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Author Topic: Is Podcastle Sexist?  (Read 52625 times)

Thaurismunths

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on: July 01, 2008, 01:20:00 AM
Is PodCastle sexist?
The knee jerk answer is probably "no" but I would disagree. I think this is a question worth asking of the audience and, most particularly, of the editorial staff.
It has been remarked that women are a minority in publishing; I can't say one way or another, nor is that my concern, nor is it the concern of this podcast (to my knowledge anyway). What I am commenting on is the general tone and trend of the collected works published by PodCastle,and the appearance that they are strongly favoring women to the exclusion of other kinds of stories.
We're on episode thirteen, with five miniatures in the bag, and to me it's become obvious that PodCastle is being sexist in its choice of stories. Since Podcastle's debut nearly all of the stories feature female protagonists, and are mostly told from a female perspective. For example, only three stories (Ant King, Hotel Astarte, Osteomancer's Son) featured male leads, the rest are largely about women triumphing over (directly or indirectly) male oppression of some fashion or other. Three of the five PC Miniatures have been from a male perspective, but about negative domestic relationships with women (of the two that weren't, one was chosen by popular demand).
These issues have been danced around and nodded at, but we haven't really gotten any direct answers. I hope we can put some of these issues to rest publicly.

Why are so many of the so many of the stories about women?
Are the editors aware of this trend?
Is this trend acceptable?
Is this a trend we can expect in future PC stories?
Will more variety be expected in the future? When, and what kind?

How do you fight a bully that can un-make history?


CammoBlammo

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Reply #1 on: July 01, 2008, 01:28:38 AM
I don't really want to weigh in to this debate, and I'm certainly not interested in a flame war, but I do have one question: would you have noticed if most of the stories featured male leads and oppressive step mothers?



Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #2 on: July 01, 2008, 01:44:04 AM
"of the two that weren't, one was chosen by popular demand"

No. It wasn't. I bought that myself; it was not chosen by the contest.

UPDATE:

Oh, and just to run some stats, three male narrators for flash and five male narrators for full-length fiction is eight male narrators out of eighteen stories, or 44% male narrators.

This week's full-length story has a male narrator, which will be nine male narrated pieces out of nineteen, or 47%.

These are figures so basically close to parity that I don't think there's any statistical argument here.

Particularly if we start running in Escape Pod numbers. When the initial complaints about PodCastle's "female-oriented" nature came in, Ann did a count of recent Escape Pod narrators and found that 87% of the recent stories had been narrated by men.

So, at PodCastle, after midnight tonight, you'll have 53% women. At Escape Pod, circa whenever the debate originated (sometime in April), you had 13% women.

Again, I don't think there is a possible statistical argument here.

So, no, I am not aware there is a problem, as I don't think there is one. Nor will I be doing anything to fix it, since there's nothing to fix.

« Last Edit: July 01, 2008, 01:58:43 AM by Rachel Swirsky »



hautdesert

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Reply #3 on: July 01, 2008, 02:10:43 AM
Five out of thirteen episodes are male-narrated.   That's pretty darn close to fifty-fifty.  In your list you've missed Barren's Dance, which is a male-lead story.  The fifth is "Come Lady Death" which was narrated by a man, but could have gone either way. 

Come Lady Death is not about a woman triumphing over male oppression.  Rather definitely not.  Niether is Wisteria, or Magic in a Certain Slant of Light.  Nor Goosegirl--the narrator was in conflict with another woman, not a man.  Spell of the Sparrow, similarly--the conflict is between two women.

14 Experiments, the conflict was between a female POV character and her male ex boyfriend--but rather than triumphing over his oppression, she got back together with him at the urging of her sister.

Stories that might be classed as women triumphing over male oppression--Firey horse and Fear of Dragons.  You're on much thinner ice with Fear of Rain, but I'll be generous and include it, since the main character was female and her opponent was male.

So, three out of thirteen stories have conflicts between female POV characters and male antagonists.  Just less than one quarter, hardly what I would call the vast majority.

Three, possibly four if you count 14 Experiments, are conflicts between women.--near that one quarter mark.

Two are fairly romancy--Wisteria and Slant of Light.  A bit less than one sixth.  Nothing about male oppression at all in either of them.

Four are definitely male POV stories.  Around about that quarter, even if you insist on assigning Barren's Dance to the group of stories from a female POV. 

So, um, what vast majority do you mean?









Liminal

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Reply #4 on: July 01, 2008, 02:22:55 AM
Why are so many of the so many of the stories about . . . men?
Are the editors aware of this trend?
Is this trend acceptable?
Is this a trend we can expect in future . . . stories?
Will more variety be expected in the future? When, and what kind?

Ask these questions of other publications, television shows, movies, novels, etc. Let me know what you find and then we can start a thread that discusses gender issues in popular culture. Honestly, I feel you are issuing a challenge rather than asking a question.

Why is this thus? What is the reason for this thusness? - Artemus Ward


shwankie

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Reply #5 on: July 01, 2008, 02:33:39 AM
"I don't really want to weigh in to this debate, and I'm certainly not interested in a flame war, but I do have one question: would you have noticed if most of the stories featured male leads and oppressive step mothers?"

I can't speak for 'Munths, but I would have noticed. I stopped listening to PC a while ago because of the socio-political agendas, just as I've stopped listening to other podcasts for bad production quality, poor writing, or non-stated-but-obviously-agenda-laden reasons. I enjoy my politics as much as anyone else, and I am all for helping good female writers; but, that wasn't what I was looking for in a fantasy podcast. It honestly felt like stories were being run because they were female oriented, as opposed to because they were good stories. And yes, I managed to come to this conclusion all on my own without the help of 'Munths.

Since, it's well known, 'Munths and I are a couple, I am not sure my voice will weigh in here as heavily as if that wasn't known; but, I do actually have my own opinions. PC has felt like an agenda podcast almost from the get-go, though I am a huge fan of Beagle and loved Lady Death. PC's felt overly heavy-handed in the high lit areas, condescending to the backbone of fantasy lit which I happen to like, and feminist. I have nothing against high lit, experimental or non-traditional feminist fantasy stories, it's just not the podcast I'd hoped it would be. I've voted by not downloading it anymore, and had a pretty heavy debate on if I even wanted to bother posting in this topic because really, I don't think anything I or anyone else will say will make a difference and I have other things to do. I am posting only because I hope it may be helpful to hear that another intelligent woman has an opinion different from Rachel & Hautedessert.

I do think PC is heavily feminist. Vocal narrators weren't the point, the story themes were; and I, for one, grew tired of waiting for the change a while ago.




hautdesert

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Reply #6 on: July 01, 2008, 03:30:52 AM
And, having just counted, seven of the thirteen main stories are written by men.  About half.


Stories with feminist agendas?  Possibly Fiery Horse.  Fear of Dragons if you insist on taking it that way--I don't, myself.  And as it happens, Steve bought Fear of Dragons.  Two out of fifteen stories, and that's being generous.

Just having conflict between a female main character and a male antagonist isn't enough to make something "feminist."  You've got to have conflict if you want a story, and it's a fifty-fifty chance that the conflict will be with someone of the opposite gender.


Quote
And yes, I managed to come to this conclusion all on my own without the help of 'Munths.

I don't mean to flame here, and of course your taste is your taste, if you don't like Podcastle's choices then of course there's no point in continuing to listen.  But I find it odd that you insist on the militant feminism of the editor and then assume your opinion would be dismissed on the grounds that you must have gotten it from Tharismunths.  Those don't go together.


Quote
PC has felt like an agenda podcast almost from the get-go, though I am a huge fan of Beagle and loved Lady Death. PC's felt overly heavy-handed in the high lit areas, condescending to the backbone of fantasy lit which I happen to like, and feminist.

From the get-go?  But the get-go was Come Lady Death.  The next story was For Fear of Dragons, and was bought by Steve.  If you got a feminist vibe from Fear of Dragons, you might want to reconsider your assumptions about why that story was selected.

It was also, from the get-go, very openly, going to spend the first couple months touring different sorts of fantasy, so there wasn't going to be a lot of "the backbone" of fantasy lit from the get-go, and that was stated clearly at the start.

The genders of POV characters is evenly divided in the selections so far.  The gender of authors is evenly divided in the selections so far.  And that is, if you want to know, a total accident.

As I said, I could see the argument that Fear of Dragons and Fiery Horse could be considered feminist.  I happen not to agree about Fear of Dragons, but I'll be generous.  Two out of thirteen, and one of them bought by that famous feminist, Steve Eley.

What you're seeing here is an actual fifty-fifty split, but that's incredibly unusual.  If eighty percent of the authors and main characters had been male, most people would, without counting, assume it was divided evenly.  I'm not just saying that--it's been demonstrated, repeatedly.  In actual experiments.

So people look at the fifty-fifty split and think it's unbalanced, when it's not.  And you know, of course you know, that Rachel is a feminist.  So the perception is that not only is it unbalanced, but it's unbalanced because of an agenda.

Count the stories.  Look at the actual events and characters.  Consider that Steve bought some of these stories before Rachel was even involved with the podcast.

