Sean Fodera Makes an Apology
Posted on February 20, 2014 Posted by John Scalzi 120 Comments
You may find it here.
I have nothing in particular to add to it other than the general belief that apologies are useful things.
I am also happy to learn in the same post that I shall not be sued.
Update: Mary Robinette Kowal responds to, and accepts, the apology.
Update 2: Sff.net buckled under traffic. If you can’t get in, screencaps are here.
I thought about turning off the comments on this one, because I have lots to do in the next day or two, but I’ll let them ride and see how everyone plays. Allow me to suggest everyone play nicely, please.
Let me say this: I’m personally happy to take the apology at face value. However, it is not to me that the apology is intended. So how I or anyone else other than the intended recipient of it respond to is, if not immaterial, at least tangential.
Oh, well, it’s alright then. First off, if he’d only been able to figure out how to include a signature on that pesky usenet interface, he would have been able to make it clear that he wasn’t trying to drag his employer into the gutter, ’cause he WASN’T!
And second, really, the terrible disintegration of SWFA… the change of direction, the awfulness of seeing the Last Save Haven for frat-boy sexism vanish from the community of professional SF writage… it was just so DEVASTATING, you know? He went a little crazy. Forgive him.
And he should never have pointed SOLELY at MARY as the prime mover in this catastrophic devolution of the Manly Men’s Fiction Writer’s World, because of course she wasn’t the only culprit. Sorry, Mary. There’s lots of blame to go around, shouldn’t have given you such a disproportionate share.
And finally, athough he would be PERFECTLY JUSTIFIED in suing everyone who pointed out what an asscarrot he’s making of himself, he is magnanimously giving up that option.
So please, get off his case already, right?
At least until he publishes the Fabulous Apologia on Women Writers In Science Fiction that will make it clear how VINDICATED he is, when we can all apologize to him.
That about it?
I think so.
Well played, Mister Hat.
Sounds like somebody some combination of a come-to-Jesus moment and a stern talking to.
I think this apology was desperately needed, and I’m so glad it’s been delivered.
Still, I am disturbed that Fodera can’t let go the idea that he was defamed by anyone who quoted and linked to his actual words. Disturbed because apparently some lawyer decided that he would actually take Fodera’s hopeless case and charge big bucks for it, and disturbed because Fodera still doesn’t actually get why his dog analogy, in context, was a really clumsy and offensive one.
In other words, he might be sorry he’s brought a world of approbrium down upon himself and his employer by extension, but he still doesn’t get so many of the underlying issues of which he is both merely a symptom and to which he seems to contribute.
I hope this episode will be the start, not the end, of a period of deep reflection and people kinder than me and closer to him will not encourage his defamation paranoia but instead lead him to an understanding of the path that led him so astray.
“I have a strong case, but I choose not to go forward with it.” That’s what I always say, too.
Hm. Well, at least he said “I am sorry” without following it up with “that you were offended”. I’m still not sure how his legal counsel figures he can sue the Daily Dot, but he’s making the right decision either way, so c’est la vie.
I don’t actually know much about the inner workings of SFWA, but I got the initial impression that the organization was making moves to help new writers under Kowal, and that he didn’t want that? He’s saying the opposite, I guess, but I don’t know which is true. I thought he was mad that the organization was opening itself up to new people.
I’m withholding judgement until this second piece is posted. Hopefully I’m not a fool to remain optimistic. Either way, I hope this reflects a genuine change in opinion rather than just saying what everybody wants to hear.
Finally something moving in the right direction. Maybe some other geniuses will let go of their madness. One can hope, anyway. I’m encouraged by the insects! What is a trade organization but a reflection of its army,er, people?
Perhaps you are aware of this posting on the blog Popehat, http://www.popehat.com/2014/02/17/science-fiction-community-generates-this-weekends-bufoonish-defamation-threat/
The writer, “Ken White”, a lawyer who often writes about what the legal definition of libel is, strongly suggested that if Sean Fodera sued anyone, they would very likely
get pro bono legal help.
George E. Martin
Strange how my mind “works.” So, sued. Is that like Rick Rolled but with “A Boy Named Sue” by Johnny Cash?
Apologies that come from learning are good, the CYA type aren’t, Sean sounds like he learned, I suppose, and says he’s going to address his views on women in SF later.
My opinion about writers: I prefer to read stuff by those who write stuff I think is worth the read, and love to read stuff what’s gunna be worth a re read.
Uh. He apologizes only that his words were confused with that of any words official from McMillians … to wit: I’d like to be clear that any statements I have made (or make hereafter)on this matter have been (or will be) my own opinions, and do not represent
the opinions of my employer. … My apologies for not making this
clear, and for giving anyone cause to doubt Macmillan’s credibility or support
for its authors.
He further talks about apologizing for some “behind closed doors” issues.
At no point does he apologize to MRK or to any women in the industry or any women at all for saying that if you wear a diaphanous [sic] white dress on the beach or an evening gown to an awards ceremony, that you are a hypocrite and not worthy of being listened to when it comes to women’s issues (much less anything else) or that a woman who does so is an “unperson”.
MRK may or may not choose to accept his apology to her directly – that’s her choice. However, I don’t believe his words express any remorse towards his attitude towards women as a whole other than, oh gosh I got caught in being a sexist asshat and need to say something appropriately remorseful and hope people will overlook that I never actually rescinded my comments about women as a whole.
George E Martin, et al.:
Inasmuch as no legal suit appears to be in the offing, I don’t think we need to spend time modeling what would happen if one was in existence.
I strongly suspect that writing the follow-up “my views on women in science fiction” post may prove to be a mistake. It may be time to put that down and back away slowly.
Update: MRK’s response to the apology is here.
Apologies aside, the idea that he has ” legitimate cause to bring suit against The Daily Dot and/or Aja Romano for defamation. ” indicates that (based on 3 lawyers who’ve publicly commented on this) that his counsel is an idiot, or that he’s lying. Personally, I was hoping he’d go forward with some sort of suit just for the entertainment value.
I’d love to see an actual statement from his lawyer explaining how he had any sort of case. That’d be hilarious.
Also this whole thing quite clearly came to the attention of his management. I bet that meeting was fun. But I’m also betting he keeps his job.
I’m glad he’s taken a step in the right direction.
Also, IMO, MRK is a class act.
Well, the sensible thing to do would have been to post pictures of himself modeling diaphanous dresses, but if he’d had the requisite ability to laugh at himself, he wouldn’t have gotten into this mess in the first place.
I also suspect that “having legitimate cause to bring suit” is not equivalent to having a reasonable expectation of winning aforesaid suit.
Josh, you may be assuming that whatever story Mr Fodera told his counsel was a neutral and unbiased version…
And apology or not, he’ll forever be known as “that macmillan director who threatened to sue the internet for linking to some horribly stupid things he wrote in a public forum.” This isn’t exactly the last time his employer will be reminded by this incident…
Wow, that must have been difficult to write while McMillian’s Legal Department held his other hand twisted up between his shoulder blades like that. And like every other non-apology apology I’ve seen in this kind of situation, he doesn’t really apologise for the hurt he caused nor for the horrible tactics he used, leaving himself free to do it again once the heat’s off.
I have found http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/04/15/apologies-what-when-and-how/ to be very useful.
In this case my ignorance is vast. I wonder what degree of difficulty it was for this guy to apologize. The frequency and degree of difficulty often are the filters I use when an apology is presented. For me, I’d rather burn down my fucking house than say sorry. Most of the time anyway. So if I do say sorry, oh man, I must have really stepped in it. For some people, I suppose, apologizing is as natural and frequent as taking a pee.
