantasy reader and staunch feminist, drew my attention to this controversy. As a professor who teaches gender issues to “young people” (18-22-ish), I’m always interested in talking to them about how professionals deal with sexism in the “real world.” I’m sorry that I learned about your work in this way, but the end result is that I am deeply impressed with your courage and grace in this situation … and your recognition that the nature of media makes it a chance for learning to happen.

    You can also count me among your new readers!

  43. I started this reponse angry…

    Then I walked away from the computer for a few minutes so I wouldn’t turn into a raving maniac, calling out these fine gentlemen by various perjoratives and deserved profane descriptive sentences. Yep, I was starting into a 20 minute Dennis Miller style rant.
    But like I said, I walked away from the computer before that happened.

    We still have these issues today and while they are still happening, we have to keep on throwing searchlights on them. From the “old guard” to the new “geek cred warriors” I’ve run into at the Emerald City Comicon.
    I’m white, male and 55 years old. I do not have special snowflake status to act like an ass to anyone at any time. I’ll help call out this crap when I see it.

    Mary, you’re a professional. You are also one of the nicest perople I’ve ever met. I still remember fondly the first time I met you at John’s signing when you brought Poppa Fuzzy to show to all the fans. You signed a bookplate for me since they sold out of stock of “Milk and Honey”

    I realize that with this post, you just put yourself back in the center of the ring of abuse that will probably start soon. Just remember that when the circular firing squad starts to show up, duck.

  44. Thank you for letting people know that these things are occurring. As a longtime fan and reader (but not SFWAn), and also as a homo sap who happens to bat for the XY team, I’m mortified that you should be the target of that juvenile venom. Nobody, and no SF author, and no SFWA officer, should have to put up with that sort of abuse.

    That women who speak out in public are indeed routinely subjected to these assaults is indeed unacceptable and long overdue for a franchised variant of Scalzi’s Mallet of Loving Correction.

    I don’t know if that helps, but you have that plus my good wishes and empathy.

    Best Regards,
    Rick Moen

  45. I sucks that you have to deal with this at all, Mary. But I’m entirely certain that there are far more of us that love you, your work, and what you represent, than not.

    Too bad Jane and Vincent can’t help. 🙂

  46. This horrible situation reminded me that I hadn’t bought the Hardback version of Without a Summer. I might institute a policy of supporting women attacked in this fashion by buying more of their work. Thanks for your continued work both on the page and in the community.

    1. I heartily agree with this sentiment and plan to buy physical copies of all of Mary’s books, despite having a couple of them in ebook form. I feel that my monetary support will send a bigger message than my vocal support, though I’m certainly willing to provide vocal (ie, written!) support!

  47. Hi Mary,
    I’ve been meaning to read something of yours for a while but I finally bought one today specifically to show my support. You now have a new reader thanks to a combination of recommendations from Scalzi, and my wish to taunt the repulsive haters. I hope this works out well for you!

  48. It would be awesome if people were a lot more kind and considerate of each other. Sadly, there are some that lack the empathy to realize that their comments can have a real affect on those around them. Words do have an impact regardless of the foolish old saying regarding sticks and stones. But along with the devastating effect that words can have, they can also offering something positive and constructive.

    Anyway, I would like to offer my support for you Mary and for the many women that are mistreated by cretins such as the chap mentioned in the article. You deserve better than this and I believe it is time again to push for higher standards of behaviour and thinking about gender within society. There must be ramifications for those that treat others poorly.

    Thanks for all of the awesome fiction!

  49. From my perspective as a fifty year old man, I believe so much hatred comes from a fear that older people, males especially, are becoming obsolete. Not only fear, but a feeling that older men are being forced into a corner by a society of aggressive younger people who have no qualms telling the former to their faces that they are useless and must disappear. It might be a conspiracy-tinged paranoia akin to the rantings of far-right stallwarts Glenn Beck or Alex Jones. It may have some truth to it. I can’t say with any degree of certainty. However, I do believe that many of those older men who are lashing out believe their fears to be based in reality. They feel wounded and stuck in a corner. The only thing that makes sense for them to do is to strike out with claws or teeth, hoping against hope that they can scare off their attackers and live to see tomorrow.

