A Few Process Notes on “Fan Letter”

I’ve had a few questions about how I came to write “A Fan Letter to Certain Conservative Politicians,” so for those of you who are interested, here are some process notes.

* The predicate cause, I think clearly to most people who are following politics these days, was Indiana senatorial candidate Richard Mourdoch opening his mouth wide enough to stuff in everything below his belt regarding abortion and rape during his debate the other night. It was the cherry on top of a whole summer of general stupidity regarding rape emanating from (as I delicately put it) certain conservative candidates, and I’d pretty much had enough of it at this point.

* The piece you see is the second one I wrote; the first one I wrote was a pretty standard “are you fucking kidding me?” rant in which I wrote the point that not allowing a woman control of her body gives her rapist control of it by default, but then skipped past it to other points. About half-way through I realized I mostly wasn’t saying anything anyone else hadn’t already, and that the issue about rapists having control of women’s bodies and lives was one that was both compelling and one that I, at least, didn’t see discussed a whole lot. So I chucked the previous piece and wrote this one.

* I wrote it from the point of view of a rapist, I think obviously in retrospect, because it would have a stronger impact if I did. A couple of people have asked me (not entirely unwarily) how I could get into the head of someone like that. The short answer is, folks, fiction is what I do. I try to put myself in the heads of a lot of different people. I will note that in this case, I was very happy to get out of that particular head as quickly as possible. I don’t often squick myself out writing a piece, but this is one time I definitely did.

* After it was done, I read it and realized I had absolutely no idea whether it worked like I wanted it to work, or if I overshot the goal and ended up in a place where it would do more damage than anything else. So I asked Krissy to read it and tell me if it worked; while she read it I went off to run errands. When I came back she said “It works, but you’re going to catch a lot of shit for it.” Well, shit I could handle. So I published it. If Krissy told me it didn’t work — and she would have — then it wouldn’t be out there. I trust her judgment in general and in this specific case, she had a better perspective on it than I could have.

* I wrote the piece to be read — I think that this much is obvious — but I should note that I wanted to write it for the same reasons I write about anything here: It was something that was on my mind, I had thoughts about it, and I have a place to say them at and an audience to say them to. Attaching any additional motives to its writing is probably overthinking my thought process as it involves Whatever.

* I will note that in this case I know it had the potential to spawn a “lively” comment thread, and that had I not finished The Human Division earlier in the week, I might not have written it (or would have at least kept the idea for a later time) because I wouldn’t have had time to babysit the comment threads. There is some irony that the fact largest time suck aspect of Whatever isn’t the time I take writing my words, but the time I taking riding herd on everyone else’s. Fortunately I had time this week. Also, fortunately, the thread needed relatively little moderating. So thanks, folks, for that.

55 thoughts on “A Few Process Notes on “Fan Letter”

  1. The hours you ride herd, mallet in hand, is time well spent. It makes the few minutes of my day spent here engaging and worthwhile. Your posts in themselves are worth the click, but a civil comment thread is value-added.

  2. Said it before but I don’t know if it can be said enough: You, sir, are a menche. As sad as I get knowing some of the people I am forced to share this plane of existence with, a guy like you makes me think there is hope for us. Thanks to you and to every person & experience that led you to being where you are today.

  3. It was a shockingly powerful piece, and I thank you for it. I especially thank the brave ladies who commented on it with their own personal experiences. All praise to the mallet, and I’m glad you didn’t need to use it very often.

  4. Thank you, by the way, for not only engaging people in thinking about the topic but also including trigger warnings. I didn’t feel like it was possible to even comment on that in the other thread, but it’s greatly appreciated as is understanding the process behind the post.

  5. My wife and I read the original piece earlier this week and agreed it was creepy as all get-out … in a good way. In that way that makes obvious (at least, one hopes) the wrongness of laws and policies that enable such behavior and endorse the “rightness” of the beliefs of a person who wants to perpetrate such acts.

    And people sometimes wonder why living with a female body in the United States these days is a little frightening, when our bodily autonomy is up for debate. Next time someone asks why I worry, I’ll point them to your piece as an illustration! So thank you.

  6. Thanks for the time and effort you spend giving us a place to do rhetorical battle. Sincerely, much appreciated. It know it ain’t, but you make it look easy.

  7. Rarely do I read something that makes me back away from it – physically have to back away from it like it was alive. That particular piece was one of those. It is one of the most hauntingly powerful pieces of writing on the subject I have ever seen.

