Reframing and Punching Down

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice. And I give absolutely no fucks.

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March 6, 2014

Or, you know, more tilting at windmills.

I’ve been watching the discussion around the Hugo/Ross fiasco for most of the last week.  I was offline when much of the backlash started earlier this week but once articles in the mainstream media started appearing I found myself getting angrier and angrier.  I started to feel like my mood was stuck on “angry shrill bitch,” to be honest.

There have been a lot of fantastic posts about this.  Here are links to a few:

Then there were some other posts that I found to be less than fantastic. Many of them boil down to “chill out and settle down, be nice”.

There have been a number of articles in the mainstream media–mostly British outlets–but the one I want to concentrate on is this one: Jonathan Ross and the Hugo awards: why was he forced out by science fiction’s self-appointed gatekeepers?

That essay, dear readers, was written by Hayley Campbell, Neil Gaiman’s goddaughter.  This is not disclosed anywhere in the article.  And yet it is a critical piece of information, as that informs the way Campbell has framed her essay.

Read that article carefully. Read exactly who is allowed to have a voice in that article, who is quoted, and who is given a name.  Read who is reduced to a mob, to an irrationally shrill group of bullies.

Now think about who has access to mainstream media outlets. Think about who has the connections. Think about the pre-packaged “toxic Twitter” meme that this story has, oh so neatly, been shaped to fit.

Are you angry yet?  Because you should be.

This entire conversation has been reframed to cast Jonathan Ross as the victim here.  I have looked for the abuse that was supposedly directed at Ross and his family and, like this commenter, I have been unable to find any.

Instead, the story is that Seanan McGuire is a bully for speaking to her own fears in this situation and not even tagging Jonathan Ross or his family (note: dragging someone’s family into this sort of thing is seriously Not On; people’s personal lives are just that: personal).  Instead the story is that a bunch of people–mostly women–bullied a celebrity into resigning a hosting gig that he was being nice enough to do for free.

And I am furious.

I am furious that there is the appearance of Jonathan Ross is using his access to the media to punch down onto a group of people who have historically been made to feel unwelcome in fandom–from the procurement of butts for Isaac Asimov to pinch on stage to Harlan Ellison groping Connie Willis during the Hugo ceremony and through the discussion and controversy around other harassment at conventions and the SFWA Bulletin.

This is yet another way that voices are marginalized. People who are afraid of being hurt again are being told that they’re overreacting. That they need to be kind and generous and give people a chance.

When I was younger, I was often told by my father that I was difficult and hard to get along with because I was too outspoken. That I needed to be nicer and listen to other people and that I’d eventually get a chance to speak.  You know what I discovered?  That if I followed that advice, my chance to speak never came.  And this feels very much like that.  For me, that is no longer an option.

The only way we can change our culture is by speaking up when we can.

As for Jonathan Ross and his wounded ego?

sound of music fucks

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