    That said, I’ve come not to excuse this behavior nor bury it, just try to give my perspective on it. I’m a writer and producer although I don’t work in the genre or medium many of you do. As I get older, I notice that those around me get younger with the mix sliding to a less homogeneously male population. There is nothing good or bad about it in my world, it merely is a fact that I have to adapt to. Some younger people I get along with, some I don’t. Some women I get along with…well, actually, I get along with all of them. The fact is that I have strong enough feelings of self-worth and self-esteem to be able to do my job and to adapt to a changing environment.

    I suspect that many or all of the men who have lashed out at Mary Robinette Kowal suspect in their hearts that they don’t have what it takes to adapt. They may, I don’t know. But they don’t think they do. The sad part is that they’ve turned their complacency into a dogma worth defending. I suppose facing your fears and, FSM forbid, showing it, is less “manly” than piling up the barricades, waving the flag and singing patriotic songs.

    1. Saul

      Unfortunately the problem runs deeper and wider than some 50 year old guys panicking about their ability to adapt in a changing world. My daughter is a medic, and some of her mentors are guys who are thirty years older than her, who have encouraged her from medical school onwards, and are delighted by her success. Indeed, last week a guy forty years older than her, at the very end of his career, took the time to tell her, after a day working together, that he felt really good knowing that he was leaving their specialisation in the safe hands of someone passionately committed to it.

      She gets a lot of crap from guys junior to her who don’t like the fact that she is senior; the usual mantra of ‘suck it up’ is unhelpful because, amongst a lot of other things, she leads the resuscitation team. If the patient is going to live then certain things have got to be done now; life, or death, depend on people following orders, and there simply isn’t time for some guy who thinks that Barbie is a good role model for women standing there, not following orders, because women aren’t supposed to issue orders.

      I would love to think that the battles that my generation fought had won the war, but I know it didn’t. I would love to think that all we have to do is outlive the dinosaurs, but I know it isn’t. We have to keep fighting because otherwise we will never get past the point where it’s not only possible but acceptable to dismiss someone as an un person…

      1. I don’t think it’s either honestly. I think the issue is getting worse not better as, Stevie said. I am a younger Horror/Sci-Fi writer and I’ve seen more and more stories lately about grotesque things happening to scantily clad women. The whole torture porn mentality can’t help, but encourage younger writers that it’s OKAY to make women into pieces of meat. I see it more in Sci-Fi and Horror than in any other genre.

        If you’re going to write these things and promote them, stories and pictures where women are just props, then how can you possibly respect a woman who has just written something that kicks your ass and doesn’t need that stuff to do it?

        I think it’s something that is ingrained in the culture of the genre and if anything it’s more prevalent than it’s ever been. It needs to stop and the only way it will stop is if authors like Mary step forward against it.

        Authors like Mary and authors like me, who are young and trying to make a name in this hard business… Hell all the authors who feel this way. The only way to make permanent change is to start with the generation that’s moving in.

        Just my opinion
        Micah Ackerman

        1. Micah, don’t discount the ornery mood of those who have been in the field a while, shouting for change until we’re hoarse. We also keep fighting the good fight, supporting sisters, daughters, and friend.

        2. I didn’t intend to suggest that their weren’t experienced authors fighting the good fight. My post was more about the fact that there are many newer authors who are also part of the problem. Yes there are both good and bad stewards of the genre that are older, but the sexism I am seeing the most of comes from the newer supposedly “groundbreaking” authors. I think that’s where the biggest change needs to occur. While i think that the SFWA does need to make significant changes, I think authors need to change long before they reach SFWA eligibility.

          Thanks for responding.


        3. Okay. I didn’t get that the first time around, which may have more to do with my brain than anything else. Fiction writers spend way too much time off world. But that’s interesting. Any idea how to create change in that population?

        4. I wish I knew, but I’m having a great sci-fi writer (who happens to be a woman) do a guest post about it on my blog coming up soon.

          If anyone else would like to blog about that go to the above address, I’m starting a round table discussion about it. I would like anyone who has something to say post.

          Hopefully we can begin to change the landscape one writer and reader at a time.


        5. Micah

          I have no doubt that many of the people seeking to put Mary into what they imagine to be her place do so because they have a fixed and deeply conservative worldview which encourages them to believe that they are, instead, radical thinkers fearlessly pointing the inevitable way forward to homo super sapiens who do, obviously, look just like them.