  8. Thank you so much, and yes indeed…if you play polo, it won’t be the wussy British way and nor will a goat pay for the sins of the horsemen (of the Rethuglican apocalypse)….instead the underused brain buckets of certain “Conservatives” shall be smacked ’round the field.

  9. “I don’t often squick myself out writing a piece, but this is one time I definitely did.”

    I would have guessed that, with a fair amount of certainty. But I’m still relieved that you specifically said so.

    If I remember correctly, both CNN and the AP picked up “Being Poor”. I’m guessing that’s not going to happen with “A Fan Letter …”. Unfortunately.

  10. Thanks for putting that piece out there John. That and your job wielding the MLC makes it a pleasure to read the comment sections, as intelligent opinions, debate and discourse actually have the opportunity to rise to the top.

  11. John, I’m guessing that, like most of us, you surf and moderate while you’re doing other things on or by one of your computers. Do you find you can write while moderating threads, or do you have to block out the internet to get your fiction juices flowing?

    @ Karina

    Powerful piece and I unfortunately I read a bit of Vox’s blog…. Ugh

    That guy gives the right wing a bad name. I’ll say this for him though, at least he’s honest about being a racist, sexist, homophobic bigot.

    @ Bearpaw

    If I remember correctly, both CNN and the AP picked up “Being Poor”. I’m guessing that’s not going to happen with “A Fan Letter …”. Unfortunately.

    Maybe he could get on Colbert, or at least be featured on the Report. After all, JAR is Team Rape’s #1 Fan.

  12. I see Vox didn’t care for it when you deleted one of his comments. Well, that’s how it goes. As you say, “I reserve the right to edit all comments, and to moderate all comment threads, as I see fit.” Maybe someone can explain that to him.

  13. In the Scalzi twitter feed there was a back and forth about how taking the life of an innocent was morally wrong, in which something crystallized for me.

    Rape is morally wrong. The mental destruction of rape victim is evil.
    Taking of innocent life is morally wrong.

    How do we balance these? Well, as the challenger stated (paraphrased), we should not compound the evil of rape by another morally wrong act of allowing abortion. I can accept that.

    I also emphasize the work “should”.

    The problem Mr. Scalzi identified of avoiding this by ceding control of the woman’s body to the rapist is real. Compounding the evil of the rape by sentencing the woman to a mandatory minimum of 9 months of miserable slavery is extremely objectionable. To me, avoiding compounding victimization of the women takes precedence.

    “Should”. Until we can achieve an alternative to the mandatory pregnancy of the victim, we must take deal with what is. If people wish to take their efforts to stop the fact of abortion and use them for creating an alternative that is non-evil, I would support that. CHOICE by the woman is the least bad available option. Please let the women have that.

    Until we have effective non-evil alternatives, “should” is not a reality. Please make the “should” you want. In the meantime, stop fighting the unpleasant CHOICES faced by people. We all need to deal with the reality we have.

  14. Ferd of the Nort:

    Good point and well said.

    That said, I don’t really want this thread to turn into a reheat of the “Fan Mail” thread, so I would prefer to keep things on the process side of things here, please. Thanks.

  15. As a Safety Professional, I have the latest in protective headgear, so the Mallet should not hurt too badly. However; the goal of Safety is prevention, so I’ll shut up now.

    Nothing shoots the credibility like an injured Safety Professional.

  16. Dude, have you seen the Mallet?! I don’t care if your helmet’s made of vibranium, Loving Correction conquers all.

  17. Proper cervical bracing with load distribution can reduce vertical impact forces significantly,

    thus providing adequate protection.

    This assumes correct ergonomics of Mallet application, overhead swing while on a pedestal.

  18. I will note that in this case, I was very happy to get out of that particular head as quickly as possible. I don’t often squick myself out writing a piece, but this is one time I definitely did.

    Quite – because, you know, you’re not a raping woman-hating agency-denying assbag who enjoys wallowing in that mental filth. But, in a fucked up way, that’s what makes rape culture (and its legion of apologists, enablers and enforcers) so damn powerful. Looking at that mindset straight on — calling it what it is, without apology or euphemism — is painful and ugly. It’s hard to write about – especially for abuse victims/survivors who speak about their own trauma while doing so. And, as the usual suspects prove every time you talk about sexism/misogyny and male privilege around here, they’re going to do their best to shut down anyone who dares.

