phi (totient) wrote,

more on the culture wars

So you may have noticed a culture war in SF fandom. I have not been surprised to see an echo chamber forming at NESFA; Rene was a friend of theirs. (He was and is a friend of mine too, but it's easier to circle the wagons than it is to realize that your instinct to do so is the very reason why you must not.) But I have wondered at how all the women there have gone along with this. I got a little bit of a clue last weekend when a more recent female NESFA member didn't go along -- and remember that for NESFA "recent" is anyone who joined in this century. But the real clue is in the second to last paragraph of this post:

Keeping [the community] definition narrow and making sure it discourages newcomers also guarantees that you'll keep a staunch set of female allies. For those of us who had to mortgage significant parts of our identities at the door, it's hard not to see the new generation of geek girls as interlopers, getting a free ride where we had to laboriously claw our way in. When you're part of an underrepresented group, it's easy to fall prey to a reductive fallacy that there's only room for one way to be female (or Black, or disabled, or queer, or...) in geek culture, and anyone who approaches that identity from a different angle threatens your claim to it--not so different from geek culture's own struggle to maintain a discrete identity as our iconography and media bleed their way into the mainstream. If those people can be geeks, what will be left for me? And if the tent is that big, what, ultimately, is membership worth?

If you're keeping a culture wars reading list, this is worth adding to it. For me, it's another piece in a larger puzzle: what, if anything, do I want to do about the culture of conventions like Worldcon? Should I help push it kicking and screaming across the divide, or let it fade into irrelevance?

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