Back to previous post: Cocoa-Guinness Cake

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Peach Pie

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

July 3, 2013

“Dear Twelve Rabid Weasels of SFWA, please shut the fuck up.”
Posted by Patrick at 12:03 PM * 344 comments

[ATTENTION CONSERVATION NOTICE: Insider stuff about the professional science fiction world.]

Mary Robinette Kowal is an SF and fantasy writer who recently served two terms as an officer of the Science Fiction Writers of America, an organization of nearly 1800 members. Along with her many other virtues, she is notable for her patience and unimpeachably good manners.

This is what happens when a truly patient and well-mannered person gets to the end of their rope with idiots.

I spent four years in [SFWA] office and the first year I almost quit because I got so tired of getting hate mail. Then I realized that it was coming from the same dozen people, every single time. All the other members were lovely. It was easier to shrug off being called “impertinent,” or “wannabe” (did I show you the Hugo I won since then?), or “Nazi,” when it became clear that the vitriol didn’t represent all of SFWA, just a dozen rabid weasels.

However, I am sick to death of putting out the fires that you people start.

Please quit. And by “quit” I mean, please quit SFWA in a huff. Please quit noisily and complaining about how SFWA is censoring you for asking you to stop using hate speech. Please quit and complain about the “thoughtcrime” of asking people not to sexually harass someone. Please quit and bellyache about the good old days when people could be bigoted jerks. I want you to express your opinions clearly so that everyone knows them and knows that you are quitting because the other members of SFWA want you to Shut the Fuck up.

It will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with organizational politics, or with human beings for that matter, that almost nobody in SFWA will have any problem immediately recognizing who Mary is talking about.
Comments on "Dear Twelve Rabid Weasels of SFWA, please shut the fuck up.":
#1 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 01:07 PM:

I now really want to join SFWA so that I can offer my services as a professional online community manager. I know that's rather arrogant of me, because there are no doubt excellent ones already helping, but conversations like this make all my professional instincts itch. And hey, an extra banhammer-arm couldn't hurt.

#2 ::: chaosprime ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 01:32 PM:

Aw yeah.

I only this morning got the address of the soon-to-be-defunct tumblr where the fully glory of rabid weasels carrying on a spectacularly self-satisfied mutual congratulation slash librul apocalypse fantasy session is momentarily on display.

For some reason it makes me think of this: http://cmy187.deviantart.com/art/Headbutt-the-Weak-178731877

#3 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 01:32 PM:

HAIL.

#4 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 01:48 PM:

Move to railroad that.

#5 ::: Michael Mock ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 02:00 PM:

"...Almost nobody in SFWA will have any problem immediately recognizing who Mary is talking about."

Heck, some of us who are still just spectators can spot 'em.

#6 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 02:29 PM:

As a spectator I agree with Michael. The RSHD and his partners in stupid are the first set that spring to mind.

Does SFWA have an expulsion policy for dealing with people who send egregiously abusive hate mail to members of the Board? Or to fellow members, period? Or (for sufficiently egregious ones) to anyone?

#7 ::: Tim Hall ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 02:35 PM:

Xopher #6

If they don't, they surely ought to.

I notice on of the people extensively quoted in that soon-to-be removed Tumblr is a very high profile writer, albeit a notoriously right-wing one. Is he part of RSHD's cabal?

#8 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 02:41 PM:

As I recall, Xopher, (from spectating various recent rounds of mind-boggling stupidity from the RSHD and his drooling minions), SFWA does have an expulsion procedure, and there have been recent calls to use it. I'd be curious to know if those sections of the bylaws have ever been used, and for what.

That said, as a spectator and an avid reader of SF, I will cheer if SFWA opts to expel certain toxic members for the good of the organization.

Hell, I'm tempted to buy Mary Robinette Kowal's books - even though they're not what I usually read - because it's the best way I can think of to be supportive.

#9 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 02:43 PM:

Tim Hall@7: I notice one of the people extensively quoted in that soon-to-be removed Tumblr is a very high profile writer, albeit a notoriously right-wing one. Is he part of RSHD's cabal?

RSHD only wishes that VHPW would pay him that much attention.

Note: RSHD is not himself a high-profile or well-known science fiction writer. He's an exceedingly minor science fiction writer who's working on becoming a well-known, or at any rate notorious, internet crank.

#10 ::: Tim Hall ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 02:55 PM:

Debra Doyle #9

That's the impression I get of RSHD; were any of his novels actually published by a reputable publisher?

#11 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 03:04 PM:

I'm not sure an expulsion policy would work. I'm sure that I could, if I wanted to, send Ms. Kowal hate mail to her official SFWA address that she'd have to deal with, and I'm not a member (or ever likely to be one, as I'm not a professional writer). Why would the rabid weasel dozen let expulsion stop them?

On the other hand, it might make it easier for her to justify putting those dozen email addresses on her spam filters and just forgetting about the rabid weasels.

#12 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 03:14 PM:

“RSHD”? Are we now so afraid of Beale that we’re treating him like Voldemort?

#13 ::: chaosprime ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 03:16 PM:

It's more like how the Minds in Iain Banks' Culture refer to the GCU Grey Area only as the "Meatfucker".

#14 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 03:30 PM:

I'm not a member of the organization. However, I'm a very, very heavy Science Fiction reader, though I wouldn't describe myself as a fan. (I've never been to a con, I don't collect autographs, and I've never felt the urge to dress as, for example, a Klingon.)

All that being said, the only thing I've been reading lately about cons and the SFWA is about sexual harassment, angry, chauvinistic old men, and nasty conflicts, up to and including death threats.

I think it's time to out the oppressors. While I don't go to cons, I'd be happy to boycott a few jerks, (or at least buy their books on the used market so they don't get a royalty) and I'd be happy to tell them why I'm boycotting them.

I'm already boycotting Orson Scott Card, despite being a big fan of his work, and there's one Baen writer who's a major fucktard on a personal level and I don't buy his books either.

#15 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 03:41 PM:

Also, Avram, he ego-scans the internet for his name. Making him search for RSHD makes him insult himself (with truth).

#16 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 03:41 PM:

Not to mention that raising RSHD's googlejuice is also not a good thing.

#17 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 03:42 PM:

Throw the bums out.

#18 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 03:46 PM:

Buddha Buck #11, as someone who has worked in positions that required getting a lot of hate mail, there's a tremendous difference between hate mail from randoms whom you can ignore, and hate mail that you have to swallow because you have no recourse and still have to deal with that person as part of your job. Neither are pleasant, but the latter can turn what is otherwise a satisfying job soul-crushing.

If SFWA really doesn't have any sort of harassment protections in place for its own officers in the course of their business, then it is a sicker organization than I thought. Even Dell, which is on the multimillion-dollar-corporation side of the moral spectrum, expected and instructed its tech support staff to hang up on people that became personally abusive.

#19 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 03:58 PM:

OT: Buddha Buck, do I know you? From festivals long ago? I'm Christopher. At the time I was sometimes called Puck.

#20 ::: Lis ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 04:11 PM:

Buddha Buck @ 11: I have no doubt that she's used all manner of filters and blocklists to try to forget about these people. I don't know about these weasels in particular, but these days your average misogynist troll is well-versed in using a variety of handles and guises to keep contacting a target again, and again, and again, until her (usually her) has to choose between shovelling poop out of her inbox no matter what, or disappearing from the internet completely. Which is why the old tactic of "don't feed the trolls" is actually counterproductive. With trolls these days, the name'n'shame is far more effective.

#21 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 04:18 PM:

Avram @12,

I searched on the surname you gave, with the additions of "SF" and "writer", and got the first two Google hits as somebody with a forename initial of "T", and a very notorious net-name.

He has his own Wikipedia entry and apparently ran for SFWA President.

If that's the guy, I've come across him in other places, and I can believe that he would be so abusive now.

#22 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 04:21 PM:

How exactly would referring to Beale by name here — without linking to his website, which nobody in this thread has done — “raise [his] googlejuice”?

#23 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 04:28 PM:

I don't fully understand these things, Avram. I guess it's really just the "naming him gives him power" superstition.

Also, I like calling him what he is.

But yeah, it's Theodore Beale, AKA Vox Day, AKA VD, AKA RSHD (Racist, Sexist, Homophobic Dipshit).

#24 ::: Dave Crisp ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 04:45 PM:

I think people calling him "RSHD" is partly a result of cross-pollination from Whatever. Scalzi - one of the guy's more frequent targets - thinks that calling him by either his given name or his chosen nom de guerre dignifies him to much, so (when forced to talk about him at all) he calls the guy exactly what he is - a racist, sexist, homophobic dipshit.

on the subject of which, I wonder how much the voxathon has raised so far....

#25 ::: Michael Walsh ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 05:29 PM:

In answer to the question "Does SFWA has an expulsion policy" the answer is ... yes:

"Section 10. Expulsion of Member. The officers of the Corporation may, by unanimous vote, expel any member for good and sufficient cause. In the event of such expulsion, the said member’s dues, if paid, shall be refunded on a pro rata basis. If a member so expelled is a life member, the refund shall be the life membership fee paid by the member minus $50 per year elapsed since the life membership was purchased. A member so expelled shall be reinstated upon petition of two-thirds of the active membership. The Corporation shall have no responsibility to circulate the petition."

SFWA By-laws

#26 ::: janeyolen ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 05:31 PM:

Re Mr Vox Populi--consider the source, as my mother in law used to say.

Jane

#27 ::: Michael Walsh ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 05:43 PM:

"I'd be curious to know if those sections of the bylaws have ever been used, and for what. "

Well, sort of: SFWA Discipline

#28 ::: Michael Walsh ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 05:57 PM:

"That's the impression I get of RSHD; were any of his novels actually published by a reputable publisher?"

Yes. In 2000 and 2002 by Pocket Books. There's a decent bibliography on the Wiki about him.

#29 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 06:00 PM:

Xopher @ 23... I am under the impression that author N.K.Jemisin wouldn't mind being served his head on a platter.

#30 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 06:00 PM:

One can "consider the source" all one is encouraged to, but sometimes the source just has to be stopped.
Do what's needful. No one has to keep putting up with viciousness.
As a reader but not a con-goer, I am grateful for the good work you who take action are doing, and the example you set for minds yet ungrown.

#31 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 06:12 PM:

Tim Hall@10: were any of his novels actually published by a reputable publisher?

His first published novel came out from Pocket in 2000; that one is probably the source of his SFWA membership. His second novel (sequel to the first) was published by Pocket in 2002; the third in the sequence didn't come out until 2008.

Subsequent novels, and subsequent editions of the series, have been from assorted small presses, most recently (I'm not making this up) Rampant Loon Media.

#32 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 06:43 PM:

Debra Doyle noted in #30

Rampant Loon Media.

YOMANK

Is that typecasting or a prime example of nominative determinism in action?

I can go to bed happy now.

#33 ::: micah ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 07:28 PM:

I seem to have a glaring hole in my internet shorthand. Is there an equivalent to giving hearty applause?

#34 ::: chaosprime ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 07:55 PM:

The traditional method, where possible, is to embed some form of this animated GIF.

#35 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 08:43 PM:

janeyolen #26: Might I suggest that vox diaboli would be a better cognomen?

#36 ::: chaosprime ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 08:46 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @33: Far too ennobling. Vox Merdi, that could work.

#37 ::: Lighthill ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 08:55 PM:

I've been going with "Vox Ipsius", though I never studied Latin, and so my declension is probably wrong.

#38 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 09:09 PM:

"merdae" rather than "merdi"; "ipsius" is correct.

#39 ::: Jonathan David Ward ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 09:30 PM:

Shit. Now I have to think about this guy again. I'm all for an individual's right to be an asshole, but still...

I'm annoyed because he so loudly claims to represent many of the things that I value and belong to (sf, straight, white, male, christian....) yet is so mind-cripplingly awful in his views, he actually brings shame to my identity. And the power is so unequal; the light from so many, a prevailing many, straight white male christian sf writers (and writers of all other mixtures of labels) can't seem to overpower the darkness of his (and his ilk's) miasma of suck.

This is, of course, referring to RSDH. I don't know who the other "guys" are, but I know MRK, if they pushed her into telling them to "shut the fuck up" and "quit", they must also be full of and exude suck.

#40 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 09:35 PM:

I don't give a rat's ass about Beale (who is, in Asimov's phrasing, a consummate donkey), but what is gained by treating his name like Voldemort?

#41 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 12:32 AM:

Steve C: but what is gained by treating his name like Voldemort?

It's because he's an ego-surfer and a leg-humper. Like Beetlejuice, if you mention him three times he shows up on the thread, starts posting lame-ass defenses of whatever example of his bad behavior caused the initial mentions and he won't shut up or acknowledge that his arguments are codswallop. He also tends to aim his winged monkeys at any site that mentions him: said winged monkeys try to emulate his debate style but lack the chops to do so. I get annoyed with the gnomes from time to time, but if they have to add constant disemvoweling to their workload I'd rather it not be for folks that makes one long for the precise, well-reasoned arguments of Mrk Yrk. (Although it was interesting to see Ms. Teresa disassemble him several years ago when he was pushing his first SFWA candidacy at Antipope and [I think] Electrolight.) It makes one long for the rape apologists that turn up to defend Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise.

#42 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 12:42 AM:

Seems a little odd to post that animated gif as an un-ironic sign of hearty applause, considering its context. If someone applauded me like that, I'd be nervously wondering whether they were trying to hint that I did just as good a job as Susan Alexander Kane in her operatic debut.

#43 ::: janeyolen ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 02:46 AM:

Hey wait a minute, when I say "Consider the source" don't mean Do Not Actively Fight Evil. I simply mean, if he attacks, don't take what he says about you or yours to heart.

And then disemvowel him in whatever way necessary for the good of the over-sucking world he represents.

Jane

#44 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 07:18 AM:

The discussion of "the RSHD" is all very well, but to the best of my knowledge the RSHD isn't actually one of the "twelve rabid weasels of SFWA" targeted in Mary Robinette Kowal's post.

Mary isn't talking about everybody in SFWA who has a stupid political opinion, or everyone in SFWA who may have misbehaved recently. She's talking about a specific coterie of people, several of whom used to be regulars in the private SFWA-only area of the GEnie SF Round Table, and who today account for a disproportionate amount of the traffic on the private SFWA forum hosted at sff.net.

There are people who post there who are perfectly reasonable. But there's a hard core of folks who seem to be endlessly cranking one another up about how SFWA has gone to hell, is controlled by the "liberal mob", etc., etc. And the problem is that they appear to have an endless attention span and nothing better to do, so even constructive and sensible threads rapidly become slanging matches about their pet issues. Well over 95% of SFWA members pretty much never go into this forum at all, for good reason.

#45 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 07:20 AM:

Jane:

I spent four years in [SFWA] office and the first year I almost quit because I got so tired of getting hate mail. Then I realized that it was coming from the same dozen people, every single time. All the other members were lovely. It was easier to shrug off being called “impertinent,” or “wannabe” (did I show you the Hugo I won since then?), or “Nazi,” when it became clear that the vitriol didn’t represent all of SFWA, just a dozen rabid weasels.

However, I am sick to death of putting out the fires that you people start.

If Beale et. al. were just limiting his douchebaggery to Mary, she'd have let him be. But Mary poured her heart into helping SFWA be a better place, and this guy is making it into a place where anyone who's uncomfortable around sexism, racism, homophobia and general vileness is going to feel unwelcome.

There's a lot of talk among a younger generation that SFWA is not a place where they're interested in joining because it tolerates behavior that Jerry Pournelle admitted got the perp regularly slapped in the face. Pournelle later went on to defend that behavior as gentlemanly because the creep engaging in it took "no" for an answer.

We're at a point where we're not just talking about "sticks and stones can break by bones but words can never hurt me". We're talking about the reputation of an entire organization, and the long term direction it's taking in tolerating people who make it look like a badly written episode of Mad Men.

#46 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 08:27 AM:

I am sick and tired of these idiots being the public face of SFWA.

A few years ago there was an internal debate over whether SFWA should have some kind of code of conduct. At the time, I was opposed to it. Thanks to the RSDH and these shitweasels, I'm now coming round to supporting it, as long as the sole purpose is to ban abusive behaviour like this.

#47 ::: green_knight ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 09:30 AM:

Charlie @ 45:
I stopped being in favour of unmoderated forums after a usenet group I loved was slowly taken over by a very small number of people who had a lot of time on their hands, who made the place actively uncomfortable for any dissenters, and who drove away the newcomes that the group depended on for fresh blood because the public face of the group had become hostile and, incidentally, not related to its topic at all.
All appeals to a voluntary code of conduct had failed, and after a year of being attacked for whatever I said, I finally did what most of my friends had done, and left.

It would be nice if nobody needed to swing a banhammer, but given some of the outright nastyness - racist attacks on 'company time' included - I don't see an alternative.

#48 ::: janeyolen ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 09:38 AM:

I've very had little to do with SFWA in the past ten years, and not been on the online Forum for at least that long, as far as I remember. So all this has come from outer space to me. Though any group of sufficient size will have factions, SFWA being full of writers has articulate factions so I'm not surprised.

But it seems as if dinosaurs are once more roaming the SFWA plains.

Jane

#49 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 11:05 AM:

I had thought that the "enthusiastic applause" animated gif was this one: http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lvgkkjV7wg1r6aoq4o1_400.gif

#50 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 11:23 AM:

Jane, you know the ones who were being jerks in the SFWA Lounge ten years ago? You'd recognize every single name. Same group. Same exact group.

Ms. Kowal says, There are 1788 other members who don’t. Scratch that… there are 1752 because some people just quit because of you.

Do you know what would happen if all 1740 non-weasel members left? The remaining dozen would slap each other on their backs, congratulate themselves on a job well done, and say that SFWA had reclaimed its proud spot as a home for professional SF writers, an organization that publishers would listen to!

#51 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 11:34 AM:

In the entire time that I have been aware of SFWA, I have always, always known that the forums were a place where happiness goes to die. "Join SFWA when you can! It does good things for writers! Just never ever go into the forums unless you want to hate the world."

Right now, I see nothing that SFWA could do for me or that I could do for it (either would be a reason to join) and there's enough bullshit going around that no, not doing it. At some point one of us will be useful to the other.

But even then, the forums add nothing to SFWA that I can see.

#52 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 11:44 AM:

Doesn't forum software have the ability to twit-file people? Twenty-five years ago making sure you never heard from the jerks was a wonderful feature of most BBS programs - there's got to be an Open Source Forum program that has the capacity to make sure you don't see anything posted by a real dickhead. Would it be possible for the SFWA to run a different software and make the forums useful again?

#53 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 12:00 PM:

As we know from *here*, I hope, Internet discussion management is a problem that requires more than a software solution.

Negative example: Killfiles didn't save RASFW.

#54 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 12:02 PM:

Alex R., the lounge that we're talking about is on an NNTP server. Any newsreader that you want to use. And newsreaders have all had kill files and twit bits since just about forever.

Diatryma, three reasons to join SFWA: Griefcom, Writer Beware, Emergency Medical Fund. (Those are also three areas where the rabid weasels are notably absent.)

#55 ::: Lawrence ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 12:26 PM:

The exact same group as ten years ago? That's depressing. They chased me out about seven years ago. A decision, I might add, that I do not regret.

#56 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 12:52 PM:

What Jim (@50) Said. I haven't dealt with SFWA even tangentially since Shira left it about five years ago and I can come up with at least half of the Likely Suspects without thinking too hard.

Followed by the need for a stiff drink, a long nap, or re-reading one of the later Ballard novels to restore some optimism for the future of humanity.

#57 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 01:03 PM:

Ken @ #56, I am not acquainted with the weasels in question, but I've found this morning that Scalzi's "Hafte Sorvalh Eats a Churro and Speaks to the Youth of Today" is a pleasant palate-cleanser after the usual crapfest that attends discussion of sexual harassment.

#58 ::: Holli ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 01:58 PM:

Despite having qualified to join SFWA last year, I find my interest in joining wanes every time SFWA's name pops up on my radar.

It never seems to pop up for nice things, is the trouble.

#59 ::: Blaise Pascal ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 02:07 PM:

If it is in fact the exact same dozen from a decade ago, the good news is that there aren't new ones, and that attrition will (eventually) deal with the problem.

That's poor comfort for those who have to deal with them until then, though.

#60 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 02:22 PM:

I think we are approaching, if not past, the tipping point where the culture within SFWA moves from "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it," to "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good [people] do nothing."

As we used to say in the Fleet when encouraging each other to stay in, "If you get out because of all the assholes there'll be no one left but the assholes." That's why I'm staying.

#61 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 02:23 PM:

Holli@58: It never seems to pop up for nice things, is the trouble.

That's because most of the worthwhile things that SFWA does either require discretion and a low profile as part of their job, or are done by people who are about as far from publicity-seeking as it's possible for professional writers to be and still function.

#62 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 02:31 PM:

Vox Merdæ sounds perfect to me. I am reminded of a line from Anthony Burgess's Earthly Powers in which the Monsignor says to a Nazi officer who is being interrogated by the Resistance "I wasn't aware of a Teutonic forest deity named Scheiss."

#63 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 02:54 PM:

Jim, I know of all three of those and like that they exist, but none of them seem to apply to me or need anything from me besides the weight of another name on the list and the dues money. I used to join groups to join, but these days, I tend to hunt for more active roles. Not joining SFWA due to assweasels costs me nothing except not being exposed to said assweasels.

#64 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 03:09 PM:

45: Josh: I must say I got a shock, and realized how wide the gap was between them and the twenty-first century, when I recognized that he really believes both (i) that of course any boyfriend had the right to beat the shit out of Randall Garrett, and also (ii) that, absent an annoyed boyfriend, Garrett's behavior was "gentlemanly" and should not in any sense be called "harassment"...

#65 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 03:18 PM:

Brad, I had the same reaction looking at some reposted screenshots from the forums. That anyone would think such a thing now, and having thought it feel anything but embarrassment....

I admit that I was startled to see some of the recurring participants in the exchanges. Some folks I expect to be moral toads. Some I don't, and it casts an unhappy pall over a bunch of GEnie memories.

#66 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 03:24 PM:

"Vox sphincteris" seems apt in several ways, and offers a disturbingly amusing visual image.

(Had to Google around to figure which declension. Hope I have the form right. High school Latin was *so* long ago.)

#67 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 03:37 PM:

Randall Garrett was to some extent an equal-opportunity harasser. He once goosed me for a laugh.

I don't think this is about "acceptable" behavior. Their behavior is obviously accepted by them; therefore it's acceptable, in a strict logical sense. I think it's about what behavior we are willing to accept around us. And how we choose to demonstrate that acceptance or its lack.

If you can't play nice, I don't have to play with you. And a group can define minimum levels of "playing nice" that they will accept, just as an individual can. Michael Walsh back at 25 showed that there's a mechanism for saying "This behavior is not something that the officers will accept." There's a cost to enforcing that; and until now, the officers haven't been willing to accept that cost. That may be changing.

#68 ::: chaosprime ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 03:39 PM:

We're going for the genitive case, right? So that seems to be correct.

Vox Ani is a lot more concise, though.

#69 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 04:04 PM:

Debra Doyle @ 61... Yes.

#70 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 04:38 PM:

Xopher Halftongue @19

It is consistent with my history that I would have met someone named "Christopher" and "Puck" at a festival, but I cannot verify one way or the other if I actually knew you. There are a lot of festivals, a lot of Christophers, a decent amount of Pucks, and a poor memory of names.

There are very few Buddha Bucks, however, so if you met one, it was very probably me.