    So, thanks for doing the hard work. As a sexual assault survivor (and, you know, a human being) it was really hard for me to read — there were times I just had to step away from the laptop I was shaking with anger and tears. But nothing is EVER going to change unless people with a voice – and a platform to be heard from — stand up and speak the ugly truth.

  19. I didn’t get to say this before you capped the comments at the original post,: thank you for the piece and for having the courage to step into such a scumbag’s point-of-view long enough to write it.

  20. John,

    I got to your piece via a tweet, and have missed the back & forth about it. I think the piece is great. Though I wonder if there is some way you could work in some additional outrageous remarks by Republican pols. (The Republican Chart of Rape that’s been going around is a good list.) One of the remarks was along the old line about “she said yes, but the next day she said rape” though the pol was more crude than my paraphrase.

    I also think the piece would be stronger if you could somehow link the rapist’s delight with control to the ways that these politicians are determined to control all women, and the many techniques they are using. Maybe the rapist could be envious of the pols, because all he can do is rape a few women, while they can deny lots and lots of women contraceptives and health care. They can force women with planned pregnancies to carry to term children who die within a few days, or have terrible handicaps. The pols can force women who cannot afford another child to have children, and then blame the women for their poverty. They can force women to seek illegal, dangerous abortions or try the DIY method of sticking coat hangers up their vaginas. Really, when it comes to control, these pols are way ahead of your rapist.

    Another thing you might consider is getting an STD in, like if his victim gets aids, she’ll not only have to deal with her own illness, but may have to give birth to a baby with Aids.

    I think you might bring in the fact that the rapist has not only taken control of the life of his victim, but also of the people who love her, such as her children, her parents, and her partner/husband/wife. (Men close to women who are raped suffer a lot of emotional damage.) The rapist may also exercises control over other women. For example, if his victim is raped on a college campus, the event makes other female students fearful. Knowing that they could not have an abortion if they are raped, only adds to their fears.

    Moreover, the person who may suffer the most is the child. If the rape victim is married and keeps the child, how is her husband going to treat that child, compared to his birth children? Or what about the situations where the rapist is an abusive ex-boyfriend or husband?

    I was interested by the facts that so many women who carry rape babies to term keep the children; of course that result presumably reflects the fact that most women currently have a choice to abort, and might well be different if the choice of an abortion is no longer available. (And, of course, the most extreme of these pols would not want rape victims to even get day-after medicine.)

    That rapists can get visitation rights is pretty awful. Which rapists would do so? Presumably a man who was a stranger would only do so if he has been convicted. That suggests a scenario where a woman is ordered to take her child to visit the child’s father in prison. More likely, would be an ex, or someone like a “grandfather” who is actually the child’s father.

    By now, I’ve gone on so long that, if you took my suggestions, your blog post would turn into a novel. Sorry. (Though it would be interesting to make the politician the protagonist, especially if he had a secret life doing something like molesting girls.)

    Having said so much about the politician’s power over women, I figure I might as well add that these conservatives are not satisfied with controlling American women. They want to put the “Mexico City Policy” back in place, thus denying poor women worldwide control over their own bodies. http://tinyurl.com/9dpm78y

    Re your point about how few rapists are caught, that may be due to yet another systemic failure to take the needs of women seriously, that Nicolas Kristof wrote about. http://tinyurl.com/957nrx6

    I apologize if I’ve been cheeky making so many suggestions to a writer of your stature.

    Best regards,
    Sally Canzoneri

  21. It terrifies me that this level of satire is in any way called for. I can understand a left-right political discussion about economics,talking about debt or taxes or job creation or whatever. But the idea that anyone can be defending physical assaults on women in a legislative or judicial context looks like a gateway to horrific tyranny. I don’t quite get it because I can’t wrap my head around it. I don’t even care that there are crackpots with extreme views; I just don’t understand how supposedly serious politicians from major parties can indulge in dog-whistling to appease the extremists without being noticed by voters who are presumably sane. I mean how can any woman, or any man who has female friends and family, consider supporting a politician who doesn’t denounce the extremists?

  22. Just read the piece today, and it has taken me a while to digest it, and decide how much I wanted to share. In 1990, I was a married Catholic with 2 small children, and I was sexually assaulted. The dirt bag politicians you were addressing in your letter probably would not have considered my rape a “legitimate” rape, as the perpetrator was a family friend who was an invited guest in my home, and there was alcohol involved. (My attacker was never prosecuted.)

