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The Inclusiveness of the SF/F Community

I had a “Duh” moment at ICON last weekend. We were talking about conventions and fandom and such during a panel - maybe the gaming panel? - and someone in the audience commented that overall, fandom tended to be pretty accepting and inclusive.

It’s a claim I’ve heard a lot, and I think we as a community tend to pride ourselves on our inclusiveness. Heck, I mentioned in my speech at Worldcon how finding fandom felt like coming home, how I felt accepted and valued here in a way I never did back in high school.

And therein lies the logical flaw, which hadn’t quite crystallized in my mind until that conversation at ICON. Because fandom is not a utopia of acceptance and tolerance. True, it’s a place where I found acceptance. But the fact that I as a straight white male geek feel accepted and relatively safe here does not therefore prove that this is a safe or accepting community.

After all, the other place I felt accepted growing up was in the Boy Scouts…

I love this community, and I think we’ve made progress, but we have a long way to go. Most conventions I attend are still at least 95% white. Women continue to get harassed while men stand around asking why people have to make such a big deal about sexual harassment policies. Awards and “Best of” anthologies continue to be dominated by western (particularly U.S.) names. Our book covers fetishize women and whitewash or erase characters of color. And people who speak up about feeling excluded are accused of being oversensitive, searching for reasons to be offended, and being part of the PC police.

Fandom is accepting of a different subset of people than most other parts of my life, and as a member of that subset, I’m grateful. But I also think we have a lot more work to do to broaden that acceptance.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


( 77 comments — Leave a comment )
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Nov. 10th, 2012 01:17 am (UTC)
Thank you. This. I put up with years of being told I'm being too sensitive. I still get told that in fanish circles sometimes. It's pretty sad.
Nov. 10th, 2012 01:27 am (UTC)
Thanks for another eloquently put post!
Nov. 10th, 2012 01:30 am (UTC)
Very well said!
Nov. 10th, 2012 01:40 am (UTC)
I think fandom does idealize inclusiveness...

... which can be a bad thing, since accepting that there's a difference between the person who will not shut up about Doctor Who and the person who makes lewd comments at strangers* is important. The first person is occasionally annoying, but he's generally someone who we want to include, because... well, part of being a fan is being really passionate into things, and Doctor Who is one of those things that SF fans like. At worst, he might need a panel mod to remind him to let others ask questions or that this is the Firefly panel, and perhaps he can talk about this in the hotel bar later.

The second person needs to be told that he is welcome only as long as he does not make others unwelcome; and that means reserving the lewd comments to people who expressed interest in such things first.

(Actually both the panel moderator making sure that everyone gets heard and the security guard/con anti-harassment rules are aspects of the same thing, which is that we should include all people* but not all behaviors at all times. It's just that the first fan is more likely to just annoy people, while the second fan may scare people.)

* Or all people who aren't dis-including others by their behaviors.
Nov. 10th, 2012 01:53 am (UTC)
Oh, yes. This gets into the ridiculousness of "Ha! You're intolerant of my intolerance, ergo you're just as bad as me!!!" nonsense. When in fact, confronting person number two is an important part of trying to make the community *more* welcoming and inclusive.
(no subject) - tobias_buckell - Nov. 10th, 2012 03:09 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Nov. 10th, 2012 03:12 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - serialbabbler - Nov. 10th, 2012 02:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - jimhines - Nov. 10th, 2012 04:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 10th, 2012 01:52 am (UTC)
I've found this is an issue with my first convention coming up next year. I have concerns, but if I try to talk about them in public, it gets dismissed. But I've seen enough said from people in similar groupings to me to know there will be issues. Especially as I'm alone, which is like turning up wearing a target on my back.

I hope I'll have fun too, but it'd be naive to think it'll come without difficulties.
Nov. 10th, 2012 05:05 am (UTC)
IYDMMA, where are you, and what sort of convention is this going to be? I may be able to provide information depending on the answers.
Nov. 10th, 2012 02:26 am (UTC)
And let's not forget the lack of accessibility when it comes to conferences/conventions. That's been an ongoing problem for years now. My partner is disabled, and we just don't go to cons anymore.
Nov. 10th, 2012 09:41 pm (UTC)
Would you be up for writing a letter or article specifying what it would take for a con to be accessible to you? I know people who've written articles from a conrunner perspective, but I fear those have been insuccifiently specific and might be getting out of date w new assisted mobility devices.

