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Bellwether: The Safe Zone Discussion Group

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Erasure [Sep. 2nd, 2006|06:21 pm]
Bellwether: The Safe Zone Discussion Group

bellwether_talk

[asterling]
I'm going to say something else about discourse, history and "erasure."

First, I attended Scripps College in Claremont, CA. This is the only remaining women's college on the West Coast. I am grateful for this experience. At that time, I gained exposure to and knowledge of lesbian, bi, and transgender people and their points of view and feelings of being marginalized.

My college years were in the 80's, where people were having difficulty with, and struggling with, issues of diversity, and when I, for one, absolutely was interested in not only my own academic and intellectual development, and in "becoming a writer," but also in the degree for which graduates of my school were also well-known - the "MRS." Graduates of Scripps were known to marry graduates of the nearby Claremont MENS College, which had recently been made coed and named Claremont McKenna College. I dated top students from both CMC and the other nearby school, Harvey Mudd College (for engineers).

At this time I confessed to my fiance, who was the top student at Harvey Mudd, that I loved science fiction, and wanted to be a science fiction writer. Pete, who I don't mean to ascribe sexism or anything bad to, responded immediately by saying, "But you have to be smart to write science fiction!"

I never forgot this, and the tale is recounted in the intro. to my first collection, WITHOUT ABSOLUTION.

But these issues - a girl, not a man. "Dumb," not smart. Popular and "normal," not a "geek." THIS IS MY LIFE. This is my writing.

I have worked for more than ten years to assist homeless families. These are primarily single, minority parents, mostly mothers, with very young children. I worked in Redlands, successfully, and now work in downtown Los Angeles, for an innovative, nationally-recognized organization. The world does not recognize these women - at all.

When I say "erasure," I experienced this not only myself, but in my own family. My mother was, among other things, the first female editor and publisher of the college newspaper at the University of Redlands -- the Bulldog, just as 40 years later, I served that role at my own college. After college, she attended Chouinard Art Institute, which became Otis-Parsons, and is now Otis College of Art and Parsons Institute of Design. She went to work for Disney as an art director, and left after one year, exclusively due to extreme sexism and bias against many diverse people. Her working partner throughout her career was Bill Melendez. Bill is over 80 now, but well-known as one of those who brought Peanuts to the animated screen.

My father said to me that my mother "Could not have made it as a fine artist." I have a degree in Studio Art, as well as British-American Literature, from Scripps (and an MFA in Creative Writing from Chapman). He was wrong. That was a sexist comment. And I know he loved her and adored her and respected her. It took me five years to forgive my father for that comment.

My mother throughout her career as an art director of animated films worked for UPA and Playhouse Pictures, and at the end of her life, had gone to work for Charles Schulz. She won two Academy Awards and five Golden Palms. Her work was "erased." She died of pancreatic cancer in 1962. Her work, which involved creating the appearances of and natures of cartoon characters we know and love today, notably Mr. Magoo, who was based on my father, was appropriated by any man who had the ability to do so in the intervening years. The studio owners, the producers - anyone. Today, a book called CARTOON MODERN is being published, that tells the true story of my mother, and three others whose work was also appropriated, stolen, and falsely credited to others. These others are men so this cannot be credited exclusively to gender bias and sexism.

That said, I have fought my way up in this field, that I chose.

You want to talk about painful? I know that people are crude, rude, selfish and inconsiderate in this field. I know that their worldviews encompass the very small boxes in which they live. I've always known this. I know I could write the absolute best thing in the world and some of those in this field would ignore and denigrate it because I'm a woman - a "girl."

If they can, people will take it. Appropriate it. Erase it.

We have to make each other strong - help each other to be strong. Speak so loudly and clearly that no one else can have any doubt. Yes, do speak out, do say "No more!".

Maybe in the end, in the final sense, if Harlan can see that this helped good things happen in the long run, it will be okay. Because I know he has always stood for that, and taken action on that. I am not the most aggrieved, by a long shot. I am guilty of not speaking out on many occasions in the past.

But we have also suffered greatly, in my line. It has never been easy, as a woman working in a "man's world." I am speaking out because I am not afraid. After the death of my son, there is nothing that truly "scares me." The sexual harassment and comments are terribly wrong. The marginalization is deeper, and far worse. And the "erasure," with such ease, is the worst of all.
linkReply

Comments:
From: (Anonymous)
2006-09-03 04:20 am (UTC)

dignity

I'm thinking of the high school English teachers in conservative
towns who fought to include Harlan Ellison's books in their curriculum.
I'm thinking of the librarians who fought to include his books on the
shelves of public libraries. The joke's on them.

The tradition of performing skits originated in more innocent times.
Maybe the skits should be dispensed with altogether. I'd prefer a
dignified awards ceremony. These are works of literature that people
care about passionately. They are part of our culture.

Maybe filking is enough onstage hamming. Jokes could still be told in
the panel discussions. Togetherness could still be celebrated at the
parties. It's not as if the whole con would have to be in good taste.
Just the Hugos.

--
<http://www.well.com/user/silly/blog.html>
"Don't forget to register to vote" - Frank Zappa
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: asterling
2006-09-03 05:18 pm (UTC)

Re: dignity

Maybe you are right. I didn't attend the ceremony (there were so many there who needed and wanted to attend). So, I've never been able to say one way or the other about the "incident." I also saw, and believe, that Harlan Ellison didn't attend the rehearsals and - no matter what, after that, he couldn't have been properly prepared. After so much ugliness, to come down to "you didn't rehearse" and "weren't prepared" - look at what happened!

In the respect of giving honor to the honorees, I am all in favor of a more dignified ceremony. The committees work extremely hard. I am sure they have their own behind-the-scenes tales to tell in many ways, and years of experience.

In terms of "togetherness," I honestly feel, and have felt over the years, that fans are extremely accepting, kind, and caring. Every single comment that I made with the exception of the over-enthusiastic partiers (who turned out to be gamers) was a professional writer or editor. And all *very* well-known. All people who were way up above, and I far beneath them in status, as well as being a woman.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: querldox
2006-09-05 12:34 am (UTC)
Minor correction; Mills in Oakland, CA is also a women's college on the West Coast. Undergrad is women only, graduate programs are co-ed.

(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: dunegirl
2006-09-09 05:10 pm (UTC)

erasure and privilege

Actually, these are the kinds of issues that the Hugos and the resulting uproar got me thinking about.

The way that gender privilege and powwer dynamics function, the way that a woman's body can be used as leverage over her accomplishments, and of course, just fact that some SF/F/H fans, writers, book shop owners et al. can make it damn difficult to be a female writer and fan.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: asterling
2006-09-12 02:29 pm (UTC)

Re: erasure and privilege

I wonder why so few seem to have been thinking about those issues . . . but a woman after my own heart. Best of luck with your book - let me know how it goes!
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