So I promised I was going to handle what was fundamentally wrong with the argument between my “raccoon identifying friend” and the “white knighting for the leftist agenda” writer he was engaging on twitter. (Because it really even wasn’t white-knighting for minorities, as I’ll explain.)
I know some of you guys are too young to remember this, but there was this fad in the seventies where “feminists” (usually very young girls who had just been sold a load of goods at school by some angry female teacher) would turn and punch whichever man opened the door for them, because “you’re treating me like I’m not capable of doing it for myself.”
I remember this vividly because coming from a culture that had a lot less public politeness, it seemed just plain dumb to me. Besides, now as then, I opened the door for EVERYONE if I was walking ahead, and I couldn’t understand why poor guys should get hit for being polite.
But there it was. Women didn’t want doors opened for them by men, because they could “do for themselves.”
This brings us to the twitter argument my friend was having. Because he just likes being a gadfly (what part of raccoon don’t you understand?) he was just trying to annoy her. So he just kept telling her he didn’t care if a writer was any given color or gender or sexual preference provided it’s a good story.
Mind you, from the point of view of acting like a gadfly this was perfect and got her to call him racist, because of course, not giving a goodgaddamn about race is being racist. Whatevs.
But this allowed her to go down the track of posing as greater and kinder and more caring by asking him “But don’t you want to open the door to minorities and the underprivileged?” or something like that.
Uh. Note that this woman is so white that, like Jane Seymour (Henry VIII’s Wife) under certain lights she’ll look green. Note also she’s comes from an upper middle class background and is “very well educated.”
Note also that she’s a feminist and about ten years younger than I. I grant you that by the eighties, when she’d have become aware of the behavior of older feminists, the showy smacking of guys for being helpful was over.
But still, surely she heard of that trend. Surely she read about it, if nothing else.
And yet, she can stand there and blithely declare that she wants to open the door to “disadvantaged others.” And she doesn’t see any problem with it.
So, for her edification and those of other people like her, including the twits who run around saying that it’s time to bring “the world” into science fiction IN THE US (as though other countries didn’t have a science fiction community or for heaven’s sake, better things to do with their time than become known in another country, in a different language — and yes, I know what I did, but I’m not typical. Or arguably all there. Wherever there is.) and similarly crazy pronouncements, let me enumerate what is wrong with this:
1- I know you’re used to living in countries that immigrants aspire to enter, and so you’ve kind of grown up with the understanding that, of course, everyone wants what you have. I also know that in kindergarten you got bonus points for being a good little girl (particularly if you were a boy) and sharing.
Having grown up in another country, a country of emigrants, where nonetheless the proportion of the population that did NOT want to go to another country was around 90%, chill. Not everyone wants what you have, particularly when what you have is mild notoriety in writing in one of the smaller (commercially) genres in popular literature.
2 – The ability to make a living in this genre, or even to be published in this genre is not yours to give. Not even if you are an editor.
Perhaps it was at one time, in the not too distant past, but I’m sorry, that ship has sailed, and it’s time you got over this idea that you can tell who should board and who shouldn’t, and you can pick people according to whatever crazy standards you’ve internalized.
People anywhere in the world, from any walk of life, who want (heaven knows why) to write sf in English and to make a living from this, have as good a chance as you do, if not better. Right now my indie friends are doing a little better than my traditional friends in the money front.
REALLY if you’re a writer, there’s nothing really you can do to open the door or close it, or spin in circles screaming (which seems to be what most of the left does at any given time) because in the huge marketplace Indie has opened up, your help/push/award giving will be of limited help to your friends, and your bitching moaning and maligning will be of limited hindrance to your enemies, who, at any rate, can always change their name and evade you.
3- It is INCREDIBLY insulting of you to think that people of other races, creeds, orientations and/or genders need YOUR lady bountiful act to open the door for them.
By itself it arrogates to you a power that they lack. If they had the power, surely they wouldn’t need your help to open the door, right? If they really want it and are willing to work their behind off, what do they need you for?
