Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

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Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby FictionMuse » Tue May 13, 2014 8:23 pm

For those of you who don’t keep up with goings on at the SFWA, the blogosphere has periodically flared up over the last year. The latest round is a petition by Tangent founder Dave Truesdale, former SWFA Bulletin editor, and signed by some heavy hitters. The controversy began with the accusation that longtime writing advice columnists Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg are sexists, as allegedly evidenced in a column for the Bulletin. The topic: history of women editors.

Do a Google search for the name “Mike Resnick.” On page one is this headline: “Dear Barry Malzberg and Mike Resnick, F You.” Do a Google search for the name Barry Malzberg. After you type “Barry Malz--,” Google’s autocomplete offers “Barry Malzberg,” then “Barry Malzberg sexism,” then “Barry Malzberg Beyond Apollo,” etc. Type “Mike Resnick” “Barry Malzberg” into Google and you’ll get these headlines: “Sexism Rocks the Science Fiction Blogosphere” “Bakinifail: OMG, Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg are Sexists” “Leftist Writers Barry Malzberg and Mike Resnick Get Mugged” “Old Men Yelling at Clouds: SFWA Sexism” “Unpacking the Sexism in SFWA Bulletin”

From extensive personal experience and from being more familiar with his career than that of any other speculative fiction author, I knew before reading the first blog that the charges were almost certainly trumped up.

Dozens of interviews, hundreds of columns and essays and articles, hundreds of novels, thousands of short stories, plus workshops, panels, and speeches, not to mention interaction and correspondence with countless people in numerous places in a variety of situations on a multitude of topics over a period of 5 decades.

From this massive and extremely long paper and verbal trail, they haven’t mined one sentence as evidence of sexism. If the best they can do is cite a few references to the appearance of women long gone, they did society a great service by not pursuing careers as prosecuting attorneys or investigative reporters.

So, a female editor commissions a two part column on the contributions of female writers and editors from two male columnists. The result is the editor gets fired, the columnists get villainized, the column gets cancelled, and the newsletter gets shut down. This is Alice in Wonderland. To say “He appreciates the professional contributions of women, but he’s a sexist” is a contradiction of oxymoron proportions.

Anyone with enough intelligence and enough mastery of the English language to write a marketable speculative fiction story can understand what the message of that column is. For the same reason, they can also understand what it isn’t. The message was summarized in the thesis statement, namely the last paragraph: The speculative fiction genre and the speculative fiction community are much improved as a result of the contributions of women editors.

They cannot and therefore do not believe what they are saying. It’s a charade. The column, and the columnists, have become a proxy, a contrived catalyst, for other, longstanding offenses, some real, some perceived.

After I tracked down a chronology of the controversy, I realized they are trying to connect the column to other, simultaneous events to draw a pattern. But looking at the original column within its own context, it is what it claims to be, a historical exploration, nothing more, nothing less.

(It’s worth mentioning that one of these simultaneous events was the outing and firing of a longtime editor with a famous publisher. Surely the timing of these women coming forward was no coincidence. Meanwhile, one of the bloggers invoked a certain famous author and another certain famous author and a certain famous award and a certain notorious breast squeezing episode. Mike Resnick has crossed paths with just about everybody who’s anybody in the speculative fiction community over the last 50 years, plus hordes of fans. Not one person has taken advantage of Bulletin-gate to come forward and say, “Mike Resnick displayed sexist behavior in my presence.”)

As for ‘female’ versus ‘woman’ versus ‘lady’, how about ‘patriarchs, peers, and colleagues of the opposite gender’. Ultimately, the task of a columnist is to provide useful context, insight, and advice, not to keep up with politically correct terminology.

Few people in the speculative fiction community have been around as long as Mike Resnick. Fewer still have the vast experience and knowledge he does, combined with exceptional articulation skills. And very few are willing to share so freely. I haven’t read any of Malzberg’s columns, but I’ve read many if not most of Resnick’s. For relevance, perceptiveness, and sheer entertainment, only one or two columnist I have read are in his league. (Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch.) An important venue for that sharing is no longer available to him.

This situation is so out of control. The SWFA is supposed to be about the forging of careers. In the case of columnists, the passing of the torch from one generation to the next. If only the leadership of the SFWA devoted as much attention to workshops and submissions and marketing and publicity and contracts and piracy as they do bikinis and Barbies. Oh but wait, they can afford to indulge because they’ve had 2 very competent, very generous columnists taking up their slack for the last 15 years...

After all Mike Resnick has done for writers with his anthologies, workshops, panels, columns, and mentoring, the SFWA should give him a lifetime achievement award. Instead, they ran him out of town and incited a mob after him. This is one of the most disgraceful events in the history of speculative fiction.

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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby s_c_baker » Thu May 15, 2014 7:46 am

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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby E.CaimanSands » Thu May 15, 2014 8:43 am

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Want me to death roll a bit too? wotf021

Would you, dear? It can't do any harm.

Death roll death roll death roll.

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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby Ishmael » Sun May 18, 2014 3:21 am

Dark and of the dark impassioned
Is this Pentheus' blood? Yea, fashioned
Of the Dragon, and his birth
From Echion, the child of Earth,
He is no man, but a wonder ;
Did the Earth-Child not beget him,
As a great red Giant, to set him
Against God, against the Thunder ?
He will not bind me for his prize,
Not me, the bride of Dionyse!
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby Brad R. Torgersen » Wed May 21, 2014 3:26 pm

I've resisted commenting on this, mainly because of the dead horse aspect. Suffice to say I let my SFWA membership lapse this year.

My advice to any WOTF entrants or winners: join, for the "achievement unlocked" coolness.

And then, if after a couple of years, you discover SFWA is of no tangible benefit, don't be afraid to let your membership lapse. Countless people in this business have conducted highly-lucrative careers without being active SFWA members. Including almost every top indie author going; because SFWA has more or less failed to wrestle with indie pub, as a viable business model.

Anyway, as in all things, YMMV.

Mike Resnick is my Writing Dad. I love the man. His legacy in the field is secure. The plaintiffs cannot hurt him. Thank goodness!

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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby FictionMuse » Thu May 22, 2014 1:48 am

Corrected
Last edited by FictionMuse on Wed May 28, 2014 12:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby Ishmael » Thu May 22, 2014 2:29 am

Once upon a time, free speech meant that you could say what you thought and people with a different point of view would respect you anyway. They would even engage you in rational discussion in an attempt to persuade you to their point of view. Today you are roundly and publicly abused for deviationism. For me, a case is only weakened by a resort to scurrilous language. I invariably assume that people with a rational case would make it rationally.

Lest anyone should have missed the point of my reference to Euripides, Pentheus was torn to pieces by deranged Maenads for having the nerve to suggest that the newly arrived Dionysus might not actually be a god.