          The reason it is so prevalent in the SF genre is, I think, that it provides such ample camouflage for that fixed worldview; after all, they say, how can we be mired in the past when our hero is tinkering with the warp drive in another galaxy? Nowadays, mainstream literature does require a more than token effort to present women as people, not props, which in itself is going to push people who simply can’t hack that into a genre which has traditionally regarded women as, at best, a method of generating sales by placing pictures of them on book covers.

          So, I’m glad that you are bucking the trend, but not hugely surprised by the trend; it’s only by being honest about what is happening that we can hope to change things. Otherwise it’s same old, same old…

  50. I will be 70 this summer, and have experienced sexism in my workplaces, and in my life. For years, I did nothing, but now, I have finally found my voice and my courage to challenge sexist remarks, when they are said. And I can’t tell you how satisfying, and gratifying it is to hear (and see) the speaker back down, because a feisty old woman no longer cares what he thinks about women, and tells him to keep his outdated opinions to himself! I am sorry hateful remarks are still being said, and that you had to go through this. On another subject, I loved your comment about the intermittently open mike! May I repeat that on my Facebook page? It describes the situation perfectly. Meanwhile, stop “mildly” stressing-he’s a jerk, and deserves to be paraded naked in front of jeering women! Wonder how he would like that?

  51. There’s a great deal of wisdom in this post, but I’d like to underline what is to me one of the most interesting points Mary makes, which is that despite her healthy and grounded confidence in herself, despite the fact that she’s surrounded by people who respect her and care about her, despite the fact that she knows perfectly well that she doesn’t deserve this kind of crap…

    “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.”

    Which is pretty much what happens to anyone who gets trashed online, no matter how much social capital they have, no matter how confident they are, no matter how just their position or how illogical the person doing the trashing.

    And this is why telling people to “rise above it” or “don’t feed the trolls” or “walk away” isn’t good enough.

    Trashing people online causes actual damage, and if an individual gets trashed enough, that damage won’t heal. The justice and logic of the situation doesn’t matter. If you take a gun and shoot someone in the head, they’ll probably die, no matter how much they do or don’t deserve to. Likewise, if you subject someone to enough verbal abuse in front of the potentially-infinite audience of the internet, you will cause injuries that don’t heal. This is an objective physical fact, and we can’t fix it or get around it by being smarter or more deserving.

    I don’t have a solution, but any conversation about dealing with this sort of thing has got to take this fact on board. And yes, women online get 1000% more of this than men do. Even women as capable, poised, and successful as MRK. What does that suggest? At the very least, it suggests that the next time anyone feels the urge to respond to something like this with glib comments like “don’t feed the trolls,” they should probably STFU. And think for a few more seconds. And then say something else.

    1. Thank you, Patrick. Yes. That’s exactly why I thought that offering myself as an example would be useful. I remember bringing up the vitriol while I was in office and being told by multiple people that it was “part of the price” of being in office and that if I “couldn’t stand the heat” then I shouldn’t be in the job. I’ll say that it is heartening to see a change in the responses.

      On the other hand, we’re in a relatively protected space right now.

  52. Wanted to post this on the Scalzi page because I’m a horrible fangirl who can’t talk to authors directly about their work (no problem talking to other famous people, just get squee in front of amazing authors), but I can pretend he’s not still asleep and I’m posting on Whatever instead.

    Both Maggie and I LOVE your books and buy them in hardcover because we can’t wait for paperback (and Kindle isn’t quite right for them). You’re not only someone that we’ve heard of, you’re someone whose books we pre-order from Amazon. (And we both have correction bookmarks.)

    So, um… squee!

      1. Heck, I think I heard of Mary about seven years before I heard about some of these detractors. I’m pretty sure I’ll remember her name (and work) long after I’ve forgotten theirs.

  53. I honestly don’t even know what to say in this situation, except that you have my complete support. I love your books, and will continue promoting them to the best of my ability. And even though I’m no longer your publicist, I still claim you as one of “my” authors, because I’m proud to have worked with you.

  54. This is kind of an odd response because although I’m an SF reader I’m not a fan of your writing. I’m sure it’s fine, but it’s not my kind of thing. Also, I’m your basic white male sort. Observe my large stack of privilege.

    The reason I’m writing is that I want you to know that there are those among us who are not your friends or your fans and can still recognize and call BULLSHIT when we see it. Harassment, sexist and otherwise, is real. It’s bullshit. Sexism and old-boy-knows-best-ism is real. It’s bullshit.

