By A.C. James
I’ve been reading Chuck Wendig’s blog, among others, and the opinions in the heated debate regarding the bile raising articles in last three issues of the Science Fiction Writers of America magazine. I’m a techy-geek-word-nerd and I’ve experienced sexism at cons, cosplay, work, and as much as it fucking pains me to admit it—in my own marriage. Jean Rabe’s departure does absolutely nothing to change the prevailing prejudice women face in various fields, not just writing and gaming.
I don’t need an article titled “Literary Ladies” to show respect for my writing ability. All it does is draw unnecessary attention to my vagina. Yes, I have a vagina. And who can blame E. Catherine Tobler in ending her SFWA membership when a dialogue seems to focus on how “lady editors” and “lady authors” look hot in swimsuits. Women have always been objectified in comics, anime, and sci-fi. So I don’t get why everyone is suddenly outraged at the lack of self-awareness shown by the SFWA bulletin featuring artwork of a scantily clad warrior woman complete with a gold bikini and wielding a phallic symbol sword. It’s nothing new.
C.J. Henderson with his Barbie commentary that she remains an icon because she got “her college degree but never acted as if it was something owed to her, or that Ken tried to deny her,” has me questioning how often he gets out in between writing crime fiction and comic books. I’ll dress like the Bratz girls if I bloody well want to but that doesn’t mean I’m asking for it. The established ideals in our society have always placed more value on our bodies than our brains. And our pay grades show it. I’m sorry but I will not maintain my quiet dignity the way a woman should. The idiotic complaints Resnick and Malzberg voice that the Internet backlash against their previous article about “lady editors” is censorship are downright offensive.
I am not censoring the word “beautiful” or the endless images of generic warrior women. The fact that I tried to explain this debacle to my husband as his eyes glazed over in boredom and he made a joke about it goes to demonstrate the deeply ingrained views of women as somehow being inferior. And I’m married to a man with a B.A. in Anthropology—the study of social patterns and practices across cultures. Go figure.
Women should not have to worry they will be targeted when dressing up at anime conventions or participating in cosplay. One year I dressed up as Bloodberry from Saber Marionette J and was approached by an older man who wanted to take my picture. Being young and naïve, I initially assumed he wanted to take my photo because he was a Saber Marionette J fan. When I pointed out that he could find Cherry and Lime ten feet away and his response was, “Who?” I knew he only wanted my picture because he thought I was hot. And it makes me want to vomit when I wonder how many times the pervy dickbag has spanked off to my photo.
I worked as a video game beta tester for a company that had to issue a memo to its predominantly male workforce to remove offensive posters of naked women from their cubicles and offices when they first hired a handful of women. But posters with Sandra Bullock were fucking fine as long as she was clothed. I won’t even get into the everyday bullshit I had to deal with to do what I loved which at the time was video games.
And I used to participate in LARP. On one occasion my glasses flew across a grassy field and were almost trampled because a douchesicle decided to execute an illegal head shot with a makeshift sword constructed out of padded rattan. The cheap shot was deliberate because he wasn’t happy about who I was dating at the time or rather he wasn’t happy that I wasn’t screwing him. Although, I must say that the male underestimation of female paintball players is downright funny. I’ll take you out every time you hesitate on pulling the trigger 😉
I’ve definitely outted myself as a nerd by now. I played Dungeon’s and Dragon’s, watched Monday Night Raw and Thursday Night Smack Down, and played video games. When I was kid I was a total tomboy. You couldn’t keep shoes or clothes on me and I played hard with the neighborhood boys around my grandma’s house. Although, my total lack of coordination made me a walking catastrophe, I gave the boys a run for their money. That never changed. What did change was growing tits. As soon as that happened I became unapproachable, unequal, and lacked previous hard-won playground respect.
Most of my male counterparts hate geek stereotyping shows like the Big Bang Theory or the movie Grandma’s Boy. But take a walk in my shoes. The stereotyping is funny as shit because it’s true. Stop complaining that women are bitches and you can’t get laid because you’re a geek. Own up to your own social ineptitude and objectifying behavior. Trust me, I’ve dated plenty of modemers and “geeks” in my day. You’re not going to get a date if you view us as ethereal beings that you can’t approach or talk to. It’s not because we’re bitches that don’t like glasses. Just ask my husband. His crow’s feet that crinkle when he smiles and glasses are sexy as fuck.
I applaud Karina Cooper for calling out authors that don’t think romance qualifies as a real book. I’m not some liberal fascist threatening free speech. Speculative fiction and gaming are notoriously male dominated industries. The fact that I have to explain my sex life for writing erotic romance and erotica is a harebrained sexist notion. It hurts deeply that my husband has never read my writing, this blog, and questions “where all this is going” and asks “why can’t I write something else.” As if perhaps I’ve fallen off some moral bandwagon because I write about sex. Writing scenes that contain alpha males and bdsm doesn’t mean I want to be raped. And I’m sure if you made that statement to anyone in the FetLife community they would take insult. Our slut-shaming society is so uptight over sex that the history of romance writing contains laughable vaginal euphemisms.
Writing alpha male hard-asses and women in sexually submissive roles doesn’t contribute to objectifying women. The submissive has all the power anyway if you really want to get into it. And I’m an equal opportunity offender and I’ve written characters such as Tessa Green that are in sexually dominant roles. The problem lies with the state of our culture. We label women or make them feel inferior for engaging in sexual behaviors that deviate from the traditional expectations of our gender. Every single woman in my church was talking up a storm when Fifty Shades of Grey came out. But do you think they’d still drop their kids off in my CCD class if they knew I was a smut peddling writer? (Don’t worry. Last year was my last year teaching.) I don’t know but I imagine not. Perhaps that’s just the cynic in me believing moral hypocrisy will always win. It’s ok to read it but let’s speculate about the writer. Is she writing what she knows? Who gives a flying fuck what anyone does in their bedrooms? Oh, I forgot—Rush Limbaugh with his remarks about contraceptive mandates and labeling Sandra Fluke as a slut. Misogyny of women and slut-shaming runs so deep that it’s become acceptable, even on a subconscious level—like with my husband.
October of last year the television series, Law & Order: SVU decided to tackle this topic in an episode that was clearly inspired by E.L. James. The book may not have been Fifty Shades of Grey but the message was clear. I’m just not sure everyone got the right message. The story followed an author of a similar book containing bdsm on a book tour. She appeared on a talk show and was sexually assaulted by the show’s host. However, she was the one to initiate contact with him and played a submissive role. In a second attack he raped her in an elevator. Charging him was problematic because the author wrote about a public sex scene in an elevator. Obviously it must have been a fantasy that she willingly wanted to act out by being raped. At least the episode concluded with the capture of her assailant. It’s clearly slut-shaming with blame directed toward women for dressing provocatively, our need for birth control, being sexually assaulted, or even being blamed for rape. Now I suppose women have to watch not only what we wear but what we write as well because we might just be asking for it.
Just because something has a long standing history doesn’t make it ok. I know Chris F. Holm meant well and in an ideal world, I would agree. But we don’t live in that world. Inaction equals acceptance of the status quo. While I appreciate the sentiments and the peaceful resistance to the inequality of women in publishing, until we’re actually treated as equals that philosophy doesn’t work.