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11 October 2009 @ 09:10 pm
I would not like John Ottinger III to shut up  
ETA2: Two important notes:
1. johnottinger has apologized in comments here as well as on his blog. While I agree that one does not always get a cookie, I'd like to point this out as an apology that is clear and sincere in tone, without any of the hedges we've seen too often in this sort of discussion.
2. Since he also deleted his original post, I've linked to a cached page for context. It won't last long, but it ought to last as long as anyone's interest in my post, and while I am for keeping records I don't feel comfortable mirroring something the poster has chosen to delete and apologize for.

But he would like me to shut up. And an awful lot of people on my f-list too. (Via charlesatan).

It's not just that he disagrees with us about the importance of non-privilege groups being represented in anthologies, mind -- it's that he would like us to STFU and stop harshing his squee. And apparently he is secure enough in his entitlement to believe that telling us to do so will be successful; thus the brilliant and subtle title of his essay: "For Those Who Cry Sexism or Racism in SF Anthologies, Shut Up."

In explaining why we should STFU like good little subhumans, John Ottinger III hits some points that we've Never Ever Thought Of Before because we are not as smart as him. Like:

- Completely ridiculous made-up groups are also underrepresented!

"I've had it with the constant allegations that this editor or that, when designing an anthology, did not include enough women or minorities or yellow flowered harpsichords."

- Editors are looking for good fiction, so if all their picks are old white men maybe only old white men write good fiction. Huh? Huh? We ever considered that?

"I don't think these editors set out to create anthologies that have too few women or minorities. I think they have a goal to provide good fiction on whatever topic or theme they have chosen, and they pick the very best works that are submitted to them."

- Markers of fairness are arbitrary. There is absolutely no reason to the people pointing out that certain groups are statistically underrepresented:

"As a reader, I want the editor to do her/his job and give me stories I want to read, not hit some arbitrary marker of fairness to minorities or women."

Now obviously, since as proven above "women and minorities" (glad he knows women aren't a minority!) are being excluded because we're just not as good as old white men, including us would diminish the Objective Quality of anthologies. (We'd never have considered tokenism, right, without John Ottinger III's help?) This is important to understand, because his entire argument rests upon this premise. He allows that there is racism and sexism in the field, but despite that, he knows that they have nothing to do with whose stories get picked!!

This leads logically to the next point:

- We Whiners shall therefore silence the "women and minorities" currently making it into anthologies, because nobody's going to want to pick up an anthology with a lot of girlynames and funnynames in the TOC.

"Additionally, they may turn some readers away from reading a good anthology that has great works by women or minorities in it, thereby silencing the great work of those women or minorities who are included in the anthology."

- We don't care about any axis of oppression other than race and gender. After all, he's never noticed us pointing out the underrepresentation of any other group, so it's never happened. Also, nobody ever derails these discussions by bringing up ridiculously irrelevant groups that are not in any way oppressed in order to ignore the fact that the relevant groups are. Naaah.

"And what about all those folks that don't get enough exposure in SF that are not women or minorities? There are not enough Christians, Islamists*, or transgendered** writers represented in most anthologies either. Nor are there enough writers who own dogs."

* Either he doesn't know the word "Muslim", or he only means fundamentalist Muslims because there's quite enough moderate Islam represented in SF/F tyvm and he doesn't care what people call themselves.
** Apparently John Ottinger III does not think trans people are a minority.

- What we should do is give a BIG HAND to those gals and colored folk who've made it into anthologies despite racism and misogyny, cause they're actually good! Why aren't we doing that, huh?

What should be done is highlighting those female or minority authors who write great fiction, who do appear in these male-dominated anthologies, and who have written such a great work of fiction that their work had to appear in the anthology.

- But he's not racist or sexist! Why, he can name five women and two "minorities" he reads! So there.

Now, before people say I am a sexist or racist, let's make something clear. I think there are many minorities and women in fiction who write great narratives. Most of my favorite authors are women, like Karen Miller, Elizabeth Moon, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Susanna Clarke. I also love the work of David Anthony Durham, or Nalo Hopkinson and others who are minorities in a white male dominated genre.

- Will nobody think of the poor editors??!

So to all those who keep pointing out there are X women and Y men in anthology I say: Let's give these great and skilled editors a rest, and let them include the stories that are the best works possible without worry of being assessed on something less important than quality.

- Bonus: If we speak up, editors might listen! Oh noes! (Or actually, since John Ottinger III cannot keep track of his negatives, oh yesses!

Do I think that maybe women and minorities are not getting their due in SF? Maybe, but I don't believe that pointing out every time an anthology does not have an equal number of women or minorities is not helpful. It forces editors to make sacrifices, to choose to please those with the loudest voices rather than the real readers, the ones who prefer an anthology of quality over some middling effort that avoids the appearance of sexism or racism.

Right. Aren't we all glad that John Ottinger III has set us straight before that happened?

On a more serious note, I'm very glad indeed that John Ottinger III has spoken up, and would hate for him and people like him to shut up or to be made to shut up, because I now know exactly where he stands.

And, if I've repeated his name often enough, so do you.

ETA: I've posted about John Ottinger III because of the mentality rather than the individual, but sometimes the individual matters too. On which note, it's worth noting that the first response, wholeheartedly agreeing with what he says, comes from one Barbara Friend Ish of Mercury Retrograde Press.
Current Mood: annoyedexasperated
johnottingerjohnottinger on October 12th, 2009 05:10 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting this about my vitriolic rant. I wanted to apologize to you personally and admit I was wrong. After reading your commentary, I realize just how small-minded and illogical I was being.

I am sorry. I ask your forgiveness.
shweta_narayan: authorpic1shweta_narayan on October 13th, 2009 03:07 am (UTC)
Re: Sorry
Apology accepted.

I can't speak for anyone else, of course, but I hope you'll keep feeling able to participate in these discussions. A lot of people here (including writers like Nora and Nalo) have very much influenced my position on these matters, so I'm the last person to assume that anyone's position has to stay static.
Nalo Hopkinsonnnaloh on October 13th, 2009 06:58 am (UTC)
Re: Sorry
That was well done. I know a few other people in the community who could stand to take note.
dsmoendsmoen on October 15th, 2009 03:26 am (UTC)
Re: Sorry
Wow, apology accepted from me as well.

It's really hard to get that your position has hurt others and really examine it, but I'm glad you did.

When I read slush for the first quarter, I kept track of what I rejected and what I sent up. My reject percentages for women and men were very very close. I did the analysis after the end of the slush reading period, and only recorded genre, rejected vs. passed to another editor, and presumed sex. I was trying to see if I had a bias myself, and apparently I don't.

Since I was only the first reader, it doesn't necessarily translate into what the magazine prints as a whole, but it's not necessarily the case that an even Table of Contents is the result of attempting to be non-biased. There is a lot of good stuff in the slush.

There were a lot of good stories we had to pass on, but isn't that always the editor's heartbreak?