    I don’t know you, don’t read you, and that doesn’t matter. What’s being done to you is bullshit and it needs to stop. I’m glad that, like PNH said above, you have friends and fans who will support you. But I want to live in a world where people will call “stop the bullshit” every time they see it, not only when it’s directed at friends or people they like. So I’m writing to say I’m trying to be the kind of person I want in this other world.

  55. Mary, I have stayed out of this week’s contretemps and last week’s. I have no room left on my outrage meter for these people, whose bitterness is both legendary and pathetic. The total irrationality of Sean Fodera’s attack on you is proof that they deserve our pity, perhaps, but not our attention.

    As Patrick said, however, the fact that they are crazy does not mean that they can’t do harm, rather like the guy who walked down Mass. Ave. yesterday in Cambridge, punching people in the head. By assaulting you, they batter not only you, but every other woman who acts effectively, who speaks her mind, and who displays poise under attack. The fact that some of these people are women only increases the potential damage they can inflict.

    The Oxford historian Mary Beard puts this kind of vicious suppression of the public voice of women in historical perspective, in a Valentine’s Day post in the London Review of Books: Sean Fodera’s vicious attack harks back directly to language used 2000 years ago to control women’s discourse.

    I am very sorry you are still a target for these people, but I thank you for continuing to display grace and courage while under fire.


  56. I’m sure many other people have said this, but thank you for being a wonderful woman & PoC who doesn’t take geek sexism and racism lying down. Everyone who insists that bigotry is a lifestyle choice NOT a law of nature makes life that little bit better for everyone.

      1. Thanks for the correction – because facts are awesome things, but real mindful allies are awesome too. Sadly, all this bovine excrement is another reminder of all the stuff I never, EVER get subjected to online, simply because I’m a man — and a standing challenge to use that position of male privilege for being an ally not part of the problem.

  57. Mary, I know you’re not an isolated case. I so understand the nature of sexism these days, and how we’re supposed to ignore it. Listen, when I published my first novel with ACE, I was asked to use my initials to hide that I’m female. Specifically to hide that, by a female editor. And I was at the Nebula awards where the grand master said, and this is verbatim, “My favorite character had the advantage of having a tail, and the most luscious pair of tits I’ve ever seen.” I was the only one who was really ticked off about this. So I get it, big time. And right now, I’m engaged in a legal battle in a teaching community about a man from the SF community who has a history of behaving inappropriately with young women, which I protested to no avail. I also get the anxiety that occurs, even when we’re telling ourselves that we’re big strong girls. Yeah. All that. If you need someone to have your back, I’ve got it. If you need someone to jump up and down and shout with you, I’ll shout. I’ve been waiting for this fight to come around for a long time, because it’s a good one, for a worthy cause, with our eyes on the prize. I was just waiting for someone else to hear the call.

  58. I am sorry this happened to you. We women are still always wrong, aren’t we? We’re just too…female. That’s it, isn’t it? Too female. And if there’s any hint we actually LIKE being female and take joy in our femininity, then we must be sluts who are “asking for it.” Sigh. I am “asking for” a break from all this male hostility. Is that too much to ask? Just stop criticizing and dissing and insulting us, guys. We have as much right to walk this planet as you do. Heads held high.

  59. I was sorry to learn this was happening. I was naive enough to believed I was living in a world where this sort of nonsense was on the wane. Our generation and those coming up behind us should know better.

    Personal attacks have no place in policy discussion.

    And besides, you’re a wonderful human being and deserve better.

    I’d strive for more profundity, but I’m racing for a deadline.

    My best as always,

  60. Thank you for replying. Nothing will change if people keep “not replying.” That’s what the bullies and haters want. Their goal is to make you overreact or shutup, either suits their purpose. Keep fighting the good fight and we’ll keep getting your back.

  61. I just wanted to add my voice to the chorus and state that I consider you awesome, Mary, and that that listserv conversation inspires in me the same sort of stunned puzzlement as meeting an adult who insists that “2 + 2 = 5, but the bankers don’t want you to realize it.”

  62. I’m always at a loss when amazing, positive, helpful people (I love Writing Excuses so much) get attacked. And what does the hater get from it? The SFF community has so many wonderful people in it and hearing you speak, reading your tweets and generally having you around has so many positives. And I hope the that all the pushback shows that we need more people like you and less like them.

