How creating kings in genre fiction continues the cycle of harassment and reinforces white supremacy

V.Castro

 

Shit has not been right for a long time, and a real reckoning is due. We have been upholding mediocrity and literally uplifting men with our bodies. Just look how much rape, humiliation, and sexual assault tropes are out there. Look at the shitty representations of our bodies. Think about all the ways our bodies are used by men in slimy and demeaning ways to benefit them, not us.

No fucking more. Done! Your time is up. Women are not your shield, your mama, your thing you can use. You want to treat us like shit, don’t cry when you get it served back to you.

It happens because we create kings and knights, superstars. They are beyond reproach. They are protected by others. You want to end the harassment? Stop putting men on pedestals.

Stop giving their crowns a little huff and a polish when they do any little thing. No.

 

You are EXPECTED to stick up for women.

You are EXPECTED to call out friends.

You are EXPECTED to keep your hands to yourself.

 

You are EXPECTED to be decent because you are a human being.

Are you not expected to wipe your own ass?

 

In many of these cases, these men are protected by their white privilege. What if the perpetrators of the harassment or assault were Brown or Black men? How many Black and Brown men are even big names in horror?  I know they would have been dragged down by both men and women. I promise they would’ve been dragged out of a con with quickness. Those old deeply reinforced images and feelings of non-white men being predatory do not go quickly. They are in our subconscious. There would be no explanations or protection for their behaviour. I expect some people would back away and declare, “I didn’t know them that well.”

(I do know there are Black and Brown predators, such as Junot Diaz. I am not addressing them at this time—I’m specifically addressing the recent issues in SFF and Horror).

You might read this and scream NOT ME! But dig deep and think. Our notions of race and class go deeper than even we like to admit to ourselves. And that is in part why I write this. We need to ask ourselves as individuals—not as the Twitter hive—what is inside of us.

By upholding white knights and kings and constantly reinforcing their godlike status in little cliques, you are reinforcing white supremacy. You are saying, “No one is better for the job.” White men set the standard. No one can speak against them. They are always given praise for just being themselves.

By not heaping ego-stroking praise on these guys for everything and placing crowns on their heads, you will slowly dismantle the lack of diversity genre fiction.

No more white knights.

I’m gonna tell you a story of my own about why knights and kings are dangerous.

It was my first con as a virtual no one (still am, but I’ve got a few contracts up to 2022 under my belt). I had the opportunity to pitch a novella. Before the meeting, I casually talked to a white male writer who gave me a quiet warning. I brushed it off not really understanding and walked in confident with my La Virgen earrings swinging.

After giving the name of the book in Spanish, I was bombarded with questions from a white male editor like:

“How do I know you can write?” – said multiple times.

“Who do you know here?”

“How many followers do you have?”

I could barely get a single word in, let alone a pitch. I didn’t know what to say or how to react, so I kept smiling. I’m in a room of professionals—what would be said of me if I created a scene?  I wanted this so bad. I felt humiliated and small. Our time was up and I left shaken. I felt there was no one to turn to with his word against mine. He could easily say I misinterpreted the situation. I knew I would suffer in the situation.

I cried to my mother still shaking, not sure if I should go back. Instead, I put on my dress for the evening, held my head high and made it a point to strut in front of him, give him a dirty look to indicate to him he did not have power over me. Yes, I ain’t above pettiness sometimes.

I’m glad I went back because I spent more time with people I can now call friends. After a couple drinks, I found the writer who warned me and couldn’t help but cry as I told him what happened. He was compassionate and apologized, but was not surprised. That fact is what devastates me the most. The editor had all the power in that situation and chose to wield it.

It was at that moment I VOWED to myself to be a success (and to hex him) and make a difference in horror. In the wise words of Beyonce, “Always stay gracious. The best revenge is your paper”. That book I wanted so bad to publish has been bought, along with another, by Flame Tree Press. That five minutes changed everything for me. I am still driven by that humiliation.

Dismantle the thrones and take away the crowns.

Have something to say about how I reacted, or how other women have experienced worse? Don’t tell me women need to learn to better deal with these issues and learn to protect ourselves because we can’t control men. No, we can’t, but not holding them accountable is continuing the cycle of giving them control and the final say. How can I achieve what I want to achieve if I have to constantly worry about my safety? If I have to constantly pander to men, how can I freely be me?

I can’t control what men do, but men need to know that more is expected of them. We do not expect ANYTHING from cis straight white men. I’ve seen so many things that white men write and say that a Black or Brown man could never get away with.

Don’t blame women who try to shrug it off or even play along. There are real power dynamics going on in a professional zone that cannot be ignored. You never know which one of those guys will blacklist you or punish you for not giving into their desires. This happens all the time, and playing along or laughing off is not the same as wanting it.

You want to tell a woman to be stronger? All I can say to that is Fuck You. Fuck you and your bad take.

People from marginalized communities do not get as many chances as cis straight men do. The fact that you can pull out an excuse card to get a pass is so ingrained. You call it cancel culture, but giving a ton of passes continues to put the burden on women instead of forcing men to look at themselves and change. Trump was elected after talking about grabbing women by the pussy. Two sexual predators sit on the Supreme Court. It is not missed on me that Clarence Thomas’ accuser was a Black woman and not white. Exactly.

It takes more than balls to harass. It’s privilege. Consider it taken from you. Literary genius based on being misunderstood and moody with a drink in your hand while expecting people to love you is over. Literary genius based on your inherited privilege is over.

Do we all do stupid crap? Yes. Have I done very dumb shit while drunk? YES! But I have never made a man feel unsafe. I have never made a man feel like he has to give into my needs or suffer consequences.

You can try to say that people live in a constant state of fear of saying or doing the wrong things. It’s all so PC. Fear you say? Welcome to being a woman. Welcome to being a person from a marginalized community.

If you are cool with me, I will be cool with you. I’m nice and friendly and up for a laugh. But I’m not up for bullshit to stroke your ego. I went to a con last year and all the writers were great. We can have a good time and laugh without issue.

Stop feeding egos. Stop feeding the notion that anyone is above reproach.  Women aren’t here to lick your balls or your boots. Dudes in literature are not titans or rock stars. And believe me when I say I do not and will not endorse anything by anyone who does not lift authors from marginalized communities in horror. I will not support anyone who use women or their bodies as fodder in their writing. I don’t care if you are a big name or have a blue check mark. With how skewed publishing is, I don’t know how many excellent books are left unpublished simply because they are not written by the type of authors who dominate publishing.

I am nobody and I want to make my mark in horror—but it ain’t going to be through licking the boots of some guy who only pats his own back and the backs of other dudes.

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