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Zer Netmouse
May 19th, 2009
08:42 pm


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On silence - links and quotes from two posts from March
It's been a long time since March 4, and I'm probably not giving enough context to these posts, but I got a comment from my last post that suggested someone had the impression fen of color don't want white people to say anything in the ongoing discussions, just to listen. What I have read does not consist of just one request or the other. It is both. I have heard: Listen when we speak, and join us in speaking - just speak with us, not over us. And especially, speak up in support of diversity and safe spaces and against harrassment of all kinds.

Here are quotes from two posts that helped form that impression in my mind.

Rosefox, The Only Neat Thing To Do, March 4, 2009

I'm calling on everyone involved in this industry, and everyone who
wants to be involved in this industry, to step up and say: "This is
poor behavior and we will not tolerate it. We will counteract it as
best we can by welcoming and listening to fans of color, by reading
and publishing and reviewing and recommending the works of authors of
color, by checking our own biases and trying to do better, by asking
our friends to call us on our own poor behavior and listening to them
when we do. We understand that racism, whether individual or
institutional, whether deliberate or unthinking, is harmful to
everyone, and we aim to put a stop to it in our community."


Speak up. Help make this an industry you want to work in, an industry
you're proud to work in. Do the right thing.

RaceFail '09: This hurts us all, March 4th, 2009

SF book fandom, where are you?

Although a few authors and editors have come out against what WS and
KC have done, where is the rest of the fandom? Like Jane says earlier,
"Where are the con-comms, going apeshit to distance themselves from
these serial fails of race and culture? Where are the guests-of-honor,
specifically inviting underserved communities to visit at an upcoming
con? (Where are the "discount if this is your first con evar"
programs?) Why aren't the SF organizations like SFWA (okay, bad
example) having a cow and putting out official position statements on
outreach? Where are press-releases from the publishing houses,
explaining their diversity efforts (in their lists and in their

Why the resounding silence? Editors, authors, fans—all the people who
were not talking about RaceFail and what people in their field were
doing: where are they?


What SF book fandom is telling me—a woman, a person of color, and a
long-time fan of SF books and a con-goer—what you are telling me is
that you don't care. That these are, in fact, your community norms,
that you are all right with people who have more power in your
community (by virtue of profession, race, and gender) using that power
to harm other, less powerful, members of your community. That you are
fine with the erasure of women, of people of color, of those without
the same professional privileges you enjoy, and that you are willing
to stand by silently and let people be hurt. […]

Your silence speaks volumes.

(13 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:May 20th, 2009 03:08 am (UTC)
What I've seen is that, oh, let's say half a dozen of my friends in SF book fandom who tried to speak up and be supportive got really REALLY badly scorched (way WAY beyond legit critique of any lapses in proper message). It looks to me like there are a number of philosophical extremists in various conflicting positions *all* of whom are willing to go nuclear scorched earth at the slightest disagreement with them.

The dog pile being actively instigated in the message you quote is not something I wish to be associated with, either (though from a distance I believe there's plenty of room to find fault with KC and WS in some of this, going around stirring up a dog pile is not a productive way to debate).

So I'm not surprised people are keeping a low profile at this point.

If it weren't that I agree with them (and I think you) that "silence speaks volumes", I'd be keeping my head safely down myself.

Date:May 27th, 2009 03:40 pm (UTC)

from "KC"

The CONTEXT of Oycester's complaint is my objecting to her role in helping instigate harassment against me and against others. I think her claim HARDLY represents a statement against harassment. I read it the opposite way. She is complaining that more people are not stepping up to the plate to engage in group harassment. Oycester is also well-aware that I dispute accounts that she draws upon. My position that most of the complaints about me are manufactured is never conveyed in these condemnations.
[User Picture]
Date:May 31st, 2009 11:47 pm (UTC)

Re: from "KC"

If you would re-post some of the material that you have removed from the net (edited to remove one specific name), the assertion that those complaints are manufactured would be much more believable. As it is, it looks as though you have made substantial efforts to cover your tracks and to punish people for trying to follow links to see what you said in the first place.