The world would be a better place if we could take our line from Voltaire and J S Mill.

The former wrote "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

The latter pointed out that there was a world of difference between a hurt suffered by someone minding his own business and a hurt suffered by someone who deliberately seizes an opportunity to be hurt.

And should anyone wish to draw attention to the undeniable fact that I am a really handsome fellow, I promise I shall not take offence.
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby Mike Resnick » Fri May 23, 2014 10:53 pm

There's a misstatement above. Barry was a member of SFWA for years. In fact, he at one time edited the SFWA Forum when it was a magazine (and was fired -- not reprimanded; fired -- for the politically incorrect suggestion that NASA was a waste of time and money). This was back before most of you were born.

As for the rest of it, our editor, Jean Rabe -- yes, a woman -- ran a cover painting of Red Sonja, showing a little less flesh than you can see on any beach, and looking like 500 other warrior women on pulp and paperback covers. For this she was harassed and vilified so much that she not only quit her editorial post, but quit SFWA. (I hired her 5 minutes later as my assistant editor for the Stellar Guild books.)

As for my own sin, at Editor Rabe's request I titled our article "Lady Editors". (Not a single voice had been raised in protest when we did one entitled "Lady Writers", but evidently "lady" is no longer a proper adjective when discussing talented adult women.) It was a history of the very best female editors in the field, with not a bad word about anyone. I also mentioned that a dear friend, the late Bea Mahaffey, who edited Other Worlds when I was 8 years old back in 1950, was a knockout. And she was; everyone who saw her agrees, and her photos bear this out. Evidently such a comment is unacceptable in SFWA these days. (I found out -after- the article, from a SFWA Grand Master who was around back then, that she was actually hired solely for her looks -- this was 1950, and her boss was Ray Palmer, an ugly little hunchback who wanted to "dress up the office" -- and she astounded him by actually being a fine editor.)

After being vilified for a couple of months by the PC Police, we did another column, defending our right to free speech. The response was to kill the Bulletin for a year. I imagine we'll continue our column elsewhere...and unlike the 62 columns we did for the Bulletin, we will no longer feel constrained not to discuss in some detail half a century of SFWA abuses and blunders.

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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby LDWriter2 » Sat May 24, 2014 9:17 pm

Thought about saying something after Ishmeal's post but didn't. Now that Mike responded I think I will.

There is just too much PC sensitivity going on and not just in the writing world. It's on University campuses and in politics and elsewhere. In this case I believe a couple of those on the other side don't really realize how sensitive they have become. They get a mind set and anything that bumps up against it rings a warning. But in other avenues I think they do know and don't care or are using to their advantage--politics comes to mind for that.

I have read columns by writers who use certain books as examples of their point but the books don't really fit how they say they do. It's like they expect to see something so they do. And I think that has "inflected" quite a few people. In this case there are two writer's who I respect and who are great story tellers, but when they go off on something like this I roll my eyes and wonder if I should disagree or not.

Not that the other side doesn't have a point usually, but they take it too far as in this case with Mike and the others.
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby s_c_baker » Tue May 27, 2014 9:35 am

Sigh. I tried to avoid responding to this horse-flogging necromancy of a thread in a sensible manner, but I don't think I can.

(This will be kind of a triggery post with regards to sexual assault, also, so fair warning there.)

To me, John Scalzi's statement pretty much sums this thing up: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/06/02/presidential-statement-on-the-sfwa-bulletin-june-2-2013/

In short: while everyone involved with this mess had good intentions, and the end result is unfortunate and could have been handled better (and probably should have) by everyone involved, it was a mess and it's disingenuous to lay all the blame on either side of things.

As for claims about the "PC Police," that in my opinion is why there was such outrage at the response column, which generally showed no apologies, no sensitivity, or even any awareness as to WHY there was a problem in the first place.

So let's imagine this scenario for a minute.

Ever since your childhood, you've wanted to be a writer. You've spent hundreds of hours practicing, honing your craft, sending out story after story after story after story. You've moved through the doldrums of receiving form rejection after form rejection after form rejection.

But at the same time, that's not all that's been going on. You're also a woman, so you've spent a lot of time rejecting unwanted attention from men who think they're owed access to your body on account of their being men and your being a woman. You've been called a girl, a whore, a bitch, a shrew, or worse things, because you've said "No thanks, not interested" or perhaps because you have been sexually active--just with someone else--or even because of things entirely unrelated to sex and so-called romance. Maybe you've even been raped (1 out of every 6 women in the US has been raped or has had someone attempt to rape her).

These things might have happened because you wanted a job, because you wanted equal pay, because you wanted control over your healthcare, because of a dozen other things. On top of that, every time you are successful in your demands, you're put down by men who think a woman's place is to be seen, and not heard, or you're told that you only succeed because of your looks, or it's implied that you must be sleeping with your boss, or worse.

And god forbid you're not white, on top of that.

But then! Success!

You sell a story. And another story. And another! No matter what stresses are going on in your life, you're making it as a writer. You apply to join the SFWA, you get in, you get your first copy of the bulletin, a magazine which is meant to give you--a professional writer--relevant news, advice, columns, etcetera.

And there on the first page of it is a woman in a bikini.

"Oh, well," you think to yourself. "Okay, it's Red Sonja. She was a strong female character back in the day. So maybe it's... just that."

But you can't find anything about it inside, so you shrug and open to the column, which talks about "lady editors" (which term IS a problem, because it seems to classify females as other than "real" editors, who are of course male. Rachel Swirsky shows how ludicrous and dismissive the term is in her gender-flipped version here.) and then proceeds to describe an editor based on her looks. (The mess with Obama joking about how his nominated attorney general was "the best looking attorney general" is the same kind of issue.)

And you think, "Oh... Well... Um..." and put the magazine down and go outside or something, trying not to think about that time at Dragon*Con where you introduced yourself as a newly-minted professional author to some big-shot science fiction novelist who patted you on the ass and called you sweetheart, or any of a dozen other things.

But you set it down. You go off and write more stories and send them out.

And then in the very next issue, a man tells you you should be more like Barbie.

And then in the issue after that, you see the guys who were talking about "lady editors" complaining that they're allowed to say what they want, and that the liberal fascists are ruining the organization with their PC ways, and...

So you complain. You've spent your life working to get to where you are now, and the organization that's supposed to represent you and your interests just spent three of its professional trade journal issues telling you--for the most part--to sit down, shut up, and look pretty. Of course you complain.


Now, do I think Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg are horrible sexist offenders, bent on chaining women in their basement and pleasuring themselves upon them over and over while laughing and drinking hard liquor out of mugs made from the skulls of women who dared speak out against mistreatment?

Of course not.

