Six SFWA Candidates and One Facepalm
My ballot for the 2012 SFWA Officer Election showed up this week. Some of the decisions are pretty straightforward. John Scalzi is running unopposed for President, and overall I’m fairly happy with the work he’s done for the organization. Bud Sparhawk is also running unopposed for Treasurer. He’s got experience and a reasonable platform I can support.
There are two candidates for Secretary: Michael Burstein and Ann Leckie. I haven’t yet made up my mind here.
And then there are the Vice-President candidates, Rachel Swirsky and Lou Antonelli.
The platforms of the various candidates are posted in the SFWA Forums (you have to be a member to log in and read them). Let me say up front that I appreciate anyone’s willingness to step up and volunteer for a tremendous amount of work, work that can be difficult, time-consuming, and often thankless.
With that said, I’d like to publicly support Rachel Swirsky for VP.
Both Swirsky and Antonelli bring impressive resumes. While I was leaning toward voting for Swirsky already, what solidified my decision tonight was an exchange in Antonelli’s blog where he had posted his platform. Author Nisi Shawl expressed being offended by his use of the phrase “Canine-Americans” to describe his dogs. Antonelli responded by calling her concerns esoteric, politically correct bullshit, and saying she takes herself way too seriously.
I’m not posting this with the intention of dropping the internet on Antonelli’s blog. But … well, I guess I take stuff way too seriously too.
To start with, I get really sick of white folks lecturing people of color on what they should and shouldn’t take offense to when it comes to issues of race and ethnicity. If you don’t get it, that’s one thing. I don’t believe there’s any shame in saying “I don’t understand.”
But this is a condescending, insulting, and flat-out shitty way to respond when someone calls you on something.
I get that it’s hard. I’ve been called out on stuff before too. Sometimes I’ve agreed, sometimes I haven’t understood, and sometimes I’ve thought about it and decided I didn’t agree. None of those responses require you to disrespect or insult the other person.
More to the point, whether you agree with someone or not, this is an utterly unacceptable way for a potential officer in an organization to respond to the concerns of a member.
ETA: a link to Shawl accepting Antonelli’s apology.
Follow-up: I’m angry right now, which is a dangerous time to blog. I’ve tried to lay out my concerns clearly, without getting into personal attacks or name-calling. If I’ve screwed that up, I reserve the right to come back and tack on an addendum, though I’ll leave the original post as is.
March 6, 2012 @ 10:03 pm
As an adoptee myself, and mother of human children adopted from foster care, I’m offended by the trivialization of adoption. I probably would have given him a pass, assuming it was just an attempt at humor, but his responses leave me stunned. Sure, running for any office isn’t a popularity contest, but being insulting doesn’t seem like an effective way to win elections either.
Jim C. Hines
March 6, 2012 @ 10:16 pm
Having gotten past my initial anger, I find myself more … baffled. I don’t want to try to speculate as to what he was thinking, but if he’s serious about running for this office, then I don’t understand his responses. Though, checking back, it seems that his more recent comments have shifted a bit.
March 6, 2012 @ 10:49 pm
Holy cow. Thank you for drawing my attention to this.
March 6, 2012 @ 11:46 pm
I agree with kimberlycreates. The original usage didn’t bother me by itself (though as a parent of foster kids, I always find the personification of pets a little unsettling, when there are so many kids out here who receive the opposite treatment). But his reaction(s) trouble me. I get the feeling this guy isn’t ready for a public office outside of Texas.
March 7, 2012 @ 1:41 am
I have been lucky enough to have friends from a wide swath of people who are of a different race, religion or creed from me. Years ago, I had an argument at a lacrosse game with a First Nations member. It was over the naming of sports teams after various parts of First Nations culture. The argument was far from inflamed, but my elderly friend was truly affronted by at least one franchise nickname, the NFL one in Washington. I thought he should take back the word, as so many in other picked-on groups have, to blunt its impact. But he was having none of that. In the end, we parted along the following lines: I believe he is empowering the mentally defective to let THEM have the power of the word to make him unhappy, but I’ve never used the name since (along with some others), because I have a choice to make him unhappy or not. And I choose not. Yes, we can disagree as to whether we should empower idiots. But we don’t have to divide the right side amongst ourselves. In the vernacular of that time, Keep on Truckin’.
Jim C. Hines
March 7, 2012 @ 7:55 am
Having thought about it, I think I’m starting to have a better understanding of where Shawl was coming from and why this bothered her. But yes, at least initially, it was his response to her concerns that left me first speechless, then ranty-on-the-internet.
