Journey Planet Tempts Fate

If there were any triskaidekaphobes on the editorial staff of Journey Planet would they have dared fill issue #13 [PDF file] with arguments about sexual politics?

Guest editors Emma King and Helen Montgomery rounded up nearly three dozen fans to discuss gender parity on convention panels, a topical controversy ever since Paul Cornell announced his personal plan to do something about it, and the 2013 Eastercon made it a policy.   

A few writers uphold the 50/50 side of the argument against all comers, and a good thing they’re able to do it because most of the contributors oppose a fixed male-female ratio of panelists.

As Carol Connolly frames the question:

After all, this is the 21st Century! It’s not as if anyone is deliberately keeping women away. Surely as long as the con has a generally welcoming environment towards women, they’ll just turn up on panels. Like mushrooms in a field (translation for city folk: “like Starbucks franchises”).

Except that hasn’t happened, has it? Although women make up over 50% of the population, that fact is not mirrored in panel demographics.

That fundamental disparity is always on my mind as a program organizer, even if I am not a 50/50 advocate.

Opponents of 50/50 make forensic arguments about whether panels should mirror the population when the community of pro writers does not, and logistical arguments about the difficulty of aiming for 50/50 amid all the variables of assembling a convention program. Several women even argue that 50/50 would not advance feminist principles. For example, Emma Jane Davies feels 50/50 might be an impediment to dealing with the genuine issue:

Panel parity effectively makes a genuine problem invisible to fandom and the rest of the world. Are we so ashamed by the paucity of female SFF writers that we must deny the disparity, even to ourselves? Would the truth not act as a better motivation to those who wish to correct the real problem?

Certainly the zine will be must reading for conrunners because so many of their colleagues are in it and it’s a great way to see some of the other players’ cards.

(Full disclosure: I wrote for #13, too. Was that good luck for the editors, or bad?)

1 thought on “Journey Planet Tempts Fate

  1. Well, that’s a way to ruin a reputation. I mean, we’re talking about Garcia, the classiest class clown, and James, the hard-partying conrunner who only cares about fun.

    And they do a serious ‘zine like this.

    I don’t see Emma Jane Davies’ assertion that female SFF writers are a rare breed. Female writers aren’t always well-represented on award shortlists, but they’re definitely represented well on shelves and sales lists.

    I’m with James. It’s incumbent on programming people to identify and approach female contributors. They’re out there. It’s incumbent on programming people to fill panels in a way that covers a topic fully. A panel about female characters in SFF should never have no women on it (yes, it’s happened). Participant parity is just a stepping stone to more inclusive, and importantly, better programming. We get more inclusive and better programming overall and panel parity is just a sanity check.

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