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The Cornell Ratio
February 19, 2012 11:11 AM   Subscribe

Paul Cornell, noted genre author and TV writer, recently announced that he seeks convention panel parity and will take personal action to that end:
If I'm on, at any convention this year, a panel that doesn't have a 50/50 gender split (I'll settle for two out of five), I'll hop off that panel, and find a woman to take my place.
This leads to the general question at Tor.com, The Cornell Ratio: Should SFF Convention Panels Be 50/50 Male and Female?
posted by ZeusHumms (168 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
A good way to achieve a 50/50 gender split is to aim for a 90/10 female to male ratio. Got to aim for the stars and all that.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:21 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


An excellent start. If it proves difficult, well, tough shit.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:24 AM on February 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


There are arguements to be made against Cornell's stand but, to be honest, though I could maybe see their point theoretically, we don't live in that world. Good for him.

On a related note, I was lucky enough to meet him at a Doctor Who convention a few years back, and, you know how they say you should never meet your heroes. They had never met Paul Cornell.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:24 AM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Dan Harmon did this (after some urging) with the Community writing staff, and now says he'd never do it any other way. Yes, there are fewer women out there for these positions. It's worth it to find them, though.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:26 AM on February 19, 2012 [15 favorites]


Gender parity on panels? Oh. I thought this was something important like United States Government Hearings. Nevermind.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:30 AM on February 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


I like that he's starting with himself and resolving not to be part of the problem from now on.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:43 AM on February 19, 2012 [26 favorites]


It's a good idea. We're doing something similar in my profession with the Gendered Conference Campaign.

charlie don't surf, there were actually two women who spoke at the Issa hearing: both pro-life, anti-contraception doctors working for Christian universities. The Democrats' objection is that they weren't allowed to present any witnesses in favor of the HHS rule, not that none of the witnesses were women. Gender parity is very important, but there's a difference between having a uterus and being a feminist.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:48 AM on February 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


CBC: ...legislating seats for women at the boardroom table

...[in Norway] the boardroom quota created a nationwide uproar when it was proposed in 2002. Many CEOs were loudly against it, arguing there were not enough qualified women to fill the quota...

Many women, young women in particular, were also opposed. They did not want to be seen as not having earned their place at the table.

Mai-Lill Ibsen, a former CEO of Citibank Norway and a member of several corporate boards, was one of those women.

"I was not in favour of quotas or the law because it smacks of discrimination and it limits the shareholders' rights to govern their companies," she told the Board Impact Conference in Oslo.

"That said, I have been the lone woman on boards characterized by men past their prime for many years. I certainly wanted more diversity because diversity adds value but I wanted it to happen naturally."

Now that the legislation, passed in 2003, has been fully implemented and integrated-state-owned companies had to comply by 2006 and publicly listed companies had until 2008 or risk being de-listed-the quota has been accepted and applauded.

"What we have seen is that it is not even a discussion any more," says Ibsen. "I am still for the carrot, not the stick, but I cannot fault the state for trying to make this happen faster."

Not surprisingly, she noted, it was not difficult to find qualified women. The quota merely forced corporate committees to widen their search.

posted by flex at 11:51 AM on February 19, 2012 [26 favorites]


As a person of nonbinary gender identity, I think it's reasonable to ask that 0.1% of panel members also be nonbinary.
posted by Foosnark at 11:57 AM on February 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


you know how they say you should never meet your heroes. They had never met Paul Cornell.

I went to a bunch of Cornell's panels at Worldcon, and he's a very charming man. More recently, I read Rudiments of Wisdom and his three Captain Britain and MI-13 and he's a really good writer, too.

The comics industry has remained pretty stolidly fifty years out of date on issues of representation and bless Cornell for taking a stand and calling attention to it.
posted by Zed at 12:00 PM on February 19, 2012


Needs an "affirmative action" tag.

And a "jesus christ finally" tag.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:10 PM on February 19, 2012 [20 favorites]


The Democrats' objection is that they weren't allowed to present any witnesses in favor of the HHS rule, not that none of the witnesses were women. Gender parity is very important, but there's a difference between having a uterus and being a feminist.

You might want to check into that a little further. No women on the first panel, leading to a big controversy. So the Republicans hastily found a couple of women to promote their side. Gender parity still not even close.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:13 PM on February 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


The first panel did make a striking image, but Garrett and Champion weren't a hasty addition: they were already scheduled to speak. But the Democrats' one allowed witness was excluded as supposedly "unqualified" even though she's awesome.

As you say, though, two out of eleven isn't parity.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:36 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think gender parity in U.S. congressional hearings is important. So much so that I think charlie - who seems to agree - should make a standalone post about it.

Because in its own context, gender parity on panels at conferences that draw tens of thousands of people is also important, and deserves a conversation. Of its own. In a post about it.
posted by rtha at 12:38 PM on February 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


As a person of nonbinary gender identity, I think it's reasonable to ask that 0.1% of panel members also be nonbinary.

Raphael Carter can only be so many places at once! (I apologize to all other SFF writers with non-binary gender identities; Carter is the only person in that category who is out about their non-binary gender identity of whom I'm aware.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:43 PM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


As a person of nonbinary gender identity, I think it's reasonable to ask that 0.1% of panel members also be nonbinary.

So, one of every 1000 people on panels should be non-binary-identified. Assuming four person panels, that gives 1 person every 250 panels. This is probably achievable, assuming (on preview) Raphael Carter doesn't have to do all of them.
posted by hoyland at 12:45 PM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Gender parity for the house hearing wouldn't have mattered one iota. They could have hastily thrown together an all female panel of witnesses who just happened to agree with them if they wanted to. This is why arguments from authority are a logical fallacy, even if the chosen authorities are normally distributed across gender, skin color, blood type and the ability to taste phenylthiocarbamide.

As for SFF cons, I've seen far too many where there is at least one panelist who is scratching their head wondering why they're on that panel. If the answer is, "to ensure gender parity" then this is bad thing. That said, I tend to frequent smaller fan run cons where the pool of potential panelists is going to be smaller as opposed to giant media cons, so YMMV.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:55 PM on February 19, 2012


Some more commentary from around the web: Lizzie Barrett, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Cheryl Morgan, Tom Pollock.
posted by penguinliz at 12:59 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


The con I go to (CONvergence) to is becoming more balanced over time, but it's one where most of the panelists volunteer before hand, so the balance reflects the willingness of the participants.

We also had Paul Cornell as a guest several years ago, and he was very gracious.
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:01 PM on February 19, 2012


As for SFF cons, I've seen far too many where there is at least one panelist who is scratching their head wondering why they're on that panel. If the answer is, "to ensure gender parity" then this is bad thing.

In my experience, the "why am I here?" poster is usually a man who was roped in at the last minute. I think people should be more thoughtful in general about filling panel slots.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:09 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


It occurs to me that stepping down in favor of a person of color of either gender would be a positive step as well.

I have to say, this sounds pretty awesome. I don't know how workable his solution is going to be in practice (I'm sort of embarassed to admit that I, a huge nerd, have never been to a con and I haven't seen a panel live and in the wild), but, rather than just pointing out the problem, he's going to take positive steps to address it. Neat. I hope he does a follow-up in a year or so.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 1:10 PM on February 19, 2012


Hopefully nobody is actually proposing that we reserve seats for women at the expense of better-qualified men, just because they happen to be men. I think the primary mechanism by which this helps women is by forcing them to be considered. If panelists are chosen by people sitting in a room naming people who come to mind, people from under-represented groups (such as women or minorities) are probably going to be passed over just because nobody thought to nominate them. There's a way to fight that while still preserving the selection committee's freedom to pick the best candidates. Here's a description from the comments:

The same thing happens in some academic conferences, and since it's often just a matter of a woman[*] not coming to mind immediately, a useful strategy is to make a policy of setting up a shortlist of more people than you are going to invite, and requiring that list to include women[*].

[*] or other underrepresented group(s) as appropriate


So if you need a four-man panel, prepare a list of four men and four women, and then choose your four panelists from those eight without regard to gender. The men still get the seats if they turn out to be the best choices, but only if. Meanwhile, the audience gets just as good a panel as they did before.

anotherpanacea, could you elaborate on the unqualified witness issue? According to the article you linked and the top few hits off Google, Fluke was planning to present a bunch of anecdata (e.g., her friend with polycystic ovarian cancer). Honestly, it sounded like she was planning to exploit vividness bias. I don't really see how her dismissal was unjustified.
posted by d. z. wang at 1:10 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oops. I moved some sentences around and now the pronouns have ambiguous antecedents. The first two sentences should read, "Hopefully nobody is actually proposing that we reserve seats for women at the expense of better-qualified men. I think the primary mechanism by which mandated gender equality helps women is by forcing selection committees to consider female candidates."
posted by d. z. wang at 1:12 PM on February 19, 2012


Woah, Raphael Carter! I just read The Fortunate Fall last month, and was blown away by it. Seriously one of the best science fiction books I've ever read. And then I was sad/confused that Carter doesn't seem to have written much since then... anyone know what happened to them?

/end derail
posted by overglow at 1:18 PM on February 19, 2012


Wait, wait, wait... I am not actually reading people in favour of gender-based quotes, am I? Holy crap, what a horrible idea. This is so wrong, if you want quality you hire qualified people. I am stunned that there would even be debate over this.

It's just so obvious, if you have 6 qualified men and 6 unqualified women who all desire spots on your local health board and someone institutes a quota and you end up with 3 qualified people when for no extra cost and no extra effort you could have had 6, this is insanity.

And before you all jump down my throat about the "real world", yes, the above scenario happened where I live and yes, it had a real impact, negatively, to the community's health system and to the opinions around the capabilities of women in general due to the perceptions around what went on.

When you are going into surgery, honestly, do you want the doctor who was the most qualified working on you or the doctor who was the most qualified amoung those who fit the quota?
posted by Cosine at 1:22 PM on February 19, 2012


Hopefully nobody is actually proposing that we reserve seats for women at the expense of better-qualified men, just because they happen to be men.

Yes, because that would be terrible. Good thing that meritocracy has been the rule before now.
posted by jokeefe at 1:23 PM on February 19, 2012 [20 favorites]


By which I mean, sometimes "qualified" can be a very subjective thing. There often aren't rubrics which allow one to parse one degree of qualification from another in any really clear way. For a panel in a SFF convention, I would suggest that "qualified" might mean a number of things to a number of different people.
posted by jokeefe at 1:25 PM on February 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


The fact is, men are at a specific advantage over women in a variety of arenas with regard to access: these arguments that better-qualified (white) men should have seats at the expense of women or minorities of either gender is ignoring the fact that these advantages exist.