#71 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 05:13 PM:

Jim Macdonald @ #54

I wonder how many people are actually using their twit filters? I wonder how many people know how to use their twit filters? It seems to me that once a certain percentage of the users are blocking the major jerks the problem essentially becomes invisible, at least on the forums.

#72 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 05:21 PM:

Alex R.: One downside of that approach--and it is not the only downside--is that anyone new who joins the forums and starts reading will see vociferous twits posting loudly and boldly and saying horrible things...

...and no one else arguing with them.

"Ah," says the newbie, "everyone here agrees with these people, to the point that they won't even voice a basic opposition to what's being said." And will proceed accordingly.

#73 ::: chaosprime ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 05:33 PM:

That's why hellbanning is awesome. Everybody's happy!

#74 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 05:41 PM:

65: Bruce: I can't help but think that their thinking over the past fifty years could have gone in either of two directions. They could have adapted by concluding that everybody deserves to be treated like a Lady--"It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then the dauphiness... just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she had just begun to move in, glittering like the morning star full of life and splendor and joy.... I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards, to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult", which would have had some squicky tinges, but would make sense of how to behave in the twenty-first century. They did adapt by concluding that nobody deserves to be treated like a Lady--and that women deserve whatever they get: "Nowadays at rock concerts that sort of thing happens all the time or so I understand. We have a hookup culture (which Randall anticipated by several decades) and everyone is happy; and its prudish to say that it may not be desirable.... He wasn’t a danger to anyone; because his only offense was an offer that if refused was not repeated. He didn’t wheedle or whine. He just wanted to hook up. Incidentally, while we are discussing harassment; had Randall tempered his language and said 'Let’s hook up', would that have been harassment? And had there been a mature woman making the same offer to another woman would that have been harassment? I am trying to be an anthropologist here..."

I cannot help but wonder why such a very wrong road was taken, and whether it had to be...

#75 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 06:12 PM:

Fade Manley @ 72

"Ah," says the newbie, "everyone here agrees with these people...

That's a good point. The problem might be solvable with proper coaching/education, but that might be more work than it's worth.

If I was building forum software from scratch, I might create a sort of auto-reply feature for twit-files, which would enumerate, after each post, the number of people who have twit-filed a particular participant. It would look something like the example below:


FROM: Vox Sphincteris

Blah, blah, blah, hate, hate, feminazis, more hate, Gays, much more hate, Stupid proposal about how to deal with The Liberal Menace, crazed ranting, more crazed ranting, more hate, Godwin's Law violation, stupid, hateful closing remarks.

146 people have twit-filed *Vox Sphincteris* and will
never see a post like this again. If you want to ignore
*Vox Sphincteris* too, please click here and we'll
make sure you never see his writings again.


The nice thing is that this solution could be applied across the board, but the rule would only affect people who behave badly. In a situation like the SFWA's it wouldn't show that anyone had twit-filed a participant unless a threshold number of twit-filings (maybe 20) had been reached.

#76 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 06:15 PM:

Ooops! The Gnomes have intercepted my last post. A bribe of black bread and ale is being offered for the release of my latest comment from the Gnomish Dungeon.

["Click here" are words of power, for what I hope are obvious reasons. --- Vermizo CIii, Duty Gnome]

#77 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 07:08 PM:

Brad #74, that's still quoting from a private discussion in a private forum. And I am convinced that whoever posted those screencaps did so, not out of a sense of outraged injustice, or as a blow for freedom, but out of actual malice toward all writers.

#78 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 09:10 PM:

I keep coming back to that neighborhood bar or diner (or Moose Club or whatever) situation, a now-perhaps-departed (or maybe always-was-mythical) locus of community that has evolved protocols for dealing with both known and novel unpleasantnesses: the famously-ill-tempered, the notoriously-dishonest, the barely-tolerated loudmouth, the borderline bully, the bore, the crank, the unwelcome flirt, the fanny-grabber, the mean drunk, the mean drunk who sends flowers the next day*, the stranger who wanders in and ignores polite hints as to local sensitivities, the asshole who tries to make himself the new Big Monkey. . . .

Seems to me that what happened in this maybe-neverland was a version of moderation, exercised by whomever was present at the small end and enforced by the host when things passed some well-understood threshold. Implementing this kind of collective primate civility system depends on physical presence and the spectrum of signals available, from raised eyebrows to hard looks to the hairy eyeball to explicit speech--"We don't talk like that here"; "That's my wife/sister-in-law/neighbor you're talking to"; "I don't serve drunks or assholes"; "Take it outside."**

In the forum that I frequent most, there are moderators, but they rarely exercise their powers to ban or to erase posts--instead, they prefer to stand by and let the membership police itself and emit the occasional warning growl. This has worked reasonably well, thanks to the presence of a core of long-time members who have come to think of each other as friends or at least community members. We have had a few people get upset enough to leave, and even the least pleasant and civil of them were missed by some of the group. (We also lost some quite civil members who found the emotional level of some of the political discussions during and after the last election cycle more than they cared for.) But ours is a kind of social backwater, as distinct from a place like, say Boing Boing. If our forum is like hanging out at a neighborhood bar on a quiet street, Boing Boing is like trying to socialize and discuss on the sidewalk at a busy intersection with big signs reading "FREE SOAPBOXES." (Making Light is somewhere in between, thanks in part to its visibility to sites like Boing Boing.)

Anyhow, that threshold-triggered twit-file announcement of Alex R.'s @75 sounds like it is not only programmable but a decent simulation of the kind of thing one gets in the local-bar setting: The host serves a new patron a beer and says, "By the way, sometime tonight Clyde over is going to start yelling at the TV--you can just ignore him. That's what the rest of us do. Oh, and don't lend him any money."

* The wonderful songwriter and difficult friend Johnny Mercer, for example.

** I realize that these are gender-biased, but so is the bad behavior that is at issue in this thread. I'm not sure how whatever equivalents exist over in the women's lodge are managed, and my wife's away so I can't ask for guidance.

#79 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 09:25 PM:

I'm sure there's a reason these people aren't being named here, and I think I can guess several possible reasons, so I'm NOT asking for the list here. But can someone point me to a place where they're named or list themselves? I don't have access to the SFWA fora, but I sure would like to avoid these people and their books.

#80 ::: Josh Berkus ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 09:26 PM:

In the world of online software development (e.g. open source), the survival or failure of a software project often depends on the community managers' willingness and ability to accurately identify and expel toxic personalities, otherwise known as "trolls". At a certain point, you need to let your devotion to free speech and egalatarianism give way to serving the needs of the majority of your members, or the trolls will become your only members because everyone else will leave. There are a number of presentations/trainings on this, but for the life of me I can't find links to any of them right now.

Obviously there has to be a certain amount of due process with this to ensure fairness, but I'd say it's way past time for SFWA to invoke its expulsion procedures.

#81 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 10:29 PM:

Josh Berkus, are you suggesting that SFWA expel these toxic personalities from its general membership, or only from the online private forum?

#82 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 10:52 PM:

Lizzy L; If he's invoking using due process to attempt the job, not unilaterally throwing people out - does it matter? Casting them from the forums is more reasonable, and also constitutes a warning flag for the greater ban, but if their abusive behaviour extends outside that, such as, say, into private e-mail, there may be a case for general banning.

There are probably instances of things that each of these people -- whoever they are -- have said that would constitute crossing a line - abuse or hate speech most likely.

And if due process is really due process, then if no such instance can be found, they get a warning, based on the fact that people looked into the possibility of banning them, that their behaviour, however longstanding, is no longer acceptable, and it is their turn to adapt or (metaphorically) die.

The latter runs the risk of them doubling down, but I think the greater likelihood, that they wise up or shut up at least in the hearing of the rest of SFWA (More likely if someone who did cross the line is in fact banned, not all of them given warnings, but nobody cheering due process would suggest deliberately doing so) is a win win situation.

#83 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2013, 11:37 PM:

Lis, #20: It's worse than that. In any environment where the trolls and their victims are known to each other, "don't feed the trolls" is the exact equivalent of "just ignore the bullies and eventually they'll leave you alone". And anyone who reads or posts to the DFD threads can tell you how well that works.

Steve C., #40: Publicity is what he wants, just as John Lennon's murderer wanted to "be famous". Using his name gives him what he wants. It's as simple as that. (And no, I don't refer to Lennon's murderer by name either.)

Blaise, #59: Also, attrition will not deal with them fast enough.

Fade, #72: Precisely. And it doesn't even have to be a newbie, just someone who isn't in the habit of using killfiles themselves (for whatever reason). As long as the assholes can spew their venom in public, there's a problem.

Lizzy, #81: I can't speak for Josh, but given that (1) the behavior in question is clearly NOT being limited to the forums and (2) the quoted bylaws provide for expulsion from the group as a whole, I would plump for your first option. If 2/3 of the membership decide they deserve to be re-admitted, the expulsion can be revoked; that also is in the quoted bylaws.

#84 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 12:00 AM:

Heck, I joined SFWA (a) because I could, and (b) because of the con suite at Worldcons.

I remain.

#85 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 01:04 AM:

Jim @77: Brad #74, that's still quoting from a private discussion in a private forum. And I am convinced that whoever posted those screencaps did so, not out of a sense of outraged injustice, or as a blow for freedom, but out of actual malice toward all writers.

I found it very productive to go over to the Tumbr and read some of the posts, actually. They made my blood boil, to be sure, but -- much like the killer in a horror film -- when I couldn't see anything, I imagined the worst things I could possibly imagine, which were vast and dire. When I actually read the posts, they were still the products of a number of people in the grip of a raging and advanced case of idiocy, but they were no longer nearly as outright scary, and there weren't nearly as many as I was imagining. So I've appreciated being able to see the posts, and doing so has disposed me more rather than less favorably towards the rest of the people in SFWA and the organization overall.

#86 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 01:17 AM:

Kevin, they weren't a complete record. They were a selection designed to make the people involved look as bad as possible. And you'll have noticed, I'm sure, that some of them weren't even from the private SFWA area.

#87 ::: gallaure ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 02:52 AM:

Just a note from an 'outsider' - people like this in the SFWA not only made me give up in wanting to join the SFWA, but also made me give up what is necessary to do in order to be eligible to join the SFWA. That is, I gave up bothering with seeking an appropriate set of professional credits which would allow me to be eligible for membership.

#10 asked "were any of his novels actually published by a reputable publisher?"

I don't know about the person in question, but my work probably never will be. I have no interest in climbing a mountain to professional publication if my reward for that is my getting to pay for membership in an organization that allows people like this to run unchecked. No, thanks.

Perhaps that's a bit harsh, but it's how I've felt for years.

#88 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 04:15 AM:

Jim @86: I see one post which isn't from the SFF.net SFWA forum -- it looks like the Tumblr editor has corrected its attribution.

The screencaps are of course not the complete record. Not having access to the forums myself, I can't see the full context, but I'm certainly willing to believe that the selected posts are generally the most egregious.

For me, at least, the most egregious posts the SFWA boards could dream up are a banal sort of evil compared to the worst my imagination could dream up, so even the incomplete context has eased my mind, and I would welcome further.

gallaure @87: I have no interest in climbing a mountain to professional publication if my reward for that is my getting to pay for membership in an organization that allows people like this to run unchecked. No, thanks.

If the primary reward you see for becoming a professional in a field is membership in the field's professional organization, then it is my hope that you have found a fulfilling professional organization membership.

#89 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 05:11 AM:

gallaure @87: with all due respect, seeking professional publication so that you can join SFWA is like learning to fly so you can wear a cool hat.

#90 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 07:29 AM:

Jerry Pournelle has been making himself look bad for decades. It's not exactly a closed secret.

The pros I know avoid the forums like the plague because, as they tell me, it's basically a cesspit. I knew this *before* the Tumblr. I've heard multiple tales of wandering in there and fleeing in disgust.

Except one well known editor who keeps wandering in because she likes washing multiple slow motion train wrecks.

#91 ::: Manny ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 08:25 AM:

In the past when I've despaired over ever getting a date again, multiple people have encouraged me to go to cons because of the hookup culture. Those same people would tell stories about people like Randall Garrett and the "racist grandma" writers and all. They thought these hijinks were amusing somehow and were an attraction. This had the opposite effect of making me stay away even when one con was literally across the street from me.

I've been thinking lately maybe it was time to dip my toe in, but I don't feel up to anti-women bullshit of any kind. "Eating people alive? Where's that get fun?" Someone please let me know when the Reavers have been driven back.

#92 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 08:39 AM:

Xopher @79, I've been wondering much the same thing. I would hate to accidentally purchase a book written by a rabid weasel.

#93 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 09:26 AM:

"I would hate to accidentally purchase a book written by a rabid weasel."

Then you'll miss some good books. By and large, using the interpersonal behavior of authors as a guide to whether their books have value is a less effective heuristic than you might think.

Yeah, yeah, I've heard "I don't want to give money to people with $ODIOUSVIEW." I don't care. I want to read books that hold my interest and tell me valuable things about the world that I didn't already know. I've gotten that from lots of books by people I don't personally care for, or by people who I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have cared for if our lifetimes had overlapped.

One thing to keep in mind is that certain vices often come prepackaged with other virtues, and the vices get expressed socially while the virtues go into the text. Case in point: sometimes people devoted to the idea that there should be an aristocracy, have -- not unrelatedly -- an acute sense of the nuances of social relations between different levels of the class system. Which can be a very useful skill for a novelist. See also Chip Delany's observation, which I've mentioned before, that the royalist Balzac was Marx's favorite novelist. It wasn't because Marx was trying to keep an "open mind", it's because Balzac was smart about things Marx was genuinely interested in.

#94 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 10:10 AM:

Kevin Riggle @ 88

"the most egregious posts the SFWA boards could dream up are a banal sort of evil compared to the worst my imagination could dream up

That was pretty much my reaction too, though my mind boggled at the people who were worried that a "leftist cabel" had taken over the organization... what would this leftist cabel do? Buy better insurance for everyone? Start a charity drive? The mind boggles.

Sadly, the real issue is that they're worried someone will find a way to enforce some kind of "no jerks" rule, which would lessen their ability to get online and violate the norms of good behavior... of course, today's liberal is tomorrow's conservative, not so much because people change as because society changes.

I see the problem in myself. As I approach 50 I'm having trouble keeping up, mainly because my habits of language are pretty deeply rooted even though my heart is in the right place. I suspect that thirty years from now I'll be just as dinosaur-ish as Jerry Pournelle* without ever really changing my ideas and opinions. I remember my grandfather, who was born in 1899, once shocking everyone at the dinner table by using the word "n*gro." He was about 85 at the time, and that particular usage had been the politest, most very liberal usage while he was growing up. Grandfather was born again and joined a "Peace Church" back in the 1930s, and his heart was definitely in the right place, (the church in question took a strong stand against slavery starting in the 1820s) but his language had never changed... I could find myself in Grandpa's place a few years from now and might never notice.

I see a similar problem with my father. Philosophically and emotionally he's a serious feminist, but he was born in 1932 and has the habit of male privilege plus the complete inability to diagnose the problem in himself. But if you implied for even a second that women belong in the kitchen you'd get a somewhat... grumpy response. It's not so much hypocrisy as the habits of mind and body not keeping up with the ideals of his spirit.

So on one hand the whole question of harassment really pisses me off. Women (and men) at a con should both feel safe and be safe. Furthermore, con attendees should have the institutional tools necessary to keep themselves and others safe, plus the expectation that other con attendees should back them up in a pinch. (Ursula and Kevin rock!)

On the other hand, I can't help but wonder to what degree the arguments over the subject - so many of those involved are older, even elderly men - constitute a sort of generational misunderstanding that has something to do with the evolution of language and culture, and whether anyone has really tried to address it in those terms.

* I'm exaggerating for effect, of course, as Mr. Pournelle is a special case - did anyone ever tell him that Stalin is dead?

#95 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 10:14 AM:

"that certain vices often come prepackaged with other virtues"

David Weber once had one character say to another, "You have the vices of your virtues."*

*This may not be an exact quote, but Weber's line was pithy in a truly beautiful way.

#96 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 10:24 AM:

Patrick: One can always intentionally purchase a book by a rabid weasel, especially if said rabid weasel has written some good ones or ones that have lasted over the decades and are part of the main conversation.

I'd still rather know if someone I'm reading is a rabid weasel. Who knows, it might even illuminate something that turns up on the page. If it doesn't, even better.

(I still have 4 Orson Scott Card novels on my shelf. They're not going anywhere. I read enough Harlan Ellison to decide I wasn't sure I needed to read more, but that choice was based on the words on the page and not on his infamous behaviours. I don't think these choices make me less moral than someone who refuses to read their books at all. And anyone who says it does is using a very strange lens by which to judge others.)

#97 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 10:43 AM:

Wanting to read them but not give them money is why we have libraries and used-book stores.

#98 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 11:01 AM:

93:

There are thousands of good books I'll never read; some because of limited time, some because I'll never hear about them. I hardly think that wanting to let some good books languish unread because the authors do things I find abhorrent, and instead reading others that I may otherwise not have had time to read, is an unreasonable policy. Additionally, as Xopher notes in #97, there's a difference between reading and purchasing, and I was deliberate in my word choice.

Finally, in a few cases (and not knowing who the weasels are, I don't know if it applies to any of them), authorial odious behavior goes well beyond holding abhorrent beliefs; it would be actively self-destructive for me as a lesbian to give any money to Orson Scott Card by purchasing any of his books, for example.

#99 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 11:08 AM:

I also want to know who these people are so I can avoid them at cons.

#100 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 11:20 AM:

94: Alex R. wrote: "I see the problem in myself. As I approach 50 I'm having trouble keeping up, mainly because my habits of language are pretty deeply rooted even though my heart is in the right place. I suspect that thirty years from now I'll be just as dinosaur-ish as Jerry Pournelle..."

I seriously doubt it. Forewarned is forearmed. Only if you watch Fox News 24/7, have no functioning bullshit filter whatsoever, and take everything it shows you dead seriously can you ever think things like:

>http://www.jerrypournelle.com/chaosmanor/?p=2737 :: "The expected shakeout of the Occupy Wall Street movement continues. Given the great media sympathy for this movement, and the overt support it is receiving from local governments--ignoring permits and restrictions, visits by public officials, restrictions on police activities – the path this will take will be very different from the 'Days of Rage' during the Viet Nam era. There is no conscription, and thus no great force driving educated middle class young men into the protest movement--and of course the big incentive of the Left in my undergraduate days, “free love”, is no longer very effective. It’s no longer exclusively the Marxist girls who wear wool stockings who proclaim a right to sexual equality. Actually, the Marxist girls of the 1950’s still used words like slut and public pump, and would have been horrified by the hookup culture. They wanted at least a pretense of commitment. But I digress."

Or:

>http://www.jerrypournelle.com/view/2010/Q2/view629.html :: "Sowing the wind... The Chronicle of Higher Education… by Steven E. Rhoads, Laura Webber, and Diana Van Vleet: 'Helen Gurley Brown meant to shock when in 1962 she wrote her classic advice book, the best-selling Sex and the Single Girl... romance has no place in the mating culture in college today, where the 'hookup'--a commitment-free sexual encounter with a stranger or acquaintance--reigns. In a recent cover story in The Weekly Standard, Charlotte Allen described what she calls the New Paleolithic Age…' Is this sowing the wind, or merely Childhood's End as Clarke predicted? Of course he put aliens in his story; but the conditions, absolute paternity testing and reasonably efficient treatment of STD's, seem to have produced the social mores he postulated. What kind of culture will result from all this? Of course we no longer use terms like decadence, or posit any harmful effects from what was once called immorality. When I was young there were girls you could sleep with and girls you could marry. They were not the same girls, and in fact the first variety were more easily found in bull sessions than in the flesh. But that was long ago. Is this, long term, a solution to the problem of where to find modern Janissaries?"

But your underlying question of how to avoid ever starting to grumble that (a) things were better back in the old days (b) when your back didn't hurt and (c) people spoke loud enough for you to hear and (d) the Xs behaved properly is a good one.

Perhaps simply imagining how silly you will look would work? I am reminded of a line from a Steve Stirling/David Drake book in which they bring such a Cato the Elder character on stage to say: "I don't know what Vanbert is coming to. A girl costs more than a sword, a pretty-boy more than an acre, and a tract of fish sauce more than a good plow team, and they let foreigners speak in the courts..."

#101 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 11:34 AM:

Patrick @ 93... I might learn something from a book by an author I find abhorrent. On the other hand, there are many authors I do not find abhorrent and who have something to teach me. Life is too short, and there are so many stories.

#102 ::: JBWoodford ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 11:42 AM:

Xopher@79: I saw a comment from Mary Robinette Kowal on James Nicoll's LJ, I believe, where she said that the best way to tell who her Terrible Twelve were is to look at who was publicly speculating as to whether they were.

Brad@74: Perhaps this is obvious, but what makes Pournelle's reminiscence there particularly odious is that in his desire to excuse his friend he completely misses the marked difference* in gender power imbalance between SF fandom in the 1950s and 1960s, and contemporary youth culture.

*Even though it's not as good as it should be, there has been some serious bending towards justice happening.

#103 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 12:07 PM:

@92-93 etc.: seems a lot like the arguments about, e.g., Wagner, that have been going on a long time to little effect. Although there is a sense in which writing has more to do with the author's ideas than music does; an anti-Semitic author could write an anti-Semitic book but I would think it would be beyond their powers to write an anti-Semitic melody, even if they tried. (On the other hand, Wagner wrote opera, which is some of both.)

#94: On the other hand, I can't help but wonder to what degree the arguments over the subject - so many of those involved are older, even elderly men - constitute a sort of generational misunderstanding that has something to do with the evolution of language and culture, and whether anyone has really tried to address it in those terms.

Well, yes, in a sense, but the culture being evolved away from is one that allows certain people to abuse certain other people with impunity. This makes it difficult to be sympathetic with those who cling to what they know, when what they know is so manifestly harmful to others. I think the younger generation typically understands the older one quite well -- how could they not, having grown up as their children.

Speaking of which, one thing that makes this different from the DFD threads is that family relationships very often involve large power imbalances in which one side is not free to walk away or resign their membership, or may do so only at great cost. I hope this is not true of SFWA.

#104 ::: dancingcrow ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 12:07 PM:

Rather than avoid the odious, I've found myself purchasing work if the author's words on the topic resonate. A Friday roundup from Tansy Rayner Roberts' blog provided fine entertainment and four new books, plus Mary's book which I had not gotten around to buying yet.

#105 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 01:38 PM:

....large power imbalances in which one side is not free to walk away or resign their membership, or may do so only at great cost. I hope this is not true of SFWA.

No. There's no cost to the person who walks away. Instead the cost is borne by everyone else.

In my opinion walking away is precisely the wrong choice, sends the wrong message, emboldens the weasels, and worsens the problems. See my #50 above.

#106 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 01:52 PM:

Jm @105--"There's no cost to the person who walks away"

Of course I'm not a member, or ever likely to be, but one of he reasons people join organizatios like SFWA is to make helpful professional contacts, and there can be a cost to foregoing that. One of the recently prominent cases involving sexual harrassment at a convention involved an editor as a perpetrator, and of course there is potentially a cost for rejecting such a person if you are an aspiring writer.

#107 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 02:02 PM:

Brad DeLong @ 100

I think you missed my footnote at # 94 - I can't imagine ever being as Cenozoic as Mr. Pournelle. :)

An off-topic note is also merited: My son and I both enjoy your liveblogging of WWII. It contains excellent stuff on a daily basis!

#108 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 02:05 PM:

Chris@103: I think the younger generation typically understands the older one quite well -- how could they not, having grown up as their children.

