Yet Another WisCon post or Why This Black Woman Isn’t Your Friend
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I’m probably not going to be willing to talk about this much after today. Because I have a life and responsibilities outside of fandom. Ones that are frankly much more likely to yield good results from time investment than arguing with dumb motherfuckers about basic civics lessons (the next person to make a free speech argument at me about uninviting Moon will get laughed at very loudly), or explaining for the 10,000th time why the framing of terrorist as Muslim by default is ignorant, racist, offensive, and dumb as hell. Both of those conversations are remedial, and if you think I have no patience for 101 conversations I’ll let you figure out I feel about 098 discussions at this stage of the game.
So, here’s the thing about WisCon. The ideal and the reality are in two different rooms. Case in point, my first trip to WisCon was by turns awesome and awful. I spent the first day I was there in 2009 doing panels and hanging out with friends. For some reason I thought that I needed to branch out and meet some new people my second day. This was one of my stupidest ideas to date, and a mistake I won’t repeat. Why? Because wandering around on my own as one of the new black faces in the crowd I discovered that lots of people felt entitled to walk up to me and demand my time. Someone actually asked me to teach them about race within two seconds of reading my badge. Just came right out, and very earnestly requested that I spend my afternoon teaching them. That…did not end well. Then there were the people who just stared into the POC safe space room like it was a particularly interesting zoo exhibit complete with pointing. And the infamous panel on Rape in Sci-Fi, and some other less than stellar interactions with random folks who clearly had thoughts about me, but lacked the stones to express them directly. Yeah, thinking back to that weekend I can’t remember what possessed me to want to go back to WisCon this year.
But I did. And I stuck to friends and friends of friends who I knew would not harsh my squee. And it was awesome. I got to talk about fannish things with people who got it, eat tasty foods at new places, and drink some very creative drinks that left me quite bubbly. It was exactly what a trip to a con should be for someone like me. Because I don’t go to WisCon to be an example of my race, a teaching tool, a teacher, or even to prove that I’m not secretly someone else (at last count I was a white woman, a white man, and an internet construct), I go to WisCon to have the closest thing to a good time that I can at a con. And I say it that way because in general I hate conventions. I’m claustrophobic (on my very best day it is all I can do to share an elevator with more than three people), and large crowds are a particular kind of hell for me. So, I don’t (regardless of how much the subject matter might interest me) go to many things where there are lots of people in small spaces. In fact, if it weren’t for the need to get my name out there as a writer and for Verb Noire (which is currently defunct for a lot of reasons) I probably wouldn’t go to any conventions. Ever.
And so, when I volunteered to help out at WisCon it had a lot to do with the fact that it is a feminist con. One that is ostensibly progressive and anti-racist. After all if I’m going to attend something that requires me to go against all of my instincts I should at least believe in its mission right? Right. And I do believe that WisCon wants to be a progressive anti-racist space. Is that always happening? Well no. There are humans involved after all, and we do tend to screw things up despite our best intentions. But for the most part there is a sense that WisCon is trying to get it right. Or at least for me there was that sense until Moon posted her screed and then refused to listen or engage in any real discussion. And after it became clear that she should not be honored by a progressive anti-racist feminist organization it was especially to see people advocating keeping her as a GOH anyway. Because apparently even though her words were directly antithetical to WisCon’s ideals it was more important to try to educate her/support her as a woman than it was to support the people she’d just insulted. And lots of those people admit they have no idea what was said beyond her post because she deleted all the comments. Well this is the internet and by the magic of screencaps you can see exactly why people did not want WisCon to honor her.
And yes, I am well aware that WisCon has probably unknowingly honored some bigots in the past. Because feminism is fraught with all kinds of issues around race, class, religion, and gender and those things don’t magically go away because someone writes SF/F. However, once someone shares their bigotry publicly and makes it clear that they are not interested in hearing any dissenting opinions, then what is an organization with WisCon’s ideals supposed to do about honoring them? You cannot say “Well we’re supposed to be supporting women, and how can we support them by not honoring Moon?” and call yourself a feminist in my book. Well, you can, but then that intimates to me that you’ve decided that Muslim women don’t deserve support. Or maybe you’re saying that they don’t deserve support as long as they keep their faith. One that you know nothing about, and much like Moon aren’t interested in learning anything about since that might mean confronting your own prejudices.
Honestly, if you’ve bought into conflating a religion with the politics of some people in power in some places that ascribe to that religion then I’m going to doubt your critical thinking skills. Because some of America’s best known domestic terrorists have been white Christian men. Yet no one is advocating insulting and oppressing all the white Christian men as a result of the Oklahoma City bombings, the KKK, the Aryan Nation, or any of those abortion clinic bombings and assassinations. In fact last I checked they’re still being held up as the good guys by a lot of people. Which makes sense since many white Christian men are good people. But no one expects them to wade in and change the minds of everyone that looks like them. It’s only when the conversation turns away from them that the expectation of one representing all starts to appear. Because othering and placing the onus on the other to prove their worth is a very popular tactic with people who want to pretend they are not bigots.
So, if you’re planning on skipping WisCon to protest Moon’s invite being retracted? Go for it. That’s your right. After all there’s a reason Moon’s arguments are very similar to others that have been published over the years. Oh sometimes the subject matter was slightly different, but if you substitute any other ethnic group you can probably find a version addressing blacks, Asians, Jews, and even the Irish somewhere. Because these attitudes are nothing new, and they’re widespread, and frankly if you ascribe to them I’d rather you not come to WisCon and mess with our good time. I want to squee over Nisi Shawl and talk to my friends and not have to worry about sitting in a room full of bigots who think any of us are beholden to prove to them why their prejudices are wrong. Stay home, and let WisCon take another step toward being progressive, feminist, and anti-racist.