Surfacing from my day job being exhausting this week to find that while I’ve been distracted, the SF/F genre is continuing to be exhausting as well.
Some of today’s high level of activity is extremely necessary and valuable conversation about what to do if you’re the target of sexual harassment at conventions. I’ve seen a guest post from Elise Matthesen go up on John Scalzi’s site here and on Seanan McGuire’s LJ here. Cherie Priest has chimed in here.
And I’m seeing a lot of activity over Twitter, including naming of the individual that Matthesen reported. I applaud her for her speaking up, and all those who are speaking up in support of her as well. Because yeah, reporting this kind of thing takes a lot of bravery. I’ve been there and I’ve done that. It’s exhausting and it can have ramifications that impact you for the rest of your life.
Hand in hand with this I’m also seeing a lot of furor over a particular author’s being up in arms as to why women are criticizing him for having his female characters admiring their own breasts in a mirror. Foz Meadows pretty much says everything I can think of to say on the matter, right over here. Tricia Sullivan speaks up over here. And James Nicoll and his regular readers have all sorts of pithy commentary over here.
Here’s what I can think to add.
During my days on the various MUSHes I played, nineteen times out of twenty, you could tell when a female character was being played by a male player–because she’d be the character spending most of her @desc on the size of her breasts and her other sexual attributes. These were classic examples of the male gaze being applied to the character, presumably without the player even thinking about whether other people interacting with that character might in fact not be heterosexual males.
For the record: speaking as a female reader here, yo, male writers of the world? If I see you arguing with your female readers about how you know more about what women would plausibly do than they do, you’re going to guarantee I’ll never read a word you write in your life.
And speaking particularly as a breast cancer survivor, I’m here to tell you: you know what I’m really, really not interested in? Multiple paragraphs of a female character ogling her own breasts. You want to know what thought processes I usually have about mine, these days? Let me give you a sampling.
“What bra can I wear to hide my scars?”
“How much acetaminophen do I have to have today to make the muscles all around my rib cage stop bitching at me?”
“Is this going to be a day where I can lean over to the right without pain?”
“Can I even begin to think about wearing a swimsuit this summer?”
Somehow, I ain’t holding my breath that this is going to show up in a commercially published SF/F novel any time soon.