On preview: what jokeefe said. It's sort of ridiculous to assume that men are obviously more qualified than other counterparts, or that somehow this will result in the oppression (lol) of men. I'm sorry, but that's simply not the case. Furthermore, as jokeefe brings up, what does "qualified" even mean? A lot of times it's simply a matter of being well-connected, part of the club, and that very much privileges men over women.

Surgery is a terrible example. Surgery was very much an old boy's club and is only finally starting to even out as far as gender parity. I worked in a surgery residency program where the program director, a 68-year-old woman, can tell you a lot of stories about how much she was discriminated against by her colleagues. They assumed she wasn't strong enough to suture, e.g., and made her do unpleasant things they would never ask of their men peers.

This is a total sidebar, but what I want to say is this: it's not as if we're talking here about totally unqualified women taking the place of better-qualified men. If you have 10 surgeons to choose from and they are all just as qualified as the next, but some of the men have a more impressive CV, does that mean the surgeon without as many publications isn't a good surgeon? Finally, in the case of a panel conference, do you really think that encouraging more women on panels is going to result in the presence of women who have no business being there? If so, why do you make that assumption? It's something to interrogate.
posted by nonmerci at 1:32 PM on February 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


Actually, surgery is a perfect example. As a student you are marked on your education, when you enter a hospital your work is closely monitored. Now we need to hire for an extremely tough task, of which very few are qualified. Now add a quota that says that men, regardless of qualifications, are secondary to women, minorities, whatever. What you can easily end up with is a situation where the better candidate is skipped, on purpose, deliberately and with approval. You cannot look me in the eye and tell me that you honestly think that is the best situation for people's health.
posted by Cosine at 1:37 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


do you really think that encouraging more women on panels is going to result in the presence of women who have no business being there

I think that telling any group that they will be preferred over more qualified members of another group does not lead to the best product in the end, no.
posted by Cosine at 1:39 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually, surgery is a perfect example

No, it isn't, as your analogy just proved. In surgery, we're not looking for a broad variety of perspectives, which is the entire point of a panel discussion.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:40 PM on February 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


If you work in an industry where 95% of the workforce is male and you institute a 50/50 rule you do not end up with better product, this is just common sense.
posted by Cosine at 1:41 PM on February 19, 2012


No, it's really not a perfect example. It's as if you didn't read my comment at all.

You seem to be assuming that the option is between the following: 1) highly qualified male, non-minority candidate and 2) underqualified female and/or minority candidate. Why are you constructing this false dilemma? This is not how programs choose surgeons. Indeed, a program director might choose a woman over a man for whatever purpose, even if "on paper" the male candidate is "more qualified" (let's not forget that the selection process is incredibly arbitrary and that in many cases random numerical values are assigned to things that are otherwise subjective, such as letters of recommendation). However, we're still talking about two very qualified candidates, which is where I see the disconnect in your replies.

/end derail
posted by nonmerci at 1:41 PM on February 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Not sure how we got on this surgery tangent, but it's actually a terrible example, since there is now affirmative action for men at some medical schools.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 1:41 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The panel isn't a big deal, it's just a step down the wrong path. I don't have a big issue with the panel, it's wrong, but it won't hurt anyone. The bigger picture is more disturbing though.
posted by Cosine at 1:41 PM on February 19, 2012


I'd rather he work to get women on panels, instead of going for a hard and fast rule of 2/5 or 50%. You could place someone like Carla Speed McNeil on a panel with 10 guys and she'd hold her own just fine.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:42 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not sure how we got on this surgery tangent, but it's actually a terrible example, since there is now affirmative action for men at some medical schools.

How does affirmative action for men mean it's a terrible example? It's just as wrong the other way around.
posted by Cosine at 1:42 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you work in an industry where 95% of the workforce is male

That does not describe the industry Mr. Cornell works in by any means.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:43 PM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


anotherpanacea, could you elaborate on the unqualified witness issue? According to the article you linked and the top few hits off Google, Fluke was planning to present a bunch of anecdata (e.g., her friend with polycystic ovarian cancer).

(Here is Fluke's testimony, which does have an extended anecdote, but also data and an argument about why women's health clinics are not sufficient to the task alone. Indeed, this does exploit the vividness and recency, but that's precisely what all the other testimony did as well, and really it's the only purpose a congressional hearing ever serves.)

I'm really sorry for the derail. I was responding to charlie don't surf, but I should have let it drop. I'd kind of like it if we could move on, or try to tie this issue back to gendered conferences more generally. For one thing, there are a couple of different reasons to want gender parity, and they'd apply in different circumstances. "Standpoint epistemology" reasons assume that women will bring a unique insight. I think this certainly can be true, but the Issa hearing suggests that it needn't be: indeed, 49% of women call themselves pro-life!

In philosophy, we primarily want to resist the implicit bias against women that so often causes conference organizers to overlook qualified women participants. We think this is a matter of professional survival: so long as people think of philosophers as male, we'll continue to lose smart women to other disciplines in large numbers. That will cause the profession to seem more marginal than it should be. I think Science Fiction is in largely the same boat, and has largely the same concerns with seeming too boyzone. You have to go out of your way to avoid that or the demographics start to undermine your industry.

However, in philosophy we're also worried that the implicit bias against women tends to cause conference organizers to underestimate women candidates. So they'll think of three men and three famous women, but of course the women are famous so they're too busy. There's evidence that professional estimations of fame tend to be biased against women in that you have to be much more accomplished to become a "household name" as a woman than you would as a man. So the Gendered Conference Campaign is designed to incentivize organizers to keep looking beyond the "usual suspects."
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:43 PM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you work in an industry where 95% of the workforce is male

That does not describe the industry Mr. Cornell works in by any means.


And the fandom that supports Mr. Cornell's industries is probably even more gender balanced.
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:44 PM on February 19, 2012


If you work in an industry where 95% of the workforce is male

That does not describe the industry Mr. Cornell works in by any means.


Never said it did.
posted by Cosine at 1:46 PM on February 19, 2012


I have organized literary conferences. Getting a variety of viewpoints represented on as many panels as possible was always an interesting process.

One very easy way to avoid setting up people you respect to sit on panels as tokens is to come up with *interesting* panel topics that don't just fall back on lazy tropes. If you are stumped in coming up with women (for example) to sit on your panels, then the problem may be the panel topics you're coming up with.
posted by rtha at 1:46 PM on February 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I apologize for getting on that tangent. To return to the panel discussion, and to bring my other comments full-circle, here is what Cosine seems to be implying: if we institute any kind of gender parity with regard to panels, or other kinds of conferences, qualified men will be passed over for unqualified women/minorities. This is an extremely problematic viewpoint--why do we assume that the women who are placed on the panels are so unqualified as to be undeserving of that position? What does it even mean to be qualified to sit on a panel, anyway, and how would you determine that a man is vastly more qualified than a female colleague?

As Navelgazer says above, is there nothing to be said for diversity of experience and perspective in this environment? I should think in a setting intended to foster creative discussion, this would be a feature and not a bug, and certainly not get posters up-in-arms about the deleterious effect it will have on men.
posted by nonmerci at 1:48 PM on February 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


what Cosine seems to be implying: if we institute any kind of gender parity with regard to panels, or other kinds of conferences, qualified men will be passed over for unqualified women/minorities. This is an extremely problematic viewpoint--why do we assume that the women who are placed on the panels are so unqualified as to be undeserving of that position?

Oh please, who says I am asusming women are unqualified, that is just silly.

As I said, a couple times, the panel part isn't that big an issue. The larger issue of affirmative action tends to push my buttons. But really, the panel this is fine, his heart is certainly in the right place.
posted by Cosine at 1:53 PM on February 19, 2012


I love his idea in theory. I just worry that in practice, you end up with Xeni Jardin (or please, can I have Felicia Day instead?) on every panel.
posted by tyllwin at 1:58 PM on February 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


The panel isn't a big deal, it's just a step down the wrong path.

Luckily, there are plenty of people out there who remain vigilant about letting anyone down that path for any reason whatsoever, even if it's about panels at SFF conventions. There's a huge gap between that and letting women swan into operating rooms despite not going to medical school just because they have ovaries, you know.
posted by Etrigan at 1:58 PM on February 19, 2012 [13 favorites]


Again, the concern has nothing to do with an idea that women in particular are not going to be qualified, this would be just as wrong if it were men in question.
posted by Cosine at 1:59 PM on February 19, 2012


Not that there aren't qualified women. It's just that if the real requirement is "already in the club" that artificially limits the field that can be chosen from. You aren't, then, choosing from "women," you're choosing from "this handful of women we're already cool with."
posted by tyllwin at 2:02 PM on February 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I love his idea in theory. I just worry that in practice, you end up with Xeni Jardin (or please, can I have Felicia Day instead?) on every panel.

As a practical note, if they're a guest of honor, the tendency is to jam them on every panel that seems remotely connected to what they do. In practice, some cons probably dictate how many panels any GOH can do.
posted by ZeusHumms at 2:05 PM on February 19, 2012


That's a really good point, tyllwin. But then, part of the problem is that it's so hard for women to get "in the club" in the first place, due to all kinds of inequalities that are still unfortunately alive and well--so what do you do? I don't have an answer, but I feel like this kind of thing is a step in the right direction. But it will take a lot more before there are so many women "in the club" to choose from that it's trivial filling a panel like this.
posted by nonmerci at 2:06 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I still think it's probably, on balance, better to do this than not, merely that it has to be implemented sensibly and not blindly.
posted by tyllwin at 2:11 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The problem here (as it is always with arguments about quotas) is that opponents of quotas think that the argument is between "the top n/2 men are chosen, and the top n/2 women are chosen" versus "the top n people who are qualified are chosen". However, this isn't really the correct formulation, for the following reasons.

1) Ranking people so that you can choose the most qualified people is a silly concept in the first place. Yes, we can get a good approximation, but distinguishing between person n and n+1 is ultimately futile. But that's okay, because...

2) If these people are really qualified, but somehow get excluded, they will find their accolades someplace else. Because yes, if you really are in the top 4 experts in the world on a particular topic, getting excluded from a panel because of your gender is unfair. That's true! But in a broader sense, it doesn't matter, because you're going to be exercising your expertise someplace else, because when someone else makes a list, you'll be up there! In fact, that will happen unless...