Actually, I would think that it would constitute a considerable obstacle to understanding the older generation; the view from below looking upward is not the same as the view from being there. Lord knows, I wouldn't make a claim to understanding my parents' generation in anything like completeness, because the things that made and marked them are only family stories and history books to me.

#109 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 02:06 PM:

I'm going to be a bit contrarian here, and point out something.

The Twelve Rabid Weasels feel unsafe. They are trying to make a space where they feel safe. They're doing this by supporting each other.

We can't make a space where everyone feels safe. Among other obvious reductio ad absurdam notions, there are people who don't feel safe anywhere (most paranoid schizophrenics, as an example). It's pretty easy to show that for any space that feels safe to some people, there are people it won't feel safe to. I can't control someone else's emotions, and "feeling safe" is an emotional state.

It is possible to make spaces where people can be (relatively) safe. Or approximately equally safe, up to the level of disaster striking unexpectedly. Various forms of support for people who are feeling unsafe can be available, and are a really good idea.

There are going to be people who feel unsafe, at least for a while, under just about any scenario. So trying to make a space where everyone will feel safe is a mug's game. I'd rather try to create a space where everyone can be safe, and where there are good pointers to safer-feeling conditions for anyone who feels unsafe.

And I'd want to try to remove those who get their safety out of making others feel unsafe (which seems to be one of the mechanisms used on both sides here, though I think the Rabid Weasels do it much more annoyingly).

#110 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 02:19 PM:

chris @ 103

...the culture being evolved away from is one that allows certain people to abuse certain other people with impunity. This makes it difficult to be sympathetic with those who cling to what they know, when what they know is so manifestly harmful to others.

I agree completely; not all dinosaurs can change their spots, but there are ways of addressing the issue that are potentially more or less helpful than others. It's possible to imagine a 75-year-old man who responds very poorly to "you're being chauvanistic and exhibiting a horrible degree of male privilege" and very well to "You're behaving in an unprofessional manner and being very disrespectful to your colleague. That kind of behavior is very harmful to our organization."

That being said, it's my suspicion that anyone in SFWA who could be converted by that kind of language has changed their behavior already.


...family relationships very often involve large power imbalances in which one side is not free to walk away or resign their membership.

I'm not sure you can safely make that assumption. Some of the authors may be getting their health insurance through SFWA and be unable to qualify for any other plan. (This is also why the organization should be very careful about kicking older members out of the organization - complete loss of membership might have ugly consequences.)

#111 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 02:39 PM:

Tom:

This is a recurring theme, right? A community is a place where a set of people with some shared values and ideas and interests can get together in relative safety. That pretty-much requires some way to formally or informally exclude people.

Being excluded from a community has consequences, some of which are pretty harsh. Not being able to have a functioning community also has harsh consequences. I don't know quite how you balance the two in an optimal way.

#112 ::: Josh Berkus ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 03:53 PM:

Lizzy @81:

Since I'm not personally familiar with the individuals involved, nor their actions beyond the pulished blog post and this thread, I certainly can't make a recommendation. However, I do think that expulsion from the SFWA should be on the table as an option, particularly because the reported offensive behavior of these individuals is not confined to the forums.

I do *not* recommend "outing" these people over the innertubes in advance of due process, because an "outing" and attacks on them in the blogosphere would compromise the due process by giving them a defence that they, too, have been victimized. Trial By Internet is something you should do only if and when due process fails to deliver justice, because once you do it, any sort of just due process becomes impossible. And Trial By Internet also tends to hurt the organization involved.

Relevant to this: http://amandablumwords.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/3/

That was an extreme example of Trial By Internet, which resulted in both the accuser and the accused getting fired from their respective jobs, and more ammunition for the folks who use words like "feminazi" -- all because the accuser decided to resort to Trial By Internet *instead of* due process. It was also pretty rough on the conference organizers.

#113 ::: gallaure ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 04:42 PM:

#88 and #89

On a re-read, I realized I did not make myself very clear: I meant professional publication of the type which the SFWA requires, which is to say specifically publication in the SF/F genre. As much as I love reading SF/F, I have steered away from submitting it due to what I've seen repeatedly, which is that female SF/F writers are less valued, as are writers who do not identify as cisgendered white males.

This does not mean I believe that all of fandom does not value these writers, but rather these types of noisy folk in the SFWA are a trumpeted, overloud opinion that these writers are not valued, and I don't see anyone trying to shut them up. The sad thing is that I am not the only writer I've met who feels excluded, and I see a lot of brilliant, creative people picking brilliant, creative things to do that are not writing for the markets which would in turn qualify them for the SFWA. I'm seeing SF/F lose some brilliant voices due to the misogyny/racism we are discussing here. I worry about the long-term loss to the genre, and I wish we could see all the brilliant worlds which are not being shared.

I have never stopped writing - can't shake a 30+ year habit that easily - but I do not bother with submitting to the specific publications that would open the door to SFWA membership. So when I say "I gave up bothering with seeking an appropriate set of professional credits which would allow me to be eligible for membership," I mean that I do not tailor any pieces for SF/F publication or involve myself in the submission process to those publications or publishers, not that I don't write SF/F at all.

Not sure why I'm bothering to defend myself, since I was just de-lurking to share an experience which seemed relevant, but I'm hoping that the responses were due to a miscommunication of the facts on my part.

#114 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 05:07 PM:

Tom Whitmore @109
The Twelve Rabid Weasels feel unsafe. They are trying to make a space where they feel safe. They're doing this by supporting each other.

We can't make a space where everyone feels safe.

No, we can't be all things to all people all the time - individuals as well as SFWA. However. There is a huge difference between acting out in non-approved ways in public vs. acting out in non-approved ways in private areas. Anything to do with SFWA, in SFWA forums is by definition "public". Ditto, conventions.

If you wouldn't physically moon an individual on the street, why metaphorically moon them on the internet in a public forum?

Something that fandom as a whole, especially the older generations, don't seem to be aware of is that fannish activities are becoming more and more mainstream and are being looked at through mainstream lenses and judged with mainstream values. Which is why the Twelve Rabid Weasels feel unsafe. The people they shunned and/or were shunned by have shown up on in an underpopulated corner of the public playground and want to join in. What was once uncool is now cool. To quote a fellow inhabitant of fandom, "Nerd Rage" has set in.

Recently, I talked to an anime fan who said he left anime fandom because of "Nerd Rage". I.E. "who are these young idiots who get their anime from network TV? In My Day, We Had to Work To Get Our Fix." So. Rather than making an ass of himself in public and on-line, he deliberately went looking for other fandoms to join. 20-something Ex-Anime Guy decided Not to be a Rabid Weasel in public.

This was at the same convention where I and another woman had to tag team a male "elder statesman of the con" about why a lovingly upheld and harmless tradition of the convention was actually creepy and off putting to newbies of both genders, but most especially women. The "elder stateswoman" of the convention understood my issue right away. Being there at the beginning, when the tradition was established, she didn't see any harm in it at all. However, she also immediately understood my POV as to why the old tradition was a lawsuit waiting to happen. In the end, she was the one who managed to convince "the elder statesman" that my issues were valid.

I credit the "elder statesman of the con" with coming up with a modern version that would be far less creepy and much more inclusive to newbies in general and less creepy for women in particular.

#115 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 06:14 PM:

I applaud those kinds of changes, Victoria. And I've changed many of my actions and attitudes over the years.

There are people on each side of a social divide who believe that being transgressive is the best way to move the Overton window about what's acceptable. It's a necessary part, I believe: we wouldn't be where we are in the gay rights movement without a lot of people who put their gayness into the faces of people who didn't want to see it. And there was a lot of quiet, unnoticed work by people who did the political stuff to get laws passed -- that was also necessary. The reactionary side that's trying to continue doing what they enjoy, even when others find it creepy, does involve some people who know that what they're doing is creepy (and they want to keep doing it anyway because -- hey -- reaction! Cool!) and people who don't know that. Your "elder statesman" appears to fall in the latter category, and your method of teaching works well on that kind of person. Not so well on the other kind I mentioned here.

And as for being aware that things are changing -- there's a broad range within fandom, and I don't think mistaking the median for the range is a useful approach. I prefer to support the people who are in the part of the range I want to encourage, and I suspect we have a considerable overlap in the part we'd each rather support than not.

#116 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 08:15 PM:

And speaking of changing mores and cluelessness, I'll give myself as an example; I'm just under 40; I've been married less than 10 years. I'm still startled by Brad Delong's startlement @ 64.

I have never been in or observed a community where "is this person already partnered" wasn't a very important part of the answer to "would it be appropriate to ask this person on a date." But it seems like in other contexts (Brad's), that is viewed as a completely outdated norm.

#117 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 08:38 PM:

gallaure @113: All I can say is that, for myself, I do always wonder when I get a rejection slip for a story if it was rejected because it was too far outside the SWM envelope.

But I keep writing and submitting anyway. You don't have any obligation to do so if you don't want to, of course, or if it causes you undue emotional distress.

I do it because publishers can't publish writing outside the envelope if nobody is sending it to them. And the writing is its own reward.

#118 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 08:51 PM:

SamChevre @116

The problem with this behavior isn't that he is considering whether or not the woman he was interested in is partnered.

The problem is that he considers whatever he does to women fine, and the only appropriate check is that if she is partnered to a man and her male partner (not her!) disapproves, the male partner can physically intervene.

It's a point of view that treats women as the property of a particular man, and how other men treat her is a matter between her and the man who has the right to control her, not about her right to autonomy and safety.

#119 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 08:57 PM:

I don't think of fandom as a safe place any more. I can tell what's unsafe to say (and don't want to say the more egregious stuff), but I had no idea whether posting this would blow up in my face.

#120 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 10:16 PM:

gallaure@113:

I don't see anyone trying to shut them up.
Not even Mary Robinette Kowal?

#121 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2013, 11:30 PM:

Patrick, #93: That statement reminds me of a conversation I once had about relationships with someone who couldn't understand the concept of a deal-breaker. They kept insisting that I might be "missing out on the love of my life" by saying that (e.g.) I wouldn't date a smoker. I kept responding that there were plenty of candidates for the love of my life who didn't smoke, so why should I waste my time on one who did?

Same/same here. There are more good books out there already, written by people I don't find abhorrent, than I have time to read. Why should I spend my limited reading time on anything written by an asshole, rather than on one of the other available choices?

#122 ::: Studer ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2013, 06:56 AM:

Goldfarb@120: No. If you think that, you're not really paying attention.

#123 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2013, 08:36 AM:

Victoria @114, now I'm curious as to what this tradition was.

#124 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2013, 08:43 AM:

Before I get to my question, I want to make explicit that I'm not asking this rhetorically or cynically. I'm also not assigning blame to any individual member or officer of the SWFA. I am especially not blaming Mary Robinette Kowal, because regardless of what she knew or what she may or may not have theoretically have had the power to do, she was the one receiving the threatening mail. I have no idea what that's like, or what safety calculations she felt she had to make.

I'm saying all of the above because I don't post around here a lot and so I don't have an established tone or a lot good will built up, and this is an emotive topic, and my question, though it's worded as carefully as I am able, can probably be read a lot of ways.

Here's my question:
Section 10 of the by-laws of the SWFA were quoted in this thread, which clearly states that the SWFA can expel members for "good and sufficient cause". This thread also makes clear that the SWFA is willing to discipline members -- David Moles was threatened with expulsion and ultimately censured. Given that the ability and capacity to act both plainly exist -- why in this case (or these cases) have no formal steps been taken?

An officer of the SWFA was sent hate mail. This went on over a period of years. Other members have complained of harassment and sexism. (Apparently there are even rumors of death threats? Alex R. @14.) All of this appears to be public knowledge, and I confess it does not seem plausible to me that it would be unknown to the (other) officers of the SWFA. So I'm genuinely asking -- does anybody know why nothing's been done?

#125 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2013, 09:23 AM:

In response to Josh's thought about when to choose to publicly talk about code of conduct violations, Christie Koehler's http://subfictional.com/2013/03/22/bold-ideas-uttered-publicly/ is pretty relevant. She's a conference organizer herself.

#126 ::: David Langford ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2013, 09:53 AM:

#124: SFWA, not SWFA. Once is a typo, six times is enemy action perhaps worth noting.

I did find it fascinating that although the SFWA by-laws provide for expulsion but (as far as I can tell) not censuring of members, that previous troublemaker or whistleblower was censured but not expelled. Hey, let's just improvise!

#127 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2013, 10:03 AM:

Studer@122: If telling people "Shut the fuck up" isn't trying to shut them up, I confess myself at a bit of a loss to know what is. But you're right that I'm not really paying attention.

#128 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2013, 10:05 AM:

MNiM @124 Nothing has been done because the entire Board has to agree on an action before it can be taken. Nothing has been done because the hate mail is upsetting and annoying, but is not taken as a serious physical threat. And because SFWA has valued vigorous expression over courtesy. Mary's 12 Rabid Weasels letter is completely in keeping with the tone of the Forum, if far better written than most of it.

The SFWA Forum has been a cesspit of angry/crazy for a long, long time -- it used to be a monthly printed letter zine, mailed out to all members. It wasn't really a joke when people talked about having a membership level, more expensive, that did NOT include the Forum.

#129 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2013, 11:19 AM:

It has, historically, been an undertaking of epic proportions to get all of SFWA to agree on anything -- "like herding cats" is about the kindest description I've heard applied to the job -- except for, possibly, the idea that writers should get paid for their work.

(Also, it's been my observation that anyone who refers to "the SFWA" -- even if they are, at least technically, a member -- is not in fact familiar with the organization. The customary usage, for as long as I've known about it, has been to refer to "SFWA" without the definite article.)

#130 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2013, 12:57 PM:

David Goldfarb: "If telling people "Shut the fuck up" isn't trying to shut them up, I confess myself at a bit of a loss to know what is"

What MRK said, precisely, was "I want you to express your opinions clearly so that everyone knows them and knows that you are quitting because the other members of SFWA want you to Shut the Fuck up."

This is contradictory on the face of it, and no doubt there's a better^H^H^H^H different way of phrasing the point. But I'm pretty she wasn't aiming for "impeccable logical tone" when she wrote the post.

#131 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2013, 01:04 PM:

Well, we certainly are being condescending, eh, Andrew? Mary asked people for courtesy. That is no more a limit on freedom of speech than Making Light's guidelines regarding behavior here.

#132 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2013, 01:05 PM:

MNiM @ 124

I think the death threats revolved around the action/issues at a particular con. I don't think they were SFWA related so much as "SF Community related." In terms of my emotional reactions they're pretty much the same; good reasons to stay and home and read someone's book without going into the community.

#133 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2013, 01:26 PM:

David Goldfarb @127:

There's a distinction between wishing someone would shut the fuck up and shutting them up. It's like the difference between wishing for a pony and going onto paardonline and getting my wallet out.

Read this paragraph and tell me it's shutting anyone up.

Please quit noisily and complaining about how SFWA is censoring you for asking you to stop using hate speech. Please quit and complain about the “thoughtcrime” of asking people not to sexually harass someone. Please quit and bellyache about the good old days when people could be bigoted jerks. I want you to express your opinions clearly so that everyone knows them and knows that you are quitting because the other members of SFWA want you to Shut the Fuck up.

It sounds like she's telling them to keep talking, even though she wishes they wouldn't.

Also, generally, let's not bite each other's heads off here, please. Maintaining a decent amount of mutual respect and courtesy in this thread would not be the worst thing that we all did today, you know?

#134 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2013, 01:32 PM:

Using "SFWA" as synecdoche for "the science fiction fandom community" is a good way to fall into error, as is assuming that any single member of the organization -- except for perhaps the President or a Board Member speaking ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals making a statement explicitly identified as such -- is speaking for the whole of it.

#135 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2013, 01:59 PM:

MNiM #124, beth meacham #128, Debra Doyle #129: Also, the Geek Fallacies work in favor of the "weasels" here.

I know basically nothing about this besides what I've seen here, but from that it sounds to me like these are old-timers whose behavior was tolerated when they were a bigger part of a smaller organization, but now the balance is shifting against them. I agree that it's reasonable to remove the abscess, even belatedly, but I suspect the tricky part is going to b,e doing that without letting them poison the whole organization. Given the issues such as health insurance alluded to above, perhaps a Forum ban would be the place to start? Some of them might even take it as a wake-up-call and clean up their act.

#136 ::: Dave Harmon has been gnomed. ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2013, 02:00 PM:

I've got cold-brewed coffee I could share....

['Twas a comma with no spaces to either side at one place, and three-or-more blank spaces in a row at another. Both common with mad-lib type wordhash spam. -- Borny Boro, Duty Gnome]

#137 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2013, 02:41 PM:

David Harmon@135: Given the issues such as health insurance alluded to above, perhaps a Forum ban would be the place to start?

Health insurance is in fact a non-issue, at least in the sense you're talking about. SFWA has been trying in vain to find a way to provide health insurance to its members for as long as I've been a part of the organization.

(Lord knows, if such a thing were to become possible I'd be all over it in a heartbeat, and so would a lot of other people The SFWA Emergency Medical Fund is a wonderful thing, but having it become obsolete would be even more wonderful.)

#138 ::: Lawrence ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2013, 02:17 AM:

#124: That troublemaker was censured rather than expelled because then-president Robin Bailey announced at the beginning of the discussion, before he knew all the specifics, that nobody was going to be expelled. Having made the statement, he stuck to his guns.

Three members -- one of them being me -- quit over this refusal to consider expulsion.

Robin has recently said that he regrets our departure, but still believes that he was right -- that if anyone is ever expelled, for any reason that doesn't involve calling in the cops, that it will open the floodgates to kicking out anyone who says anything unpopular.

I think this is a spectacularly stupid position, myself, but I made my statement by resigning my lifetime membership, and SFWA policy is no longer any of my business.

#139 ::: Lawrence ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2013, 02:18 AM:

Sorry, that was in reply to David Langford's #126, not #124.

#140 ::: Lawrence ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2013, 02:21 AM:

Incidentally, the "censure" was, I will admit, fairly drastic, to the point any sane person would have quit. That particular troublemaker did not quit, but endured a year or more of paying dues but receiving none of the privileges of membership. He's still an active member. May SFWA have joy of him.

#141 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2013, 07:05 AM:

David Langford @#126

Thank you for correction. I'm mildly dyslexic and it's easy for my brain to displace the order of letters in an acronym and basically file it forever that way.

#142 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2013, 10:22 AM:

#100 Brad

Oxymoronic Jerry--the overwhelming bulk of romance genre fiction published, which fiction is the plurality of fiction, involves a main focus of one male, one female, becoming a tightly bonded sexually exclusive couple. His deprecatory screed regarding what he perceives as popular "hook-up" culture, goes against de facto popular culture literature preferences for tightly bonded heterosexual couple permanent relationships.

And Jerry's own history fails to comply to the relationship values he seems to be extolling....

#143 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2013, 10:23 AM:

Lawrence @#138

Robin has recently said that he regrets our departure, but still believes that he was right -- that if anyone is ever expelled, for any reason that doesn't involve calling in the cops, that it will open the floodgates to kicking out anyone who says anything unpopular.

This is very strange to me, for a number of reasons -- first of all, because expulsion requires (if I understand this correctly) the unanimous vote of eight people. That's probably not ever going to be an easy requirement to surmount just because someone's said something unpopular, especially given how short SFWA terms of office are. Second, it's not like an expelled former member has no course of redress. With enough support, they can get their expulsion overturned.

Third, for any reason that doesn't involve calling in the cops well, that ship has sailed, as I understand it. I'm not a legal expert, but I'm reasonably certain that under California law, what Harlan Ellison did at WorldCon 2006 could easily have involved police being called, had Connie Willis been so inclined. I would not be at all surprised if people more familiar with SFWA could point to more examples of -- let's be blunt -- criminal behavior.

beth meacham @#128, Debra Doyle @#129, Dave Harmon @#135

I don't think that it's inherently bad that it's hard to get eight (is it eight?) people to agree to expel a member. I think that's a good way to protect against potential abuses.

It does seem like section 10 could use a re-write, however. Clarity about what constitutes "good and sufficient cause" would probably be a good place to start, and adding additional measures below the level of expulsion would probably help too (censure, forum bans, etc). SFWA officers might be more inclined to act if they had more options than "do nothing" and "expulsion".

I agree with Dave Harmon @#135 about the Geek Social Fallacies being at work here, and I'm not terribly surprised by that. What I am surprised at is that they seem to have been allowed to take the place of a code of conduct in a professional organization of this size and age.

Jim Macdonald @#60
I think we are approaching, if not past, the tipping point where the culture within SFWA moves from "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it," to "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good [people] do nothing."

We can -- and should -- defend free speech. But just because I don't think someone should go to jail for, say, calling me a bitch, doesn't mean that they shouldn't face other consequences for doing so. "The standard you walk past is the standard you accept." As long as SFWA continues to allow people to behave like rabid weasels, it's going to remain an organization where a man like Theodore Beale can win ten percent of the vote for the office of president.

#144 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2013, 11:04 AM:

Paula Lieberman @142: "Oxymoronic Jerry--the overwhelming bulk of romance genre fiction published, which fiction is the plurality of fiction, involves a main focus of one male, one female, becoming a tightly bonded sexually exclusive couple. His deprecatory screed regarding what he perceives as popular 'hook-up' culture, goes against de facto popular culture literature preferences for tightly bonded heterosexual couple permanent relationships."

What? You don't believe the argument of http://www.jerrypournelle.com/chaosmanor/?p=2737 that hookup culture is a plot to rob us of our purity of essence and corrupt our precious bodily fluids in which Marxist women who make themselves ugly and unattractive and wear wool stockings and insufficient makeup use their feminine wiles to trick fine upstanding but naive young American men into protesting against the Vietnam War in hopes of getting laid and so fight for the victory of Global Communism in the Cold War? You don't believe that?! :-)

I do hope someday, somewhere, to read an excellent essay contrasting sexual politics in Heinlein--who, as Jo Walton sometimes puts it, is (largely) trying before feminism to imagine (not terribly successfully*) what feminism might become, and who always views sex as a gift--with various neo-Heinleinian epigones who fear feminism and view sex as likely to be a trap...

----

*E.g.: sex with mom is *always* a very bad idea...

#145 ::: an academic ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2013, 11:33 AM:

I've been debating with myself over whether to post or not, but I'm giving in.

I am finding these discussions disheartening not because I am a woman, but because I am a public service manager. I hire and fire people. I and my employees deal with (occasionally abusive) customers both internal and external. There are so many perfectly legal ways of handling this kind of mess.

SFWA is not the first (and won't be the last) large organization who has an abscess like this. Fortunately, this means there's plenty of structured, effective ways to handle the damn problem.

I think SFWA and the general SFF fandom culture has been largely unwilling to accept the extent of the fallout from having an unhealthy culture. As a sixteen year old, I was seriously creeped on by a SFF author at my first con. Did I make con-going a life long habit? Nope. There's a direct causation there. All those people who choose not to read a book by a creep, who don't want to go to cons after reading about this stuff, who find the abusive racist screeds disgusting.... A whole lot of them will quietly sit home forevermore. Plenty will feel icky about the SFF works in general and wander off to mysteries or lit. I *know* I'm going to get pushback, but I'm asking everyone not to argue with me on whether this *should* be happening (or whether people should stay or should give cons another chance or or or). I just want folks to accept that it *is* happening. And it has serious business consequences--to con attendance, to book sales, to participation in the fandoms, to whether people submit their works for publication.

This impact, this financial bottom line, is part of what motivates businesses and government institutions, to refuse to allow abusive individuals in its organizations. I strongly recommend reading The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton. It began as an article in the Harvard Business Review, which is as mainstream business manage-y as it gets.

