David Thompson
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January 26, 2009

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JuliaM

"“Perverted gay interplanetary warlords” sounds promising..."

Well, John Norman's cornered the market in the hetero-sort....

Karen M

Doesn't science fiction have a big female readership, like over 50%? So much for patriarchy.

David

I think female readers outnumber males in most literary genres and I vaguely recall a survey, which I can’t find online, suggesting the percentage of female readers of science fiction is around 52%. Presumably, Bidisha thinks this female majority is repeatedly buying books they don’t wish to read.

Cambias

I suspect that like too many outside critics, this woman's primary exposure to science fiction is some old Star Trek reruns, one showing of The Phantom Menace, and a reading of Joanna Russ's "How to Suppress Women's Writing" back in college.

James S

"a homosocial all-male fantasy fest like the film Dark Knight."

I thought Batman was *supposed* to have a gay subtext? Isn't that inclusive enough?

sackcloth and ashes

Presumably it's part of the Guardian's Equal Opportunity policy to ensure that complete fuckwits are employed as well as sensible people who master the topic before they write about it.

Anna

I Googled "perverted gay interplanetary warlord" and the first thing that came up was this place.

David

James,

“Isn’t that inclusive enough?”

I suspect Bidisha would like every single science fiction product to feature the prescribed menu of characters in the approved ratios, all of whom being suitably empowered, until they reflect exactly her own selfless preference. Anything else would be “complacent” or “apolitical” or positively heinous.

Anna,

“I Googled ‘perverted gay interplanetary warlord’ and the first thing that came up was this place.”

Curses, I’ve been rumbled. Prepare the escape pod.

an apolitical person

"Outrage against such bigotry is met with bafflement by apolitical people who simply don't get what the big issue is and are too lazy and complacent to fight the status quo."

I refuse to get wound up over nothing. I must be "too lazy and complacent to fight the status quo."

Horace Dunn

I assume that, by Hope Murless, she means Hope Mirrlees. Mirrlees's best known book, "Lud-in-the-Mist", is well worth seeking out.

David:

"I suspect Bidisha would like every single science fiction product to feature the prescribed menu of characters in the approved ratios, all of whom being suitably empowered, until they reflect exactly her own selfless preference. Anything else would be “complacent” or “apolitical” or positively heinous."

That does, indeed, seem to characterise Bidisha and her argument, pretty accurately. But the question is, will achieving this result have the desired effect of stopping:

"misogynists despising women, racists despising non-whites and homophobes despising gay people"?

Well, probably not, since: "The haters hate because they love it, it's a buzz and they're bullies".

Oh dear. Why must changing society be so DIFFICULT?!

David

AAP,

“I refuse to get wound up over nothing. I must be ‘too lazy and complacent to fight the status quo’.”

Given Bidisha’s feeble and self-refuting argument, I doubt she’s being entirely honest with her readers. I suspect the objective is to be *seen* being loudly “outraged” by something, regardless of how absurd that something happens to be. However inept the actual argument, the display of indignation is enough, as it draws attention to the lava of righteousness coursing through her veins, and thereby to her superiority over the likes of thee and me.

Anna

Even some Guardian readers aren't buying it:

"This is another one of those bizarre Bidisha articles where she bemoans the lack of apples and oranges on the shelf, and then regales us with a long list of the different apples and oranges on the shelf… I think the real problem is that Bidisha won't be happy until the entire world precisely reflects her own exact worldview. Rather than championing Planet Diversity, she's really only interested in Planet Bidisha."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/25/science-fiction-diversity-gender?commentid=b3121df6-c048-4190-8067-b731c79afa3a

Dylan Bruns

Wait, she doesn't like geishas, assasins or muscly girls? Sexist. More seriously, is she even reading modern science fiction? All the modern sci-fi I have read has no concern for race or gender.

David

“More seriously, is she even reading modern science fiction?”

Well, quite. Of all the genres to take ideological umbrage with, science fiction seems one of the least plausible targets. Which may explain why Bidisha’s argument is oddly short on specifics.

jeepers

Are Batman and Buffy even science fiction?

David

“Are Batman and Buffy even science fiction?”

Those are Bidisha’s examples, supposedly indicating misogyny and racism respectively. I don’t know much about Buffy, but if Batman qualifies as science fiction, it’s an odd example to pick, given the comics’ gallery of improbably resourceful female characters.

