Tag Archives: Sexism

Diversity in SF, a zero-sum game?

Does diversity in Science Fiction and in gaming really need to be a zero-sum game? That’s the impression I get from long-winded rants accusing feminism of ruining SF. James May’s argument seems to me as full of holes as a Swiss cheese; in particular his praising of Iain Banks suggests that he doesn’t do irony, or he hasn’t actually read much Banks. Banks’ genderfluid and decidedly non-imperialist Culture is about as “Politically Correct” as it gets.

Though I am not any kind of conservative, and find many aspects of the conservative world-view troubling, an SF world purged of all conservative voices in the name of social justice would be all the poorer for it. We’d lose the likes of Gene Wolfe or Jack Vance, for starters. But is anyone bar a tiny but loud group of zealots actually arguing for such a thing?

Even if it’s not to my taste, I’m sure niche subgenres of SF that read like engineering textbooks crossed with libertarian tracts will continue to exist for as long as there’s a market for that sort of thing. It’s just that they will no longer be the default.

Posted in Science Fiction | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Does “Geek culture” really have a massive sexism problem, or does it, as Gareth M,  Skarka suggested on Twitter, an “unwillingness to ostracise toxic assholes” problem, which is compounded by the internet’s serious troll problem?

Posted on by Tim Hall | 4 Comments

It’s a shame you can’t even have a strongly positive article about metal in the mainstream press without ignorami in the comments dismissing the entire genre as misogynist. It’s as if some people’s knowledge of metal doesn’t extend beyond thirty year old Mötley Crüe videos. And this is a world where Robin Thicke exists…

Posted on by Tim Hall | Comments Off

Jonathan Ross, The Hugos and the Twitterstorm

Jonathan Ross - Photo from Wikimedia CommonsSo Jonathan Ross was invited to host the Hugo Awards at WorldCon in London, but was forced to withdraw following a storm of outrage on Twitter. Since a tweet of mine got quoted by Bleeding Cool and makes it look as though I was part of the Twitter mob with torches and pitchforks, I thought I needed to make it clear where I stand.

The way so many people had a problem with a household name TV presenter from hosting a major science fiction awards ceremony must be seen in the context of the SF world’s ongoing civil war. On one side there are those believe the genre needs to be made more inclusive towards people who are not white and male, and it’s time to end the racism and sexism that has bedevilled the genre for years. One the other side are those who are concerned about threats to freedom of expression, and witch-hunts against individuals. It doesn’t help that there are a few unpleasant and poisonous individuals on both sides, whose behaviour reinforces the other sides’ conviction that they’re right.

I am not a fan of Jonathan Ross. Given some of his past behaviour, including his reputation for cruelty-based humour and his apparent attitude towards women, inviting such a divisive figure to host a flagship event was always going to be problematic. When one of the organising committee resigned in protest to his invitation, that ought to have been a warning sign that he might not have been quite the right person.

But the way events panned out, nobody comes out of this with any credit. The decision to invite him as host was spectacularly tone-deaf given the ongoing divisions in the SF world. But that doesn’t excuse the people who went on Twitter and attacked him personally with quite unnecessary levels of vitriol. And Ross himself didn’t respond to those attacks with good grace. The whole affair from beginning to end is a spectacular fail by the SFF community as a whole.

The public face of the SFF community is diminished by this. Anyone gleefully celebrating “victory” rather than seeing the whole affair as a tragedy needs to take a long hard look at themselves.

Addendum: There’s a lot of (mostly) level-headed discussion on the subject on Charlie Stross‘s blog.

Further Addendum: And a very insightful post from Foz Meadows laying a lot of the blame on the LonCon committee for the ham-fisted way they handled the initial announcement,

Posted in Science Fiction | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

WTF Twitter?

FailWhaleYesterday I was horrified to see a Promoted Tweet for a PUA (Pick Up Artist) promoting their hideous rapey misogynistic subculture. It’s not often I swear on Twitter, but I’m told my reaction was more than justified.

Yes, I immediately reported it as abusive, since it must be in violation of Twitter’s policy on ads for “Sexual services”. But it begs the question of how the Hell such a promoted tweet got into my timeline in the first place. This is almost certainly not unconnected to the fact that Twitter employ virtually no women.

Either Promoted Tweets are not screened at all, and they rely on users reporting offensive ads. Or somebody in Twitter reviewed it, and thought it was OK.

I don’t know which is worse.

Posted in Social Media | Tagged , | Comments Off

Inclusiveness in Geek Culture, part two.

This is a follow-on my previous post in response to Damien Walter’s piece in The Guardian, and assumes you’ve already read that. If you haven’t, go and read that first.

One thing that makes his piece confused is that among the sweeping generalisations he doesn’t make clear idea of what he actually meeds by ‘geek culture’, and seems to conflate a lot of completely unrelated things.

For a start, is there really a single “Geek culture”? I see a lot of overlapping subcultures centred on different things. Some of those a quite progressive, others can be a bit reactionary, and some are guilty of propagating bad ideas that ought to be challenged.