Everything I've heard about you, Mike, from a number of writers (male AND female) who know you and work with you is that you're open-minded, fair, and--just as importantly--an excellent co-writer and editor. And I'm sure you're aware of or sympathetic to the realities those who suffer under any sort of discrimination, whether it's gender-based or otherwise.

But at the same time, misogyny and other forms of gender-based maltreatment really do run rampant throughout American society. Anybody who's had to deal with sexist remarks, sexual assault, or other, subtler, forms of inequality throughout their life and career is going to take these columns the wrong way. That doesn't make them "liberal fascists," nor does it make them "too sensitive" or "the PC Police," and to claim that it does certainly seems to suggest a continued lack of understanding as to what the issue even is in the first place--regardless of the truth of the matter.

(This post, a discussion of racism in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, does a good job of explaining why the "PC" thing is kind of a smokescreen. When people get upset about sexist, racist, etc. stuff, it's not because their feelings are being hurt--it's because the lack of acknowledgement of a whole historical system designed to subjugate the non-white, non-male, non-straight to the desires--or at least the rulings of the white, male, straight--propagates the system, splits up humanity into different groups and priveleges one over the other, and even if it's not the author's intent, pretty much says business will continue as it has, and that's okay.)
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby Ishmael » Tue May 27, 2014 2:12 pm

Eloquently argued Stewart. I notice that you did not need to resort to profanity, expletives or personal abuse in order to make your point, which, as it happens, I for one understood perfectly well to start with.

It is understandable that people who have suffered wrong feel entitled to inflict wrong themselves by way of revenge. Understandable but misguided. It never achieves anything but to perpetuate a cycle of hurt and retribution.

Misandry is no more attractive than misogyny. I have encountered it being both written and applauded by certain female writers. Understandable but misguided.

We who are old are never likely to grasp the sensitivity with which certain words have been invested since we learned them. We neither intend nor can easily understand the offence that is sometimes taken at our words because to us these words do not mean what some younger people take them to mean.

And even if we did mean it, we are still entitled to say what we think unless our words actually harm others. Taking offence is not the same as being harmed. Free speech is still our safeguard against tyranny.
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby s_c_baker » Tue May 27, 2014 4:21 pm

Ishmael wrote:Eloquently argued Stewart. I notice that you did not need to resort to profanity, expletives or personal abuse in order to make your point, which, as it happens, I for one understood perfectly well to start with.


Many buckets, and I'm sure you did. wotf007 (Of course, it could be argued that I didn't need to resort to those things precisely because I am white, male, and straight, and therefore the issues I'm arguing about don't actually affect me in any material way.)


It is understandable that people who have suffered wrong feel entitled to inflict wrong themselves by way of revenge. Understandable but misguided. It never achieves anything but to perpetuate a cycle of hurt and retribution.


I kind of agree with this, but I kind of don't. I agree that retribution and revenge are not helpful. I don't agree with the argument that speaking out against misogynistic language is in any manner the same thing as using misogynistic language in terms of its being hurtful.


Misandry is no more attractive than misogyny. I have encountered it being both written and applauded by certain female writers. Understandable but misguided.


This is, so far as I'm concerned, a bit of a false equivalency. Did you take a look at the link I pasted in towards the end of my post? Calling "misandry!" in response to cries of "misogyny!" seems a little bit like complaining that anyone who makes blanket statements about white people being responsible for the historical institution of slavery (etc.) is an "anti-racist" and that that's just as bad. It's not quite the same, precisely because men have been (and I would say still are) in a privileged position.

Sure, misandry is a thing. Sure, it's an ugly thing and a thing we'd be better off without. But unless you can convincingly make the argument that misandry routinely and systemically disenfranchises or puts into physical danger large populations of men, I personally am not buying this as a defense.

Misogyny demonstrably DOES routinely disenfranchise and put into physical danger large populations of women. (Elliot Rodger, anyone? Yes, the individual dude obviously was a troubled individual. But according to what I've read about the shooting, his actions and choices of target were informed by a radically-misogynistic so-called "men's rights" online movement he was involved with.) Misogyny and other forms of sexism are an issue not because women get their feelings hurt, but because the perpetuation of misogyny can and does cause actual physical harm to them. Ditto for racism. Ditto for homophobia. Ditto for other forms of race-, gender-, religion-, or anything-else-based forms of discrimination.

We who are old are never likely to grasp the sensitivity with which certain words have been invested since we learned them. We neither intend nor can easily understand the offence that is sometimes taken at our words because to us these words do not mean what some younger people take them to mean.

And even if we did mean it, we are still entitled to say what we think unless our words actually harm others. Taking offence is not the same as being harmed. Free speech is still our safeguard against tyranny.


I'm certain very few people who make [fill-in-the-blank]-ist statements (regardless of age or with-it-ness) intend them to cause offens/ce or harm others.

That doesn't change the fact that even well-intentioned sexism can and does harm women. And, with all due respect, it is up to the individual--when told that his or her actions or statements are not only offensive but potentially harmful--to review them, LEARN and understand the current views, and try to enter into respectful dialogue with those who pointed it out as well as those who have been offended or harmed.

Free speech, to be honest, always seems a little bit like a cop-out argument to me. Any given individual is certainly free to make sexist statements, if that's what the argument is. But so what? That right to free speech doesn't necessarily mean I'm not allowed to say "Okay, but that's bullshit because X Y and Z."

And I can certainly agree that a lot of the comments on this were filled with vitriol and hatred towards Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and everyone else involved in this mess.

But while I regret that aspect of the thing and do agree that an individual should be able to state his or her mind, I can't agree that "you were mean to me because I said something that I didn't think was mean but that you did" carries the same kind of hurt that "I am reminding you (even if inadvertently) that you are less than me because of your gender/race/sexual preference/religion" does. And I don't agree that nothing should be done if that statement is offensive or potentially harmful. And sexist comments, so far as I'm concerned, are and do all of the above.
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby Ishmael » Wed May 28, 2014 2:10 am

s_c_baker wrote:
Ishmael wrote:Misandry is no more attractive than misogyny. I have encountered it being both written and applauded by certain female writers. Understandable but misguided.

s_c_baker wrote:This is, so far as I'm concerned, a bit of a false equivalency.


I never suggested they were supplied in equal quantities or with equal effect. My point was simply that misandry is being declared legitimate on the grounds of previous suffering and that it is not.

s_c_baker wrote:Misogyny demonstrably DOES routinely disenfranchise and put into physical danger large populations of women.

