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Social Justice Saturday, a bit early: Five Myths about #mooreandme

17 Dec

Parts of this post may be triggering. I’m not cutting it because I kind of want everyone in the world to read it.
So here’s the thing, I’ve been tweeting away on #mooreandme busily, busily, and I feel so sad. I kind of feel sad every time someone I follow makes a tweet that *isn’t* succeeded by #mooreandme. I feel sad that @RHNZ and #totw have both trended in New Zealand in the last 24 hours, because people want free books and free chocolate, but we don’t care enough about rape culture, about ending rape culture, to make #mooreandme trend. I feel sad that maybe another explanation is that Twitter doesn’t want #mooreandme to trend.

Five Myths About #mooreandme, or, #mooreandme and me

5. You’re just doing it cos you hate Michael Moore/Keith Olberman/Wikileaks and you want them to go away. Or you’re being manipulated by the right wing media.

Here’s Sady Doyle:


So now I’m outside the tower and I’m telling you, Michael Moore, I’ve known you my whole life, my mom showed me your movie to prove that it was a good thing to stand up to the bullies, we watched every episode of TV Nation together, I got to stay up late, I was in high school when Columbine happened and I was eighteen years old and voted in my first Presidential election and I watched everything get taken away, and you were what hope looked like. Michael Moore, I’m outside the tower, we all are, and I know because I’ve talked to my friends about it that I’m not the only one who had this happen. I’m not the only one you meant this much to. We’re outside, all the people who relied on you, and we’re asking you just to come down. Just to talk. Just to prove that these little voices matter, that you really did mean it, that you should wait outside Roger’s office because for a man to do all that damage and not speak to a sufferer of it is a terrible thing, for a person to wait outside for the man in the tower with just his one small voice was the right thing to do, I’m just asking you, we’re outside, come down. We sound angry. We sound angry because we are angry, because you did a bad thing, several terrible things, over and over again and on TV, and you should apologize. And I mean, Keith Olbermann, honestly, didn’t mean that much to me. I didn’t expect anything better from him. But from you. But from Roger & Me… We’ve been standing outside all day, I’ve been called a whiny bitch and a liar and stupid and an insult to real rape victims as though I was never sexually assaulted my own damn self, I’ve been told to “fuck off and die” with like five exclamation points, I’ve been asked why I’m not “in the kitchen” because that’s always new and witty, I’ve been called so many names, all day, and it’s cold and I can’t sleep, and I’m still waiting. So please, please, please prove that you believed that story. Prove that we were right to believe it with you. We loved the story, we needed the story, please, please, make the story end better this time. Make Roger come down. Please, please, please come down.

I mean, he’s coming, right?

The people involved in #mooreandme are Moore fans and Olbermann fans. We are almost universally on the left, frequently well to the left of the lefties engaging with them. We care about liberalism and progressivism. We vote. We’re educated about politics and about the media and we’re activists. We watch the Daily Show and the Colbert Report and sometimes think those guys are a bit sexist but it’s what we’ve got. We think Wikileaks is really important. We don’t want Michael Moore or Keith Olbermann to go away: we want them to talk to us.

As for the right wing media: I suppose it’s possible, but I am literally never directly exposed to right wing media. I don’t read newspapers or watch the TV news (and although I used “we” above I actually don’t watch the Daily Show or Colbert Report either). I don’t listen to the radio. I don’t visit Stuff or even Scoop and the most right-wing blogger I read regularly is Keith Ng. I can’t even watch television advertising because it’s so sexist, racist, homophobic and conservative. I have exaggerated this paragraph for comedic effect – I am not a total shut-in – but its broad thrust is true. I don’t think we’re being deceived here, and the reason I don’t think that is that the right wing media is a bastion of rape culture. It’s everything #mooreandme is fighting against and all of the people participating know that and criticise it for that all the time.

4. You don’t care about rape or have a history of rape activism.

It’s true that I don’t have a history of rape activism. But it’s not like Bitch Media, Ms Magazine, Jezebel or Sady Doyle are saying anything different than they usually do. It’s just that they’re saying it to people on the left wing. #mooreandme people are not being opportunistic: it’s actually Moore and Olbermann who are being opportunistic, taking advantage of rape culture to defend someone they admire.

