Tag Archives: gender

Writing: Is It Just About the White Guys?

 SF Signal (www.sfsignal.com a good site for SF news) has seen an explosion of comments over the posting of one new book coming out, The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF edited by Mike Ashley. MammothDebate It seems this collection of mindblowing stories, “the 21 finest stories of awesome SF” has not one woman in it or author of color and this has caused quite a hullabaloo.

 There are still more writers in SF who are male than female but that gap has closed a great deal from the early days of SF. There are even fewer authors of color. So it could be that in a sampling of stories that came in that the best were from the white males. However there are several factors that work against this supposition for editor Ashley (who I believe made an oversight more than an intentional choice to exclude female authors).

The Mammoth series of anthologies can be on anything; road trips, horses, brides, vampires, SF. The scope of the series is large and many of them originate in the UK. The Mammoth books also usually tend to have many stories in them (part of the whole mammoth imagery). This book failed in that department by only having 21 stories. Anthologies in general sell less than any novel so an editor and publisher must look at what will sell the book. In that case you will always want a few recognizable names that most readers will know. This alone will narrow the scope of an anthology And of course the books do have themes. Other anthologies might be for a region or a country and there can even be anthologies on the best new SF by women or gay men or whatever.

There are many restrictions on an anthology that will limit whose work is published. The payment for a story may be too little for some authors to submit. Other anthologies are invitational. If you’re not asked, you can’t write for it. Some are partly invitational, and some editors might post their guidelines in exclusive areas (such as members of SFWA may submit, but only members). But going through slush piles of hundreds or thousands of submissions can take a very long time and editors often have a timeframe to work within. Therefore, when an anthology that is not open to any writer makes the claim as having the best, the most awesome or mindblowing pieces, it can be challenged as being exclusionist or elitist. When that claim is made and there are no women either, it ruffles quite a few feathers.

When I edit I look first for the best story or poem. I don’t look at the author’s name or credits, nor what their gender or color is. But when you have invited several people to send in stories and have reprints from others (some for the name) then there is still a possibility to include both genders. It could be that the editor only received stories from males but it is still so narrow a focus that questions arise as to the intent.

On top of this Mammoth book not living up to the usual range of many stories and including SF from women, it also has cover art derivative of the 60s and 70s. But I also don’t know what the editor said in his introduction. Maybe these were mindblowing stories for him when he was a teenager, or smoking pot, or in a geographic area. Maybe he really liked these stories and ignored even past works of authors such as: Le Guin, Tiptree, Tepper, Cadigan, Cherryh, (Mary Shelley if we want to go to the advent of SF & women writers), Norton, McCaffrey, Bear, Henderson, Butler, Scyoc, Hambly, etc. I haven’t read the stories so they could all truly be awesome SF, but I just think some women could be in there too.

Because there has been a history in writing to exclude females in the past it is still a touchy subject. Doing my degree at UBC I saw this attitude, especially in some parts (instructors) of the English department. The only good writer is a dead white male, followed by a live white male. This attitude is changing but it means that editors do have to be aware of the stories they’re receiving and if they want their anthology to be indicative of the overall demographic of writers. Not to mention that there are many many women readers and many of them read SF and fantasy.

I have a feeling that editor Mike Ashley is shaking his head, realizing belatedly that he inadvertently created a hornet’s nest. One writer at SF Signal said that she had been asked to submit, so women were included in the submission process. I could just as easily pout that Canadians had been excluded, but I don’t know the nationality of all the writers, and even if there are only US and UK writers, well, that happens a lot, depending on where the guidelines were listed and whether it was invitational. And at only 21 stories, Ashley probably only asked a select few and chose some reprints on his own. I’m also sure his next anthology will have many more women in it.

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Do We Need Another Beauty Queen?

Yesterday it was announced that there would be the first Miss Vancouver, multi-ethnic beauty pageant. Marina Hossain, is the CEO of Jam Expo Inc., which will be organizing the pageant for the Health and Beauty Expo. So first off, Canada hasn’t had a Miss Canada pageant since 1992. High production costs and declining interests were the reasons given. The other part was that people just weren’t interested in seeing women sashay along in a bathing suit and an evening gown, and giving their five minutes on how I hope to improve the world.