I know. It is execrable. However we cannot use that as an argument against free speech in all circumstances. JS Mill distinguished the borderline quite clearly, when he wrote that it was legitimate free speech to denounce the rapacity of corn merchants in a calm debating chamber and illegitimate to do the same in front of an angry mob outside a corn merchant's house. If someone argues misogynistically in a reasoned manner I will reason against him and show him why his arguments are false.

s_c_baker wrote:I'm certain very few people who make [fill-in-the-blank]-ist statements (regardless of age or with-it-ness) intend them to cause offens/ce or harm others.
That doesn't change the fact that even well-intentioned sexism can and does harm women.


Two points:

First. I do not accept that the sole determinant of the meaning of words is the understanding of the reader. There are all sorts of things that can go wrong in between the message that I try to send and the message that you receive. If I do not intend my words to be sexist then you may not legitimately describe them as 'well intentioned sexism.'

Second. I am not as close to the details of this case as you are, so correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that in this case the female editor suffered as a result of the response, not the alleged offence.

Please do not think that I am unaware of, or have no sympathy with, those who find themselves harmed by public vilification. I am an Englishman living in Scotland. It is at present considered a legitimate political tactic to whip up Anglophobia in pursuit of the dismemberment of a country within which different races have lived together in peace for centuries. It is precisely my knowledge of how deep these wounds can go and how long they will take to heal that leads me to urge all sides to use restrained and moderate language when discussing important disagreements.
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby ggeezz » Wed May 28, 2014 5:23 am

s_c_baker wrote:
That doesn't change the fact that even well-intentioned sexism can and does harm women. And, with all due respect, it is up to the individual--when told that his or her actions or statements are not only offensive but potentially harmful--to review them, LEARN and understand the current views, and try to enter into respectful dialogue with those who pointed it out as well as those who have been offended or harmed.


This gets to the heart of the matter. Why is it up to Mike to LEARN the "other side's" views and conform his language to their paradigm?

Shouldn't there be some symmetry ... some mutual respect, where the other side meets Mike halfway and learns about his views and the way he uses words.

Suppose person A offends person B (without meaning to) and then person A takes offense at B taking offense. Doesn't it make sense to say they should both try to meet in the middle rather than say that A or B needs to do all of the changing.

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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby FictionMuse » Wed May 28, 2014 12:39 pm

Everything I've heard about you, Mike,


Stop right there. Take your fingers off the keyboard.

Quick poll. How many of you have actually read the SFWA's Bulletin #200?

Do your homework, people.
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby Jeffrey » Wed May 28, 2014 4:31 pm

FictionMuse wrote:How many of you have actually read the SFWA's Bulletin #60?


?

What does #60 have to with it? I can't find any link online to it (please post if you have one). Further, I can't find any list of SWFA bulletin issue lists so I'm not sure what year that even was. My search on trying to find #60 lead me to eBay to buy a used copy from ~1978. Is that the right one?

Also, most of this forum is people in the contest which means we are not in SWFA or getting the bulletin to read. So the admonishment to read the bulletin doesn't come off quite right.

FictionMuse wrote:Do your homework, people.


This discussion began with your post (which I'm still not clear on the purpose or the timing of). Stewart & Ishmael have engaged in a thoughtful & respectful discourse thereafter. This statement comes off as dismissive & antagonistic instead of contributing to the discussion.
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby FictionMuse » Thu May 29, 2014 1:41 am

Meant to say Bulletin #200. The Business of Science Fiction column #60.

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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby Ishmael » Thu May 29, 2014 3:56 am

I am another who has no access to The Bulletin. I have endeavoured to digest what I can of the argument at second hand.

To clarify. I see three distinct issues:

1. Was offence intended?

2. Was offence taken?

3. Are we entitled to demand suppression of views with which we passionately disagree?

The answers to (1) and (2) seem, to an external observer, to be 'No' and 'Yes' respectively. There is not a lot to be done about either. As ggeezz says, dialogue is required rather than shouting.

The third raises a major issue of principle. As writers (albeit toiling in the foothills) we belong to a group that has been repeatedly persecuted for giving voice to ideas that arouse the antagonism of others. Sometimes that persecution has been pursued to extremes.

Because we all know this, or should know this, we of all people should have a care before resorting to behaviour that effectively demands censorship and / or retribution.

A small contributor to the malaise in my country has been the promulgation of romantic historical fiction that rather a lot of people seem to believe not only true but also somehow relevant to life today. They are enraged about things that never happened and wouldn't matter today even if they had.

I am sorry about this, but I do not for a moment believe that these fictional works should have been suppressed. It is my responsibility to point out the facts calmly and reasonably to the small numbers of people with whom I come into contact or who read my blog. I should perhaps consider myself fortunate that I am not prominent. The experience of those who are has often not been pleasant.

Therefore, to those in the US loudly expressing what they feel to be justified outrage, I would respectfully say: 'Be careful what you wish for.'
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby s_c_baker » Thu May 29, 2014 9:29 am

This gets to the heart of the matter. Why is it up to Mike to LEARN the "other side's" views and conform his language to their paradigm?

I'm not sure I made myself clear here. I didn't say he had to "conform his language to their paradigm." I just said it's the onus of someone who is told he or she has caused offense or done something that people consider wrong to engage in respectful dialogue with those people. (I agree the people in question often were not respectful, but that's their problem--fighting bile with bile doesn't do anyone much good.)

FictionMuse wrote:
Everything I've heard about you, Mike,


Stop right there. Take your fingers off the keyboard.

Quick poll. How many of you have actually read the SFWA's Bulletin #200?

Do your homework, people.

200 wasn't the issue. At least not the big one. It was kind of aggravating, and people complained about it, but if the response from the Bulletin had been "Sorry, we misspoke" or even "Sorry, that's not what we meant" there would no longer have been an issue.

201 (Barbie) was the issue. (I'm constantly amazed that it isn't more prominent in discussions of this, because it was definitely way more offensive than just talking about a "lady editor," which is kind of eye-rolley but more likely to be just an old-fashioned view than actively malicious in intent.)

202 (Liberal fascism! Blame the feminists!) was the issue.

Incidentally, for anyone who hasn't read the issues in question, 202 is available here:

http://radishreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/SFWAPage1.jpg
http://radishreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/SFWAPage2.jpg
http://radishreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/SFWAPage3.jpg
http://radishreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/SFWAPage4.jpg
http://radishreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/SFWAPage5.jpg
http://radishreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/SFWAPage6.jpg

I can't find the Barbie one online anywhere but here's a quote which shows why it's a problem:
The reason for Barbie's unbelievable staying power, when every contemporary and wanna-be has fallen by the way-side is, she's a nice girl. Let the Bratz girls dress like tramps and whores.... Barbie got her college degree, but she never acted as if it was something owed to her, or that Ken ever tried to deny her.

She has always been a role model for young girls, and has remained popular with millions of them throughout their entire lives, because she maintained her quiet dignity the way a woman should.