I keep seeing a lot of 'but there's nothing that legally can be done about it' for various aspects of this mess. Since this particular post is about Mary Robinette Kowal's experiences, I will focus on it. Explain what I did do in a similar situation, then model what I would have done in her case.

First, I want to draw everyone's attention to one crucial distinction that keeps getting missed. Interactions between an employee (I know, the weasels're not employed, just go with it for now) and a *coworker* tend, in popular culture, to have a HIGH bar for abusiveness. If the abuse was witnessed, both parties get a say (but he was being an idiot!), there may be moderated discussion/mediations, etc. But the bar for abuse between an employee and an external customer is typically LOW, even in popular culture. (Bob, you called a customer a fuckmuppet. You're fired. I don't care that it was the first time, I don't care that you just lost your temper, I don't care that you won't do it again. Fired.)

In part, it is because the financial consequences of abusive speech here are very, very clear. Insult a customer, that customer is GONE. And so are all their friends.

And yet, discussions of SFWA and SF culture and, frankly a certain publishing house, seem not to be framing the discussion in this way--even when that particular situation applies. Frame it this way, you may find things change. Writing is a business. Does SFF want to tolerate more abusive behavior than Target does? (I'm gonna go with 'no'. If I'm wrong, don't tell me, because I cherish this delusion that SFF still has good hearted people who dislike abuse, OK?)

Here is a situation that is similar to Mary's. Years ago, we had a problem IT person in another department. Since he was outside our department, I had no leverage to fire him. He was best beloved of the highest of the high. (Like many jerks, he was sweet as pie to those who held the reins.)

He was also a racist. One day, when I was gone, he approached the desk and verbally bullied my woc employee for not taking out the trash. My employee, J, who was young and inexperienced, tried to tell him that it was the cleaning staff's job. He kept shouting until she was in tears and sobbed that she would never let it happen again. Then she took out the trash.

Later, he came to another of my employees and wanted to know where J was so he could talk to her about the trash.

Employee came and got me. I informed him that trash was cleaning staff's job. He was building up steam. I said, firmly, that he was not to talk to J again. About anything. He built up more steam. I repeated it, then I walked away.

When J returned for her next shift, I talked to her. I reassured her as best I could. Then I told her she never had to talk to him again. If he approached the desk, she was not to wait for him to speak. She was to get me. If I was not there, she was to get my boss. If he insisted, she was to say that it was my doing. I gave her the keys to my locked office, so she could go in there, close and lock the door. She never had to talk him--not ever again. She burst into tears.

Of course IT dude came back. J came and got me. I stood physically in front of her. He would try to dodge, I would shift. It took him a while of me repeating, flatly, "You cannot talk to J. Anything you wish to say to her, you say to me. You cannot talk to J. You talk to me." But he got it, and he'd walk in, scowl angrily at her, then turn away.

Did I stop IT dude from being a bully? Yeah right--he continued to be an asshole until his retirement. But I did stop him from bullying *my employee*. (If he had escalated, I would have escalated my response.)

If I had been Mary's boss, here is what I would have done: I'd have asked to see the emails. Then I would have replied, firmly, to each of them, something like the following: "I understand that you are upset and passionate about this topic. However, you crossed a line when you attacked Mary. In the future, if you have a complaint or a comment, I expect you to use appropriate language. Personal attacks are not tolerated under any circumstances. Because of your inappropriate behavior, I will be handling all of your correspondence from now on. Do not email Mary again; I have blocked your email address from her account. Furthermore, I expect you to not use any other means to contact her." And then I would have forwarded abusive emails (I'm sure there would be more) to higher-ups, president included. I would have pushed to have members suspended or expelled for repeat violations, and I would have used customer service basics (Would Target allow a customer to be called this? No?) as my rationale.

That would not have been all. I would have looked for guidelines to implement in dealing with abusive customers (including internal customers). I would have insisted that we put structures in place, with examples of infractions. I teach my front line employees what constitutes a phone call to security/911 (when the customer is shouting and refuses to calm down, especially if the customer turns their ire from the situation to you personally). I teach them how to deal with these situations in varying gradations. People, even smart well-educated writers, are not born learning how to deal with angry entitled jerks yawping about their right to be a jerk.

Perhaps most importantly, my workplace gives all front line staff both skills and AUTHORITY. We back up that authority. Any front line staff member, no matter how lowly, can kick someone out for treating them abusively. (I know, this is rockin' your minds, right?) "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to leave. You can come back tomorrow when you're calm. Here is my boss's business card. If you don't leave voluntarily, I will have to call security."

Further, we, as a workplace, have a policy that the person on the ground made the right decision. I might, as a manager, say 'Since I am a manager, I have some additional options' but I NEVER second-guess my folks. (Before anyone asks, no, this policy has not been abused. It's very important to hire ethical people, but this is not that hard.) I back them up ("Sir, I know you're upset that Employee asked you to leave, but you were unable to discuss the situation in a calm fashion. If you're able to be calm today, we can talk about what seems to be the problem and I will see what I can do to help you. But my employee did the right thing, so that part of our discussion is over. Let's move on.")

Realistically, if an organization wants to stop abusive behavior, they will need to give someone on the ground enough authority to do something. They will also need to put structures in place to provide those on-the-ground folks some solid guidelines. It is profoundly unfair to hardworking members to expect them to just figure out how to deal with angry weasels on their own.

Lastly, I want to address the suggestion that the Angry Weasel brigade is just old and unused to this strange new order where you have to treat women or black people like people. First, I think that idea is kind of insulting to old people. But more importantly, these mustelids almost certainly have dealings with businesses, organizations, or social groups that have stricter requirements. It strikes me as highly unlikely that every restaurant they eat at, every dry cleaners, every plumber, every school, every store, allows them to rant in such a racist or sexist or just plain assholish fashion and still be served. It's like an obnoxious potty-mouthed teen who suddenly has a PG vocabulary when he's with his 80 year old grandmother.

But, for the practicalities.
1. Accept the financial and emotional consequences of the assholes.
2. Put a structure in place that outlines acceptable / non-acceptable behavior. Communicate to appropriate parties internally and externally.
3. Provide front-line people (of whatever fashion) training in implementing said structure.
4. Provide *authority* to front-line people for follow-through.
5. Back them up.
6. Accept that many people, on all sides, will find this upsetting. Balance the upset against the level of trauma and physical harm that assholes inflict.

The No Asshole Rule has some fairly grim research about the medical costs, therapy costs, lost work, lost effectiveness that even one asshole inflicts. It's like an ugly honeysuckle, spreading poisonous vines throughout the organization, strangling everything it touches, root and branch.

I know this is long. I apologize. I know this may be considered helpy. I also know that many in SFF fandom are (understandably) wary of business models for dealing with problems. But dammit, I love SFF. I don't want it to flame out, and that's where I see it going.

#146 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2013, 11:40 AM:

Paula @142, while you're absolutely right about romance genre fiction promoting the monogamous heterosexual couple as the ideal to be striven for, I don't think Jerry Pournelle was talking about sexual ideals as presented in fiction in the quotes at #100.

It looks to me like he's using "hookup culture" to stand in for the shift in sexual mores that's been taking place ever since the introduction of the birth control pill and the so-called "Sexual Revolution" of the 1960s. It's absolutely true that popular culture (even in contemporary romance novels!) no longer expects women to be virgins when they marry, doesn't blink at women who have sexual relationships outside of marriage, and that childbearing and child-rearing by unmarried women is no longer scandalous, the way it would have been when he was a young man. It's no longer even as controversial as it was back when Dan Quayle criticized "Murphy Brown".

He appears to be lamenting these changes. I, for one, think they're all to the good, compared to the culture that produced "the girls who went away" and shamed any woman who dared to seek her own sexual pleasure without entering into an economic contract to a single partner that was intended to be permanent.

I know nothing about his own relationship history, so I don't know if he's being hypocritical. I find it odd that he's endorsing a system that divided women into "girls you slept with" and "girls you married" and created a dearth of "girls you slept with" - why would he support a system that produced sexual frustration for young men?

Also, I have absolutely no idea what he's talking about with "modern Janissaries", and if someone could tease out his logic there (if there is logic), I'd love to hear it.

#147 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2013, 12:02 PM:

#144: Rikibeth: "Also, I have absolutely no idea what he's talking about with "modern Janissaries", and if someone could tease out his logic there (if there is logic), I'd love to hear it."

As I understand it, Jerry Pournelle thinks that one key weakness in America is its lack of military "staying power"--its unwillingness to send its sons (and daughters) overseas to die in decades-long guerrilla wars, whether to keep the Taliban from eliminating female literacy, ensure a cheap flow of oil, resist the Commies, or whatever (perhaps control internal subversion a la Justinian's suppression of the Nika Riots/Pinochet's soccer stadiums?). We need "Janissaries"--well-paid professional soldiers whose death in faraway battles won't get voting citizens upset (and perhaps who won't be upset if asked to shoot their demonstrating cousins).

As I understand it, Pournelle hopes that a beneficial side-effect of "hookup culture" will be lots of pregnancies brought to term and then given up for adoption to the State, which will raise them in barracks to be its military corps d'elite.

But I may be wrong: all of this is discussed allusively...

#148 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2013, 12:15 PM:

Brad DeLong @#145

As I understand it, Pournelle hopes that a beneficial side-effect of "hookup culture" will be lots of pregnancies brought to term and then given up for adoption to the State, which will raise them in barracks to be its military corps d'elite.

As anything other than the plot of a dystopian novel, that is completely insane.

#149 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2013, 12:28 PM:

MNiM: I don't think that's actually what he's saying.

The best way to understand those posts (screen-after-screen of them, going back decades) is that they are extended meditations on "Kids these days! Their music! It's just noise!" Trying to assign more meaning to them will lead folks in unprofitable, unlikely, and contradictory directions.

#150 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2013, 12:44 PM:

Jim Macdonald @#147 -- ah, thank you.

#151 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2013, 01:12 PM:

MNiM @ 143

SFWA officers might be more inclined to act if they had more options than "do nothing" and "expulsion".

This. Right. Here. Lovely!

#152 ::: Antonia T. Tiger ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2013, 01:26 PM:

There are moments in some of my stories where I wonder if I should have ever let them escape to the public gaze. I wonder if some moment is me talking, or the character. And readers can get confused.

What some character (or narrator) says in fiction isn't the same as what an author presents as their own opinion of right and wrong. But does that mean I should forgive John Norman? I think not: he never breaks out of that ugly pattern he set up. And Jerry Pournelle doesn't even have the excuse of fiction for what he is putting out.


#153 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2013, 01:32 PM:

Brad, MNiM (with apologies to Jim, who's almost certainly right about the Kids These Days being the ultimate semantic content of the screeds): if he thinks that's where the Janissaries he thinks necessary will come from, well, that ship's already sailed. Even if abortion rights get rolled back to nonexistence (God forbid), single women are far more likely to rear children outside of marriage than before, and it would take truly draconian laws to convince women to give up their children to the state instead of keeping them. And I get the feeling that there would be a huge pushback against any laws that would try to bring that about.

Besides. We're getting our soldiers for the Eternal War through economic means -- blocking off access to higher education for poor folks unless they either accept crushing debt or agree to military service. I suppose with the call for "Janissaries" he'd rather have children trained from the start to be soldiers, rather than young adult cannon fodder, never mind how much the military sinks into training them at that point, but if it comes to warm bodies willing to take the King's Shilling... we're not running out.

#154 ::: Doubtful ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2013, 09:22 PM:

Far be it from me to defend the retrogressive and obnoxious old Jerry Pournelle but....

He may or may not be a rabid weasel on SFWA forums -- I have no idea -- but I'm pretty sure he is against imperial adventurism, mercenaries, and proxy wars, which is what he uses "janissary" as a code word for.

I seem to recall his claim that the decline of Rome started when they began using foreign auxilliaries and mercenaries. As an old-school paleocon, he seems to me almost an isolationist, and would be against any buildup of government, including this silly creche idea for breeding soldiers. I believe he despises the recent crop of neocons only marginally less than he dislikes liberals.

There is no doubt a lot of kids-these-days stuff he spouts, and it's certainly possible he's done something grossly outrageous on the SFWA forums -- I'm not a member. What little I've read on his blog, while polemic and even obnoxious in large part, is however entirely contrary to the claims of some of the recent posts in this thread. But feel free to quote or link a reference; I'm not a friend of his or an admirer of his writing, and I may have overlooked something even less palatable than his usual codgerly screed.

#155 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2013, 11:08 PM:

Doubtful @152: You may well be correct--that is one problem that arises when people talk allusively, with code words. In Turkish history the janissaries are an enormous plus for the Ottoman Sultanate for their first three centuries and become a political disaster only in their last century and a half, when everything else is going pear-shaped as well.

#156 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 09:06 AM:

an academic @ 145: That was brilliant, and I found it very helpful.

#157 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 09:16 AM:

I've seen a lot of writing in many fora centered around "the hookup culture." Some of it is apparently "...and you kids get off my lawn!" sort of ranting, but there's a sort of common theme to it that it seems deeply counterfactual. I have a sense it's written overwhelmingly by people who get their information about young people today from reading each others' screeds about young people today, with little personal experience. (And really, there are good reasons why 60 year old men have little current experience with the hookup culture among college women.)

The other big source of these rants is the PUA/game community, where they are used, as far as I can tell, to justify their own focus on hookups to the exclusion of serious relationships. I think partly this is a result of a lot of the posters/writers being politically conservative, and yet dedicating a lot of their lives to behavior traditional values have always labeled as socially and personally destructive.

#158 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 10:26 AM:

albatross @#157

"...and you kids get off my lawn!"

Except it never seems to be their lawn. It's always the village green, where they've wandered in, perhaps by mistake, and set up their lawn chairs, remaining loudly and forever baffled as to what the rest of us are doing there.

#159 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 12:43 PM:

academic @145:

::stands up and cheers::

I'm grateful that I work for an outfit that backs up their front line people in a similar way. Have only had to fall back on that once, but I suspect the rarity is, at least in part, due to that policy.

#160 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 01:03 PM:

NelC @123 now I'm curious as to what this tradition was.

Specifically? A short speech followed by passing around an open bottle of whiskey for people to drink from. Then have everyone raise a hand, and say "smooth" while the non-newbies make a downward sweeping motion with the raised hand.

Harmless, right?

I attended my very first convention alone. I didn't know anyone, didn't have any friends along. Newest of the newbies. When someone eventually found out (apparently, I gave the vibe of a seasoned con attendee) they told me to go to a specific party room to "Get Smoothed."

"What's that?" I asked the woman, thinking it sounded hinky.
"Oh," earnest smile. "You'll like it."
"Great." Smiling back to cover my nervousness. "What is it?"
"Something we do to all newcomers. It's tradition." See's a friend. Waves him over. "Hey, This is Victoria. First time here. When's the Smoothing?"
"Midnight." Then he smiles at me. "I'll make sure you're there." Continues to make conversation.
A little later, I ask him. "So, what is Smoothing?"
"Just something we do to newcomers to make them feel welcome."

Meanwhile, alarm bells are ringing in my head in full Red Alert Mode. I'm thinking "No fricken' way am I gonna be 'Smoothed' if I can help it." So I manage to ditch my male Smoothing sponsor. Curiosity got the better of me and I wound up lurking in the hallway outside the party room during the Smoothing. They were right. It was nice. I did like it in the end, even if I didn't participate.

Looking back, it makes me angry. Something so simple and, at the core, so harmless (it was both a loving memorial for a deceased Punch Czar - the guy who came up with the tradition - and a welcome to newcomers) that came off sinister and creepy because no body could be bothered to explain it to me.

I saw it happen this year, in an ad hoc fashion sans memorial speech. It really, really needs the speech/intro/history for context. Otherwise, it's full-on creeper mode.


#161 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 01:10 PM:

I'm willing to bet that not telling newcomers about Smoothing is part of the tradition, as what would usually be very mild sort of initiation/test of trust.

I wonder how Smoothing plays out for people who don't drink.

#162 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 01:12 PM:

Victoria, 159: That's not harmless, in my view. When you asked repeatedly for details, and they were mysterious instead of forthcoming, that turns it into hazing. (I know this because of reasons, which I am not discussing on the public Internet.)

#163 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 01:27 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ 160.

They're told they don't have to drink, just pass it on. But only if the individual brings up the fact they don't drink.

#164 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 01:28 PM:

albatross @ 157: "I've seen a lot of writing in many fora centered around "the hookup culture." Some of it is apparently '...and you kids get off my lawn!' sort of ranting, but there's a sort of common theme to it that it seems deeply counterfactual. I have a sense it's written overwhelmingly by people who get their information about young people today from reading each others' screeds about young people today, with little personal experience."

More, I think, from watching Fox News and reading the National Review and the Weekly Standard than from talking to each other--and not understanding that Fox News, etc., are not in the business of informing them...

#165 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 01:48 PM:

#145 an academic

Commercial and other realities are that not all people are created equal. Authors generally are not employees of publishers--employees, the employer might fire to avoid legal liability for offensive actions by employees. Publishers, though, might have the liability for what's in the authors' books,but not what the author does otherwise. The demarcations in whether a publishers continues publishing an author or not generally involve "is the income from publishing this author meeting the corporate goals or not?" and "does the income exceed annoyance and potential income loss levels?" if the author is behaving badly/controversially.

Some of that depends on public perceptions and values--which include a lot of people whose values extol "~women submissively run the household on behalf of their husbands. Any female with the temerity to be outside purdah without a male escort and not covered by modesty attire head to toe, automatically registers as a target for exploitation/appliancehood.~"

Regarding "loss of customers," not all customers or classes of customer are equal in commerce. When I was doing market research, small companies and companies ordering less than $1 million of Motorola semiconductors had little positive to say about Motorola and its customer service. "They list parts in their catalog which they then tell you are for specific customers only." "They're not responsive to customer service requests." "Their delivery schedule slipped by months." "They are specifically banned from our Qualifed Parts [suppliers] List!"

On the other hand, the auto industry and other companies ordering millions of dollars of parts from Motorola each year, had Motorola as a Preferred supplier and their comments about Motorola glowed with appreciation for delivery schedule, pricing, parts quality, and customer service responsiveness....

It's the old whose ox gets gored/what does the mainline clientele want/who are the marginal customers/member of the society situation. It's the 2001-2008 versus 2009-current political reporting and screed situation--there are people for whom Pres Obama can do no right, and whom no crime or commission or omission by his predecessor in the office, would receive condemnation.

Another perspective is "How much trouble is the person worth, and to whom?" Valuations aren't linear or impartial--I was at an Association of MIT Alumnae meeting years ago, and one of the women present said there were abusive men with so much influence over other people's careers, that so long as they were alive, reporting the abusers/tryng to change the situation, would only result in academic career death. Another said she was suing [specific institution] over its discrimination against women regarding offering positions and promotion of women up the academic and administrative ladders and treatment of women. "They offered me lots of money to shut up. I refused, I said I don't want money, I want the discrimination ended."

SFWA is not an employer. It's an association of writers, who qualify professionally for full membership by a certain minimum level of sales. Its members include observant Jews, nonobservant Jews; atheists; pagans I think; all manner of members of different Christian denominations with different levels of observance and sets of values; members with political views all across multiple spectra, persons all over the LGBTQH universe.... SFWA history includes times when real world political affiliations made for major deterioration in civility etc. People being able to work together in non-employer (and even employment...) situations, requires dealing with viewpoints and values and behaviors based on them, which can be distasteful, or even highly distasteful....

E.g., Israel has the issue of the haredim, religous extremists with an extreme gender segregation outlook, with a mixed gender military--the Israeli military has the problem that male heredi ostentatiously refuse to acknowledge authority or even existence of women in the military and refuse to interact with them. Creating special units to deal with such situations, is an undermining and rejection of anti-segregation values and policies..

Getting back to SFWA, though, it's a voluntary association. It includes people with attitudes like those of the relievedly late Leo Frankowski, whose personal attitudes/behavior and the attitude/behavior of his protagonist were the same misogynistic crap. And alas, there is a market for that stuff, from people who have those values, don't notice or aren't bothered by them, or overlook them as not being reasons to eschew buying.

Some of the offenders might be less offending with some kind of material as guidelines discussing that the organization has people from different backgrounds and culture and values and creeds and customs, with an expectation of courtesy/consideration and showing some respect for others, explaining that it is NOT a restraint on free speech to request that people refrain from deprecating the values and lifestyles and tastes of other members in common forums and refrain from gratuitous subjective discussions/commentary about people's appearances and such, and stick to "professional" topics such as markets, effects of publisher consolidation, economics for writers, options for healthcare for the freelancer, etc. Also, perhaps material about what's offensive to whom and -why-, might be in order-and that individual perceptions often tend to involve lacking background and experience as to why something which is offensive to one group, isn't to anohter, and vice versa.

#154 Rikibeth

It took less then a generation for Afghanistan to go from a country with female judges, MDS, and university professors, to a country where only literate women who weren;t old, were ones whose entire families had risked their lives for. .

#157 albatross

The action-adventure games development sector seems to be one of the bastions of extreme male privileging. An article in the Boston Globe a week or so ago described how some people have been waging an underground war against it, rewriting games with memes of the male hero rescues the melodrama stereotype helpless damsel in distress to have a female hero instead and the rescued be male (and not necessarily so pathetically helpless). The treatment of women in the gaming industry tends to be obnoxious toward those who refuse to be driven out, or to be what the abusive male types consider appropriately submissive. The games industry reinforces the obnoxiousness, much as the wider entertainment industry does, with the examples in their products, and all the gender role restrictive advertising/commercial messages which accompany the entertainment products.

#166 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 01:56 PM:

Victoria (#159): Excellent example. And I can see all sides of your example. They were perfectly reasonable in thinking this was a harmless and enjoyable initiation rite, sincerely intended to make newcomers feel welcome, and honor the memory of a departed friend -- I believe it was Wilson "Bob" Tucker, although I never met the man or participate in the ritual.

And you were being perfectly reasonable in being skeeved out by it.

It sounds like your situation was resolved happily for everyone.

#167 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 02:02 PM:

Agree with both Nancy Lebovitz @#160 TexAnne @#161. It sounds like it's deliberately kept mysterious as a test of trust/hazing.

And it might seem harmless, but it's absolutely not. Victoria @#159 trusted herself enough to ditch her sponsor, but I bet quite a few people went into that room nervous or downright scared.

Thinking about it, I wonder how much the relief they feel on learning it's a little memorial tradition instead whatever they were worried about changes their perception of it, essentially manipulating them into feeling a connection they might not otherwise have.

I also think it's more than a bit skeevy to pass around a bottle of alcohol and put the onus on anyone to excuse themselves from not drinking. It should be stated outright that it's completely cool to pass the bottle and that no questions will be asked or comments made. There are a lot of reasons why someone wouldn't want to drink, and none of them are anybody else's business.

#168 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 02:10 PM:

Brad DeLong (#100): It seems to me that Dr. Pournelle is making two arguments here. Well, probably more than two, but two that I want to discussion. One of these arguments is one about which reasonable people can disagree. The other one is completely WTFtastic.

The one about which reasonable people can disagree is how much sexual activity is healthy for young people. Is there too much casual sex on college campuses? Is it harmful? Are young women being pressured into having casual sex?

These are not new questions. I went to college during Reagan's first term, and there was a lot of casual sex going on in the dorms then. And there was also a lot of slut-shaming going on. I had a friend who was quite a Lothario, with contempt for the promiscuous girls he relied on for sex -- the ones he visited late at night when he wasn't getting anywhere with the less promiscuous girls. He was completely oblivious to the fact that he was behaving exactly the same as the promiscuous girls he visited for servicing. They all saw that sex was available and they wanted it. At the time, I was only partially conscious of it; I would have told you that my friend was wrong to look down on the so-called bad-girls, but I shared the attitude myself.