Fodera has a separate post on women in science fiction:
Disturbed because apparently some lawyer decided that he would actually take Fodera’s hopeless case and charge big bucks for it,
In my opinion, he’s blustering in an attempt to save face. A poor attempt, to be sure, but an attempt to save face nonetheless. The truth is an absolute defense to a claim of libel, no one did anything but link to his very own words.
As for Mary, if she had any more poise and class, she could turn the entire world into decent human beings. I love her books, I love her G+ feed, and I’m not at all ashamed to say that if I ever have the pleasure of meeting her in person, I will likely drop to my knees in awe. Classy and talented, all at once.
You know, “Macmillan” gets spelled a lot of wrong ways, but this thread is the first time I’ve seen “McMillian’s”. Twice, too!
Wow. Mary Robinette Kowal is a luminously classy individual, indeed.
sff.net looks to be buckling under the load of people linking in, so if you can’t get through, patience, please.
I think you’ve borked all of sff.net, Scalzi.
You seem to break the internet a lot for someone with “inflated” web stats.
@pnh … I am not an intimate of the publishing industry. Sorry that I am ignorant of the proper spelling of “Macmillan”.
Attorneys typically take cases on contingency… if it’s a good case, there’s no charge unless they win and then they take a third. If it’s not so good a case, they’ll still take it but they’ll charge their regular rate up front so they get paid even if they lose. My guess is the attorney said “Pay now” because it doesn’t seem like a really good case.
His follow up post makes me twitchy. I don’t think picking it apart and excoriating him further would be productive. His apology sounds forced, most likely by his boss(es). His follow up smacks of the “but some of my best friends are X!” type of excuse for bigotry of any sort. I really don’t think he gets it. Did anyone else see it that way?
Welp. Looks like we Scalzied the site. I suppose I’ll read it tomorrow.
I still have problems with how it unfolded, but I’m generally the sort of person that, once apologies are made and accepted, I’m done. I can’t view Mary’s response, nor the context surrounding it, because the site’s now down.
Natalie Luhrs has made screencaps since SFF.NET is down
Fodera really, really should learn to quit while he’s behind.
Mike, I’m told that an attorney on the record as giving his client such bad advice and actually proceeding with it would potentially be in trouble with most state bar associations. It’s against the rules to deliberately give your client advice you know to be bad.
Last week it was authorearnings, and now it’s sff—Another industry disruption: Writers and writers’ forums need to get serious about proper scalable web hosting.
So he has a teenaged daughter. What are his comments on someone looking at a photo of her in an evening gown at a formal event (say her prom), or in a dress at the beach and using that to declare her a hypocrite, “not worth listening to”, an an “unperson”?
Sorry, so far his apology is worth the paper it’s (not) written on.
Mary Robinette Kowal was the offended party in this, and she has graciously accepted Mr. Fodera’s apology. The most gracious course seems to be to look to her example in this matter.
“I am also happy to learn in the same post that I shall not be sued.” *chuckles*
On one hand, I am glad he apologized and seemingly means it sincerely, since that’s a step not many sexist asses reach.
Unfortunately, he also seems to have completely missed the point. His thoughts on SFWA and its direction and MRK’s part in it were not what was upsetting about the post–it was the language he used against her as a person, and the standards he apparently has for women (i.e. wearing a bathing suit and calling yourself a feminist makes you a hypocrite). And I don’t care how his posts were supposedly edited; there is no way that calling someone an “unperson” and “phony” because of their clothing will ever have any unoffensive meaning. The fact that he can’t apologize without qualifying his apology is aggravating.
I’m glad he apologized, even though it’s kind of lame and “of course I’m really right” ish. MKR is, as always, a class act (haven’t been able to get through to read her acceptance yet, but I’m sure it was gracious).
Resolved as well as can be expected.
I just wanted to say that Mr. Fedora has proven his worth as a marketing exec: he’s directly responsible for MRK’s sale of 3 copies of her works to me, with a 4th to follow in April.
John: thanks for the links. Even if I can’t get through right now, I know where to start.
Good on Sean for apologizing, however, I see no evidence that he actually understands what the issue with his words was. Perhaps– I hope– he didn’t want to dissect his own idiocy line by line, so just he issued a blanket apology.
But for his daughter’s sake I hope he understands why it’s problematic to call a woman an “unperson” and a “hypocrite” based on what they wear.
He said what he legally needed to, but I don’t see much evidence of genuine introspection.
Without wanting to curtail discussion or criticism of the apology, I will note that it is difficult to apologize well, purely both emotionally and rhetorically. This is why (aside from people who have speechwriters on their staff), I factor in a fair amount of slack when it comes to apologies.
I say this with full acknowledgement (as noted above) that in this case, it’s easy for me to cut slack, as I am in no way the focus of the apology. However, Mary was, and her acceptance of it may be instructive.
Maybe the introspection will come later. Maybe he’ll think about what his daughter’s going through and realize that he was part of the problem. Maybe then he’ll come to a more sincere understanding of what he did wrong. Until then, I’m happy for this first step. Whether he means it now, it’s a chance for him to mean it later, maybe even learn from it. And that would be a good thing.
One of the debatable features of the US legal system is that anyone can sue anyone for anything. If you have a bad case, you will lose; if you have a really bad case, your suit will be dismissed before trial; but your filings have to rise to a whole new level of FAIL before you get slapped with such penalties as paying the other side’s legal bills.
Fodera’s is potentially a firing offense: the equivalent of ‘conduct unbecoming an officer’. Nevertheless:
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.
So he needs to make it very clear that he’s not speaking for Macmillan because Macmillan clearly read him the riot act. That was expected.
He admits that he said all those things that the Daily Dot quoted, but still claims he had basis for defamation. He’s not going to sue, though, because money, time, etc. — i.e. the fact that he had no case, he was threatening prominent authors, and it would have been ridiculous.
He says he doesn’t hate Kowal, after having calling her arrogant, hypercritical, over-sexualized, incompetent, giving him the inner chills, etc. and declaring her an unperson. I would hate to see what he says about the people he actually hates. He declares that he believes that Kowal is talented and deserves her awards after having said the exact opposite. He mourns for the friendship he ruined over supposed policy disputes. I figure Kowal’s going to let him have this one, but from how she spoke earlier, it didn’t sound like she particularly knew him well, so the claims of a past strong friendship again seem…kind of creepy stalkerish. Or again just plain misrepresentation.
He claims SFWA now has a horrible culture of secrecy and rejected all his ideas. Given the track record on the apology so far, I’m guessing there is a small group of SFWA members used to sticking their nose in obnoxiously and who got told to calm down and decided that this was a horrible conspiracy. He claims the recent SFWA government didn’t do outreach. We’ve gotten several claims from authors here that they joined SFWA recently only because JS and Kowal did do outreach to convince them to join. He says that he wanted SFWA to do more about contracts and legal material. That sounds good, which again, given how this apology goes, makes me suspect that this wasn’t what the actual disputes were about. Regardless, there are a lot of experienced contract folk involved in SFWA who don’t call the officers sexist insults and names and obsess over their blogs, so I’m thinking they can work on that without him.
He apologized to Kowal by accusing her and the rest of SFWA elected officials of malfeasance and conspiracy. Yeah, no, that’s not an apology. I’m going to say it — if you’re an author at Tor, be careful about this guy. Maybe on contracts he’s fine, but he’s made himself a part of SFF fandom and in that area, he does seem to have a serious control problem.
I acknowledge that apologies are hard, and the greater the offense the harder the apology.
However, I disagree greatly with anyone who says or implies that because Mary has accepted his apology, everyone else needs to STFU. Because though his offensive words were aimed at Mary, they were framed so as to take a swipe at women as a class, or at the very, very least, women who write and hope to be published by the company he works for.