March 7, 2012 @ 9:46 am
Disclaimer. I am neither American nor very political correct. The vast majority of the time I find politicla corectnes meaningless and downright silly because it is taken to extremes.
I never understood the need to differantiate where your parents/you/grandparents etc. origanted from by adding the X-american to it.
Are´nt you all americans? If yes, then why is it neccesary to add the African/Japanese/Klingon prefix to american?
As far as I see if it is necesary to do so, then basicly everyone BUT Indians (do they have a politicly correct name as well?)
So would someone please educate me ( preferably in a constructive nonflaming way)on why the prefix is needed?
Cheers from Denmark
March 7, 2012 @ 9:48 am
Part of the abovce got eaten by a internet deamon 🙂
Please add: should add it. To the sentence with Indians, after the (bla bla bla)
Jim C. Hines
March 7, 2012 @ 9:53 am
I can’t speak for anyone else, and I’m not educated enough on the full history and context here. But one thing that comes to mind is that as a white person in the U.S., nobody questions whether I’m American. Whereas someone who’s not obviously white… well, look at the immigration movement cracking down on anyone who looks brown, or the fact that we *still* have people insisting our president isn’t really “American,” and so on.
March 7, 2012 @ 10:57 am
Poul, the PC phrase for Indians is “Native Americans.”
From my perspective, we make way too big a deal out of this stuff. I favor people growing a thick skin instead of society trying to protect their thin skins. So if a word wounds a person, they need to work on that. Having said that, I try to use tact in everyday conversation and not cause offense to the thin skinned among us. Though lately, the language is so finely parsed that this means shutting up, which may be for the best.
I could understand that someone might say, “If you don’t get it, shutting up is a good idea.” But that means that we segregate ourselves into camps that don’t talk to each other.
Jim C. Hines
March 7, 2012 @ 11:00 am
To quote Eileen Gunn from the comments on Antonelli’s post, “[W]hat makes people’s skins thin is repeated bashing. The fact that your skin is not sensitive in the same place is irrelevant.”
March 7, 2012 @ 11:45 am
I realize that is the prevailing wisdom in some quarters. But I walked barefoot for much of my life and have a different understanding of the way the world works.
March 7, 2012 @ 12:58 pm
I think it’s interesting that people get so angry about being offended. With the broad spectrum of opinions in this country and the ease of sharing them, I don’t see how anyone can expect to get through a day without coming across something that offends them.
It’s also interesting that no one here thinks Shawl is out of line at all. A highly condensed version of the back and forth:
Antonelli – “Hi I’m Lou, here’s some stuff about me…”
Shawl – “I’m offended but I won’t elaborate or have an open dialogue about it. I’m actively campaigning against you.”
Antonelli – “Huh? Ok, screw you too.”
It seems to me that they are both out of line.
March 7, 2012 @ 2:19 pm
I think your response to this B.S. from Antonelli was great. I guess there’s nothing else to say, except to encourage others to disengage from their privileges before they try and talk about other people’s experiences. I work very hard to challenge my own white privilege every. single. day. It’s hard. Sometimes, it would be a lot easier to let things like this go by – to say Shawl should have had a thicker skin, or that it was a harmless joke. But it wasn’t, not to Shawl, and probably not to many other people who didn’t have the courage to speak up.
And saying, “I’m not sure I have the patience to explain [why X offensive action/words was offensive] with you” is NOT refusing dialogue. It is a simple statement – I’m not able to have this conversation with you. If you really, sincerely care about why someone is offended, the answers are available. Try racialicious or any of the other blogs that talk about race, color, and social justice. You can almost certainly find the answer there – and if you can’t, ask. But be aware, no one has the RIGHT to have something explained to them, and demanding that they do so or be ignored will be just as – if not more – offensive than your original action. Demanding an explanation is childish.
March 7, 2012 @ 2:31 pm
Here’s a link with one question and answer that should provide more than enough explanation to those with questions: http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2012/02/fighting-sioux-are-back-my-passionate.html Go down the list, to the third question. Done. 10 minutes on google got me the answer not once, but twice.
March 7, 2012 @ 3:48 pm
I think the statement “I’m not able to have this conversation with you” is a perfect example of refusing dialogue.
It’s interesting that you point out the lack of empathy when talking about other people’s experiences because that’s my main problem with Shawl’s original statement. It seems the empathy went out the window and Shawl applied her own bias and experience to the canine statement. It’s kind of like taking a direct quote out of context. Yes, technically the person said those words, but that’s not what they meant. Shawl and Antonelli come from different backgrounds and it’s a very safe bet that a handful of words can mean very different things to each of them.