And that leads to the second part of Pournelle's argument: "When I was young there were girls you could sleep with and girls you could marry. They were not the same girls, and in fact the first variety were more easily found in bull sessions than in the flesh. But that was long ago. Is this, long term, a solution to the problem of where to find modern Janissaries?"

Is he seriously nostalgic to the days when there were girls you could sleep with and girls you could marry? "You" being men of course -- women are not included in this conversation.

His reference to Janissaries, which he finds deplorable -- and rightly so -- make it clear that he condemns acceptance in sexual morality.

FWIW, my answer to the first question nowadays is that it may well be possible that a lot of casual sex is a mistake for most people. But it's a mistake that's like binge drinking: Something that a lot of people do in college, and then they decide it's a bad idea, and hopefully suffer no long-term consequences from it. Slut-shaming doesn't help anybody.

#169 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 02:28 PM:

TexAnne @ 161

Hazing was only one of the possibilities I was wary of.

#170 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 03:33 PM:

My first con was in Kearney, Nebraska circa 1982 or so.

The "Smooooooth" ritual was observed, credited to Bob Tucker.

One guy enjoyed it so excessively that I wondered how he could safely drink so much. He couldn't. He spent the rest of the evening passed out on the couch. He wasn't having such a great time the next day, either.

[Yes, I'm back!]

#172 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 05:19 PM:

I've refused hazing rituals in more than one organization. In one case I lied about my age to avoid one...to someone who is now one of my dearest friends, as it turned out, but the point is I had no way of knowing what was going to happen.

#173 ::: Xopher Halftongue is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 05:21 PM:

I don't have any idea why. Not, here, for the correct use of an ellipsis, I am confident.

#174 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 05:32 PM:

Xopher, perhaps the gnomes have been reading my publisher's stylebook, which calls for a trailing space after an ellipsis.

#175 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 05:47 PM:

Rikibeth, your publisher's stylebook MUST BE DESTROYED. That's JUST PLAIN WRONG.

If the ellipsis is at the end of a sentence, I agree a space is required, because it's the end of a sentence. But in the middle, absolutely not.

This is important because it is, among other things, how you tell whether it IS the end of a sentence, whether a thoughtful pause or vocal trailoff is intended in dialogue, etc.

#176 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 05:49 PM:

Just putting a space after every ellipsis is only slightly better, IMO, than mandating that 'its' is simply an incorrect spelling and that an apostrophe is always required.

#177 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 06:06 PM:

I have a number of issues with my publisher's style book. I'm not going to fight on that one, though, because I won the battle where I got to keep British spellings because it's set in England between 1802-1805, dammit.

We will gloss over the struggles I had over period-accurate commas and hyphens. Except the bit where one of my comments in the "track changes" said "Those are perfectly respectable, God-fearing parenthetical commas, and they're STAYING."

I got a little punchy by the end of the edits. Can you tell?

#178 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 06:12 PM:

Victoria @159: that came off sinister and creepy because no body could be bothered to explain it to me.

Actually...(for my money) the creepiness comes from the fact that, rather than not "bothering" to explain, people are actually refusing to explain, and instead using sketchy-sounding allusion and inuendo.

It's one of those "failure mode of clever" problems, because the custom, and the approach to introducing newbies to the custom, originated Back In The Day when fandom was much smaller, and people knew people, and everyone felt safe doing stuff like this, because from context they knew that the double-entendre was a silly joke. The repeated refusal to explain is just a determination to avoid spoiling the "joke." The "jokers" obviously hadn't clued in that they were crossing into "failure mode" territory.

Unfortunately, the custom hasn't evolved along with fandom and the culture at large, so the double-entendre cannot be assumed to be a silly joke, and comes off as creepy (or, per TexAnne's 161, hazing) instead.

The challenge for the modern welcome custom would be for the instigator(s) to maintain an air of silly, welcoming fun while at the same time being sensative to and accomodating of the (perfectly sensible) anxieties of the welcomee. Something along the lines of, when asked, "Well, I can tell you, but it's silly and goofy (and perfectly safe), and knowing in advance takes some of the fun out of the silliness. Do you still want me to tell you?" And then, if the welcomee still wants to know, the welcomer tells them. Like many things in life, the good effect depends on participants being aware and conscientious.

Nancy Lebovitz @160: I wonder how Smoothing plays out for people who don't drink.

Well, speaking as someone who doesn't drink, I've Smoothed a couple of times (in the presence of Bhob, even), and I just touched the bottle to my lips and took only the tiniest of sips. For someone who's an actual alcoholic, I imagine one just leaves the room. Wasn't an issue for me, but I can see where some folks would feel pressured to actually drink.

#179 ::: Josh Berkus ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 08:22 PM:

Here's the presentation I was searching for, on a*holes in OSS projects, and what to do about them. Video: http://blip.tv/tech-love-live/osb09-donnie-berkholz-assholes-are-killing-your-project-2464449 Slides only: http://www.slideshare.net/dberkholz/assholes-are-killing-your-project

I think the SF Con culture could learn a little bit from this, since we seem to be about 2-3 years ahead, developmentally, in the OSS world.

I'm certain this post will get gnomed, though. Here gnome, have some bagels!

#180 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 09:18 PM:

"Smooth"ing was a tradition done with Wilson "Bob" Tucker, involving handing around a bottle of Beam's Choice. Back long ago, when conventions generally were small/smaller, there was no Sekrit Ritual Must Not Tell in Advance About it, for a number of reasons, including often the party that it happened at, was pretty much the only party going on. Another reason--conventions were small enough that if Tucker were at the convention, one got to meet him early on in the convention...

#181 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 10:49 PM:

Indeed, back when I Smoothed with Tucker in the early '80s, a) there was no secret about it at all, and b) nobody said a word when I just passed the bottle without drinking. Somebody or somebodies seems to be adding to the tradition, and not necessarily in a good way. (There are even some people who swear Tucker used Tully; this is a false canard.)

#182 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2013, 10:54 PM:

I never met Tucker, but the bottle being Jim Beam was pointed out by several.

It came across as a welcoming, not an initiation.

#183 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2013, 12:50 AM:

I was fortunate to hear about Tucker and Beam before I got far into fandom. Otherwise, the way it seems to be running now, I'd probably have thought it was a bit creepy, too.

If it's supposed to be a welcome, then it shouldn't need to be a Big Seekrit. (These days, the Ice Cream Sociable seems to be the welcoming event for many people. Less so, for me, if they insist on having loud music or other entertainment. The room is going to be loud enough with hundreds of people enjoying ice cream, for Ghu's sake.)

#184 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2013, 01:42 AM:

The Smooth that I saw, but never participated in, was strictly a personal rite among a few, and ritual required that it be executed with quarter-filled shot glasses of Bundaberg OP dark.

The technique was, in my one experience, carefully explained to the newbie. You salivated, took the thimble-sized amount in one, held it while salivating more, waited until everyone had it, then swallowed, and said "smooth".

I don't think Bundy OP is made any more. It was 152 proof, from memory, but it was very expensive, and repeats were not encouraged. I've no doubt that the usual suspects would use this or any other excuse to get thoroughly blasted, mind. But it didn't happen while I was watchng, and I don't recall it ever being kept as a secret initiation ritual.

#185 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2013, 05:43 AM:

Jacque @#178

Actually...(for my money) the creepiness comes from the fact that, rather than not "bothering" to explain, people are actually refusing to explain, and instead using sketchy-sounding allusion and inuendo.

Agreed, and it's an important distinction.

#186 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2013, 07:59 AM:

I never encountered the "Smooth"ing, but I did encounter a bottle of Tully being passed around a bardic filk circle on the Friday night of Boskone 21, my first con (and my first sip of Tully, and nobody asked my age, either). I've had a fondness for it ever since.

Possibly multiple bottle-passings have become conflated, for those who claim Tully?

#187 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2013, 08:22 AM:

Rikibeth @#186

Sharing a bottle of booze is an age-old tradition; much like an urban legend, the details may vary but it will still be passed on. :D

#188 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2013, 12:08 PM:

186
The one time I met Tully, it was at a convention filksing, and it was part of 'Jacques Chretien'.

#189 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2013, 02:34 PM:

Dave Luckett @184: ritual required that it be executed with quarter-filled shot glasses of Bundaberg OP dark.

WHAT!? Heresy!! ;-)

#190 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2013, 03:01 PM:

I met Tully when they had a re-introduction fest at Boskone featuring you-keep-the-glass Irish coffees. (I still have two, as well as the T shirt.)

#191 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2013, 05:39 PM:

perhaps control internal subversion a la Justinian's suppression of the Nika Riots/Pinochet's soccer stadiums?

Wasn't Pournelle the one who wrote a scene modeled on these incidents into one of his books, in a way that made it appear the reader was expected to approve of the massacre?

That may be relevant to understanding his worldview.

#192 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2013, 08:14 PM:

Call Soukup: There are even some people who swear Tucker used Tully; this is a false canard.

Do you mean to tell me there are people who don't know the difference between Bob Tucker and Gordy Dickson?

#193 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2013, 08:28 PM:

jan howard finder would share a bit of Tully with the unwary, back when it couldn't be acquired in the States. It made a memorable impact on several people, including one who carried a bottle of Tully around with him for two years until he could give it to jan. So there may also be a conflation of Tully with sharing of other memorable bottles.

#195 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2013, 11:10 PM:

Allan:

Well, to be fair, the most vociferous "smoothing must be done with Tully because that's the way Tucker did it" person I know is a Minnesotan. So it would be easy for him to get it confused, what with Dickson being a Minnesotan.

#196 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2013, 11:48 PM:

It strikes me that we have an answer for that perennial program item, "Where are the young fans?"

#197 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 04:34 AM:

Lin Daniel @#193

jan howard finder would share a bit of Tully with the unwary

Please tell me that isn't what it sounds like.

#198 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 05:34 AM:

This kind of thing reminds me of one of the biggest reasons I don't regret not making more effort to get to cons anymore. It's not just that alcohol fumes make me sick, so I couldn't be in the room at all. It's not just that drunken behavior in general makes me very edgy and uncomfortable to be around. It's that a lot of this flavor of ritual just doesn't appeal to or interest me. It does not, to borrow the great Quaker phrase, speak to my condition, and reminds me of the long hours I had at cons alone while others were off doing things I wouldn't have particularly wanted to do even if I could.

I guess I'm still kind of melancholy about that, but the "not my thing"ness of it seems tied to things about myself I do like and wouldn't want to give up, as well as some things that it's just not my choice to keep or toss.

#199 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 09:09 AM:

Bruce Baugh, if you and I were at the same con, we'd each have at least one other person to hang out with. ;-)

#200 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 10:54 AM:

Lila and Bruce Baugh: make it two people to hang out with.

#201 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 11:57 AM:

Victoria, #160: Interesting. I'm familiar with the phrase-and-gesture, but never encountered it as any sort of "newbie ritual", either as a newbie or later.

OTOH, the filk community used to have "Madeira-ing" of newcomers, which was fun at the time but in retrospect feels distinctly hazing-like and problematical. I think it's been abandoned, though.

Cally, #181: Indeed! Tully is the province of the filkroom; someone has become confused.

Bruce & Lila & Ginger, I'd join you. I don't go to cons to get plastered, I go to cons to socialize with my friends -- who, by and large, also do not go to cons to get plastered.

#202 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 12:02 PM:

Count me in with the not-drinking-at-cons (or elsewhere) contingent. In fact, I mostly don't do con parties at all anymore--or only go briefly--because I have an increasing problem with crowded conditions.

#203 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 12:05 PM:

Lila, Ginger, Lee: This is me beaming. :)

#204 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 12:19 PM:

Mary Aileen @ 202,
I do the "go into each room party, stay about five minutes, then leave" thing. I'm a lark of the morning, so by the time the parties start up, I'm not willing to spend a lot of time in a crowded, noisy place.

Bruce Baugh @ 203.
Count me in with your "quiet place to talk sans alcohol" group. I do drink, but after working the convention as a staff member, I tend to be overstimulated at the end of the day. Drinking doesn't relax me. Quiet conversation does.

#205 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 12:36 PM:

MNiM @197: Please tell me that isn't what it sounds like.

What does it sound like?

Lee @201: Bruce & Lila & Ginger, I'd join you. I don't go to cons to get plastered, I go to cons to socialize with my friends -- who, by and large, also do not go to cons to get plastered.

Likewise. Only time I've ever been drunk at a con (close to only time ever*)—or did any drinking at all—was when, during a Minicon Dead Dog, I was really thirsty, and hooked out and swigged off a pint of blog,** and then realized that the other bowl was the non-alcoholic blog. Oops. Went to bed very shortly thereafter, when my head would no longer stay atop my neck.

* the other time is another story—thanks, Dad.

** back when "blog" was the accreted leftovers of the punchbowls of all the parties that had finally shut down, and before "blogs" were a web phenomenon.

#206 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 12:47 PM:

Jacque @#205

Like people were, unknown to them, given an intoxicant.

#207 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 12:48 PM:

Bruce, it makes me a little sad to know that, in the unlikely event that I start being able to go to North American cons, I will still be unable to meet you in person.

But, of course, it's better that you find a modus vivendi that you're happy with than do things that don't repay the effort invested in them.

#208 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 01:02 PM:

I'm just as likely to be found sitting in a lobby during a con, people-watching and relaxing after a pass through crowded (or very noisy) areas. Sometimes, it's more fun than the convention itself.

#209 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 01:59 PM:

MNiM @206: Like people were, unknown to them, given an intoxicant.

Ah. If it reassures you any, I don't think that there would be any question that Tullimore Dew would be an intoxicant. I gather that the "unknown" element would be the, um, quality?

#210 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 02:38 PM:

Jim Macdonald, @196

Where are the young fans?

I just got back from AX in LA, and I can tell you.

They're on pesterchum, talking about Homestuck, or on deviantart, drawing Madoka, or on tumblr, making gifs of Teen Wolf.

They can't afford to travel, and there's an anime con RIGHT THERE (there's an anime con right there no matter where you are.) So they put on their grey facepaint and their orange-and-yellow horns and pile into rooms or take busses or get dropped off and they pose and take pictures and shout "Are there any more ships? Did we miss any ships?"

If we're talking about Homestuck, half the boys are dressed as girls and the girls as boys... only that doesn't really matter, because troll gender in no way directly relates to who your romantic partners might be (don't even get me started on the concepts of moirail and kismesis). Even the human kids are crossplayed as often as not. So when they're up there on the photo steps during a shipping round, and someone calls out "Karkat and Terezi!" they might find themselves photogenically embracing someone of whatever gender... but who represents a concept they admire and are attracted to. And while cosplay isn't consent, there's some kind of desire to participate in ritualized closeness. The steps and the shipping wall may be that place.

Now I wonder... what does a conventional sci-fi convention offer these genderqueer, in-group-focused, obnoxious, over-enthusiastic misfit trolls, most of whom are too young to drink? How do you appeal to them?

I'm from that in-between generation... the ones who found the internet in their teens but who weren't raised on it. So I can understand the benefit of initiation into secret grown-up societies and rituals and bottles of Jim Beam or Tully. I've had some small amount of money from time to time to spend on hotels and decent meals, so I've been to all sorts of cons. I can also understand the appeal of genderqueer fanglomps of instant belonging where the shipping walls stretch out as far as the eye can see. The question is... if I were fifteen when I encountered the latter, would I ever have sought out the former? The jury is still out on that one.

I still read books. Tons of 'em. And so do some of these kids... not all of them, but some. Homestuck itself is book-length: thousands of pages of mixed illustration, text, music, movement and gameplay. I like it because it provides a commentary on narrative structure and modern friendship and internet culture and meme generation... but most of these young fans like it because it generates friendships, culture, and memes.

Homestuck isn't an anime. It's american-produced SF with millions of fans, and I've met maybe three people over 40 who are even aware of its existence. Its natural habitat is the anime convention, not the SF con.

Where are the young fans? They're on the internet, and they think nobody understands. And for the most part, they're right... I only understand because I was at an anime convention (mostly out of habit), and I saw the array of grey skin and horns - hundreds of cosplayers, more than I'd ever seen for one thing - and thought "I should probably try to figure out what that is."

I'd like to bring all the con fandoms together... but I have no idea how to even contemplate it.

#211 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 02:45 PM:

Jacque @#209

You may be right -- on re-read I can even see that. But on first pass it wasn't clear they were given any clue what they were being given.

An example, from my own circle of geeks and fen: At a geek event a friend-of-a-friend once gave some of his friends rubbing alcohol while pretending it was safe to drink alcohol (don't remember if it was supposed to be homemade or if it had been repackaged in a branded container, but his buddies believed that it was the nifty thing they'd been told it was and drank some of it). This was of course thought to be a hilarious prank when it was told to me.

(I've kept some details purposely vague for privacy reasons, and other details have faded with time, but will say that I do know the friend-of-a-friend personally, and the mutual friend was one of the ones that drank, and I have reasons to trust my source.)

#212 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 03:25 PM:

re 210: My daughter is very much into that particular con scene, and it is (for her at least) exactly as described. OTOH she is very much an extrovert in a house of the opposite. Her brother prefers wargaming conventions, which are a third thing entirely (and note that D&D and other RPGs count as "war"). It should be also pointed out that that Anime conventions tend to be about one order of magnitude larger than typical old style SF cons (e.g. Otakon last year had nearly 31K members; weather permitting it floods out into a several block area around the Balto. convention center).

I'm another SF reader who never could really take the con scene, again in part because of my introversion. I'm a tea party1 person, not a frat party person.But the thing that most put me off was what I not-very-charitably took to calling "fannish behavior": a kind of acting-out crossed with nerdy behavioral issues that I quickly found really hard to take, especially the "freaking the mundanes" schtick. I did go to Balticon for the first time ever this year2, courtesy of friends, but my participation in it was fairly slight, and the most fannish thing I did was talk to Martin Wooster and Darryl Schweitzer for a while in the con suite.

1Jane Austen, not Sam Adams, and absolutely not Michelle Bachmann

2The original Easter weekend date was a perpetual and irreconcilable schedule conflict for a choir member.

#213 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 03:39 PM:

Victoria@204: "I do the "go into each room party, stay about five minutes, then leave" thing."

Me too!

I go to cons semi-regularly (a couple per year). Hanging out with strangers is not my goal.(*) I'll do it *a little bit* but not in quantity.

(* People I know only on the Internet are still strangers. Sorry.)

#214 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 04:22 PM:

212
Watching mundanes being freaked out is one of the joys of sitting in a hotel lobby ... and they're not necessarily being freaked out by the convention. (A newly-wed couple, still in their wedding costumes, freaking out because the room didn't have the king bed they'd wanted.) And some of the mundanes are only startled the first time someone in costume walks through.

#215 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 04:37 PM:

214: Watching non-con-members freak out is different than "freaking the mundanes". The latter implies an intent to cause freak-outs, the former does not. Your example of a newly-wed couple freaking out because their room didn't match their reservation may be fun to watch, but it doesn't amount to harassment by the con-members.

And "freaking the mundanes", as a schtick, is harassment, and should be treated as such. In my opinion, it's OK to passionately kiss your same-sex lover in the hotel library because you haven't seen each other in a while, but not if you are doing it to see the members of the co-booked National Organization for Marriage convention freak out.

#216 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 05:01 PM:

215
I've never seen people deliberately trying to freak the mundanes. If it's done deliberately it isn't fun; it really is harassment.
(The two businessmen who were trying to register when a fan walked through in full costume as Space Pirate Captain Harlock, with the vulture, didn't notice the next time he walked through. But you could almost hear their necks popping the first time.)

#217 ::: Miramon ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 05:10 PM:

Wow, this thread has gone far afield. I'm here by following links as a participant at VP this year and as an occasional poster at the dream cafe, by the way.

Since it's the current topic, I should mention a reverse case of freaking the mundanes. I was at a story-based LARP held at a convention -- wow, it must have been 20 years ago. My character was an accountant "in real life" who was actually some kind of amnesiac paladin in another fantasy world into which he had just fallen; and everyone else in the LARP was a high-fantasy character actually in the fantasy world. So I was wandering around the LARP in a business suit pretending I had no idea what was going on and asking all these stupid questions which I believe most of the players answered as if I was an actual mundane.... By the time it was necessary to actually reveal my true identity most everyone had twigged, but it was a lot of fun to begin with.

#218 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 05:43 PM:

Jim Macdonald, @196 Where are the young fans?

Leah Miller @210 They're on pesterchum, talking about Homestuck, or on deviantart, drawing Madoka, or on tumblr, making gifs of Teen Wolf (snippage) I'd like to bring all the con fandoms together... but I have no idea how to even contemplate it.

This is what ConQuesT did this year. We found the young 'uns and brought 'em in.

1)a) find a hotel that will give a room night (with tax) that comes in at $100/ night or less. Do not break the $100/room-night-with-taxes price point.
1)b) make sure that hotel has something for young families/kids/adults who are non-fen. (water park, museums, discovery center, etc.) If it's not in the hotel, have it be within easy walking distance. Shopping areas like malls, spiffy downtowns and the like don't count as "other entertainments."

2) network on facebook, twitter and other on-line hangouts where the DeviantArtists, tumblr denziens, and similar young folk live on-line. Contact the colleges in your area with a "Conventioneering 101" info pack aimed at students in geek-heavy majors. Contact all of your local military bases through the appropriate channels. Learn how to submit to your local news media so they will pick up the story.

3) Get a mix of GOH's that are popular with the 30 and under set as well as the 30 and over set.

4) Have a wide variety of programming that involves things of interest to younger fen as well as older fen. (including children younger than teens)

We did that this year and doubled our numbers over previous years. Literally. In fact, we set an all time high record for the convention and there were a lot of young people there. Lots and lots.

For C. Wingate, we had an Austen style impromptu tea party, too this year. The one our outgoing program director threw last year was so popular it spontaneously regenerated this year. (Our Dealers' room has a tea vendor in it.) So next year we're doing it again, only on purpose.

#219 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 05:43 PM:

In my opinion, it's OK to passionately kiss your same-sex lover in the hotel library because you haven't seen each other in a while, but not if you are doing it to see the members of the co-booked National Organization for Marriage convention freak out.

I disagree entirely. It's a kind of activism. Getting in the faces of the bad guys may be rude, but that doesn't make it wrong.

In fact gay rights marches are (or were, when they were more surprising) giant freak-the-mundanes events. And what of kiss-ins?

Now if you're doing it just to freak the innocent HS football team that happens to be in the hotel, that's another story. But anything legal that can be done to make the lives of NOM members less comfortable is fair game.

Mind you, the "legal" part is important there. Following them around and snogging at them is actually harassment and is not OK. Kissing in the hotel lobby in their full view? They can suck it up or leave.

IANAL&TINLA

#220 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 07:28 PM:

Buddha Buck (#215): IMO it's actually not ok to passionately kiss your same-sex lover in the lobby of a hotel. Or your heterosexual lover. I'm an equal-opportunity opponent to PDA.

P J Evans (#216): Don't assume that the businessmen were not fans themselves. The former CEO of my company, a blonde, blue-eyed Californian who came up through sales, turned out to be a science fiction fan. I got points by turning him on to a couple of my favorite books.

SFF is mainstream nowadays.

Xopher Halftongue (#219): Simply holding hands will serve the purpose of in-your-face activism while not causing Miss Manners to raise an eyebrow.

#221 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 08:14 PM:

But Mitch, it won't produce aural steam the way a little snog will.

#222 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 08:22 PM:

It's not enough, in other words, to let them know they're in the presence of a gay person. A button would do that. I want to make them uncomfortable.

