Friday, March 15, 2013

Dear Norm, You Feminist You

This is an open letter to Norm Sherman of the Drabblecast.

Dear Norm,

Norm, I love you. Your are talented and creative. Your work on the Escape Artists podcasts and Abigail Hilton's audio fiction - not to mention your own groundbreaking podcast, the Drabblecast - is incredible. I am happy to call myself a supporter, though I admit that I don't often have enough money to donate. I do recommend you as often as I can, to everyone I can.

That said, you put something in your latest podcast that kind of annoyed me.

In the intro to one of your latest episodes - #274: Amid the Words of War - you described yourself as "not a feminist," and yet, you dedicated the podcast to female writers of science fiction and bemoaned the lack of female voices in genre fiction.

There is a campaign going on to discredit feminism. Regressive forces in our world who would love nothing more than to strip rights from women are trying to present feminism as radical, dangerous, and uncompromising. They find a few radicals - angry women with extreme positions - and claim that they define feminism. It's gotten to the point that women in arts and media - women who own property, act in the public sphere, and expect their voices and person to be respected - declare that they "aren't feminists."

Cheris Kramarae and Paula Treichler have written that "feminism is the radical notion that women are people." While I disagree with a lot of the rest of their writing - including the Muted Group Theory that made them famous - I think that this definition is better than any other I've heard. Feminists are just people who believe that women are equal to men and have the right to participate in society in any way they chose. We aren't people who believe that women are better than men, or that men are evil, or that every aspect of our society is secretly a twisted attempt to oppress women. We just think that women deserve as much attention and credit as men and should be allowed to participate in every arena of our society, including arenas that they have been traditionally barred from.

Including, you know, science fiction and other genre literature.

That's it. Feminists are just people who think women are people. We are men and women, we are all races and religions, we have all kinds of paychecks and talk in all kinds of accents, and we come from everywhere.

There are political forces that are trying to present feminism as a unified front of unpleasantly radical crazy women who are angry about everything. They want you to think that feminists are all man-hating lesbians or meek, guilt-ridden men. They want you to think that women want your job - not just to do your job if they're qualified, but to actually take away your personal job and deprive you of your livelihood. They want you to think that all feminists agree that men lose all rights to their property and children upon divorce. They want you to think that feminists condemn marriage and monogamy and God and country. They want you to be so angry and afraid about how they have presented "the feminists" that when they take rights away from women, or deny women access to a right they need, you'll side with them, instead of with the women.

The fact is that feminists don't agree on everything. For example, let's say you think that men should hold doors open for women - or at least that it's ok for men to do that if they want to. Does that disqualify you from feminism? Of course not! You can believe that women are fully realized, fully adult humans and still hold the opinion that it's polite for men to hold doors open for them. Can you be critical of the way that divorce law functions in America and still be a feminist? Sure! Feminism merely acknowledges that there are problems; the solutions are up for debate.

So, Norm, either you're a feminist and you really should own it, or you should think about why you're bothering to do a Women and Aliens Month on the Drabblecast. Do you think that women are people and that it's a shame that some areas of life - like writing science fictinon and fantasy literature - have been closed to them? Then you are a feminist! Do you think that women are not equal to men and don't belong in some parts of our society? Then you are not a feminist... but really, why are you promoting women writing science fiction? That's a man's world, isn't it?

I hope you'll reconsider your statement and come out in your next episode as a proud, card-carrying feminist. That, or stand by your convictions and cancel Women and Aliens Month. Or explain how you can be sad that women aren't on equal footing with men and still call yourself "not a feminist or anything."

Sincerely,
Mark


PS: Don't worry. We don't actually carry cards. Actually we get secret tattoos that give us magic powers.

PPS: I'm lying about the tattoos.

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