3. You’re so naive about global politics. You need to read some international media.

I was actually told this by an American on twitter yesterday. Then he linked to that Daily Mail article (which I am not linking to, but lots of people are); the irony of an American telling a New Zealander I need to understand the international press better and then recommending the Daily Mail is not lost on me but was, I fear, on him. Listen, no-one is saying that the international movement on this is not politically motivated. It probably is. What we’re saying is, the political timing does not affect the veracity of the accusations, and it should not be treated as if it does.

2. What he’s been charged with isn’t even rape in America or the UK or Australia or New Zealand or, like, anywhere.

Here’s the Guardian:

The first complainant, a Miss A, said she was the victim of “unlawful coercion” on the night of 14 August in Stockholm. The court heard Assange was alleged to have “forcefully” held her arms and used his bodyweight to hold her down. The second charge alleged he “sexually molested” her by having sex without using a condom, when it was her “express wish” that one should be used.

A third charge claimed Assange “deliberately molested” Miss A on 18 August.

A fourth charge, relating to a Miss W, alleged that on 17 August, he “improperly exploited” the fact she was asleep to have sex with her without a condom.

If you “have sex” with someone when she’s unconscious, that’s rape. Here and in Sweden. If someone says she’ll only have sex with you if you wear a condom, and then you don’t, that’s rape. Here and in Sweden. If you have to forcefully hold someone down to “have sex” with her? That’s rape: Here and in Sweden and everywhere.

1. The Assange case is different from other rape cases.

This is the one that makes me sad. Because actually, this isn’t different at all. Here’s what I think these people don’t understand: this is the thing that always happens. A man is accused of rape, maybe he’s charged, maybe he’s not. Maybe he gets arrested, maybe he doesn’t. But the second a woman or a man opens their mouth, the second this brave person says “I was raped”, people start looking for reasons not to believe. Maybe the accused man is powerful or beautiful or maybe lots of people admire him. Maybe he’s an activist and we can’t afford to lose his contribution. Maybe he’s a powerful conservative politician, maybe he’s a leader in his church, maybe he’s a policeman, maybe he’s a doctor. Maybe he’s a husband, maybe he’s a father, maybe he’s a brother, maybe he’s a family friend. Maybe he saves animals on the weekend or maybe he goes fishing with you on the weekend and you just know he’s a really good guy, he would never do something like that.

Maybe the woman is a feminist. Maybe she dyed her hair blonde, which means she wants attention. Maybe she wore high heels one time or one time consented to sex with this man or with another man or with a woman. Maybe she’s a sex worker, maybe she’s just an angry person. Maybe she met the guy in public and didn’t seem to be upset. Maybe she talked to someone else before speaking up, maybe found out that they both had the same experience, maybe that galvanised them because they were afraid for other women. Maybe she didn’t speak up, for days or months or years, because she was afraid or because she knew that in the US only 6% of rapists will ever spend time in jail, or because this man was a police officer and his friends were with him when he did it.

And this is old news. This happens every time. I read that Daily Mail article and I felt helpless and angry because this article could have been written about any woman who has ever been the plaintiff in a rape case and it has been. And that article and articles like it make life easier for rapists. They make it easier to be part of the 94%. They make it easier to be part of the 60% of rapes in the USA that never even get reported. And men were quoting this article at me like it was a fact; like people’s sexual history is relevant in a rape case; like this was unusual. Michael Moore said the charges were of a “strange nature”. He called them “hooey”. Michael Moore, if I was drugged and raped tomorrow and my rapists filmed it and that video was shown at the trial, there would be a lawyer willing to stand up and say that I was faking being unconscious because I wanted to make porn, and the men who raped me might not be convicted. That’s not a joke: that’s happened.That’s strange nature, if you like.

All of the behaviour, all of the questioning of these women, all of their uncertainty, all of their unwillingness to believe someone they admired could possibly be a rapist, is standard. It’s normal. This is rape culture, gentlemen, and you should not be helping it along. You should be criticising it. Even when it’s politically inconvenient, even when it’s hard, even when it makes you sad. 94% of rape survivors are counting on you.



Social Justice Saturday: But Why Aren’t Men Writing Urban Fantasy?