Eesh.

Anyway, in short. Yes, I have read them--or enough of them to know what they contain. Was that your only rebuttal to my argument? That I didn't know what I was talking about because I haven't read the articles?

If I do not intend my words to be sexist then you may not legitimately describe them as 'well intentioned sexism.'


True enough, I suppose. Perhaps "well-intentioned or inadvertent sexism"? Because even if someone doesn't intend something to be sexist, it can be. If someone were to say "Woman, your place is in the kitchen or my bed," that's pretty clearly sexist, even if the person saying it believes whole-heartedly that it's the way things should be, and that it's best for women to be there. (Ditto for racism. Ditto for etc.)

I am not as close to the details of this case as you are, so correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that in this case the female editor suffered as a result of the response, not the alleged offence.


This seems like misdirection. She suffered not because she was female, but because she was the editor. That's a huge difference.

Sexism makes people suffer because of their gender and nothing else. She was not fired because she was a woman. Actually she was not fired at all. She resigned because of the criticism. As this news bulletin states, she was held in high regard by the SFWA administration, was always responsive to criticism, and played a huge role in bringing the bulletin back to a regular schedule. Hardly suffering and oppression, even if she probably does feel terrible about the whole thing and even if she no longer is able to work as editor of that specific journal.

To clarify. I see three distinct issues:

1. Was offence intended?

2. Was offence taken?


I've said this already but apparently I'm not getting it across.

The issues here are not whether or not people were offended. The issue is that sexist language--or other forms of discriminatory language--participate, whether actively or passively, in continuing systems of oppression. I hate seeming like I'm shouting, but that's an important point. I want it to be clear.

This is not "OMG I am offended because Mike Resnick thinks a lady editor looks good in a bikini."

I'm not offended by that. Good for him. Good for the editor in question. It's nice to be able to look good in a bikini. (Personally I end up looking a little like Jim Hines, only worse, and nobody wants to see that.)

I don't--to reiterate--think Mike intended to cause offense. From his response in #202, it's pretty clear he didn't really see why it was an issue at all. And okay, fair enough. If we want to play the "it wasn't like that in my day" card, then okay. It wasn't.

But that doesn't mean--and this is my opinion--it's fine to say "I'm sorry if my opinions cause you offense but they are my opinions," move on with life, and pretend nothing happened.

To reiterate, again: the problem is not that people were offended, but that continuing to propagate sexist views--whether or not that was the intent--continues to make sexism an acceptable worldview, and this can and does continue to deny women (or other cultural, ethnic, gender, etc. minorities) access to equality, because it continues to encourage treatment of them as less-than-white, less-than-male, less-than-straight.

I'm English, by the way, Ishmael, and while I can understand your discomfort over Scottish anger towards the English, I don't think it's really comparable to Feminist anger towards sexism. The English were, historically, the dominant culture and while you're right that historical fiction sensationalizes and flat-out fabricates (it is, after all, fiction!) I don't think the English exactly come off scot free (perhaps a poor choice of words) when you look just at the historical events. Neither does anyone else, of course, but that's another debate entirely so far as I can see.

I also totally agree with you, as I hope is clear in my posts here, that discussion on all sides is the best way to move things forward. The problem usually comes in that the dominant culture often does not want to discuss things, because they materially benefit from the status quo. That's when the shouting, the anger, and the violence sets in--if we're all very unlucky. But, to be honest, polite discussion is a privilege, and often one that we, as white men, can find quite hard to grasp.

One other major difference between Scottish anger at England and sexism is that things like gang rapes still happen on a daily basis. Indeed, there is one sexual assault in the US every two minutes. Even though some of these happen to men (I think it's something like 10% when it comes to rape) sexist speech helps to keep the environment for rape and sexual assault--and other things that are not quite as awful--ripe and healthy, because it reinforces the idea that women are there for men's pleasure, and not as individual human beings in their own right.

This is not an issue of offense. It is an issue of acting responsibly to protect human rights for all people.
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby Kary English » Thu May 29, 2014 10:51 am

If I do not intend my words to be sexist then you may not legitimately describe them as 'well intentioned sexism.'


I'd like to offer up an anecdote in rebuttal of the idea that unintended -ism doesn't qualify as the -ism in question.

When I was in 7th grade, I sometimes rode the bus to school. The city I lived in was very white. My junior high school had four or five black kids, a couple of Asian kids, one or two Indian kids and no Hispanics. As per usual with school buses, the rear seats were filled with rowdy boys, but one of those boys was the brother of one of my friends and sitting with my friend meant sitting in the general proximity of the rowdy boys.

In particular, there was this sing-song chant the boys liked, a chant accompanied by rhythmic clapping and foot-stomping. The stomping got raucous enough to shake the whole bus and the chanting turned into shouting. The tune was catchy, the mood was exuberant, and hey, I liked watermelon, so I joined in.

Verse one was all about watermelon. Watermelon was, in fact, the only lyric, though they pronounced it as "wallermelon," without the t. "Wallermelon. Wallermelon. Waller-MELon! Waller-MELon! WALLer-MELon!"

The second verse kept the same tune but used black-eyed peas instead of watermelon for lyrics.

And the third verse consisted of "spare-rib juice" over and over again.

Finally, I noticed my friend sitting stiff and livid beside me, so I asked her what was wrong. She said she hated that song because the boys were singing it to make fun of two kids up front, two black kids sitting ramrod straight in the front seats. I'm not even sure we knew the word racism back then because our lives were just that sheltered.

Eventually, after several weeks of this, the bus driver stopped the bus, yelled at the rowdy boys and refused to move the bus until they stopped. If they ever sang it again, she said she'd have them banned from the bus.

Even then I didn't understand. I thought the issues was rowdiness. I'd never eaten black-eyed peas, but I liked watermelon and spare ribs, and I had no idea those things had racist connotations. My first introduction to the n-word was when I read Tom Sawyer in school later the same year.

So when I sang that song, I certainly didn't intend it to be racist. But was it? Yes, it was.
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby ggeezz » Thu May 29, 2014 11:06 am

s_c_baker wrote:But that doesn't mean--and this is my opinion--it's fine to say "I'm sorry if my opinions cause you offense but they are my opinions," move on with life, and pretend nothing happened.

If two people have differing worldviews (suppose one person thinks unshod feet are offensive and another thinks it's offensive to enter a building wearing shoes), and this leads to offense on both sides, can't they both say sorry and move on?

I think that's the case as long as it's just a matter of opinion.

And if Jill gets really angry at Jack and Jack responds in kind, they're both guilty of responding in anger, but Jill is little bit more responsible for going first. Wouldn't you say?

