Fans and Pros on Gender Parity on Panels

The Hugo Award-winning fanzine Journey Planet has a new issue out (that’s a pdf link) which, in addition to reprinting my “Lowest Difficulty Setting” pieces and its attendant commentary by other spec fic fans and pros, also tackles the idea of gender parity on convention panels — i.e., having an equal number of male and female panel participants whenever possible. There’s a wide range of thoughts on the matter from a wide range of writers. If you’re someone who goes to cons and also goes to panels, it’s worth a read for you.

91 thoughts on “Fans and Pros on Gender Parity on Panels

  1. As a woman, I am less concerned with gender parity on panels, than with a balance of panels themselves. I want to see a broad range of panels of interest to the various interests represented by the SF/F community. My experience with prior cons has reflected this which I think is a tribute to fandom as well as con organizers. In general, genre fans are a tolerant and inclusive group.

  2. Agreeing with saruby. It might depend what cons you go to and what tracks you follow, but I haven’t noticed the balance being off. Of course, our impressions are always weighted more heavily toward what we experienced last, and for me that was Convergence, where the panelists are largely self-selected from among the attending pros — basically anyone with some publication credits.

  3. If the panel discussion is “Feminism in Science Fiction”, I think the panel should be mostly women. If the panel is about “Disability Portrayals in SciFi”, the panel should consist mostly of disabled ppl. Any other topic under discussion, however, probably shouldn’t concern itself too much with “equal representation”. If you’re only allowed, say, six members on a panel, how do you decide how many races and gender/sexual orientations to represent, and how can you do so without running the risk of hurting *somebody’s* feelings?

  4. If anything, at the local convention I attend annually, the writing panels are weighted to a feminine perspective. Is there a greater number of female authors in the SF/Fantasy genre? That might explain it. (There are men on the panels, it just seems there’s more women. Though I haven’t actually sat down and counted the guest list, and completely recognize this may be an observational bias. Being a man, I might just notice the women more.)

    As per the suggestion made by the commenter above regarding feminism and disability related issues…I agree if we emphasize the word ‘mostly’, but definitely not ‘entirely.’ And I think a parent of a disabled child would have an excellent viewpoint on a disability-related panel. Would a father/husband of a woman have similar insight into feminism? Possibly. Which is why the panel shouldn’t be uniform in composition.

  5. Being picky, but while “Journey Planet” is a well-derserved Hugo nominee this year, it has never won the award (though two of its editors did win for “The Drink Tank” last year).

  6. Perhaps as a SWM my opinion is less relevant to this particular issue, but I did NOT notice a huge gender disparity on panels at Renovation last year. To the contrary, if anything I echo TransDutch’s point that there seemed to be a number of topics generally related to feminine concerns as well as a good number of panels with relative gender balance.

    I would add that I am less concerned with the gender of panelists than with each member’s ability to engage in thoughtful discussion on the topic at hand.

  7. Perhaps we need a central database of women willing and able to be on such panels since Con organizers say they have trouble finding women and/or replacement speakers. I know that , as a female scholar/fan, I can jump onto most panels and contribute some interesting insights and provocative thoughts. There are plenty like me. They just don’t know where to find us. See Vaneta Rogers’ insightful 4-part series at Newsarama: http://www.newsarama.com/comics/pro-girls-where-are-the-women-in-comics-110920.html

  8. I think, there may have been a point somewhere behind my pointless comment. Putting a woman, a man, or a person who thinks they are a talking dog on stage, just because they are a woman, man, or a crazy who thinks they are a talking dog seems a bit forced. First, make sure, there are no artificial factors limiting the number of women at the panels, then, if there is not an artificial bias, get the best people available for the subject. (Perhaps, there are fewer women because, they are afraid of crazy geeks that think they are talking dogs and keep looking for the background dancers. That would be a reasonable fear.)

  9. There’s a problem seen in IT where a comparatively small number of women that are willing to be speakers wind up getting severely burned out because *everyone* wants them in as many slots as possible.

    It’s a bit reminiscent of Brunner’s character “Norman Niblock House” in Stand on Zanzibar, who, as an “Afram with a Ph.D”, is courted by all the companies in order to improve their racial profiles. (Hey, gotta have an SF connection!)

    There’s a problem with trying to “enforce” demographic parity in certain visible places if things are extremely distant from parity otherwise. Definitely a problem in my industry. I don’t know the comparative demographics amongst SF writers; there seem to be enough notable female authors (Bujold leaps instantly to mind, and she’s certainly not alone) that perhaps ‘parity’ is not insensible.

  10. I’m a girl. And I’m pretty much with Ralf The Dog’s last comment: I don’t think that women should be on panels just because they are women – affirmative action is just another way of skewing the playing field. If men & women are to be truly equal in opportunity, then their gender shouldn’t come up one way or another, panelists should be chosen by experience, willingness, etc., etc., etc. Artificiality in either direction will just make things complicated & awkward.

  11. That at this point on the evolutionary timeline we are still talking about parity for women, or minorities or whatever, kind of makes my head hurt. For me, give me a good panel, end of story. Not everyone is good on panels, and I have to believe that not all writers are as gregarious and goofy as our host. I have attended more than a few lectures/interview sessions/panel talks (albeit not at a con) where the writer(s) being interviewed or giving the talk were less than dynamic. Not a slam, not everyone wants to be in the spotlight, not everyone has the personality for it. So I have to imagine that putting together a good panel is not as easy as say ordering one from column A, one from column B, etc. I want to see the best the organizers can put together, period.

  12. My wife, a much-published experimental physicist, Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Author, former Active Member of SFWA, who’s taught in 4 countries, and is Chair of Sciences (Astronomy, Biology, Physics) at Woodbury University, has been shouted down by males on Worldcon and Westercon panels, and thus no longer chooses to do panels. She is content to let ignorant testosterone-fueled dildos shout at each other. As on Facebook.

  13. The reflexive “well, why don’t we just pick the best people?” makes a lot of weird assumptions: that panels are always purely merit-based, that gender is never a consideration until you note the absence of women panelists (Bechdel’s Heisenberg Effect, perhaps?) and that there’s no reason other than cold math for heavily-skewed panels now.

    It takes a certain amount of willful blindness to irony, too, to kid on the square about bikini babes and to then insist that we musn’t consider whether anything other than merit affects choice of panelists.

  14. “First, make sure, there are no artificial factors limiting the number of women at the panels …”

    Oh, well, *that’s* easily done. [sad laugh]

  15. You certainly want to provide diversity in panels, but if you start requiring strict gender parity, things can escalate out of control. There are similar justifications for racial, religious, sexual orientation, nationality parity/proportionality on panels, and very few cons will be able to come up with a (for example) Malaysian Jewish Lesbian Star Wars fan who hates the SW novelizations to fill their panel quota.

    The key thing to a good panel is diversity of viewpoints. Membership in certain demographic classifications might pre-dispose certain viewpoints, but just because you have a balanced panel in terms of demographics doesn’t mean the panel isn’t packed with rabid conservatives who think Heinlein is god.

    Certainly searching through different demographic groups for panel mambers can make it easier to find differing viewpoints because of the differences in experience that come with demographic variety (or the “difficulty settings” as our host puts it). But demographic diversity should not be a goal in itself. Bring diversity to panels in terms of viewpoint regarding the topic on the panel, not in terms of the demographics of the members.

  16. Anemone Flynn, in a perfect world, that (that being blind equality) would be the case. But since this is not a perfect world, we need to consciously make an effort to ensure diversity in fandom–if we don’t, things will continue on the trend of SWM pontificating on all the great many super-important things they know, and fandom suffers because we don’t get alternate viewpoints OR get exposure to other great works/ideas. “Equality/diversity activism” is important because if we don’t have people out there bringing up WHY only having SWM is a problem, then SWM will always be the only people we hear. Change only happens when a need to adapt arises.Affirmative action/”skewing the playing field” serves an important purpose in prodding diversification along. Women STILL can get talked down to at panels (Genevieve Valentine was pretty much ignored/dismissed AND called “missy” by her panel moderator–a panel at which she was the only female–at Readercon just last week. You can find her posting about this on her blog.) or endure other crappy harrassment just for being female. So yes, forcing diversity IS necessary at this stage in the game.

  17. Possibly of interest: this report from Readercon, both of an incident of harassment, and separately, of some experience being condescended to as the only woman on a panel.

    The bulk of the comments are about the harassment experience, but some commenters seem to think that the gender disparity on the panel (and the treatment of the lone woman) wasn’t without precedent. As I understand it, if you look at any individual panel, there might be no particular reason to insist on gender parity; but the overall pattern is one of imbalance.

  18. My wife had no problem maintaining classroom discipline in those 4 countries. On a panel, that is the job of the Moderator, and the politesse of the panelists. At my wife’s final panel, I think a San Diego Westercon, after she’d been interrupted before completing a sentence, by every panelist, the moderator let random audience members interrupt my wife without pause. Afterwards, the moderator said: This was the first time I ever moderated.” That is the fault of Programming, for not instructing said Moderator.

    We did go together of the Nevada Worldcon, but apart from chatting with friends in the SFWA Suite, and watching the Hugo Awards Ceremony, my wife mostly hung out in the pool, and restaurants. She will probably skip Chicon. Cons lose. My wife returns to speaking at international science conferences, where her expertise and public speaking skills are appreciated. By the way, she was Convenor of the Dialectic Society, the oldest debate society in the world, at Edinburgh University. Other members includes Tony Blair. It’s not that my wife doesn’t know the tactics and strategy, she’s just too polite to tell dicks that they are dicks. Except to tell me, of course.

  19. @ Bearpaw, Don’t worry, I will take care of it. First, I need to figure out how to retelomerase cells without causing cancer, (I think, it is related to non destructively taking a genetic sample of every cell in a person’s body, then averaging the result and writing that back into each cell, then injection of telomerase through a viral vector.) Next, I just need to figure out how to fix the economy, without raising taxes, then, I will get back to the gender equality thing. Lets schedule it for next Thursday.

