Sunday, 2 March 2014

Jonathon Ross steps down from the Hugo Awards

Jonathon Ross was going to be part of the Hugo awards. He volunteered, there was backlash, particularly from women and minorities, he stepped down.

And there has been kafuffle all around this

This is a new spin on an old problem.

The old problem is that SF/F – its conventions, its fandom, it’s various bodies of varying degrees of authority, its awards and a huge amount of the work produced in the genre has a problem of, at worst, outright prejudice towards minorities or, at best, not particularly valuing minority participation or presence.

In terms of inclusion, the genre, it’s subgenres and its related genres are probably worse than the mainstream. And you only have to have been on twitter to have followed the huge number of dramas about race, gender and (usually completely absent) sexuality that have raged around – but on the plus side show a level of at least confrontation (even if it is dismissal) that gives me some hope we’re at least kinda, sorta, maybe addressing that there is a Problem.

Well, maybe, it’s somewhat wishful thinking of me, but I can cling to that

I like to hope that, with glacial slowness, enough happy geeks are starting to see that attacking and driving out marginalised people out of some bemusing need for some abstract “fan purity” is a bad idea. I like to hope, with the same glacial slowness, enough happy geeks are beginning to realise that geek spaces have become incredibly hostile to marginalised people and that this needs to change. I like to

In short, I like to hope that, with glacial slowness, geekdom has realised it’s protective, insular culture (often built on the idea of, even if rather exaggerated, mainstream derision) is hostile and damaging to geeks who do not fit their very narrow straight, white, cis, able bodied, male definition of what makes a geek.

Maybe, again, but it’s a battle that is being fought though not necessarily won.

Now we have something of a context shift; geek is IN. Just look at the major films that have geek stamped all over them – of the mainstream channels grabbing at content in prime slots you’d normally find on Syfy or of celebrities who are quite happy to wear their geek badge with pride. Geeks are IN.

And Jonathon Ross, a very well known, very mainstream presenter in the UK. He is definitely mainstream. He’s definitely famous. He’s definitely a geek.

He’s also what the media likes to call “controversial.” Which means he loves his misogyny and is happy to dip his toe into racism, homophobia and ableism as well. Several geeks from said groups responded with a resounding OH HELL NO.

And facing the backlash Jonathon Ross withdrew from the Hugos. Cue screaming from Geekdom “this is why the mainstream hates us!” or words to that effect. (My geeky twitter feed has been a HOT MESS).

Yes, because Geekdom’s fierce defence of marginalised people is totally why the mainstream don’t embrace Geekdom. Uh-huh. Riiiiiiiight.

And what does this tell us?

It tells us not only will marginalised people be stepped over in the name of this ridiculous “geek purity” that so pervades the genre but will be equally stepped over for a sniff of “mainstream” approval. Or, to put it another way, Geekdom is happy to step over marginalised people for any damn reason.

Which adds this to another long list of reasons why Geekdom needs to have a word with itself and get its house in order.