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29 June 2013 @ 09:22 pm
social media, social change  

My fandom is a mess. Not just my fandom. The halls of my chosen career, too. SFF is a mess, in a political sense, with regards to sexism and racism. There’s the very recent problem with the SFWA Bulletin (type SFWA into Google and that link is the first thing that comes up), there’s the nobody-is-surprised news that Tor editor Jim Frenkel has had a formal report filed against him for sexual harrassment, there’s there genuinely bizarre fake geek girl hubub…it all goes on and on, and it’s being discussed hugely in the community.

On a larger scale, the same is being discussed world-wide. Womens’ rights in general, the pervasive “rape culture” (which I enquote not because I’m dismissing the phrase but because it’s a relatively new one to me and I’ve seen it used a great deal in the past six months), abortion rights. Beyond that is the rapidly changing tide regarding marriage equality* and gay rights, and beyond that, the world-wide revolutions where we’ve seen governments shut down internet access to the best of their ability in order to prevent real news coming out.

While all of these things are certainly worth talking about, what I’m actually noticing and wondering is how much social media is forcing a critical mass on topics which have previously risen, been debated, and fallen away again. There is now always someone willing to pick up the baton; someone who is easily accessed in a way that just a few years ago wouldn’t have been possible. For a long time I thought it might just be my particular circle of friends hitting some (or all) of these topics, but when major traditional news sources are picking up the stories, carrying the debates, and using the terminology, it’s becoming clear that it’s not just my left-leaning liberal feminist friends who are on this particular boat.

A friend of mine said a couple of years ago, when we were discussing a particularly offensive ad, that he wasn’t surprised misogyny was on the rise; it was a recession, men were out of work, out of work men felt threatened, threatened men make haste to belittle women. I suspect he was on to something. But I’m also seeing this crest rising, and I’m wondering if it’s approaching an unbreakable speed, thanks in large part to the power of social media offering outlets and support.

Not that I imagine things are going to become sunny and non-sexist overnight–it will indubidably be a continuing work of decades–but if people are beginning to have the confidence to speak out en masse, with strangers shoring up those who are brave enough or who have need to speak, it’s possible the the tide could turn. And I really do wonder how much or if social media is affecting that sea change. (Okay, have I worked enough water metaphors in there? I think so.) If it is, then for all the irritating aspects of Twitter, Facebook, even Livejournal at times, they’re worth it for the chance to become the change we want to see in the world.

*Report on twitter the other day, after a 5 year old had the DOMA strike-down explained to him, he went on to explain it to his 2 year old brother: “It’s GREAT news! It means we don’t have to marry GIRLS!” *laughs and laughs*

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

Autopopeautopope on June 29th, 2013 08:57 pm (UTC)
I think you're right: social media is an amplifier, and stuff that would once have been hushed up or swept under the rug is now leaving ugly leaky stains in public.

Also -- third wave feminism seems to have coincided with this. And not before time: the reactionary fight-back during the 80s and 90s and 00s has been brutal.

As someone or other said, "the big political problem of the 21st century is going to be how we deal with too much information." Information doesn't want to be free or expensive, as Stuart Brand put it: the real issue is that information used to stay in one place, but it's now turning into a frictionless superfluid. This is an early symptom. Imagine what it's going to be like in 30 years' time when every candidate for political office has a click-trail on Facebook or equivalent going back to their single-digit years ...
kitmizkit on June 30th, 2013 06:53 pm (UTC)
An amplifier, yes! That's the word I wanted. And again, yes: the ugly leaky stains is actually really important in this whole thing.

It's my perception that 3rd-wave feminism has really appeared on the scene in the past five years. Not, I suspect, coincidentally, along with the economic downturn and the upswell of misogynism; it has, I think, become necessary again, really necessary, and that the rise of social media is making it a very noisy platform.

hah! think in thirty or fifty years we're going to have honest politicians, because it'll be so damned easy to find them out if they're not? :)
Autopopeautopope on June 30th, 2013 09:47 pm (UTC)
I'm more worried about what kind of person would be willing to put themselves forward for public office in a superfluid information environment.