3) Women (and historically excluded groups) areother protected groups often discriminated against unconsciously. We live in a culture where the contributions of HEGs are downplayed as a habit. So when choosing between a man and a woman for a job, all of our cultural instincts tell us to find ways to downplay the talents of the woman and lionize the man. Thus a woman who is on the cusp (or even solidly in the top n experts) can be easily perceived as being a lower rank.

To sum (3) up in one sentence: people's perceptions are just not as good as they think they are, and to avoid discrimination, we have to come up with ridiculous, arbitrary rules that prevent us from engaging in it. It's not a perfect system, obviously, but neither is "just choosing the best people".
posted by TypographicalError at 2:13 PM on February 19, 2012 [16 favorites]


Again, the concern has nothing to do with an idea that women in particular are not going to be qualified, this would be just as wrong if it were men in question.

Except that it virtually never happens like that. The sum total of inequality in America today is vastly, vastly tilted against non-straight non-white non-men. So we probably should work on tilting that field back. Are a few straight white men going to get hosed because of it? Yeah, probably. But the perfect is the enemy of the good.

This particular thing is not going to hose anyone, so I'm okay with it.
posted by Etrigan at 2:15 PM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's just that if the real requirement is "already in the club"

This is where the "what am I doing here, anyway?" panelists come from right now. People setting up panels should be more thoughtful and do more outreach than just rounding up the usual suspects.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:18 PM on February 19, 2012


I think gender parity in U.S. congressional hearings is important. So much so that I think charlie - who seems to agree - should make a standalone post about it.

Because in its own context, gender parity on panels at conferences that draw tens of thousands of people is also important, and deserves a conversation. Of its own. In a post about it.


You missed my point. There is a significant difference between wanting gender parity on a Congressional hearing about women's access to health care, and wanting gender parity on a panel of authors and artists.

In the first case, there is a biological difference between the sexes that is the subject at hand. But in the arts, there is more difference between any two individuals (regardless of gender) than there is between genders. As a case in point, the Congressional hearing included two women who were chosen to promote the same opinions as the men.

If people generally want diversity on an arts panel, gender parity alone isn't going to achieve it. It will achieve something else, but I'm not sure what that is exactly. What is the goal?

And besides, this isn't exactly my issue. As a male who grew up in a first-generation feminist family with 5 sisters, I have debated this at length for decades and come to the conclusion that there are no gender rights issues that aren't fundamentally human rights issues. Nothing is going to successfully liberate women without liberating everyone. But that opinion is generally dismissed as irrelevant by feminists.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:20 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nothing is going to successfully liberate women without liberating everyone.

So I'm not seeing the downside to feminism you're positing. Getting rid of gender-based barriers is part of "liberating everyone." It is not all of "liberating everyone" by any means, but don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:24 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you work in an industry where 95% of the workforce is male and you institute a 50/50 rule you do not end up with better product, this is just common sense.

Depends how you do it. Short term no but long term with phasing in then you effectively compel institutions to deliver more balanced gender training outcomes. Since this will open up the scope for selecting from a pool of skilled personnel which is potentially 80-100% larger than was previously the case. Inevitably this means a better product, this is just common sense.
posted by biffa at 2:29 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


charlie don't surf--I don't think it's an invalid point you are making, but I think why it might be "dismissed as irrelevant by feminists" is that it's sort of a classic, pro-patriarchy strategy many of us are uncomfortable with. By asking why feminism isn't solving human rights issues, it's effectively shutting down feminist engagement and feminist political activism: it really is not the job of feminism, or anti-racist advocates, e.g., to figure out the world's problems. If anything, we should be happy that there are those fighting for equality, and hope that by some kind of osmosis process the work of feminists and civil rights leaders will influence the larger culture.

I think and hope that, with time, awareness and activism, this will indeed translate into liberation of everyone everywhere. I do not however think this is a reasonable thing to ask of feminism, and if anything it seems (not directing this to you personally by any means, and I appreciate your comment) like a means of silencing feminism and women for not doing enough, or not caring enough, or being too singular-minded. We are talking here about a culture (European and American) which has historically oppressed women for thousands of years. I don't think women and other feminist allies are somehow inconsistent humanists* if they work to address this.

*see Toril Moi for a fascinating critique of humanism as a kind of anti-feminism.
posted by nonmerci at 2:30 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Finally, in the case of a panel conference, do you really think that encouraging more women on panels is going to result in the presence of women who have no business being there? If so, why do you make that assumption? It's something to interrogate.

You're right, I was unconsciously bringing in assumptions developed from work, where candidates tend to be well-distinguished in terms of ability and women are very, very rare but not proportionately more qualified. Nonetheless, for at least five years we have literally hired every single female applicant. This included one woman who made a habit of sneaking off in the middle of her shifts and abandoning ~$250k of easily portable hardware in publicly accessible areas. Even scraping the bottom of the barrel like this, we still have not ever come close to 50% female staff. I think one year we got as high as 15%. So I'm very aware of how destructive it can be to impose a quota without first checking that the underlying population can satisfy that quota.

That said, I guess if your talent is so abundant and high-dimensional that your selection process usually ends up in a many-way tie which you then need to break semi-arbitrarily, then gender is as good a discriminant as any other. I'd want to see those premises proven, though.
posted by d. z. wang at 2:36 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well I don't buy that humanism is anti-feminism. And yes, I've been well educated in that bit about how the privileged don't see their privilege. But I'm an Occupy Wall Street person, so my current axegrinding is about economic disparity. If economic disparity disproportionately affects women, my preferred solution is to eliminate poverty, rather than to distribute it evenly.

But again, this is not really the topic at issue in this FPP. Nor is it a topic likely to come to any solution, or even agreement.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:37 PM on February 19, 2012


I don't know what I think about this idea in the context of SFF. But here's a thought experiment.... it looks like only 4 out of about 90 episodes of the new Doctor Who have been written by a woman. Would it be a good or bad idea if the BBC insisted that X% of episodes be written by women?

Interesting side-note: a high proportion have been written by gay men.
posted by philipy at 2:40 PM on February 19, 2012


Would it be a good or bad idea if the BBC insisted that X% of episodes be written by women?

It would have been a good idea for the BBC to initiate a programme of recruiting script writing trainees on a 50/50 basis, given its place as a major UK broadcaster, and to develop these such that half of their overall writing teams were female. (For all I know they may even have done this.)
posted by biffa at 2:49 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a data point, here in Iowa, state law requires that all state, county and local boards, panels, commissions and other such committees be 50/50 gender balances. The legislature amended our state code (Chapter 69 - hee hee) in 2009 and gave all local governments until 1/1/2012 to implement it.

Again, just a data point.
posted by webhund at 2:53 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


charlie don't surf--I don't think it's an invalid point you are making, but I think why it might be "dismissed as irrelevant by feminists" is that it's sort of a classic, pro-patriarchy strategy many of us are uncomfortable with. By asking why feminism isn't solving human rights issues
I think he's actually deploying a slightly different classic, pro-patriarchy strategy: the "why do you have to make everything about gender?" one. He's such an elevated person that he doesn't even notice gender. He could not care less that everyone at the table is male. He just sees people as individuals! Their gender is by far the least interesting thing about them! And if we do notice that very few women are allowed into positions of authority, that's because we're sexists who choose to notice gender. If we would just ignore gender and not care that there are no women, then this problem would be magically solved.
posted by craichead at 2:57 PM on February 19, 2012 [14 favorites]


Interesting side-note: a high proportion have been written by gay men.

Side-question to the interesting side-note: aside from RTD, are there any other gay DW writers? I honestly don't know.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:57 PM on February 19, 2012


As a data point, here in Iowa, state law requires that all state, county and local boards, panels, commissions and other such committees be 50/50 gender balances.

I don't know why I keep being surprised at Iowa doing especially smart, fair things.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:59 PM on February 19, 2012


This is simple to achieve. Make every panel feature only the Wachowskis.

Wait, does he mean 'identify as female' or 'female'?

This subject has triggered my peeve of people using the word 'gender' when they mean the word 'sex'. If he's going to put his foot down, he should get his terms straight.
posted by CarlRossi at 3:01 PM on February 19, 2012


Wait, does he mean 'identify as female' or 'female'?
I'm not sure what you're getting at here, but as far as I'm concerned, if you identify as a woman, you're a woman. I don't know anything about Paul Cornell, but I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that he'd probably agree. So we are, indeed, talking about gender, not sex.
posted by craichead at 3:04 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


As a data point, here in Iowa, state law requires that all state, county and local boards, panels, commissions and other such committees be 50/50 gender balances.

I don't know why I keep being surprised at Iowa doing especially smart, fair things.


I understand that I am alone here, but really, how is this fair? It is unfair, by design.
posted by Cosine at 3:04 PM on February 19, 2012


I don't get why you think he means sex, I think someone this conscious of diversity would recognize what gender means when they use the word.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:06 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Cosine: I'm really starting to wonder if you are engaging in this discussion in good faith. If you truly don't understand why there is a need for gender parity and other measures which promote the rights of women, you might want to do a bit of reading on the topic. It's akin to minority groups having to explain and, in a sense, teach the history of racism, for example. It turns the discussion into one centered on the ignorant individual and those like him/her rather than the issue at hand.
posted by nonmerci at 3:20 PM on February 19, 2012


If you define "fair" as "perfect meritocracy," then "gender parity and other measures which promote the rights of women" are certainly, by definition, unfair. Claiming otherwise is a touch disingenuous, I think. The better answer is to say "Yes, it's unfair. We're suggesting that we tolerate a little short-term unfairness in an attempt to create a better long-term outcome."
posted by tyllwin at 3:27 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I certainly don't define fair in that way, particularly with regard to historically oppressed groups, and I'd be genuinely curious to see if that's the case for other participants in this thread. Not sure how that makes me disingenuous: responding to Cosine's comment, or another like it, would be a very long journey down the Feminism 101 path, and as I said, I find that a bit counter-intuitive and not helpful at all for the reasons I stated.
posted by nonmerci at 3:35 PM on February 19, 2012


If you define "fair" as "perfect meritocracy," then "gender parity and other measures which promote the rights of women" are certainly, by definition, unfair. Claiming otherwise is a touch disingenuous, I think.
It seems a little silly, though, to assume that Iowa boards and commissions are chosen by perfect meritocracy. I suspect that most of the time it's more like "the chair of the commission finds someone who seems competent and non-annoying and badgers that person until he or she reluctantly agrees to join." Iowa has 100 counties, and they all have a bunch of boards and commissions. I don't think there are that many qualified applicants fighting it out for spots on the Dickinson County Sewer Board.