  20. @ Anemone Flynn: “… affirmative action is just another way of skewing the playing field.”

    Except when it’s being used as a way to try to unskew the playing field.

  21. I think that considering and encouraging diversity for the panels is a great move. Assuming these events have been traditionally male, trying to make it a more inclusive event will likely feel contrived at first. But women need to see other women doing these kinds of things and they may get inspired to participate more themselves. It is tough to be what you can’t see portrayed. It is usually going to be tough for those pioneers (male and female) to make change and hold the door open, but as people grow up seeing that this is a valid and normal way of living.

    But, as some other posters were mentioning, the diversity and quality of ideas on the panel is as important. If we were trying to have a discussion about social roles in the US, we wouldn’t want just SWM who don’t acknowledge their privilege and fill out the rest of the panel with only females who believe women should be insubordinate to men since they’re all really on the same page ideologically. If females with different views were unwilling to participate, then it would make sense to have an all-male panel with the different viewpoints represented because keeping token women with a certain viewpoint turns those women into representatives and spokespersons for ALL women. We wouldn’t want to give the impression that all women think/feel that way. That wouldn’t be as problematic for white males since we already realize an individual white man’s perspective is merely his own opinion. (Women, as a socially disadvantaged group compared to men, may need to feel really safe to be able to express their opinion in a public forum…If men get up there and state the kind of things that these women would say, the men could be creating that safer environment for the women by making those ideas less taboo and more acceptable. That way women might feel more comfortable participating next time. I don’t know too many women who want to open themselves up to having to defend themselves against exhausting status quo-based attacks that don’t really give value to their unique perspectives and ideas. Though ultimately the women need to be able to speak for themselves, but they’ll probably need extra support and encouragement at first.)

    I’m not that great at expressing myself so I hope I’m making sense. First time for me commenting on this site as I visited for the first time after having just read “Lowest Difficulty Setting” and all the comments. Very educational.

  22. Thanks for the link John. As a con-runner currently planning programming for an upcoming convention, it is good to know about issues like this. I will likely take this to my panel planning committee and see if we need to make any adjustments to our planning.

    That said, my gut feel is that our con is about as well balanced as can be expected. Why I think that:

    First: I just did a guest count and got 48 women and 43 men. Pretty close to parity there with a slight bias towards women.

    Second: Half our panel planning committee are women and everyone on the committee has diverse interests and backgrounds

    Third: We encourage panel suggestions from our entire staff (also gender split about 50/50) AND we request panel ideas from all of our guests via survey AND each guest gets a second survey to tell us which potential panels interest them THEN we pick which panels we put on the grid.

    Fourth: We try to pick panel topics that cover a wide range of interests & tastes. Then we try to give the panels engaging names and entertaining descriptions.

    Fifth: We try to match guests with panels based on their expressed preferences. This means that any gender inequality is being introduced by the guests themselves.

    That isn’t to say that we don’t pick and choose who goes on what panel. We do. However, we also factor in everything from individual arrival/departure schedules, time preferences (no morning panels, no back-to-back, etc), who wants to be on a panel with who (or more importantly NOT on a panel with someone), track scheduling, which guests would be better performers on which panels (a wholely subjective judgement), track balancing, and so on. Balancing gender would just be one more question we could ask ourselves as we finalize.

    Being someone who lives on the “easy setting”, I’m aware that where I may see balance, others may see gross injustice. So it is never a bad idea to be mindful of issues.

    After all if you aren’t mindful, how can you expect to make your con awesome?

  23. But, as some other posters were mentioning, the diversity and quality of ideas on the panel is as important

    To me this line reads like a concession that maybe diversity and quality of ideas might just barely be as important as gender diversity or whatever other diversity metric is the order of the day. I attend a lot of panels and from my view point, the diversity and quality of ideas is significantly more important. The point of the panel is discussion of the subject of the panel; otherwise it’s time to go hang out in the consuite for a while.

  24. Mike, why are you so invested in the idea that quality and inclusivity are opposites, and never the twain shall meet?

  25. @Wei;
    I appreciate that this is your first comment after reading “Lowest Difficulty” and I appreciate the effort that you’re making. This is not intended to single you out or make you feel bad. I wanted to point out a couple of unconscious turns of phrase in your post that are worth thinking about:

    women need to see other women doing these kinds of things

    This may be true, but men also need to see women doing these kinds of things. It’s not just women who need the bolstering of self-confidence that comes from seeing people like oneself doing things. Men also need to see and get used to women in these positions and in these roles. This relates to a perhaps merely unfortunate choice of word later in the post:

    fill out the rest of the panel with only females who believe women should be insubordinate to men

    Insubordinate implies disobedience and naughtiness. Women who are not subordinate to men are neither of these things. They are women who are not subordinate to men. In fact, no women are inherently subordinate to men, only women whose profession places them with men as their bosses are really subordinate., and only in that context. This doesn’t mean that some men don’t perceive women as less than, subordinate, there to take orders or take care of them, etc.

    These types of unconscious word use and phrasing show that our culture still is very much in the early stages of attempting any kind of gender parity. This means that conscious attention needs to be paid to showing all participants that women have brains and are more than the “token female” on the panel- in fact they can be there because they are smart, informed, and have insightful things to say, just like the male panelists. It won’t “just happen”. It never “just happens.” And it hasn’t happened yet- we still have to make it happen and make it keep happening.

  26. I think some commentors miss the point of trying for diversity on panels. For years women (or blacks, Hispanics, Asians) were not on panels simply because they were FBHA. This limited opportunities well beyond stilted panel chat. To ensure that there is diversity now is just a matter of trying to right that wrong. To say those things shouldn’t matter now is true on its face but ignores the real damage done earlier and minimizes efforts to undo some of it.

  27. Any panel that features dancing bikini ladies should also feature Chippendale dance dudes. It’s only fair. (Except to the panelists themselves, who may find the slack-jawed audience off-putting.)

  28. Frankly @ 4:09 PM,

    Let me acknowledge again that I’m a SWM. So my views on this issue may rightfully be judged with some skepticism.

    That said, I need to take issue with your point. If it is “true on its face” that the past wrongs have been (largely) righted, then can’t we all move on from the errors of the past and deal with the issues of the present? Granted, there’s still room for improvement (e.g., the Readercon blog post from Ms. Valentine) … but can we not agree that, at some point, the balance has been materially restored to what it should have been all along and the issue becomes one of quality rather than diversity?

  29. I see someone else mentioned that we hadn’t won the Hugo for JP but for The Drink Tank (unless you’ve got inside info and we won THIS years!).

    The thing I took away from reading all the pieces (other than very blurry eyes from staying up until 4am fiddling with the layout!) is that Gender Parity is one of those issues that has a lot of sides that all make sense when I try to wrap my head around their thinking.
    Chris

  30. I should stay out of this but… oh what the hell. Some thoughts, not in any particular order:

    1) I think we need to determine what we mean by diversity on panels. I’d find it artificial to insist on every panel including roughly equally male and female members, but perfectly reasonable to say that overall the presenters at a medium to large con should be roughly 50/50 across all panels.

    2) Pursuing some perfect 50/50 balance is less important than getting it about right. If it’s 45/55 one year then 55/45 the next, eh, that strikes me as working just fine. We can probably say we’re succeeded when people no longer raise the issue of there only being a smattering of women on the panels at most cons.

    3) Geeks need to learn social skills. There’s no excuse for what Mr Vos Post’s wife experienced. None. People who are over the top rude should be removed from the con and their pass revoked. In all cases the moderator needs to fricking MODERATE. Expectations need to be set and enforced. If some guy geeks don’t like that, tough shit. Post-con feedback that indicates moderators didn’t do this should mean that they don’t get asked to moderate again.

    4) I don’t know if this is an issue in SFF but in technology some con organizers have related that they ask well-known women with relevant experience to speak but get turned down more often that when they ask men. Again, might not be an issue in SFF, but if it is, then prospective female panelists need to figure out why they’re turning down opportunities. This might point to burdens the men aren’t expected to shoulder (kids, etc), but if there is a higher decline rate among prospective female panelists, the causes for that need to be explored and dealt with.

  31. @Nick:

    but can we not agree that, at some point, the balance has been materially restored to what it should have been all along and the issue becomes one of quality rather than diversity?

    No, I can’t agree with that. When I work in a bookstore where men (yes, it’s always men) come in and tell me that they do not read female science fiction writers because they are women (and yes, it happens more than you’d care to think) then we’re not in balance. If this guy won’t read a book by a woman, why would he be interested in listening to her point of view on a panel? At least if she’s included on a panel with men that he’s interested in listening to, she’s got a shot a being heard. One that she never would get otherwise. Same with any other non-white-straight-male author.

    Especially when I ask such a man about his favorite writers so I can make him a recommendation and he tells me C.J. Cherryh, totally unaware that one of his favorite writers is female. Just think, if he’d only known that, he’d have had to avoid her and find a different favorite!

    The issue is not one of quality. It’s one of perceived quality, based on prejudice.

    The idea being put forth by some posters here is that having women on a panel automatically makes it less/interesting/relevant/good. Some posters are implying that having women on the panel will automatically lower the quality of that panel and make it about diversity instead of… whatever that panel is supposed to be about. Isn’t that kind of a bad assumption to make? Kind of like assuming you won’t like a writer’s work because she is female. Or that women won’t do as well in college. Or aren’t as good at math.

