I don’t like to be manipulated. Mind you, I don’t know anyone who thinks it’s loads of fun, but some people don’t seem to mind much. “I wuz taken” gives them an excuse not to think too hard. In fact people like claiming vast conspiracies against them (“the man”, “the patriarchy”, “the illuminati” – don’t laugh at the last one, you should see the comments I don’t approve.) It gives them an excuse not to do anything much. It also makes them important. After all it takes a vast conspiracy to hold them down. They’re that important.
I’m not sure I believe in vast conspiracies. I’ll admit to you that things like Jornolist and the fact that no one, not even a hungry cub reporter has dared reveal our current president’s grades or even what courses he took, specifically, have me raising an eyebrow and wondering if I’m wrong.
However, being wrong would including doubting both Heinlein and my dad, both of which emphasized that two can keep a secret if one of them is dead.
The communist three to a cell system worked pretty well at keeping secrets, mind, but only by walling-off potential damage. And by and large we’ve come to know everything they were up to. It’s just no one believes it, and it’s largely not reported on.
Which brings us to the crux of the matter in this.
Humans are social animals. And, for my sins, I went to an all girl high school. (I don’t know what my sins were, but they must have been terrible. Or terribly fun. Too bad I can’t remember them.)
I know all about ruling by “controlling the cool.” And I know that the outcasts simply aren’t listened to. I wasn’t precisely an outcast. More of a self-out. Even in the gifted form I attended 8th through 11th, I was odd woman out. More or less on purpose.
I don’t like being manipulated, and I’d rather be outside the hierarchy than have to swallow hard and nod along with things that revolted me, to be in.
Being an outsider, when you choose it yourself, is not a bad thing. You get to watch the dance, mark the way the wires are being pulled on the puppets who live and die for social approval.
But you pay a penalty. If you’re an outcast, even a self outcast, they won’t listen to you. You’re written off as “crazy” or “smart of insane.”
Which is okay. Been doing that for a long time. I heard some prophets had the same rap. I can deal.
We know – this is not an if, not once the archives of the Soviet Union opened up – that the Soviet Union and International Communists expended an enormous amount of time and attention to commanding the heights of the field in certain areas: news reporting, publishing, the arts, education.
I think they did it the old clumsy way, by bribery and subversion. I don’t know (haven’t read most of the stuff on it, mostly because it’s published in dribs and drabs) if they picked people of outsized influence who were low echelon but commanded the “cool.” But they got them all the same.
They were aided in this by the rot that started crumbling Western Civilization after WWI. (WWI never ended, really. You know, sometimes I think we’re in one of the crazy cycles, like the wars of religion, playing itself in a million guises, all of them pernicious.) Oh, and by human nature. You see, humans are social animals (did I mention that already?). People who achieve high status tend to be good at manipulating “the cool.” And “the cool” by the time WWI happened had turned against Europe. In a move that went back to before the French Revolution, “the cool” had turned against civilization itself and the mores of Judeo-Christianity. Instead of believing the accumulated history/victories of civilization were “the cool”, members of the civilization turned on itself, including idealizing humans in a supposed natural state and past, barbarous stages of their own civilization.
A little bit of this is a good thing. Civilizations can get too effete and disconnected from real human nature (as we have proof daily.) Checking your assumptions is a goodness. Kind of like doing mathematical proofs. Our own country comes from questioning some of those assumptions and going back to a not-really-ever-like-that republic, before the medieval rule of kings.
But World War I tore at the foundations of Western Civilization, the easy going assumption that because we were more prosperous we were more civilized than all the past. The dreamers and the crazies who had been questioning and asking, and pointing out problems were still (unless they were really crazy) by and large members in good standing of Western Civ. They came to reform, not to destroy.
Suddenly the sparrows who had been pecking at the moss growing on the more calcified parts of the civilization became vultures, impatient and tearing apart the not-quite-yet-dead body politic.
Now we’re in the curious situation where the cool is to turn against that which makes it possible for you to be you; to be wealthy; to be comfortable.
The very people at the pinnacle of our system of rewards ridicule the very virtues that allowed them or their ancestors to get there – thrift, hard work, drive, commitment – as bourgeois. Nostalgie de la Boue? Baby, we have a hard on for the dysfunctional, the crazy, the broken.
And civilizations that – objectively, if you know anything of their history – were far bloodier, dirtier, more genocidal than our own are held up as paragons and victims for one reason alone: we won. They lost. They never got to inflict their evil on the world at last.
I keep expecting, any minute now, the hagiographic rehabilitation of Hitler. After all, he lost. And those WWII propaganda movies sure made him “the other.”
Because that’s how loonie it’s got.
I don’t believe in conspiracies. I believe however that humans will do anything to acquire social status and power. We’re social animals.
What this means is that a few well placed people can command “the cool.”
And “the cool” has now come to the place you knew it would. Having elevated all the other “victims” of Western civ to the pantheon, it’s now concentrating on elevating the most powerful (in terms of cool) group in our societies to “victim.” Yep, wealthy and well educated white women. (Even if some of them have a fractional amount of other blood. Like who doesn’t?)
