SFWA: Privilege and Institutionalized Everythingism

First of all, let’s get this out of the way.


Artists should go read this over at Whatever. Also, if you go, there’s another great Ursula Vernon insect picture, and if you’re like me, you’d go far afield to see what Ursula Vernon draws.


‘Cause ain’t nothin’ more powerful than education, let’s just let some information boil this recent issue all down for us. Here’s what prompted the insect army: the quote below about the recent SFWA petition, captured in its original glory by Natalie Luhrs, which just suggests that Resnick and Malzberg were just bringing back sexy in that SFWA journal.

“The problem is that the ‘vocal minority’ of insects who make up the new generation of writers don’t scramble for the shadows when outside lights shines on them—they bare their pincers and go for the jugular. Maybe it is a good thing that SFWA keeps them locked up. The newer members who Scalzi et al. brought in are an embarrassment to the genre.” — (name withheld) on SFF.net, during the recent unpleasantness.

Hey, Mr. Name Withheld, I hope you’re having a great day. Let’s start with some basics.

Now, Sunny Moraine does a great job talking about the first amendment, and you’re probably aware that there was no violation of it, as that’s been playing on the Internet for about a week.

I can’t help but note the credentialism of the signers of the petition, so since you seem to be into that sort of thing, you should be aware that I’m not an expert in White Privilege, but I’ve taken some classes, gone to some conferences, and teach students who aren’t from around here. And I’m a woman, so there’s that. It’s not an impressive credential, like winning the Nebula, but I get by, and I think we can talk.


But, there are a few things you might want to know to catch you up to speed with the rights of The Other in the twenty-first century, as this seems to be kind of the heart of the matter, or why the “insects” are chittering. In other words, it’s time to explain to you what “outside light” really shines in this century.

Here’s a timeline of Women’s Rights from 1980 until now. SFWA should pay particular attention to Kolstad Versus American Dental Association in 1999, because you know, malice and/or indifference to the law, regardless of severity. What law? Glad you asked.

I would also like you to take a look at this concise Wikipedia article on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which calls out a lot of behavior that we find inappropriate in this day and age, including discrimination against those people who are different than you, and make you feel a little uncomfortable. You need to know this stuff, so when you are in a situation where people expect you to behave civilly, you can, because you know, you’ve read the Civil Rights Act.


Here are a couple of other ideas for you to examine in your spare time, when you aren’t busy being afraid of change.

1. You are inside your culture, and you probably haven’t thought about that too much. I can’t say this for certain, not knowing much about you, but your comment above suggests that you are a man that hasn’t examined much in the way of difference. Here’s a little article on Institutionalized Racism, so you can think about the ways you’ve been manipulated by the society you’re part of. You know, like how you see more black crime on the news than white crime, that kind of thing.

2. And this is Peggy McIntosh’s famous article about White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack that might help you and the rest of the besieged SFWA gang to understand why you’re feeling the way you are in the face of changing times.


You aren’t alone. There are similarities between your anger and some Republican anger. When people no longer hold your world view, it is frustrating and scary. And normally, I would say that we should make room for every view. But what about people who are sexist, racist, all those good kind of things? Well, we can’t support your world view at the expense of everyone else’s well-being. Your tactic, of reducing us all to insects, and trying to make us subhuman, well, that points to classic privilege strategy. Your cries of “Oppression!” point out that you want to support a system where you oppress.

Look, as the world shifts toward gay marriage, equal pay for women, supporting immigration amnesty, and a whole slew of other related issues, you can educate yourself and shift your paradigm, or you can do what you’re doing. And frankly, we can wait for your view to fade.

If you feel really, really put out, I suggest you buckle down and watch seven seasons of Mad Men.

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

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