That's if we're just talking about matters of opinion.

s_c_baker wrote:To reiterate, again: the problem is not that people were offended, but that continuing to propagate sexist views--whether or not that was the intent--continues to make sexism an acceptable worldview, and this can and does continue to deny women (or other cultural, ethnic, gender, etc. minorities) access to equality, because it continues to encourage treatment of them as less-than-white, less-than-male, less-than-straight.


Here you say it's not just a matter of opinion. Women are being harmed, perhaps indirectly, perhaps directly, by what Mike wrote.

If that's the case, everything I said about Jack and Jill no longer applies. One of them is right and the other is wrong.

The problem is we're in a really murky area. Suppose a mother is walking down the street with her two young children and she sees two men walking towards her holding hands. She becomes upset that her children saw this. She suffers actual, physical harm (high blood pressure, forms an ulcer, etc.)

Should these men not be allowed to hold hands in public? What if they were having sex? What if it was another child beating a dog to death? A man berating his wife? Spouting profanity? Right-wing political dogma? Left-wing? Communist? Nazi? Really bad poetry?

I'm not going where you might think I'm trying to go. I'm not saying that all speech offends someone, it all depends on worldview, so therefore speech has to be free.

I do think it's a travesty to have a culture/media where the heroes are white and the villains have dark skin, or for the bosses to be male and the secretaries to be female. And I think we should point out these flaws and try to change them.

But you can go too far. Suppose we said that Harvard can no longer admit white males or you can no longer make movies with a white, male lead. That's clearly too far.

But what's "too far" and what's "not far enough." Isn't that the core of the argument of here? Mike thinks his writing was beyond "far enough." Those with a different worldview thought it wasn't far enough.

Was Mike's writing clearly, objectively in the realm of literature that "perpetuates the problem?" Or does it only look that way to people who are passionate about that cause, the proverbial carpenters who see everything as a nail?

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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby ggeezz » Thu May 29, 2014 11:21 am

Kary English wrote:So when I sang that song, I certainly didn't intend it to be racist. But was it? Yes, it was.

Technically, the song was racist, but "you singing the song" was not racist. It was, however, still offensive.

Part of the definition of racism is to "consider different races to be ranked as inherently superior or inferior." Since you didn't know the song was about another race you weren't considering different races to be inferior, even though you offended the black children with a racist song.

That doesn't negate your larger point, that unintentional -isms are valid. If you had known the song was about blacks and known the foods were "inferior," yet still thought there was nothing wrong with the song because "that's what black people eat," you would have been unintentionally racist. And that happens frequently.

I don't mean to be a pedant. This is an important distinction in this discussion. Sexism and causing offense with sexist words are two different things.

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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby s_c_baker » Thu May 29, 2014 11:30 am

Initially, to be honest, I don't think it was. Issue 200 seemed written to genuinely honour women's contributions to genre.

I think it's also helpful to recognize the context. SF in general has a long history of sexism. (As Mike pointed out above, the female editor in question was apparently hired for her looks originally. Clearly Mike knows and understands this context, regardless of how it came across in Bulletin 200.)

But in issue 202? I understand feeling hurt because people were upset at something you've written. But calling people anonymous liberal fascists (some of that may be Malzberg's wording--I get it a bit mixed up) seems to go way beyond "dated language" and inadvertent sexism, and into belligerent denial of there even being an issue in the first place.

The problem is we're in a really murky area. Suppose a mother is walking down the street with her two young children and she sees two men walking towards her holding hands. She becomes upset that her children saw this. She suffers actual, physical harm (high blood pressure, forms an ulcer, etc.)

Should these men not be allowed to hold hands in public? What if they were having sex? What if it was another child beating a dog to death? A man berating his wife? Spouting profanity? Right-wing political dogma? Left-wing? Communist? Nazi? Really bad poetry?

Sorry, but I don't buy this argument for the same reason that I don't buy the argument comparing misandry to misogyny. One is "You are challenging my cultural dominance and making me feel uncomfortable" and the other is "You are stopping me from being who I am."

Is the woman going to be arrested for telling a gay couple to stop holding hands? Is she going to be executed for saying that gay sex is evil? Because that can and does happen to gay people in various places around the world who dare to hold hands or publicly acknowledge that they are gay. (Hell, people have been murdered through homophobic hate crimes here in the US, where views are relatively liberal.)

Her hypothetical physical pain, if it exists, stems from her own opinions and feelings about what someone else is doing and which does not in any way stop her from living her life as she sees fit, with little to no possible impact on her life style.

That is not, in my opinion, the problem of those holding hands.

Discriminatory views against entire populations, on the other hand, systematically deny rights or socially, physically, and emotionally harm those entire populations. Not all straight people are upset by gay people holding hands. Gay people do not hold hands specifically to make straight people feel bad.

Ergo it is not the same, no.

I'm going to leave the rest of those questions and the hypothetical-and-exaggerated suggestions of white-male-oppression--which seem to give a nod to the fallacious slippery slope argument--alone.

Yes, free speech is a sticky issue. Yes, people should be able to say what they want. But there is indeed a line, and it comes down with when speech ceases to be speech and becomes a call for discriminatory action.

I don't think Mike crossed that in issue 200, surely. I do think the Barbie article crosses it, because it essentially says "Women need to be meekly quiet and accept their place while men run things and tell them what to do." That's a call for discrimination aimed at the discriminated. "Please help me continue to subjugate you."

Issue 202? I don't know. My issue there is less with what's said about gender and more with what's said about those who spoke out against sexism. Does calling those who are loudly and stridently for civil rights "fascists" equate to discriminatory speech? Does it equate to an argument for continued oppression?

I don't have answers, but if Issue 202 had contained a brief statement saying "We apologize if we gave the impression in Issue 200 that Bea Mahaffey's main contribution to genre was that she was a knockout. We intended no disrespect to her or other women writing and working in the field either historically or today." and then moved on to talk about other women's positive contributions, we sure as hell wouldn't be having this conversation right now.

Saying "Defending Free Speech is more important" doesn't sit well with me, and it obviously didn't sit well with the number of SF writers, editors, etc. who complained loudly enough to make the whole mess really explode.
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby ggeezz » Thu May 29, 2014 12:11 pm

s_c_baker wrote:Ergo it is not the same, no.


You missed my point. That's my fault, not your fault. I should have been clearer.

I'm not saying any of those examples are "the same." They are all different in their own way. The point is to illustrate the murkiness. Each one could be wrong or right depending on your assumptions (i.e., your worldview).

In fact, the only similarity is the one you pointed out. The woman was hurt because of "her own opinions and feelings about what someone else is doing." That's the similarity to the female author who got her first bulletin that you used.

You're correct that the mom is in the dominant culture, but what does that have to do with her hurt. If 51% of american's become feminists does that mean that the female author's hurt no longer matters. Dominant culture doesn't make something right or wrong. People killing people on the other side of the world doesn't make something right or wrong.