(It looks like the law only requires them to make a good faith effort to achieve gender parity, and if it really isn't possible, they can get a waiver. FWIW.)
posted by craichead at 3:36 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


(And Iowa has a significant problem with women being under-represented in elected offices. It's one of the very few states that has never had a woman governor, senator, or congressional representative. I think it may be that part of the goal is to convince women to become involved in government on the very local level, so that there's a bigger pool of women who are qualified to run for statewide office. That actually seems like a fairly smart strategy for me, but I also don't really believe in "perfect meritocracy" and think that we'd all be better off if a more diverse pool of people got involved in electoral politics.)
posted by craichead at 3:40 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


You missed my point. There is a significant difference between wanting gender parity on a Congressional hearing about women's access to health care, and wanting gender parity on a panel of authors and artists.

Then you should have made that point, rather than snarking:

Gender parity on panels? Oh. I thought this was something important like United States Government Hearings. Nevermind.

posted by rtha at 3:42 PM on February 19, 2012


All this bickering about top-down affirmative action is ignoring what I think is the most interesting thing about Cornell's policy here: that he's not imposing it from a position of much power, and he's not forcing anyone else to abide by it. (All-male panels are still an option! He's just saying he won't participate in them anymore.)

The analogous situation in HR wouldn't be a companywide gender quota. It would be an individual employee saying "Look, this company treats its female employees really badly and I'm not comfortable being a part of that. If things don't improve, I'm going to resign." I suppose you might argue that an employee who did that would be naïve or misguided, or would have to have his priorities in the wrong place. But it's not like he'd be doing anything unethical. People quit their jobs all the time over smaller complaints than that.

I happen to be okay with top-down affirmative action. But even if you think top-down affirmative action is the worst thing since the Cretaceous-Tertiary Mass Extinction Event, I don't see how that gives you room to criticize this guy, who is after all just exercising his right of free association.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:52 PM on February 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


It seems a little silly, though, to assume that Iowa boards and commissions are chosen by perfect meritocracy.

I don't. I'm simply recognizing the existence of a non-crazy non-misogynistic meaning for "fair" which would mean that a required balance is inherently unfair. And I think that even if that definition was the one used, there's still a valid answer to why balance is desirable. In the case of Iowa local boards, specifically, I think the answer is that it's neither fair nor a meritocracy before the requirement, and that the requirement may actually improve the overall "fairness" by slightly increasing the chance that boards may have fewer hacks and cronies.

And I didn't mean to call you specifically disingenuous, nonmerci. I think that's, essentially cosine's definition for "fair," though, and that it ought to be addressed head-on. Many proponents of balance simply deny that there's any way where it can can rationally be viewed as "unfair." I don't particularly include you in that group.
posted by tyllwin at 3:54 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thank you for clarfiying, tyllwin. I know these threads can get extremely heated, and it's nice that this one seems to be avoiding some of the polemic and flame-out tendencies.

charlie don't surf: Why are you focusing so heavily on something I mentioned via the "small" tag? If you are really interested in how a very politically active feminist could conceive of humanism as essentially anti-feminist, I encourage you to pick up Toril Moi's Sexual/Textual Politics, rather than use this aside of mine to determine how you will interact with the thread. It's a bit odd, really, and it's sort of beside the point. I simply brought it up in case anyone might be interested, and because I find Toril Moi a brilliant theorist and inspiring feminist.
posted by nonmerci at 4:00 PM on February 19, 2012


[charlie don't surf, please reconsider your language choice. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 4:11 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cosine: I'm really starting to wonder if you are engaging in this discussion in good faith. If you truly don't understand why there is a need for gender parity and other measures which promote the rights of women, you might want to do a bit of reading on the topic.

I do understand the need for gender parity, and parity for other under-represented groups as well. However what this amounts to is saying that if you have one person who keeps getting punched in the head then the way to offset it is to punch someone else in the head.

A quick poll amoung women I know shows NONE of them want anything to do with a position/job/posting/appointment that has any policy that guaranteed a certain ratio. To quote my wife "No one is going to value my input or opinion as much as a man's if they know that I MAY only have gotten the job because I was not one."
posted by Cosine at 4:11 PM on February 19, 2012


I understand that I am alone here, but really, how is this fair? It is unfair, by design.

Guys, what can we do to make cosine feel better about this? His buttons are all pushed and stuff.

Also: the workforce in your industry is 95% male, huh? Ever stop to wonder why that might be?
posted by hermitosis at 4:14 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cosine: I'm really starting to wonder if you are engaging in this discussion in good faith.
...the ignorant individual
There are roughly a hundred million such "ignorant individuals" in the US alone. I'm pretty sure they're not all trolling the pollsters in bad faith. Perhaps debate and education would be more effective here than unjustified accusations and condescension?
posted by roystgnr at 4:16 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


If cosine is determined to compare apples to oranges and also engage in some sort of fallacious slippery-slope-style hand wringing over an issue that he seems deeply personally unsympathetic toward, I don't think that it's unjustified to question his intent.
posted by hermitosis at 4:21 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Debate is definitely important, and I don't think Cosine is "trolling." I think there's a big distinction between good faith/trolling, so I'm sorry if it came across as an accusation.

Please reread my initial comment about this if you are confused as to my intent. Discussing the merits of Cornell's particular idea is well and good, and everyone can and should have a say if they so desire. It's part of being on this community. However, I was specifically responding to the notion that this is "unfair" and the question of "how is this not unfair?" In this particular example, it is really not the job of feminists to explain the history of and necessity for feminism to those who do not know. We are all internet users here, and most of us are probably pretty good at tracking information down. That's where I'm coming from.
posted by nonmerci at 4:22 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


[charlie don't surf, please reconsider your language choice. ]

I did not like my argument being twisted and if I have to go reductio ad absurdum using the extremest form of that argument, to point out how ridiculous and offensive that is, the language choice was appropriate. However I defer to your moderator's prerogative.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:27 PM on February 19, 2012


I am actually really surprised at the hostility and accusations here, this is not my experience with Mefites at all.

I am concerned about the plight of anyone who hasn't had the benefit of being in the dominant group, I understand there is no way I can prove that, in the end what I am saying is that I don't want ANYONE losing out because of their sex, race, religion, etc.
posted by Cosine at 4:30 PM on February 19, 2012


I don't want ANYONE losing out because of their sex, race, religion, etc.

That's a lovely ideal to have, but it means less when it comes from someone (or a group of someones) who's already more likely to win because of their sex, race, religion, etc. It's like saying, "From now on, everyone is scored exactly the same. For the sake of diplomacy, please ignore the generous head start I already have."
posted by hermitosis at 4:34 PM on February 19, 2012 [16 favorites]


Wait, does he mean 'identify as female' or 'female'?

This subject has triggered my peeve of people using the word 'gender' when they mean the word 'sex'.


I think he means all people whose gender identification is female. I don't think Cornell's pulling some kind of Michigan Womyn's Festival shit where he's suggesting policing people's gender identities based on their chromosomes.

Cheryl Morgan, whose blog column supporting Cornell's decision is linked above, is a prominent UK editor and writer who is also a trans woman and an activist for trans rights.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:44 PM on February 19, 2012


in the end what I am saying is that I don't want ANYONE losing out because of their sex, race, religion, etc.

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread. -- Anatole France, Le Lys rouge
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:45 PM on February 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


For the sake of diplomacy, please ignore the generous head start I already have.

Do you think the best way to help someone get ahead is to help pull them forward or to hold someone else back? Is it necessary that BOTH have to happen?

Again to be clear here, I have no issue whatsoever with attempts to help place more women/minorities/whatever in industries where they are under-represented SO LONG AS that is not at the expense of someone else. Something about two wrongs not making a right.
posted by Cosine at 4:45 PM on February 19, 2012


in the end what I am saying is that I don't want ANYONE losing out because of their sex, race, religion, etc.

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread. -- Anatole France, Le Lys rouge


That's a great quote, and not one I had heard before, but I don't see how it applies here (again, honestly not trolling, I don't see the connection but I can be slow)
posted by Cosine at 4:48 PM on February 19, 2012


Cosine, are you clear that this issue is about making sure women get seats on panels at conventions, not paying jobs? (Most conventions I'm familiar with will, at most, cover a panelist's admission and travel expenses, and it's more likely that it'll just be the admission.)

This is about a) increasing visibility of female professionals (who are already working and successful in their industry) and b) making sure the female half (or more) of the audience gets a chance to see some women in a role-model position. The loss to whatever individual men don't get picked for panels is minimal, and the benefit to the community as a whole from having more equal representation is, I think, quite large.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:50 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's Dan Harmon's actual statement on his writer's room policy (which he was initially opposed to, and which was forced on him by a female exec at NBC who no longer has oversight on the show.

Cosine: I think the point of the Anatole France quote is that while a law or ideal may be facially neutral as regards race/class/gender/etc., it's effects may be very disproportionate in practice.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:52 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's a lovely ideal to have, but it means less when it comes from someone (or a group of someones) who's already more likely to win because of their sex, race, religion, etc.

Everyone's part of a disadvantaged group in some part of their lives, no matter if you believe them to be traditionally privileged (i.e. white male Europeans). But we're all in the same sinking boat unless you're part of the 1%.

This is usually where I use the famous quote from the movie Bulworth.

Rich people have always stayed on top by dividing white people from colored people
But white people got more in common with colored people than they do with rich people.


That is the core of my humanist argument. The rich and powerful exploit artificial divisions like race and gender to enhance their power and make money. If you're poor and disadvantaged, it's not because of your race or gender or anything else. It's because Goldman Sachs, Chase, Citibank etc. are profiting from keeping you down. Divide and conquer. If you're fighting for gender parity on a convention panel of science fiction authors and artists, you're losing sight of the profits your panel participation is creating for the corporations that host it. You are essentially arguing that both genders should have an equal opportunity to be enslaved by the corporate masters. Unite and win.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:55 PM on February 19, 2012


Cosine: I think the point of the Anatole France quote is that while a law or ideal may be facially neutral as regards race/class/gender/etc., it's effects may be very disproportionate in practice.

Aaah, ok, that's a great explanation, thanks. However, we are talking about laws that are decidedly not neutral as a fix for such inqualities, and that is frightening.

Cosine, are you clear that this issue is about making sure women get seats on panels at conventions, not paying jobs?

