The OF Blog: Genderfail and me, Part II

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Genderfail and me, Part II

Still been thinking a bit about last Wednesday's Genderfail discussion here. The discussion was pretty good and civil, but I wanted to see what would happen if I were to posit the same questions and positions on an epic fantasy board. So last night, I copy/pasted my post over on the Westeros board, a George R.R. Martin fansite. The discussion so far has been quite a bit different in tenor and tone than it was here.

Perhaps it might be that some took my comments on selection bias as being "too sweeping of generalizations." Others, perhaps, might have been annoyed at the thought of there being any questioning going on of "their" preferences. Still others might be curious, but not saying too much. Way too little information to say one way or the other what the general reaction/s will be over there. Interesting that respondents there were at least 4:1 male-to-female, while my original post was 10:6 male-to-female (I'm excluding myself from both samples, since I initiated the discussion). I wonder if that small, non-random sample is indicative of the types of audiences found at a blog like this and an epic fantasy forum like Westeros.

However, that is just me being curious again; it'd be almost impossible to collect reliable information. But it does raise the question of whether or not online social outlets (from forums to blogs to Facebook to Twitter to all parts in-between) might shape general reactions. I'm curious as to which would be more likely to attract female participation and which would be more likely to be dominated by males. I suspect any study that could be done would be quite revealing.

17 comments:

E. L. Fay said...

Larry, I wouldn't worry about it so much. I'm female and, according to LibraryThing, my reading is 72% male. Not quite sure why that is. I also took one of those online tests that determines whether your writing style is "male" or "female," and I came out strongly "male" every time. . .

Just keep reading what you like to read, that's what I say.

Larry said...

True, but I'm not all that worried about it. Just something that struck me as something I could improve upon and perhaps discover more things that I like. That's what things like this should be about, not about condemning myself or others.

etrangere said...

Well, this is reminding me why I left the board.

Larry said...

Much as I like the board as a whole, times like this make me despair at seeing civil discourse there. It's sadly amusing to realize that some are engaging in actions that are so aggressive that they don't realize that they are undermining their own points. But maybe I'm being a bit uncharitable as well, as I'm just so frustrated that I have yet another sinus infection this close to the end of my current job.

The Witchfinder said...

Hehe, I signed up there once, having heard great things about the community. But as I was about to delve into the social understandings that separates all internet forums, I wondered to myself, "Why the hell am I signing up at the forum of an author who is arguably the most overrated man in fantasy since Robert Jordan?" And so I didn't. I am pleased to see that it was the right decision.

That said, I am looking into some of the names dropped in your last post, so hopefully, at least something good will come out of this grand drama for me. Wouldn't want to fall victim to any "unconscious biases", after all. ;)

Anonymous said...

I don't comment on (and try very hard not to read) any gender-related discussions on the ASOIAF board. There's enough inescapable sexism in my day-to-day life; I'm not going to willingly spend my leisure time participating in discussions that I know (from experience) will be hostile.

Nephtis said...

I'm with Anonymous above - a gender discussion on Westeros? No thank you. I couldn't stomach GRRM's first book because of its normalization of sexual brutality. I glance at thread titles there every once in a while; to them, even C.S. Friedman would be a shocking discovery. I only really enjoy the Goodkind posts there, and not so much anymore because they fail to see the awesomeness that is Legend of the Seeker.

Adam Whitehead said...

The tone of the thread leaved something to be desired. However, we have something like ten of these discussions a year, and it's unsurprising that a lot of people who would normally post in these debates have long been worn out by them and don't bother any more. Stego summed it up quite well: more men than women write genre fiction in the epic and SF fields, where GRRM's fanbase is most likely to crossover with other authors. So if you are specifically reading epic fantasy and SF, then you will be reading more men than women. If you start talking about urban fantasy instead than the numbers equal out a lot more.

Given that imbalance, I think the amount of discussion we have of authors such as Robin Hobb, JV Jones, Ursula LeGuin, KJ Parker, Suzanna Clarke and others is reasonable. The lack of any recent major releases by female authors is probably why there's not much going on the board at the moment, although with new Carey and Hobb releases about to hit, that should change.

Seriously Larry, if you are going to raise a dead horse that was thoroughly beaten years ago, I'm not surprised you're going to get a lukewarm response.

