Several decades ago, James Tiptree Jr. (Alice Sheldon) wrote a story in which aliens eyeing the lush terrestrial real estate introduce something in the water or the air that makes men kill women and girls systematically, rather than in the usual haphazard fashion. Recent events have made me wonder if a milder version of Tiptree’s Screwfly Solution might be affecting the brains of self-defined “technoprogressive visionaries”… in which case we’re doomed if not to extinction, at minimum to a future that will make Saudi Arabia seem paradisiacal.
Exhibit 1: The upcoming Singularity Summit, exclusively a white boys’ treehouse, about which I wrote more extensively in Girl Cooties Menace the Singularity!
Exhibit 2: The upcoming Mammoth Book of Mindblowing Science Fiction, modestly subtitled The 21 Finest Stories of Awesome Science Fiction. I know two of the authors in it personally, and consider one a friend. Nevertheless, all the stories are (rewind tape) by American or British white men. When called on this, the editor of the collection explained that stories by women didn’t peg his mindblowing meter, because “women write more about people and their feelings”. Oooh, these nasty girl cooties again! Not to mention that if there are no people in a piece of writing, it’s called a manual.
Exhibit 3: The Lifeboat Foundation discussion list which, unfortunately for anthropologists and cartoonists, is not public. In it, self-identified visionaries agree (in harmonious accord with fundamentalists) that the scarcity and silence of women in most mindblowing places are natural outcomes of such proven attributes as “alpha male rape genes” and women’s “wired for coyness” brains. These people are not even remotely acquainted with biology, but feel completely entitled to pose as experts because they’ve written clunky science fiction and now collect speakers’ fees as futurists. I discussed another aspect of this in On Being Bitten to Death by Ducks.
Intrinsically, these occurrences are as worthy of attention as the whining of a mosquito swarm. However, one reason that Pod People come to mind is that the excuses have been identical in all three cases. The litany goes as follows:
1. We can’t have population quota representation, because this is all about superior quality/qualifications that non-males and non-whites simply lack.
2. Would you rather we included token women and minorities?
3. My wife/girlfriend/mistress/concubine is a feminist and/or non-white and she agrees with me.
4. Your humorless PC hysteria alienates those who would support you if only you were polite.
Of course, parity is not even remotely demanded — a mere one or two representatives often suffice as a sop (to such lows have we fallen). The bleatings about qualifications and tokenism are absurd, given the vast, stellar non-male non-white talent pool. The excuses sound even lamer (if not malicious) when one scans the predictable, often mediocre, rolodex-friend picks actually made in cases 1 and 2 above… and in more instances than I care to recall at other times.
In the vast majority of cases, non-male non-whites are overqualified for whatever position or role they are chosen to fill. The tokenism excuse has been obliterated countless times no matter how often the goalposts move, particularly when evaluations are made truly blind. Whenever musicians audit behind screens, or names are removed from manuscripts and grant or college applications, the number of women and non-whites skyrockets. As soon as Harvard adopted blind admissions in my junior year, the girl to boy ratio went from 1:7 to 1:3 in one year, just from the incoming class. This was immediately followed by shrieks of rage by alumni, who whined that more girls would lower Harvard’s standards as well as its reputation. These, by the way, were mostly legacy admissions that had scraped by on gentlemen’s Cs.
So what we have here are people so embedded in their privilege that pointing it out to them instantly strips away the progressive veneer and elicits poop-flinging that would make a baboon blush. Women and other Others are still furniture – and though furniture is useful and can be decorative, it’s not supposed to move, dammit! From there it’s a short jump to the transhumanist vision of a world where, as the Sad Children cartoon says, “being white and rich will be even more awesome” – and where all others will be either properly docile courtesy of happifying pills or outright extinct in favor of infinitely malleable cyborg dolls.
I think that true equality will come when non-white non-males can be as mediocre as white men. And when that time comes, I guarantee you that the quality of mindblowing anthologies won’t budge. In the meantime, we’ll have to make do with the overqualified Others that occasionally squeak past the endless hazing gauntlet – if the stuff in the water doesn’t get us first.
Update: Graham Sleight reviewed Ashley’s collection in Strange Horizons… and his mind was decidedly underblown. A fellow traveler of feminazis? Objective pundits should investigate!