    Nearly as violating as the rape was the police interview, and the examination for the rape kit. My saving grace was a sympathetic nurse, who was extremely proactive. She called in a rape crisis counselor, and saw to it that emergency contraception was made available to me. (I was unaware that such a thing even existed!) To this day, I am so thankful for that nurse, who took a personal interest in me.

    I can not imagine how different my life would be if I had become pregnant as a result of my attack. The repercussions of rape, even without a pregnancy, last forever. My marriage disintegrated, my self worth suffered, and for a long time, I felt broken and damaged. It took many, many years of therapy to get to a place where I felt like a whole, and worthy person again. Eventually, I remarried, and am now a mother of 5 and a grandmother of 1.

    I had always blindly followed the teachings of my church regarding abortion, but that experience changed my life view. Before that, I could never imagine terminating a pregnancy, but I made the right choice in taking that EC all those years ago. I made a choice that I can live with. I would never make that choice for anybody else. I certainly don’t want some crazy politician in Washington making it for me, for my daughters, or for any other woman. I think it is a very personal choice.

    I originally found your blog when you did the “Being Poor” piece, and have enjoyed it ever since. Thank you so much for tackling this subject, with your usual spirit and courage. I admire your courage in putting your neck out there for those of us who often feel that we don’t have a voice. A thousand thanks to you, John, just for being you.

  23. I’ve got a process question for John. If Krissy had written the ‘Fan Letter’, and asked you to put it up as a guest post would you have tried to put her off?

    Not in a man-tronising “oh, my good lady wifey needs to be protected from the evil internet” kind of way, but it’s hard to miss that when feminist blogger write about topics like this – or the Readercon harassment scandal – it’s hard to miss that the comments get very ugly, personal and downright pornographic/violent very quickly. And to a degree, I think it’s fair to say, men justr don’t get.

  24. Sally Canzeroni:

    Thank you, but the piece is already written and I was not in fact workshopping it or looking for suggestions about it.

    In a general sense regarding my writing, you may assume that if I have let it out into the world, it is written to my satisfaction.

    Saying that (or why) the piece works for you or doesn’t is of course perfectly fine, but I do in fact find someone offering me unasked for writing advice to be both presumptuous and irritating.

    Cranapia:

    If the piece was here, I would have been moderating the thread, so I would have malleted any such nonsense quickly.

  25. Ugh… that second paragraph was a preview-fail mess. I’ll re-post, with apologies.

    I’ve got a process question for John. If Krissy had written the ‘Fan Letter’, and asked you to put it up as a guest post, would you have tried to dissuade her or just flat out refused?

    I’m not saying you’d have done so in a man-tronising “oh, my good lady wifey needs to be protected from the evil internet” kind of way, but it’s hard to miss that women who write in an equally *cough* forthright way about rape culture, or sexual harassment like what went down at Readercon, the comments quickly get ugly in ways men seldom experience. Like having your in-box and social media flooded with hardcore pornography and threats of sexual violence, a la Anita Sarkeesian

  26. Another thing you might consider is getting an STD in, like if his victim gets aids, she’ll not only have to deal with her own illness, but may have to give birth to a baby with Aids.

    Please be careful about implying any connection between rape and men who are HIV positive. There’s been no shortage of equating STDs with sexual deviancy over the last half century. I know that was not your explicit intent, but any reinforcement of that meme only spreads fear and ignorance. This is a request for consideration in the future, not a chastisement. Thank you.

  27. I do not agree with either Mourdock or Akin’s view. In fact, I think they’re both morons who would make terrible senators. That said, the insinuation via picture placement that the former would agree with rapists was not something I found particularly useful to the argument. The piece was provocative enough without it.

  28. I didn’t feel like I had anything to say on the other thread that hadn’t already been said repeatedly, but I’d like to add my thanks for the hard work you do keeping the comments civil but interesting. There are only two places on the internet where I read the comments – Metafilter, and here.

  29. I’m a bit late here, but I’ve a few things to say… Hope they’re appreciated.

    First off, “Fan Letter” is one of the most effective pieces of satire I have ever read. As some said in the original thread, I hesitate to apply any positive adjectives to it… But I think it needed writing. *Thank you* for writing it, I hope it puts a damper on the political craziness that’s been pervading the US.

