The Inclusiveness of the SF/F Community

I had a “Duh” moment at ICON last weekend. We were talking about conventions and fandom and such during a panel – maybe the gaming panel? – and someone in the audience commented that overall, fandom tended to be pretty accepting and inclusive.

It’s a claim I’ve heard a lot, and I think we as a community tend to pride ourselves on our inclusiveness. Heck, I mentioned in my speech at Worldcon how finding fandom felt like coming home, how I felt accepted and valued here in a way I never did back in high school.

And therein lies the logical flaw, which hadn’t quite crystallized in my mind until that conversation at ICON. Because fandom is not a utopia of acceptance and tolerance. True, it’s a place where I found acceptance. But the fact that I as a straight white male geek feel accepted and relatively safe here does not therefore prove that this is a safe or accepting community.

After all, the other place I felt accepted growing up was in the Boy Scouts…

I love this community, and I think we’ve made progress, but we have a long way to go. Most conventions I attend are still at least 95% white. Women continue to get harassed while men stand around asking why people have to make such a big deal about sexual harassment policies. Awards and “Best of” anthologies continue to be dominated by western (particularly U.S.) names. Our book covers fetishize women and whitewash or erase characters of color. And people who speak up about feeling excluded are accused of being oversensitive, searching for reasons to be offended, and being part of the PC police.

Fandom is accepting of a different subset of people than most other parts of my life, and as a member of that subset, I’m grateful. But I also think we have a lot more work to do to broaden that acceptance.