The problem with this is that women, though held back somewhat by biology, have definitely been on the march since the pill has become available and common and lifelong pregnancy stopped being the destiny of every sexually active woman.
And the other problem is that even before that liberation from the chains of oppressing biology, there were always women who made it to the reaches of power. Not even noble women. There was after all that peasant girl, Joan of Arc (my patron saint, as we often both find ourselves in a war that’s not what it seems, led by forces we can’t even define.)
In the eighties when I came to the states I realized the history women here knew – even educated women – was not what I’d studied. It was the little things that jostled me. Like a friend saying that women hadn’t been allowed to hunt or work outside the home ever. Ah. Peasant women always (more or less) worked outside the house with their husbands, if their husbands did. And as for hunting… you did what you did to survive. (Though women mostly set snares, but so did most peasant men.) Other things, like a recent college graduate 20 years ago assuring us there had always been famous women fighters, women in the ranks of the fighting men, since always. How did we not know about them? Ah, well, it was a patriarchal conspiracy. A conspiracy maintained for centuries by groups of unrelated men and women and supported by researchers into history, many of them women. Yep. That’s how powerful patriarchy is. Because magic.
Then there is the whole “idyllic and lost matriarchy” an idea so dumb only academics could believe it and fail to see in it the obvious reflection of the Christian lost Eden.
All of this puzzled me, but it was above my paygrade to fight it. I made jokes about it on panels, and grinned in the face of people saying it (mostly because there’s a level of shock that translates itself to chuckles.) I thought it was a moment of madness, but it would pass, culturally speaking.
I was being a wishful thinker. The women who believed that half backed stew of nonsense raised daughters who believe them too. And now with the force of revealed wisdom.
Except that revealed wisdom collides with reality. There have always been women in science fiction/fantasy/comics/gaming. Some have been held down, true, mostly by other women. And that biology thing held them down too, until the seventies or so.
Now fantasy has a lot more women than science fiction. And while I know bloody nothing about comics (my fandom is Disney comics, okay? You should be happy I don’t cos-play.) I have heard that in gaming some work/games have more women than others. This is because women are different from men and statistically more women or more men will gravitate to certain things. You doubt that, you try being a male nurse or secretary.
I know when I was growing up it made me an odd duck among odd ducks that I not only liked science fiction but that I was a WOMAN who liked science fiction. Yeah, it got me sneered at, but mostly by people who didn’t like science fiction. The geeks were just glad to see a woman share their interests.
I’m not saying it was easy. It’s never easy being odd man (woman) out. I’m sure in the early days of science fiction, just because of rarity, the women who broke in had to be faster, smarter, better.
I know that the publishing establishment tried to keep me from writing science fiction. But that’s humans being humans and stupid. The tin said “Woman” and therefore “fantasy writer.”
(That’s fine. I’m told fantasy sells better, anyway.)
However that’s not to say you couldn’t do it. Or that women didn’t do it. But these are the women other women don’t see.
Go read the article (which coincidentally has almost the same title as my article for PJM on the same theme.) He lays out how the history of science fiction keeps changing to claim it used to exclude women until some arbitrary date that makes the new generation the pioneers “speaking truth to power” and all that rot. I’d quote him, but this is already too long.
Anecdote isn’t data, but I know when I came in, there were three women for every man I met who’d just broken in. Not brave pioneering, not only because it had gone before, but because writing is a badly paid, indoor work that can be done while watching kids. That’s all. Or that can be done on the side of an academic career. And because it required years of unpaid work to break in, a luxury most men don’t have.
But these women – and some men who claim to fight for women (rolls eyes) – need to invest their actions in coming into a field that now belongs pretty much to women with “the cool” and tones of heroism.
So history must be re-written so that women are victims and cool. The current generation of women, mind, not the ones who did the real work of breaking in, who often paid for it by not having personal lives, or who were considered odd ducks by everyone inside and outside SF. No. Their pampered, overeducated, molly-coddled would be granddaughters, who want to believe the Man is holding them down, rather than admit they’re the Man.
It finally dawned on me why Malzberg and Resnick had to be silenced and the innocuous, slightly gallant term “ladies” had to be made into an insult.
It wasn’t because there was anything objectionable in their columns, but because the only way people who aren’t victims can claim victim status and self ennoble; the only way those who continuously put others down and engage in vicious wars of emotional destruction can claim to be bullied; the only way the queen bees can claim they’ve been denied power and deserve it now is to silence those keeping the history of the field alive.
Each one of those lady editors and lady writers threatened these ideology-blinded, ambition-motivated “Social Justice Warriors” personally, by making it clear they were trying to conquer territory already conquered, and that they aren’t a patch on the previous generations, male or female.
Which is why the history had to be stopped. (Fortunately there’s twitterstorms and internet outrage for that, which allow one or two queen bees to make strategic decisions the drones echo unthinkingly.)
Because in the current day and age, we live in a crazy version of soviet history.
We know what the future holds – more “oppressed women” forever conquering the fortress that never falls because it can be re-written to never have fallen – it’s the past that keeps changing.