    On the other hand – I hate saying this, but I think that the essay’s efficacy was helped by the fact that it was written by a man. I, personally, know that I tend to feel threatened on a gut level when a woman indicates that I’m oppressing women, or aiding and abetting their oppression; getting that feedback from another man (or someone who presents as one) makes the bitter pill easier to swallow. Based on personal experience, I suspect that many other men also think this way. So I’m irritated that it took a *man* saying something like this to really make it spread, when women have said similar things for a long time without being noticed… And irritated that I’m probably a lot less disturbed by it than I’d be if it were written by a woman (or someone presenting as a woman).

    No offense regarding “Fan Letter” itself, mind! The use of satire is pretty original as far as I know, I just think it would attract less notice if it weren’t written by a guy.

    I’ll also note that “Fan Letter” had absolutely nothing on the comment thread that followed it. I am usually angry at the world, and at ignorant/stupid/evil people, for one reason or another, but that thread left me feeling about as violently disgusted as I’ve ever felt. I am being honest when I say it made me want to smash something. I realize that’s a very stereotypically male response, but yes, that’s how I felt.

    Anyway… Thanks Mr. Scalzi, and thanks various anonymous posters. I hope this gets around.

    P.S. Thought of posting a link to “Fan Letter” on Facebook. Unsure if that’s a good idea, as some people may end up reading it who (I think) are really not mature enough to digest it. I may just be being selfish though. I’ll sleep on it.

  30. @beano “On the other hand – I hate saying this, but I think that the essay’s efficacy was helped by the fact that it was written by a man. I, personally, know that I tend to feel threatened on a gut level when a woman indicates that I’m oppressing women, or aiding and abetting their oppression; getting that feedback from another man (or someone who presents as one) makes the bitter pill easier to swallow. ”

    Thanks for admitting that. I’m glad you’re aware of it. The next thing to think about is: what steps are you taking to fix that particular vile, misogynistic aspect of your mindset? Because, as I’m sure you’re aware: 1) the fact that men prefer to listen to other men speak about issues that damage women, as opposed to actually listening to us, is EXACTLY THE FREAKING PROBLEM, isn’t it? and 2) dudes that are willing to be vocally feminist are few and far between, and those that are capable of doing it well are like fucking unicorns. Scalzi ,Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jay Smooth, Jim Hines, 2 of my friends who don’t have blogs. Those are the only ones I can think of. Ferret Steinmetz had one piece up on Jezebel a while back that was instructive.

    Anyway, in case you’re not sick of hearing it yet, the Fan Letter was a great piece, I’ve shared it. And thanks for this post too-I love process notes, on any creative thing. <3

  31. I think you did a great job. I can imagine how difficult it must have been to write. I understood your intent, so I wasn’t as triggered by your fan letter as I might have been if it were narrated by a victim in scene (a la “Girl with Dragon Tattoo”). I linked your post on my Facebook wall, and one of my friends said it made her consider more the aftermath of rape. I think one of the widely misunderstood concepts about rape culture is privilege. If men saw women as human beings, they wouldn’t treat us like shit. Because they see us as less than, they feel superior and entitled to make decisions for us and to force us to comply with the world and systems they shape. In other words, I think that writing law that views as inferior beings is just another form of rape.

  32. @PeterM:

    It is not Scalzi’s placement of the photograph that implies that Akin might agree with rapists. It’s Akin’s own words as an apologist for rape.

  33. And oh bugger, I messed up ‘former’ and ‘latter’. Please replace the correct names in my post as necessary, but my point stands, it’s not the photo that implies rapist apologism, but their words.

  34. beano said: “I’ll also note that ‘Fan Letter’ had absolutely nothing on the comment thread that followed it. I am usually angry at the world, and at ignorant/stupid/evil people, for one reason or another, but that thread left me feeling about as violently disgusted as I’ve ever felt. I am being honest when I say it made me want to smash something. I realize that’s a very stereotypically male response, but yes, that’s how I felt.”

    I’m sad that you read such an interesting and eloquent comment thread and your reaction was anger, disgust, and a desire to smash something. Sad and surprised, because I thought it was a hell of an interesting thread with a great many well-expressed comments and some very cogent responses to the few people who objected to the letter. Even a couple of those who took a dissenting view argued their own views reasonably (though I disagreed with them).

  35. @ beano

    I, personally, know that I tend to feel threatened on a gut level when a woman indicates that I’m oppressing women, or aiding and abetting their oppression; getting that feedback from another man (or someone who presents as one) makes the bitter pill easier to swallow.

