Alright, I didn't want to write a thing but I'm going to write a thing...
All this malarky with Jonathon Ross and the Hugos. The distilled version:
The problem wasn’t that he wasn’t “nerdy” enough. The problem was that he has a history of sexist and transphobic behaviour and we didn’t want that in a space where women are struggling enough as it is.
I know he’s a fantastic voice for science fiction and that’s brilliant. But, in the SFF space, women feel like they’re having a really hard time. Cons are working really hard to ensure gender parity on panels, to reduce harassment especially of female cosplayers, and to make sure women’s “nerd credentials” aren’t constantly checked by every male con member. If you’re sitting there shouting “well I don’t do that, that’s not fair to say that” then you’re part of the problem.
I am not a fan of Jonathon Ross, I have to watch the Comedy Awards on mute every year but if it were just a case of me not liking him as a comedian that would be FINE, I’d be more than happy for him to host the Hugos because, hey, my preference isn’t your preference and everyone’s different. The problem for me is bringing someone who was fired from their job due to an offensive prank that involved inappropriate comments about someone’s granddaughter, into a space already feels like a somewhat unsafe space for some women is not ok.
Listen to the women who say they’re not happy and listen to their reasons. Saying “oh but that was a long time ago, why are you still going on about it now?” about the things Ross has done is not good enough. They were offensive then and they’re offensive now, and when the SFF con community is trying to create a safe space for women, bringing someone in who has that history is like saying “we condone what he did. We think it’s ok now.”
That doesn’t make me, and a lot of other women (and men) feel safe. It has NOTHING to do with his “nerd credentials” WHATSOEVER. To say that is just scapegoating the real problem.
I saw someone refer to themselves as “just a lowly volunteer” the other day and it really distressed me. There is no such thing as “just” a volunteer! (This is written in the context of science fiction conventions, but probably applies to many other kinds of all-volunteer events.)
For those of you who have no context, a lot of SF conventions (especially ones that are more about books than anything else) are entirely volunteer run, top to bottom. This includes Worldcon and Arisia and Boskone and Minicon and BayCon and all kinds of other big conventions. These conventions literally would not happen without their volunteers.
Yes, there’s a level of volunteer called “staff,” but that really only means a couple of things. First, it means you probably joined up to do work before the convention, rather than mostly or entirely at the convention. Second, at some levels, it means you can have bucks passed to you. (Also, some of these jobs are more interesting – I’m having a hell of a lot of fun being Deputy Division Head for WSFS at Worldcon this year, but I also had a lot of fun being a roving troubleshooter at BayCon two years ago.)
Our volunteers are the people who make the whole thing go. They take registrations, give directions, lay out tech setups, make sure programming is running smoothly, take care of guests, and so much more. They’re really the face of the convention for 90% of the membership, and without them the con would never happen.
The joke is always that everyone working a convention gets paid in “ego cookies,” and to some extent that’s true, but it shouldn’t be because some people get to be important when others aren’t. It’s the satisfaction of a job well done, of knowing that you came together as a part of a team to make an awesome event for your community. Everyone gets to share equally in that pride – the person who puts in two hours as a door guard so someone else can go get lunch just as much as the con chair themselves.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re “just” a volunteer – you’re the foundation on which the entire thing is built. Be proud of that.
(Last night I had a whole elaborate metaphor about marching bands that involved telling you that the parade doesn’t sound right without the tuba, be glad you were spared.)