April 12th, 2012


On the impossibility of a perfect Eastercon

There's something that bothers me about some of the reports about Eastercon and the handling of gender and race there.

Not that I don't think people have a right to their emotional reaction (and I am glad that the BSFA has now apologised for the awards ceremony). Anger doesn't bother me at all. What bothers me is how _surprised_ some people seem to be. Shocked that the world of science-fiction isn't an inclusive safe space full of people as enlightened as they are.

It's always been reasonably easy to spend your time in a social circle that's got relatively similar views to your own, but it's now possible to spend your socialising time online with people who are even closer to your own views, reinforcing them and making you feel that they are the ones held by all right-thinking folk.

And when that happens it's easy to lose track that even in modern Britain there are millions of people who feel very differently to you. I live in a country which is more liberal and inclusive than at any point in the past[1], but if you look at what people actually think only 43% believe in marriage equality. Where nearly 40% of people would vote Conservative tomorrow. Where two thirds of people voted against the first chance of voting reform this country has had in decades. Where, frankly, a hell of a lot of people hold opinions I don't like.

It makes sense to me to be annoyed about representations of people of different ethnicities and cultures where those things are done badly. But when I saw people being apparently surprised because of a panel of four people there was no non-white members, I found myself popping to Wikipedia and confirming that 90% of the population is White. Should we be questioning the way that cultures are portrayed? Absolutely. Should we be surprised that the British National Science Fiction convention is largely white? No. Should we want to improve it to the point where the proportions are as high as the general population? Absolutely. Inclusivity has increased the percentage of women attendees to the point of parity, which is fantastic, and I've heard good intentions regarding race being next on the list.

When we expect perfection anywhere in our lives then we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and estrangement. We should strive for our ideals, but if we don't remain rooted in reality then we end up disillusioned, which is no good to anyone.

[1]Seriously. It's only 20 years since it became possible to rape your wife, and 45 years since homosexuality was made legal - 15 years since the ages were equalised with heterosexuals. I think a lot of people don't realise how awful things were a few decades ago - let alone throughout most of history. I'm pretty resigned to the face that 80% of the planet believes things that revolt me on a deep level, and am grateful that this is down from the 99.5% that held until very recently.

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