Yesterday’s CBC Radio One had a pageant coordinator also mention that Canadians just aren’t interested in being beauty queens, yet the ethnic beauty contests have continued. Obviously these contests do give exposure to the winner, as well as some prizes and cash. But the other reason they’re not popular is become they are still sexist and based on “beauty.”

So here comes Ms. Hossain with a new one that blends all ethnicities. Common ground is good but it’s still a beauty pageant. In fact, Hossain says, “Some can sing, some can dance, some have a nice face. Not everybody has that. But it’s the same as any other talent, like swimming. I see it in the same line. Beauty should be appreciated, too…. Beauty is something you have to work on. You have to furnish it. It’s a talent, knowing how to keep up with your body and health. Plus the natural talent you’re blessed with.”

A talent? Right. Being beautiful is a talent like having a well working heart, or two good eyes. You’re born with it or you’re not. Being born with something is not a talent. Some people have natural abilities in drawing or running but it still takes work to be good at and maintain a consistent level of talent. Beauty I guess can also be maintained: eat healthy, exercise, sleep properly. But then there is always botox, and  silicone and plastic surgery to make one beautiful. That’s a talent for those with money.

Hossain thinks beauty is a legitimate female talent. Wow! Why not have a beauty pageant for flowers then? Beauty, where the winner will be crowned with a tiara. Like a true Disney princess world in which Hossain wants to perpetuate the aspect of women being pretty trophies.

Contestants will be judged on the health of their skin, hair, fitness level, etc. They will get to parade along in white T-shirts and jeans, evening gowns and ethnic wear. Swimsuits may yet happen. So someone like me, born in Canada to Canadian parents, whose ethnic grandparents died early and didn’t pass on their cultural motifs for Italian and Danish ethnic/rural clothing would  wear something decidedly…Canadian. Like jeans, or Birkenstocks, or cowboy boots, or a shirt, or… Hmm, I wonder how the judges will like that ethnic dress. But I’m sure they’ll be fair…in judging who’s most beautiful in their ethnic wear.

It makes me wonder if someone, a woman who is sturdy, perhaps small hipped but barrel chested, thick through the shoulders but with amazing skin, lovely hair and who exercises four times a week could ever win, even if her attributes were better than her slimmer opponents. Especially if she had a bulbous nose and squinty eyes but was the nicest person you ever met, with intelligence and compassion for all. Would she win? I’m guessing, not.

While other pageants in recent years had to disguise the parading of female flesh with humanitarian works and community work, this is hardly mentioned up front. It’s all about the talent of beauty. Here is rule # 7 in the requirements:

7. Candidates will not be permitted to have any body art or body piercing that is visibly offensive.

Hmm, visibly offensive. I’m sorry, ma’am, your botox lips are visibly offensive. Excuse me sir, your balding head is visibly offensive. Why you, your height is visibly offensive. That leaves a lot to interpretation but then Ms Hossain and her judges get to be the judge of that. Just hope you figure it out before you send in your $138 nonrefundable registration fee. Oh and you have to be in good health and not have any medical problems. Is that fair under the human rights code? Well probably since they’re making it for young women 18-28 who can never have been married. I wonder if they want them to be virgins too.

But perhaps I’m being harsh about this vapid throwback to stereotypical pageants that promote the objectifying of women. I’d believe more that this was something new and great if it wasn’t a promotional gimmick for the expo. I’d believe it had altruism at its heart if there had been any mention about what the women are expected to bring to the world and community. Sure, that might help decide but it’s obviously not the thrust. I’d believe this was for a more balanced and less genderist idea if it included men and didn’t have the Disney princess tiara.

