WorldCon was great. I’ll write more about the general con later, but there’s something I want to get off my chest first.
Honestly, the most poignant part of WorldCon for me was a conversation I had with some raging asshole outside of a restaurant in downtown Kansas City. I was standing outside, waiting for a cab to show up (it was pouring) and a group of non-congoers came outside to do the same. For a moment, I was the only WorldCon attendee outside, and the normals struck up a conversation with me.
One of them, a bearded gent, was really nice. He saw my badge and started asking me questions, shook my hand because I was an author and it was “nice to meet someone important for a change.” My opinion of him may have been influenced by flattery; so sue me. We talked a bit about Mechanical Failure and the science fiction industry. The entire other group admitted that they weren’t very big readers, so everything I told them was new to them.
This other guy behind him, bald as a baby’s butt and having that sort of chest-out posture, kept giving me strange looks. He confided that he was a Citation (big jet) pilot after I mentioned my flying in some context or another, and eventually held up his hand.
“Wait,” he said. “Science fiction and fantasy? I’m surprised to see women in there with you.” He jerked his thumb back inside.
I explained calmly that there were many very good female spec fic authors, but he wasn’t satisfied. The conversation devolved from there. He’d already embarrassed his friends, who clearly had more sense since all of them already had their faces in their hands.
“But they write romance,” he argued.
“They write a lot of things,” I countered. “Men write romance, too.”
I steered the conversation away from him because I dislike throat-punching people in public, but after a few seconds of looking like he was trying to solve a basic algebra problem, he cut into the conversation again.
“But come on,” he said. “I mean, there’s no violence in women’s books, right? Men’s writing has more violence.”
Grok like violence! Grok throw stone at lion! Women make love love with words words.
“I don’t know about you, man,” I said, “but I’ve known some pretty violent women in my life.” I pointed at the woman who was in his group and pointedly suggested that given the right circumstances she would probably gladly kick his ass. She agreed. He seemed unimpressed.
“So, fine,” he said. “What’s the difference? Tell me what the difference is between men’s and women’s writing.”
“Tell me what the difference is between men’s and women’s writing.”
I leaned in like I had a great secret, and very seriously told him that men’s science fiction had waaaaaaay more penises in it. He seemed confused. I let it hang in the air for a few seconds before his friends started laughing and I said,
“I’m just kidding. There is absolutely no fucking discernible difference between the two.”
The “you idiot,” was implied.
Men’s fiction has waaaaaaay more penises in it.
The conversation petered out from there; I got a cab, they got a cab. I explained to my cab driver and the other passengers what an absolute douchebag I had just met. But it stuck with me for the rest of the con.
I was surprised, but at the same time I knew I shouldn’t have been. As a white male, I don’t often get to see that expression of sexist narrow-mindedness. I work from home, I don’t socialize very often (or very well) and I don’t follow a lot of conversations online. I know the problem exists, but I so rarely experience it in person. Lucky me.
I’ve sat here for the last twenty minutes or so trying to write some sort of philosophically poignant conclusion to this story, but I’m not entirely sure there is one. I met an asshole, he self-identified, and I did what I could in the moment to make him see that there was still time for him to pull his head out of his fourth point of contact.
In a weird way, I hope I meet more assholes like him, and this is why: I feel like I might have been the first person in his life to seriously challenge his worldview. The look on his face told me that was probably true. Or maybe he was constipated. I don’t know. But if that’s the way this is going to change - gradually, person to person - then bring me your assholes. I have something to tell them.
Bring me your assholes. I have something to tell them.
Wait. That sounds wrong. Why did I put that in block quotes? I’m not going to actually literally talk to your – you know what? Nevermind.