You haven't read the whole thread then, I mentioned several times that in this case it isn't such a big deal and I wouldn't be losing any sleep over it. I was commenting on the epic derail that the rest of the thread has gone down (no thanks to me).
posted by Cosine at 5:00 PM on February 19, 2012


you're losing sight of the profits your panel participation is creating for the corporations that host it.

Science fiction conventions are traditionally hosted and run by the fans, not for profit. It's true that more recent media conventions (as opposed to literature conventions) are often for-profit, but the heart and soul of SF are still the literature cons.
posted by Justinian at 5:01 PM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Cosine, just to clarify, when you say "fair" and "right," do you regard those as synonymous with "meritocracy" or "most knowledgeable about the panel?"
posted by tyllwin at 5:01 PM on February 19, 2012


Am I think only one who thinks Cornell's implication is that if he's bailing on your panel, he probably thinks you didn't try hard enough to find women on it? So, either Cornell's and idiot or there are plenty of qualified women to sit on these panels. (And, moreover, that he thinks these women are at least as qualified as the least qualified man.)

Side-question to the interesting side-note: aside from RTD, are there any other gay DW writers? I honestly don't know.

Mark Gatiss. I assume more, but no one else off the top of my head.
posted by hoyland at 5:08 PM on February 19, 2012


tyllwin: I'm sure what you are asking but will try to answer. I think that mandating 2 women and 2 men on a panel is a great way to end up with the 2 most knowledgeable men and the 2 most knowledgeable women but not necessarily the 4 most knowledgeable people.
posted by Cosine at 5:09 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you're fighting for gender parity on a convention panel of science fiction authors and artists, you're losing sight of the profits your panel participation is creating for the corporations that host it.

Huh?

"Worldcons are organized and run by fans, volunteers all"

Boskone is run by NEFSA, "one of the oldest SF clubs in the northeastern U.S., and has been a registered non-profit literary organization (under IRS section 501(c)3) since shortly after its founding."

Wiscon is run by SF3, "the name of a non-profit corporation that shelters and provides benefits to the science fiction related activities of its members"

ArmadilloCon (my local con) is put on by FACT, "a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization dedicated to the promotion of science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction."

DragonCon is for-profit, but I'm not aware of any others offhand that I'd call science ficton conventions.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:10 PM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


But there, and this is where I think it's especially important that we're talking about a panel discussion, what constitutes "knowledge" may be very different to different people.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:11 PM on February 19, 2012


For instance, with Tor, I don't know what the gender make-up of their authors is, but I know that a ton of their editors are women. Aside from just the gender difference, these are viewpoints which would be valuable on a panel, I think.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:12 PM on February 19, 2012


And specifically a panel discussion about some form of artistic expression, in many (if not most) cases.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:12 PM on February 19, 2012


As another thought on the demographics of Doctor Who writers, 'episodes with a gay man's name attached as writer' will over-represent gay male writers because of RTD writing a disproportionate number of episodes. You'd have to discount episodes where he was the only writer credited or count him for half or something if you wanted a count to look at representation of different groups among writers.
posted by hoyland at 5:15 PM on February 19, 2012


I think that mandating 2 women and 2 men on a panel is a great way to end up with the 2 most knowledgeable men and the 2 most knowledgeable women but not necessarily the 4 most knowledgeable people.

OK, so far we agree. And do you think that the the outcome with "the 4 most knowledgeable people" is the only fair or most desirable outcome?
posted by tyllwin at 5:16 PM on February 19, 2012


From a practical point of view, Paul (who I can attest is one of the best people in Nerd-dom), can avoid making a scene simply by pointing out ahead of time to the programming chairs of the conventions he's going to that he prefers not to be on any panel that doesn't feature gender equity. That way the issue is handled without a fuss before hand.

However, this is also missing the point of what I suspect he's trying to say, which is that programming heads should be actively engaged in finding a diversity of viewpoints for every panel they program, and in a still-male-skewing genre, that begins with making an effort to improve gender representation, and until he's convinced they've taken that on board, he's going to make an issue out of it.

And yes, it's a good goal in a general sense (I note Paul is savvy enough to note that some very specific topics may have a gender imbalance). There are some practical constraints, such as programming heads have to work with the field of panelists who present themselves, for one, and that some folks who would be naturals for some panels get tired of being on similar panels every convention, particularly relating to race/gender/sexuality. But that's neither here nor there about having a overarching guideline that all things being equal, what's wrong with making an effort toward diversity on panels?
posted by jscalzi at 5:22 PM on February 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


OK, so far we agree. And do you think that the the outcome with "the 4 most knowledgeable people" is the only fair or most desirable outcome?

Nope, and that is why I have stated, several times, that I don't have a big issue with this so long as Cornell knows for sure that there is a reasonable number of women available to these panels and you don't just end up with the same 2-3 women on every panel on every subject just because they are the only one's available to meet the quota. That doesn't look good on anyone, especially the female panelists.

My issue was with the same sort of thing applying to local health boards, or other vital activities (something I have experience with) that lead to unqualified people replacing qualified people just because they are women. In those cases having the best qualified people SHOULD outweigh any desire to encourage under-represented groups to gain representation.
posted by Cosine at 5:24 PM on February 19, 2012


I'm not sure the slippery-slope argument has ever been all that convincing.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:25 PM on February 19, 2012


Not to mention it's fallacious.
posted by nonmerci at 5:28 PM on February 19, 2012


hoyland: Am I think only one who thinks Cornell's implication is that if he's bailing on your panel, he probably thinks you didn't try hard enough to find women on it? So, either Cornell's and idiot or there are plenty of qualified women to sit on these panels. (And, moreover, that he thinks these women are at least as qualified as the least qualified man.)
This is another piece of this that I find interesting.

Suppose Cornell's wrong — suppose the handful of women who are frequent con panelists are the only qualified women out there. In that case, the rational response on the part of the con organizers would be to say "Okay, the hell with this Paul Cornell guy. His conditions are impossible to meet. We'll just stop inviting him to these things." And if that happens, he'll be out a lot of publicity. He'll lose name recognition in the industry. He may well have trouble getting future writing gigs if he gets a reputation as "That guy who can't get a seat on a panel to promote your show." He'll definitely have a harder time selling his own novels.

So he's essentially betting his career on the proposition that there are plenty of qualified female authors out there. That's a really powerful way of putting his money where his mouth is.
Cosine: My issue was with the same sort of thing applying to local health boards, or other vital activities (something I have experience with) that lead to unqualified people replacing qualified people just because they are women.
Ah, so you're telling us this has been a derail? You don't actually have anything to say about the topic of the thread? You just felt like coming in here to spout off on a tangentially related issue?

Huh. Fancy that.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:46 PM on February 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I applaud Paul's initiative.

I think society as a whole benefits greatly when diversity is stressed, even if it means Yet Another White Dude who scores 90 is replaced by someone else who "only" scores 85 on a hypothetical test of knowledge or whatever. Besides, there are people who are absolute geniuses at certain things who have no business being in charge or on panels or whatever about those same things.

Nepotism and cronyism brings far more incompetent people into positions of power, influence and/or policy-making than do gender and racial equality initiatives.

My hobbies are all "white male" hobbies, I'm fairly certain because that's what they've always been. I love seeing women or folks of other races involved, but it's rare. I suspect it would be less rare if when the hobbies were exposed to outsiders there was a diverse group of spokespeople.
posted by maxwelton at 5:46 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ah, so you're telling us this has been a derail? You don't actually have anything to say about the topic of the thread? You just felt like coming in here to spout off on a tangentially related issue?

I actually pointed out earlier that I was also commenting on, and causing, the derail, I was commenting on it light-heartedly, my mistake.

I commented, multiple times, on the core issue, and on the larger issue that others had brought up, so I'm not sure where you got that I was "only coming in here to spout off", I was actually trying to have honest debate on the issue, the smaller and the larger. You, and others, turned this into a personal swipe fest, I have made no such comments.

It's kinda disheartening to know that even here reasonable, non-mud slinging, disagreement still leads to getting crapped on.
posted by Cosine at 5:54 PM on February 19, 2012


You'll forgive us, Cosine, if we don't view the topic as "light-heartedly" as you do.

There is nothing hostile in pointing out the logical flaws in someone's argument. It is not a personal attack to say, "Do you realize how sexist this statement comes across?" You have been a very vocal commenter in this thread, and have refused to seriously debate the issue. I and many others have simply noted this, and attempted to engage you. It is ridiculous that you are now using the "Who, me?" approach, since so many disagree with you (and have provided reasons why, reasons you refuse to entertain let alone genuinely respond to).

Honestly, this feels very much like a deliberate take-over and derail of the thread, and it's precisely what I was hoping to avoid by stating above that it is not anyone's job to teach someone about the basic history and activism of oppressed groups. Unfortunately, we (myself included) seem to have fallen for your trap.
posted by nonmerci at 6:34 PM on February 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't go to panels to hear men, or to hear women. I go to hear authors I like. Some of these are men. Some of these are women. I'd be quite disappointed if I missed out hearing, say, China Mieville just because he doesn't have ovaries, or Catherynne Valente because she has too many of them.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:59 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


According to the linked articles, there are a number of women-only panels at science-fiction conventions now. So those would have to go too, for true gender parity. That might not be vwry popular.

There're also some comments, from women and men, who are uncomfortable with getting more women on panels in this particular way. They feel that, whenever someone sees a panel made up equally of men and women now, that someone will be questioning the credentials of all four on the panel. That's a very real consequence of this movement.

I'm glad women more will be represented on more panels (presumably), but there are problems with this approach, no question. Pretending there aren't won't change that.

I don't think piling up on Cosine for pointing that out is fair or sensible.
posted by misha at 7:02 PM on February 19, 2012


Paul's next upcoming convention has a grand total of ONE female panelist announced, compared with about 40 men.
posted by ShutterBun at 7:03 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


According to the linked articles, there are a number of women-only panels at science-fiction conventions now. So those would have to go too, for true gender parity.

Yes, because men feel marginalized in the SFF community. That's a problem that actually needs to be addressed.

They feel that, whenever someone sees a panel made up equally of men and women now, that someone will be questioning the credentials of all four on the panel.

I'm okay with making people think a little harder about whether to listen to men and women.

I mean, seriously, folks. We're talking about SFF convention panels, not rocket surgery. Is there anyone who's unqualified to talk about "The Importance of Setting: City as Character" or "Snappy Dialogue"?
posted by Etrigan at 7:11 PM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I commented, multiple times, on the core issue, and on the larger issue that others had brought up, so I'm not sure where you got that I was "only coming in here to spout off", I was actually trying to have honest debate on the issue, the smaller and the larger. You, and others, turned this into a personal swipe fest, I have made no such comments.