    Do you feel threatened because you personally aid and abet their oppression, or because you viscerally generalize criticism of something a lot of males do to criticism of all males qua male? If the former, did it help you change your mind about any policy positions you support? At the risk of pointing out the blindingly obvious, it’s important to keep in mind that the treatment of women as second class citizens is a behavior, not an innate quality. Behaviors can be amended.

    I’ll also note that “Fan Letter” had absolutely nothing on the comment thread that followed it. I am usually angry at the world, and at ignorant/stupid/evil people, for one reason or another, but that thread left me feeling about as violently disgusted as I’ve ever felt.

    I found the discussion to be remarkably informed, intelligent and good. Your reaction to the thread leaves one critical thing unclear. Were you angry at the commenters in the discussion or outraged at the many accounts of sexual assault? The latter I could perfectly understand. The former would be somewhat baffling.

    I am being honest when I say it made me want to smash something. I realize that’s a very stereotypically male response, but yes, that’s how I felt.

    In my experience as someone who has worked with girls, boys, women and men learning to master their fury through martial arts, it’s more a stereotypically youth response. And as with many stereotypes, while it is by no measure universally applicable, it is rooted in a not at all uncommon tendency. There’s no reason for anyone to be ashamed of it, but it’s an indicator of healthy self-awareness, IMHO, that you’re cognizant of it.

    Forgive my assumption, but this:

    Thought of posting a link to “Fan Letter” on Facebook. Unsure if that’s a good idea, as some people may end up reading it who (I think) are really not mature enough to digest it.

    …suggests to me, based on your apparent social circle, that you’re a young adult. You know your own friends and I do not, but I will say that I, as a young adult, routinely underestimated my friends’ maturity, especially on matters of social justice. If I am wrong, egg on my face :)

    @ jess

    2 of my friends who don’t have blogs.

    Could you lobby them to start blogs?

    @ Katinka

    If men saw women as human beings, they wouldn’t treat us like shit. Because they see us as less than, they feel superior and entitled to make decisions for us and to force us to comply with the world and systems they shape.

    Some do, not men as a biological gender. Entitlement isn’t an essential quality of sex. I don’t point this out to mansplain – it’s rational to assume you already know it since you clearly realize John, who is obviously a man, sees women as human beings. I point it out to weed out creeping generalizations, because I believe generalizations are the roots of stereotypes, and that stereotypes are part of the roots of much injustice including sexism, and that, if we as a species are to overcome bigotry as a whole, we must resist stereotypes of both privileged and marginalized classes. Not that you need my permission, but feel free to ignore me. In a thread such as discussed the “Fan Latter”, I would omit pointing it out at all as it would be a derail, but this discussion has already jumped the rails of discussing John’s writing process, so I will understand if he chooses to delete this comment – not that he needs my permission either, obviously.

    @ BW

    Even a couple of those who took a dissenting view argued their own views reasonably (though I disagreed with them).

    Perhaps the process of Mallet selection tends to encourage survival of the cogent :P

  36. @Ferd of Nort – Thank you for presenting the difficulty of the choice. I think that far too often pro-life people have the impression that the choice is made without thought. It is important when discussing abortion to present a clear understanding of what the choice is. Conservatives should not show disregard for the woman and liberals should not show disregard for the fetus. Rather, come to a conclusion after considering both sides of a difficult situation. Well done.

  37. @jess: Thanks for admitting that. I’m glad you’re aware of it. The next thing to think about is: what steps are you taking to fix that particular vile, misogynistic aspect of your mindset?

    I consciously force myself to acknowledge that the women in question are correct, and attempt to alter my behavior to compensate. It doesn’t get rid of the burning at the back of my throat, but I think it usually works. Usually. I consciously try to stop myself from mansplaining, that sort of thing. But… yes. I am “part of the problem,” guilty as charged.

    @BW: I’m sad that you read such an interesting and eloquent comment thread and your reaction was anger, disgust, and a desire to smash something. Sad and surprised, because I thought it was a hell of an interesting thread with a great many well-expressed comments and some very cogent responses to the few people who objected to the letter. Even a couple of those who took a dissenting view argued their own views reasonably (though I disagreed with them).

    I think you misunderstand me. My anger was towards the rapists, and towards the legal system that has utterly failed to protect rape survivors. It wasn’t the discussion that got me angry so much as the personal stories about rape and abuse.

    I do realize that kind of anger is not productive though.