#223 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 08:35 PM:

Xopher: I too am uncomfortable with public displays of passionate affection in supposedly-neutral venues like hotel lobbies, restaurants, etc., and that goes for all sorts of combinations of people. It shades into "don't involve people in your scene without their consent" territory for me.

Of course, in any such case I have no choice but to suck it up or leave. But for me, watching erotic action in public doesn't evoke "aww, how sweet" so much as "could you maybe get a room, since this is a hotel and all?"

No effect whatsoever on my support for marriage equality etc., though, so I guess it doesn't much matter.

#224 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 09:46 PM:

Xopher, thank you for saying that. I read it as I was heading out the door and couldn't take the time to say "kiss-in!"

Now, in general I'm not in favor of extended-snogging PDAs, though places of greeting/departure are probably the most defensible for joyous reunions or difficult goodbyes, and a hotel lobby could fall under that.

A hotel lobby or other public place filled with detestable bigots?

Tonsil-hockey in defense of liberty is no crime!

#225 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 09:56 PM:

Xopher #222

So we've come full circle in this thread? Now it is okay to make other people uncomfortable, so long as they're people we don't like?

#226 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 10:28 PM:

Jim, in the case of NOM, it's not merely disliking.

NOM actively seeks to block the civil rights of GLBT folks. They're promoting harm.

As far as I can tell (not being a member of the SFWA, nor likely to be), no member of the SFWA forum was promoting any legal measure to harm the Twelve Rabid Weasels. Did Mary Robinette Kowal come into office on a platform of restricting benefits to some members of SFWA and not others?

Even if she had, death threats would still not have been okay, and I don't endorse death threats against NOM, either.

Same-sex snogging in the presence of NOM members incurs a risk: the risk that they'll come over and harangue you or possibly punch your lights out.

Being a prat on the SFWA mailing list incurs a risk that other participants will tell you to shut up, or else they'll all leave the forum and leave you as a prat with no audience.

If enough people in NOM are upset about seeing the snogging, and go to the hotel manager, security might come over and say "quit that or we'll have to ask you to leave," if they value NOM's comfort over the couple in the lobby. Their hotel; to a certain extent, they get to make the rules, and having a blanket no-snogging policy is one they can make. (They might NOT be able to make a "no same-sex snogging" policy, depending on state laws.)

In a moderated forum space, if enough people object to any rabid weasels, it ought to be possible for a moderator to say "knock it off, or you're banned."

Public snogging and making a lot of noise on an internet forum are comparable: they're things that provoke opponents and test the limits of tolerable behavior in the space.

Death threats, from anyone to anyone? Always harassment.

Hoping they step on a Lego probably isn't harassment. There are some people whose floors I could wish were strewn with Legos.

#227 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 11:16 PM:

Rikibeth, #226: Why stop at Legos? Go for the old-style "caltrop" 4-sided dice!

Re public snogging... maybe other people don't, but I do perceive a difference between the kind of tonsil hockey that makes me want to say "Get a room!" and an affectionate kiss, of the sort that many het couples feel free to exchange in public. Hand-holding isn't as visible, but ISTM that having their arms around each other would also do quite well.

#228 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 11:27 PM:

#186 Rikabeth
Tully was booze of choice of "the Dorsai" and Bob Asprin

"...and Tullamore Dew! [pause for drink].... We're a pain in the ass to the standard Dorsai!"

#191 One of Glen Cook's Black Company novels, has a lure-the-opponents-to-an-ambush scene in it.

#198 Bruce
Open parties at a number of conventions do NOT have alcohol. One of the reasons for that involved social changes in the macroscopic culture in the USA and liability laws. And the consuites at those conventions don't have alcohol.

#210 Leah
Bronies....

#229 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 11:28 PM:

So the people talking in the SFWA Lounge -- the posts that were put up on that tumblr -- those just made folks uncomfortable enough that they wanted to leave. That's cool, that's fine. And if the folks who were uncomfortable got to be so uncomfortable that they left SFWA, even better!

No, there weren't any death threats in the SFWA Lounge. Just talk that made everyone but eight or ten people very uncomfortable.

Out in the real world, when some man was walking up to women he didn't know and saying, "Do you want to fuck?" In only made those women uncomfortable. No harm. They could leave. And those women didn't have any reason to be there in the first place. Everyone knows that women can't write real science fiction. And here women are even winning awards that should go to men! Better to make them want to leave. And if they leave it's their choice to go, right?

Heck, even Beale doesn't make death threats. He just says things that make people uncomfortable. If they're uncomfortable they should leave. Beale seems to think that the existence of gays, blacks, and women in science fiction is diminishing his enjoyment and doing him harm by winning the awards and making the sales that should go to him. So he's totally justified.

Is that right? Is that really your position?

#230 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2013, 11:49 PM:

I guess my feeling on the NOM/gay-snogging case is that I don't have a right to deliberately offend other people merely to satisfy my own urge to feel good about my superior views. I cannot imagine for a moment that there's going to be any other positive result in such a confrontation. YmoralMMV, of course.

#231 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 12:08 AM:

No, I'm saying that a moderator should have stepped in on the SFWA forum long before it got to the point where only the rabid weasels were left.

Beale can spout whatever nonsense he likes on his own blog. He shows up spouting it in the comments of other people's blogs? Banhammer.

"Want to fuck?" as an introductory line deserves a crowd response of "Dude, not cool!" instead of laughing at the target. Getting con security to pull him aside and say "repeat that stunt and you're out of here" is pretty good too.

For the provocative tonsil hockey in the lobby? The hotel gets to decide whether they come down on the side of making NOM comfortable, or saying "deal with it." They get to decide what happens in their lobby.

The kissing couple might decide it's worth getting booted out of the hotel just to annoy NOM. They'd still be booted, but they'd feel like they'd made their view clear.

The kissing couple might decide to protest the hotel's decision. On their own blogs, writing letters to the paper, filing a court case? Totally legit. Making a loud kicking fuss in the lobby about getting asked to leave? Well, that moves it into "now you're being a nuisance whatever the original cause was," and definitely lands on the side of walking them out for the subsequent disturbance in the lobby.

If it comes to an official hearing on Lobby-Snogging, the hotel could say "Nobody is allowed to snog in our lobby," which is one thing, but if the same-sex couple came back and said "hey, wait, there were a bunch of opposite-sex couples snogging just as enthusiastically and they didn't get asked to leave," that's a different issue, and, again, it needs policy review (maybe a court case) to see if it's a reasonable policy being evenly applied.

So I guess my standard is: doing provoking things in service of a principle is defensible. But if you know you're upsetting people, you should be aware that you might get asked to shut up or leave. (If you don't know you're upsetting people, that doesn't get you out of being asked to shut up or leave, it just means you won't be aware of it until someone does ask.)

And it's a good thing to have moderators/bouncers/con security who can deliver the "shut up or leave" in a calm but enforceable way.

The rabid weasels should have been asked to leave the forum discussions long ago, from what I've seen quoted. The fact that they weren't is a failure of moderation.

#232 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 12:39 AM:

Rikibeth (#231): For the provocative tonsil hockey in the lobby? The hotel gets to decide whether they come down on the side of making NOM comfortable, or saying "deal with it." They get to decide what happens in their lobby.

The third option -- which you allude to later in your message -- is that the hotel has a policy that nobody gets to do provocative tonsil hockey in the hotel lobby. As Lila said: "Get a room!" is a particularly appropriate reaction when you're actually at a venue that's in that business.

Xopher Halftongue - French-kissing as a form of civil disobedience? That's a different discussion, and I'm not sure how much I have to say about it. Before you do that, I hope you find out whether the hotel itself, and the con, are LGBTQ-friendly. Be a shame to bring trouble to those organization if they're allies.

#233 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 12:47 AM:

The rabid weasels should have been asked to leave the forum discussions long ago, from what I've seen quoted.

Why? They're minding their own business, talking to each other. No foul language, no threats, no personal attacks. What exactly, other than that their words make you uncomfortable, makes banning them right?

Your words might make them uncomfortable. Heck, your existence probably makes them uncomfortable. Would you be okay with being banned?

#234 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 01:01 AM:

Jim, with respect, I think you're looking at it backwards. Do you think it's OK for the twelve rabid weasels to be made uncomfortable because of their behavior? Or sexual harassers to be made uncomfortable because of theirs?

NOM is in THAT category.

#235 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 01:30 AM:

Xopher, I'm saying that the idea that it's right to do provoking things in the service of a principle puts the person holding that view on the same sheet of music as Beale. He's supporting his principles.

You're asking me to ban the old guys sitting on the front porch of the general store, playing checkers, whittling, and reminiscing about the good old days, just because you didn't like the good old days.

The requirements to join SFWA are to have either sold an SF/F novel for $2K or more, or to have sold three SF/F short stories for $0.05/word or more. There isn't a blank on the form for "isn't an asshole."

Back during Vietnam, SFWA was strongly divided. Half were in favor, half opposed. Which half should have been booted out?

Being able to post your thoughts on the SFWA Forum is one of the benefits of membership. I don't think we can remove that benefit from anyone without the unanimous vote of the board.

#236 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 01:56 AM:

Paula: I'm aware of no-alcohol open parties. See the rest of my comment, though - it's not just the drinking, it's a whole style of interaction I'm apparently tone-deaf to. I get a crowd, often packed a lot more closely than is comfortable for me because I often get sharp pain from minor impacts, doing stuff that doesn't make a lot of sense and isn't very entertaining when I know enough that it does. It's about subcultures, basically; my subculture(s) socialize differently.

Jim: Just as a first approximation, when we have years' worth of people quitting or declining to join because of these folks, I'd like moderators and board members to say explicitly, "Your chosen style of expression is a liability to the organization." And then think about how to proceed from there, but to begin with that up-front declaration that while they have the right under current rules, they are costing the organization members just as qualified as them, and more of them than there are of the weasels, and that it's time to discuss how much harm to the organization and its goals any particular group should be allowed on the organization's dime.

But I get grumpy about this kind of thing, and got freshly reminded of it in the last couple of weeks in the context of my own writing scene.

#237 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 02:01 AM:

Well, I'm not a SFWAn, so I have no say in these matters. In fact it's in a line of being none of my business. That said, there IS a difference between kicking them out and telling them you think they're assholes, as MRK did. If that makes them uncomfortable, they have the option of ignoring her (and the people who agree with her), leaving the fora (by their own choice, mind), or of course they could stop being assholes (the most difficult of the alternatives).

#238 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 02:25 AM:

As for the snogging and such, let me tell a story.

Back in the 80s, there was a gay couple who ran a convenience store in Hoboken. Among the things they sold were some porn magazines, some straight, some gay.

When one of them died of AIDS, the other didn't have the heart to keep running the store, and sold it to a straight couple. The next time I went in there, I noticed that the gay porn, but not the straight porn, was gone from the racks, leaving empty slots.

If all the porn had vanished, it would be reasonable to conclude that they just wanted to run more of a family business.

If the gay porn had been replaced with other magazines, it would have been reasonable to conclude that it was a business decision and the new magazines were more profitable than the old.

As it was, only homophobia was a possible conclusion.

"But Xopher," said my friend back then, "some people just find gay porn intrinsically dirtier than straight porn."

"Yes, Friend," I replied, "and those people are called 'homophobes.'"

So: if you object to all PDA, I have no problem with you. I'm talking about the sort of thing that happens in airports in romantic movies, not doing the horizontal bop on the lobby sofa, mind you.

I suspect that your average NOMskull wouldn't mind seeing the kind of kissing I'm talking about between a straight couple (and duration is important here too), but would freak out if it were two men. THAT's where I want to push.

Another example: a few years ago on YouTube, a young guy got upset that YT kept removing his videos (he was a gymnast and liked to show off his body), so he found a video of some young women dancing and cavorting in swimsuits, and he and a friend put on comparable male attire and did a move for move recreation of the original, with the original in an inset so you could watch it the whole time.

YT took that video down immediately. The video with the young women stayed up.

#239 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 02:47 AM:

I'm with Lila about "don't involve others in your scene without their consent." But I don't just mean "uvula-licking (of all gender combinations) is a private activity." There's another flavor of it that makes me uncomfortable here.

If Xopher, as a private citizen going about his own business, goes to a hotel where NOM members are holding a convention and holds a snog-in, that's a protest. It's the breaking of a societal norm (no suckface in public) for the purposes of making a political point. It's remarkably free of collateral damage, and fun besides. Win!

If he does the same thing wearing a convention badge and T-shirt, having come to the hotel for the purpose of gong to the convention, I'm a lot less supportive. He's just involved the convention in his scene. And even if every single person in the convention supports his views (and they won't), they didn't come to the convention to protest for equality. They came to the convention to have a convention. Some of them would not have come to a political event—maybe because of the personal or professional repercussions, maybe because they're gay, not out, and their cover is slipping.

This hypothetical protest puts conrunners and attendees in a situation they didn't consent to, without a reason that's valid even in the social vocabulary of political protest (where eliding consent-to-participate is a tool rather than grave offense). I'm for equality, but I'm not comfortable with this.

#240 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 03:32 AM:

A fair point, abi. What about if I just kiss my (alas, imaginary) lover/husband just as I would anyway, in full knowledge that there might be NOMskulls present?

I'd just like to say that I have been threatened with violence for nothing more than a quick peck on the lips with my then-boyfriend, so my shoulder might be a little chippy on this issue.

#241 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 05:17 AM:

I certainly don't think that anyone should refrain from ordinary behaviors out of deference to the bigotry of bystanders. It's really the difference between kissing at said bystanders and kissing your sweetie, if you see what I mean.

It's the difference between the convention being a gay-friendly place and being an activist vehicle. This distinction is, of course, complex and subject to nuance. There are boundary conditions, no absolute rules, and plenty of space for argument. A person of ill-will (which is not you, for the record) could use that nuance to create trouble and avoid responsibility; another person of ill-will (again not you!) could use it to stifle everyone who is not living the Cleaver lifestyle.

Which brings us full circle to the topic at hand.

My problem with the weasels—and I understand that it's MRK's problem as well—is not that they hold antediluvian views so much as that they're being assholes about it, and making life miserable for others in the process. This is not to say that antediluvian views may not also be a problem, but it's a separate problem.

(One of the confusions of these times is that the two problems bleed into one another, and are being tackled in parallel. For instance, the matter of how women get treated at cons is not a rabid-weasel issue, but the tendentious arguments and rape threats that accompany any attempt to discuss it is.)

#242 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 07:44 AM:

Clarification: Yes, I'm more talking about tonsil-hockey or mutual ass-groping, no matter the participants, than more restrained forms of physical affection.

Yes, it matters whether it's a protest, and it matters whether the snoggers are representing an organization or event, and the audience matters.

And yes, the question of whether and how to smooch in public is far, far more fraught for Xopher and for my daughter and her partner than it is for me. My husband or I could conceivably get fired for getting REALLY inappropriate at one of our workplaces, but that's about the worst risk we'd face. Death threats, not so much.

#243 ::: Blaise Pascal ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 08:09 AM:

@239 abi:

When I go to a convention and put on a shirt that reads "Staff", or wear a badge that reads "Volunteer", or sit/stand behind an booth or table where I am working for the convention, then I am representing the convention and a reasonable inference is that the convention condones/approves my actions. As such, I should act as to justify that approval and such that the convention is not dishonored by it.


However when I go to a convention as a paid attendee, I don't expect the con badge, the name tag, etc that marks me as a convention attendee to imply that I am representing the convention. I certainly don't expect that my behavior should change for fear of reflecting badly on the convention. Holding convention attendees to that standard is unreasonable, not to mention impossible.

That doesn't mean that, as an attendee, I should not be held to any standard of conduct. Every convention has standards of acceptable behavior (if no more than the standards of behavior set by the venue) but rather that my behavior within (or without) those standard should not be construed as endorsed by the convention, and that the standards of behavior for convention staff/volunteers is higher/stricter than for attendees.

#244 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 08:51 AM:

Blaise Pascal @243:

Convention staff and volunteers have a duty to represent the convention. If it's not part of their formal terms of service, it's certainly implicit.

But attendees, while not having a duty to do so, do collectively affect the local perception of the con, and the fannish community in general. That's just a fact of life. If the press finds out that parties in the con are serving alcohol to minors, trashing their rooms, and disturbing other guests, the defense that they were "not staff" is going to cut no ice with the papers or the remainder of the hotel guests.

Likewise, a bunch of con attendees who make a big thing of a political protest at the con hotel may very well make next year's negotiations that much more difficult. And bystanders who see the badges and conclude that the con is political, and treat other con attendees as political activists as a result, are not going to necessarily be aware of the staff/attendee distinction.

Like it or not, the behavior of ordinary attendees does reflect on the convention as a whole. (See also, the Boskone from Hell.)

#245 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 09:30 AM:

Regarding sharing a con center's facilities with a non-SF affair... That's not really an issue when the other group are Catholic Charismatics, as happened with 1999's NASFiC in Anaheim. I still remember the gent going around dressed like a medieval monk, and he wasn't with us.

#246 ::: Doug Hudson ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 09:46 AM:

So there is no difference between misogynistic bigots harassing women and lgbt harassing homophobic bigots?

I disagree. Its always wrong to punch down, but punching up can sometimes be the best way to change things.

Of course, punching up often carries potential serious (or fatal) consequences, whereas punching down, by definition, does not.

#247 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 10:22 AM:

I think abi is making a good distinction about performing activism with or without wearing a convention badge.

For clarification, when I was describing the hypothetical snog-ins, the idea of "with a con badge on" hadn't crossed my mind; I was thinking of the snoggers as "other guests of the hotel, or maybe non-guests who'd come in to use the coffee shop" rather than specifically con attendees.

#248 ::: iamnothing ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 10:42 AM:

It seems the golden rule doesn't recognize up or down. This is essentially about religious differences, I think.

#249 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 10:43 AM:

Quoting from a recent WaPo column:
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When setting the dinner table, why do we place the forks on the left?
GENTLE READER: Why do we drive on the right? In both cases, the actual position is arbitrary, but having a fixed position is essential.

On the subject of public spaces and comfort levels, I think there's a similar element involved. Most/everyone can see the value of keeping people spaces comfortable and inclusive, but it's harder to agree what defines 'comfortable'. Some people think breast feeding should be done only in private; some people think people should be required to don clothing that covers at least a minimum percentage of some or all bodies; some people think some language (whether hate speech or swearing) should not be used in public; some people think some/all PDAs are unacceptable in public. I'm not going to claim to know where to set the bar (I'd say I was raised by wolves, that would massively mischaracterise the quality of parenting).

It does seem to me that we're starting to conflate two or three different things, however -- how people should normally behave in public, how far the normal rules of public behaviour apply to public protest (which often deliberately break a social norm to demonstrate its unfairness or inherent double-standard), and the specific issue that started of the discussion in the first place: SFWA and its particular situation.

Jim Macdonald @#235 wrote:
The requirements to join SFWA are to have either sold an SF/F novel for $2K or more, or to have sold three SF/F short stories for $0.05/word or more. There isn't a blank on the form for "isn't an asshole."
Back during Vietnam, SFWA was strongly divided. Half were in favor, half opposed. Which half should have been booted out?
Being able to post your thoughts on the SFWA Forum is one of the benefits of membership. I don't think we can remove that benefit from anyone without the unanimous vote of the board.

I'm going to take the middle part out for a second, but I'll get back to it.

The requirements to join SFWA are to have either sold an SF/F novel for $2K or more, or to have sold three SF/F short stories for $0.05/word or more. There isn't a blank on the form for "isn't an asshole." Being able to post your thoughts on the SFWA Forum is one of the benefits of membership. I don't think we can remove that benefit from anyone without the unanimous vote of the board.

Let's take that as a given, for the moment. Right now, it's difficult for the board to do anything because, in essence, SFWA has yet to decide where the fork goes. Nothing is beyond the pale. (Well, almost nothing. Breech of confidentiality is, and will be punished. That's not necessarily where I would have started, but its a start.)

I'm not a member of SFWA (though I one day hope to be), so I don't know how the boards are organised. But I'm picturing a place where people can start and participate in threads, and avoid specific threads if they want to. Let's go back to the Vietnam War example now:

Back during Vietnam, SFWA was strongly divided. Half were in favor, half opposed. Which half should have been booted out?

Neither. SFWA could have done (or, at least, could do today) a number of things to make things less rabid weasel-y without booting anybody: one -- refuse to allow any discussion of the war on their boards at all. Not terribly practical, of course, if for no other reason than it's a valid subject of inquiry for a writer. Two: restrict discussion of that war to certain threads, and treat mention of it like Godwin's Law in all other threads. Three: allow people to post no more than a set number of times in "hot" threads. Four: designate twelve or twenty-four hour cooling off periods where no new posts are allowed on "hot" threads.

Other people doubtlessly can come up with more/better ideas. The problem isn't that SFWA can't both limit the rabid-weasel effect and still let people discuss wide-ranging and emotive subjects. It's that right now, it doesn't have the means to do so, because -- it seems -- it lacks the will to do so. The SFWA by-laws have been amended twice by vote of the membership in the last ten years, so it's not like we're talking about doing something that's Never Been Done.

Yes, I know the rabid weasels will scream about it -- but they were going to scream anyway, and the thing is that they'll keep screaming until there's a firm answer to question of where to put the fork.

#250 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 11:21 AM:

abi @#241

My problem with the weasels—and I understand that it's MRK's problem as well—is not that they hold antediluvian views so much as that they're being assholes about it, and making life miserable for others in the process. This is not to say that antediluvian views may not also be a problem, but it's a separate problem.

(One of the confusions of these times is that the two problems bleed into one another, and are being tackled in parallel. For instance, the matter of how women get treated at cons is not a rabid-weasel issue, but the tendentious arguments and rape threats that accompany any attempt to discuss it is.)

Again, not a member of SFWA, but can the board not draw up an amendment -- or appoint a committee to draw up an amendment -- and then just call for a vote? It doesn't sound like this is an issue only a few members are aware of, that requires a lot of discussion. If everybody already knows where they stand, then "we need to discuss this" really becomes "so we don't have to actually do anything else".

#251 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 11:25 AM:

abi @#241, again, on the subject of rape threats specifically:

My problem with the weasels—and I understand that it's MRK's problem as well—is not that they hold antediluvian views so much as that they're being assholes about it, and making life miserable for others in the process. This is not to say that antediluvian views may not also be a problem, but it's a separate problem.

Rape threats as a rabid weasel issue -- how is that not "good and sufficient grounds" for expulsion? It's certainly grounds to go to the police.

Frankly, this whole thread implies:
a) who these people are is known to people beyond those they've threatened;
b) which implies they've done so in front of witnesses;
c) the thread further implies that there may well be records of such incidents on SFWA's boards;

So, who they are and what they've done are a matter of public record (public, at least, within SFWA itself). This isn't a question of social norms. This is a question of criminal behavior.

I'm so tempted to email my lawyer and get her take on this. If I was on the board, at this point, I'd be worried about -- if nothing else -- SFWA liability to law suits.

#252 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 11:33 AM:

Xopher Halftongue: So: if you object to all PDA, I have no problem with you. I'm talking about the sort of thing that happens in airports in romantic movies, not doing the horizontal bop on the lobby sofa, mind you.

I don't have a problem with "the sort of thing that happens in airports in romantic movies." But all the talk about passionate kissing and tonsil-hockey in this thread led me to think more about what used to be called "heavy petting."

#253 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 12:00 PM:

To be clear: I am not accusing the twelve rabid weasels of SFWA of rape threats. But rabid-weaseldom in the wider SF and fannish community, and the internet as a whole, includes rape threats in its spectrum of rabid and weaselly responses to attempts to clean up the current issues of sexual harassment.