  32. @Jacqie: “some posters here is that having women on a panel automatically makes it less/interesting/relevant/good.”

    it’s especially funny for people like me whose experience is the opposite – my impression is that the better panels I’ve seen have had a decent diversity of participants. I’d prefer to have more panels with two random female fans and three male authors to get a gender balance if that’s what it takes, because I’ve seen enough with two male fans that I think I can live without seeing any more. And it’s not as though there aren’t women out there if organisers dig a bit. Sure, they might not be able to find a woman who’s an expert on the exact thing the first guy who volunteers is an expert on, but women who know stuff and are interesting to listen to are not in short supply. If, of course, you listen to women.

  33. Jacqie:

    “The idea being put forth by some posters here is that having women on a panel automatically makes it less/interesting/relevant/good. Some posters are implying that having women on the panel will automatically lower the quality of that panel and make it about diversity instead of… whatever that panel is supposed to be about.”

    I did not see those comments. Can you please point me to them?

    Thanks

  34. Granted, there’s still room for improvement (e.g., the Readercon blog post from Ms. Valentine) … but can we not agree that, at some point, the balance has been materially restored to what it should have been all along and the issue becomes one of quality rather than diversity?

    Hm. I think that’s an assumption that should be checked. What we assume may not be the case. I’m thinking about the kerflunkle about the stage play THE NIGHTENGALE in San Diego, where most of the parts of a play set in China were filled with non-Asians. Much of the discussion by non-Asians simply assumed that Asian actors were getting cast in rough proportions to the population, when Asian theatre folks know that they aren’t getting cast unless the part specifically is written to be Asian. Similarly, let’s document and make sure that there is balance–it’d be an unpleasant surprise to find out that the ratios at some cons were actually 75/25 or 80/20……

  35. @gwangung: isn’t there where we say “the minority get to decide when we have achieved balance”? It’s well documented that to a majority person about half equitable representation seems right. Especially if we’re looking at input rather than presence.

    The more I think about it the more unhappy I am with the comment above suggesting that what we need is a single person who fulfils all the minority tags. That’s pernicious. And the implication is that we can then fill the rest of the panel with SWM and not think about it any more. Wrong. What we need is a range of people with a range of attributes. It’s akin to saying that what we need to make a good panel is Wil Wheaton. He’s the only {insert list}. Clearly, without that exact set of attributes we can’t have a decent panel. {head explodes}

  36. @Mythago Mike, why are you so invested in the idea that quality and inclusivity are opposites, and never the twain shall meet?

    I think the choice of the word inclusivity instead of diversity change the semantics a bit. It suggests that I’m saying female panelists shouldn’t be included. I’m saying that it’s more important to select panelists on the basis of interest & expertise than on maintaining a particular gender ratio. As another poster pointed out, if we extend diversity to include race and insist that every four person panel has two men & two women, two whites & non-whites then it gets even more complicated.

    If the pool of potential female panelists is low because female panelists aren’t historically well treated by other panelists or the audience, then some malleting is in order. I recently saw an account of women new to programming being given the cold shoulder at a software workshop by a bunch of guys refusing to help “n00bs with b00bs”, and none of the other men said a word. This isn’t acceptable, but the remedy isn’t to just look at the available pool of panel volunteers and just say, “this panel needs one more woman, so I’ll boot the guy who normally writes in the genre, or the male scientist with experience in the field, to pluck a random female whose interests generally lie elsewhere.”

    Who is the prominent author who recently announced that if he’s seated on a panel with an insufficient number of women, he will give his seat to a random female volunteer in the audience (or perhaps he was merely thinking about adopting the policy)? Now granted sometimes authors end up on panels and openly wonder why they were chosen for that particular panel, but assuming that the author was chosen because he was a suitable panelist for the subject, it’s fairly likely that antics like would reduce the interest of the audience, particularly for those who came to the panel because he was a listed panelist.

    Some panels are going to have a gender skew because of the subject. Not just in the panelists, but in the audience. If every panel at the con skews in the same direction, then perhaps the panel topics weren’t well chosen. Actually, I must admit, I don’t know what the gender mix is at a typical SF con.

  37. gwangung,

    I’m off this thread for a while, may come back to it later. But your point, I think, is misplaced. We are not talking about actors and stage plays. We are talking about SF conventions and panels. My position, which “Frankly” acknowledged was not simply the preception of a SWM who is blind to reality, is that I did not see a lack of diversity or a lack female representation on panels at Renovation. Hey, it’s just one data point. I get that. But it was a big one, yes?

    What I liked were panels with good panelists; what I didn’t like (and walked out on) were panels with bad panelists.

    To sum up my POV, I’m open to being challenged that the results are still not good enough, that we all need to focus on better diversity. But my view is that the Con programmers should focus on the quality of the participants first, because a low-energy or disengaged panelist is not happy-making (for me), regardless of gender or ethnicity. I’m where I am because I did not notice a startling lack of diversity at the Con Panels I attended. If I had seen such, I would be in strong favor of newer, more diverse voices.

  38. Nick said at 4:30, commenting on Frankly@4:09:”That said, I need to take issue with your point. If it is “true on its face” that the past wrongs have been (largely) righted, then can’t we all move on from the errors of the past and deal with the issues of the present?”

    But Frankly didn’t say that. E said at 4:09:”To say those things shouldn’t matter now is true on its face but ignores the real damage done earlier and minimizes efforts to undo some of it.”

    Not that past wrongs have been righted, but that it shouldn’t matter any more that past wrongs happened.

    Unfortunately, it *does* still matter:
    – Because the bias from “who do we know that are interesting panelists”…are still largely male, because “who do we remember that are panelists” are still largely male.
    – Because the bias from “‘writer’/’fan’/’panelist’, unqualified == male” still exists, we have the issue (that I frequently hear on BBC radio) where there are 4 panelists, and, of course, one of them is female. One of them might be Asian, too, or Scottish, or Black; sometimes they even get the “Uhura” double-win (and yes, I’m being sarcastic).
    – Because if we’re talking about a TV/movie panel, the problem demonstrated by the Bechdel test applies (which I will freely admit is frequently caused by the above ” ‘actor’, unqualified == male” bias); when there’s one female lead, and 3 male leads, in every show, and you need to find 4 people for your con,… (*)

    We probably don’t have to do 45%-women quotas now. We don’t fail if we have an all-male panel now. We probably do still have to have “can I think of a woman who would make a good commentator on this panel?” in our minds when setting panels so that the biases that yes, shouldn’t exist, but still do, are balanced out. Eventually we won’t have to do that; at which point we win. Having seen what I’ve seen in my world (which is not commonly SF, I must admit), we’re not here yet.

    (*) I need to repeat, I think, that failing the Bechdel test isn’t necessarily bad – Moon couldn’t, of course, for instance; Fight Club and Blues Brothers, for different reasons, probably wouldn’t have worked as well if they *didn’t* fail the test. But there are so many shows that fail the test *for no reason*, except that there are women’s parts and there are actor’s parts, and the actors all get cast to males. Like “gender parity” or “male gaze”, “failing the Bechdel test” is simply something one should think about and make a conscious decision to do, for exactly the same reasons we’re talking about.

  39. The idea being put forth by some posters here is that having women on a panel automatically makes it less/interesting/relevant/good. Some posters are implying that having women on the panel will automatically lower the quality of that panel and make it about diversity instead of… whatever that panel is supposed to be about. Isn’t that kind of a bad assumption to make? Kind of like assuming you won’t like a writer’s work because she is female. Or that women won’t do as well in college. Or aren’t as good at math.

    Suppose that we chose to program a con with a rule such that half of all panel participants will have an even badge number and half will have an odd badge number. Then program the same con with he same pool of volunteers without the badge number rule. The second con will tend to have pools of panelists more specifically suited to the panels on which they appear. It doesn’t mean that the even numbered members won’t do as well in college or aren’t as good at math.

  40. As a note, I would say folks who have not downloaded and read this issue of Journey Planet should do so — many of the points raised in this thread are addressed (or at least breached) there.

  41. OGH, having read that issue I’m kinda grumpy with some of the writers. But I’m not inclined to go over there and huff because I’m not their audience and never will be. For all that writing about writing is better than dancing about architecture, I’m not convinced that it’s worth while for me as a reader.

    Suffice to say that my take on the word “privilege” is that it suffers the same problem as euphemisms do. Since it described an uncomfortable reality, it becomes associated with it. Any other word will suffer the same fate. It’s like, say, “gay”. Used to mean happy and joyful. Got taken up by filthy disgusting homosexuals. Became filthy and disgusting. I suggest the same thing will happen to whatever word we use to mean “you have advantages that are systematically denied to others, and that is bad”. Several of the pieces in that magazine appear to disagree with my position but don’t even try to suggest why it might be wrong. I think they stopped at “I feel uncomfortable, and that is wrong”.

    One example: the term “elite”. Used to mean “best of the best”. Now means “up themselves”. An elder in our RWDB party recently bagged out “bicycle riding inner city elites” quite savagely. Amusingly, it slipped his mind that the leader of his party is one of those elites. But the point is that to many people, even around the time of the giant sponsorship opportunity in the city of our great queen*, the term “elite” is now derogatory.

    * trying to avoid offending those who own the various words associated with the event.

  42. @Anemone Flynn:
    I’m a girl. And I’m pretty much with Ralf The Dog’s last comment: I don’t think that women should be on panels just because they are women

    I totally agree with you, but not sure I’ve heard anyone (least of all women themselves) making that argument without very heavy snark attached. Inviting someone to be on a panel because, to put it bluntly, you need a token vagina to shut those damn feminists up for another year you’re not only being a patronising ass but kind of missing the point about diversity – and not only on the gender tip. (And, yes, having panels about “feminine concerns” or minority/GLBT creators are great. But they don’t get cons a mission accomplished cookie either.)

    Genuine diversity isn’t just about mainstream tokenism or putting women/minorities/GLBT folks in their own little panel ghetto. It’s about doing the good faith work involved in extending your contacts and frame of reference beyond your comfort zone; seriously asking yourself if the same half a dozen straight white guys who seem to end up on this kind of panel every damn time are really the only people you can find who have something insightful or entertaining to say. Here’s a hint: The answer is probably no.

