The smell of print comics gives me flashbacks now

Tabletop Gaming has a White Male Terrorism Problem (but don’t think your nerd hobby is any better):

White male terrorism is the white underbelly of the gaming community, meant to terrify and disrupt the lives of those who threaten the status quo by race, gender, or sexuality. It succeeds because the majority of men in the community are too cowardly to stand against the bullies and the terrorists. At best, these cowards ignore the problem. At worst, they join the terrorists in blaming their victims for the abuse. The point of online terrorism is that it is endless, omnipresent, and anonymous.

This is an absolutely disgusting story and sadly all too typical for many women/POC within fandom and nerd circles. I want to believe that this is an American problem and that we’re better here in Europe, but I fear that’s a lie.

“a covert kind of feminist SF”

In ada, “a journal of gender, new media & technology”, Lucy Baker looks at how Lois McMaster Bujold treats the birthing process in her Vorkosigan series and how it echoes real world feminist concerns:

Lois McMaster Bujold’s science fiction (SF) relies on the symbiotic relationship between the technological and the social. This is often illustrated by the tension between the scientific and medicalized process of reproduction (via uterine replicators, cloning, and genetic modification) and the primal, ‘natural’ process. Varied levels of technological advancement and associated societal changes across the myriad planets within her SF universe allow Bujold to structure this tension as an emotional and social process as much as a medical or obstetrical one, while maintaining a respect for the choices, risks, and vulnerabilities involved in becoming pregnant.


Bujold’s SF work highlights and integrates women’s experiences into the narrative. It is this examination and ultimately hopeful yet practical approach that makes Bujold’s work feminist – it is “Invention…stories and role models and possibilities, that prepare us to leap barriers and scale heights no one has reached before, that prepare us to change the world.” (Gomoll 6).

I only found this because it showed up in my referers one day, linking to my post arguing that Bujold writes hard science fiction. It’s further proof that despite her and the Vorkosigan series massive popularity, she’s still underestimated as a serious and important science fiction author. Partially it must be because the series is published by Baen Books, often somewhat unfairly dismissed as a publisher of cookie cutter mil-sf and other pulp and at first glance it’s easy to confuse the Vorkosigan books as something like the Honor Harrington series: lightweight entertainment.

That her gender also plays a part I’ll take as a given, though I note that hasn’t stopped her from winning an impressive number of Hugo and Nebula awards.

But what may also play a role is perhaps that Bujold is actually not obvious enough with her writing; as Baker argues, she writes “a covert kind of feminist SF”, nowhere near as overtly political as a Joanna Russ or even a Nicola Griffith. That the setting is the familiar sort of semi-feudal, aristocratic stellar empire helps hide this too, as the revolution the uterine replicator brings to Barrayar on the surface looks just like modernisation, not anything really revolutionary. In the same way the uterine replicator itself doesn’t look like hard science fiction because Bujold focuses too little attention to the technological side of things, but rather more on the social impact of it as filtrered through the point of view of her aristocratic protagonists.

(You could even make an argument that the overall story of the Vorkosigan series is showing the start of a bourgeois revolution, as progressive members of the old aristocracy make common cause with the up and coming rich merchants to remake the feudal system in their favour…)

And of course perhaps the most important reason why Bujold is underestimated is that she’s so very readable; you rarely have to struggle with reading her novels and we still tend to think difficulty equals genius.

This is what patriarchy looks like.

It’s no news that Anita Sarkeesian has had to deal with all sorts of horrible filth aimed at her, from rape threats to an unending stream of gendered insults, but seeing only a week’s sampling in the flesh so to speak, is still something else:

Ever since I began my Tropes vs Women in Video Games project, two and a half years ago, I’ve been harassed on a daily basis by irate gamers angry at my critiques of sexism in video games. It can sometimes be difficult to effectively communicate just how bad this sustained intimidation campaign really is. So I’ve taken the liberty of collecting a week’s worth of hateful messages sent to me on Twitter. The following tweets were directed at my @femfreq account between 1/20/15 and 1/26/15.

Which is followed up by tweet after tweet of abuse. It’s hard to read this stuff even as a bystander, somebody who this isn’t aimed at, how much more awful must it be for Sarkeesian and other women who are deliberately targeted by every odious little troll with a persecution complex. What makes it all that much worse is knowing that even men with a similar sort of visibility like Sarkeesian, somebody like John Scalzi say, also noticably outspoken on matters of feminism and privilege, seem far less likely to have to deal with shit like this.

Twentyfive years ago today

Lest we forget:

Geneviève Bergeron (b. 1968), civil engineering student.
Hélène Colgan (b. 1966), mechanical engineering student.
Nathalie Croteau (b. 1966), mechanical engineering student.
Barbara Daigneault (b. 1967), mechanical engineering student.
Anne-Marie Edward (b. 1968), chemical engineering student.
Maud Haviernick (b. 1960), materials engineering student.
Maryse Laganière (b. 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique’s finance department.
Maryse Leclair (b. 1966), materials engineering student.
Anne-Marie Lemay (b. 1967), mechanical engineering student.
Sonia Pelletier (b. 1961), mechanical engineering student.
Michèle Richard (b. 1968), materials engineering student.
Annie St-Arneault (b. 1966), mechanical engineering student.
Annie Turcotte (b. 1969), materials engineering student.
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (b. 1958), nursing student.

Wiscon needs to clean its act up

So last year Wiscon had a harassment problem when Elise Matthesen was harassed by somebody who later turned out to be Tor editor Jim Frenkel, who was fired for this and similar harassment. This year Wiscon still has a harassment problem, as Jim Frenkel was allowed to not only attend, but play an active role in the con. Which inevitably led to at least one of his victims being made to feel unsafe.

At best, this is a massive fuckup from a convention that should’ve and could’ve know better, at worst this was a deliberate abnegation of responsibility on the part of the concom.

I mean, this is not some kind of borderline case: Frenkel admitted to what he had done and even his employer found the evidence for his harassment clear enough to fire him for it, so hard could it be to just refuse him entry? As well, both the case and Frenkel are well known enough that anybody on the concom should know who he was and why he shouldn’t have been at the con the moment they saw his name on a membership list or volunteer sheet. Or is that the problem, that he was a well known fan, a friend or acquintance perhaps, who had done something wrong but had apologised and it seemed unfair to punish him further?

But of course, as we all know, to be lenient to a harasser at a con means making your con unsafe for his victims and potential victims, means excluding these people from your con, means you make a choice in favour of harassment. That’s the message that Wiscon has sent out by allowing Frenkel, a year after he was called out for his behaviour, back into the con. Its actions show that it isn’t a safe place, that in fact as an organisation it doesn’t take harassment seriously and thinks the right of the harasser to go to the con trumps that of his victims to feel safe. If I had been harassed by Frenkel or somebody like him, I certainly wouldn’t return to a con that not only hadn’t prevented this harassment, but hadn’t even seem fit to exclude the harasser after the fact.

Again, it’s not as if Wiscon couldn’t have know this would happen, or didn’t have the resources or knowledge to have handled this better, considering the Readercon example, another con that went through a high profile harassment case and then actually took the time to improve both its policies and policing of harassment. Nobody at Wiscon thought to talk to them?

Is it just me, or does this all seem to point at Wiscon not taking harassment at all seriously, thinking that as a feminist convention it couldn’t happen there?