Sean Fodera: Favorite Newsgroups:
It just occurred to me that MRK seems to be deeply involved in this whole anti-sexism matter. I remember seeing her posing with Hines and Scalzi on one of their very scary cover parodies, and I know she chimed in with a snipe at the petition signers on the Radish thread.
I find it very funny and ironic that she would jump on this bandwagon. For a long time, her website featured an array of photos of her in a diaphanous white outfit, posing on a beach. No metal bikinis or such, but they were not innocuous writer headshots either. One of them, with her recumbent on the sand with legs exposed, made her somewhat attractive. I also recall she's fond of wearing tight-fitting gowns and plunging necklines when she attends cons and award ceremonies.
I'll have to add "phony" to "incompetent" and "arrogant" in the mental tags I've assigned her.
Let's turn the microphone over to Mary Robinette Kowal:
The short form is that some people said some not nice things about me in a public space, and the story has been picked up as an example of sexism in part because one of the people saying those things works for my publisher.... It wasn’t news for me. For years, I’ve known that there was a segment of folks on sff.net that profoundly did not like me, and that they were saying unpleasant things about me. I knew that a guy in contracts hated me. But I’d decided to ignore it because, honestly, he’s a professional and he did his job. The fact that he didn’t like me… Sad, but not career-damaging.
So, on a personal level when comments like these come to my attention, I just laugh and move on. I don’t waste my story-brain on constructing a narrative about how they’ve wronged me and what I can do about it. They are well within their rights to dislike me and to say so... mostly I’m just laughing.” And this is the part that I feel I should draw attention to — I was “mostly” laughing.
I was also having mild stress reactions. Dry sweats, elevated heart rate. I was ready to shrug them off as, “Meh, doesn’t materially affect me. I’ve seen worse.” Until someone pointed it out that I was basically saying, “I’m innured to being abused, because I was abused for years.” See… the things those folks are saying in that public forum? When I was in office, they would email that bile directly to me and because I was an officer, I could not chose to ignore it. I had to read every single one. And I had to reply politely to them. Strangely, sometimes I had trouble doing that, but a polite response was the one that was expected. Now? Being out of office for two years, I can say whatever the f--- I want, but most beautifully, I don’t have to read the emails.
So this is why I feel weird about writing about this. My impulse is to tell you all that I’m fine and that this has no material affect on my life. And that is true. But I also know that I am a useful representative sample of the abuse that happens to other women.
I know that there are a ton of women who have received similar messages... get this sort of unwelcome attention and commentary about what they were wearing but no one does anything. It’s always, “Laugh about it” or “Just shrug it off,” or “Ignore it and he’ll go away.” You see how well that last is working? So, I really, truly am fine. But watch what happens to me now that I’m posting. Read the comments when they happen. Note the people who say that because I’m talking about the abuse, I must be begging for attention.
Take me as a useful representative example. And know that I am not an isolated case.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Cheap Tarts: "This week, a group of people started talking about stuff on a public board and one of them, Sean P. Fodera, decided to criticize Mary Robinette Kowal saying:
It just occurred to me that MRK seems to be deeply involved in this whole anti-sexism matter. I remember seeing her posing with Hines and Scalzi on one of their very scary cover parodies, and I know she chimed in with a snipe at the petition signers on the Radish thread. I find it very funny and ironic that she would jump on this bandwagon. For a long time, her website featured an array of photos of her in a diaphanous white outfit, posing on a beach. No metal bikinis or such, but they were not innocuous writer headshots either. One of them, with her recumbent on the sand with legs exposed, made her somewhat attractive. I also recall she’s fond of wearing tight-fitting gowns and plunging necklines when she attends cons and award ceremonies. I’ll have to add “phony” to “incompetent” and “arrogant” in the mental tags I’ve assigned her.”...
Women must put up with this stuff all the time. Dress nice, but not too nice or some dude will think you are some sort of tart and criticize you for your necklines. Be social, but not too social because then you are some kind of attention whore. Smile. Play nice. Don’t complain. I’ve been called fat, ugly, a lesbian for writing pretty mild blog posts such as this one. And not only by random trolls. Sean P. Fodera, as he likes to remind everyone in his posts, works in the publishing industry.
You can imagine the constant state of paranoia a woman can live in when casual comments on message boards treat her as insignificant, stupid, and the like. This is the kind of shit we deal with on a regular basis. And then you wonder why we worry about sexism and stuff like that? It burns. It really does...