  43. Jumping off my snarkish alternate personality, Lets say, we had a panel on hard science in science fiction and if there is a moral/educational responsibility to keep the science clean, or at a minimum, make the divergence clear. (Sorry for the long run on.) Would a woman have a different perspective than a man? Lets say, we have a panel on SETI, the Fermi Paradox and signal degradation do to interstellar dust. Would the female perspective be different? How about authors talking about book length and if a short focused story is better than some long rambling drivel?

    Is the point to get more perspectives, or is it to shove more females on the stage? If the point is to give more women a chance to speak and fewer women wanted to participate, should the organizers bonk a woman on the head, then drag her on stage? “We have a panel on how science fiction portrays American Football. Quick, shoot Susan with a trank gun before she gets to the door!”

    Note: I seem to be taking the anti diversity position in this augment. That is weird, as I would like to see more women on the panels (No, I am not talking about the bikini backup dancers.)

  44. Moz Again: The more I think about it the more unhappy I am with the comment above suggesting that what we need is a single person who fulfils all the minority tags. That’s pernicious. And the implication is that we can then fill the rest of the panel with SWM and not think about it any more. Wrong. What we need is a range of people with a range of attributes.

    Yeah, pretty much. Diversity, inclusiveness is an all encompassing and should be integrated throughout programming, and not just on the usual demographic suspects.

    Nick from the O.C.:
    Um, I think you missed my point entirely, which was to unpack your assumptions and re-examine them.

  45. Hey Moz Again (and everyone else), we’d love to have your comments on the issue sent our way. You’ve raised some fine points and I’d love to be able to have a letter of comment that makes them in the following issue.
    Chris

  46. Is the point to get more perspectives, or is it to shove more females on the stage? If the point is to give more women a chance to speak and fewer women wanted to participate, should the organizers bonk a woman on the head, then drag her on stage? “We have a panel on how science fiction portrays American Football. Quick, shoot Susan with a trank gun before she gets to the door!”

    @Ralf The Dog: I’m not sure what you done except snark to death a straw woman argument nobody is making. I’ll pretend you were being serious, though. Perhaps convention organisers could attract more women panelists by not having them go through the awful harassment and piss poor panel moderation Genevieve Valentine was subjected to at Readercon this year, and writes about on her blog.

    Also, really interesting assumption that the only way you could find a geek girl with anything to say on manly sports in genre fiction is to knock ‘em out and drag ‘em on the stage… Don’t women get into (or write about) sports other than the WPGA on your planet? Intriguing *raise eyebrow in Spock-ian manner*

    Could you be open to the possibility it’s not the women who are the problem here?

  47. My point was, if you can’t find a woman who wants to do a panel on professional wrestling in the 27th century, do you make someone do it by force? (Just because, many women are into American football, that does not insure, there will be a qualified token female for that talk.)

    If I were at a convention, and someone came up to me and said, “We have a panel on 27th century tax auditing, We need a token crazy person who thinks he is a talking dog to fill out the demographic requirements. You are it.” I would be very offended.

    The idea of picking some random fan from the audience and promoting them to the panel is even more offensive. “We don’t have anyone qualified, so we will go with you instead.”

  48. Oh for god’s sake…

    “My point was, if you can’t find a woman who wants to do a panel on professional wrestling in the 27th century, do you make someone do it by force? ”

    No and you’re not that dense. The entire point is to invite women as well as men to be on that panel, not just (or predominantly) men. Is that REALLY not clear to you? Is that really all that hard for the commenters here to understand? It’s one thing if there aren’t any women who would be a fit for a given panel, but in most cases there are probably plenty of women who can sit on most panels and contribute just as much as the men. So, con organizers should ask them.

  49. @Christopher J Garcia: you’re welcome to quote from my comments as a letter if you like. To me, I feel that I’d be picking on a couple of contributors who I know nothing about. I’m in broad agreement with many of the contributors, that what we need is more awareness and direct consideration of equality rather than strict quotas. I don’t want to spend the time to write a researched critique of the two things in there that really annoy me: the “use a different word” and “tokens are always wrong” arguments. I think both have been proved wrong but remain popular arguments. So there’s a case that you should publish those opinions so people can point out the flaws. I’m just not inclined to do that work for you or your readers.

    I accept the “no token” argument from someone who is saying “I don’t want to be the token”, because being the token is hard work. But when someone argues that “half the people are tokens” I think they’ve lost sight of what a token is. Even the limited “no-one should ever be the token” doesn’t work, because it eliminates the possibility of incremental change. It’s asking us to jump straight from “no X” to “lots of X” without ever letting ourselves have just one X. That’s even more problematic when X is not common. When we’re talking about (say) GLB presenters we’re drawing from a smaller fraction of the population so refusing to allow the possibility of having only one GLB presenter means that small panels or cons can’t have GLB presenters at all. It’s even worse when we’re considering representation of smaller groups like Muslim-Australians or non-gender-binary people.

    My experience in this is limited to being “the cyclist” on transport panels and “the out GLBQTO engineer” (and “one of the three male feminist studies students”) but I hope that my attempts to generalise make sense.

  50. @Dave McCarty: I’m not sure how that qualification is relevant. I suggest it’s actually exclusionary. It’s equivalent to “presenters have always been men, therefore only men have valid opinions about who is a suitable presenter”.

    You’re also asking for personal disclosure as the price for consideration. Which is in itself bad. Not least because it overwhelmingly happens to minorities.

  51. This is strange, we all agree. No, we don’t want quotas. No, we don’t want discrimination. Yes, we do want qualified people who want to be on the panel and have interesting stuff to say. Organizers should ask people from all demographics to be on panels, not based on race, religion, gender or personal grooming habits. (I have no problem with discrimination, based on frequency of taking showers, however, I am willing to be open minded, as long as I am out of the smell radius.)

    RE: GLB presenters, there is a specific class of actions that make a GLB person GLB I would hope, no one will be performing those actions while on stage. (Even the bikini backup dancers.) As long as those actions are not engaged in on stage, I do not see how this is relevant.

  52. gwangung,

    Yes, I did miss your point about documenting the actual diversity in con panels. That’s fine if somebody feels the need. But I was there and I saw what I saw. My assumption, if you will, was that my perception of Renovation is the reality… and I freely admit that my one (large) data point may not represent the entire universe. No need to unpack (I think).

    We can have a separate non-deraily discussion about the perceived need to cast ethnic parts with the actual ethnicities some other time. Having been part of a theater company for a bit of time, I have a an opinion on that (natch). The first part of your comment triggered that and I missed the last part. Sorry about that!

  53. A decade or two back, someone floated the suggestion that the government of my home state should only hire women until gender parity was reached on the state employment rolls. That idea, of course, went nowhere. But I remember a poll someone took, which asked first, “should this happen?” No, said the respondents, it’s not fair to set a quota, and certainly not one that draconian. Second question was, “are there enough qualified women in the state to fill the jobs?” Overwhelmingly the respondents said yes, we’ve got plenty of competent women who’d do a fine job. The poll stuck with me because I found it really encouraging, like there was progress happening in people’s hearts and minds.

    What I’m hearing from some of the folk here is that no, you don’t believe there are enough competent women in greater SF/F to fill even half the slots on a con’s worth of panels. That you believe the white guys currently filling the podium must be the best possible panelists, because… well, because they’re already on the podium. That any woman who’s up there with the men is a dancing bear, notable not for how well she dances but that she’s dancing at all.

    Kinda discouraging.

  54. @ iii, I don’t think you get the point. I would have no problem with an all women panel, if they happened to be the best for that discussion. I would have no problem with an all male program. If a qualified woman or man was excluded, because of their gender, I would be quite pissed. If the talk is about stories related to fuzzy green aliens and you have three male writers that have stories about fuzzy green aliens, don’t kick one of them off to put on a female writer who does stories about glittering vampires. If the talk is about military alien invasion stories and you have three women who write military alien invasion stories and one guy who writes books about cars that talk, don’t kick a militant chick for the talking car dude.

    Start with the subject, then fit the best panelists in. If you have a very cool writer, you might tailor a talk for her or him. That said, focus on what those who attend the con want, then structure the panels around those wishes.

    Picture David Brin doing a panel on magical butterflies at a school that teaches kids to cast spells while J. K. Rowling gives a talk about the ethics of genetically upgrading animals to human intelligence or better. I would love to see Rowling give a talk on how an author should relate to readers at different age levels. I would not want to see her give a lecture on molecular biology and how it relates to storage of ideas on the international level.

  55. Flat out: You know what? If you read the original post and your first concern was quality control *you* are part of the problem being discussed.

    What do these kinds of comments that imply “panels with women are less interesting” look like?

    “Look, it’s all about the quality. I don’t see gender, just gender neutral speech bubbles full of win or fail.”

    “What’s the difference between the sexes on [hard science techno babble]? If they’re just going to say the same thing as a man, how could they possibly improve the panel?”

    “It would be wrong to force women to participate. If they aren’t up there, they must not be interested. Uninterested or mandated participation would damage interestingness of panels.”

    “Is there a problem? I’m not sure. I realize a modicum of google-fu would reveal troves of first person con experiences supporting exactly the concern at hand. Yet, I went to a convention once. I believe there were women panelists. The panels that were good were good.”

    “I only notice interesting people. And conventions are interesting. Isn’t it possible that if we fiddle with the interesting people paneling interesting panels we might make it uninteresting?”

    “How could you possibly argue that we subject paying congoers to the ravings of unqualified random particpants selected solely because of some arbitrary identifying characteristic? Men are waiting to explain this to you.”

    “I know more examples of male SF/F or technical experts. I assume this is representative of the possible pool. Women should not be called upon to speculate at a speculative fiction convention anyways.”

    Honestly, if you have even the slightest doubt that the expert pool of non-SWM panelists could cover entire conventions *you* are part of the problem.

    Less intense TL;DR: You’re planning a panel and you start with a very diverse list of people and through happen stance, conflicts and bail outs you wind up with an unbalanced panel, it happens. But, if everytime it happens it means there’s 5 or 6 straight white middle aged dudes up there you’ve got a fundamental problem. And there should be active steps taken to deliberately correct that fundamental problem.

  56. Ralf, your hypothetical is off-point, distracting, and frankly shows that you aren’t paying attention. No one’s talking about kicking a guy off a hard-SF panel in favor of Jacqueline Susann. But if you have four panel slots and six guys and three women who are willing and qualified to discuss the issue, there’s no reason NOT to pick two men and two women, assuming the qualifications are roughly similar, and there’s your balanced representation. And if some guy miffed because a woman “took his slot,” well, maybe keeping him off this panel will go a ways toward ameliorating the underlying problem, won’t it?

    Now, having said that, I’m taking part in a panel in a month that’s about as homogeneous as you could imagine. It’s probably too late to fix this panel, but this discussion has me thinking about paying closer attention to panel makeup in the future, and I hope that’s slight progress. And I can address the issue from the rostrum, putting the idea out there for the attendees as well, and I hope that counts for something. (Yes, this is a mea culpa.)

  57. My point was, if you can’t find a woman who wants to do a panel on professional wrestling in the 27th century, do you make someone do it by force? (Just because, many women are into American football, that does not insure, there will be a qualified token female for that talk.)

    Perhaps this is unfair, Ralf, but I’m not overly confident you’d make a good faith effort to try. Here’s a true story, with names omitted to protect the clueless.

    Once upon a time, there was a literary festival that had scheduled a panel on sportswriting. The four chaps on the program were articulate, clever and all around great talent. But nobody even considered asking the heavily promoted, best-selling overseas guest who’d just published an enormously entertaining and popular memoir about her four years as a SPORTSWRITER , until someone from her publisher suggested it.

    She was added to the panel a week out, and I’m reliably informed that over half of the sell out crowd brought their tickets in that week.

    The thing is, Ralf, her publicist shouldn’t have had to make the suggestion — the programmers who are supposed to make no-brain calls like “gee, let’s ask our headliner if she’d be interested in being on a panel directly related to her latest book” should have. But apparently, why would anyone who’d be interested in the rest of the panel want to listen to a woman.

    I’m not surprised the programmer responsible for that WTF gumbo did not have his contract re-upped.

  58. Other Bill @ 5:20 AM

    “Flat out: You know what? If you read the original post and your first concern was quality control *you* are part of the problem being discussed.”

    What do you believe is the problem being discussed?

    I’m discussing the part of Scalzi’s post on “gender parity” with respect to SF Con Panels. “… having an equal number of male and female panel participants whenever possible.” I didn’t see a significant disparity and said I am more concerned about the quality of the participants than gender. Your perception, and the perceptions of others, might vary. I get that. I can find lots of first-hand complaints that panels at other Cons weren’t as diverse as the huge one I attended; I get that too.

    But since I don’t organize or moderate Con Panels, I’m not clear what problem you think I’m part of. So feel free to set me straight, if you’d care to.

    Perhaps you are having a different conversation than I am, focusing on another aspect of the post. If so, let’s acknowledge and move on.

  59. @Mike, again, you’re setting up a false dilemma where one can have good panels or one can have inclusive panels, but not both. It’s the incorrect assumption that right now, the methods by which speakers end up on panel is 100% based on merit. The point of inclusivity is not to meet a rigid, pointless quota. It’s to encourage people think harder about who they’re selecting. Craig and Other Bill have already addressed this better than I did, but underlying all of your arguments is the assumption that we already have a system totally based on nothing but “get the best person available”. Are con ops badges +4 Protection from Unexamined Prejudices that free their wearer of any unconscious bias? I don’t think so, but maybe I don’t go to the right cons.

    @Dave McCarty: I have. Back in the days before you had to say “tabletop gaming” to distinguish it from “video gaming”, I was an organizer for a gaming con, and was handed the name and phone number of the Mr. Big of the regional miniatures-gaming organization. Get Mr. Big interested, I was told, because then he can run some games, his folks will show up and it will be a good thing for the con.

    I did not reach Mr. Big. I did, however, have my call picked up by Mrs. Big, who said “He’s not here, but you can talk to me about it.” Oh, okay, I said, and gave her my pitch. Turns out that Mrs. Big was also very much into miniatures gaming and did quite a lot of the heavy lifting in the regional organization (though she didn’t get so much of the credit for it), and was as thrilled as pie to have somebody actually talk to her as if she could possibly be competent. Not only did we get our programming (and then some), but they sponsored free giveaways at our con and made damn sure their membership (and its money) knew we were The Place To Be that weekend.

    This was not because I have mad networking skills. It’s because somebody bothered to talk to an extremely well-qualified participant as if she were one.

  60. @Moz: No, what I am asking for is by what authority does anyone who hasn’t done a convention program before state what is and isn’t easy and readily do-able about putting together a massive volunteer effort

    I think the goal for most program folks is to use the best people available (generally without regard to anything other than how good they are on the topic). Is that the right goal? Sure, that’s something reasonable to speak about and I don’t have anything firm to say against someone proposing other metrics for success.

    However, I find most people who haven’t ever put together a program presume a lot more flexibility and available bodies than I have ever seen occur in reality.

    So, for people declaring that it should be easy to swap particpants in and out…I find it reasonable to ask if they have any *actual* experience or data by which to expound on a subject that it sounds to me like they have *no* idea about.

  61. and I don’t have anything firm to say against someone proposing other metrics for success.

    Dave, you do realize that you just said that inclusivity is the enemy of merit. Is that what you meant to say?

    If you are, as you imply, involved in putting convention programs together, then you’re aware that it’s not really just “the best people available”. It’s more like “the best people we thought to ask, or who volunteered.” You’re also aware that it’s not simply who has a free weekend open, but qualities like: how expensive is it to get them here? are they a complete pain in the ass to work with? are they appearing at a lot of other cons so people will be tired of them? do we have a good mix of presenters who cover [various interests and subgenres] so that people will not complain that the con was all about one particular interest while ignoring others?

    Yet we don’t hear people rolling their eyes at such considerations. Nobody complains that these issues are a downward pull on getting the “best” panelists. Nobody asks why a SFF con tries to have panels on both SF and fantasy issues instead of simply getting the “best” panelists, even if it just so happens to result in 90% of the programming being about space opera.

  62. @Mythago: I said no such thing. You can have as many metrics for what you are looking for in a program as you want. If you pick one and focus on it, other metrics (by virtue of not being monitored) will not fare as well. That is life. That does not make one the enemy of the other unless you’re reaching for false duality (which is a common tactic for argument, I will grant). You can pay attention to as many metrics as you wish when assembling a program….you just have to accept that additional metrics are more than “a tiny increase” to the workload of one of the generally overloaded sections of the convention.

    I noted the anecdote you provided above about the great success you had with one participant (Mrs. Big). That’s awesome, but it’s *one* participant. Most programs I have had involvement in have had at least a hundred (and now I am working with one much, much larger). For most conventions that I have been associated with, the element that determines the broad pool of panelists is selected by the participants themselves (those who choose to come to the convention on their own and self select to volunteer for program). The program staff can chase a *few* extras, but they generally have neither the manpower nor time to build the participant pool from scratch.

    Other conventions may be in different circumstances….but my sliver of experience is pretty homogeneous. They work *primarily* with “who shows up”.

    There are lots of jobs at conventions. In my considered opinion, programming is the toughest and is harder than the next 3 hardest jobs combined.

    As I said, I have nothing to say *against* speaking for additional metrics in programming, I just have a problem with people who minimize the effort of a job they’ve never done.

  63. @Dave: at 10:40 you said that the goal of most programming is to use “the best people available”, with “best” defined as how good a person is on the topic of the programming in question; you then refer to inclusivity as an “other” metric. That does in fact say that inclusivity is a separate and wholly unrelated metric, and in 11:55 you state that focusing on one metric means that others “will not far as well”. I can’t see any other way to read that, particularly in light of your second statement, than ‘if you focus on inclusivity it will hurt getting the “best” panelist’. I’m happy to listen if you believe I am mistaken.

    Con programmers (who, as I think we both agree, are imperfect, often overworked, and trying to manage a scrillion moving parts at once) are not selecting panelists out of the whole world of possibilities, purely based on “of the people who can appear in time-slot X, is this person the ‘best’ on the panel topic”? The pool from which they’re selecting is going to be affected if people don’t volunteer – for example, your pool is not going to have Dr. Von Post, who is tired of being shouted down, even if she is 1000% more qualified for that panel than the next guy in line. It’s also going to be affected because, as I’m sure you’ve experienced, nobody volunteers them; nobody says “Hey, you know who you really need to ask? So-and-so, they’re like all about this subject.” And then you get to the selection process, at which point subjective issues, ranging from past experience (“This guy is a doucheloaf, we can’t put him on a panel ever again”) to personal bias (“I LOVE this author!”) come into play.

    In the case of Mrs. Big, the issue wasn’t that she was one person. It’s that she wasn’t in the ‘pool’ because she was overlooked, both by the people who should have said “hey, you know who you should talk to?” and the people asking “who’s available, and good?” And she was overlooked even though she was loudly saying “Hey, you know, *I* can do this.”

  64. @Mythago: Not so much “mistaken” as “seemingly purposefully obtuse”.

    Most metrics for how you assemble a program *are* separate and unrelated…and yes, “best on the topic” is separate from “inclusivity” in most cases. Every panelist has “where they rank” on every metric you choose for every panel in question (someone’s “inclusivity” for any given panel is based on the *other* choices made for participants on that panel).

    So yes, if you only focus on “best on topic”, you may assemble a field of participants that rates a 10…but having ignored “inclusivity”, maybe that would only rate a 4. If you have the time and ability to pay attention to both, perhaps you could assemble a panel that is a 10 for both. You can do this because there is not only *one* “correct” set of panelists who are “the best” for any topic. However, this takes a level of effort that I have seen almost no-one acknowledge.

  65. If, 9 out of 10 panelists who chose to attend are male, You are going to have a lot of male panelists. From what I understand, (I may be wrong), cons don’t go out to recruit most speakers. They advertise their convention and the speakers write in to say, “Can I attend?” Perhaps, one solution would be to advertise, “We want more woman panelists.”

    Early on in this discussion, there was talk about fixed quotas (Perhaps, I was reading wrong). I think, everyone would agree, if the cons were to mandate, X percentage of speakers were to be left handed or have brown hair, this would degrade the quality of the event. If they were to require one in four panelists had type O negative blood, this would degrade the quality of the event. People who are left handed, have brown hair or type O negative blood are every bit as good of a speaker as those right handed blonds with +AB. The problem is, when you operate from a reduced population to restore a demographic balance, you do reduce quality.

    If you want more women to be panelists, as I said in the first paragraph, advertize that you want more women and hope some show up. (You could call it marsCon!)

  66. @David, I am operating under the assumption that if you don’t agree with me 100%, it is because we may see things differently or need to dissect the issue further – not because you are selfishly and maliciously refusing to see my point. I would appreciate the same courtesy from you.

    I disagree strongly that all those metrics are wholly unrelated, particularly as “best on the topic” is a little squishy. (Best meaning most knowledgeable? Good at explaining it? Able to get others enthused?) This is particularly true when you’re assembling a panel of people rather than, say, selecting a speaker.

    If you assemble a panel of people who, individually, each rate a 10 on ‘experience with subject’, your panel is not a 10 if Panelist #1 demands to be put up in a penthouse suite at the con, Panelist #2 drones on until the audience never wants to hear about the topic again, and Panelist #3 talks over everyone. If you assemble a panel of knowledge 7s who are funny, charming and work well with each other, the audience and con ops, then your panel is a 10.

    There is a lot of effort put into juggling many factors already. I don’t see asking “are we just inviting the same five dudes we already know?” and “how can we get a more inclusive set of panels?” and “are we doing anything that causes great panelists not to volunteer?” as back-breaking additional duties.

    @Ralf, advertising that you want to include women as eye candy probably won’t get many women to volunteer, eh?

  67. @Jacqie
    I don’t think that we really disagree, but I also think you may have misinterpreted what I intended. Probably it was due to me not explaining my thoughts well.
    Yes, I agree that men also need to see women doing this as that is part of what brings a certain practice into the norm.

    On the latter, I consciously chose the word, but made an unfortunate typo due to tiredness and inexperience with commenting. I meant “subordinate” not “insubordinate”. I was trying to say that I would like to see an ideologically diverse panel. That would not look like one containing men and women if the men did not believe there was a problem with maintaining their “privilege” and the status quo and if the women consider themselves (and all women) to be subordinate. These two groups, despite having different genitalia are not fully representing the kinds of diverse non-status quo viewpoints out there.

    I agree that having women participate more on the panels won’t just happen, but part of the point I wanted to make (but did so poorly) is that there are some real practical problems that organizers face and there may be some middle steps as we move from only white men’s views to diverse views presented by diverse people. We want to avoid the token female as much as we would want to avoid any “token” minority. Having the token minority may be a foot in the door, but it poses several problems. One being that this person may be seen as the voice of their entire sub-group, and their words and actions may be generalized to their entire group. That’s why early women in the workplace had to be twice as good as the men at the same job to get some respect and show it is possible. It’s not the way it should be, but that’s how it seems to play out. Along those same lines, we as a society need to remember that we can’t stop part way through the transition and feel like our job is done. Sure, the minority foot may be in the door, but things aren’t really equal until it is commonplace for the voices and ideas we hear from leaders and positions of authority are in about the same proportion as the demographics of the nation. I feel that ultimately good ideas should be accepted as good ideas regardless whether they came from a non-white person’s mind, a female mind, the mind of a disabled person, or the mind of someone in poverty. (It is OK to dismiss bad ideas like teaching intelligent design in science classes, but one needs to consider carefully first whether it really is a bad idea or if it just is different and doesn’t fit one’s preconceived notions or if it just comes from someone that looks or sounds different than oneself)

    I don’t know if this is any more clear. It is a complex issue and I am not a good enough writer to fully express the complexity I feel and think.

  68. @ mythago, I don’t see how a mars needs women joke would cause the panelists to think, attendees would be walking up to hand them $20s on stage. If you want a more diverse group of presenters, you start by saying, we want a more diverse group of presenters.

    RE: best on topic,

    The best panelist is the one who’s name gets people to say, “Wow, Melissa Snodgrass will be presenting on incorporating 14th century South American history into speculative fiction! I must go to this convention.”

    Being A list comes from name recognition and a history of good presentation. If you show up, volunteer, and do a good job, you will build rep. That said, if women never choose to present, they will never get the name to move into the best gigs.

  69. @ Mythago — “I don’t see asking ‘are we just inviting the same five dudes we already know?’ and ‘how can we get a more inclusive set of panels?’ and ‘are we doing anything that causes great panelists not to volunteer?’ as back-breaking additional duties.”

    Yes, I agree FWIW, not ever having performed the role that David is now performing. People do the best they can, but certainly amongst all the chaos, they can and should pause to reflect.

    @Gwangung, I thought about your point and how one might measure gender parity. I went back to the Renovation website and looked at the list of program participants. I did a quick count and I counted 423 participants listed. I printed out the list and put a dot by any name that looked like it belonged to a female. (Not perfect, I know, but when in doubt I assumed male).

    There were 149 dots on my page. 149/423 = 35 percent female in the population of participants. So I would hope that, on the average, there was roughly one-third female participation on the panels. Significantly less, and I would agree further action should be taken. If that was in fact about the average, then I would focus on who is a good panelist and who is less than good, and select on that basis rather than gender.

    I see that others are having a discussion about whether there should be more females in the participant population, so as to enable a better ratio (50/50 would be nice). I’m not going to participate in that discussion because I don’t understand the participant selection process at all; my thoughts would be ill-informed.

    A sincere thanks for getting me to think about how to measure the reality rather than rely solely on my perception of it.

  70. I think the first step is to actively think, when coming up with panel topic ideas, about ones that might naturally skew toward the non-SWM portion of your membership. And maybe do that by asking some non-SWMs (which leaves me out). If some of those are on the schedule, likely that will start to diversify the panelists by itself (as they will likely skew non-SWM, just like their audience). THIS IS DANGEROUS, though; it’s easy to fall into the Pink Panel Ghetto trap – this does not absolve one of trying to find suitable non-SWMs for the other panels.

    The next step is to actively think, when thinking about prospective panelists for each topic, about whether there are non-SWM people “we know” that are, in fact, knowledgable about this topic, and who would give good panel. Not “we need to have two women on this panel”, or “we need to have 40% PoC on every panel”; but “do I know a woman that could do this? Do I know someone who I could ask if they knew a woman who could do this?” That, in itself, will probably find the Elizabeth Bears for Military topics and Debra Doyles for Alternate History panels that might not be the first few to mind, but are there if one thinks.

    The following step is to look at the lineups that got generated from all of that, and do a quick “are we overly testosterone-fuelled here?” (to use the BBC story’s words). If so, do steps 1 and 2 again. If we end up somewhat undiverse, and a good-faith effort has been made to broaden the population of “panelists worth considering”, oh well, it happens. However, if it happens that year on year, 45% of your con-participants are female, but after good-faith effort, only 20% of your panelists are, either your good-faith needs more effort, or your participation statistics are going to change eventually, and not by lots more boys showing up.

    Of course, it might turn out that, after this process, the panels are 65% female, or 72% non-white. Then, look at your participant demographics. If it doesn’t match, then congratulations, you no longer have to worry about bias – it’s time to stop actively pushing against them. And maybe you should do a step 1 & 2 attempt to balance it back, if it’s way too far out. But I bet it won’t, not for a few years.

    Note that nowhere in here have I asked anybody to sacrifice talent; just to broaden the pool being considered by deliberately pushing against historical biases. Who knows, maybe broadening the pool under consideration will *also* get the panels closer to “the best people for the panel”.

  71. Nick:

    Don’t have much to say about your acknowledgement that while you don’t see an issue with diversity on panels, you can recognize that a metric ton of other people do. It’s your priviledge to not have to engage seriously others concerns about diversity. If you really want to understand, make some time to spend an hour over the next week digging around and reading those first hand con experiences. Whether they be the concerns of fans, would be panelees or both. The truth is out there.

    “But since I don’t organize or moderate Con Panels, I’m not clear what problem you think I’m part of. So feel free to set me straight, if you’d care to.”

    Fans absolutely play a role in the programing of large gatherings of fans. It isn’t like lack of diversity on panels is orchestrated by the League of Bigoted Con Programmers – Homogenizing Diversity Since 1954. Take a look at the reaction from JVPs wife after trying to lend her expertise to convention panels.

    Whether you mean it to be or not, pearl clutching over quality concern in response to the Diversity on Panels is a fairly consistently employed derail of the conversation. It presupposes that somehow non-SWMs will increase the challenge presented programmers with creating quality panels.

    Imagine you’re attending a convention, queu yourself for question time. If the panel has a non-SWM participant, congratulate them on the quality of their discussion. (We assume it was good, because you stayed to the end). Then, ask them directly if they had any concerns at the outset of the panel that their non-SWM status might have compromised the programmers ability to create this quality panel. Follow up with inquiry as to whether they took any specific precautions or measures to mitigate that possible disaster. Then congratulate them for their success, whatever the pre-meditated damage control they did, because, again, well done. Conclude by jokily noting – in a complimentary manner – you didn’t even notice that they weren’t a white middle aged dude.