"I couldn't stomach GRRM's first book because of its normalization of sexual brutality."

Depicting events, especially ones with historical precedent, does not mean condoning that event.

"I glance at thread titles there every once in a while; to them, even C.S. Friedman would be a shocking discovery."

That would be the CS Friedman of whom there have been many discussions on Westeros over the years? Interesting.

Kaki said...

I didn't see the discussion at Westeros (haven't popped in there since last Thursday or Friday), but I often stay away from anything overtly political/gendered etc there. I've long since outgrown the place in my life where arguing for the sake of arguing is fun.

Your blog post here did cause me to look back over my last year's worth of reading. I kept track of 72 books (read more, but those are what I remembered to write down). Of those, 39 were by female authors and 33 were male. Not bad. But they also weren't all straight genre. A lot of them were "literary" cross-over novels with a mythic or supernatural slant.

I've been working my way through the reading lists at Endicott Studios for a while now, and they have many great female and POC authors and off-the-beaten-path novels.

etrangere said...

Wert,
I read mainly (almost exclusively, really) SFF, much like the rest of the board. Yet when I counted the books I'd read in the last few years - and it was a surprise to me - I found out I read a majority of female writers. Funny that. I wonder how I managed it with such a dearth of female writers of SFF.

I was happy to see you moderate the thread, but then it only got worse from there, from Happy Ent ridiculous post to whoever that was who insulted Anna and later got his post removed. Shryke and whatever his name's "ironic" posts didn't help.
As for dead horses, oh please, no people who are tired of discussing sexism are forced to participate in those threads, you know. People who did for the express purpose of trolling and flaming did so because they wanted to.

Adam Whitehead said...

You're right about the thread. There's been some back and forth about it from the mod end with posts getting deleted and other things going on. It seems to be doing better now although having said that I'll probably go back and find that *name redacted* has said something that's enraged the entire board, which happens a lot.

The flamers and trolls have been warned off and it's now a thread mods are keeping an eye on in case it goes pear-shaped again. But I think it is a subject that comes up a lot (like our favourite "I don't trust female authors," thing which went on for about two years before it was put out of its misery) and people who have argued about it before very well and very eloquently may be reluctant to tackle it again.

Or, more likely, a lot of them were partying with me in London at the weekend and haven't checked in at the board again yet :-)

As it happens quite a few of the authors-I've-never-read-and-really-need-to-soon in my personal Hall of Shame are female writers. After finally reading some Connie Willis and Celia Friedman last year, Mary Gentle is up next, and I need to get in some Ursula K. LeGuin and maybe Tanith Lee and CJ Cherryh after that.

Larry said...

If I hadn't become very sick yesterday, I probably would have participated more in that thread and perhaps helped to shift discussion away from that silly "quota" business, but after having glanced through the last couple of pages, it's a morass of straw men arguments, attempts to be clever, and almost-belligerent defensiveness. I guess I should have been smart and kept such discussions to a blog like this and not to a forum where snark does seem to reign quite often ;)

Glad to see that my original post did spark curiosity in some to check their reading patterns; always good to know if one's expectations are failing to meet one's reality. And if I did feel well enough to spend hours tonight and tomorrow at the computer (which I don't, since I haven't been awake more than 4 hours at a time since Friday), I'd ask some over there just what is so threatening about embracing diversity in one's life.

etrangere said...

I look forward to see what you think of those female writers, Wert. Some of them are my favourite. Most of them, actually.

Adam Whitehead said...

I had to nuke the thread in the end. Some good points came through but there was too much arguing about the validity of the debate rather than the debate itself. Maybe someone will come at it again from a different point of view in a few months or something.

Larry said...

No problem. People's minds were already made up. All I really wanted to accomplish was to get a few to examine their reading patterns and to see if they liked what they saw. The quota bit and other related comments were so far removed from what I had in mind that it was for the best for it to be locked.

ljkeane said...

I was one of those who responded to your post and I may have misread what you meant in which case I apologise for perhaps overreacting.

I do stand by my point that you should not jump to conclusions about peoples biases and preferences based on very little information, but anyway.

Larry said...

It's all water under the bridge; I don't trust most of my own conclusions most of the time :P

 
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