    @Gulliver: Do you feel threatened because you personally aid and abet their oppression, or because you viscerally generalize criticism of something a lot of males do to criticism of all males qua male? If the former, did it help you change your mind about any policy positions you support? At the risk of pointing out the blindingly obvious, it’s important to keep in mind that the treatment of women as second class citizens is a behavior, not an innate quality. Behaviors can be amended.

    I think I find it threatening because I dislike having to admit that I was incorrect, and moreover because I hate being revealed as a bad person (even if I committed evil out of ignorance and stupidity rather than malice). And because I don’t like feeling guilty, and many women would have more to say than men that would make me feel guilty. There’s always a certain inertia.

    Re changing my political positions, they’ve been roughly in line with Mr. Scalzi’s for a while actually. My politics are pretty progressive, but that doesn’t mean I don’t suffer from unconscious biases and blind spots; or that my behavior is always in line with my political views.

    I found the discussion to be remarkably informed, intelligent and good. Your reaction to the thread leaves one critical thing unclear. Were you angry at the commenters in the discussion or outraged at the many accounts of sexual assault? The latter I could perfectly understand. The former would be somewhat baffling.

    Most definitely at the accounts of sexual assault, sorry if I made that unclear. Hearing about women being exploited makes me very, very angry at the exploiters.

    (Which is also hypocritical, because I’ve done my part to be an oppressive jerk. No, I’ve never committed rape, thank God. But I have been an oppressor, both directly and indirectly.)

    And wow, didn’t expect to get such a strong response. I guess that’s what I get for posting my gut feelings at 11:30 PM.

    P.S. Umm, can anyone point me to a guide re WordPress’s tags?

  38. Grr. WordPress is not being my friend today.

    Anyway, yes, I am a typical overprivileged white male, and I want to be something better than that. The problem is that I live in a world of cardboard – since I’m privileged, a false step could hurt someone. Avoiding being a bad person is doubtless easier than weathering constant abuse by bad people, but it’s still hard.

  39. Beano – I don’t think your response to those stories was ‘stereotypically male’ as much as it was stereotypically human. I think if anyone with half a conscience reads such stories, they are going to get mad, angry, want to smash things. I know I did. I think the willingness of posters to share those stories – those highly personal, highly emotional and naked stories – speaks to the power of the original piece.

  40. John, I am a conservative Christian and do not agree with most of what you said in your “Fan Letter”.
    However, I will say that I admire your willingness to let those who disagree with you have a voice on your site.
    I could see right away the literary technique you were employing, and find it odd anyone did not.
    Obviously, some who disagree with you will do so with a lot of vehemence. The problem is they let their emotions overrule their rationality. And then they lash out before they think.
    I suppose that many here would argue that holding an opposing view, such as mine, is proof of a lack of rationality. To that, I would reply THAT point lacks rationality and critical thinking. There really are people out here who do not think as you, and have spent much time examining that view. Do not assume that the loud voice of dunderheads speak for all.
    I will not enter into any argument about my views on rape and abortion. But I will state that I have contemplated them a lot–and still have an opposing view.
    My view, in part, comes from actual personal experience. I myself am adopted; I am friends with raped women; I have been friends with children who were a product of rape; I am friends of women who have had abortions, I was married to a woman who had an abortion. I can assure you, opposing abortion has rationale.
    Again, thank you John for letting me say so.

  41. As you said in your post, this was something on your mind, so you wrote it. Do you ever find yourself writing something so you’ll know what you think about it?

  42. Scalzi, I read that post and my jaw dropped. Clearly, you had returned from all your travel obligations and had finished your writing committments and met your deadlines, and could focus all your energies swinging the MoLC. I can’t remember when I first saw the post but the number of comments was already gigantic at that point. That it quickly swelled to several hundred was no surprise.

    You, sir, have some serious cojones.

    I wrote it from the point of view of a rapist, I think obviously in retrospect, because it would have a stronger impact if I did.

    I know way, way back when in college, I used to hold the notion that if something was simply explained properly, then anyone would come round to that explanation. That idea has, for me, been very hard to let go of. I’m starting to admit to myself that the more intractable issues are rooted at a level below that of a logical progression of ideas reaching a sound and irrefutable conclusion.

    I think in the case of outlawing abortion even in the case of rape, that yes indeed, it’s not about telling the person something they’ve never heard before that would sway their position. They’ve heard every argument a million times. They’re unswayable, at least via reason, because they’re opposed to abortion even in the case of rape for instinctual (aka emotional) reasons. And because of that, maybe the only way to find something more powerful than this instinctual reason is to respond with something just as instinctual but compelling in the other direction.

