February 18th, 2014

PK Icon

The Demographic Snake Swallows SFWA

I gather from this interesting piece by an author I never heard of (sorry, I am really out of touch with current SF) that SFWA seems to be suffering from a bad bout of demographic drift. The issue in question is misogyny and the professional standards that ought to be displayed in the SFWA journal, but I confess I am seeing more and more evidence of the Demographic Snake at work.

The extremely wordy Petition protesting, if I understand this correctly, formation of a fairly standard standards committee to ensure that comments about women SFWA members don't descend to locker-room banter and that the journal maintains some professional standards. the author of the blog post expressed disappointment that many luminaries (male and female) signed on to the Petition, which has much usual pontifications about free speech, the perils of political correctness, etc.

What struck me looking at the signatories was, no surprise to those who know my obsessions with the Demographic Snake, was the age of the signatories. The ones I recognized (and the ones I didn't whose ages I could easily ascertain over the Internet) were over 50. It would not surprise me to find a few under 40 names on there among the ones I don't recognize. But age appears to be a much more common factor among the signatories than gender.

I am reminded of a time I was at a Senate hearing when the members were jesting about accents. Rep. Klobuchar defended hers by remarking that many find Midwestern accents soothing. "And alluring," added one elderly Republican, in what was clearly by body language and tone meant to be a gallant camaraderie. I was not, however, the only member of the audience who winced.

It is not, of course, that all people born before 1965 have a particular attitude and all those born after 1975 have a different one. This is a distribution curve and probabilities. Nor is all sexism explained simply as generational lag. The recent studies of rampant sexism in Silicon Valley illustrate that sexism (and racism) persist. But there are differences that matter -- just as the differences between breast cancer and bone cancer matter in diagnosis and treatment.

And, of course, when I've got a pet theory, all data tend to confirm it.