Sean Fodera: Favorite Newsgroups: "I will note that since I now have the name of the writer, and I can prove that the quotes were edited to change their meaning, I have a very good case for a libel suit. I suppose no one noted that I work in the legal profession within the publishing industry, and have taught college courses on the subject.
BTW, as of now, it looks like the article was "shared" 1,200 times already. That makes each of those sharers a part to the libel, and makes each of them equally culpable in the eyes of the law. I'll speak to my attorney first thing tomorrow.
John Scalzi: A Note to Sean Fodera:
If you honestly believe you can sue me for libel for linking to this article, you are, in my opinion, deeply ignorant of how libel works in the US. For the avoidance of doubt, I do not believe that anything in that article rises to libel, not in the least because the article links to your unedited posts so that anyone may read your words in their full context. It is newsworthy, and, because of the links to your words in context, truthful. As you are no doubt aware, truth is an affirmative defense regarding libel. I am not at all sure how you may show malice defamation when an article points to your exact and actual words. In short, I am very certain you have no case.
Also for the avoidance of doubt, threatening 1,200 people with a libel suit because they link to an article they consider newsworthy is not smart, nor will it keep the article from reaching further audiences. Additionally, proving 1,200 times that each individual has acted with actual malice to defame you will be difficult, again in no small part because the article points to your words in their original setting. It will also be very expensive. But if you are determined to sue 1,200 people for linking to a newsworthy article, you may begin with me. You know who I am and I am very sure you know where I am, since many of my book contracts route through your office. I await notification of your suit.
However, what I suggest you do instead is step away from the Internet for a while. I know you to be a decent and good person. I think in this case you’ve gotten yourself neck deep in something you didn’t intend and you’re reacting with adrenaline. Let it go. And next time be aware that everything on the Internet leaks, whether you intend it to or not.
Mary Robinette Kowal: Dear Twelve Rabid Weasels of SFWA, please shut the f--- up:
I know you value your freedom of speech. Good on you. However there are 1788 other members of SFWA who also value their freedom of speech and manage to exercise it without being raging assholes. You are professional writers, so should know the power of words. I therefore must assume that you are deliberately being provocative and trying to set things on fire because you enjoy watching a flamewar. There are 1788 other members who don’t. Scratch that… there are 1752 because some people just quit because of you. I know, I know. Asking you not to be racist/sexist/elitist, or just for impulse control is tantamount to fascism and catering to the liberal mob. All the other members manage to do it. Why can’t you?
I spent four years in 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 “wannabee” (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 F--- up.
With all sincerity,
Mary Robinette Kowal
John Scalzi: Mary Robinette Kowal Offers Herself Up as a Useful Representative Example: "Of what? Of the sort of crap women get, all the time.
Mary doesn’t need me to defend her, and she hasn’t asked for my support. She has the latter anyway. Mary is without question one of the most competent people I know, and I know because I have worked with her directly, and did for years. Anyone who suggests other than competent is, bluntly, wrong. They also, bluntly, call into question their own ability to evaluate competence.
Likewise, anyone who would publicly characterize a woman who has reached the highest levels of two separate creative fields (puppeteering and speculative fiction), winning awards and acclaim in both, and who has offered up a significant amount of her person time and effort to work on behalf of others in her fields as “no one you should have heard of, and no one you should concern yourself with” is so deeply and profoundly wrong that the only thing they should feel at such a cluelessly ridiculous dismissal is shame.
How many more award nominations and wins does she have to have before she is somebody, I wonder? How many more books does she have to publish? How many more television shows does she have to work on? How many more years of unpaid, volunteer service to the trade organizations in her field does she have to offer? How many more years of abject, unambiguous and wholly underserved contempt does she have to endure before she is allowed to be someone “you should have heard of”? Well, and of course, the answer is that for some people nothing she does will ever be enough. When you’ve decided such a woman is an “unperson,” then you will go out of your way to make sure other people see her that way too.
Mary Robinette Kowal is a wonderful writer who works you all should read. She is an award winner in a happily competitive field. I speak from direct experience when I say that no one has given more of her time, effort and expertise on behalf of other science fiction and fantasy writers than she has, despite the fact that there has always been at least a few of those writers benefiting from her work who have treated her, well, poorly. I admire her immensely, as a writer, as a colleague and as a friend.
To those who call this incredibly competent, talented, lauded and laudable woman “no one you should have heard of” — Good god. You could not in this life or any other be more wrong about that. The woman in question is too gracious to say it. I, however, most emphatically am not.