    Because, whether you mean to or not, that’s the conversation that’s happening when people see some sentences about diversity on panels and start having a conversation about programming challenges in quality control.

  72. @Ralf, I’m guessing you still haven’t read the fanzine Scalzi linked to, and I really wish you would. I’m guessing that because you’re still making comments that are addressed in the essays in the ‘zine, including my own. As I allude to, no, not all convention programming heads go out of their way to invite specific program participants to conventions aside from the Guest of Honor, but that doesn’t mean we can’t. We can and I have, and I believe that sort of behavior makes for stronger, more interesting conventions, whose programs seem less recycled from year to year than the conventions that just make do with whomever walks in the door.

    In point of fact, programming heads are generally pretty skeptical about people who contact us directly to tell us we should invite them to be a speaker (with the implication that they should get a complimentary membership). We are a conservative group that pays more attention to third-party recommendations and, of course, our own experiences, than to personal advertising, and we are also a group that often fails to find time to do research and outreach. The lack of outreach to new and different pools of people is a component of a number of problems fandom faces, I believe, including both lack of racial diversity and “the greying of fandom”. That said, some conventions (not all) do have a process or web form or whatnot that invites people in the community to volunteer for programming. Some years, for instance, ConFusion in Michigan (which I’ve chaired three times) has put out a public list of program items that are not yet full and invited interested people to contact us about them. Some years we have not. It depends on the willingness of the Program heads to turn people down, which is sometimes a rather unpleasant process, as some types of people will wig out and start making public accusations about some conspiracy or another if their suggestions are not implemented At Once. There is, it must be admitted, sometimes drama that falls on the heads of conrunners, and an open invitation to the public for program volunteers or suggestions is one route that has been known to invite drama.

    Beyond outreach to new people, however, there is also the (perhaps easier) notion of taking advantage of the full breadth of experience and interests of your existing attendees and participants. The sportswriter guest example given above is a strong one. Similarly, I have been on the programs of quite a few conventions, most of which have included me on the basis of what I am known for in fandom — conrunning and promotion, So This is Your First Con orientation, teaching geeks to dance, talking about how to flirt while respecting boundaries, fanzines, the transatlantic fan fund, and stuff like that. Purely fannish topics not related to my professional work as a Human Factors Engineer in analyzing cognitive work requirements and designing user interfaces for the command and control of semiautonomous robots, submarines, ground troops, and other military units, mainly as a subcontractor for the US military. A couple of years ago I noticed that and I made a point of sending an expanded bio to program departments of the cons where I was invited to be on the program, which I encourage anyone who has had a similar experience to do. I thereafter had a lot of fun participating in a panel at Eastercon on how humans might or might not successfully respond to an Alien invasion.

    Is anyone really an expert on that topic? I don’t know. But as someone who had studied some of the tactics, training, and testing programs as well as some of the most modern technology used by one of the world’s major military organizations, I think I held my own. And I also made the audience laugh, which seemed like a good sign. Unfortunately my schedule changed and I had to leave Renovation before a panel I was really looking forward to participating in, on the use of robotic drones in the military. But I hope future conventions take advantage of my grounding on that and similar topics, because that would be interesting.

    Just like it was interesting helping Scalzi brainstorm on how having a fully informationally inter-networked tactical team would work in a functional sense for Ghost Brigades. :)

  73. A few thoughts in no particular order…

    1) Why not try asking women in the relevant fields/genres to program panels?

    2) Also, we are talking about convention panels here, not political appointments or academic chairs or high-salary jobs. A little affirmative action won’t tip the whole of civilization onto an irreversible march to quotas. So why not give it a try. Let the free market decide. No one is forced to buy convention tickets.

    3) Diversity of perspective and diversity of ideas are related but not synonymous phenomena. People are individuals, not automatons. The circumstances of someone’s birth informs their experiences, but it does not determine how they will think and what they will believe. Logically, if diversity is the goal, it’s best reached by including both diverse perspectives and diverse viewpoints.

    4) In my previous life, when I would interview job applicants, one of the things I looked for was whether they evaluated the merit of others based on gender, race or other superficial characteristics. A man who thought women were inferior workers was as likely to turn out to be dead weight as a woman who thought being a woman made her a better hire.

    5) Talking over other people is grade-school behavior, and even kids should be called on it. If someone does it once accidentally, call them on it. If they apologize and don’t do it again, chalk it up to thoughtlessness, not deliberate rudeness. If they do it again, put your actions where your stated beliefs are. If it’s unacceptable to you, then, if and when someone does it repeatedly to someone else, get up and leave if you’re in the audience, get up and leave after explaining why if you’re on the panel. If the moderator can’t or won’t do his or her job, why should you stay? The fastest way to ensure rude individuals do not amend their behavior is to put up with it.

    Just my 2¢.

  74. @Ralf,the first thing out of your keyboard in response to a discussion of gender parity was to not-really-joke about how you’d love that, as long as the women in question were young things in bikinis. Now, you’re just some random dude on the Internet, but imagine if you were, say, on a con programming committee, or were a person likely to be on a con panel. That attitude, combined with a deliberate decision to announce it (or a lack of enough self-control to refrain from blurting it out) is something that would discourage women from participating. You are not going to get a more diverse group of presenters by saying, in effect, “We’d like a little more diversity IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN, LADIES, AND I THINK YOU DO!!!!”

    Now, perhaps I’m misunderstanding, and it is your intent to say that the primary role women should play in con programming is OMG BOOBIES. That’s certainly your right, but it doesn’t mesh well with a declaration that it would be totally like awesome if more women participated as panelists in the same way that you would expect men to participate – sharing knowledge, encouraging discussion, entertaining attendees, and so on. You should probably pick one or the other, instead of announcing the former but hastily insisting you really meant the latter. It is, shall we say, unpersuasive.

    @Other Bill: You fool! The League of Bigoted Con Programmers has spies everywhere! You’d best get to the safe house before the porcelain helicopters show up for you.

  75. @ Mycroft W

    I think the first step is to actively think, when coming up with panel topic ideas, about ones that might naturally skew toward the non-SWM portion of your membership. And maybe do that by asking some non-SWMs (which leaves me out). If some of those are on the schedule, likely that will start to diversify the panelists by itself (as they will likely skew non-SWM, just like their audience).

    This was bugging me all day, and I finally figured out why. The suggestion itself is fine; a greater diversity of ideas is beneficial all around. But reinforcing the idea that Y is for Fanboys and X is Fangirls is, I think, a mistake. The problem is that so much of culture already reinforces rigid gender-role perceptions that real people don’t slot neatly into, but which many people (who may not themselves fit the pigeonhole carved out for them) nevertheless fall back on when trying to understand someone who’s had a different experience than the one open to them by dint of birth.

    Cat Valente recently wrote a blog post discussing the prevalence in SF of stereotypically male topics such as spaceships and lasers over things like domestic appliances. She also drew on her experience living in Japan where tech in the stereotypically male sphere of activity tends to be a good deal more advanced than tech in the stereotypically female sphere. And she’s absolutely right, but not because men necessarily don’t like replicators or women necessarily don’t like phasers, but because culture skews the things it makes readily available to either gender based on prevailing blue/pink memes, and most people, however good their intentions, go with the status quo so as not to upset everyone by doing it wrong.

    Let me illustrate the Pink Ghetto trap you astutely mentioned, but in a more abstract sense, with my own experience writing women characters in fiction. When I was a teenager, before I’d even discovered how awesome science fiction is, I wrote a lot of really bad historical romance short fiction because I read a lot of historical and romance fiction.

    But I was leery – even knowing no one else would see what I wrote, I still wanted verisimilitude – of writing women point-of-view characters, even though they were not at all uncommon in the aforementioned romance genre. I had “learned” from cultural signals that women thought differently than men. I had also picked up on the fact that many women were unimpressed with how women were portrayed by male authors. I figured that male authors writing women PoV characters had failed to understand the subtle differences and so written them badly. But since I couldn’t figure out what was fundamentally different between the minds of the men and women PoV characters written by the female authors whose work I enjoyed reading, I concluded that the differences must be subtle indeed, and beyond my ken, so I simply avoided writing female PoV characters and my stories were the less interesting for it.

    Only years later, after considerable mental interaction with women dispelled that “learned” myth, did I grok that the problem was not that most male authors had written women PoV characters badly, but that they hadn’t written them at all. Duh!

    Just to repeat, I think your suggestion of more diverse topics is solid, as long as it’s not marketed as venusCon. Nor do I take your recommendation to suggest it should. I meant only to expound on your existing point.

  76. Gulliver –

    It strikes me that 2 and 3 are a bit fence sitting, for my taste – and to each their own – when matched up against the gist of 4. Qualifying this with the notion that it is just as bad when played out in the opposite direction is, in looking at real world consequences, a bit like comparing the traffic impact of a militarized check point and vehicle inspection on the Beltway in DC during evening commute hours to a traffic cop trolling for speeders on a rural road on a Sunday.

    For 5, behavior and manners are the responsibility of the person exhibiting those behaviors and manners. I am not Professor “Hey Don’t Act Like A Bigot It’s Rude Ah Let’s Just Go With X”. But as a SWM, I functionally never have to have that conversation to be treated fairly in that sense. A non-SWM being overlooked – or talked over – because their accomplishments are invisible to some people is not responsible for that over looking. See my previous “If women aren’t present, they must not be interested…” comment. And it is certainly not appropriate to expect even the most resolute of individual to have to have the “Hey, I’m a person too” conversation with every single person – a not insignificant percentage of the total people they encounter in a day – that thoughtlessly acts like a bigot.

  77. @ Other Bill

    It strikes me that 2 and 3 are a bit fence sitting, for my taste – and to each their own – when matched up against the gist of 4.

    Regarding #1: I just think it’s sort of odd to worry about people who say, in effect, I won’t attend conventions with panel quotas. Who needs ‘em? Convention panels are free enterprise, and as such the panel programmers shouldn’t feel compelled to accommodate bigotry.

    Regarding #2: I think it’s a basic observation that our experiences in life influence but do not determine our perspectives and beliefs. So while I think it’s a great idea to have people from diverse backgrounds participating in a discussion, I don’t think that alone means a comprehensive range of ideas are going to be present. Nor do I believe it’s an either/or choice, most especially in speculative fiction where freethinking is commonplace and groupthinking is, I would hazard a guess, less common than the cultural norm. If a diversity of ideas and backgrounds is tough for panel programmers to come by, that tells me they’re not casting a wide enough net, not that the fish are all swimming the same way.

    Qualifying this with the notion that it is just as bad when played out in the opposite direction is, in looking at real world consequences, a bit like comparing the traffic impact of a militarized check point and vehicle inspection on the Beltway in DC during evening commute hours to a traffic cop trolling for speeders on a rural road on a Sunday.

    Didn’t mean to imply it’s just as bad. My point was that in order to get the best developers, engineers and project managers I could, I had to try to suss out whether they thought their qualifications were actually merit based. For everyone who says affirmative action is a unearned advantage, there is a guy who thinks he deserves higher consideration than women for whatever warped reason.

    A non-SWM being overlooked – or talked over – because their accomplishments are invisible to some people is not responsible for that over looking.

    Of course not. But a community that puts up with it isn’t putting their money where their mouth is. My point, which I realize I didn’t make very well, was that if you’re a SWM who sees someone who is getting repeatedly talked over and/or otherwise bullied, and you don’t use whatever influence you have to call the rude individual out on it, you’re encouraging the very thing you claim to oppose. If you’re in the audience, that means leaving. If you’re on the panel, that means using your position to speak against it, and then leaving.

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply and I love your avatar pic :)

  78. Mythago – Unrelated to anything at all, THE TULIPS ARE POTTED, BUT I EXPECT RAIN.

    Gulliver –

    “Didn’t mean to imply it’s just as bad.”

    Something I always try and keep in the back of my mind when I talk about this sort of thing is how many words I’ve used to discuss the impact of bigotry, versus how many words I use to ameliorate (my word for this) concerns that the opposite is just as bad. I think that the ratio of words used should look a lot like the real world impact of the behaviors being discussed.

    Otherwise, I largely agree with what you’re saying, even though I find some of it problemmatic.

    And, thank you.

  79. Other Bill @ July 20th–

    “Whether you mean it to be or not, pearl clutching over quality concern in response to the Diversity on Panels is a fairly consistently employed derail of the conversation. It presupposes that somehow non-SWMs will increase the challenge presented programmers with creating quality panels.”

    Look, there’s a lot of issues to be discussed, but let’s be clear that you’re just making stuff up about what I posted. First, I do not presuppose (either implicitly or explicitly) that diversity is the enemy of quality. It is not. Clear enough?

    Second, I acknowledge that some Cons and some Panels do not respect non-SWM panelists, either through not inviting them to participate, or through actively exhibiting disrespect during the Panel. I get that. And if I had ever actually experienced it first-hand (or second-hand from the audience), I would hope I would have the courage to speak up and call the perpetrators out. But since I never have actually experienced it either first or second-hand, we’ll have to leave that to “if”.

    Finally, I don’t think it is in any way a derailment to the topic of “gender parity on Con panels” to post that I did not see that at Renovation, the largest single Con in 2011. Especially when I noted it’s just one data point–but a very large one. Especially when I posted statistics that supported my subjective experience. If that’s not an on-topic post, then I don’t know what to tell you, except to (once again) acknowledge that we seem to be having two separate conversations, and that we should move on.

  80. Gulliver: I think we’re violently agreeing. As I said, my con organization is in non-SF (and as a result, the topics for panel-equivalents are very different), but were I to think about it, I might look at what the women in my convention are doing. 65% of the cosplayers are women? Well, how about talking to some of them and finding out what they might think an interesting panel relating to cosplay would be. It’s clearly a large section of the community, and skews female, but isn’t “pink ghetto”.

    Pushing much closer to the line, creative arts and fantasy. SKZB’s Aerich and his crochet, all the interesting fabric-related issues that come up in renFaire stuff, maybe even “what would happen if the spinning Jenny, and the power to run it, was invented in 11th century England”? That probably would skew very strongly female, but the two people I can think of at the moment, locally, who knit – are both male.

    But the big thing is that if there’s 15 panel slots – those two should probably be it for the “deliberately skew female”. Now for the other 13, there’s step 2, and you *must* do step 2, or you *will* get the Pink Panel Ghetto.

  81. Nick –

    “Look, there’s a lot of issues to be discussed, but let’s be clear that you’re just making stuff up about what I posted.”

    Okay. Here’s a rundown of what you said:

    “I would add that I am less concerned with the gender of panelists than with each member’s ability to engage in thoughtful discussion on the topic at hand.”

    “Granted, there’s still room for improvement (e.g., the Readercon blog post from Ms. Valentine) … but can we not agree that, at some point, the balance has been materially restored to what it should have been all along and the issue becomes one of quality rather than diversity?”

    To which Jacqui responded: “No, I can’t agree with that. When I work in a bookstore where men (yes, it’s always men) come in and tell me that they do not read female science fiction writers because they are women (and yes, it happens more than you’d care to think) then we’re not in balance. If this guy won’t read a book by a woman, why would he be interested in listening to her point of view on a panel?”

    To which you replied: “I did not see those comments. Can you please point me to them?”

    Which is frustrating in such a short thread. It’s like saying, your point may be valid, but I’m not interested enough to read a few thousand words. If you’d like, you can take the time to spoon it to me.

    “I’m open to being challenged that the results are still not good enough, that we all need to focus on better diversity. But my view is that the Con programmers should focus on the quality of the participants first, because a low-energy or disengaged panelist is not happy-making (for me), regardless of gender or ethnicity. I’m where I am because I did not notice a startling lack of diversity at the Con Panels I attended. If I had seen such, I would be in strong favor of newer, more diverse voices.”

    “That’s fine if somebody feels the need.”

    This is frustrating for previously stated reason.

    “But I was there and I saw what I saw. My assumption, if you will, was that my perception of Renovation is the reality… and I freely admit that my one (large) data point may not represent the entire universe.”

    To which people who pay attention to this by virtue of it being a regular life experience are saying to you that your one data point doesn’t get the job done.

    You keep saying you’re open minded about this, but you’ve demonstrated that the extent of your interest does not even meet critically rereading the thread to identify places where those types of comments could even be perceived to be made.

    As far as the parts of my previous comments that don’t directly address the above quotes, well they probably weren’t about you. But, you didn’t really specify what I was making up, so I’m reluctant to say that for certain. However, my initial comment did not call out any specific person.

    “And if I had ever actually experienced it first-hand (or second-hand from the audience), I would hope I would have the courage to speak up and call the perpetrators out. But since I never have actually experienced it either first or second-hand, we’ll have to leave that to “if”.”

    I’m going to be a bit pedantic here and note that as a self identified SWM you wouldn’t really experience it first hand as such. But, I get what you’re trying to convey here. And my response is basically okay. But, I think your aspirations to courageously speak truth to dicks may be getting in the way of people trying to convey to you that one data point just doesn’t cut it, Renovation or not.

    “Finally, I don’t think it is in any way a derailment to the topic of “gender parity on Con panels” to post that I did not see that at Renovation, the largest single Con in 2011. Especially when I noted it’s just one data point–but a very large one. Especially when I posted statistics that supported my subjective experience. If that’s not an on-topic post, then I don’t know what to tell you, except to (once again) acknowledge that we seem to be having two separate conversations, and that we should move on.”

    I don’t think that’s a derailment either. Because it talks about the current state of gender parity on panels and doesn’t even mention quality. But, I think you’re waaay to hung up on the stats from Renovation. It’s just as easily arguable that such a large convention might have more eyes pushing it away from other regular objectionable behavior. I’m not offering that as my personal opinion, just making a point that being a big event for the year doesn’t prove any thing about any of the other events or the culture in general. Which is basically the TL;DR of what I’m saying in response to this.

    I hope the above captures give you a better idea of what I’m responding to you about and some of the issues I have with the argument that you are making.

  82. Other Bill,

    I wanted to post to let you know that I read your reply and didn’t ignore you. While I think there’s more to be said, and more I would like to say, let’s let our back-n-forth end and give you the last word. Ultimately, my POV is less important on the subject of gender parity than the gender that’s experiencing less of the parity.

  83. I decided to read the article written by Emma J King and I share her views in that I’m confident as a woman. Meaning, I don’t feel that I need to be given a handicap. For example, when I watch The Expendibles 2, I’m not going to worry if the female gender is being represented a certain way or at all. I’m going to worry about not getting enough explosions, bad one-liners and round house kicks. I feel for women injured by a dying attitude left over from a previous generation that mocks a woman’s strength. However, I embrace my femininity (sp…see I don’t even know if I spelled the darn word right, that how concerned about it I am.) and I don’t get easily angered over things like that anymore unless there’s a real discrimination. If I had gone to The Expendibles 2 panel at SDCC I would have been highly irritated if it was 50/50. I want to see the main attraction! I think this is where feminism has gone wrong. We’ve scared people so bad that there’s no real freedom and we cant have fun anymore. Everyone’s too worried about getting fired, or losing ratings, or being shouted at by hundreds of strangers who have no idea who you are. Let’s all just treat each other with respect (men and women alike). Lets loosen up, relax and enjoy some serious bum-whoopin’ on the big screen. I’ll be shouting and laughing with the 90 percent male filled theater (not a real statistic).

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