About a month ago, Seanan McGuire (of October Daye fame) wrote a kickass blog post about things she will never, ever do to her characters. She wrote about why she will never write a sexual assault in her novels and how disappointing it is that certain subsets of her readership might expect that to happen. It made the internet rounds, it circulated over Twitter, and it probably even percolated into the Reddit circle of hell.
But, to my knowledge, it didn’t reach the upper stratosphere of male SFF novelist bloggers.
On Friday, Patrick Rothuss shared on Facebook a blog post by John Scalzi called ”A Fan Letter to Certain Conservative Politicians.” The essay is a sort of Swiftian satire written from the perspective of a rapist writing to the politicians:
Every time you say ‘I oppose a woman’s right to abortion, even in cases of rape,’ what you’re also saying is ‘I believe that a man who rapes a woman has more of a right to control a woman’s body and life than that woman does.’
It really boils down to that: these wealthy white politicians are saying that ANY man, from rapists to men in power have the right to control women’s lives and bodies. And those man get off on that knowledge.
It’s true. It’s totally true. But by writing this post from this perspective, Scalzi takes control of an issue that belongs almost exclusively to women. He is using his louder megaphone, as a internet-powerful guy, to speak on our behalf.
He’s not alone. Joss Whedon is extolled far and wide as a great feminist, but his strong female characters are inevitably subject to rape and abuse. (*coughBuffyandSpikecough*). And I love Rothfuss for writing strong female characters, but I didn’t see him sharing—or even noticing—Seanan McGuire’s post on a similar topic.
Don’t get me wrong. If I ever meet Scalzi, I’ll give him a high five and buy him a beer. If I meet Rothfuss, I’ll squee and give him hugs. If I meet Whedon, I’ll faint dead away.
But here’s what rubs me the wrong way: in spite of their best intentions, they’re perpetuating the problem.
Scalzi, Rothfuss, and Whedon are—right now—wealthy(ish) white men writing about problems only women face. They are exhibiting the male control they castigate by fighting our fight. I’m not ungrateful, but I’m frustrated that the strongest plays in the feminist fight are coming from men… and even these men don’t seem interested in what women have to say.
They’re taking away our right to fight the good fight.
When women write these posts, they’re quietly applauded, loudly criticized, or just ignored as regurgitating feminist vitriol. So when men like Scalzi step up to the plate, we praise them high and low, and the merits of their argument ring across the internet.
All because they have the lucky position of being a privileged white man writing on behalf of women.
“That’s awesome,” we say, “that they’re using their power to defend women’s rights.”
And it IS. IT IS.
But shouldn’t we women be fighting our own corner? Shouldn’t we be writing the satire? Shouldn’t posts like Seanan McGuire’s be shared all across Facebook and Tweeted with the vengeance of a hundred thousand little blue birds? Shouldn’t one powerful woman be sharing the post of another powerful woman and starting the discussion that way? Instead, I, a woman, found wrote through the internet-fu of one man a post written by another man.
Lots of women write about this issue. I’ve written about feminist woes in fantasy, my friend Emmie Mears has written about women in fantasy and rape issues; but of course, we’re not famous (yet). Yet Seanan McGuire’s series is highly successful, and the male writers talking about feminism and women’s rights don’t even seem to pick up on what she has to say. They’d rather listen to themselves rant and then congratulate each other on their own feminist virtues.
Let’s change this. Let’s share the posts that women write. Let Scalzi host a woman on his popular blog. Let Whedon write a female character who never falls prey to violence from a man. Let’s hear from Jane Espenson on the topic. Let’s take back our own goddamned fight and make our own arguments. We don’t need rich white men taking away our rights or trying to give them back to us.
What do you think, readers? Do you think these men should stop trying to ‘save’ women, or do you like having a champion?
edit: 8 p.m. EDT
Well, the name calling and threats have started in the moderation queue. We’ve all had our fun, but I think it’s time we take a breather. I’m turning the comments off for the evening.