10 Dec Images of Seanan McGuire's A Local Habitation, Jim Butcher's Dead Beat, a both-gender UF collection called Mean Streets, Emma Bull's War for the Oaks and Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. McGuire and Butcher's covers have notable similarities, as do Bull's and Gaiman's

A recent observation that very few women had recently won a Clarke award (British SF award) and that a publisher’s list of “Future SF Classics” had selected no women sparked a lot of discussion in many places that has, extraordinarily, been really very thoughtful. Torque is now having a focus week on women SF writers of the last decade and if you read blogs about science fiction at all you’ve probably seen some discussion of this (I highly recommend the comment thread in the first post I linked, but put the kettle on first as it will take some stamina!)

Anyway. I haven’t read much science fiction (as opposed to fantasy) for many years but there was one tiny segment of the discussion I do feel prepared to comment on, and that was a question in one thread that I’ll paraphrase: “Women are by far the bulk of the writers in the urban fantasy genre, why don’t we view that as a problem?”

The first answer, of course, is that plenty of people are interested in that question. A very large number of these novels overlap with the romance genre, which is overwhelmingly read in and written in by women (although there are also plenty of men writing it under pseuds), and of course the paucity of men reading romance is a problem. Romance and SF present two side of the same dilemma, except that there are quite a few more women reading SF than men reading romance (but the same couldn’t really be said of the proportion of writers, IMO). The second answer that it’s not quite fair to compare an across-the-board relative paucity of women getting contracts in SF generally to a specific genre within fantasy – after all, the bulk of people writing epic fantasy are men.

The third answer goes like this:

She came into the room like a candle burning with a cold, clear flame. Her hair was a burnished shade of auburn that was too dark to cast back any ruddy highlights, but did anyway. Her eyes were dark, clear, her complexion flawlessly smooth and elegantly graced with cosmetics. She was not a tall woman, but shapely, wearing a black dress with a plunging neckline and a slash in one side that showed off a generous portion of pale thigh. Black gloves covered her hands to above the elbows, and her three-hundred-dollar shoes were a study in high-heeled torture devices. She looked too good to be true.

And like this:

Hank tried to rise but the movement brought a white-hot flare of pain that almost made him black out again. The girl went down on one knee beside him, her face close to his. She put two fingers to her lips and licked them, then pressed them against his shoulder, her touch as light as a whisper, and the pain went away. Just like that, as though she’d flicked a switch.

Leaning back, she offered Hank her hand. Her skin was dry and cool to the touch and she was strong. Effortlessly, she pulled him up into a sitting position. Hank braced himself for a fresh flood of pain, but it was still gone. He reached up to touch his shoulder. There was a hole in his shirt, the fabric sticky and wet with blood. But there was no wound. Unable to take his gaze from the girl, he explored with a finger, found a pucker of skin where the bullet hole had closed, nothing more. The girl grinned at him.

All he could do was look back at her, stumbling to frame a coherent sentence. “What . . . how did you . . . ?”

“Spit’s just as magic as blood,” she said. “Didn’t you ever know that?”

He shook his head.

“You look so funny,” she went on. “The way you’re staring at me.”

Before he could move, she leaned forward and kissed him, a small tongue darting out to flick against his lips, then she jumped to her feet, leaving behind a faint musky smell.

And also like this:

A rich female voice asked from the darkness, “Hss. Any idea when the next market is?”

She stepped into the light. She wore silver jewelry, and her dark hair was perfectly coifed. She was very pale, and her long dress was jet black velvet. Richard knew immediately that he had seen her before, but it took him a few moments to place her: the first Floating Market, that was it – in Harrods. She had smiled at him.

“Tonight,” said Hunter. “Belfast.”

“Thank you,” said the woman. She had the most amazing eyes, thought Richard. They were the color of foxgloves.

“I’ll see you there,” she said, and she looked at Richard as she said it. Then she looked away, a little shyly; she stepped into the shadows, and she was gone.

And I’ve given myself away with that last one: but the first quote is from Storm Front by Jim Butcher, the second is from Someplace To Be Flying by Charles de Lint, and the third of course is from Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.
So is the question: why aren’t any men writing urban fantasy? Or is it: why don’t we notice when men write urban fantasy?

I don't know ...

... maybe this has something do to with it?

The fourth answer is: this is a classic derailing tactic. People are talking about problem A (lack of women’s representation in one area) and other people decide that we definitely have to talk about another problem, B (perceived lack of men’s representation in another). While in this case the problems are connected enough that the questions can be part of the discussion, in general, if you want to talk about problem B? Go and write your own blog post about B and solicit discussion.

There's hope for us all, anyway.