When it changed

In case you’ve been away from the internet for 12 hours, controversy of the moment is Harlan Ellison’s having groped Connie Willis’s breast onstage at the Hugos on Saturday. Commentary from: Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Gwenda Bond, Catherine Morrison, Gavin Grant, and Ed Champion, the latter featuring a picture from the same event. A representative sample, from PNH:

Just as with George W. Bush’s now-famous uninvited shoulder-rub of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the basic message of Ellison’s tit-grab is this: “Remember, you may think you have standing, status, and normal, everyday adult dignity, but we can take it back at any time. If you are female, you’ll never be safe. You can be the political leader of the most powerful country in Europe. You can be the most honored female writer in modern science fiction. We can still demean you, if we feel like it, and at random intervals, just to keep you in line, we will.”

It’s not okay. It’s not funny. It wasn’t a blow against bourgeois pieties or political correctness. It was just pathetic and nasty and sad and most of us didn’t want to watch it. It’s another thing that’s going to stop.

I wasn’t there myself, but if it’s as reported by Patrick and others, then clearly there should be some kind of apology/making amends. I’ve certainly not seen any accounts which deny it happened. (Though it should also be recorded that Ellison has in the past done non-zero amounts of work for women’s rights, specifically – to my knowledge – the ERA.) In the meantime, your quote for the day, from Ellison’s introduction to Joanna Russ’s “When it Changed”, in Again, Dangerous Visions (1972):

I’m not trying to start a fight here, you understand, but like newly converted Jews or Catholics, like lifetime cigarette smokers who’ve put down, like alcoholics now on the wagon, those of us who’ve spent the greater part of our lives as male chauvinists get terribly zealous in pointing out the gentlemen in our midst who are still wrong-thinking offenders. […]

What [Joanna Russ] is, is a fine writer, getting better every year. What she’s proving – and “When it Changed” will serve in large measure to further that proof – is that speculative fiction up till now has indisputably belonged to the men, but that squatter’s rights to that territory simply aren’t good enough any more. Not with talents like Joanna Russ around.

And further, she looks infinitely better in a bikini than any of the editors who rejected her novel.

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Posted in gender. 9 Comments »

9 Responses to “When it changed”

  1. Lea Hernandez Says:

    “And further, she looks infinitely better in a bikini than any of the editors who rejected her novel.”

    I just threw up a little.

  2. martyparrotte Says:

    Who would have believed that Arnold and Harlan had one thing in common.

  3. Carl Glover Says:

    But…didn’t Isaac Asimov used to do the same sort of thing all the time? Was he ever censured, or subject to a groundswell of outrage? If so, I don’t remember it. Is there a triple standard operating here (one for Harlan, one for Isaac, and one for the rest of us)? For the record, I regard such behavior as deplorable, no matter who does it, or which sex is the victim.

  4. Liz Says:

    I hadn’t heard about anything Asimov used to do – it would be well before my time, and so I don’t know how it was treated at the time. However, I think your last sentence is the important part – the behaviour is deplorable, and we should speak out against it, regardless of how it may have been treated in the past. And if there was less of an outcry at the time Asimov was doing it than there is when Ellison does it now, then I’m glad that things have changed enough that it is no longer acceptable and everyone is more likely to speak out about it.

  5. Graham Says:

    Carl – what Liz said. I’m the oldster of this groupblog, but I didn’t get into fandom until a decade after Asimov died, and although never stated explicitly the “safe space” stuff has always been an axiom for the conventions I’ve been at. Certainly, even after all that time, stories of how bad his behaviour were still circulated. So I think – I hope – if Asimov acted the same way at a 2006 convention, he’d be subject to the same sort of censure. And to answer your “triple standard” point about the rest of us, I wouldn’t have any problem being held to the standard of behaviour I’m asking HE to recognise – and nor, from what you say, would you?

    Also, you’re not the Carl Glover who designed record sleeves for Marillion, are you?

  6. You came for the slapfights, stay for the geekery. « Big Blog of Cheese Says:

    […] Hello to all the new folk who’ve arrived here because of a certain other post. This is normally a quiet little group linkblog – well, I say normally, but we’ve only been going a month – devoted to what our editorial groupmind thinks is cool and dorky at any given moment. Such as, for instance, the latest update on those real-world “Hobbits” whose bones were discovered in 2004 on the island of Flores. (Summary: we’re still not sure if “homo floresiensis” is a real new species, but we have a lot more data.) […]

  7. « Big Blog of Cheese Says:

    […] When it changed […]

  8. Mishalak Says:

    Nixon only got caught doing what every president since Roosevelt had done is an excuse I’ve heard for him a lot from certain Republicans. Likewise the excuse I’ve been seeing a fair amount lately is “Asimov did worse, was he censured for what he did?” Or words to that effect. One thing does not have to do with the other. That was then, this is now. If fandom has done wrong in the past by silently letting people get away with this sort of behavior toward women, that’s a wrong. Staying silent when Harlan Ellison is still pulling that sort of stuff today would also be wrong. It isn’t a double standard to wake up today and decide, “No more, we’re going to do the right thing.”

  9. Conversations « Torque Control Says:

    […] But this year that’s been somewhat eclipsed by what Harlan Ellison did; David Moles has the essential roundup of who said what. The best posts you might not have seen yet are by Alan DeNiro and Ben Rosenbaum. The most impressive train-wreck of a conversation (aside, presumably, from whatever’s going on at the SFWA forums) is this one at Ed Champion’s place. […]


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