    Thanks for hanging out in SFF-dom.

  63. Reading stuff like that makes me want to do something unladylike, but Mary’s example won out, so I found an alternative. I found, with a Google search and two clicks, Macmillan’s online Code of Conduct document. I believe in polite requests: I have pointed out where the online conversation that started this is stored, that it seems to violate their published CoC, and they may not want Mr. Fodera as the (vocal) voice of their corporation. High ground retained.

  64. Excellent post. You’re handling the teacup tempest with grace and poise. The fact that these gentlemen (they do seem to all be male, from what I can tell) reacted so poorly to having their discussion post aired in an even more public forum just illustrates the lack of self-reflection that they’ve been allowed to get away with due to their gender. In our society, men have generally been gifted with the capability to ignore other’s perceptions of their appearance or actions. These guys aren’t thinking about how their conversation may sound to anyone who isn’t like them. They don’t care. As a rule, they don’t think about it. As your own experience indicates, women don’t have that option. They must ~always~ care about what others think of them. It’s interesting to see the hand-wringing when the shoe is on the other foot. Especially if the hand-wringing is both visibly and agressively entitled – and that brings me to a small point I’d like to make.

    I am a bookseller. A big part of my job is finding and recommending titles or authors for my customers. I am not a writer. I do read the Daily Dot on occasion, and an aquaintance of mine pointed me to a number of articles and posts (including this one) on the topic of sexism in SF writing. After a read through the threads I was both incensed and depressed. The fact that this issue within the SFWA (and the science fiction writing community in general) has come to my attention at all is a bad sign for the ‘Old Guard’ who are attempting to bar the door against progress in the name of the Good Old Days. And this is why.

    Because I am also a woman. And – surprise! – so are many, many of my colleagues. We are the ones who can make sure that a customer picks up a new book or series and gives it a chance. And by acting out their entitlement in public forums, to the extent that a groundswell of comment has reached the attention of those not directly involved, these authors/commenters have made certain that I will never be able to comfortably recommend their work to anyone and still keep a clear conscience.

    I wonder if they understand that the ‘insects’ they are so casual about offending number not only the members of their own organization and the science fiction writing community as a whole, but also includes those on the periphery – female editors, reviewers, booksellers, merchandisers, etc. It is possible to alienate the very people who can be the most useful in launching (or elongating) a successful writing career, and these writers have definitely done so in my case. Feist, Resnick, et al. have ensured that I have no incentive to volunteer their titles to new readers, or shortlist into the store extra backlist titles, or add their works to prominent merchandise displays in any other situation than an instance of publisher-paid placement.

    What I wish I could say to the ‘Old Guard’ is: Word of mouth can make or break a book title – be careful whom you belittle and condescend to, gentlemen. Some of us may not be able to say anything to your faces, but we remember your names.

  65. Just because people refuse to believe that something is happening doesn’t discount the fact that it is. Look at the amount of cyber-bullying that goes on over the internet. It’s so easy to be a troll and say whatever you want because you’re behind that firewall and whatever your screen name is, it gives you a sense of “protection” or a shield of invisibility. I’ve been a victim of bullying, not only as a child, but as an adult. It’s unpleasant, and especially so when NOBODY else does a thing to correct the bully’s behavior. I removed myself from that last situation, but it really still bothers me to this day, 18 months later, that people allowed it to happen. This was face-to-face, not behind some firewall.
    I’ve come to the conclusion that most bullies are insecure people at best, making the most strident remarks to build up their own self-image, while tearing down someone else’s. The thought that anyone could be better than they are must be excruciating for them, so they decide everyone else must suffer, as well. I don’t see where it really hurts anyone to say, “Hey, that’s a nice job. It isn’t what I expected, but it’s still very nice.” or to compliment someone on the way they look, or a presentation they’ve made, or whatever the heck it is that they’ve accomplished. For crying out loud, we’re responsible for our own accomplishments, and I think anyone who tries to tear you down for what they perceive as being some vague threat to their ego needs some serious application of Scalzi’s “Mallet of Loving Correction”, possibly in multiple doses over an extended period of time until they finally figure it out for themselves.
    Best wishes to you, Mary. I hope we can find a solution to this.

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