You are getting nerdy…

Don’t Ignore the Problem. Call it Out.

Okay, I’ve had a few drinks, I think I’m ready for this one.

Apparently, women are killing science fiction

That link has had a lot of circulation since the article was first posted more than a week ago.  I’m not going to put too much time into commenting on the misogyny that saturates the article, or the obvious delusions of the charmingly nicknamed writer.  Countless bloggers have done that already.  I am instead going to focus on an aspect of the popular reaction to the article, best expressed in John Scalzi’s response.

“I’m not going to link to it, as abject misogynist stupidity should not be rewarded with links. You can track it down on your own if you like.”

I am generally okay with this sentiment.  “Pro-male/Anti-feminist Tech” and the website he represents are surely hoping to gain some attention from this article, among others.  Why should we reward them?  This is a perfectly valid viewpoint.  I am also entirely in agreement with Mr. Scalzi’s “point and laugh” suggestion.  However, I have seen a few bloggers and commenters suggesting that we are making a mistake by posting any links to the article at all, and there I begin to see a problem.

My generation has been raised in an atmosphere where we are taught that those who act out are seeking attention, and that if we ignore them they will go away.  Being the son of a highly experienced behavioural specialist, I know that there is truth in this.  Many people, particularly children, individuals with developmental disabilities, and particularly stupid people who are still considered more valuable than those with developmental disabilities for some reason*, act out in overtly noticeable ways to gain attention.  In many of those cases, it is best not to reward that behaviour with the attention they seek.  And I can see how the writer of the above article might be ranked among children or particularly stupid people.  This, however, is not the whole of the issue.

Our society, in its current iteration, believes that it has progressed far beyond the prejudices of generations past.  In many ways we have.  We are a far more progressive society than that of our grandparents, or even of our parents.  It is a mistake, however, to think we have overcome all of our prejudices, and I have noticed that our modern culture has a tendency to rest on its laurels, indulging in self-congratulation for how much better it is than generations past.  It is far too easy to grow complacent, and assume that all opponents of equality have been vanquished.

Now, I’m not saying that The Spearhead, wonderfully named site that it is, is a significant threat to social progress on its own.  It’s just one site, populated by a fringe group of deluded wingnuts, after all.  It is, however, a symptom of a more serious problem.  There are people in this enlightened first world who believe the things this writer is saying.  Look at the comments section for the article.  People are agreeing with this.  It has been argued that some of those people have positions of power over the literary field being discussed.  Despite what we want to believe, the problem has not gone away.

So what good does it do to ignore it?  Why is that the better option?  Frankly, ignoring them won’t make them go away, and if we leave these sorts of people to their own devices, they’ll keep shouting until someone listens.  Eventually, they might even get some kind of movement.  It’s certainly not likely, but it’s not impossible.  Ignoring them accomplishes nothing.  We’re not really depriving them of attention, because they’re getting it anyway, from the people who agree with and encourage them.

On the other hand, drawing attention to intellectual failures like the article in The Spearhead raises awareness of a problem that isn’t buried as deeply as some people might think.  It’s important, in my opinion, to shine the cold light of day on people like this.  When they exist only on the very edge of our perception, they can appear much larger and more formidable than they really are.  When we pull back the curtain, we can show them for what they are: small, scared men, unwilling to let go of a past that never even existed.

Link to the article.  Link to it in as many places as you can.  The benefit you will give to the site is miniscule compared to the opportunity you’ll give to others to debunk its claims.  Or ridicule them.  Or simply to be aware that such opinions still exist and must be contended with.  Communities like The Spearhead can stew in ignorance all they like.  We don’t have to do the same.

*I have, in my life, known individuals with developmental disabilities who have been valuable contributing members of society, and wonderful people.  The same cannot be said for those who engage in the willful idiocy I refer to in the case of “particularly stupid people”.


October 22, 2009 Posted by | Books, Rant | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment