FeatherPenClipArtAfter contemplation, there were a couple of things that fell out of this recent foray into the wilds of the Internet. Contemplation always solidifies what was uncomfortable about what you saw, right? In this case one of the uncomfortable issues was that the search for author bullying cases brought up mostly women.

There are some well-known differences in the way men and women operate. This is something that’s generally quoted as an advantage in hiring women for management positions. Specifically, women tend to seek cooperative decision-making while men tend to set up a hierarchy of authority. Because of these structures, men have a mentoring structure, while women don’t. This can result in actions within a group of women to take down members who want to achieve more than the average. It’s complex, but it often results in the “mean girls” culture outlined by the film of the same name. This culture takes down upstarts who don’t know their place and enforces mediocrity.

Over the years, women writers have struggled for achievement and equal representation in the speculative fiction genres. SF writers especially are fighting for recognition in a male-dominated field. The early pioneers like Alice Sheldon/James Tiptree knew they’d get recognition faster with male pseudonyms. Taking a male pen name not only obscured the female Tiptree’s identity, but also gave her access to the mentoring system men use. It’s no surprise that the worst harassment abuses I came up with were in the female erotica/romance genres where male participation is lowest.

In responses to the bullying and harassment issues, I notice calls for a stronger community of women writers. I’d certainly vote for this. Budding African American writers like Fionna Free Man need mentoring and support from the community of women writers, not a career-destroying take down from an established, best-selling writer like Jenny Trout.

Who would take the lead in something like this? Maybe an SFWA committee?

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