19 January 2013

WTF, SFWA?

Dammit.

I don't want to be that guy. You know, that guy who keeps harping on one particular subject and doesn't let go of it, until everyone around him is bored and irritated and just wants him to fa'fuck's sake shaddap already. I really don't want to be that guy.

And yet, something came to my attention yesterday that I just can't ignore, because of the source.

Specifically, this.

For those of you too internet-lazy to click on the link, clicking will take you to a blog entry about the SFWA's recent newsletter, its celebratory 200th issue, and . . . well . . . aeee . . . hrm. It's--problematic, to say the least. Because it looks like this:




Seriously, guys? After the many, many issues we have had over the past year with sexism in the industry and in the fandom community, this is what you plaster below the masthead of the SFWA? What in the almighty fuck.

I know, I know--it's Red Sonja, and she's a decades-established character created by one of the old masters, and that should be taken into consideration, right? And so should the fact that she has a very bloody sword in one hand and has clearly just defeated a giant, and is therefore an empowered woman kicking all sorts of ass all over the Hyborean mountainsides. That should be taken into consideration too, right? Right?

Except . . . 

Except for the fact that Sonja is still clad in a chain mail bikini that is as impractical as it is clearly a sop to every masturbatory fantasy anyone who ever got off to a Frazetta painting ever had. Except for the fact that the artist has painted her in incredibly skimpy clothing standing victorious in battle on the side of a fucking tall mountain and dear Sonja is neither turning blue from lack of oxygen nor turning grey from frostbite--or simply dead from goddamn exposure. Except for the fact that all the other printed matter on the cover calls attention away from the rest of the painting, and mostly covers the dead giant at Sonja's feet, until we are left with HAY LOOK YU GUYZ IT'S A HAWT CHICK WITH A SWORD HURR DURR DURR BOOBIES BOOBIES BOOBIES UNGH GAAAH HNOUC$PHUNT$CPN*$CHT$NC 

Brooke Bolander put it best:


Seriously, what the hell you guys.

Full disclosure: I am not a member of the SFWA, being a not-as-yet published author. One day soon, I will be published and then I will consider membership. That said, I have to seriously consider whether the benefits of SFWA membership are outweighed by this sort of nonsense . . . because this is just ill considered stupidity. Nor is it any better that the interior of the newsletter contains an article called "Literary Ladies" in which Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg talk about female writers and editors in terms of how hot they are. Here's Resnick on Bea Mahaffey: "She was competent, unpretentious, and beauty pageant gorgeous…"

Seriously? What the hell, you guys? How in the almighty fuck does that have anything to do with Mahaffey's  abilities as an editor? Why is that even fucking relevant? Would you talk about Martin Greenberger or Gardner Dozois and refer to what stone fuckin' foxes they are? 

This is not just a bad idea, it's blind-bat moron stupid. Also, in light of SFWA president John Scalzi's recent blog posts on Whatever on how not to be a creeper at conventions, and on treating women with respect, and his competition with Jim Hines to see who can outrageous whom while reproducing book covers that objectify women? Well, this just comes off as incredibly, terribly tone-deaf. Tone-deaf and ignorant and juvenile.* It's exactly the kind of attitude that keeps SF and Fantasy in the "ghetto" in the minds and hearts of more "serious" publishers, writers and critics. All this does is prove them right to themselves . . . and it's starting to make me wonder, after an adult lifetime of challenging that notion and championing these genres as adult and valid literary forms, if maybe they aren't at least partially correct. 

I've said before on this blog that this juvenile objectification of women and chicks-are-chattel attitude needs to be addressed, and that we as individuals, and as fans, and as professionals in the industry need to break out of this mindset and grow the hell up. The SFWA's "landmark" 200th newsletter not only has done nothing but reinforce my belief, it has proven to me that we have a long way to go--and that we are starting off 2013 with a gigantic step in the wrong direction.

Let's hope things can only go up from here.

 *I am aware that John Scalzi is not directly responsible for the contents of the SFWA newsletter, by the way. But I will point out that the people who are responsible for it surely must know who the president of the SFWA is, and what his position on this stuff is, and could maaaayyyyybe have altered their editorial content accordingly. Also, I understand that the Red Sonja painting was meant to be a retro thing, and I'm all for retro, but there are other areas of retro where this could have gone--like a Kelly Freas painting of  some planets and spaceships, which would be a lot more representative of Science Fiction than Red Sonja's heaving and easily-objectifiable tits would be. We're supposed to be smarter than the average bear in this genre, folks. We need to act like it.

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