The assumptions about right and wrong, about whether it's OK to be gay or not, whether Nazism is wrong, whether bad poetry should be shunned, these are what determine where people fall.

If a person of color X murders a person of color Y, the wrongness of murder doesn't rest on the histories of the people of those colors. Murder is just wrong.

I don't buy the argument that Mike is wrong because the world used to be like Mad Men.

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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby s_c_baker » Thu May 29, 2014 12:56 pm

ggeezz wrote: This is an important distinction in this discussion. Sexism and causing offense with sexist words are two different things.

I can't quite grasp this. They are two elements of the same thing, surely? Using sexist words (I'm no longer touching "causing offense" because I have not seen a coherent and solid argument that it is even a real issue) is a part of sexism. Right?

If it's not, what is it? wotf021

If a person of color X murders a person of color Y, the wrongness of murder doesn't rest on the histories of the people of those colors. Murder is just wrong.

Clearly. But what's your point? I never said it was. Nobody else did either, so far as I'm aware. We're not arguing (I think) whether it's wrong to uh... do whatever is the equivalent of murder in this case. Or are we? (Or are you? I'm not, anyway.)

Although, actually, if we're talking about racism and murder, there is a statistically significant chance that murders of white people by non-white people are more likely to be viewed as wrong, and that murders of non-white people by white people are more likely to be viewed as acceptable.

I don't buy the argument that Mike is wrong because the world used to be like Mad Men.

I don't either. It's not my argument. Read again if you think it was.

The woman was hurt because of "her own opinions and feelings about what someone else is doing." That's the similarity to the female author who got her first bulletin that you used.

Sorry, but I disagree. She's not hurt because her opinions and feelings have been hurt. Well, she is, no doubt.

But on top of that she's hurt socially, as well as quite possibly physically (a number of female bloggers got death threats and rape threats because they dared to complain about the Bulletin columns) because she and every other female have been placed in the "not-male" box, where they are allowed to be treated poorly by those in the "male" box.

I am pretty sure I have said this already at least twice. Sexism and other issues like this are not about people getting their feelings hurt. They are about perpetuating a very real, very harmful system of oppression based solely on someone's gender, skin tone, ethnic background, religious choice, sexual preference, etc. It is not about getting your feelings hurt or having your opinions derided.

Take this scenario, which is hypothetical and ludicrous on purpose just to get the point across.

Bob Writer (sorry, bob) has just started a new career as a office water cooler holder. On the first day there, the boss yanks on Bob's left ear really damn hard because he thinks Bob has a silly left ear and he doesn't like it. He says so, making a joke out of it. The second day, he does it again. And the third. And the fourth. And the fifth. Bob's second week starts. He's sick and tired of this, but doesn't have any other career options--people keep turning him down because of his left ear--so he has to keep coming in to work. Tuesday of his second week, three other people Bob hasn't met before come to the water cooler and joke about his ear and how silly it is. Thinking that these people aren't his boss, Bob says "Hey, can you please not joke about my ear?" Instead of saying "Oh, sure, sorry, Bob." they laugh at him and say "Don't be so sensitive. It's just an ear." Then, when they leave, one of them yanks on his ear, just like the boss, and laughs about that, as well.

Is Bob upset just because his feelings were hurt? Yes, no doubt. But he's also upset because he is constantly being reminded that his left ear is his only defining characteristic, is an object of ridicule, and makes him a valid target for emotional and physical abuse.

This is why this whole thing is not--in my opinion--a free speech issue first and foremost.

I think this is also why this debate is not working to change any opinions. I am convinced it is not a free speech issue but a human rights issue. You and several other posters are convinced it is not a human rights issue but a free speech issue. (Personally this seems weird to me. Like people are saying "It's my constitutional right to be an asshole towards specific groups of people!" Okay, yeah, I guess, sort of. But... why is that what people want to do?)

Since I am privileged enough to be white, straight, and male, I am going to just leave the debate at this point, because I have other things to do with my time than repeat myself over and over, and I'm sure you do, too.

Edit: here's one last link I just saw which seems relevant (with apologies to Kary, as it's about the UCSB murders): http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2014/05/_yesallwomen_in_the_wake_of_elliot_rodger_why_it_s_so_hard_for_men_to_recognize.html
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby Ishmael » Thu May 29, 2014 2:01 pm

Well, time zones being what they are, please forgive me if I reply to points addressed to me even if Stewart no longer wishes to participate.

s_c_baker wrote:
If I do not intend my words to be sexist then you may not legitimately describe them as 'well intentioned sexism.'

True enough, I suppose. Perhaps "well-intentioned or inadvertent sexism"? Because even if someone doesn't intend something to be sexist, it can be. If someone were to say "Woman, your place is in the kitchen or my bed," that's pretty clearly sexist, even if the person saying it believes whole-heartedly that it's the way things should be, and that it's best for women to be there. (Ditto for racism. Ditto for etc.)

This is unfair, isn't it? When a true believer in the subjugation of females expresses his thoughts he intends them to be discriminatory. What we are discussing is whether perception trumps intention; in other words the assertion that if I perceive your remarks to be sexist then they are.

A trivial example, but in a way profound: when I attended football matches I found it remarkable that all fouls were committed by the visiting team and even more remarkable that the referee was invariably too blind to see this. But because that is the way I saw it, it must have been true, mustn't it?

And if my code of honour perceives that you have committed unforgivable sin, even if you were ignorant of the effect that your behaviour would have on me, have you committed unforgivable sin? Or does perception only trump intention when the perceivers are by our standards morally right?

s_c_baker wrote:The issues here are not whether or not people were offended. The issue is that sexist language--or other forms of discriminatory language--participate, whether actively or passively, in continuing systems of oppression. I hate seeming like I'm shouting, but that's an important point. I want it to be clear.

This is perfectly clear. No-one is suggesting that the demand for censorship was made on frivolous grounds. Personally I think that stirring up racial antagonism so that you can splinter social harmony and dismember a country is pretty serious too. Prominent people arguing for peaceful coexistence are being monstered for having the nerve to say what they think. The matter at issue is whether our passionate feelings justify censorship.

What is not clear is why you disagree with Mill about where the line should be drawn. You seem to advocate the suppression not only of incitement to violence but even unintentionally offensive remarks. In other words certain points of view simply may not be expressed. Fine, so long as it's in defence of a good cause? And who determines what is a good cause?

It is less than fair to equate retaliatory colourful language with the initial resort to abuse. There are limits to what most people who are not saints can take having thrown at them.

s_c_baker wrote:This is not an issue of offense. It is an issue of acting responsibly to protect human rights for all people.

