When Friends Fuck Up, and So Do I
So, I’ve spent a day giving myself a small ulcer trying to write this thing well, and it hasn’t been working. So fuck it, I’ll just go for blunt and see where that gets me:
I have some friends who have fucked up in how they’ve been treating women. Specifically Myke Cole and Max Temkin and Sam Sykes and (as an online acquaintance who I’ve been friendly with) Warren Ellis. Variously they’ve fucked up and it’s the first time I’ve heard of it, or they’ve fucked up, been given one strike (by me and others) and then fucked up again. Some have owned up to it and accepted that they’ve fucked up; at least one (as far as I can see) has sort of slunk off.
I’m not interested in excusing or mitigating their fuck ups. When you fuck up, you own your karma. I like and have liked all these guys to a greater or lesser degree, and also my personal feelings about them are irrelevant with regard to how they’ve treated other people, and specifically women (and, additionally, people they’ve identified as women who might be non-binary).
It’s hard and sad when friends fuck up, because they’re friends; you like them and you have a relationship with them. You have friends in common. You have at least a little bit of a life in common. It hurts when your friends fuck up. But when they fuck up, you have to be clear about it.
My friends fucked up. Not accidentally, to be clear. They made choices.
They are responsible for their wholly intentional fuck ups.
Also, I am responsible for my fuck-ups in relation to them — to what extent my friendship implies complicity with their actions, or provides cover, or has allowed me to overlook things I should have been paying attention to, or has allowed me to excuse what they were doing. This is one reason I feel like I have a small ulcer at the moment; the gnawing feeling in my gut that wonders how much of their fuck ups are at my door. In some cases, not much! In others: well, more.
(You should also know right now I definitely have that exasperated part of me that is all, like, look, I haven’t been in the same room as this guy for a couple of years! I don’t have a body cam on him! I don’t see every goddamned thing he does as he does it and to whom he does it! My brain is very full of defensive frustrated whining right now! Which is also a thing I have to work through.)
(And while I’m at it, I’m going through my own interactions with people, especially women, at conventions and other places where it turns out the power differential slides toward me. I can admit that this power differential wasn’t something I truly clued into for a while — I think it took being SFWA President to get it drilled into my head, because that was a big fuckin’ neon sign, wasn’t it — but it was there fairly early, so, uhhh, yeah. I’ve seen people commenting “well, at least we still have Scalzi,” and there’s part of my brain going, oh, man, I sure hope you do! But I also know that I have fucked up before in other places where I didn’t understand my power (see: RaceFail, now a decade back), and because of that what I did or said hurt people. That’s also a thing.)
So, yeah, I have to sit with and work through all of that.
I’m angry at my friends right now. I’m sad for my friends right now. I’m even more angry about and sad for the women who they have made feel unsafe, and who they have harassed, or groomed, or otherwise harmed, because it is unacceptable. I want to be a friend to my friends and I also want to chuck them off the side of the fucking boat and be done with them. I want to think there’s a way back for some of them, for the same reason there was a way back for me when I’ve fucked up before. That’s on them, and right now I don’t know how much, if any, of my personal time and credibility I want to put into helping them. I’m frustrated and I’m tired that we keep having to do this, and I’m ashamed that some of the reason we keep having to do this rests on me. I understand and accept why I need to write this piece and I also fucking resent having to, and that resentment rests solely on my friends, and me.
I’m well aware of how much this piece I’ve made about my reaction, when at the end of the day what it should be, simply, is this:
Women have a right to be safe and secure, and to have full participation in the cultures and communities that they create and work in.
My friends fucked that up. And me too.
I’m sorry my friends fucked up. I am sorry for fucking up too.
I’m going to work on my shit. I hope these men I’ve called my friends work on theirs.