(I personally believe WS that both of you posted her name before you knew she didn't want it linked to her username, especially given she had not protected that disjunct consistently herself. However I also believe accounts that indicate you further posted her name linked to her username as part of ridiculing her for being so upset and wanting pseudonymity, and that that was inappropriate, considering your role in the industry.)

She is complaining that more people are not acknowledging that that was inappropriate, that in general failing to listen to people and accusing them of being non-people because they are saying uncomfortable and critical things (or saying them using established online psuedonyms instead of legal names) is inappropriate. People do not have to join in the dogpile and further harass anyone to make positive statements to this effect. You do it like this.
[User Picture]
Date:May 31st, 2009 10:39 pm (UTC)
What I've seen is that, oh, let's say half a dozen of my friends in SF book fandom who tried to speak up and be supportive got really REALLY badly scorched

I do believe you that that's what you've seen.

I wonder if you've also seen the pain behind the anger of some of the people on the other side of the comments. There are many more posts on this topic than there are posts that directly involve your friends. Have you gone out of your way to read them?

I agree that the dog pile effect masks the debate. That does not mean there was not debate underlying it. What we as a community are still working on is how to have the debate without the scorching or the dog pile. As I see it, one of the major ways people acted inappropriately/got stepped on was when people tried to say that what someone else said didn't matter - because they were poorly educated, or too educated, or sockpuppets or whatever. And I think one clear way to curtail that trend is to say clearly that what people say matters (even if they are not powerful, or established in book fandom; even if they are not your friends), and that you hear them. If you try to really understand what someone says, and the first message is "I hear you" before "I think you're wrong" -- and generally avoiding the "This is off-topic", "Not the Official line of discussion" or "not a conversation this group of people should have to deal with" or the tone argument...

I think we'll get a lot farther.

Passing on messages about how to listen better is, I think, a pro-active way to break the silence. Part of those messages of course is the concept that there's content in here worth listening to, that it is not all about your friends being harshed on (even though they were in fact being harshed on unfairly in places). Because really, it isn't all about them. And that's important.
[User Picture]
Date:May 31st, 2009 10:58 pm (UTC)
I was following things before it started splashing on my friends. But I have certainly not dug really deep; I've read hundreds of messages, not thousands, in 5 or 6 places, not dozens.

I do have some understanding (and sympathy) for at least some of the pain (and some of the anger). I'm not saying it's somehow inappropriate to express it; that's not the point.

It's still creating a negative environment where many people for whom this isn't their primary focus will choose to keep their heads down, or even not read at all. Observing the effect, not faulting anybody for their behavior. Certainly *I* haven't always expressed anger or outrage in the most productive possible ways; I don't think anybody is that perfect, really.

I've learned a thing or two, and refreshed some things I haven't thought about for a while, myself, certainly.
[User Picture]
Date:May 20th, 2009 04:11 am (UTC)
Wow. I wrote a long diatribe and LJ ate it. I'm taking it as a sign that I should stay the fuck out of this catastrophe.

[User Picture]
Date:May 20th, 2009 10:40 am (UTC)
It's not really a catastrophe, in my opinion. The optimistic part of me believes we are headed in the direction of progress despite some really unpleasant mob behavior along the way.

Why does it look like a catastrophe to you/ Has anything beloved to you been damaged or threatened in some lasting or significant way?
[User Picture]
Date:May 20th, 2009 01:43 pm (UTC)
Why would the definition of catastrophe be limited only to what is beloved by me? Doesn't your question imply more value to what I know personally and less to what is removed from me, which is kind of what the whole RaceFail thing excoriated?

That being said, I do think that a lot of people suffered permanent emotional damage out of proportion to the good gained. The "condemned if you don't write The Other" versus "excoriated for 'getting it wrong' if you do" is not a happy place for people to be. I suspect there are some authors out there who are not writing at all because of the double-bind this thing has created.
[User Picture]
Date:May 31st, 2009 11:31 pm (UTC)
It is a false double-bind, in my opinion, and those theoretical authors who are not writing because they fear it are simply not being brave enough or looking at the situation with honesty and clarity.

