I’ve had a week or so to process some of the events at Wiscon. I’ve read a few posts from other people, I’ve listened to folks chatting on Twitter. And I have this to say about who is or is not welcome at Wiscon.
Change is complicated.
A few points, as I’ve been pondering them:
1. I, personally, did not feel unwelcome at any point at Wiscon.
1a. That’s not to say I was always welcome! I may not have been! But, if so, I did not notice. Erm. My apologies, here, then, to anyone’s conversation or gathering I crashed when you would have preferred I did not.
1b. I am white! And I’ve been going to Wiscon for ages! And I have some publishing credits! I am, in short, just about the exact template of People Who Have Always Gone to Wiscon. So of course I’m welcome.
1c. But what I mean to say is, at no point did the presence of people of color and genderfluid folks cause me to feel that I was not welcome.
1d. What *did* happen, though, is that I was excrutiatingly aware of who was speaking and whose literal voice was given privilege in panels and discussions. I scrupulously followed my mods (thank you Tanya!) when they told me to hush. When I was a mod I worked very hard to call on listeners without using gendered labels (and I noticed when I screwed it up, sorry to the “gentleman in the back” I called on!) and to give speaking time to all panelists. I may have audibly shushed a fellow audience member who was talking over a panelist.
1e. Awareness is not bad. Self-awareness is good. Awareness of my privilage in the spaces of Wiscon is good. Awareness means I then get to choose what sort of person I want to be — will I be a person who shares, who ceeds space and platform, who listens actively, or will I be a massive failbot of temper-tantrum? I strongly prefer to be the former, not the latter.
2. What the HELL is this nonsense about treating the hotel staff poorly?
2a. The Concourse runs a unionized shop, yo. If we keep treating them badly, I fully expect our room rates to go up. Act in your own self-interest if for no other reason, and treat the staff well.
2b. This includes the all-volunteer staff running the convention. I am so peeved about the treatment on the ConSuite staff and space that I am mildly tempted to volunteer for ConSuite next year JUST SO I CAN SHAME ALL Y’ALL WHO DID NOT CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELVES.
2c. Everyone. Working. At. The. Concourse. Is. A. Human. Being. If that’s not a sufficient reason for you to treat them decently, then kindly get the hell out of a convention devoted to intersectional feminism.
3. I was so glad to hear the Wiscon is treating all attendees better than we once did.
3a. Of course there is room for improvement. Of course.
3b. But reading reports about the PoC dinner made me so happy. And hearing that Mark Oshiro had a pretty great con made me so happy. And being on panels with PoC coming to their first Wiscon made me so happy.
3c. And hearing Justine Larbalestier say that she enjoyed the con, when she had stopped going in the past because she wasn’t welcome, made me feel good.
3d. I look forward to the further improvements we make!
And this brings me to the rough part. The part that is as-yet not fully formed in my head.
I was watching the NetFlix series Grace and Frankie, and it made me think about Wiscon. See, the characters of Grace and Frankie were feminists in their young and middle adulthood. They were progressives. They were even a bit radical. Grace started and owned a successful business. Frankie explored other people and cultures. They were strong, independent, successful women.
By the time the show comes around and we meet them, they are out of step with today. Grace’s feminism looks shrill and hateful towards other women. Frankie’s progressive politics look like condescending cultural appropriation. Frankie and Grace have not changed; they world has moved on.
And they are angry about it.
Watching these tv characters rail at their lives, I thought of my fandom elders. People ten, twenty years older than me. People who raised me in fandom, people I have looked up to my entire adult life.
Some of them have evolved, have stepped along with the moving standards of progressive intersectional radical politics.
Others have not.
I feel for the folks who find themselves condemned for holding the same views they have always held. How bewildering, how enraging! How fucking FRUSTRATING to be told what was okay five years ago is not okay now! And how bitterly painful to be told that all the work you did, all the fights you won, are just not fucking good enough anymore!
Here’s the thing: if the fates are kind, all of us will one day be old in fandom. Two, three, four generations will pile in after us, building on what we have fostered. We, too, will be pushed to the margins and passed by.
Yet my heart and head are with the youth. With the future. I cannot bring myself to condemn change that spreads power among more people. I cannot argue against hearing more people tell their own stories. I cannot stand against representation, inclusion.
And yet, and yet, and yet …
What I want, what a crave, is for people to LISTEN to each other. To empathize. I want the young’ns to thank those who came before for their victories, however incremental. I want the founders and established folks to respect the anger and impatient demands for change. I want the next generation to not throw out everything just because it was done before. I want the previous generation to avoid “because we always do it this way” as a reason.
When I hear some Old Fart say something dismissive and intolerant, I wince. I want to prevent my respected elders from showing their ass in public, I want to cover for them, I want to protect them from being overheard.
When I hear some Young Turk calling to burn it all to the ground and start again, I wince. I want to run interference, I want to soften their demands, I want to compromise and meet them halfway.
I love the rage and fearlessness of those a generation or two behind me.
I love the knowledge and accomplishment of those a generation or two ahead of me.
What I want, what I need, is a fannish community that values both.
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