By now, everyone's seen this article about this blog by British writer Paul Cornell. See how clever I am, to wait to write about it until you have already read it? SO CLEVER.
For those who are going, "Huh? I've been busy learning horse racing from the ground up so I can follow LUCK," here's the short version: Paul Cornell thinks there isn't enough female representation on convention panels and while he can't turn an entire industry around, he can effect how he handles it, which is to walk off of panels where there isn't a 50/50 gender split.
This has caused all kinds of consternation around the Internet. Geeks and nerds of every stripe are terrified that this means they won't get to see their comic writing hero at Comic Con because his spot will be filled by Some Woman. AS IF THAT WOULD EVER HAPPEN, first of all, and secondly, this isn't about a global protest. It's about one writer highlighting something he deems unfair. Fans moan about how now it will go from being The Most Talented People In The World to them plus some lame girl who isn't nearly as talented. Because that's what a lot of people think affirmative action is. It's about making every workplace look like a Benetton ad. At the bitter backend of this is the implication that people are successful because they are talented and work hard, which is certainly true, BUT ALSO ONLY THAT. So if a woman or a minority needs a hand up, it means that they need it because they aren't as talented, and they don't work as hard. It's easier to think of people not as successful as you as less talented, or even lazy. We've all heard this from politicians. If only poor people would get a job, then the economic crisis would be solved.
What I don't understand is why people think there's a finite amount of talent and hard work, and if some woman or minority wants a seat at the table, that somehow means one of the privileged guys already at the table has been diminished. If a woman is talented and works hard but hasn't gotten the breaks that a white male has gotten, that doesn't mean he's any less talented or works any less hard. It doesn't TAKE AWAY from the folks who are already at the table. So why the fear?
Some people have said, "You just aren't going to the right conventions." That's not a reason for anything. I have no doubt that there are conventions that feature more women, but we're talking about the biggies here, like Comic Con and WonderCon. Comic Con suffers even more because it's basically Movie Con now, which means that the panels about movies feature the filmmakers and stars of those movies, and I would peg that number at about 99.9999% male. So if you're talking about an Avengers panel, then trying to make that 50% female is obviously not going to work. But if you're talking about a discussion panel, confining the women to the "Women In Genre" panel, or the "Women in SF" panel, or the "Women in Comics" panel while all the other actually fun panels are all dudes, well... that's as unfair as putting the minority writers on the "Minorities in Comics" panel. After awhile, you don't necessarily want to talk about your gender or your race and how it pertains to whateverthefuck dumb topic you've been forced to blather on about. You just want your perspective to count as much as the white guys' perspectives do, and you don't necessarily want that perspective to be confined to gender. Just because wimmin is wimmin doesn't mean they want to talk about uteruses all the time. Or EVER, frankly.
One female commenter on another blog said that she went to conventions to see her favorite comics writers, and they happened to be male, so she doesn't want to see just random women on these panels JUST BECAUSE. I totally get her point. I wouldn't want that either. But what this topic does for me is to shine a light on the real problem - there would be more women on panels if there were more women creating content, and then more people would want to see them speak on panels. I think that, ultimately, is what Paul Cornell is talking about. Other people thought it was stupid that a successful white guy was going to try to prove a point, and why don't the women try to prove the point instead? Well, that would mean that women would have to walk off of panels that were not representative of their gender, which nobody would notice BECAUSE THERE AREN'T ENOUGH WOMEN ON PANELS. It's a problem when there IS a discussion, or a comment, about womens' points of view and all some idiot can come up with is to clone Jane Espenson.
NO, I WILL NEVER GET OVER HOW DUMB THAT WAS.
It'll be interesting to see how many women are on panels at WonderCon next month. I will have plenty of time to count, since I am not on any panels. HA! And the women who are going to be on panels are probably going to be women who write for television. They won't have to talk about ovaries or uteruses. They will be talking about the television show they write for. So why should non-TeeVee female writers have to just talk about lady business?
Look, not every woman wants to talk about their ovaries or how the character should have children or dress better. They're FORCED to, because whenever a woman is present somewhere in public like on a panel, it must be pointed out that the writer is female and therefore only there to talk about lady business. I don't WANT to talk about lady business. I want to talk about time travel and spaceships and robots and ask the question why, when female characters are introduced in stories, they have to be just about their vaginas and not about the fact that they are PEOPLE. I don't want to be handed a particular story because it's a "female issue," and therefore a good story for a woman to write.
Speaking of panels, Paul Cornell totes would have walked off Darrell Issa's dumb "let's insert shit into vaginas" panel, especially since there were no women on it at all. But they did have a black guy, so they probably thought they'd hit the diversity just fine.
Someone in the comments posted this utterly astonishing piece by Dan Harmon, creator of COMMUNITY, about how he was forced to staff his show with 50% women. He was as horrified as you could imagine, until he wasn't. And what I find most interesting is that the quota isn't what it usually is -- ONE woman, usually either very low level or very high level to charge off development -- but that it was HALF. I've been on shows that have more than one woman on staff because I have a female writing partner HA HA! But I've been on staffs that have had more than the two of us, too. People tend to relax when there's more than one woman on staff. Gender parity means that the chances of overreacting to THE WOMAN IN THE ROOM are much slimmer. It seems weird when there's one, because the inference is that it's a quota issue. But more than one, and that issue starts to go away.
Harmon also talks about how few female writers he could FIND, and how he had to work harder to staff his show. That's both sad and awesome. Comedy tilts towards a more male ratio than does drama, so it's much more of a natural boy's club. What's also interesting is how he talks about how the women fit in, how afraid he was that everyone was going to have to be vigilant about not offending them, and how it was very nearly the other way around. Seeing a male comedy showrunner have these revelations is just what the business needs.
I think about how the women are the real stars of Mad Men, and what kind of a boss Don Draper is. Peggy Olson is awfully prickly about her status as the female copywriter, and I love how Don doesn't let her get away with that. For all of his misogyny and horrible treatment of women, he's a gem with Peggy. He wants her to realize that the fact that she's a woman has no bearing on her ability, but that she has to get that chip off her shoulder so she can truly grow. It's an astonishing relationship on a show full of them, AND I CANNOT GODDAM WAIT FOR IT TO COME BACK ARRRRGHHH.
I've never seen Community but having read this, I'm going to check it out. Dan Harmon and Paul Cornell, you are the heroes for the day.