I owe you an apology. It was a cheap shot, and I'm sorry I took it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:16 PM on February 19, 2012


Actually, Cornell's policy would have no effect on women-only panels, because he wouldn't be invited to sit on them.
posted by murphy slaw at 7:28 PM on February 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


You'll forgive us, Cosine, if we don't view the topic as "light-heartedly" as you do

I said:

I actually pointed out earlier that I was also commenting on, and causing, the derail, I was commenting on it light-heartedly, my mistake

I think it's very clear that I am referring to the derail, not the topic of the thread.

Exactly how how I refused to be engaged on the issue? I will not take the time to cut and paste all the snark that has been directed my way but I hope you at least realize that none of it went the other direction.

It is not a personal attack to say, "Do you realize how sexist this statement comes across?"

After reading everything I wrote do you honestly believe that sexism has anything at all to do with this? Because it doesn't. I didn't feel I needed to add "*of course this applies in the reverse and for all other groups as well" to every comment I made in order to avoid accusations of sexist, apparently I overestimated.
posted by Cosine at 8:17 PM on February 19, 2012


misha, nebulawindphone: Thanks for that, I haven't been attacked on Metafilter like this in 5+ years of posting and frankly it's gotten me a bit down. I said, more than once, that it isn't that big an issue in terms of the original posting, but that I did have some issues with it.
posted by Cosine at 8:20 PM on February 19, 2012


According to the linked articles, there are a number of women-only panels at science-fiction conventions now. So those would have to go too, for true gender parity.

Etrigan: Yes, because men feel marginalized in the SFF community. That's a problem that actually needs to be addressed.

Etrigan, murphy_slaw: Did you get to the part of the post about the debate over whether all SF panels should be 50/50? That's the real issue here.

Do you want gender parity or not? If so, then there shouldn't be all-women panels either, unless you're just a hypocrite.
posted by misha at 10:44 PM on February 19, 2012


Or perhaps, Etrigan was being sarcastic.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:56 PM on February 19, 2012


Paul's next upcoming convention has a grand total of ONE female panelist announced, compared with about 40 men.

According to one of Cornell's tweets, the organizers of the London Super Comic Con are working with him on this one.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:02 PM on February 19, 2012


When you are going into surgery, honestly, do you want the doctor who was the most qualified working on you or the doctor who was the most qualified amoung those who fit the quota?

*Snort*

Yeah, right, because appearing on a panel at an sf con is exactly like chosing someone to be your surgeon. That's like arguing that if "gay marriage" is allowed next thing you know people will want to marry their dogs.

(I've been on panels where the sole qualification was being willing to be awake at 9:30 AM to be on the panel at ten. We definately need to make sure women and minorities can uphold this high quality level before we can allow them to be trusted with the important task of sf panelist.)
posted by MartinWisse at 2:17 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


They feel that, whenever someone sees a panel made up equally of men and women now, that someone will be questioning the credentials of all four on the panel. That's a very real consequence of this movement.

I suspect the experience of men and women in male-dominated fields would tell us otherwise. The men are assumed qualified, the women are assumed to be making up the numbers. Has any (white) man in this thread had it implied they're only there as a token?
posted by hoyland at 5:35 AM on February 20, 2012


Do you want gender parity or not? If so, then there shouldn't be all-women panels either, unless you're just a hypocrite.

Not a hypocrite at all. I don't want gender parity. I want my daughter to be able to go to a convention without people thinking she's a booth babe. I want her to write stories and not have people tell her they go in the Romance section just because she's a girl. I want her to be able to walk into a writers' room at the 2035 reboot of Battlestar Galactica and not have some smug asshole call her "Honey" and ask her for a cup of coffee. I don't give two rat's asses whether my sons will be able to do all of those things, because they already can, for absolutely no other reason than they were born with penises.

I want women in an historically male-dominated field to be given more of a chance than the men get, because when you have a "pure meritocracy" in America, you get straight white men promoting other straight white men because that's what all people do. We like people who are like us, and we think that they're better at whatever we do for that reason alone.

Slippery-slope arguments are for people with insufficient mental power to grasp nuance and insufficient imagination to understand that what happens now does not define everything that happens forever.
posted by Etrigan at 5:41 AM on February 20, 2012 [15 favorites]


I've been invited to sit on a panel because it would have otherwise been all-male. Since the panel was about queerness in fandom, and they also didn't have anyone who read or wrote slash fanfic represented, it seems like the panel would have been lacking something without me.

When you're talking about panels at an SF convention, widening the pool of potential candidates means that people who have a broader range of viewpoints and opinions will be included who otherwise wouldn't be. That can only be a good thing, unless you like panels where everyone agrees with each other and shares the exact same opinions on the panel topic.
posted by nonasuch at 5:56 AM on February 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


I want my daughter to be able to go to a convention without people thinking she's a booth babe.

But, you're also teaching her to not worry -- and certainly, not to be defined by -- what other people think of her, though, too -- right?

Slippery-slope arguments are for people with insufficient mental power to grasp nuance and insufficient imagination to understand that what happens now does not define everything that happens forever.

What this misses, however, is the essential laziness of human nature. Provide people -- en masse -- with a shortcut for achieving a goal, and gosh, they'll latch onto it with ferocity. It becomes easy -- easier, certainly, than the harder work of talking, listening and reading diverse viewpoints and selecting the best person based on that.

We've (read: humans) have already slipped quite far into "diversity = different gender/skin color/genitalia/etc" as a handy shortcut, already. it's a very strange world we live in. We grow up to learn about sexism and racism, which is all about noticing difference in a negative or demeaning way, and decide, then, that the core problem must be noticing difference at all! Which we then intend to cure by. . . noticing difference! Voila! Gender/Race/Whatever parity, ahoy!

Talk about misidentifying the problem.

I'm just against lazy solutions to complex human problems.
posted by gsh at 5:57 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm just against lazy solutions to complex human problems.

Find a better one, then.

Go ahead. Do it now. Do what everyone else who's tried has been unable to do for the last ever. Find us a magical gender/race/whatever-blind way to apportion out opportunity.

What's that? You can't? It's too complex? Yeah, that's the problem. This is not a lazy solution. This is a small thing done in a small arena by one person who's trying to make things just the tiniest bit better, in the only way he can think of. That's not lazy. Sitting around saying, "No, this won't work because people are lazy" is lazy.

It becomes easy -- easier, certainly, than the harder work of talking, listening and reading diverse viewpoints and selecting the best person based on that.

Do you honestly think this is what's happening now? Do you think that people don't already think they're doing this? No convention organizer wakes up in the morning the day after the con and says, "Well, we marginalized the shit out of chicks and Negroes and homos this year -- I wonder how we can do it even better next year."? Like you said, people are lazy. And the laziness in the system now leads to all-male panels despite huge swaths of female fans and writers and artists. Throwing up your hands and saying, "Nope, affirmative action is just as bad" isn't helping.
posted by Etrigan at 6:05 AM on February 20, 2012 [13 favorites]


When you are going into surgery, honestly, do you want the doctor who was the most qualified working on you or the doctor who was the most qualified amoung those who fit the quota?
I've been thinking about this analogy, and I've decided that it's instructive. You're right: I wouldn't care whether my surgeon was a man or a woman. But I'm currently stuck with a male gynecologist, and while he's fine, I would prefer to have a woman. I wish there was a female gynecologist available to me, and my sense is that most women prefer female gynecologists. I suspect that many men would rather discuss their erectile dysfunction issues with a male doctor than a female one. It's actually important that the medical profession not be entirely dominated by either men or women. And there are other reasons that it's important for the medical profession to be diverse. There's a ton of evidence that if you want to have primary care physicians in under-served communities, you need to admit people from those communities to med school. That's why there's a preference for applicants from rural areas, as well as why black, Latino and American Indian applicants have a leg up. It's not just about social justice for the applicants. The profession functions better if it is diverse.

So yeah: this stuff is all vastly more complicated than just "we give a test, the best people immediately become apparent, and we choose them." What counts as "best" is complex, and often a diverse group is better than a non-diverse one. The stakes are lower in sci-fi conventions than in medicine, but I suspect it's true in the world of sci-fi conventions just as much as in medicine.
posted by craichead at 6:19 AM on February 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


most qualified

What metric is used to determine this, and who sets the metric?

When my half-sister was applying to colleges in the early 90s, she visited a bunch of schools. She was interested in engineering programs.

At one school, she was waiting with a bunch of other high school juniors to go sit in on a class, and a professor (older, white, male) passed by them. He said to whoever was with him, loud enough for my sister to hear, that it was too bad there were so many girls in the group - girls just get married and have babies, and they only wasted space in his program.

She decided not to apply there. She might have been the best qualified.
posted by rtha at 8:01 AM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Paul's next upcoming convention has a grand total of ONE female panelist announced, compared with about 40 men.

According to one of Cornell's tweets, the organizers of the London Super Comic Con are working with him on this one.

It's interesting to watch the dynamics of male privilege play themselves out, here, even if Cornell is fighting the good fight. The organizers of the London Super Comic Con are "working with him"; that's excellent news. And I bet they'd never have done so if Paul Cornell was a woman who tried to engage gender disparity in SFF convention panels.
posted by jokeefe at 8:33 AM on February 20, 2012


...of course I don't know who Paul Cornell is; perhaps he's the King of Science Fiction? But yeah: if Ursula Le Guin had made a similar announcement, I'm guessing that there would be a whole lot more arguing and a whole lot less action.
posted by jokeefe at 8:34 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


But I'm currently stuck with a male gynecologist, and while he's fine, I would prefer to have a woman. I wish there was a female gynecologist available to me, and my sense is that most women prefer female gynecologists.

I have a male gynecologist, and it's because he is the most qualified, period. I'd always go for the most qualified doctor, etc., no matter what. As a woman, I'm glad women are getting into male-dominated fields, and I support scholarships and awards that other women have created, for instance, in the sciences, though my son is obviously not eligible for any of them because hehasa penis. This isn't aboutme trying to keep a status quo, and frankly tis, "Slippery-slope arguments are for people with insufficient mental power to grasp nuance and insufficient imagination to understand that what happens now does not define everything that happens forever," is incredibly insulting and really just absurd when we are talking about THIS issue. We are not saying that putting women on panels will lead to anarchy, we are looking at THE WAY it is suggested it should be done, which is making sure there is gender (sex) parity on each panel by having a 50/50 ratio.

