This week’s science fiction Fail came to us courtesy of a husband-and-wife team: L. Jagi Lamplighter and John C. Wright. Yesterday Skud linked to Jagi’s post-Writercon rant in favour of colourblindness – that is, the practice of not even acknowledging race. The trouble with this position is that it assumes a white default. Today, interestingly, Jagi has apologized to Karnythia and has retracted some of her more egregious positions. That’s a relief, especially as she also mentions she and her husband are in the process of adopting from China.
Unfortunately Jagi’s epiphany coincides with her husband having a highly public and somewhat disturbed meltdown over gay sex. To me, the most perplexing part was this:
Odd as it sounds, I was fully loyal to the sexual revolution as an idea. Then someone tried to convince me that two lesbians licking each other in the crotch was the same in all ways, just as sacred, just as romantic, just as normal, just as beautiful as Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Iseult, Micky and Minnie, Adam and Eve, Jove and Juno, Father Sky and Mother Earth, me and my wife.
Romeo and Juliet: normal? Micky (sic) and Minnie: sacred? (For that matter, oral sex: gross?) But leaving all that aside, what this makes clear to me is how difficult it can be to separate the strands of sexism, homophobia and racism, especially within a given social milieu. Jagi mentions John’s views on race to support her own; John holds up his marriage to Jagi as the ideal to which all of us sexual perverts out here ought to aspire. The comments threads are polarized between their supporters and their angry opponents, with supporters frequently attacking opponents for failing to be sufficiently polite. With the possible exception of Jagi on colourblindness, few minds are changed.
It’s all fairly depressing for your average liberal progressive SF fan (1), but it serves as a salutary reminder of what can happen when people carve out little enclaves for themselves where they can take positions they believe are brave and iconoclastic, and everyone around them provides positive reinforcement. That is, they can fall prey to all kinds of cruel ideas.
Let’s (2) not do that. Let’s not be those people. Let’s think hard about intersectionality, and remind ourselves that while we struggle in one context, as women or feminists or mothers, we’re often hugely privileged in other contexts, as technically adept or educated or white or heterosexual or able-bodied or young or some world-historical jackpot combination of the above. Oppression’s not good for much, but if it doesn’t teach us compassion for people who are differently or multiply oppressed, we’re just not paying attention. The effort is going to suck. It’s going to drain our energy and, for some of us, use up scarce spoons. We’re going to make mistakes and show our asses, but we’re geeks, right? I have faith in us. I just know we can fail better than this.
Edited to add:
(1) That subset of SF fans who happen to be liberal and progressive; clearly, not all SF fans are either.
(2) By “us” here I mean the aforementioned liberal progressive SF fans.