MoonFail: Raising The Bar

MoonFail: Raising The Bar

I wanted to expand on some of what I said in my first post a few days ago about not settling for the bare minimum when it comes to charged discussions ignited by Elizabeth Moon’s post and the WisCon troika’s subsequent statement regarding it. I’ve been mulling over this for the past few days, but this post by committee member Piglet snapped things into focus. In particular, this line:

The bar for disinviting a Guest of Honor is much, much higher than the bar for inviting a GoH.  I can’t imagine (failure of imagination again, no doubt — nevertheless) circumstances under which I would support it.  Yes, even someone who verbally attacked my marginalizations in the interim between invitation & con.  Or, as Ms. Moon has done, those of my friends.

When I read that, my immediate thought was that this was not something I expect to hear from a WisCon committee member. And while I was feeling very wavery about whether Moon should be disinvited before, I now feel very strongly that she should.

My path here has been very similar to what Nora describes in this post:

For awhile I thought of this as a matter of professionalism, and the ineffectuality of a top-down gesture. But that letter makes it clear that what motivated the ConCom was not a concern for professionalism, or the desire to make the most effective protest. That letter makes it clear that the decision was made out of the usual fear of taking a hardline stand on principle, and the usual expectation that oppressed people will find some way to accommodate the bigots who hate them.

Further down, what she has to say here:

I think I’ve become too wedded to defending people like this. ::sigh:: Damn, I must be getting old. I’m always so grateful when I encounter people willing just to have these conversations… even if talking is all they do. I’m always so happy when they take a step… even if it’s nowhere near far enough, and even if they land on my foot in the process. In this sense I’m actually buying into Moon’s BS — specifically her resentment over having to make even the slightest effort to accommodate others’ differences and needs. It’s gotten to the point where I expect that resentment, and even plan for it. But I need to expect better of the people I call my friends.

echoes what Amal said in the post I pointed to either:

I’m grateful that [the ConCom doesn’t] see her words as anything less than hateful and damaging. I’m grateful for their dismay and their anger. But that gratitude should be telling. That gratitude is part of the problem. That gratitude is indicative of the fact that the status quo is so dire that I perceive basic human decency as Moon’s “bending over backwards,” and that some part of me was afraid that the ConCom would see no problem at all with what she said. After all, millions of Americans don’t.

I was okay with the ConCom’s statement because I was afraid there’d be no statement at all. I was okay with the ConCom’s statement because it didn’t sweep this under the rug, because they offered me something I could engage with. …that’s our purpose, of course. To be Makers of Points before we are people. To be valuable and acceptable additions to Moon’s commonweal. To be pattable on the head.

This is particularly appropriate given recent WisCon history. As I said, in the years I’ve been going to the con I’ve seen an increase in people of color and a definite change in attitude toward what counts as a “Feminist Issue”. Intersectionality is a higher priority, as well as an increase in awareness surrounding the needs of different WisCon-going groups1. But getting to that point wasn’t a smooth road. Those things had to be asked or fought for specifically, sometimes over the objections of people on the concom. It’s not all a happy, shiny family — nor would one expect it to be. It’s a community of people who have some interests and goals and ideas in common, but not all.

On these issues we are moving past (or have already moved past) the stage of things where basic human decency should be all we expect and should be grateful for. Oh no. Just acknowledging that what Moon had to say is wrong is not enough. Not at this point. Given that this con is built around a social justice issue and an incredibly important ideal and movement, it is shocking to see that attitude on display. The bar for disinviting a GoH is high? Sure it is. But is it high enough that you are willing to go back on what WisCon is about in order to bring in and honor someone who holds ideas that are antithetical to the very work this con is about?

WisCon isn’t just a convention of people who love science fiction and fantasy like, say, WorldCon or PhilCon or something. WisCon stands for something. WisCon is where you go when the sexism and prejudice at other cons becomes intolerable. WisCon is where you go when you realize that other cons aren’t going to disinvite their GoHs for saying/doing the most despicable things about/to homosexuals or women or immigrants or people of color or Jews or Muslims or or or.

People can shout all they want about how Elizabeth Moon is being honored for her fiction, but WisCon hasn’t always just been about the fiction. The conversations we have there, the issues we tackle, are not fictional or always concerning fiction. Or, when they are, they are also about how fiction affects and shapes our society and our opinions about each other. Why else would there be a panel about cultural appropriation? Not just for a bunch of people to talk about how it’s okay to appropriate as long as you write a good yarn, but because it’s important to acknowledge how the choices fiction writers make affect readers, which affects how readers think and view the world.

Someone feel free to correct me, but it seems that the bar for inviting a Guest of Honor to WisCon is that the person, in their life and in their fiction, embody what WisCon is about. What WisCon is about has changed over the years, and will continue to change (hopefully for the better). And before now I would have hoped that it did not stand for the kind of ignorant, bigoted ideas that Elizabeth Moon holds. I suspect that if the marginalizations Moon had attacked had been closer to Piglet’s her attitude about disinvitation would be different.

Because this con stands for something. Wanting to attend means something. This is not Joe Blow’s Con Of Stuff. This is not the con for being grateful just because people acknowledge bad things were said without actively fighting against bad things. It is no longer acceptable to simply be appalled. Being appalled is step one. Step two is doing what is in your power to change things for the better, to make a better world. Or, short of that, a better community.

Amal, again:

The precedent we should be worried about setting is not “blogging could get me disinvited from a convention as Guest of Honour.” The precedent we should be worried about setting is “some fans are worth more than others, and Muslims don’t matter enough to take a stand for.”

What kind of community do you want, WisCon committee? A community in which social justice and fighting prejudice stops at “That was a really terrible thing to say!”? Or, at least one that stops at that when it’s not YOUR marginalization that’s under attack?


  1. Including, but not limited to, people with disabilities, as one example []