Thursday, November 09, 2006

Still Stunned

I didn't think I would have anything interesting to discuss tonight, but then I checked my e-mail.

I may have mentioned before on this blog that I'm a member of Broad Universe, an organization devoted to promoting women in science fiction, fantasy, and horror. I'm on their mailing list and received a digest of messages tonight. The main topic of discussion was sexual harassment in SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America, the professional organization for writers in this genre) and at conventions. I'm not sure how much I should share (and I don't know the names of the men involved), but one of the incidents mentioned by a woman on the list was about going to an awards ceremony and being slapped in the face by a well-known judge moments before receiving an award. Another woman mentioned not having her science fiction writing credits recognized and being excluded from panels while men wondered why they'd been assigned to the same panels.

I don't have enough background on these situations to make judgements about them. Nonetheless, I feel I should say something about them, if only to point out how unprofessional and unacceptable this behavior is, no matter in what field it occurs. I guess I'm all the more stunned by it because I attend WisCon, a feminist convention with a welcoming atmosphere, every year. Perhaps I take such feminism for granted. The woman who got slapped described how stunned she felt immediately afterwards, too stunned to react. Someone else mentioned how women are conditioned to automatically think they're somehow to blame for such treatment. Again, this is another reaction that makes it difficult for women to stand up for themselves in the heat of the moment. One woman did describe how she got someone to leave her alone, but it was a different type of situation.

I studied martial arts for a couple of years in high school and freshman year of college and reach the rank of green stripe, halfway to black belt. Although I no longer practice kicks and thrusts regularly, I like to think I still have the reflexes to defend myself in a similar situation. Given that I'm a short woman who looks younger than she is, it wouldn't surprise me if something like this did happen at some point in my life, either at a SF convention or elsewhere. Hopefully, if I remind myself that sexual harrassment still exists, I'll be more prepared to recognize it and defend myself if it ever happens to me. And hopefully this blog will make others more aware too. We shouldn't have to deal with this behavior in an era when a woman is two heartbeats away from the presidency, but some behaviors persist in the human population for much longer than they should.

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