A con bid I'm working with brought back a reports that entrances and routes and rooms are "accessible" but I want to make sure the hotel's definition of that word jibes with the real needs of a modern fan. They also listed the entrance to "accessible" rooms as 32" wide, which didn't sound very accessible to me...

(If not, I totally understand. Not your responsibility to educate the community. But I'm working on a fanzine issue right now and would publish soonish)
(no subject) - lavidaessueno - Nov. 11th, 2012 06:41 am (UTC) - Expand
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Nov. 10th, 2012 02:27 am (UTC)
Yep, it's very inclusive of all sorts of cis white male geeks.
Nov. 10th, 2012 02:29 am (UTC)
I just laughed that sort of hollow laugh of the "oh god it's true" variety.
(no subject) - lissibith - Nov. 11th, 2012 02:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 10th, 2012 02:55 am (UTC)
Well said, and a really encouraging thing to know that someone realizes.

Fandom is, as you said, inclusive of DIFFERENT people than the "mainstream world." But it isn't really inclusive of ALL people. I think there are strides being made in the right direction, with more cons holding to strict harassment policies, and such. But there's progress yet to be made.
Nov. 10th, 2012 03:13 am (UTC)
Agreed. I think it's important to acknowledge the progress, but equally or more important to recognize these are only first steps, and we've got a long way to go yet.
Nov. 10th, 2012 02:58 am (UTC)
It's sad that we have to keep saying this over and over, but I'm thankful that you keep doing it.
Nov. 10th, 2012 03:02 am (UTC)
We really need to get a harassment policy in place. But even when I explained to someone that they were being asked to leave for bad behavior, they didn't seem to get it. We do get all kinds of folks!
Nov. 11th, 2012 12:19 am (UTC)
What did they not get, if you don't mind me asking?
(no subject) - cascade_writers - Nov. 14th, 2012 06:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Nov. 15th, 2012 01:33 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lenora_rose - Nov. 18th, 2012 10:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 10th, 2012 05:18 am (UTC)
I think part of the problem is that we as fans want to be- or at least see ourselves as- tolerant and accepting and open. That leads to people ignoring the difference between quirky and jerky, or, welcome to the Geek Social Fallacies.
Nov. 10th, 2012 05:20 am (UTC)
Yes but....

I work in academia. I'd say the same about my academic circle with all the same qualifications.

Then every so often I have to go do business outside the uni/fandom...

and remember that actually, fandom/academia is so far ahead that I end up suffering time shock as I find myself plummeted back to the 1970s.
Nov. 10th, 2012 06:04 pm (UTC)
Being somewhat better at something than other groups are doesn't actually make the somewhat-better group good at the thing.

I'm better at dancing than most people, but I'm never gonna get hired as a professional, or even get on So You Think You Can Dance.
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Nov. 11th, 2012 12:19 am (UTC)
Was it a particular convention or handful of conventions that changed? To some extent, I know that turnover in the volunteers and concom and such can have a big impact on the tone of the convention. But if you were seeing this across the board...

As for the belittling of anime/manga fans, ugh. I just don't get that. But hey, maybe that helps to explain why most anime/manga conventions are getting bigger and more popular every year, while so many SF/F cons are struggling to stay afloat.
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 10th, 2012 06:16 am (UTC)
You shoulda been out at youmacon this weekend. I'd say 1/3 to 1/2 of the attendance was of non white origin. I was shocked, and happy!
Nov. 10th, 2012 05:06 pm (UTC)
Anime cons tend to be a lot browner than eg WorldCon, and a lot more inclusive of other fannish stuff (see angikate's comment above). That's my experience as someone who's been to a dozen anime cons and a dozen non-anime cons.
(no subject) - darksunlight - Nov. 10th, 2012 06:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Nov. 10th, 2012 08:17 am (UTC)
Part of the reason I think our fandom goes on about its acceptance is that many members of our fandom aren't used to finding acceptance in other venues. When you're not used to being accepted for who you are and having your interests valued, and then you find fandom and suddenly *bang* both you AND your interests are welcomes, well, that's gonna seem like utopia...at least for a little bit. Heady stuff, especially when you're not used to it.

Not that it excuses egregious behavior by any means; just that I can see where the notion springs from (and keeps perennially springing from, as more people find the community).
Nov. 11th, 2012 12:15 am (UTC)
Yup. "They accepted me! Wow!!! This must be the Most Accepting and Wonderful Group Ever!"

Logicfail, but a common one.
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Jim C. Hines

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