I actually posted on racism_101 about what looked like a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" position, and changed the title of my post to take that phrase out because I agreed with the comment from iwanttobeasleep that "The 'Damned if you do, damned if you don't' {...} strikes me as overly simplified and incredibly forgiving to people who probably shouldn't be forgiven and way too critical of people who have good reason to be annoyed in both cases."

People who are considering writing the other should note the comments of people like shveta_thakrar, who wrote:
Here's my thought: do your research, remember the people you are writing about are people, fully flawed and virtuous and all the rest, just like you, no better than you, and no worse (!). You'll never please everyone of said "Other" group, but if you write with respect, you've done your part.

Or rivenwanderer, "Just because there's a problem with the standard narrative and with some people's deviation from the standard narrative doesn't mean there are no workable options, assuming you write with respect and do good research."

And most everyone should read the following public service announcement.

All these messages are pretty strong and pretty similar, and definitely not a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't.' They are a request to be respectful, take an interest, and do the work.
[User Picture]
Date:May 31st, 2009 11:41 pm (UTC)
I absolutely agree that people should strive to understand and to do the work. I just think that the Angy Mob Mentality that accompanied much of this discussion was nonconstructive at best and outright damaging in many cases.

The original question was, "why aren't people talking about this at cons this year?" It's because only the very brave or the very foolish would volunteer for it while it's the flame-bearing lynch mob it's been. By next year? I'm willing to bet that you'll see more discussion.
[User Picture]
Date:May 20th, 2009 05:04 am (UTC)

supposed to be on hiatus, heh.

I care fiercely about this issue. Unfortunately I do not feel I can write due to the vehement, unforgiving discourse involved in both RaceFails - and from all sides.
I am a listen-and-do kind of person. So I carefully read and listen to PoC writers (and allies) and donate what I can to those causes (very little, alas). I will no longer spend money on books of those who expressed their racist positions. That means that yes, I am not going to buy the next Bujold book, even though she is one of my favorite SFF authors.I am still waiting for her to come back and say something wise. People can learn and change, white people and PoCs alike - but until and unless they do, I am voting with my wallet.
I have been thinking up stories with people of color in them since I read my first LeGuin book at age ten. Actually, even before that, but I doubt this is the place to wax poetic about diversity in Soviet SFF I read as a child. So yes, I will continue to write stories with diversity, and even if I never write another word of fiction I will continue reading about other cultures and studying their languages.
[User Picture]
Date:May 20th, 2009 10:37 am (UTC)

Re: supposed to be on hiatus, heh.

On the fiction-theory discussion thread Lois eventually said

I am horrified that so many very good readers' feelings are hurt, and deeply sorry for it, but since I haven't yet figured out how to open my mouth without doing yet more damage, I think it much better that I just shut up and listen for a good long time.

The Racefail Bingo card -- which is brilliant -- was just brought to my attention last night. I have far too many counters down on the squares already, and it's not a game I wish to win. I do not think I would enjoy the prize.

bests, Lois.

which is at least wise in that it admits she needs to think, listen, and learn. Also, kind of an apology, or at least that she's sorry.

While I appreciate the notion of not wanting to support people who appear to be hurting the cause, in the long run I think you will find Lois is not one of those people. One of my problems with black lists is that they encapsulate someone's reaction or impression at one time in one context, and then they remain around regardless of how people change or make efforts in other contexts.
Date:May 24th, 2009 05:13 pm (UTC)

Re: supposed to be on hiatus, heh.

And one of my problems with this discourse is that even decent people wind up getting dogpiled for saying something somewhat dumb or ignorant that isn't intended to be malicious.

I support the cause; I don't support some of the specific ways in which it is being advocated, or some of its advocates. So, no, I'm not getting involved, even if you post a link to a fan of color asking us all to get involved in immolating Will Shetterly because he looked up her name. It isn't because I have anything to lose -- I don't work in this industry, and don't expect to -- it's because I don't choose to get involved in a contest about how correctly I can phrase my messages of support.

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