Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sometimes I Think Yelling Louder is the Solution (to Everything)

I'm about to say something ridiculously stupid. I'll probably get in trouble for it and you can all feel free to tell me how wrong I am (because I do promise to listen). But, on the other hand, I'm very much NOT one of those writers or bloggers who gets a whole lot of attention anyway.

There's been a lot of talk in my circles lately about how women of a certain age (and SF women writers of a "certain career length") begin to disappear as they age. I'm young yet (at least in my opinion), being several years away from fifty (only three...), but I might fall in to the "certain career length" category, since I was first published at the very beginning of this century.

I'm hearing war stories from my colleagues, women in SF, that are mind-boggling. The kind that make me feel like what I did in 1999 is neigh-on impossible now--that, publishing SF as a woman with a female protagonist, is harder now than it was back then. When I asked why this is, it was explained to me that I was an acceptable token. Token women weren't seen as a threat. Now that nearly 40% of SFWA is female, we're seen as over-running the genre, ruining it, or, as the Lightspeed Magazine campaign snarkily said, "WOMEN DESTROYING SCIENCE FICTION."

I don't doubt this, by the way. Numerous studies have been shown that some men feel outnumbered by women, when the actual percentage of women in the room is only at a third, or even less. It's also very, VERY clear from things like Gamergate and countless others, that sexism is alive and well and very much the blunt weapon of choice of a surprising number of people these days.

That's not really the issue I want to talk about though. I bring it up, only to make sure that what I'm about to say is not conflated with any sense that I might not believe sexism is a real thing. Or that I think because my experiences with it are very different, that I don't believe it happens all the time to people I know and that it is scary and real.

I think, however, when it comes to aging, one must plan to do it graceLESSly.

On Facebook, the other day, author Sharon Lee brought up the idea of the disappearing woman of a certain age with an example of something she saw happening in a restaurant. A woman was ignored by the servers, presumably because she was female and because she was older (also presumably alone or in the company of another woman). A number of people jumped on to the thread and added at if you'e "of a certain size" it can be even worse. People actively don't want to see you. You get hostilely ignored.

Again, I don't doubt this is a real phenomenon. Not at all. But, sometimes I think yelling loudly is the solution.

It's probably far too simplistic. I realize that. But, I'm planning to go out kicking and screaming. I've been ignored by servers. If it's busy I will give people a slight benefit of the doubt and give them a few extra minutes to get to me, but if I'm left hanging too long I start yelling. I starting saying, "Excuse me, I need service." If I can't get people's attention that way, I leave. And I make sure to tell the manager or someone on the way out that I'm leaving because i got ignored.

I feel like that's my personal solution to a lot of problems. I have never had a man talk over me, BECAUSE, IF HE TRIES, I JUST SHOUT LOUDER. Like I said in my post about "fandom being welcoming," I am super-privileged in that I have never, ever doubted my right to an opinion. If someone tells me to my face that I don't have the right because of some chromosomes I have that they don't, I tell them to shut the f*ck up, because they're obviously a moron.

I read somewhere too, that part of women disappearing has to do with the male gaze, i.e. that we "disappear" because MEN no longer see us. I know that can't be all there is to it, because I stopped courting the attention of men in my first year of college. Even then I gave, as the kids would say, very few f*cks about what ANYONE thought of me, male or female.

To be fair, I have somehow, despite this attitude, never been issued a death threat. No one has ever threatened to rape me or harm me because I dared to say my opinion.

And I know this happens to other women.

And I know that being white helps a lot. I also know that being a professional "of a certain career length" actually comes with privileges, too.

So maybe it's more that I just WISHED that shouting helped. And maybe I'm just going to keep shouting for all the people who can't.

You may see me on a lot of panels about this in the future, because Eleanor Arnason and I have decided we're not going to go out quietly. Maybe we will continue to be ignored as we grow older (just as we were when we were young), but at least we will make what noise we can. I refuse to not contribute to the conversation, even if I wasn't invited.


Eleanor said...

I keep looking for the like button.

tate hallaway said...

Yeah, I know, I wish we had one of those!