So, that’s my basis for thinking I have a right to say the following:
His followup post made me very twitchy indeed. He seems to think that the only reason anyone could possibly think his words reflect his attitudes about gender is that they were taken out of context. In the correct context, why, it would be clear that his intent was only to disagree with her about policy.
I’m sorry, but no. In their original context, his words made him look like a man who thinks that a woman’s appearance and clothing choices are fair game for discussion and condemnation if she dares to disagree with him about policy. That’s how he chose to represent himself in public, that’s how he comes across as speaking about all women and not just Mary, and that’s something he has utterly failed to accept responsibility for what with all his blather about “out of context.”
Maybe he will address that sometime in the future. As of now, he hasn’t addressed it, and it’s kind of a big stinking deal.
However, Mary was, and her acceptance of it may be instructive.
Boy HOWDY, is it EVER.
I have a hard time mustering half as much grace in the best of circumstances.
You know, “Macmillan” gets spelled a lot of wrong ways, but this thread is the first time I’ve seen “McMillian’s”. Twice, too!
I blame dyslexia. I just can’t always get all those letters to line up properly all the time.
Moving on to Mr Hat’s future, regardless of how he apologised, he still has this episode irrevocably stamped on his past, and he’s going to be judged with it in mind forevermore. If I were to magically be published by Macmillan (there, got it right!) tomorrow, I would be extremely wary of any kind of interaction with him because I can no longer trust him to remain professional with me or any other woman.
I’m sure that his bosses also have this in the backs of their minds. Remember: in business, one “awschist” wipes out a whole lot of “attaboys”.
His follow-up post snatches, as they say, defeat from the jaws of victory. Guy needs to learn when to shut up.
i am actually rather shocked by what he said in apology.
no, he didn’t apologize for the misogynistic stuff, but he DID apologize for singling mary out, referenced a prior friendship with her [that i wouldn’t have expected him to admit to] and was a lot classier than i’d have thought.
i wish he actually realized how freaking misogynistic his attacks were, but…
Mary, gods lady, i hope to one day be as classy and cool as you. just. seriously.
i don’t know how you do it.
Such high drama! It makes me doubly regret nit being part of SFWA the last few decades so I could have an opinion on whats happening. It certainly seems to engender a heated discussion.
People seem to have missed this in the apology—it’s kind of low key—but he does actually admit that his lawyers told him that his threat to sue all 1,200 people who shared the link was a non-starter. But then, he adds, that’s what lawyers are for, since they’re the ones who actually know the laws and stuff.
I can’t even say how much respect I have for Mary after seeing the way she’s handled her side of this controversy, from the beginning through her magnanimous acceptance of the apology. She even took someone to task publicly on Twitter for continuing to press the issue after she accepted the apology.We should all have such class and grace.
As an outside observer, I’m as unimpressed with the apology as many others here are. He diluted the point of his apology by making clear that he still thinks he was right and that what he regrets are the words he chose, not the attitudes and beliefs behind them. Bringing up his sad legal threats only reinforced the impression that he’s actually learned nothing from all this and still feels like he was the wronged party. It gives the impression that someone at Macmillan realized MRK is far more valuable to them than Fodera is and told him to clean up his mess, fast.
The second post….wow. As Avery said earlier, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The whole thing was sad, rambling, and pointless, but the part about his daughter was especially bizarre. She wants to throw away all her SF/F books because some of its fans and a few of its authors were mean to her daddy? That kind of immature thinking is perfectly understandable in a teenager who loves her father. Her reaction suggests that she doesn’t have a full understanding of the situation and his part in it, and strongly implies he hasn’t taken the kind of responsibility privately that he has publicly. His using that reaction to try to score rhetorical points suggests he still lacks a full understanding of the situation and his part in it. It comes across to me as having his daughter say “O woe is me!” on his behalf.
Wow, MRK is so full of grace and class. I doubt I could be so in her place, but she’s given an example to aspire to.
1. I salute Ms. Kowal for her magnanimity.
2. At times vitriolic thoughts, unfit for polite company, cross my mind. Hopefully I will never post them for posterity like Mr. Fodera did.
3. All else being roughly equal, I’d rather get to know people who are receptive to Mr. Fodera’s apology than people who are not.
4. Mr. Fodera might consider Ms. Kowal’s suggestion to rejoin SFWA. Accepting the ensuing barrages would be a tangible penance.
Scalzi: Update: MRK’s response to the apology is here.
I’ve never met MRK or had any dealings with her remotely, but the more I see her behaviour through the distant telescope of the internet, the more I get she is a far, far better human being than I.
I don’t know if I could do what she did were I put in the same circumstances. To read through a fraction of the crap directed at her, and then to see her gracious acceptance of the apology, is… …humbling. I’d be lucky to be one tenth as gracious, but she does inspire that I could be more.
What Josh Cochran said. I think Mary’s been nothing but a class act and if she is satisfied with his apology to her, I’m glad for her.
I remain unimpressed with the substance of the apology. I don’t doubt that Fodera means it, but it was fairly clear that while he apparently understands that he hurt Mary and apologized for that, he wasn’t getting why people were upset about it – because while yes, what he said about Mary personally was awful, the mindset behind what was directed at Mary was also terribly upsetting. The splash damage caused by his targeted attack at Mary was also a reason to be upset by what he said, and he didn’t give any indication of having understood that, or why what he said was problematic.
His follow up post about “women and scifi” pretty much cements that perception for me. There’s a lot of “But I LIKE women and what they write and I have a daughter I love so I can’t be sexist!” Which again goes to show that some of the most frustrating sexism that we’re trying to push back against isn’t so much from out-and-out sexist misogynists like a certain He Who Shall Not Be Named, as it is from well-meaning people who think that just because they “like women and don’t actually think that women can’t write scifi” they’re incapable of being sexist. I don’t doubt for a second that Fodera really believes that he’s not sexist – and that’s a big part of the problem. Because if he’s starting from a point where he thinks that because “he’s not sexist,” he can react to any criticism as an attack on his character, rather than consider if there’s any merit to said criticism, because he can’t be sexist because he likes women writers!
I appreciate Mary’s grace in handling the crap flung at her. I don’t know if I could be as graceful – and what makes her such a wonderful person is that she strikes me as the type of person who wouldn’t judge and would understand why someone else in her shoes might not react with the same level of grace that she has.
I don’t think he understands all that he did that upset people, but I think he is sincere in his apology. Sincerity should be accepted. I think he did well at apologizing for what he understood. Maybe after some reflection and some talks with friends he’ll figure out that it was his choice of weapon that was the biggest issue.
So I appreciate his sincere apology for attacking her, but I still have a problem with his apparent inability to recognize or admit to the misogyny in his attack.
I know someone up thread said they’d hate to see someone he really hates, but as someone who can get erm… hyperbolic…. when riled I can accept that he doesn’t hate her, but he was really really really mad at her when he wrote that.
Her reaction suggests that she doesn’t have a full understanding of the situation and his part in it, and strongly implies he hasn’t taken the kind of responsibility privately that he has publicly. His using that reaction to try to score rhetorical points suggests he still lacks a full understanding of the situation and his part in it. It comes across to me as having his daughter say “O woe is me!” on his behalf.
I think it’s even worse. I think that her reaction happened completely in Mr. Hat’s imagination, just so he could raise a little sympathy and cast blame for this mess onto our reactions rather than his actions.
Mary R Kowal is the queen of graciousness.
I appreciate both parties taking the high road like this and hope others will follow this stellar example. I also hope Mr. Fodera will return to SFWA. I’m hoping for great things as the organization continues to lurch in the right direction.
“I appreciate both parties taking the high road like this and hope others will follow this stellar example”
“All else being roughly equal, I’d rather get to know people who are receptive to Mr. Fodera’s apology than people who are not.”
“she even took someone to task publicly on Twitter for continuing to press the issue after she accepted the apology.”
Look, I totally agree with everyone saying how gracious Mary RK is, and dog knows, she could have simply issued a curt ‘apology accepted’ after letting Mr Hat twist in the wind for a day or two. She’s a *much* nicer person than I could ever dream of being.
But could people please stop making out that acceptance of Fodera’s pretty flawed apology (which, coupled with his second statement, is really…ugh in many ways) is somehow the only or best way to respond? The only person who can ‘accept’ the apology is Mary Robinette Kowal. The rest of us can only comment.
More than that, Fodera and Macmillan put Mary in a position where she pretty much *had* to accept the apology (though nothing forced her decent and gracious words, which were so lovely). Macmillan is her publisher, and Fodera still works for them. Telling Fodera to FOAD is, in reality, untenable for a female author. Look how much crap she still gets for one highly restrained and reasonable outburst of anger over the SFWA bulletin thing (the rabid weasels post.) A woman in her position simply can’t tell Fodera to shove it and think that won’t paint her as difficult. (I do *not* mean to imply she accepted because she was forced to. I mean that even if she was as mean and cold-hearted as men, she still had to take the ‘high road’.)
However, Fodera’s actions before this, and his apology, are symptoms of the problem women face within almost all organisations and in society. Fodera’s words, and the words of those people patting him on the back, show he just doesn’t get that. And for the sake of his daughter, the other women who will have to deal with him, and for all those women who want to make a career writing SF/F which *is* the funnest genre in the world, we simply can’t afford to stop pointing out what is wrong with his logic and his world view. Because it’s hurting us. It’s hurting his daughter. And it’s even hurting him because he doesn’t understand why he ended up in this mess.
So there’s no ‘low road’ in criticising Fodera’s apology or other comments per se. And people who have been abusive towards women writers and office holders as Fodera and other commenters have been over this and past SFWA wrangles simply do not get to lay down the acceptable ‘tone’, or the rules of engagement. When people get angry, they often get terse and worse. Stop assigning a moral value to how offended you are, when you haven’t stopped to ask yourself *why* the person is all shouty.
“even if she was as mean and cold-hearted as men”
“As me”, that should read. Heaven forfend I should sound like a man hater or something!
Well no, he wasn’t mad when he said it; he was contemptuous. But here’s the thing, men are used to it being okay for them to be “riled up” and when riled up, to attack people. And in particular, to attack women, who they know will not get a lot of sympathy for being verbally attacked (and not even necessarily if physically attacked,) and who are more likely to give them a response as Kowal did with Fedora. They are used to it being okay to go after women because women are vulnerable, disvalued and blocked in the society and because the society will excuse their behavior on the grounds that they are a man who lost his temper.
This is part of what we call male privilege in the society — male anger in a discussion is okay, excessive perhaps but understandable because he is a man — he’s in power and allowed — and such behavior does not signal the downfall of civilization, like women’s anger does. Because it is okay, it’s considered wrong to label it abusive and heavily criticize it, even though it was in the context of the other thing that is okay for both men and women to do, which is talk about women in sexualized terms, in degrading and derogatory terms, in insults, threats, and false claims. It’s verbal abuse, which Kowal herself fully recognized, and it is calculated to present the idea that a woman has overstepped her place, frustrating the man and producing this over-reaction from the man. It’s all the woman’s fault that he lost his temper.
And Fedora’s non-apology apology does exactly that. He apologies for losing his temper as if it was some unstoppable force that was totally understandable, but only vaguely apologies for the abuse and refuses to agree that it had any sexism to it when he’s claiming she’s wearing transparent dresses. And then he blames Kowal for causing him to lose his temper, for overstepping her place in not supporting his ideas, although he is now willing to spread the blame around a bit as clearly as a female she didn’t thwart him all by herself.
By repeating this message over and over — I, a man, lost my temper but it’s understandable and it was my victim’s fault for provoking me — numerous folk reinforce this idea in society, making it ingrained (and they repeat the message because it’s ingrained.) It’s okay for men to lose their temper and heap abuse on women; it should not be considered a serious issue. It’s not okay for women to lose their temper; they must be gracious. It’s the woman’s fault that the man lost his temper. We got all of that here and women get that script on a regular basis.
Understand, I’m not saying Kowal was wrong to be gracious. Under the circumstances, with Fedora working in her publisher’s contracts department and all the stuff with SFWA, there wasn’t much she could do but be gracious. She’s a woman — she’s not supposed to get into a knock down dragout feud, according to society, even if she wanted to do so. The consequences would be pretty dire — free speech from women is controlled. That’s why Fedora said what he did about Kowal — control, control of the females, control of the narrative. His apology, to the extent that it was an apology, was paternalistic, on message that he’d been trying to educate her poor female brain and was just so horribly frustrated that she didn’t accede to his wisdom. So naturally he lost his temper and said things that he shouldn’t. And now that he’s been a “bad boy,” forced to lose his temper with the recalcitrant and not submissive enough female, it should be excused, cause you know, guys.
Fedora is utterly surprised, to the extent of contemplating an impossible law suit, that his public sexist attack of a woman was a big deal, had professional consequences for him, and required him to apologize. He’ll do so, but only with the claim that his attack can’t be seen as sexist, was almost entirely Kowal’s fault and was a “boys will be boys” moment. And that’s because society tells him that’s how he should see it as a male. Society tells him that it’s deeply wrong that others who aren’t privileged criticize his speech and don’t accept his view that it’s “reverse racism” and “censorship” when they do. He doesn’t get it because he doesn’t have to get it — society says he’s right and it’s no big deal and really it’s the lady’s fault. It takes a lot of work to shift that narrative, to claim that it is false because people are used to it, invested in it and if in the right group frequently benefit from it.
Oops, kind of cross-posted with Ann there. (Always remember to refresh first before posting. Always remember to refresh first before posting.)
“Oops, kind of cross-posted with Ann there. ”
No no, I cross posted with *you*. You said it *much* better!
On the target of the insult accepting the apology:
Good on Mr. Fodera for offering the apology. Magnanimous of Ms. Kowal to accept.
Unfortunately, while Ms. Kowal may have been the only intended target of Mr. Fodera’s insult, she wasn’t the only one impacted by it; as pointed out above, insults like that have a lot of splash damage, and this one hurt a lot of people beyond the named target.
Far better than your typical not-pology. Still, there are some clear reservations and excuses that make it far less than perfect. I give it a six.
I just wanted to express admiration (again) for Kat Goodwin’s statement there was ingrained paternalism in the exchange, which can and should be challenged independently of who apologizes for what.
It is too easy to confuse his unreserved apology to Kowal with his more defensive argument that he believes he was defamed by a journalist. (Romano’s article was defamatory in spirit if not law its original title and false statement that he compared a woman to an aggressive dog when he was discussing, with close friends on an obscure forum, how he sometimes feels anxiety even in contexts when it is inappropriate. To mention his aversion to a person he has a strong dislike for and his aversion to service dogs, which are not aggressive anyway, is not comparing the person to an aggressive dog. I can see why the article provoked him into an ill-judged response.)
In that light, I suspect he should have put any discussion about “what I really meant to say about Kowal” that he felt was absolutely necessary in a separate message about the defamation issue. Not to do so was indeed on the face of it a somewhat paternalistic impulse.
Though as John said, it is hard enough for anyone to apologize.
Yes, he apologised. The apology read as forced IMO. Regardless, he apologised, which is A Good Thing, and MRK accepted graciously, also A Good Thing.
But he apologised for being mean and insulting to MRK, not because he tried to devalue and dismiss her and her work on the basis of her gender.
Wouldn’t it be nice to get to a place where men could lob insults at women WITHOUT stooping to sexist twaddle. And vice versa, of course.
“She’s a foolish person and a terrible writer and I hate her” -> fine. Not very nice, but fine.
“She’s a fake feminist because she wears dresses and therefore (like all those sluts) is foolish and a bad writer and I hate her” -> not fine.
Jo, for information in case you missed it, he did issue a second more general apology in a second statement, praising women writers, which concluded “I sincerely apologize to all parties for the unprofessional nature of my comments that began the events of this week. It was thoughtless, unworthy of me, and unfair to many of you.”
Your “She’s a fake feminist because she wears dresses” is an accurate, in fact damning, characterization of his remark that she is a hypocrite about “bikinis” if she has at some point worn clothing that revealed any part of her body. Moreover, that comment was not even an accurate characterization of Kowal’s statements about the Bulletin controversy: she wrote on her blog that the most serious problem was not a bikini remark or the cover, but rather that some authors doubled down and cried censorship when hearing about criticism of the Bulletin.
In my view, though, the rest of your characterization, “…and therefore (like all those sluts) is foolish and a bad writer and I hate her,” is less accurate.
Sean has apologised; Mary has accepted, and offered an apology in turn – as happens all the time in business. Any further comment from anyone else is throwing verbal petrol on the embers of a blazing bandwagon and it’s a pity to see so many people running up with cans.
Anne Somerville: I know Mary, and have for years. She really is that gracious to everyone. She’s not the sort to make that type of apology because she “had to” either. If she was pissed enough at Fodera to not want to accept and apology, she’d not have done him the discourtesy of making a false statement.
ynysprydain, do you mean me? I found the discussion above (particularly Kat, Ann and Jo) very interesting and relevant, but will put a sock in it if I’ve ventured too far off topic. Thanks.
(Sigh). Have you even *read* the comments, here or on the newsgroup? This was more than an argument between two individuals. MRK was singled out, to be sure, but she is only one of many women (Including–since we are being patronizing this morning–you, toots!) who are affected by the patronizing, contemptuous attitudes of Fodera *and* his chums.
As for verbal petrol, jeez. As if we’d misbehave in Scalziland. We’re too afraid of the mallet, not to mention sword drones!
OK, if we are still live, then one more thought: there was truly an offensive undercurrent of paternalism, but I’m not so sure what was in Fodera’s heart and what was spawned by the lawyers.
Hey, I’m the guy that Mary (nicely) publicly called out on Twitter! :-) I sent her a few follow-up Tweets to explain why Fodera’s still a tool, so I hope she at least understands my position.
As others have said above, if Mary has decided to accept the apology for what was directed at her, that’s her decision, and it should be respected absolutely. No one should be running to her defense or speaking on her behalf.
However, his comments weren’t aimed solely at her. There was real, calculated misogyny in his post, and Mary’s acceptance of his apology for what he said TO HER (which is about as insincere as apologies get, in my opinion) doesn’t negate that.
His contention that women can’t object to sexism if they show any skin below the neck is abhorrent. And, as I said to Mary, that offends me as a husband and as a man. It shouldn’t be tolerated.
PS Long time reader, first time poster. I think.
Then again, I tend to not believe roughly 100% of public “apologies” that relate to a person’s supposedly private written communications getting out. They were being honest when they thought they were insulated; now they’re just in full CYA mode.
I guess one should try to follow MRK’s approach and take it as genuine. However, I hope that in addition to what he posted, he considers long and hard not the bit about hitting out at MRK personally, but the bit about woman being anything other than uber-demure means they are excluded from any discussion of gender less they be labelled a hypocrite.
I had the impression that his remarks in this regard (Which i read on sff.net, not just in quoted articles) were not just lashing out at Mary, but indicated a deeper belief that a litany of women he has worked with does not invalidate. I also have to say that the note about his daughter sounded really contrived, of course a daughter will want to support their father, whether their father is innocent in every way, a misogynist bigot, or somewhere in between. Him saving her from giving up SF feel like a cheap shot at best, a slightly grim use of your daughter for PR purposes at worst.
The cynic in me also has to wonder how much fo the apology was prompted by Macmillan, this has hardly been good PR for them, though i guess maybe an upswing in MRK sales counterbalanced it!
Still, better than nothing.
As usual, MRK provides a standard for the rest of us to live up to.
As to Mr Fodera, I’m sure he’s smarting from having an entire internetz dropped on him like that, but I’d hoped for a better rationalisation than “but some of my best friends are women … ”
Mr Fodera, think about your wife, or your daughter, and how utterly unreasonable and stupid it would seem for anyone to say of them what you said of MRK. How you’d be swinging from outrage to disbelief, and back, to think that anyone with opposable thumbs could be capable of such stupidity and bile. That’s where we are. Quit while you’re behind.
‘as if it were some unstoppable force’
encapsulates so much of the rationale he is attempting to muster; by the same token, male sexuality is deemed to be some unstoppable force, and thus Mary’s clothing, or lack thereof, forces him to respond, because, after all, it’s an unstoppable force.
All of this feeds into a worldview in which males must be constantly placated, constantly supported, and constantly shielded from all those things which would trigger the unstoppable force, like women not wearing burkhas at all times.
It is, of course, a very pervasive world view, but it is not the only world view. I know quite a few guys who not only recognise the fact that they are grown ups, but also hold themselves to that standard, without needing the constant attention that seems to characterise the ones who just can’t control themselves. We need to remember, and point out, the fact that this not hard wired into the male psyche; testosterone is not what this is about.
It’s about people who are deeply invested in a world view, scrabbling desperately to continue being deeply invested in that world view, because otherwise they would have to grow up…
Entirely underwhelmed by Mr. Hat’s efforts: give him a C-. He passes, but his grades will show it.
Anything I could have said to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, significance and relevance of said efforts has already been well said: the Scalzic Commentators, especially Kat Goodwin and Ann Somerville, get an A.
MRK, of course, gets an A+ with extra credit for grace above and beyond.
@Brian, re ‘Jo, for information in case you missed it, he did issue a second more general apology in a second statement, praising women writers, which concluded “I sincerely apologize to all parties for the unprofessional nature of my comments that began the events of this week. It was thoughtless, unworthy of me, and unfair to many of you.”’
As others have said, the “but I have lots of women friends who think I’m a great guy!” isn’t a terribly convincing argument.
How one treats those one likes/works for/is related to is a poorer indicator of sexist lizard-brain sludge than how one treats those one DOESN’T like.
He resorted to a sexist attack to try make his point on sff.net that MRK was wrong in his disagreement with her involvement in and support of taking steps to make the SWFA publication less hostile to women.
If I had to work for or with him, I’d see that as a massive warning sign.
[Nervously enters room…]
First time poster, a few things I would add to things already said very eloquently.
I have severe reservations about the quality of the apologies Fodera made for a range of reasons that have already been eloquently laid out. But MRK has accepted the apology, very graciously, and I don’t see a lot of point in arguing about the details of those apologies as they pertain to who said exactly what, and what that individual meant, and so on. I think those details can too easily become red herrings—they focus attention on individuals rather than the larger issues, and allow people to ignore larger issues because it draws us into arguing about individual motivation and honesty—things about which we may be able to make informed assumptions but cannot know or prove.
BUT at the same time I think that the discussion of what is sexist behaviour and what is acceptable and what is not should continue, because it’s critically important to get people to understand how this stuff works and how it affects all of us.
I’ll preface the next comments by saying that the following is not in any way intended to excuse sexist thought and behaviour, it’s a comment on its mechanics.
Sexism and racism and all the other “isms” are the result of training and conditioning—we are taught that This is the Way It Is and The Way It Is Is Right. Most of us, thankfully, are now taught that the more extreme expressions are not acceptable, but there’s a lot of subtle stuff that gets past those “standards”.
All of us are subject to our conditioning and will respond in ways that are congruent with it unless we work damned hard to recognize the larger and more subtle context of what we are doing. For example I, as a women who has been a feminist for decades, am entirely capable of responding to situations in subtly sexist ways unless I am very conscious and thoughtful, because that was my training. I can therefore understand how Fodera could consider himself to be someone who is a strong supporter of women and yet be able to say and do things that I consider to be vilely sexist.
As a woman who has experienced it I find it relatively easy to understand how damaging sexism is, whether extreme, conscious and intentional or subtle, unconscious and unintentional, so when an example of sexism is pointed out it makes sense to me. On other issues where I do not have personal experience (e.g. racism) it may be much harder for me to recognize it, which is why allies who will point things out are so important.
But listening to allies is hard work. When (for example) applied sexism is subtle and not consciously intentional the difficulty with recognizing and admitting it can easily set up a clash between self image and actions. That clash makes it very difficult for anyone, myself included, to be challenged in areas where I screw up—that can’t be me!
The difficulty of getting someone to accept such a challenge to their self image, to even listen and accept that there may be some validity in what is being said, is one of the reasons why feminists (a description in which I include male allies as well as women) get so bloody frustrated and angry when people insist that they couldn’t possibly be sexist. (And it’s important to be angry, because it fuels the energy to keep repeating, “Listen to what we are saying.”) And it’s critically important that we keep challenging these things.
(Apologies for lack of para spacing, I assumed the program would insert it…)
Jo: “isn’t a terribly convincing argument.” I don’t disagree with anything in your last comment.
I would have been more than content to leave this with Mr. Fodera’s thoughtful apology and Ms. Kowal’s extraordinarily gracious acceptance. Until I read Fodera’s followup.
He has, by his own admission, dragged his teenaged daughter into an adult dispute. He then presents her personal outrage as tacit support for his professional behavior. What the Hell kind of parenting is that?
While my comments about Mary Robinette Kowal were inconsiderate,
they were taken out of context, edited to change their meaning, and given a
misleading headline and interpretation that certainly prejudiced anyone following
the links to the original posts. – Mr. Hat in his follow-up to his apology.
So, his apology comes across as even less of one now. Good job, buddy.
I would be really hesitant to sign on with a publisher that has a guy like this heavily involved in the contract process.
Kat: I’m not saying Kowal was wrong to be gracious. Under the circumstances, with Fedora working in her publisher’s contracts department and all the stuff with SFWA, there wasn’t much she could do but be gracious. She’s a woman
Just how weak and wilting do you think Mary is here? Jebus. The more I read about and witness her behaviour in this shitstorm, the more she comes across as one of the strongest people I’ve ever seen. She is a leader of a “I would follow her into hell if she but ask” quality. Forgiveness isn’t weakness.
— she’s not supposed to get into a knock down dragout feud, according to society, even if she wanted to do so
Even if she wanted to? What you’re doing is called “projection”. You’re projecting what you want to do (knockdown dragout fight) into what Mary wants to do. And now that she didn’t do what you wanted, now that she instead accepted the apology graciously, with class, and powerfully, you’re trying to retcon the story so that deep down she wanted to be as vindictive as you are, but she couldn’t, you know, because society.
Cripes. It’s so fucking rare to see someone as powerful, someone as generous, someone as gracious, as Mary has been in this kind of shitstorm. And it cheeses me off to hear people try to drag her down to their level.
Here’s a crazy thought. How about Mary was actually powerful enough that she meant what she said and said what she meant? How about she is as gracious as her words and actions demonstrate, rather than deep down she’s vindictive but too weak to overpower society to drink his blood? How about maybe she didn’t get into your knockdown dragout fight, because she didn’t need to? How about she accepted the guy’s apology, however flawed it may be, because she’s just got that level of class?
In re that second post of Sean Fodera’s. he seems to have learned nothing about appropriate distinctions between what one shares in public and private. I hope that he at least got his daughter’s approval for sharing her private reaction with the world.To me, he appeared to be wildly scrambling to show himself in a better light, something that might have gone better if he had waited and let his emotions settle a bit more.
Ugh. Sorry about the formatting in my last comment.
He has apologized, which counts for something. MRK has accepted it and that is certainly important. He may even be entirely sincere in that he truly does support women authors in the community and so on. But his core problem remains: he doesn’t seem to recognize that some of his attitudes and behaviors are still enabling the kind of things he professes to not believe in.
His dismissal of MRK seems to have stemmed from disagreements over the SFWA’s direction, at least by his version. That’s clearly somewhat subjective, which clearly guided MRK’s acceptance message. if he FELT excluded, then it explains some of his unprofessional commentary (it doesn’t EXCUSE it, but it does EXPLAIN it). Over the years, I have come to recognize my level of privilege in society and try to at least be mindful of it. Fodera clearly seems to recognize it at the societal level, but not on a personal one. He sees things he claims to have done and thus concludes that he never exhibits sexist or disabling attitudes.
His mistake, of course, is assuming that sexism is a binary position. It’s not. He can be a strong advocate for female writers as he claims…and still be dismissive of them as people. He can be unintentionally derogative at the exact same time as he is recognizing someone for their accomplishments. His follow-up message rings a little bit of the ‘some of my best friends are black’ fallacy with a hint of ‘you look good since you got fat’.
The thing that is somewhat off-putting is the lack of self-reflection in the tone. That and bringing his daughter into the argument, to the tune of ‘now she’s given up on all of SF/F because of you, YOU MONSTERS’.
I’m so glad Ann and Kat crossposted. I wouldn’t want to be deprived of either of those excellent write ups. I agree with them, just to be absolutely explicit.
Kat’s exegesis is masterful. Fodora did apologize so that is a step in the right direction and to be accepted as such. At the same time its just one step on a long journey.
His apology and subsequent statements make it quite clear he doesn’t actually understand what was wrong with what he did. So there’s little reason to believe he won’t do it again. Perhaps he has learned not to do it in public, but so far I see little cause to believe that he’s learned much else.
Hopefully some friends or allies can help him move forward from there. Because right now what I see is another Hat out there busily making the road harder for all us uppity folk. Another Hat in a position of power who just loves women, so long as we don’t cross him or fail in our duty of deference.
I don’t have anything productive to say about the apology, but of course I have an opinion on the legal issues.
Fodera’s claim that he had a strong case against the Daily Dot but just decided it wasn’t worth the hassle is, to use a polite legal term, “suspect”. George already linked about to Ken White at Popehat explaining at length why it was highly unlikely Fodera had a case against the Daily Dot, and none at all against the 1200+ people who linked to the article.
I find it difficult to believe that an attorney who understands defamation at least as well as Ken would have told Fodera he has a viable case. My eduguess is that he either had a brief chat with a lawyer friend where he presented a very slanted view of the facts, and was told “Sounds like you might have a case, but here’s what you’d be in for…..”; or (if he talked to Macmillan’s lawyers, which is plausible) he’s simply unwilling to admit that he was talking out of his ass on how “strong” his case is, and was so advised by counsel. Similarly, his ‘I hadn’t kept up on the law’ comment about why he genuinely thought he could sue 1200+ people for linking to the Daily Dot is, what’s the polite legal term, “difficult to credit”.
TL;DR: having swaggered about what a legal eagle he is and how he was going to ruin those lying liars, RUIN them, he’s trying to say “My lawyer told me I have no case and my ego was writing checks my ass can’t cash” in as face-saving a way as possible.