Rinat

Well, if this bidsha feels that something is missing from the scifi panorama why doesn't she write it herself?

Otherwise somebody may start believing that what she misses is the rant she's written.

besides, I don't think the way she says "perverted gay interplanetary warlords" is decent: they-re non white, they are gay and it's like she's trying to make them non white homosexuals look bad.

She's clearly racist. And homophobic too. The Guardian should fire her.

David

“The Guardian should fire her.”

Out of a cannon. Into the Sun.

windy blow

Not apolitical at all, madam. Just not your kind of political.

Clyde Barrow

That she writes poorly-reasoned junk is obvious. The real question is, why does she have a newspaper column?

Anna

It's the patriarchy!

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2008/04/big-hair-and-ra.html

Doda McCheesle

Bidisha! That sounds like a GREAT name for a super heroine! An alien (non-White) who is a reformed assassin hooker who escaped from court and now wears a bronze breastplate while using her magical earth powers to fight crime! Little girls will see her as a role model! It will be great!

David

And it should always be written with an exclamation mark. Bidisha! [ Does jazz hands. ]

Arnold Williams

Bidisha! [jazz hands] evidently hasn't bothered to think through her own thesis. Samuel Delany http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_R._Delany is easily findable in Wikipedia, and is a successful SF author without meeting any of her stereotypes. Massive silliness. But, as pointed out before, even silly people get columns in the Guardian, which is, unknown to its writers, a source of comic relief to many of its readers, see, e.g. http://notebuyer.livejournal.com/241278.html this.

waayne fontes

I was wondering why Bidesh! thought the Olympics had been sexualized when I clicked that link. Good God David, include a warning. After viewing her picture I realized that compared to Bidesha! virtually any adult could be viewed as sexualized since they no longer resemble 14 year old adolescents.

Outa_Spaceman

Don't get me started on those Perverted gay interplanetary warlords coming to our planet and stealing our jobs and (wo)min, getting their gender-realignment treatment free on the N.H.S., playing their weird music in London Underground stations and blocking the pavement outside 'language' schools during their 'fag' breaks...
A blast from a particle beam weapon's to good for 'em...
I had that William Gibson in the cab the other day...

Hucbald

The "perverted gay interplanetary warlord" could only be Baron Harkonen of the Dune trilogy, which, I believe, makes him exceptional rather than some sort of a stereotype. The "geisha" must be - only could be - Inara of the Firefly/Serenity stories, which, again, makes her something different, if not extraordinary. In short, I'm thinking Bidisha! (Jazz Hands!) has disproved her thesis by her own examples.

But then, I'm an Age of Reason throwback. I never got to The Age of Enlightenment, much less the current Age of Endarkenment.

David

“The ‘geisha’ must be - only could be - Inara of the Firefly/Serenity stories, which, again, makes her something different, if not extraordinary. In short, I’m thinking Bidisha! (Jazz Hands!) has disproved her thesis by her own examples.”

It wouldn’t be the first time. And, yes, Inara is the only courtesan or “geisha” I could think of in mainstream science fiction. Naturally, her character confounded expectations and, like all of Firefly’s female characters, she proved handy in a jam. Hardly the most obvious victim of patriarchal oppression, unless of course you’re *determined* to see everything through that lens. Bidisha! (Jazz hands!)™ exists on the same plane of moral fatuousness as Zohra Moosa and Laurie Penny, whose articles suggest the assimilation of opinions wholesale rather than autonomous thinking:

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2008/06/hyper-indeed.html

Brian H

"She is now a regular contributor to Newsnight Review, Front Row and Saturday Review as well as guest presenting for The World Service books show, The Word, and various other TV and radio assignments. She is also a regular contributor to the Guardian and the Observer."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/bidisha

I want to laugh but it's really not that funny.

Horace Dunn

I notice that all of the broadcasts she contributes to are on the BBC. Funny that.

Alan Kellogg

Having seen her profile picture I can tell you Bidisha's problem; not only is she fourteen, she's stoned.

Spiny Norman

Is that whining tripe from Bidisha! [jazz hands] some sort of personal "therapy" working out her "daddy issues" in the pages of the Grauniad?

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