And when I put it like that, immediately people who want this because, yes, women are marginalized in this field, said, "No, keep the all-women panels, because men don't need us to make accommodation for them." Which illustrates, I think, quite well, that simple gender parity is not really the solution, and saying it is without reservation or even the appearance of welcoming debate on the issue? THAT'S where the "laziness and insufficient mental power" of the piling on (so easy to jump on the bandwagon!) comes in.
posted by misha at 8:41 AM on February 20, 2012


I have a male gynecologist, and it's because he is the most qualified, period. I'd always go for the most qualified doctor, etc., no matter what
That's great, and if you were the only woman in the world, it would be super-relevant. However, you're not the only woman in the world, and many women prefer to have female gynecologists. Many people, of whatever gender, won't go to a doctor who treats us disrespectfully, no matter how qualified that doctor is. I wouldn't go to a very-qualified doctor whom I knew to be a homophobe or to oppose contraception, even if that doctor had the best qualifications possible. The medical profession should be able to accommodate all of us, not just you.
posted by craichead at 9:07 AM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Slippery-slope arguments are for people with insufficient mental power to grasp nuance and insufficient imagination to understand that what happens now does not define everything that happens forever," is incredibly insulting and really just absurd when we are talking about THIS issue.

I believe the "slippery slope" quote was referring to the application of the 50/50 ratio of the SFF panel to surgeons and health departments and THE WORLD in general. The (lazy) implication is that the split on a sci-fi panel is dangerous or unfair because of what might happen if everything with an element of candidacy had the 50/50 ratio mandated. Apples/oranges.

On your point (if I understand it), misha, it's not gender parity from panel to panel that is important. It's a step towards more balance in the sci-fi con community as a whole. There's no hypocrisy in woman-only panels living aside 50/50 panels in a community where the usual panels/GOHs are overwhelmingly male.
posted by Katine at 9:15 AM on February 20, 2012


I have a male gynecologist, and it's because he is the most qualified, period.

Most qualified in what way? Most qualified of the gyns who take your insurance (if that's a consideration where you live)? Most qualified at detecting and treating cancers? Most qualified at helping women get pregant, or avoiding pregnancy, as the case may be?
posted by rtha at 9:38 AM on February 20, 2012


"They feel that, whenever someone sees a panel made up equally of men and women now, that someone will be questioning the credentials of all four on the panel."

The thing is that this sexist suspicion of qualifications due to quotas can easily be remedied by listening to the panel and deciding there whether folks were up to the task of speaking.

From living with the camouflage of privilege, I've noticed that plenty of folks will disparage the achievements of women or minorities whether or not there's a formal affirmative action program, so it makes little sense to dread legitimizing inevitable carping, especially when the resulting panels are likely to be of equal quality anyway.

(And I'll say that, and this could just be from the type of lit conferences I attend as a dilettante, the amount of fluff on a panel seems to be uncorrelated with gender in any meaningful way and tends toward the "No, you're great" mutual affirmations, which I've seen take up 90 percent of a panel before.)
posted by klangklangston at 10:17 AM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Feminism, Tokenism and Positive Discrimination at Kapow!
posted by Artw at 10:41 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Artw: That is an excellent link, and lays out exactly the argument my wife, and other female friends made when I brought this up.

From the article:

I do find tokenism offensive – very much so! Speaking personally I do not want parity regardless of circumstances. I want the things I’ve achieved – like being able to write a blog for SFX Magazine, that I auditioned and was interviewed for, like my podcasting, like editing and publishing my own comic anthology, that I’ve worked hard for – I want these things to be judged on merit, on the work and on nothing else. The way the men are judged. That is feminism to me and that is equality to me.

That is exactly what I was trying to point out in this thread, and got piled on for.
posted by Cosine at 10:54 AM on February 20, 2012


Unfortunately, Cosine, the perfect society you envision where women are judged solely on their own merits and "qualifications" is a long way off from materializing. I wish that, rather than repeatedly mention that "all your female friends" agree with you, you'd try to address this glaring fact. In a world in which women are at a significant disadvantage for a variety of socio-historical and political reasons, it is willfully ignorant to claim that, rather than use whatever tools we have at our disposal to find our voice, we play the game we cannot win and hope for the best.

Again, if you or misha, for that matter, were willing to engage this particular side of the debate, you might experience less "piling on." Etrigan above made a couple of excellent comments explaining the tangible effects this has, using her own children as examples. If neither of you are willing to talk about this, and are simply content to say that "the most qualified men should have the spot no matter what" and "it's not fair that women can apply to certain scholarships that men cannot," there is really no purpose in having this discussion with you.

I'm personally disgusted that any of these thoughtful arguments and engagements with you and others can be described as "mud slinging," but considering what a classic undercut that is, I am not at all surprised by your, ahem, strategy.
posted by nonmerci at 11:04 AM on February 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


nonmerci: I never said society was perfect or fair, I was trying to say, with no shortage of backup, that if it were me, in this situation, I would want to stand on my own merits, and would respond the same way as Stacy Whittle, whether the system was fair or not (within reason, obviously, nothing is absolute), and that I hear the same from women around me. The link that Artw posted shows that this opinion is also active within the community in question.
posted by Cosine at 11:16 AM on February 20, 2012


I want these things to be judged on merit, on the work and on nothing else. The way the men are judged.

Ha ha ha ha! *gasps* hahahahaha!!
posted by rtha at 11:24 AM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I want to stand on my own merits and am totally aware that I'm more likely to be able to do that in a field where women are visible than in one where women are not visible. In fields where there are few women, capable women are likely to be underestimated and overlooked. And while it can be uncomfortable to feel like a token, I think it's worth it in order to change the culture of a field so that women can be judged on their merits. I know that some women feel differently, but my perspective is just as valid as theirs.
posted by craichead at 11:25 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ha ha ha ha! *gasps* hahahahaha!!

Yeah. That was a rather unfortunate sentence. But the essay does not suffer noticeably if you excise it.
posted by Justinian at 11:41 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I may be misreading it, but it seems like a big component of the essay was the author's feeling that the panels at this con were about things that she (and other women) don't necessarily have any experience in, so she'd really feel like a token (rather than a panel about her specialty.) Cornell's solution doesn't help all that much in that case - but getting the organizers to look at their panel topics beforehand really might.

They don't have to be Having A Dick: Great Thing or the Greatest Thing? panels either - if there are no women writing or drawing superhero comics at major houses in Britain, a panel - or a con- that's only about major-house superhero comics is going to have to make a conscious effort to examine some topics where women's voices would be helpful. Not impossible, but it does require willingness - which is where Cornell's very public position helps, because it makes people aware of the problem.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:47 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


(I should clarify that I think, because that essay is specifically talking about comics, it's actually not super relevant to the specific situation that Cornell is addressing - it's a different story when you talk about cons in an industry that is 95% male, vs one where the ratio is much, much more even.)
posted by restless_nomad at 11:53 AM on February 20, 2012


if it were me, in this situation, I would want to stand on my own merits

Apparently, so does Paul Cornell. If, in 2012, at an SFF con, he finds himself on a panel of all dudes, that's pretty solid evidence that he isn't standing on his own merits -- that he was put on the panel because of his gender. So, he's not going to be on panels like that any more. By doing this, he may prompt the con organizers to stop choosing men just because they are men.

In another field, or in another situation, different behavior might be called for. Context is important.
posted by moss at 11:57 AM on February 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't think this particularly matters to anything - but because I saw the question mentioned in the thread (and because I happen to know the answer from other discussions I've had) -- of the 86 full episodes of Doctor Who since its 2005 return, at least 45 have had a gay man in the screenwriter credit, though, of course, as has been noted, a huge number of these (29) have been written by Russell T. Davies.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:44 PM on February 20, 2012


I'm on a laptop now, not my iPad, so hopefully I can keep this comment typo-free, unlike my last one! Sorry about that.

my sense is that most women prefer female gynecologists.

misha: I have a male gynecologist, and it's because he is the most qualified, period. I'd always go for the most qualified doctor, etc., no matter what.

Most qualified in what way? Most qualified of the gyns who take your insurance (if that's a consideration where you live)? Most qualified at detecting and treating cancers? Most qualified at helping women get pregant, or avoiding pregnancy, as the case may be?"

Yes, to all of the above. I also have a therapist who DOESN'T take my insurance, and I'm not going to switch, even though I know there is a female therapist who does, because she's not as good by any metric. And I would hunt down my former surgeon, who is no longer with my insurance, if I needed surgery on my other shoulder, because I believe he's the best, too.

craichead:
That's great, and if you were the only woman in the world, it would be super-relevant. However, you're not the only woman in the world, and many women prefer to have female gynecologists.
"

Sure, but I was responding to the, "most women prefer female gynecologists," generalization (which is not true of any of the women I personally know at all, btw), hence my comment that I judge a doctor on what the doctor knows, not what's between his/her legs.

I'm surprised more people aren't calling that out for the sexism it is.

I suppose that if a woman candidate runs for office, I should vote for her, just because she's a woman, too, right? Sorry, but I'd never pick a Palin over an Obama just because we both have the same plumbing.

There's a really strong, "If you are not with us, you're against us," vibe in here. It happens every time there is a feminist thread, which is one reason why I, ALSO A FEMINIST, come into these threads. I can't stand pile-ons and bullying.

Not all women think alike, and neither do all men.

nonmerci: "In a world in which women are at a significant disadvantage for a variety of socio-historical and political reasons, it is willfully ignorant to claim that, rather than use whatever tools we have at our disposal to find our voice, we play the game we cannot win and hope for the best.
"

Those of you who jumped on the slippery-slope argument might want to take this one, but I'll go ahead and point out that your argument is a straw man.

No one in this thread has said we should keep the status quo as it is for women and do nothing at all. We all pretty much agree that more qualified women should be offered panel positions. So if I am not engaging "this particular side of the debate", it's because it doesn't exist except maybe in your own extreme, straw man discussion happening over on bizarro Metafilter.

The only real disagreement seems to be about how to get more women on panels. I think it is great that Cornell is saying he is willing to give up his seat and find a woman to take his place. I would assume he would put someone qualified in place who could represent the issue every bit as well, if not better, than he could. I'm good with that.

What I am not good with is a blanket 50/50 gender parity policy.

