Kameron Hurley is not amused by the ongoing sexism problems in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America or the idea that criticism of this is censorship:
So. I get it. The world used to agree with you. You used to be able to say things like, “I really like those lady writers in this industry, especially in swimsuits!” and your fellow writers, editors, agents, and other assorted colleagues would all wink and grin and agree with you, and Asimov would go around pinching women’s asses, and it was so cool!
The problems arose with the SFWA’s quarterly magazine, in the regular column written by Barry Malzberg and Mike Resnick. E. Catherine Tobler has a good summing up in her open lettre to the SFWA:
It began with issue #200 of the Bulletin—all right, #199 if we want to get technical. It began with the Resnick and Malzberg Dialogues, a long-time feature of the publication. It began when two men sat down to have a dialogue about editors and writers of the female gender.
I found a dialogue that seemed more focused on how these “lady editors” and “lady writers” looked in bathing suits, and that they were “beauty pageant beautiful” or a “knock out.” I am certain no condescension was intended with the use of “lady,” but as the dialogues went on, I felt the word carried a certain tone—perhaps that was a fiction of my own making. As I listened to these two men talk about lady editors and writers they had known, I grew uneasy. Something wasn’t right.
The editorial staff (headed by a woman) vowed to improve, to seek more membership input. Issue #201 was little better—it included an article, written by another man, that told women to emulate Barbie, to “maintain our quiet dignity as a woman should.”
Issue #202 brought with it a “rebuttal” from Malzberg and Resnick, in which they used the words “censorship,” and “suppression,” and “ban.” In which they said those who complained about their article were anonymous to them, that the SFWA forum had become “the arena for difference.” Was it members who objected to “apparent sexism,” or was it a larger, darker, more hostile and threatening thing that wanted to suppress their dialogues?
In all the complaints that were voiced, there was never a call for censorship. There was never a call for suppression. There was a call for respect.
In response to this and previous feedback from members about recent issues of the Bulletin, I have authorized the formation of a task force to look at the Bulletin and to determine how the publication needs to proceed from this point in order to be a valuable and useful part of the SFWA member experience.
When Brown Lady Shepard is rude, or curt, or dismissive, the reactions she receives from others are not to her gender or her race, but to her words. Why? Because the character was written with the expectation that most people will play it as a white dude … In Mass Effect, no matter what my Shepard says or does, not only is the dialogue the same as it would be for the cultural “default”, but the reaction from the other non-player characters is the same … Brown Lady Shepard waves her intimidation up in a dude’s face and he backs the fuck down, just like he would if she were a hyper-privileged white guy. My Lady Shepard faces no additional pressure to prove herself because of her background; if she is dismissed, it’s on the basis of her assertions, and not because she’s a queer woman of color from a poor socioeconomic background — even though that’s exactly what she is.
We don’t need Lady Shepard to verbally eviscerate a racist or punch an ass-grabber in the face to know she’s tough. We know she’s tough by her non-explicitly-gendered actions — the same way we know Dude Shepard is tough.
Yes, I’ve been playing Mass Effect this weekend, about five years behind everybody else. And like everybody sane, I’m playing FemShep, as who’d want to play an overmuscled meathead if they don’t have to? To be honest, I usually play as a female character if I get the opportunity; gaming after all is as much about being somebody else than your normal self as it is about anything else.
Underneath the surface FemShep, the female version of Mass Effect’s hero, is quite literally the same as her male counterpart: they share the same animations, the same dialogue trees, etc. Which means, as Lesley Kinzel explains above, that female Shepard is treated the same as male Shepard and people respond to her personality and actions, rather than to her gender or race. This is interesting, rarer than it should be in pop culture, let alone real life. It’s not completely unproblematic, still a standard sort of sci-fi adventure, but the ability to play a competent, tough female action hero and it’s no big deal, is worth it.
So this weekend was spent in the beautiful old town of Gent, with a couple of friends, as we went to pick up a supply of what’s supposedly the best beer in the world: Westvleteren 12. The results you can see above.
For those who are not beer geeks, Westvleteren is a socalled Trappist beer: beer brewed by Trappist monks within the monastry itself to pay for the upkeep of the monastry, with any remaining profit going to charitable works. What makes Westvleteren unique amongst the eight existing Trappist breweries is that it’s only sold at the abbey itself and brewed in limited quantities. To get it, you first need to make an appointment a couple of weeks in advance, then show up by car to pick up your two crates of 24 bottles. You can’t choose the beer they’re selling and you have to wait at least two months before you can buy them again.
All of which has imparted a certain mystique to the beer, as most beer geeks, especially those outside Europe, will have had little to no chance to drink it. Personally I quite like both the 12 and the 8 as I sampled them this weekend, sitting in the restaurant across the monastry, but I’m not sure how much its reputation reflects its own intrinsic qualities and how much it has to do with its rarity.
But getting it was a good excuse for a trip to a beautiful city and spent a couple of days boozing in its bars with friends who appreciate good beer. Not to mention that it also gave me the opportunity to visit an old friend for the first time and admire his beautiful, well kept house and perfect family…