Unfortunately I find it hard to believe in or support this trophy girl award. There is a good reason that Canadians don’t want to enter such bigoted pageants.

http://www.jamexpo.ca/RULES-MAY2009.pdf

http://www.jamexpo.ca/vancouver.php?pageid=29

http://www.straight.com/article-212939/beauty-talent-says-organizer-new-miss-vancouver-pageant

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Carleton Votes Against Cystic Fibrosis

Carleton University is getting more attention than they want right now. The Student Association voted against fundraising for cystic fibrosis, something they’ve been doing for more than 25 years. Although one council member argues that they wanted to rotate charities, the statement that cystic fibrosis was primarily a white man’s disease was a deciding factor.

Yoicks! Where have the brains of students gone? As it turns out, CF affects as many girls as boys (not men here, many young people). From what I remember from anthropology there are three distinct racial groups: Caucasoid, Mongoloid and Negroid, where specific physical and genetic traits differentiate them. The Caucasoid or Caucasian group includes white people, some North American First Nations, Indians, people from the Middle East and Europe. Many of them have brown skin but they’re of the caucasoid group. Not to mention many people are of mixed race and therefore can be black and white.

So, the Carelton U council got their facts wrong. But let’s say their facts were right, that the disease they were fundraising to help eradicate only affected white men. What if they then had voted this in, as they thought they were? It seems some people can’t see the reverse racism here. Should a person suffer because they are of a certain color, or a certain gender, even if it is the one we joke about as the least popular: white male? Should a child suffer because he was born a white boy?

Sickle cell anemia predominantly affects black people. Other diseases affect particular ages, or races or genders. Should one disease be barred from research or its victims from the benefits of such research because of this. Carleton U Student Association, time you guys took a class on ethics.

I’m all for equality but that means not biasing one group over another, not favoring one and not ostracizing any. If Carleton had voted to rotate their charity, that would have been a different story. But they didn’t. It’s sad to think that people get so caught up in being politically correct that they don’t see how incorrect they have really become. And in case anyone doubts the words, here is their motion:

Whereas Orientation week strives to be inclusive as possible
Whereas all orientees and volunteers should feel like their fundraising efforts will serve their diverse communities
And whereas cystic fibrosis has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men
Be it further resolved that: The CUSA representatives on the incoming Orientation Supervisory Board work to select a new broad reaching charity for orientation week.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/ottawa/story/2008/11/25/ot-081125-shinerama.html

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Auctioning Virginity

A twenty-two-year-old woman in the US plans to auction her virginity to pay for her college education. She hopes to get a million dollars for it. Ebay wouldn’t touch this so the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, a legal Nevada brothel is fronting it.

What we get down to in the most basic sense of the action, is prostitution. Whether you’re selling sex on a street corner, in a brothel or on the internet, it’s still prostitution. I’m all for legalizing prostitution (like Nevada and Amsterdam) as it would solve many problems, especially if there were state-regulated brothels. Just some of the problems that could be eliminated, controlled or cut down on (in relation to prostitution) are no pimps, drugs, street crimes, women being abused and murdered, litter from condoms, johns being harassed and making neighborhoods unsavory, as well regular health check ups to keep STDs at bay, and keeping underage boys and girls out of the business.

But what I’m not for is such blatancy of prostitution and if this woman is for real and hasn’t already lost, given or sold her virginity (if I was a bidder I’d ask for a certified doctor’s note that she is a virgin), that she’s using the money to pay for her education. Okay, I actually don’t mind someone making money from their body to pay for education but a million bucks and the attention seeking advertising? I know education is expensive and that a masters or doctorate can run a person up to $100,000 (in Canada) but a million means she’s hoping to cash in on her experience. Well, why not? People should make a profit at their jobs.

So what we have is really in-your-face prostitution. This woman says it is empowering for her, but let’s look at what is really going on. A woman, a female, selling not just sex, but selling virginity. We already have this age-old problem of women being treated unequally because of their gender and physical strength. Though men can be raped, there is a far higher percentage of women raped by men or otherwise sexually abused. We have cultures that denigrate women to this day. There are cultures or religions that hurt women (or even kill them) if they aren’t virgins at their marriages. Yet, the men have no such onus nor a way to prove whether they’re virgins or not because they don’t have hymens.