Also, I don’t agree that because someone is offended that the answers are available if they refuse to explain themselves. To assume that an individual’s offense is somehow completely defined on racialicious is a stretch. Refusing an explanation seems counter-productive.
Life, in general, is very grey. It might help to think of Antonelli and Shawl as people as opposed to categories or stereotypes.
March 7, 2012 @ 7:39 pm
Poul, I don´t know how the situation is in Denmark, but here in the Netherlands we seem to be few decades behind the US timeline that has led to this sensitive subject.
We have large groups of people (descended from) recent immigrants from non-western nations. Former colonies, but also Morocco and Turkey. Those people, no matter how long they’ve lived here, no matter when their parents, grandparents even moved here, are almost always labelled as ‘Surinamese’ Moroccan’ ‘Turkish’. I can foresee a possible future when people have fought for decades to be considered Dutch, perhaps Dutch-… because they are proud of their background, but still Dutch. And when that struggle is belittled by people using that construct to talk about pets, yes that will hurt. And they will have every right for people that want to represent them to be at least aware of this, even if they don’t understand completely.
March 8, 2012 @ 3:53 am
Thanks for trying to educate me 🙂
I ama little baffled (to say the least) taht anyone would be dimwitted enough to insist that the current president isnt “American”
If the guy elected as President of the USA is not American, then who is???
Oh well, bigots and retards are aplenty it seems.
Once Again, It’s Personality Over Policy, Or: SFWA Politics | Ferrett Steinmetz
March 8, 2012 @ 8:59 am
[…] which point a heated discussion broke out on Twitter and in his comments (and in Jim Hines’ blog) about how a man who responded so angrily to a complaint from a SFWA member wasn’t fit to be […]
March 9, 2012 @ 5:52 pm
This is something that’s particular to those countries with a huge and widely varied immigrant population. If you’re proud of where your parents or grandparents came from, and the things that heritage taught you, if you still do things with your family and community that reflect that country — but are ALSO proud of the country you now live in, and its culture, you might want a term that embraces both. It’s also a way to emphasize that you really ARE a part of the country you live in, a poke in the eye of those idiots who think the only real Americans are white, or embrace only white cultural heritage. If you call yourself only American, it can be considered to imply you want to forget where your great-grandparents came from and abandon that heritage. (There are, BTW, Dutch-Americans, Finnish-Americans, Irish-Americans, etc. Or Dutch-Canadians, Finnish-Canadians, etc., on this side of the border. You just don’t hear as much about them because they don’t NEED or want to emphasize it in the face of bigotry, and didn’t have to struggle for the right to be considered ‘real’ Canadians or Americans.)
To: Indians. If you mean the original inhabitants of North America, there are a number of terms which are generally considered acceptable. First, some few actually do embrace American Indian (although Indian without any extra words, or Red Indian, are almost always offensive), though it does have a poor history, and muddies the waters for people whose forebears immigrated from India. More often, Native American/Canadian is considered okay. ‘Aboriginal’ has been accepted by some, but I’ve met at least one person who loathes it for its implication of primitive. In Canada, First Nations seems to be the best accepted blanket term. If you happen to know their actual nation or heritage (Ojibwa, Cherokee, Haida, Inuit, etc.), that’s even better, in the long run.
March 9, 2012 @ 6:06 pm
It’s not the sharp stone that cuts into your skin that makes the callus that makes it tough. That stone builds scar tissue, which is inferior in all ways to regular skin of any thickness, and often more sensitive to future damage. It’s the slow steady and hopefully painless effort of exposure. What you’re recommending is more like demanding people take off their shoes and instantly try to walk on sharp rocks (That would be the nearest equivalent of repeated bashing), not that they start with something sensible and gentle like good and pebble-free sand.
March 10, 2012 @ 3:50 am
Thank you for that explanation 🙂
I sometimes wondered why Americans insisted on adding where their ancestors came from. It always baffeled me when someone cam up to me and said they were German too or referring to themselves as German-Americans and I stood there thinking: No, you aren’t, you’re American. Claiming to be German indicated to me always having German citizenship, like for examaple many German-Namibians do.
I think in Europe the thinking is still more focused on actual nationality than on cultural identity, but it seems to be shifting slowly and the thinking changing slightly.
Around the Web, 3/16 | Safe From Shame
March 16, 2012 @ 3:52 pm
[…] One candidate for SFWA president refuses to respect that his language has hurt another, and Jim C. Hines calls him out on it (an example of the proper use of shaming)…. To start with, I get really sick of white folks […]