I'll go even further, since apparently we are required to suggest alternatives to gender parity if we dare to criticize it, and add that another solution would be for some of the more influential women in the SF/F fields to start their own conventions, with their own panels. Worked for BlogHer.
posted by misha at 4:22 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I suppose that if a woman candidate runs for office, I should vote for her, just because she's a woman, too, right? Sorry, but I'd never pick a Palin over an Obama just because we both have the same plumbing.
That would be a non-stupid analogy if part of the job of the president was to ask me intimate questions about my sex life and reproductive choices and then have me disrobe and spread my legs so that he or she could stick foreign objects up my lady parts. The fact that I don't think politicians have any business doing those things is why I would vote for Obama rather than Palin.

This study, btw, suggests that a slim majority of women prefer female gynecologists (52%, vs. 42% who have no preference.)
posted by craichead at 5:12 PM on February 20, 2012


another solution would be for some of the more influential women in the SF/F fields to start their own conventions, with their own panels.

They have. And those cons are seen as woman-only or woman-issues-only, while cons run by men with panels full of men purport to speak for the whole industry. The fact that you haven't heard of such endeavors as WisCon speaks volumes as to how well your voluntary-separate-but-equal approach works in the real world.
posted by Etrigan at 5:13 PM on February 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Geek girl con was pretty cool. I was be-kidded, so didn't really get to check out any panels, but they had a super strong line-up. TBH I think it was a more interesting con to visit than Mark Millar's Kapow would be.
posted by Artw at 5:19 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


craichead, that study is from 1999. Here's some more, all more current, that say otherwise:

(U.S., 2005) The majority of patients (66.6%) had no gender bias when selecting an obstetrician-gynecologist, and an even larger majority (198, 80.8%) felt that physician gender does not influence quality of care. via

(Another, US, 2005) In the 1,059 completed questionnaires, items related to physician gender were among the lowest rated, regardless of specialty via

(Canada, 2002) Overall, 75% of women stated that they had no strong preference concerning the gender of their obstetrician-gynaecologist; 21% strongly preferred a female obstetrician-gynaecologist; and 4% strongly preferred a male obstetrician-gynaecologist. Women who were single, pregnant, or had a history of abortion, sexual coercion, relationship violence, sexual dysfunction, or sexually transmitted disease were no more likely to prefer to see a female obstetrician-gynaecologist than were women without these characteristics. via

(US, 2010) The majority of women expressed no preference to either gender of their obstetrician and gynaecologists, but significant proportion of the remainder would prefer to see a female doctor when given the choice. Although women gave a variety of subjective reasons for this, demographically it appears that women who are less educated with lower income and being non-white are more likely to prefer to see a female doctor. via

(2008, Tel Aviv) Most women (60.3%) reported that the gender of their gynecologist or obstetrician was not an important consideration when choosing a gynecologist or an obstetrician. The major determinants in their choice of a gynecologist or an obstetrician included professionalism (98.9%), courtesy (96.6%) and board certification (92%) via

And here's one that suggests that women's magazines might be adding to the *perception* that women prefer female ob/gyns:

(US, 2004) Female obstetrician-gynecologists were interviewed as health care resources 47-80% of the time, which is higher than expected when compared with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists membership numbers. A similar phenomenon was found when discussing physicians in general. Female physicians were more than 20 times more likely to have an identifying photograph. Pronouns used to identify negative physician traits accounted for 17% of the total pronouns when identifying female obstetrician-gynecologists and other specialties but accounted for 92% of the total pronouns when identifying male obstetrician-gynecologists and 77% of the pronouns when identifying other male physicians. In 5 magazines, physicians had their quoted gender pronouns changed from gender neutral to reflect female-specific pronouns. via

Etrigan: "They have. And those cons are seen as woman-only or woman-issues-only, while cons run by men with panels full of men purport to speak for the whole industry. The fact that you haven't heard of such endeavors as WisCon speaks volumes as to how well your voluntary-separate-but-equal approach works in the real world."

I'd say the biggest strike against WisCon is that it's held in Wisconsin, where the temp runs ~40 degrees if you're lucky, and which doesn't have the transportation and infrastructure of, say, Seattle or San Francisco. But they've also chosen to bill themselves as the world's leading feminist science-fiction convention, so if people see them as "woman issues only," maybe they should just ditch the byline. It's not like their competitors are calling themselves patriarchal science-fiction conventions.

GeekGirlCon seems cool, though. And I saw lots of women at PAX, attending and on panels and representing the press, etc. (including me).
posted by misha at 6:48 PM on February 20, 2012


The first two seem to be on the face of it methodologically problematic, misha. One of them only surveyed women at college health clinics, and the other only surveyed women at 13 gynecologists' offices in Connecticut. Given that preference for female gynecologists is not evenly spread throughout the community, it's entirely possible that these weren't representative samples. By definition, less-educated women are unlikely to go to college clinics. It's true that the majority of the women in the 2010 survey said they didn't care, but it wasn't a big majority (or a big sample, for that matter): 194 of the 435 women who responded to the survey said that they preferred a female gynecologist, while 225 said they didn't care. The 1999 survey that I cited had a larger sample than any of those and surveyed a more diverse pool of women: they surveyed 8000 members of a large HMO, rather than patients at particular gynecologists' offices. It's possible that the difference was not that attitudes changed between 1999 and 2005 but that you get different results depending on how you choose your sample and where you do the questioning.

All of those surveys, at any rate, showed that a significant number of women do prefer female gynecologists, and therefore it's important that there be female gynecologists to accommodate them. It may not be a majority, but it's a large percentage of the population, at least in the US. If the medical profession looked like sci-fi panels, a significant number of women would not have access to their preferred medical providers, and that would affect the quality of medical care.
posted by craichead at 7:32 PM on February 20, 2012


I'd say the biggest strike against WisCon is that it's held in Wisconsin, where the temp runs ~40 degrees if you're lucky, and which doesn't have the transportation and infrastructure of, say, Seattle or San Francisco. But they've also chosen to bill themselves as the world's leading feminist science-fiction convention, so if people see them as "woman issues only," maybe they should just ditch the byline. It's not like their competitors are calling themselves patriarchal science-fiction conventions.

GeekGirlCon seems cool, though. And I saw lots of women at PAX, attending and on panels and representing the press, etc. (including me).


So you're saying that women in SFF should have their own cons, but they shouldn't call them that, except the ones that do. And doing these two things at the same time will elevate them to the level that you, apparently an actual journalist who has heard of conventions generally, will suddenly hear about them -- after 35 years or so, as long as they're not in icky places.
posted by Etrigan at 7:43 PM on February 20, 2012


If, in 2012, at an SFF con, he finds himself on a panel of all dudes, that's pretty solid evidence that he isn't standing on his own merits -- that he was put on the panel because of his gender.

This bears repeating, so I'm repeating it.
posted by twirlip at 9:08 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd say the biggest strike against WisCon is that it's held in Wisconsin, where the temp runs ~40 degrees if you're lucky

Wiscon's at the end of May. The two times I've gone, the climate has been perfectly pleasant (and I'm a wimpy Bay Area-ite who's lost all tolerance for extremes of temperature.)
posted by Zed at 9:10 PM on February 20, 2012


The only real disagreement seems to be about how to get more women on panels. I think it is great that Cornell is saying he is willing to give up his seat and find a woman to take his place. I would assume he would put someone qualified in place who could represent the issue every bit as well, if not better, than he could. I'm good with that.

There are literally millions of things more important than reaching the PLATONIC IDEAL OF PANELS ON THE TOPIC OF THE HULK'S FORMER LOVERS. One of those things is making women feel welcome in the world. So if he gives up his spot to a woman who is less qualified, please tell me why anyone should give a fuck? Whining about fairness is literally some pointless playground shit.
posted by TypographicalError at 7:07 AM on February 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Zed, I freely admit I am a temperature-challenged from living in a place where it doesn't snow. I'm chilly right now with the windows open and it's in the 70s here today. I could blame it on the hypothyroidism, but I've honestly always been a wimp to the cold that way.

As far as the 40 degrees went, I was going by their own predictions on the WisCon site, which said temps generally run between 26 (yikes!) and 40 degrees during the convention.

Etrigan, look, I'm older and maybe more cynical than you are, and maybe that's just rubbing you the wrong way, but you seem to really be taking my opinions very personally. if you want to fight, you might just want to take it to memail, though I can't promise I'll respond in kind. I really don't have a beef with you, and I'm not incensed enough to get into all the things I DIDN'T say that you're attributing to me at this point.
posted by misha at 10:03 AM on February 21, 2012


As far as the 40 degrees went, I was going by their own predictions on the WisCon site, which said temps generally run between 26 (yikes!) and 40 degrees during the convention.
Nope. Here's what they say:
It seems unlikely there will be snow, but this is the upper midwest of the United States, and we can't totally rule it out. More likely, it will be between 40F (4C) and 80F (26C), and since it's spring, it will probably rain.
I don't think the weather in Madison in late May is typically very different from the weather in Seattle or San Francisco at the same time of year.
posted by craichead at 10:29 AM on February 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


The one time I went to Wiscon it was glorious sunshine and temps in the 70s, and I wandered around in shirtsleeves eating ice cream. Anyway, I'm not sure it matters that much - I went to the SFX Weekender a couple of weeks ago, which was in a freezing cold holiday camp on the Welsh coast, and the sub-zero temps didn't stop them getting 4,000 people. Wiscon has sold out in the past, and regularly gets close to the physical limits of the hotel, so they're doing fine where they are.
posted by penguinliz at 4:06 PM on February 21, 2012


I deeply regret not being in the UK for the SFX Weekender - the 2000ad inspired DJ set by Al Ewing would have been worth it alone.
posted by Artw at 4:18 PM on February 21, 2012


Thanks, craichead. Total reading fail on my part!
posted by misha at 12:55 PM on February 22, 2012


I think I'd be remiss to not note that there's a deliberately Wiscon-ish San Francisco Bay Area con having its second go-round at the end of this month, March 30-April 1 in Walnut Creek in the East bay: FOGcon. Disclosure: I'm on the concom.
posted by Zed at 8:30 PM on March 8, 2012


Oh hey, I fvorgot I was subscribed to this thread until Zed posted and it popped up again.

Iowa's new law about gender parity on Government panels was discussed, and now it has been implemented. I had some recent experience with its implementation. Our city government has been aware of this law and planning for the last few months on how to deal with it.

Apparently there is a huge loophole, if a qualified gender-appropriate candidate can't be found after 90 days, they can appoint whoever the hell they feel like. And they will anyway.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:26 AM on March 9, 2012


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