    I think the fan letter from just another rapist does this. It drills down to the emotional level and roots around there for a while. It’s got squick all over it because that’s the level where instinct lives. It had “skin-crawly” written all over it.

    Anyways, wow. Just wow.

    And if JAR is still around, maybe you could forward him this link about HR-7300. It seems up his alley.

  43. @beano: XD Thank you. Thank you for doing the hard work of fighting the crappy aspects of acculturation, and thank you for talking about it.

    @Gulliver- re: blog lobbying: I sort of like having them out loose in the wild, where they can surprise unsuspecting asshats. =)

  44. @Jess: thank you for understanding where I’m coming from. My predicament is not all that bad, relatively speaking, but being unable to trust my superego stinks. Likewise for others not being able to trust me because of that.

    (And likewise for catching flak from my friends about stuff like this. They tend to think I’m a little crazy. And to get technical, I am… But nonetheless.)

  45. Mr. Scalzi, you are an odd liberal. The foundation of a progressive liberal is that humans must be forced to help the needy and the more a human has an ability to help, the more they must give of themselves to help. Who is more needy than an unborn child? Who has more ability to help than the potential birth mother? Finally, I sensed the obvious. You must believe that the sins of the father are passed to the child. Why else would you join with the current President to take from me my body’s labor at gunpoint to help grown adults but have total indifference to a woman, who is the only source of life for an innocent, killing that innocent?

    Cheers,
    Rod

  46. Rodney Rubert said: “The foundation of a progressive liberal is that humans must be forced to help the needy and the more a human has an ability to help, the more they must give of themselves to help.”

    I am a progressive liberal, and I do not hold either of those views. Perhaps that is what people who aren’t progressive liberals think that progressive liberals believe, but I assure you that, for many of us, it is not.

    It’s not easy for people who think very differently from one another to accurately capture the views of the other, so foreign are they. I’m reminded of an old fellow I once knew, an avid powerboater, who had never been able to fathom why anyone would want to own and operate a sailboat. He just couldn’t see what they saw in it until, one day, a lightbulb went off in his head: Sailboaters like sailing because it’s cheaper! Of course that’s not the reason, but it was the only reason that made sense to his way of thinking. I often remember that moment when I think I understand why someone who thinks very differently from me holds a certain view. It reminds me that I’m probably mischaracterizing them completely.

  47. Rodney: Who is more needy than an unborn child?

    a single cell fertilized egg is not a “child” and it is not “needy”.

    Who has more ability to help than the potential birth mother?

    Ah, well, if you think people should be forced to help needy people, then you really ought to like HR-7300, another bill to help the needy.

  48. Rodney Rubert: Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an army of straw men created with so few words. Do you have a side business in selling the extras as scarecrows?

    This was an amazing, and chilling, piece. I realize that part of the whole “professional fiction writer” gig is being able to create characters and get inside their heads, but… wow. That was seriously above and beyond the call. I’ve read plenty of things written from the POV of the bad guy, but I don’t think any of them have ever creeped me out that much. Well done, sir.

  49. BW, You are a progressive liberal who does not believe in a progressive tax code and social support spending? Are you sure? A progressive tax code and social support spending is the long way of saying from each according to ability and to each according to need, at the point of a gun.

    Greg, a single cell fertilized egg is quite needy. Certainly there is a strong argument for qualitative differences between a single cell and the same organism 9 months later, by which time the term unborn child is unavoidable. What I see lacking is the will to draw rational dividing lines.

    Cheers,
    Rod

  50. Mr. Scalzi,

    I apologize for the comment on “Fan Letter” which I posted last October, and for not having said so sooner. (I did not see your reply to my comment today.) Obviously, you did not post your piece to be critiqued, and the tone of my comment was entirely inappropriate.

    At the time, I was appalled not only by the sheer stupidity of Todd Aikin’s remarks, but by his inability to recognize how wide and deep a swath of pain any rape leaves behind. In addition, I was (and remain) angry that his remarks are of a piece with a campaign to control all women. I now see that, swept up in my concern about these issues, I made the mistake of writing about these issues as things you might have addressed in “Fan Letter” rather than as reasons to applaud you for writing the piece.

    My behavior was presumptuous and I am sorry; I won’t trouble you again.

    Respectfully,

    Sally Canzoneri

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