Sock puppets with false backgrounds assembled by the likes of NSA/GCHQ to provide cover? Sociopaths who are very good at passing for neurotypical? Shudder.
Deborah Blakedeborahblakehps on June 30th, 2013 01:20 am (UTC)

And I love that last bit :-)
Kate Kirbykirbyk on June 30th, 2013 02:30 am (UTC)
I suspect you're right. But I'm sure that I like your general attitude towards life! I tend to have a similar reaction.

It's like what Gandhi said: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

They ignored us for a long time, and laughed at us until recently. Now we're fighting. Then we win!
irishkateirishkate on June 30th, 2013 02:10 pm (UTC)
I must really and truly be oblivious! I am unaware of ever having had problems in either work or social life..

Please someone point out to me if you see me ignore something!
kitmizkit on June 30th, 2013 06:54 pm (UTC)
Not everybody experiences these things. I have, with *exceedingly* rare exceptions, not, so it doesn't necessarily mean oblivion, just kinda...luck. And I do think the Irish SF/F conventions are pretty safe places. Everybody knows one another, which helps.
Kari Sperringla_marquise_de_ on June 30th, 2013 03:33 pm (UTC)
I'm beginning to think that in sff we need an Occupy Genre week. And we need, women and men both, to keep pushing back against this culture that endorses sexism and abuse.
kitmizkit on June 30th, 2013 06:56 pm (UTC)
I think that what's going on right now is pretty effectively an Occupy Genre. Ted and I were discussing today how to ... well, how to not just create safe spaces, but how to signify to women at, say, a convention, that Dude X is a safe guy and will have your back under any circumstances. The White Hat Brigade, in effect. I'll post about the idea soon.
Bryantbryant on June 30th, 2013 06:58 pm (UTC)
Kari Sperringla_marquise_de_ on July 1st, 2013 09:02 am (UTC)
Yes! UL fandom has been having those talks for a while now. And there was the backup project which seems to have disappeared, which is a shame.
No, it has a new website, which another commenter has given :-) Good to know they're still there.

Edited at 2013-07-01 09:04 am (UTC)
Chrysoulachrysoula on July 1st, 2013 02:52 am (UTC)
I love the tag.
Amberleyamberley on July 4th, 2013 05:10 am (UTC)
Shared Awareness
There's a bit in Clay Shirky's brilliant Here Comes Everybody on page 163 where he talks about how how the Berlin Wall came down:

'This kind of social awareness has three levels: when everybody knows something, when everybody knows that everybody knows, and when everybody knows that everybody knows that everybody knows. Many people in the GDR figured out for themselves that the government was bad; this is the "everyone knows" condition. Over time many of those same people figured out that most of their friends, neighbors and colleagues knew that as well -- "everyone knows that everyone knows." At this point the sentiment was widespread but because no one was talking about what everyone knew, the state never had to respond in any formal way. Finally people in Leipzig could see others acting on the knowledge that the GDR was rotten -- "everyone knows that everyone knows that everyone knows." This shared awareness is the step necessary for real public action: ...'

I think this is exactly the process happening now regarding misogyny, and we're seeing the effects in SF Fandom because that's where our attention is focused. Rosalind Wiseman's Queen Bees and Wannabes has a very thought-provoking section on how gay-bashing is used to reinforce gender roles. So things like Equality of Marriage which seem like simple social justice to many, are taken by others as attacks on identity. People react very badly on attacks on identity.

I'm glad to see names are being named (at least sometimes now), and awareness raised, and that we're moving on to "everybody knows that everybody knows."

Edited at 2013-07-04 05:12 am (UTC)
kitmizkit on July 4th, 2013 06:58 am (UTC)
Re: Shared Awareness
That sounds like a really interesting book. I wonder how long the transition takes, or if it varies wildly, from 'everybody knows" to "everybody knows everybody knowws to "things have to change now because hey look revolution!"