TL;DR #2: as I am not the first to point out, if you believe you have been wronged and want to sue the wrongdoer until they are reduced to their constituent atoms, DO NOT BLAT ABOUT YOUR INTENT TO DO SO. Talk to a competent attorney first. Otherwise, you have either given your opponent a heads-up and time to thwart you, or you are about to make a giant assrouter of yourself in public. (Even “I’m going to consult my lawyer about this” is risky, because people are then going to ask you “so what did your lawyer say?!” and you will look like a nitwit if you have to admit your lawyer’s responses was “Clients like you are why the profession has a high alcoholism rate.”)
@Ann Somerville: while I’m the last person to say that the profession is only composed of the noble and upstanding, given the very ‘I could SO sue your faces off but I won’t because I’m a BUSY MAN and I care about my family’ handwaving in his post, I’m not sure a lawyer did agree to take his case.
@Mike: lawyers usually work on a fee basis, either hourly or flat fee in some cases. There are specific areas where lawyers work on contingency, and those are generally the types of civil cases where the person suing couldn’t afford lawyers – personal injury most commonly, or sometimes representing tenants in landlord/tenant disputes where the prevailing party gets a fee – because risk of losing (and the lawyer paying all costs out of pocket) is offset by the likelihood of getting fees. I can’t imagine a lawyer doing a case like this on contingency.
I believe that any apology in a mess like this is an improvement over a few years ago when there wouldn’t have been any. However, I agree with Kat Goodwin’s statement there was ingrained paternalism in the exchange, that he still doesn’t acknowledge or even probably see.
He wasn’t mad just dismissive. He was personally cruel about someone he works with professionally in a public space (all Internet is public). He may have apologized to MRK and taken a serious hit from his employer but he still doesn’t see the problem. He publicly made SciFi/Fantasy seem like an abusive all boys sexist club.
Now I have friends who are already saying that they don’t want to read more scifi/’fantasy books if the industry is that bad. This idiot has created a publicity nightmare for an industry that already is dealing with the view that it is male focused. Which it isn’t!!!! The majority of our SciFi/Fantasy book club is female. The majority of people I see in that section in the bookstore are female. I am so open minded I actually buy and enjoy RIngo’s books but most of my favorite authors are women. People like me, keep people like him getting paychecks. I spend over $100 a month on Amazon just on my genre books and another $20-60 on books I NEED to have hardcover. I am your target audience and I bring in more customers frequently. DON’T PISS ME OFF!
P.S. Thank you to John and MRK for dragging this organization into the current century.
[Deleted for trolling – JS]
Come on, with a username like that, it just had to be a quality comment.
Also. There’s one other thing that has been bugging me and I haven’t yet seen addressed. With the caveat that of course we can’t know all the back story – here’s what I’ve gathered. The reason Fodora doesn’t like Kowal is that they disagreed about the direction of the SWFA. At a time when she was an OFFICER of the organization and he was a volunteer.
So hmmm. An elected officer disagreed with him and her decision stood. So he withdrew his volunteer services, quit the organization, and two TWO years later is still, by his own admission irrationally angry at her. So much so he bad mouths her on the message boards of the organization even though he works for her publishing house.
Hmmm. An officer disagreed with a volunteer and the volunteer didn’t shut up and soldier or graciously withdraw, or run for office himself. He pulled a “how very dare you” and two years later is still holding a self destructive grudge. Sounds like somebody can’t take direction – sounds like unexamined privilege to me.
The hope with these ugly situations is that they help drive positive change. I don’t get the impression from Sean. Fodera’s apology that he really learned anything. It is good that he is apologizing but I had hoped for more from him.
Mary Robinette Kowal’s response is a class act.
Wow – that apology had all the earmarks of a Republican “apologizing” to Obama for sending out racist tweets full of death threats…after The Secret Service paid him a visit!
Haven’t read the apology, won’t bother after the comments here seem to have summed it up fairly well. Sounds like it was better than we could have expected, but far worse than we should have hoped. Overall, since, as John says, apologies are hard, and since Mary accepted, I’ll take a wait-and-see attitude. I didn’t expect the apology at all, and it’s possible he’ll reflect on his failures after a cooling-down period. (I admit, I’m a hopeless optimist.)
That said, I want to point out that his legal threats, as ridiculous as they may seem here in the US, might actually have had some teeth in the UK, where truth is not necessariy a defense against defamation. Which means that the UK is a favorite place for forum-shoppers among the butt-hurt. UK libel laws are so notoriously slanted that the US (according to something I read at Popehat) recently passed a law protecting US citizens from UK claims.
This means that while you should feel free to vent against the guy here on John’s blog (up to the limits of whatever John might be willing to tolerate), you should not do the same on, e..g. Charlie Stross’s blog, since he’s in the UK, and could be indirectly liable. I don’t think the guy is crazy enough to pursue a suit at this point (see Streisand’s Law), but I’m not optimistic enough to be certain!
Studer: “Josh, you may be assuming that whatever story Mr Fodera told his counsel was a neutral and unbiased version…”
Any lawyer who believes in the neutrality and unbiasedness of his/her client’s account is a very poor lawyer.
From the apology: SFWA used to do excellent work in educating writers …[on] contracts, copyrights, estate planning, etc.
but apparently not on libel and defamation, what they are, and how to properly identify them in the wild.
Should be right next to the “don’t have an Anne Rice Meltdown” articles.
My that was a very eloquent apology full handsome excuses. And a very nice acceptance of the aforementioned non-remorse.
I would like to say to the poster who mentioned that a friend is swearing off reading science fiction and fantasy because of this. Thrashing out sexism and racism and other negative isms in a public forum is actually a good thing. As painful as it is to watch, the example it sets is a good one for the rest of the world.
Popehat didn’t say that the US had introduced a law; he referred to a Court case, which is rather different. It is perfectly correct, however, to note that London is the libel capital of the world; all sorts of people sue in our Courts, though the chances of actually enforcing a judgement may be slender if the parties are elsewhere.
However, it would be exceedingly unlikely that even our Courts would intervene if we discuss the actual text of Fodera’s comments; I am free to say that, based on his original comments, it seems to me that his apology stems from his desire not to lose his job, and I am free to say that it seems to me that his follow up on women in SF in general also stems from the same desire. This is a perfectly reasonable interpretation of the texts; I am not asserting it as fact but rather my opinion.
There is a large gap between asserting fact and expressing opinion which, oddly enough, Mr Fodera seems to have overlooked. His claim that he was legally qualified to judge that anyone linking to the article was legally liable was an assertion of fact, which proved, unsurprisingly, to be untrue. I suppose that if John went completely bananas he could threaten legal action in response on the grounds that Mr Fodera had defamed him, by accusing him of defaming him, but John isn’t going to go completely bananas.
Incidentally, our libel laws aren’t all bad. I have fond memories of a particular case in which the media had alleged that two nursery nurses were paedophiles who had engaged in Satanic rituals with the children they cared for; it was completely untrue, but it resulted in the nurses going in fear of their lives. The lawyers who acted for them did so on a no win no fee basis, and since there were complex issues of qualified privilege involved, relating to the original allegations, it took the Judge some 600 pages of superb quality legal prestidigitation to not only find in their favour but extract some money for them at the end of the day.
This was, predictably enough, represented as a Bad Thing, particularly by the media who really didn’t see why they should refrain from running front page pictures of the nurses with the banner headline of ‘Find These Monsters’ emblazoned over the top, just because there was no evidence that they had done anything wrong, much less something monstrously wrong. After all, the sacred right of the tabloid press to sell newspapers by any means possible should not be impugned…
(Side notice for context: I’m a fan of your work.)
First off, this wasn’t a simple private-public business dispute between Fodera (whose name I’ve apparently been spelling wrong recently, sorry about that,) and Kowal. He wasn’t even talking to her; he was talking about her in the context of the Bulletin controversy and the petition controversy, which has larger social (and for that matter business) implications than any grumbles between them and can be and has been discussed.
