The British Fantasy Society admits to ‘lazy sexism’. What now?

// 24 September 2009

rad.gifThe British Fantasy Society has admitted that it was “lazy sexism” that was behind its failure to include any women in a collection of 16 interviews with horror writers out later this year.

It’s actually nice to see that the chair of the society and editor of the book understood and copped to the “lazy sexism” at work behind this – once it was pointed out. However, the admission that they could just ‘not notice’ that a collection of 16 interviews did not include a single woman, is a very obvious example of male privilege.

The British Fantasy Society has now apologised for the omission, with its chair, Guy Adams, saying it was “disgustingly simple for a man not to notice these things, a blindness to the importance of correct gender representation that I feel embarrassed to have fallen into”.

“I can only apologise and hope that the discussion has made other editors and publishers realise that this kind of lazy sexism is unacceptable and to watch their own lists in future,” he said in an apology posted on the BFS website.

I do, however, like the way that Sarah Pinborough describes what happened. Pinborough:

Who this weekend won the best short fiction prize at the British fantasy awards, said that last year she had been the only woman shortlisted for any of the 10 British fantasy awards. “I think this is just blind stupidity,” she said of the failure to include any women writers in the forthcoming collection. “It’s more of a subconscious thing … I don’t think this was intentional sexism, more an inherent sexism.”

Writer Mary McHugh, who first drew attention to the issue on her blog, says:

“From my discussion via email with Guy Adams … I know he was taken aback that he didn’t spot the obvious bias in the collection. It underlines the deep cultural conditioning that places primacy on male experiences, and enables the omission – the covert silencing – of women’s voices.”

She adds:

“There are a lot of women who write horror and love the genre. Our contribution to the industry deserves as much recognition as our male colleagues. That we were treated as if we didn’t even exist was a shocking experience. Ann Radcliffe wrote her first Gothic novel in 1789 and Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in 1818, after all.”

However, I agree with Old Feminist, that the BFS’ response – that it will publish a book of interviews with women horror writers – may not be the best solution. What would be really great is if this scandal means that the society actually changes how it works, and makes sure that it never repeats the same mistake. I can’t help but think that a few more women working on the production of their books might be a good first step forward, too.

Comments From You

thebeardedlady // Posted 24 September 2009 at 8:03 pm

I write short fiction which I sell to the fantasy and horror markets and there seems to be a lot of this ‘inherent sexism’ in that world. The BFS have always seemed a bit of a ‘boys’ club’. But I really appreciate their reaction to this, and hope it translates into them actually considering more female writers and employing some female editors. Some of the best, most exciting fantasy writers are female, and fantasy and horror have always been something of a womens’ genre, with women writers pioneering major stylistic and thematic movements. So it’s shoddy to leave the women out.

Aimee // Posted 25 September 2009 at 11:56 am

Wow. An admission of guilt. An apology. A promise never to do it again. An attempt to positively make up for the mistake? I can dig that. If fact, this article gives me great hope. I think it’s great they apologised. It’s more than most do.

Elmo // Posted 25 September 2009 at 12:17 pm

I agree with Amiee, i would have expected a lot of blustering and “well, we just didnt think any female authors were suitable” and “look, its just a conicidence, your making a fuss over nothing” or possibly “well, lets face it, women cant write horror” but in fact, what we got was “actually, were sorry. what we did was sexist. and we understand that now.” they can only go forward from here

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