I received a comment on my post about Isaac Asimov’s habit of sexually harassing women at conventions yesterday. I’ve seen and received other comments like it, but this one hits all the buttons. Because of that, I figure it’s worth responding to.
The commenter arrived via a Google search. There’s no indication that this person is who she says she is, but I’ll extend the benefit of the doubt for the purposes of this post. I’ve certainly seen these sentiments often enough from people I do know belong to old-time fandom. I’ve seen them as recently as the WisCon debacle, when some of these people were forced to confront the fact that a friend of theirs had harassed many women over the years (me included) and the fact that other friends of theirs had ignored and enabled the problem.
In fact, if I hadn’t seen that behavior, I probably wouldn’t bother with a response to this comment. To me, the problems with it are transparent. Apparently, however, that isn’t the case for everyone.
Apparently I’m something of a minority here: I happen to have been a woman IN an elevator with Isaac Asimov. And at least at that time, and that place, in that elevator, we didn’t consider it “sexual harassment”…
You may be in a minority on this blog, but there are plenty of women on the internet who were on elevators with Asimov. They don’t all agree with you.
Women warned each other to stay away out of arm’s reach. Women tried to get away from him. Women “put up with” what he did because they didn’t have the same power he did. They avoided him and confronted him.
Did they call it “sexual harassment”? Almost no one called anything “sexual harassment” then. The term simply wasn’t in common use and didn’t come into broad awareness until 1991, when Anita Hill stood up to Congress to tell the world what Clarence Thomas had done to her and other women. At that point, Asimov was busy dying, not harassing.
…(we weren’t shrinking violets who needed “safe spaces” and “validation” and “support” — we were female SF fans at a time when there were very few of us, and could give at least as well as we got).
Funny thing: There have always been a lot of women in fandom. Women have been the driving force behind most of the innovations in fandom, and they’ve run a ridiculous amount of it. If you didn’t see many women in those places, it’s because your culture was antithetical to them.
I wonder why.
Dr. A was a charming person, and, yeah, he pinched butts. That was who he was.
Okay. He was a charming sexual predator. They’re hardly unheard of. The menacing stranger is a misleading stereotype. Charm is useful camouflage for someone trying to get away with preying on people. That’s why con artists lay it on thick.
More to the point, so what if Asimov was charming? Are you arguing that charm entitles someone to sexually assault people? Are people only allowed to object to being sexually assaulted by people you don’t like?
It was cute, not intimidating;…
Again, other people disagree with you, both about it being cute and about it being intimidating. You’re trying to speak for a generation (or two) of women whose opinions you haven’t done the basics to assess. If you want to say, “I and the other women who didn’t find it objectionable didn’t find it objectionable”, go ahead. It’s a much, much weaker statement and meaningless as an argument, but it at least has the benefit of being true.
…I guess our consciousnesses hadn’t been raised enough to see oppression everywhere;…
If you have to resort to calling objecting to sexual assault seeing oppression “everywhere”, you might want to rethink your position. It’s taking you some very strange places.
…we laughed and hugged him. Yeah, I’ve had my butt pinched by Dr. A.
Again, you laughed and hugged him. Others did not. Again, this seems to have resulted in far fewer women in your area of fandom than elsewhere.
And don’t tell me I’m not a “real” feminist. I’ve been fighting that fight for the better part of fifty years. I’ve fought to change laws, fought to change customs, fought to change perceptions.
I wouldn’t dream of telling you you’re not a real feminist. However, being a real feminist doesn’t mean you get everything right. Why would it?
I, and the women of my generation, and the women who came before us, are the ones who worked and suffered and sacrificed so today we can have “feminism” that’s some kind of special protection for special, fragile, delicate little girls who can’t stand up for themselves.
You’re telling me two things here. Both of them are bullshit.
“The ones”? Really? The fight for fair pay, equal access, and reproductive rights is over? Our culture is in its final resting state? Young women aren’t working on these issues? Are you really so upset that people label Asimov’s behavior accurately that you’ll erase the work of today’s feminists?
Also, if all your activism was only to benefit the strong, it wasn’t about justice or even equality. It was merely about grabbing a bigger chunk for yourself. People who require policies that protect them aren’t lesser or less deserving, just as you weren’t less deserving for needing new laws on your side. You do know that the generation of feminism you call your own is responsible for the laws outlawing harassment in the workplace, right?
Beyond that, though, I don’t think you have any grasp of what it takes to report harassment, particularly publicly, or to work for effective policies and enforcement. I’ll presume you’ve been involved enough in fandom to the headache it is in general to get rules changed and problems acknowledged. Now combine that with receiving the additional harassment and character assassination that are the favorite tools of some of the folks who oppose harassment policies.
The people who’ve reported sexual harassment at cons are some of the strongest people I know. They’d still deserve protection if they were weak, but they’re anything but.
Yeah, you don’t do that anymore. That’s why I gafiated … you don’t even know what you’ve lost.
Actually, I know exactly what I’ve lost. It isn’t butt-pinching, in case you were worried. It isn’t even celebrity butt-pinching. It still happens. “Grab-ass” is a thing. The younger generations haven’t given up on sex any more than your generation invented it. Sex, as it turns out, is pretty durable.
What I’ve “lost” is the requirement to plan my cons around avoiding the celebrity butt-pinchers if I don’t want them pinching my ass. I’ve “lost” the demands on my time and energy, meaning I can spend more of both in activism or creating new work that finds fans for me, not some coddled lech. I’ve “lost” the work that made me look weaker because I was carrying more than men in the same circumstances.
Or I would have. The problem is that people keep insisting I justify being unwilling to be treated like some guy’s Real Doll because I want to go to a con and maybe take the elevator. And women like you keep popping up among them. Congratulations on making it worse.
I keep the memory of that pinch in the same mental file as shaking hands with Chuck Yeager.
The mental file where celebrities paid some attention to you because you happened to be in the same place?
And anyone who doesn’t like it can kiss right where Dr. A pinched.
Meh. I think it’s silly to treasure the memory of someone who treated you the way they did merely because of your gender and proximity, but if it makes you happy, whatever.
I do object, however, and will continue to object every time you claim that everyone should feel the same way you did. It wasn’t true then. It isn’t true now. The difference now is that we don’t tell people they have to like being sexually assaulted to keep participating in our cons.
I’d much rather brag about that.