Specifically, I was looking at a wider social attitude that was present in Fodera’s attempt at an apology in which he blames Kowal for provoking his outburst two years after their dispute. This position was also present in Resnick and Malzberg’s response to criticism as tyranny and the contents of the petition towards female writers and objectors — it is a running theme of this whole string of arguments. But the even more relevant example that came to my mind is when Christopher Priest wittily and acidicly took down the Clarkson Award nominees awhile back. At that time, several female writers pointed out that if they’d tried to do a similar piece, they would have been the recipients of rape and death threats and sexualized insults. Whereupon, they received rape threats and sexualized insults for pointing out the fact of that disparity.
So I don’t have to bring any petrol to what is not a dying fire and is in fact part of a whole string of still going fires around the SFWA controversy and around the field and world in general. Because I’m quite sure that Kowal has received a bundle of hate mail for graciously accepting Fodera’s apology, because they don’t think he should have ever apologized.
I have no ability to either accept nor reject Fodera’s apology, as it was not made to me. (Like Richter, I give it about a six for execution.) Likewise, I have no problem with Kowal accepting the apology or with praise for her for doing so — it’s not my place to have a problem with it in any case. But it is also a social truth that as a female, Kowal is expected to accept the apology, whatever her personality, especially because she and Fodera are sort of co-workers, even if the apology blames her for causing the attack.
The attitude that is socially ingrained is that male anger, aggression and sexualized speech towards women is an understandable slip (or perfectly fine from the first.) Whereas female anger and criticism of the same is considered unreasonable and unprofessional at best and fascist censorship at worst (see Bulletin controversy.) This is an attitude that we deal with all the time from males and females, our loved ones, friends and co-workers. It’s part of the fabric of what gets called normal and acceptable about gender.
If Kowal had been a man, Fodera would not have, in criticizing and insulting her, talked about her body, purity, etc., and done gender specific insults. If Kowal had been a man and responded to the insults with an FU, this would not have been seen as an unreasonable reaction from a man, but very unacceptable from a woman, even with the sexualized insults. In fact, if Kowal as a man had engaged in a war of words with Fodera over the insults, creating a feud, it would be well in the tradition of grand feuds between authors in SFFH. Those feuds very seldom involve women authors because it is not considered reasonable and professional for women to engage in that sort of aggression and it can have strong business consequences for them. That’s why Silverberg and Gerrold’s love of “vigorous debate” over Bulletin content is disingenuous; they know that women are blocked and at a serious disadvantage in attempting those sorts of arguments.
For example, when some folk tell Scalzi that he is a hypercritical, smug, suck-up loser, etc., it is not unusual for him to respond, “Have I mentioned that I have a Hugo? Suck it.” or “Your tears are delicious.” And we laugh because it is funny. It’s not going to effect Scalzi’s career to respond like that. When a woman author responds in a similar manner, however, she might get away with it, depending on how it’s executed, but she will also get a combo of rape threats/sexualized insults, and paternalistic scolds that she isn’t being professional. As Scalzi himself noted in a post, “The Kind of Thing I Don’t Get.”
It’s a double standard, it’s a very old double standard, and it exists whether it is challenged (petrol can,) or not. And it was quite present in Fodera’s apology, which can be noted and commented on, regardless of what is going on between Fodera and Kowal. And it was quite present in the conflict over the Bulletin and the conflict over the petition. If we don’t bring up this attitude and challenge it, then there is little chance of folks like Fodera ever getting a clue about this institutionalized sexism and the problems with genderized attacks. And that is a very severe and discriminatory business disadvantage that women then have to endure, no matter how gracious they are.
I did not intent to impute the smallest criticism of Ms Kowal in my comments, and if anything I said came off as sounding like it, let me apologise for that sincerely.
I was trying, as Kat was, to point out that Macmillan and Fodera put her in a horrible political situation which she should not ever have been in and it was actually unfair of both to do that to her, given that a writer – especially a woman – under contract, is under such hugh constraints regarding public reactions to such a situation.
That Mary acted generously without heeding those real constraints out of pure decency, is not in question by anyone, least of all me. That Mary, personally (and I have no doubt, some other women put in such a position), would have acted according to her personal lights regardless of those constraints, is not being questioned by me.
I am saying that in general the type of outburst and abuse Fodera emitted, requiring an at least employer-forced public apology, when both parties are tied to that same company, means the person being apologised to, especially when female (or, say, black) ties the hands of the recipient in an unacceptable way. Both Fodera and Macmillan were counting on this (and not on Mary’s personal excellent qualities because those, they cannot manipulate) to draw a line under Fodera’s behaviour.
And it would have worked (it has worked for those desperate to exculpate Fodera) if (a) Fodera’s apology (untainted by that ridiculous second statement) had shown a proper understanding of what he did, why it was wrong, and that no one was responsible for him gushing forth like a sewer except Sean Fodera himself and (b) he hadn’t made that ridiculous second statement.
If, as another example, President Obama accepts Ted Nugent’s apology for calling him a “subhuman mongrel”, it’s will be because Obama is a pretty decent guy. But Nugent and his enablers will be certain of that acceptance not because they know the smallest thing about Obama’s qualities, but because they count on that fact the President must act presidentially. It’s a no-risk situation in their estimation. There is huge social pressure on the victim to accept apologies, however forced, in the name of being a good sport. If you think that pressure isn’t doubled or tripled in the case of non-male, non-white or non-straight victims, then that assumes facts not in evidence.
The idea that Mary Robinette Kowal would have told Fodera to shove it, would never have entered into the minds of Fodera, Macmillan’s HR people, or their lawyers. That’s because they assumed Mary is of their ilk, not the superior individual she actually is.
I swear I do not have some kind of double act going with Kat Godwin :)
Ann (and Kat), if you do, please keep it going!
Folks, I’m away until 3/3, so comments are being suspended for now.
It’ll be a while before this posts if it ever does but Mr. Hat seems to think the article was responsible for the reaction :
“While my comments about Mary Robinette Kowal were inconsiderate, they were taken out of context, edited to change their meaning, and given a misleading headline and interpretation that certainly prejudiced anyone following the links to the original posts.”
But I didn’t read the article – I followed the activities in sff.net directly. However they were parsed in the article, he showed himself to be sexist in his own words.
Mary is amazing and generous and her acceptance of his apology is admirable.
But Kat and Ann above make excellent points and if he has friends here they should take him aside and make sure he understands them.
Welp, he had the balls to apologize, but not the balls to apologize sincerely.
MRK is classy as is apparently usual. Hopefully Shades of Milk and Honey can keep me going until Words of Radiance comes out to sate my fantasy addiction.
Never tried Victorian fantasy before, should be fun.
This is apparently going on again, because folks running the Hugos decided to have as host Jonathan Ross, the British media presenter, comics and game writer, and comedian who is known, among other things, for a number of controversial incidents. Farah Mendlesohn tried to get them not to do it and run it through committee, but they said no, so she resigned from the committee part though she’s still involved with LonCon. And a number of women authors and fans and others got really upset and Ross got really upset back on Twitter because people were coming at him, and nasty things were said all about, and Ross — who’d planned on hosting for free at the suggestion of Neil Gaiman who worked with Ross’ wife on Stardust — promptly resigned. And it’s interesting to see again the same stuff come up, especially about women’s anger. It’s like a recording loop. Anyway, anyone so inclined, you could give Seanan McGuire some kind words of support because she was pretty upset. (I just finished her zombie novel Feed not long ago — good stuff.)
The Ross/Hugo thing is not directly on topic here so I’m fine with not appending that discussion into the comment thread.