In this sense, this woman isn’t doing something that’s empowering but perpetuating the double standard of a woman’s virginity being different/other/special and needing preservation or a higher price/dowry put upon it. It says that a woman is still property and should be in pristine condition for a man, no matter where he has been or dipped his wick. If we keep flagging such gender differences as virginity, we’ll continue to have gender intolerance and prejudice.

But let’s look at another part of this–the outright creep factor. Some lithe young thing is auctioning sex and virginity to some unknown bidder. The type of guy who is going to clamor and slaver over deflowering some young woman and bid maybe up to a million bucks is not going to really care much about who she is or if he’s gonna give her a good time. A guy with that kind of money isn’t going to be a cute young college guy. In essence, this woman could be deflowered for money with a crude rapelike thrust. Nice. Or say, a bunch of guys throw money together, or the winner owns a couple of sports teams. She could become the employee benefit: sign up and get a free ride.

But hey, she’s paying for her education and planning to do a masters in family and marriage therapy. She may well need it before she can ever get married. That is, if this isn’t all just a ploy to do a masters thesis, to see what people do when someone offers to auction their virginity. I’m just glad I gave my virginity to my equally virginal boyfriend, who I loved at the time. But then, maybe I’m just sentimental.

http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSSP12411420080911

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Politics: Gender Voting

I’m more than a little disturbed by several things going on in our political world today. Of course I’m always disturbed by racism and bigotry, and certain genderist trends seem to be rearing their ugly heads right now.

The first is that in the US for the first time, can I say ever, there were women running for presidential candidates. Okay, one running for presidential candidate (Hillary Clinton) and another put in as a VP running mate (Sarah Palin). It’s great that there are women in politics and of course there should be more. It is still and often a man’s world where a woman politician will be mentioned in the press for what she wore rather than what she stood for. The media is getting better at this and in the US and Canada there are women politicians.

But when I hear some woman say that she would vote for Hillary because she is a woman and then will now vote for McCain because he has a VP running mate who is a woman, it scares me. How stupid can people get? Obviously, very stupid. I’m sure there are men who would have voted for McCain if Hillary got in because they think politics ain’t no place for a woman. I’d like to think this is a small percentage but I don’t know.

Since the Suffragette movement women and politics have been mixing (if not unofficially before). Looking at Palin and Clinton, their views are so diametrically opposed that it’s like comparing a salad and a piece of baklava; they’re both food but that’s it. These women are women but that’s it. Their attitudes are different, their beliefs are different, their ways of thinking and acting are different.

Not all women are the same or think the same. This seems pretty obvious to anyone of intelligence. Just as men are not the same. Men and women can have the same views just as they can have different views. Hey, buttheads of both genders, vote for issues, not for a person’s gender. Those that vote for McCain because of Palin, (and gods help us if they get in) will get what they deserve. Unfortunately, everyone will suffer.

Likewise in Canada, there are four parties running in the federal election, with Elizabeth May of the Green Party being the only woman leader. However, there has been recent news that the Green party is putting in candidates who are women, which is fine but if the best candidate is a man they’re being overlooked or worse, being barred from being a candidate in a riding. WTF? Does no one see a problem with this?

I’ve always had huge problems with people being barred from something based on their gender. Humans are of equal intelligence independent of gender. Men are stronger in average but unless a job is only physical women can do all the jobs men can. Any party or any person who chooses their candidate because of gender should be smacked upside the head. On top of this, it’s downright scary and a slippery slope to such groups as the Taliban who subjugated women to such a degree that they couldn’t work. I’m sure they couldn’t vote, if the Taliban even allowed something as democratic as voting.

Men should not be banned because they are men. Women should not be voted for because they are women. If we were in a country where women (or men) had been tamped down so much they had few rights and the only way to ensure some balance against bias was to vote for gender, then that would be a different thing…if their views supported what you believe in. I’d say I’m embarrassed to be a woman, but I’m not. I just think there are women and men out there who should be embarrassed because they’re thinking with their genitals, not their brains.

Let’s see some intelligence in these elections and no gender politics.

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