(Other discussions may get other forms of rabid weaseldom as well. Results vary by topic. But the foaming-mouthed little critters are always with us.)

#254 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 12:10 PM:

As to rape threats, at least in posts in the SFWA Lounge ... there aren't/weren't any.

A person who was being discussed -- one fellow referring to him as "a gentleman" because if a woman replied "No" to his "Want to fuck?" at convention room parties he didn't press the issue -- that fellow died nearly thirty years ago. He's beyond the reach of the law.

Reading there is like listening to the panels at an Andy Capp convention -- but I'm not seeing anything illegal.

#255 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 12:58 PM:

Mitch Wagner @ 252... the sort of thing that happens in airports in romantic movies

Ah, the ending of "Bullitt"...
:-)

#256 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 01:28 PM:

It's one thing to be willing to accept the consequences of one's own acts of protest and civil disobedience, and quite another to draft other people into also bearing those consequences without their consent.

#257 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 02:10 PM:

Debra Doyle @#256

It's one thing to be willing to accept the consequences of one's own acts of protest and civil disobedience, and quite another to draft other people into also bearing those consequences without their consent.

I don't disagree with the sentiment, but I'm not sure that's entirely possible. An act of civil disobedience, for example, automatically tosses the ball in someone else's court -- generally many other people's (the police, the owners of the site where the protest takes place, any staff, the visitors, etc). The people so involved won't face the same consequences as the protesters, but they're still being involved without their consent, and forced to make it a decision (go along with the status quo/support the protest/try to find a third option) which may very well have consequences for them personally.

#258 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 03:19 PM:

What is the difference between:

a. Snogging your same-sex partner to freak out the mundanes and show the flag?

b. Proudly proclaiming your racist and sexist beliefs to freak out the mundanes and show the flag?

It seems to me that the main difference is how you feel (or how I feel) about the causes being espoused, and whether or not we like the mundanes being freaked out.

There is a substantial cost to public rudeness of a kind that upsets lots of people in order to make your point--it weakens and can ultimately destroy a community. It can drive people away who could eventually have become friends or allies. There are often very fine human beings who disagree with you on pretty fundamental things, whom you could easily offend with your freak out the mundanes strategy and thus never come to know. It can also devolve into making every get-together about your cause, the physical-world equivalent of someone who turns every discussion thread into yet another rehashing of his pet issue.

#259 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 03:27 PM:

MNiM@257:
In my opinion, at least, the civilly-disobedient should do their best to direct the shared consequences of their actions to the persons or institutions being protested against, and to those persons, such as the police, whose job it is to deal with disobedience both civil and un-.

Other people -- relatives, bystanders, lower-echelon employees not directly involved in whatever's at issue, and so forth -- deserve the chance to decide for themselves whether or not to storm the castle on a particular day.

#260 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 03:36 PM:

albatross @#258

I can think of two:

1) Harm. No one is harmed by two people kissing; people are harmed by lies, bullying and insults (and, let's not forget, for a minority, insults often have to be considered a prelude to threats or physical attack).
2) One thing is someone doing something everyone is allowed to do, according to social norms (kiss); the other thing is something everyone is discouraged from doing, according to social norms (insults, threats, slander).

And that's not even taking into consideration that there's a pretty fundamental difference, in a democracy, between asking for rights equality and asking for a group's rights to be restricted.

#261 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 03:45 PM:

albatross, #258: Doug Hudson already answered your question, back @246. The difference is between punching up (your a) and punching down (your b). Context really does matter.

#262 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 03:50 PM:

Debra Doyle @#259

Other people -- relatives, bystanders, lower-echelon employees not directly involved in whatever's at issue, and so forth -- deserve the chance to decide for themselves whether or not to storm the castle on a particular day.

I'm not saying they don't. But even having to decide is a consequence. Taking an example from history: when Rosa Parks made her stand, the bus driver had to make the choice to act or not act. If he didn't call the cops, he might very well have been fired; as it was he did, and his name is now widely available, if not well known.

#263 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 04:07 PM:

This seems to be turning into an "error/immorality has no rights" line of argument. I'm uncomfortable with that given that the whole notion of rights was formulated to trump that sort of thinking in the first place.

As far as 258 is concerned: both of these situations are covered by my thinking in 230. I do not think it is right to annoy other people for one's own gratification. Period. But the form of this means that it is (a) a guide to my own behavior, and (b) a source for moral advice, if it be asked for. I don't know that I can call other people (other than my kids, who mostly know better (excepting within the family, of course)) on behaving this way, though if it seems obvious to me that they do so, I'm likely to try to avoid them.

#264 ::: iamnothing ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 04:22 PM:

Lee @261:
I forgot to mention in 248 that the up and down was in reference to Doug Hudson's 246. Also that up, down, and context are often a matter of viewpoint, which is necessarily flawed.

#265 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 04:25 PM:

MNiM (#262) - In the Rosa Parks incident, she was aiming her dissent at an institution, the bus company, that practiced discrimination.

In Xopher's hypothetical example, we don't know whether the hotel and con are LGBTQ-friendly or -hostile.

#266 ::: iamnothing ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 04:38 PM:

re: 264 Sorry, this probably isn't the place to preach. I should take a nap.

#267 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 04:38 PM:

Mitch Wagner @#265 -- I was specifically addressing the difficulty of keeping relatives, bystanders, lower-echelon employees from sharing the burden of consequence, and nothing else.

#268 ::: Glen Fisher ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 07:50 PM:

If Leslie harasses Robin, who gets to decide whether there's harm: Leslie or Robin? I'm seeing two different answers here, depending on who's doing the harassing. If Leslie is soliciting sex, Robin gets to decide. However, if Leslie is doing public snogging *expressly* to make Robin uncomfortable, it's Lesliie who gets to decide. Why isn't it the victim who makes the decision in both circumstances?

#269 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2013, 08:34 PM:

albatross @258, what’s the difference between (a) using violence to disarm an attacker, and (b) using violence against an innocent bystander? It seems to me that a tactic that’s forbidden against one person might be allowable against another.

If you’re asserting that offending homophobes is the same thing as offending people who are offended by racist and/or sexist behavior, you’re asserting that homophobia is morally equivalent to opposition to racism and/or sexism.

#270 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 12:15 AM:

Avram@269: To assert that two actions are structurally the same and differ primarily in their choice of target is not necessarily to assert that both actions are equally justified (or unjustified, as the case may be.)

Suggesting that a person who makes such an assertion is also asserting a moral equivalence between the two actions is a nifty piece of rhetorical judo, but I don't buy it.

#271 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 12:33 AM:

Avram:

That gives us all some pretty good guidance on the right way to behave w.r.t. freaking out the mundanes/showing the flag/intentionally offending people we don't like, as long as we all agree 100% on whose values are right. Can we come up with any guidance for cases where we don't all agree? I mean, the whole point of the discussion is that we don't always all agree.

Do we owe any level of courtesy to people whose values and beliefs we think are silly or wrongheaded or offensive? And do other people who think that of our beliefs owe us any courtesy?

Are there any arguments you could offer someone with very different values than yours, for why they ought not to make a big point of freaking out the mundanes or showing the flag or whatever in some way that made lots of people uncomfortable? Assume you aren't going to change their beliefs, wrongity-wrong-wrong though they may be. Is there anything else to say to them?

#272 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 12:34 AM:

Debra Doyle @270, except, as I pointed out in the first paragraph, we (or at least most people) already accept that two actions that are structurally similar can vary in acceptability depending on the target.

#273 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 12:42 AM:

Avram@272: True enough, but it remains a principle that should be applied with caution, because it edges perilously close, in my opinion, to "But it's different when we do it "

#274 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 12:45 AM:

albatross @271, well, in the particular example under discussion — “members of the co-booked National Organization for Marriage convention” — I don’t know that I owe them very much courtesy at all, seeing as how the explicit purpose of their organization is to maintain the second-class legal status of various friends of mine. On the other hand, I also don’t know that a kiss-in freak-out at a convention does much practical to oppose them.

#275 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 12:58 AM:

Avram:

How about normal guest at a hotel, who simply may not share your values? Or SF congoers. who also may not?

Where you seem to be going with this is that people who are wrong (or wrong enough) deserve no courtesy at all, and indeed it's a good thing to go out of your way to offend and upset them to make the point about how wrong they are. Am I misunderstanding you?

#276 ::: albatross gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 12:58 AM:

gnomed

[Three spaces in a row. -- JDM]

#277 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 01:03 AM:

Trivia: The (canceled) Tailhook Convention (the one that would have followed the infamous one) was co-booked in the same hotel as the Miss America Pageant.

#278 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 01:20 AM:

Albatross @275: There's a difference between "deserve no courtesy at all (ever?)" and "are in some circumstance a justifiable target of a particular discourtesy." Certainly some people are sufficiently wrong that some discourtesy towards them may be justified. The hard part, as always, is figuring out where to draw the line.

#279 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 01:25 AM:

At the risk of rushing in where angels fear to tread, I think that one big difference between scenarios described is, or could be:


  1. Promoting racist or homophobic ideas is an action asserting and enacting the power of the more privileged over the less privileged.
  2. Snogging a person of the "wrong" sex or skin colour in front of a person who engages in the first type of activity is a provocative act intended to defy and annoy the more privileged with the intention of protesting or even disrupting the system of privilege associated with the determination that it is "wrong" for the people involved to snog.

Yes, that latter can be extremely rude in the sense that it offends the people with more privilege who expect to be able to see a world conforming to their opinion of right and wrong and which does not shock or upset them with its rudeness. Or where they are entitled to treat some behaviours as rude because they don't like them and expect society's enforcement to get those icky gays and miscegenators out of sight and earshot.

Being rude to the privileged, épatezing the ol' bourgeoisie, is a tactic of protest and as such is not meant to be polite. Whether or not it is useful or advisable has long been a matter of debate.

#280 ::: Josh Berkus ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 01:38 AM:

Albatross @258:

The difference is subtle, but there is a difference:

(1) The snoggers are demonstrating their right to do something (i.e. they are not objecting to heterosexuals snogging), whereas the racists are demonstrating in order to remove someone else's rights (i.e. they are speaking so that non-whites cannot speak).

(2) Today's social majority finds that homosexual snogging is acceptable, whereas racism is not.

The second difference is, of course, something which has changed substantially with history, sometimes in surprising ways (homosexual snogging was more acceptable in 1850 than it was in 1950).

#281 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 01:39 AM:

albatross @275, yeah, that’s what I’m saying. What’s hard to understand about this?

Imagine that it were a few decades back, and you were married to someone of a different race, and a segregationist group had a convention at the same hotel, and demanded that you and your spouse not eat at the same table in the hotel restaurant because it offended their delicate sensibilities. How inclined would you be to extend them that courtesy?

#282 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 02:19 AM:

There are a bunch of aspects to the freaking the mundanes/public protest/public visibility/comforting the privileged argument, and it's extremely difficult to create a precise set of rules that always work. However, in writing this post about my experiences with freaking the mundanes, I think I've come up with some guidelines I'm comfortable with.

When I was a young fan, the "freaking the mundanes" aspect of things appealed to me, for a fairly simple and probably common reason. I'd been harassed most of my life for being a "freak," and now I had fifteen thousand friends who were all parading visibly through downtown Baltimore shouting "we exist! conformity isn't the only option!"

I have, since then, met people who experienced intentional and accidental mundane-freaking at Otakon or similar events as kids, and who processed those experiences as "oh, the world is much more colorful and less limiting than I thought. There's something out there for me other than despair."

Then there's the question of what counts as 'freaking the mundanes'. I know a family who come to the inner harbor at Otakon time to look at cosplayers and sometimes get their photos taken with Pokemon or superheroes. But the first few times I went out to a formal dinner with a pink wig, I was definitely "freaking the mundanes" on at least some level. Now it's so normal in the area at that time of year, 90% of locals don't bat an eyelash. Otakon has been in Baltimore for well over a decade, and most mundanes are no longer freaked. They're entertained. This is part of the hidden benefit to "freaking the mundanes;" do it enough, and nonconformity becomes more socially acceptable.

I would almost say that generations of the mild, "show up in your clothes and behave in a way that is noticeable but not aggressive" style of freaking the mundanes has actually made the world safer for odd people. And while "odd" isn't really a protected class, I'm grateful for any leeway young people have to be themselves in the face of a society that can be brutal to those who don't conform.

The difficult thing is that all this sometimes has the collateral damage of making some people uncomfortable. And yet, pretty much any nonconformity does this: women wearing trousers or riding bicycles had very strong "freaking the mundanes" connotations at the time. Women knew they were going to cause trouble by doing this, that people were going to be scandalized or uncomfortable, and they did it. I'm grateful they did.

I've seen very strong anti-freaking-the-mundanes sentiments here, and I understand them. Bothering people for the sake of bothering them is not good policy, ever. It's "trolling." But doing nonconformist things as a form of expression and to challenge societal norms... I really think that generally does more good than harm. Especially if it's done carefully, so that people around you don't feel directly physically threatened, or like you might somehow otherwise be readying yourself to violate their personal rights, especially their rights to physical and sexual safety.

This is where it gets really tough, because some people could say "being near gay people makes me feel unsafe," or "being near [INSERT RACE HERE] makes me feel unsafe," or even "being near Christians makes me feel unsafe." I think it's pretty fair to say we, as a society, can't expect groups to make substantial accommodations for people who have a blanket hatred for all their members.

So then, what kind of discomfort is related to harassment? This is the best distinction I can make right now:

If the source of the discomfort is a feeling that someone is trying to force, pressure, or coerce you into behaving in a way that would be harmful to you mentally, emotionally, or physically, then that is harassment.

If the source of the discomfort is the knowledge that you are not able to control the actions of others, or a realization that the norms you want to enforce are no longer enforceable, then that's less likely to be harassment.

It's the difference between kissing your boyfriend in front of a NOM member and making a pass at one. The former is not harassment, the latter is.

#283 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 04:38 AM:

I've been thinking about this a lot, both while reading this thread and in a different context, and to me the sticking point is this: to what extent do I owe the other person the courtesy of not behaving in a way which is against their beliefs, if their beliefs, and the restrictions they wish to place on my behaviour in order to accord with their beliefs, take away my rights? And I'm coming to the answer that I don't owe them that courtesy, not once it impinges on my rights.

#284 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 06:12 AM:

Quite some years ago, I was at a couple of conventions where there was public BDSM-- floggings in both cases, I think. I have a definite memory of one of them. And not just public, but in a main traffic area.

This is something I really don't feel comfortable being around, for all that it was clearly consensual. What's more, there was a big happy circle of people around it, and I was wondering whether fandom was becoming a place I didn't want to be.

This got solved because the concom decided that flogging was enough of a safety issue that it could be forbidden, thus neatly dodging any emotional issues.

#285 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 06:41 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ 284... flogging was enough of a safety issue that it could be forbidden

It is now limited to being a morale-boosting tool in corporations.

#286 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 07:55 AM:

I'm not sure why we've gotten so tied up in the matter of intent. A sober driver and a drunk one both intend to get home safely. It's the consequences that matter.

Two people kissing is okay, regardless of why they're doing it. Bullying/slander/threats are not okay, regardless of why they're being made.

That's because kissing is okay, and bullying is not. We're entitled to protections from bullying/slander/threats. We're not entitled to protections from offence.

#287 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 08:17 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ #284, if this happened in a venue that contained people who didn't know it was going to happen (e.g. in a hotel where there were guests not associated with the con), then that's WELL into "involving people in your scene without their consent" territory.

It doesn't have to be, or be intended as, harassment in order to be rude.

If I have to explain BDSM to a six-year-old, I would prefer to be able to choose the time, place and manner of the explanation, rather than having to do "no, honey, I'm not calling the police and this is why" damage control.

Also, and unlike any of the previous examples, there are some elements of BDSM/bondage/flogging that could be seriously triggering to some people. That's not fair.

#288 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 08:46 AM:

I'm with Jim MacDonald @ 225.

Here is the tricky part with definitions of harassment: I like Leah Miller's @ 282: If the source of the discomfort is a feeling that someone is trying to force, pressure, or coerce you into behaving in a way that would be harmful to you mentally, emotionally, or physically, then that is harassment.

However, that doesn't cover the "every time I go to a con, I have to deal with multiple 'hey, want to fuck' comments. Even if everyone making said comments happily takes "no" for an answer, it makes the whole con uncomfortable." (Putting my own cards on the table, I would not want to be in a place where that was going on even if I wasn't the target, and can't imagine being in a place where I was the target.)

I don't have an answer, but an answer I'm comfortable with would have a couple key components. One, what's punishably unacceptable would be clearly defined and ascertainable in advance (not "unwelcome" but "repeated", and so forth.) And two, the same rules apply to the people I disagree with as to the ones I agree with; I'm a very strong opponent of "error has no rights."

I suspect, here as elsewhere, social pressure and cultural norms will have to do most of the work--formal rules will never be flexible enough.

#289 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 09:01 AM:

dcb@283: I was always taught, growing up, that I should treat other people with courtesy not according to whether or not they deserved it, but because such treatment was the norm for my own interactions. How much of that upbringing took is probably a matter of debate (I can only plead in my defense that mamma tried), but as a guideline I still find it useful.

#290 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 09:31 AM:

albatross @258:

There are often very fine human beings who disagree with you on pretty fundamental things, whom you could easily offend with your freak out the mundanes strategy and thus never come to know.

And now we've come full circle to "but there are some very good books written by rabid weasels!".

Anyone who is offended by me kissing my wife is not someone who I am going to be friends with. This is not a matter of "disagreeing with me on some fundamental things"; this is a matter of their being offended by my very existence. I'm not going to go back in the closet on the off chance that there's someone who would like me very much if only I weren't the person that I am, who I won't meet because I'm the person that I am.

#291 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 11:08 AM:

SamChevre @288:

Here is the tricky part with definitions of harassment: I like Leah Miller's @ 282: If the source of the discomfort is a feeling that someone is trying to force, pressure, or coerce you into behaving in a way that would be harmful to you mentally, emotionally, or physically, then that is harassment.

However, that doesn't cover the "every time I go to a con, I have to deal with multiple 'hey, want to fuck' comments. Even if everyone making said comments happily takes "no" for an answer, it makes the whole con uncomfortable."

I disagree. It may not be force or coercion, but it certainly counts in my eyes as pressure, even if the asker happily takes "no" for an answer. Regardless of the individual asker's willingness to hear "no", there's FAR too much precedent in overall Western culture for "Hey, baby" to turn into "Fuck you, ugly bitch" as soon as a woman says no, either explicitly or implicitly and to progress to threats of violence, so a man who uses "Wanna fuck?" as a way of introducing himself is presenting the appearance of a potential threat.

If you haven't encountered the concept of Schroedinger's Rapist before, I refer you to the linked blog post and discussion.

#292 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 11:17 AM:

Bob Webber (#279): Snogging a person of the "wrong" sex or skin colour in front of a person who engages in [bigotry] is a provocative act intended to defy and annoy the more privileged with the intention of protesting or even disrupting the system of privilege associated with the determination that it is "wrong" for the people involved to snog.

Not necessarily. Sometimes it's just people doing what they're doing.

I may appear to be arguing both sides of this issue, but I am not.

Two types of behavior:

A) Kissing as foreplay. The kind of thing we used to call "making out" when we were kids.

B) Kissing as a sign of affection. As Xopher says: The kind of thing people do at airports at the end of romantic movies.

Two motivations:

1) Expressing affection for the person you're snogging.

2) Freaking somebody else out.

Nobody should be making out in public, regardless of the gender or race of the partner. Everybody should be able to express affection in public, regardless of the race or gender of the partner -- and regardless of whether disapproving bigots are looking on.

As for LGBTQ snog-ins as an act of civil disobedience, or fannish "freaking the mundanes" -- it's not the 80s anymore, either with regard to acceptance of LGBTQ rights or fandom. Both LGBTQ and fandom have become mainstream. That conservative-looking businessman at the front desk who you think you're freaking out? Quite possibly he's a gay fan who would be at the con wearing a LOTR costume, another day.

#293 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 11:37 AM:

Rikibeth at 291: AWESOME link. Thank you.

#294 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 11:39 AM:

Meanwhile, back at the original post, we're not talking about reactionaries who happen to get ambushed by marauding modernists and progressives, but about a small group of people who've been very actively initiating complaint, and insult, and demanding time and attention from people like Mary, and taking all criticism as the beginning of totalitarian censorship. We're talking about people demanding a right of insult and driving away current and prospective members of what is, after all, a professional association as well as a social club.

#295 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 11:45 AM:

Regarding the intermittent theme of "the SFWA kerfuffle makes me uninterested in ever joining the organization" I have to wonder how many folks, like me, are instead reacting with "the SFWA kerfuffle makes me inclined to get off my duff and apply/re-start my membership." I joined SFWA pretty much as soon as I had enough short story sales to make the team because I approve, in general, of professional organizations and because I felt that the organization as a whole does Good Work. I fell out of membership when I was in the throes of finishing my dissertation (and wasn't having time to work on my fiction) not so much as an active decision but because my brain was too crowded.

But now that fiction writing is returning to a high priority, and especially now that my first novel is going to be published and more are on the way, I was already thinking of re-joining on general principles. (Even though the size of my publisher wouldn't have made me eligible if I weren't already.) And my reaction to the current issues is, "If people like me quit/avoid joining, then SFWA will end up truly belonging to the assholes as opposed to only appearing to belong to them."

For those who wonder what SFWA is good for, I'll note that when I received a contract for my novel (in a context where it didn't make any sense to try to get an agent involved), I went straight to SFWA resources to get a reality check on the specifics and to have a basis and vocabulary for negotiating changes. And my own personal sense of honor suggests that if I find resources like that useful, I should be doing at least the minimum necessary to support the organization that provides them.

#296 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 11:51 AM:

Lorax, #290: I'm not going to go back in the closet on the off chance that there's someone who would like me very much if only I weren't the person that I am, who I won't meet because I'm the person that I am.

QFT -- and nobody should be asking you to do that.

Oddly enough, I can see a similar argument applying to the racists and homophobes. I don't want to find out unexpectedly that someone who I thought was a decent human being isn't; I'd rather know that up front, so that I can ignore them from the start. (And yes, I have ended friendships over this issue. I do not associate with that kind of person.)

#297 ::: Clarentine ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 12:35 PM:

MNiM, @286: “I'm not sure why we've gotten so tied up in the matter of intent. A sober driver and a drunk one both intend to get home safely. It's the consequences that matter.”

I beg to differ. The person who chooses to drink and knows they will be driving afterward is fully aware that, by doing so, they’re potentially choosing the consequence of driving drunk and possibly being involved in an accident. Their intent is to alter their state of being, and that is what matters in determining responsibility for whatever consequences come their way.

Consequences matter, but they’re the result of the intent.

#298 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 12:39 PM:

Heather Rose Jones, re varying reactions to kerfuffle: maybe it's a matter of spoons/picking your battles. Both groups see an unpleasant chore that needs doing, but it's up to each individual to decide whether to spend their time and energy on this particular chore, or elsewhere.

#299 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 12:43 PM:

re 282: Leah, really, if someone hunts down a NOM member and make a big show of kissing your same sex partner in front of him, then they are patently harassing him. No amount of saying that they have a right to harass him (which is what your argument boils down to) is going to make the more basic fact go away. It would not be incorrect for the victim to conclude that the act was being done specifically to annoy him, and to work out whatever judgements derive from that conclusion.