His reference to young white males being told that they’re going to be millionaires or rock stars sounds far more like shallow reality TV and celebrity culture than anything else. Not only are X-Factor and Big Brother not any part of any geek subculture, but they’re a part of mainstream culture that most of those who identify as a geeks explicitly reject.

There is no point trying to deny many geek subculture do contain a disproportionate number of socially awkward people used to being mocked and ostracised, who cling to their subculture as a “safe space” from a hostile and uncaring world. A lot of this may be down to the toxic nature of many US high schools with their endemic bullying and zero-sum popularity-based caste systems. Yes I know full well that those experiences are by no means universal, but they’re still common enough to have an impact on why some aspects of geek culture are the way they are.

Which is why having confident and successful people patronisingly lecturing to them about “White male privilege” and calling them losers provokes such a defensive backlash; it comes over as yet another round of the same sort of bullying they suffered at school. As one game designer I know of has stated, it’s akin to poking a wounded animal with a stick.

Yes, some people do need to grow up, and need to stop defining themselves by how they were treated at high school. But self-righteous lecturing laced with jargon that comes from critical race theory or academic gender studies isn’t the best way to do it. There needs to be a lot more empathy and understanding if the scenes are to be made truly inclusive.

This isn’t to excuse the racism and misogyny that geek cultures tolerates far too much; value systems created out of self-defined victimhood are never going to be pretty. The much-vaulted “all are welcome” inclusiveness of geekdom includes a failure to recognise that the crude bigotry of a minority is completely out of order. That is a major problem, and it does need to be addressed.

I have noticed that James Desborough has blogged about the same subject and makes a number of the same points. But I do think he’s badly wrong about sexism and racism not being a problem.

Posted in Science Fiction | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

There’s something Wrong On The Internet again, and that something seems to be an awful incoherent reactionary petition aimed at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. I won’t link to the thing; you can always Google if you enjoy being outraged at entitled prejudiced drivel. While the author of the petition, someone I’d not previously heard of, appears to be a sexist dick, I’m rather disappointed that one of my all time favourite SF authors appears to have signed the thing.

Posted on by Tim Hall | 13 Comments

Inclusiveness in Geek Culture

Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark in Iron Man.A few days ago, The Guardian’s Damien Walter wrote about the preponderance of white male heroes in mass market superhero films and computer games, and attempted to turn it into a polemic about white male privilege in geek culture as a whole. Unfortunately, while his heart may be in the right place, his argument was so clumsily made and so poorly focussed that his many valid points got lost in the noise. Certainly the manner in which he pushed people’s buttons in a way that was always going to provoke an angry emotional response didn’t come over as a good way to start a constructive conversation.

He ends up leaving you with the impression he’s hating on fandom for Hollywood’s failure to greenlight the sort of projects he wants to see. If you’re actually interested in doing something constructive about geek cultures’ problems with inclusiveness, are lines like this remotely helpful?

Young white men often number among the most useless and deficient individuals in society, precisely because they have such a delusional sense of their own importance and entitlements. They’ve been raised to believe that one day they’ll be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars (and superheroes), but they won’t, and they’re having a tantrum because of it.

Writing a piece that reads as though it’s designed to provoke a backlash, then using that backlash as evidence of the essential rightness of the original piece is still the tactic of the troll. A handful of troglodytes bloviating about Mencius Moldbug and The Red Pill (don’t ask!) in the comments doesn’t validate the tone of the piece.

And no, he doesn’t get to use the “Tone argument” as a get-out clause. He’s privileged white male himself, so it doesn’t apply to people like him. And he describes himself as a professional writer, so he’s supposed to be good at communicating ideas. He should be capable of doing better than this.

There are indeed a lot of valid points about the sorts of stories that aren’t being told but should. I’d love to see Hollywood move beyond American comic book franchises that pre-date the Civil Rights era in favour of the more contemporary SF by the likes of Charlie Stross, Iain Banks or Alastair Reynolds. Or even more challenging works that aren’t written by white men.

So what, if anything, can we do to encourage media companies to tell more diverse and inclusive stories?

As a start, as fans, critics or maybe even as creators, I would suggest that we spent our energies into supporting and encouraging works that tell the sorts of stories we want to see, the ones that don’t rely on tired stereotypes and clichéd plot tropes. And we should champion such things on their merits for the stories they tell.

On a broader inclusiveness front, how about supporting events like ConTessa?

Is it not better to do this than waste our energies raging at the things we dislike and the people who like them?

Posted in Science Fiction | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The Hottest Chicks in Hard Rock? No Thanks!

Hottest Chicks in Rock Oh Dear.

I’m all in favour of rock and metal not being a boy’s club, and know Spinal Tap popularised the phrase “What’s wrong with being sexy”, but now way is The Hottest Chicks in Hard Rock Tour  even remotely a good idea.

Marketing music solely on the sex appeal of the singers is the way boy bands like One Direction are promoted. Surely rock and metal ought to be about the music first and foremost, and not about how “hot” the lead singer is?

Posted in Music Opinion | Tagged | 5 Comments

There is more than enough great guitar-shredding hard rock in the world that isn’t made by racist, sexist assholes. Therefore there is absolutely no reason why anyone ever needs to listen to the music of Ted Nugent.

Posted on by Tim Hall | Comments Off