Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Only One Rule That I Know Of

Recently, the science fiction and fantasy community has been embroiled in a heated debate over the treatment of women both on and off the page. It was triggered, in part, by the cover pictured above, which appeared on the official Bulletin of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Many members of the SFWA objected to the image on the grounds that its regressive depiction of an outmoded female archetype does both our genres and our organization a great disservice.

I'm one of them. And if you read my contribution to this week's SF Signal Mind Meld, you'll know why.

I don't want to spill a lot of ink on this issue or the tumult it has caused within the community, because at root, there's nothing to debate. Not that that's stopped either side from lobbing their respective intellectual clunkers at one another. To wit:

  • Your First Amendment rights do not, in fact, preclude you from criticism for slinging sexist bullshit, and if you think they do, you might consider shutting up for however long it takes you to reread said amendment.
  • When you tell people to buy more books by women authors, you're making books by women authors sound like fungible commodities, which in turn reduces those authors to human vessels for their naughty bits just as surely as the side you're trying to rail against. What I think you mean is "Endeavor to read widely," which is, in itself, problematic, because who are you to tell people what to read?

It seems to me the only position out there worth a damn is to try your best to treat people equitably off the page, and to create fully-fleshed characters on it. Or to distill the point down further, I defer to the inimitable Kurt Vonnegut, who seems to've already said anything I've ever tried to say worth saying, only better:
Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- God damn it, you've got to be kind.