By giving them “help” which they neither asked for nor required, you’re putting yourself in a position of power and superiority over them.
I don’t know if it’s true that Japanese has many words for thank you and all of them imply a degree of resentment. I do know that this type of “help” breeds resentment in those who are truly capable and truly willing to work towards their goal.
Yes, I know, you are absolutely convinced everyone but you is a racist/sexist/homophobe who will throw obstacles on the path of the “other” trying to climb up the ladder, and that you’re the only one caring, understanding and enlightened enough to actually help them.
Most girls (I don’t know about boys) get over this at around sixteen or so. You realize at some point that no, you’re not particularly enlightened, kind or understanding, and that people don’t need you to be an angel of mercy. You learn that, yes, there is still some prejudice, but the prejudice is as likely to be from people wanting to “open the door” to the other, as from people wanting to keep them down. You also learn that human beings are individuals and that among the “other” there is the usual number of grifters quite willing to coast on proffered help to get a leg up with minimal work, while genuine strivers would rather die than take your help, because of that implied power relationship thing.
And by the time you’re in your middle twenties, you usually have got around to just treating people as people, giving help where you can and when you can and not looking at whether the person is supposed to be a victim. Because you see, in the real world, victims don’t always correspond to what your “Studies” teacher told you. There is many a white male who in fact had nothing resembling privilege. And if you think people treat them better just because they’re white or male, it is possible that’s because you’re a big, stinking racist. Doesn’t give you the right to assume the majority of people are like you. Not even a significant proportion. Unless of course you happen to be standing in the middle of a KKK rally, in which case take off the sheet and join humanity. We’re not perfect, but most people are trying the best they can.
4 – Realize in your heart that this is your way of propping up your self image. No? Imagine for a moment that these “others” for whom you want to open the door happen to disagree with you. They think that promoting leftist politics and race-and-gender-pimping in literature is despicable. They make fun of your degree. They find your manners hilarious. They think your American-feminist pseudo-superiority is a hoot. They think your condescension towards them is not only ridiculous but infuriating. They know that if they want to write this sf/f thing and make it big they can make it without help, thank you very much.
Do you still want to open the door to that person? You know in your heart you don’t, as I have proof daily. (And I don’t even think your manners hilarious, just a little … rough.)
So your motive in opening the door to others is what, but to think of yourself as perceptive, kind and condescending above all others? Which of course attracts the attention of people like Requires Hate who LIVE for that type of “help.” And yet hate you for it.
FINALLY note that I’m not now nor at any time — because I know you’re going to claim that — telling you that writing/publishing/reading is a dog eat dog world. I’d never do that because it’s not true. I’m just going to say what you’re doing is not what mentoring/helping/paying it forward looks like.
I should know because I’ve been the recipient of real help and mentoring from people of all political descriptions who never ONCE bragged about helping a little Latina girl who is ESL and has no connections, or opening the door for her. And I’ve given help when I can (usually little stuff, though I’ve done a deal of mentoring and reading and teaching — less these last two years due to health issues, but that will change — for beginners and midlisters, and even people well above me who needed a critique or a quick look over of something new they were trying.) I’ve given help without caring what the person’s color, gender, orientation and/or social economic status is and truly without expecting anything in return.
This is the general opening the door to everyone that I found unexceptionable even in the seventies. Let me tell you that even someone of my disposition would have slapped a guy who said “I’m opening the door to you, delicate flower of womanhood, so you don’t strain your little muscles.”
Yeah, so I give a little more help to people who are in a crisis, just like I open the door faster to people burdened with packages. Not because I’m special, but because they need it more.
THAT is what opening doors looks like. You do what you can, and you don’t pose as superior and holding the power of career-making in your hands.
Because you don’t. And if that’s the source of your self esteem it’s time you found another.
Helping others is what humans do, and in this crazy field, it’s what writers do. It’s not something that makes you kind and special. It’s the minimum requirement for “decent human being.”
Anything more than that is up to you.