That said, I would rather go on to respond to 286. I'm pretty sure it was I who introduced the issue of intent, because I was looking that this in terms of regulating my behavior, rather than making demands on other people to regulate theirs. As someone who is not running a convention I don't feel I can order people to behave. (Back when I was part of Unicon staff, on the other hand, I felt no compunction about telling one room that they were not to dangle the swag lamp out the window.) I don't believe in the sovereign right to take offense, and we are a pluralistic society, so I have some expectation that people should try to reign in their negative reactions. But the flip side of that is that people should also try not to be provoking, so I don't think people should go out of their way to put others tolerance to the text.

In my convention days there were three kinds of behavior I came across that that bothered me. One I cannot defend my distaste for, which is the concentration of a lot of social ineptness to a level that I personally find hard to deal with. That's my own personal failing and, you know, either you can deal with it or you can't. The second is the "freaking the mundanes" we've been talking about. You know, Otacon floods the Inner Harbor with oddly dressed people and the like, and OK, that's fine as long as people don't go out of their way to be provoking to the passersby (the "inflicting your scene" sin). The third thing, though, is what covers what I gather is the problem behavior that started all this off, and that is that people take conventions or whatever clubs as justification for turning off the normal rules of interaction with the world. That is, since we're here in our little sub-world we can talk about "normal" people disparagingly, or if we're old farts we can talk about women the same way that jackasses back seventy years ago did, even though we are really out in public. I gather this is characteristic of conventions since time immemorial; it isn't just SF fans.

#300 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 12:52 PM:

Debra Doyle @289 "I was always taught, growing up, that I should treat other people with courtesy not according to whether or not they deserved it, but because such treatment was the norm for my own interactions."

So was I brought up to be courteous. I think you're missing my point.

I'm not talking about whether they deserve courtesy by my standards of what courteous behaviour includes, I'm talking about when THEIR definition of the courtesy I ought to afford them (so as not to offend their beliefs) abrogates MY rights (or other people's rights). Otherwise, from what you say, to be courteous:

- all women should wear a burqa and full face veil at all times in public - or at the least, carry one at all times and put it on in the presence of any man who requests they do so, because otherwise, why, you're being discourteous to the men who find it offensive to see a woman out in public who isn't fully covered.

- Jewish women should stop campaigning for the right to pray properly at the Western Wall, as a courtesy to the ultra-Orthodox Jews who say that this offends them.

- gay couples shouldn't hold hands, or kiss each other affectionately in public, as a courtesy to anyone else who might be there and might find this offensive to their homophobic sensibilities.

- and taken to its logical conclusion, women should let men have sex with them if the man says it would be discourteous for the woman to refuse...

#301 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 03:20 PM:

dcb - gay couples shouldn't hold hands, or kiss each other affectionately in public, as a courtesy to anyone else who might be there and might find this offensive to their homophobic sensibilities.

No one here is saying that. Certainly not me.

#302 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 04:05 PM:

dcb:

Okay, but I think the discussion before (at leat my part of it) involved going well beyond the normal living of your life in the open, to making a point of doing something you know will offend some people you dislike, to make a point and to make them uncomfortable. I agree you have every right to walk around in normal clothes and not wear a burqua. (And that others have every right to walk around in a burqua.)

So suppose you are staying at a hotel that also houses a conference of conservative Muslim scholars and writers. If you happen to go to the pool and show up in the lobby in a swimsuit and towel, I'm going to think you're just living your life. Living in a modern western country with a lot of non-Muslims and non-believers and pretty liberal customs on how much skin may be shown in public, the participants in the conference are just going to have to live with it.

On the other hand, if you coordinate with a bunch of your friends to wear the smallest bikinis possible and show up in the hotel lobby together eating ham sandwiches, with the goal of offending the conservative Muslims at the hotel, I'm going to think you're a bit of an asshole[1]. I'm going to think that, even though you have *every right* to wear a swimsuit in public and to eat a ham sandwich in public, and even though nobody was threatened or slandered, and no law was broken.

I've been trying to think about why this idea bugs me so much, and the best way I can explain it is this: We live in communities that are diverse in beliefs and ideas. There is some inevitable friction to that--there are people who honestly believe homosexuality is immoral and openly gay couples who are married and raising kids who live in the same community. It's really an amazing triumph that we can have communities that include both those groups. The way we do that is mainly not through the law (which can arrest people for gay bashing or church burning, but can't make anyone get along). Instead, we use social conventions and politeness and rules like "never discuss sex, religion or politics in the workplace" to allow this level of diversity in our communities.

A gay couple kissing and introducing one another as their husbands in public is going to offend or upset some people, but that's an inevitable bit of friction--it's not that anyone is going around looking to upset anyone, it's just that we don't all agree on the right way to live, and so different people are sometimes going to find each other's choices and lifestyle disturbing. A set of gay couples going out of their way to make out in a public place where they know a bunch of people are likely to be made uncomfortable by it, that seems more like the bikinis and ham sandwiches, to me. It's the sort of thing that makes living in a diverse community harder instead of easier.

An overt decision to try to make a bunch of people uncomfortable in a social situation has a cost. One cost is that those people may be driven out of the community, and my reading of many of the comments above is that this is a common hope for some of the people who might be offended. Another cost is that those people may feel the need to "show the flag" in some kind of counter-demonstration, and polarize the community into different mutually hostile groups. Still another cost is collateral damage--people who are made uncomfortable because public making out creeps them out, or who get to explain to their four year old why a bunch of people were making out in a hotel lobby, or whatever.

We need some manners or rules or something for living in communities where we demonstrably don't all agree on everything. That necessarily means accepting the idea that you owe some courtesy even to people whose ideas seem all wrong to you, and being really conservative about declaring opposing beliefs beyond the pale and making their holders worthy of being outcast. The wider the community, the wider that range of ideas that deserves some level of courtesy, if you want diverse communities to be able to exist at all.

[1] Sorry about putting this in the "you" phrasing--I don't mean to imply this is something you personally would do. If I were a better writer, this would be clearer.

#303 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 04:39 PM:

So suppose you are staying at a hotel that also houses a conference of conservative Muslim scholars and writers... On the other hand, if you coordinate with a bunch of your friends to wear the smallest bikinis possible and show up in the hotel lobby together eating ham sandwiches, with the goal of offending the conservative Muslims at the hotel, I'm going to think you're a bit of an asshole[1]. I'm going to think that, even though you have *every right* to wear a swimsuit in public and to eat a ham sandwich in public, and even though nobody was threatened or slandered, and no law was broken.

Actually, there is a threat there, though I'll grant you it's implied, and almost certainly not actionable. Like in the movies when the bad guys show up and do something normally innocuous like twisting a ring or handling an object that could, if one was so inclined, be used as a blunt weapon. The message is absolutely clear to its recipient.

Furthermore, the threatening subtext exists regardless of whether or not the people doing it only intended to offend. You're talking about a scenario where a group of people decided to stalk a minority that is vulnerable to attack, and make it absolutely obvious to them that that's what's happening, and that because the stalkers haven't done anything technically illegal -- yet -- there's nothing they can do about it.

#304 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 04:44 PM:

albatross, I do think there's a distinction between your hypothetical of seeking to deliberately flaunt one's bikini-clad self before an audience of Muslim men, and deliberately and pointedly smooching your same-sex partner (perhaps more enthusiastically than you otherwise might) before an audience of NOM members.

The difference lies here: the Muslim men are, presumably, visiting the hotel for social purposes, or religious-practice ones, not for developing political strategy to bring U.S. law more in line with shari'a, and by thus doing prevent women from wearing bikinis in public. Their gathering poses no threat to the bikini-wearer's future ability to wear said bikini.

The NOM members are an active political lobbying group dedicated to preventing GLBT folks from gaining equal civil rights, and, when possible, to remove civil rights that have been previously affirmed.

In-your-face same-sex kissing in the presence of the second group is a political act in a way that the bikini-wearing is not.

For an example of female nudity as a political act in protest of Islamic religious laws enforced on a civil level, check out Femen.

#305 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 04:47 PM:

Mitch Wagner @301, albatross @302: I think we're in pretty good agreement here. I was just responding to Debra Doyle's apparent misreading of what I wrote @283, so I was trying to clarify and to give some examples of what I meant.

Absolutely I believe in good manners, and in being courteous. And if my husband and I go to an Orthodox synagogue for some reason, then we sit separately and he wears a hat (because he doesn't want to wear a kippah, but doesn't want to offend anyone), and I wear a hat, because I'm married, and that's what married women do in an Orthodox synagogue, and I make sure my arms are covered to below the elbows, and I wear a skirt etc. etc. - but I'm not going to wear a wig or a headscarf in my daily life (or a skirt and long sleeves all the time), just because some Orthodox Jews think I should.

#306 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 05:23 PM:

I'd just like to say that if you agree that dcb 300's first three categories (paragraphs starting with "all women...", "Jewish women...", and "gay couples...") are all equivalent (that is, they are too much to ask in the name of courtesy), I have no dispute with you. The last one ("and taken...") is a whole other level of outrage that I can't imagine anyone not thinking is way beyond "courtesy."

Also, I don't think heavy-petting foreplay is appropriate in any public space regardless of who the participants are. I think an affectionate smooch (even if there's a bit of "freedom kissing" in there) is fine.

Mitch makes that useful distinction, and also distinguishes motivations. I think you're right, Mitch, to an extent, but I'm sure you're aware that motivations aren't that clear-cut. If I've just kissed the RHB (Regrettably-Hypothetical Boyfriend) and I see a NOMskull walking up, I probably would have kissed the RHB again at some point, but I may choose my moment to be in full view of the NOMskull.

That might be rude. But there are times when rudeness is appropriate. In fact, I would submit that rudeness is essential to any action for social change, because the rules of courtesy and politeness are designed to avoid disruptions to the social order. When the social order MUST be disrupted, it's nearly always rude.

#307 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 05:31 PM:

Heather Rose Jones @ 295 I have to wonder how many folks, like me, are instead reacting with "the SFWA kerfuffle makes me inclined to get off my duff and apply/re-start my membership."

SFWA, about 10 years ago and a couple of times since, offended me enough to make me not want to join at all when I eventually sold something. (I've got 1 short story sale to my name) This debate and shouting match is making me reconsider my stance. Part of it is you. Part of it is James's observation about "if you leave because of the arseholes, you leave the arseholes in charge". The rest of it comes down to how I was raised.

The first lesson was "If you take from a community, give back to it if you want it to survive." Taking without giving is cultural theft. Carry things forward. Pay things forward. Leave things better than you found them.

The second lesson was "quit yer bitchin' and do something about it" or "put up and shut up if you're not willing to leave". Mostly I heard "do something about it" and watched my parents follow their own advice.

C. Wingate @ 299 One is the concentration of a lot of social ineptness to a level that I personally find hard to deal with. The second is the "freaking the mundanes". The third thing, though, is what covers what I gather is the problem behavior that started all this off, and that is that people take conventions or whatever clubs as justification for turning off the normal rules of interaction with the world.

Item One: So that's why mundanes keep asking me in the elevator "what kind of convention?" I've trained myself out of social ineptness. I've also mastered the elevator pitch promoting whatever convention I happen to be at.

Item Two: Some people startle more easily than others. Some are more accepting of "drive-by weirdness" than others. Fandom can't be all things to all people all the time, so as long as fannish individuals try to socially ept, and situationally aware, I have no problem with freaking the mundanes. I've observed mundanes freaking each other out, too. After all, one persons normal is another's weirdness is a third's outrageous offense.

Item three: The world is made of many parts, some of which are mingled and intermixed. Some of which are separate, but adjacent. Some of which are mutually isolated in local wildernesses. All of the individuals in these groups will coalesce, sooner or later, and occupy the same space at the same time. Refer back to your items one and two. Awareness, eptness and tolerance is key to not starting wars. Or engendering hard feelings.

I also have to say that I freak the mundanes out on a regular basis simply by wearing hats that are not ball caps every day. Because these hats are chosen to go with my outfit of the day, most mundanes are okay with them. Some aren't. The "norm" is to go bareheaded in warm weather and only wear stocking caps or berets in the winter. Although I have to admit, kids love my pirate-like-hat-with-the-plume that I wear in the winter. (I like wearing it with my sailor-style pea coat.) I get accosted a lot in grocery stores and parking lots by the under 12 set. Their parents are, for the most part, accepting/amused by their children's behavior. The ones who disapprove generally whisk their kids away before the pirate fan-kid has a chance to engage.

#308 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 05:44 PM:

Xopher @ 309... I see a NOMskull walking up

yomank

#309 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 05:52 PM:

Serge: I call PETA members "PETAphiles," too.

#311 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 06:20 PM:

Xopher, #306: I would submit that rudeness is essential to any action for social change, because the rules of courtesy and politeness are designed to avoid disruptions to the social order. When the social order MUST be disrupted, it's nearly always rude.

I believe you have elucidated a profound truth there. And to a considerable extent, this entire sub-discussion is about "how rude is too rude?"

#312 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 07:14 PM:

The impulse to outrage these controlling, patriarchal males comes from personal discrimination and abuse. The problem is that the damage just cycles on, often building steam. If you force a guy to accept PDAs in front of his suited compatriots, you'd better believe he's going to throw his rage at the next vulnerable target - wife, child, sister.

My cousin got into an argument about right of way on a public footpath along a mountain stream with a guy who was putting a high fence topped with barbed wire across it. My cousin was calm and matter of fact, offered to go find a ranger to arbitrate. The guy was literally purple with rage, but he stayed on his side of his fence. His wife, who'd been sunbathing, quietly withdrew. The next morning he slammed out in his big vehicle. His wife had trouble getting in - she'd been badly beaten.

I am a physically slight female who use to "inherit" this kind of crap. I've gone off emotionally on people who probably slammed it forward physically. Now my goal is to quietly put my energy and (meager) finances into strongly supporting public disapprobation and monetary penalties for objectionable behavior.

Better than "nyah, nyah, nyah" getting passed on at the end of fist.

#313 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 07:36 PM:

Carol Kimball @#312

That's a sort of hostage taking.

And here's the thing: it's not my job to forever keep my head down because someone might use my going about my life completely legally as an excuse to do violence to a third party.

#314 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 09:50 PM:

#292 ::: Mitch Wagner, I agree with you that the word "is" in my comment is incorrect. "Can be" is what I meant and should have written.

However, with regard to the state of acceptance of LGBTQQIAAP and the rights of people who identify with any of those letters (except maybe the second A) as mainstream, I believe that you are wrong. However, only weakly identifying with the B and one of the Qs (and have a partner with a long-term identification of L), I don't think I'm in a good position to have a conviction on that score. And I wonder if you are well placed to make that assertion.

As with racism, the state of gender-based prejudice and the degree to which it is encountered in daily life is better assessed by someone subject to such prejudice.

#302 ::: albatross, if the hotel were somewhere in the world where the more privileged do not follow Islam and if the women wearing clothes considered extremely immodest by the Islamic scholars were from a group more privileged in local society than Muslims, that action might be quite rude and of a kind with making racist remarks.

If the women who were dressed "immodestly" were also Muslims, but of a much less conservative mindset, they might still be rude but could also be deliberately protesting against the privilege hierarchy of places where those espousing conservative interpretations of Islam. I suppose that is still rude, but I would not have much sympathy for the scholars who took offense.

The bit about non-Muslims eating ham sandwiches seems to be a bit of stereotypical characterization on your part. To the best of my knowledge, followers of Islam or any other religion don't generally take offense at infidels breaking dietary laws, it's just another one of the many ways in which they put themselves beyond the help of the One True Religion.

#315 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 09:56 PM:

The guy building his stalag needed to have been confronted. My cousin's mildness was, in part, not to inflame the guy any more than needful to make it clear that he was going to pursue the trail staying open.

I can't see any positive outcome of a lobby confrontation other than a short-term "so, there" easing of personal wounds. That action, however emotionally justifiable, means someone else paying the bill.

I came of age in the late 60s and did my share of demonstrations and protests, not looking for but accepting that they might involve personal injury or legal consequences.

No, we should not allow threat of hostages to deter us from what we need to do. We should be careful how hard we push people we know may react badly, particularly if a gentler lateral foray may give us our goal without so many Redshirts on the ground.

#316 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2013, 10:24 PM:

314
Certainly the two Muslims in my workgroup didn't object to the rest of us eating between dawn and dark during Ramadan. (I think one of them is vegetarian, also.)

#317 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2013, 11:24 AM:

Polonius: My lord, I will use them according to their desert.

Hamlet: God's bodykins, man, much better. Use every man after his desert, and who should scape whipping? Use them after your own honour and dignity. The less they deserve, the more merit is in your bounty.

#318 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2013, 12:09 PM:

Carol, this is a side point, but do you have any idea why the [long string of epithets deleted] asshole was building a fence across a public footpath in the first place? Was he just trying to pick a fight with someone, not much caring who?

Russell, that would be an outline of the virtue of Mercy. But that applies when people are in your power, not when you're struggling to escape theirs. Otherwise we're back to "the superior virtue of the oppressed," which is actually one of the tools used to preserve oppression.

#319 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2013, 12:32 PM:

Xopher, I realize that the exchange in Hamlet is rooted in a steeply hierarchical and borderline-pathological socio-political system (in which the players belong to a layer just above actual criminals*), but it is also a useful way of thinking about ordinary interactions in flatter social geographies--and an encouragement to reflect on what kind of person one's "manners" makes one into. What Hamlet is encouraging is neither noblesse oblige nor a sentimentalizing of the underdog but a kind of humility (as much as is possible in an aristocracy, anyway). Viz. his interaction with the elder Player. What is on display is not mercy (undeserved but granted) but courtesy (deserved and rooted in self-respect).

Which is not to say that there is not a point at which self-respect requires the violation of social codes of good manners. Deciding where to draw that line is part of what defines one's character.

* And in which, say, the protocols of indoor hat deployment are meant to signal one's slot in the pecking order.

#320 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2013, 01:38 PM:

Xopher:

I doubt he noticed the footpath, much less had ever hiked it, and carried too much privilege to care. His grandfather had built the cabin, and it went up for sale not long thereafter.

I hope his partner got the support she needed to get away - this was almost fifty years ago.

My five-years' older cousin, a social worker, was an adult, I was almost one, and we talked about it quite a bit (defusing ourselves by making fun of the clod, hlepfully determining where the guard towers and machine gun emplacements should go). It was superb behavior modeling for me on many levels.

I catch myself (too often) feeling smug and realize I've gone for the hindbrain-satisfying "nyah nyah". This discussion is a good reminder to pay attention.

#321 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2013, 02:05 PM:

Let's hope he had to sell it to pay for his divorce settlement, or criminal defense attorneys.

#322 ::: Xopher Halftongue is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2013, 02:09 PM:

Too many common spam keywords, I'm betting.

#323 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2013, 03:23 PM:

Thanks, Xopher.

Even after half a century to cool off, I hope so too.

#324 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 09:29 PM:

C. Wingate @299: What I find striking about that scenario isn't the intent of the various participants; it's that you know people who are prepared to label hugging and kissing one's same-sex partner in their presence as targeted personal harassment. If that's enough to upset them, they must lead very unchallenging lives.

I'm sorry. I know you meant it as a statement about intent. But at this exact moment right here right now, i can't get past the triviality of the offense.

#325 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 08:49 AM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden @#324
If that's enough to upset them, they must lead very unchallenging lives.

I'm sorry. I know you meant it as a statement about intent. But at this exact moment right here right now, i can't get past the triviality of the offense.

I hadn't thought about it from that angle, but that's a very good point

#326 ::: MNiM is visiting the gnomes! ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 08:50 AM:

So exciting! I've never been here before! Thank you for inviting me. Please accept an offering of delicious cinnamon and cream coffee.

#327 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 07:33 PM:

Although the offence is fairly trivial, until recently two men snogging each other were risking violence and arrest. Kiss-ins were an act of civil disobedience.

Xopher's case of kissing to harass a NOMskull falls in the vicinity of civil disobedience. And the ethical calculus of civil disobedience is complicated. Part of it involves being willing to accept consequences. The potential consequences today are likely fairly low, but to the extent that m/m snogging is more unacceptable than m/f snogging, there exists injustice.

His intent, however, clearly distinguishes his incivility from the kinds mentioned regarding the rabid weasels, or of the kind of (in)famous con-goer looking for groupies.

#328 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2013, 12:41 PM:

So... I hear that the SFWA has expelled VD.

#329 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2013, 02:04 PM:

A graphic by an SF author, who has given permission to disseminate it, on reactions to VD on message-boards.

#330 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2013, 03:58 PM:

One rabid weasel down, 11 to go.

#331 ::: Dave Crisp ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2013, 04:07 PM:

@Avram: Annoying as the RHSD according to PNH@44 he wasn't actually one of the "rabid weasels" the post was originally about. If so, all twelve are unfortunately still there.

Still a good thing he's gone, tho, and I've been singing "Ding dong the witch is dead" since I found out.

#332 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2013, 04:50 PM:

Hmm, I'd change one word of that. Don't want to insult us Witches! :-)

#333 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2013, 04:53 PM:

But hey, my thoughts also begin with "ding, dong!" So go for it. Ding, dong, the RSHD's expelled. Need to work on the scansion there.

#334 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2013, 05:34 PM:

Xopher, you could pronounce it it as r'sh'd (two syllables) and it would scan.

#335 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2013, 11:44 PM:

When Scalzi introduced the phrase "racist sexist homophobic dipshit" my brain immediately insisted on singing it to the tune of "Fish Heads".

#336 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2013, 12:28 AM:

David, that's priceless. Just priceless. Thank you so very much.

#337 ::: Dave Crisp ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2013, 04:25 AM:

Apologies, Xopher.

On a similar note, the phrase "Just another racist sexist homophobic dipshit" has exactly the same rhythm as that word from Mary Poppins. Make of that what you will.

#338 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2013, 07:53 AM:

David Goldfarb @335 & Dave Crisp @337,

Great; now I have two competing, SIMULTANEOUS earworms. I didn't even know that was possible!

(On the other hand, they seem between them to have rooted out an insipid fake-folk beer advertisement jingle from my head which has been driving be absolutely mad the last few days. I don't even drink beer, and I'd NEVER drink the product advertised, but the jingle-writer was evilly effective.)

#339 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2013, 09:20 AM:

Cassy B., my kids once invented a jingle for a fake product they invented while playing "The Big Idea" that has caused a decade-long recurring earworm.

#340 ::: Lila got gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2013, 09:21 AM:

for responding to Cassy B. with a link to Cheapass Games.

#341 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2013, 12:06 PM:

Lila @339, I *like* Cheapass Games, and this is one I've not played nor heard of. Thanks for the link!

#342 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2013, 03:26 PM:

I had not run across the blog by Thdr BL/Vx Dy prior to this week.

Euwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

#344 ::: Dave Harmon sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2013, 06:21 AM:

Now with a doubletalk URL!

Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Jim Macdonald, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

If you are a spammer, your fate is in the hands of Jim Macdonald, and your foot shall slide in due time.

Comments containing more than seven URLs will be held for approval. If you want to comment on a thread that's been closed, please post to the most recent "Open Thread" discussion.

You can subscribe (via RSS) to this particular comment thread. (If this option is baffling, here's a quick introduction.)

Post a comment.
(Real e-mail addresses and URLs only, please.)

HTML Tags:
<strong>Strong</strong> = Strong
<em>Emphasized</em> = Emphasized
<a href="http://www.url.com">Linked text</a> = Linked text

Spelling reference:
Tolkien. Minuscule. Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Embarrassment. Publishers Weekly. Occurrence. Asimov. Weird. Connoisseur. Accommodate. Hierarchy. Deity. Etiquette. Pharaoh. Teresa. Its. Macdonald. Nielsen Hayden. It's. Fluorosphere. Barack. More here.















(You must preview before posting.)

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.