But not of protecting the right to free speech. I'm sorry that we can't agree on this, but I'm with Mill. When you suppress the right to free speech you suppress liberty, progress and human dignity.

There are times when behaviour is really intolerable. There are philosophies so nefarious and dangerous that for the public good their expression cannot be allowed. There are times when free speech is abused so vilely that you are left with little choice. This is not one of them.
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby ggeezz » Thu May 29, 2014 2:19 pm

@stewart, you said it's not about people getting feelings hurt or the fact that the dominant culture is doing the hurting, but "perpetuating a very real, very harmful system of oppression based solely on someone's [feature not in dominant culture]."

But aren't those the same thing? Or is it only when there's physical harm, rather than emotional?

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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby LDWriter2 » Thu May 29, 2014 9:02 pm

There's so much I would like to say here--last night I thought of two different ways of doing it, but either would probably take 15 to 30 minutes to type out. That is a bit too much time for me right now.

Some of it might be a repeat of what I said in my other note from a few days ago. I will say that I pretty much agree with Ishmael.


And I want to say that even though offending someone on purpose usually isn't good or cool at the same time you can't help but offend someone no matter what you do or say. And it becomes like that old joke about the father and son who takes a donkey by the name of hinny to town to sell him. Every house they pass has someone who wanted to complain about how they were walking: one wanted the father to ride, another thought the son should be, another wanted both on the donkey, the last one thought it was bad that they both rode the old donkey. So they tired it up so they could carry the donkey, along the way they crossed an old wooden footbridge over a river. The son slipped which caused the dad to drop his part of the donkey. The donkey went over the side of the bridge. The moral is don't worry about offending everyone or you will lose your hinny.


The side that wants us to be super careful about not offending certain groups, in this case women that have been hurt be men, forget about other groups. Like adults who were abused by their parents when they were children or people who had relatives or friends killed by people like this idiot--I don't use his name on purpose--who stabbed, ran over and shot a lot of people. So we can write about people who get shot or were abused with no problem, but not those who have been raped or women who wear skimpy clothes.

Well that's it for now--maybe more later.
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ggeezz
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby ggeezz » Fri May 30, 2014 5:21 am

I've had some time to mull this over so hopefully I can articulate my thoughts better.

1) I think we can all agree that we shouldn't say expression is wrong solely because it hurts someone else's feelings. As the young mother example illustrates, it gives the feelers too much power over everyone else.

2) Being the majority or minority doesn't matter either because wrong things are still wrong when you move from majority to minority.

The phrasing
perpetuating a very real, very harmful system of oppression based solely on someone's [feature not in dominant culture]

is a combination of 1 and 2. It adds a subjective measure of how serious the hurt is, but isn't the feeler the only one qualified to say how serious their hurt is? And thus the feeler still has all of the power.

So why is the song from Kary's example wrong? I could say it's because the sole purpose of the song is to hurt. That takes us back to author intent. But wasn't it still "wrong" when Kary didn't know the meaning and thus there was no hurtful intent? Yes. As a society we should kindly explain to Kary why the song is hurtful and then she has a responsibility to stop singing it.

But since I said the song was still wrong, aren't I admitting that 1+2 and Stewart's phrasing are valid? Yes. With a caveat.

It's wrong to hurt someone's feelings. It's also wrong for a person to use their feelings as a bludgeon to squash expression. That's why I said the two parties (Mike and his detractors) need to meet in the middle. There needs to be a balance between expression and feelings (to be clear I'm speaking of social norms and not law). The shod and unshod cultures can get along if they respect each other and meet in the middle. They can't get along if either side is selfish and refuses to budge.

The problem is that people have a tendency to root for their team. No. Actually it's objectively, scientifically proven that people exhibit a strong bias toward the group they identify with. If two players from opposing teams start pushing each other, 95% of the fans will say the "other guy" started it. (I actually defended Christian Laettner's infamous stomp back in the day. That's how strong this urge is.)

There are a lot of reasons for this bias, but I want to point out a few that are relevant to our issue. First, both teams will point to history. "But A pushed B earlier. And B pushed A before that." Each side will aggrandize their hurt and diminish the other's hurt. And both sides will miss the point that the history is mostly irrelevant. And they will play the dominance card. "Laettner only got away with it because he was popular. Laettner is picked on because he's popular." But the dominance or lack of it doesn't affect whether a given action is wrong.

Here's where things get sticky. Some on Mike's team think the other team isn't approaching this in the "meet in the middle" spirit. I hope you can appreciate that sentiment because you said article 200 "didn't cross the line" and yet Mike did receive a lot of criticism for it.

And here's what I hope to convince anyone/everyone of. First, the bludgeon of the feeler is a valid concern, and there should be a balance between expression and feelings. Second, that we're all guilty of "team-rooting" and of bias when it comes applying the history and interpreting the current play.

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Ishmael
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Re: Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA

Postby Ishmael » Fri May 30, 2014 7:07 am

ggeezz wrote:So why is the song from Kary's example wrong? I could say it's because the sole purpose of the song is to hurt. That takes us back to author intent. But wasn't it still "wrong" when Kary didn't know the meaning and thus there was no hurtful intent? Yes. As a society we should kindly explain to Kary why the song is hurtful and then she has a responsibility to stop singing it.


May I suggest that you are conflating two issues: 'wrong' and 'racist'.

Different societies have different views on what is wrong. Secular western society often applies a utilitarian criterion, i.e. generally speaking the public good is better served when people don't sing such songs than when they do. From that standpoint such singing is wrong. That does not make Kary's singing of the song racist. A racist hates another human being on account of his ethnic origins. Was Kary expressing her hatred of anyone? No.

The perceiver is, to a limited extent, qualified to give evidence upon matters of fact. I say 'limited extent' because as my football example and your 'team rooting' metaphor show, to a large extent what we perceive is not truth but what we expect to perceive. Perception is built around recognition. Our perceptions are conditioned by the filter of our previous experience. All our perceptions are adjusted by our brains to show the external world in relation to ourselves. We are incapable of perceiving objectivity. (Unless we are God.)

Have you ever thought that you saw a friend in the street, gone up and tapped him on the shoulder and found it to be someone else entirely? Did your perception make the stranger your friend? No, you made a mistake. Your perception was in error.

The perceiver is simply not qualified to pronounce upon the motivation of the observed agent. He may make comparisons with the motivation of other persons if those persons openly avow their motivation. He may say that the rowdy boys knew exactly what they were doing and would justify it by reference to their hatred. He may not apply a similar deduction to Kary because she had no such motivation.

In my judgment, the -ist terminology is increasingly used to shut down rational discussion. I suggest it might be no bad thing if we discarded a lot of -ist words and instead explained clearly why things are right or wrong. Then we might promote understanding.
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