If you don't like the stories Rachel is choosing (and some of which Steve chose), that's fine and dandy.  De gustibus.  But it's objectively wrong--provably inaccurate--that Podcastle has featured a "vast majority" of stories by or about women.






Swamp

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Reply #7 on: July 01, 2008, 04:06:02 AM
If all the stories were like Fear of Dragons, I might agree with you.  I think the pairing of Fear of Dragons with *Fiery Horse may have caused some to become concerned about a trend, but that is only if you were looking for it.  If you had no previous experience with Rachel to know she was an ardent feminist, would you have been looking for it? 

You can't deny the quality and diversity of the stories that have appeared in PC.  (OK, as a matter of personal taste, you could, but not in the sense of quality vs. agenda.)

Now I may be called sexist myself for saying this, but in my opinion, fantasy as a genre itself leans toward a feminine bearing or style.  Of course I mean that in an overall general sense; and I don't see it as a bad thing either.

-----
*I think Run of the Fiery Horse is an excellent story.  It is unfortunate to overlook it by listening to it only through an "Is this feminist?" lens.
« Last Edit: July 01, 2008, 04:15:07 AM by Swamp »

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SFEley

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Reply #8 on: July 01, 2008, 04:10:49 AM
These issues have been danced around and nodded at, but we haven't really gotten any direct answers. I hope we can put some of these issues to rest publicly.

Yeah.  All right, Thaurismunths, let's put it to rest.  Here's what you don't know.

Rachel got handed the reins of PodCastle with about 15-20 stories already in inventory before she had a chance to pick anything.  Many of the stories you've heard so far are stories that were originally sent to Escape Pod, before there was any word of us splitting off a fantasy podcast.  I initially bought them with contracts in Escape Pod's name.  If I were put on the witness stand, I could submit scanned copies of the signed contracts.  When I first got serious about doing a separate fantasy feed -- which was roughly a year before PodCastle actually launched -- I contacted those authors and asked if they'd be okay with  their stories going up on a different podcast.  They said yes, of course.  Peter S. Beagle's business manager was the first person I approached about it, because as soon as I read "Come Lady Death" I knew I wanted it for a debut story.

The stories picked by me are as follows:
  • Come Lady Death
  • Stone Born
  • For Fear of Dragons
  • Hippocampus
  • Barrens Dance
  • Spell of the Sparrow
  • The Grand Cheat (tonight's story, if I can get away from this long enough to edit it)

The stories picked by Rachel are as follows:
  • Run of the Fiery Horse
  • Giant
  • Goosegirl
  • The Ant King: A California Fairy Tale
  • Pahwahke
  • Hotel Astarte
  • Fear of Rain
  • The Osteomancer's Son
  • Wisteria
  • Magic in a Certain Slant of Light
  • Fourteen Experiments in Postal Delivery
  • Directions

There are other stories coming up that were bought by me.  No, I won't tell you which ones.  I also gave Rachel some stories that she didn't like at all, and rejected.  Some of those stories turned up on Escape Pod before we made the full transition.  Some will simply go quietly unpublished until our two-year option expires.  I didn't like the fact that she turned down some stories I was in love with, but I've made clear to the editors of both PodCastle and Pseudopod that their editorial authority is absolute.  If I'm going to override their decisions, there is no trust and I might as well not delegate.

But here's the thing, Thaurismunths.  The stories everyone is bitching about the most?  I bought them.  "For Fear of Dragons" was my purchase.  (And I did notice that even then, in week fucking two, people were getting upset about the "pattern" of feminism on the podcast.  Two episodes!)  "Spell of the Sparrow" was my purchase.  Hell, I had issues with "Sparrow" myself -- not for sexism, but for offending my polyamorist sensibilities -- but I was so happy to get a light sword-and-sorcery piece that didn't suck that I overlooked my own prejudices.  I didn't obsess about the gender of the protagonist.  I was just happy that it was competent.  (You can read into that any conclusions you like about the state of our slushpiles.)

And the other thing.  You say there are only three stories so far with male leads.  I could quibble over definitions, but whatever.  The three you named?  "The Ant King," "Hotel Astarte" and "The Osteomancer's Son?"  Rachel and Ann picked all three.  I had absolutely nothing to do with them.  I never even glanced at "The Ant King" until I sat down to narrate it.  I only picked the ones that seem to have everyone up in arms shouting "Estrogen!  Estrogen!"

So here's your culprit, Thaurismunths.  I stand before you.  The hyperfeminist who's offending the hell out of you is me.  I'm the one skewing the curve.  Rachel's bringing needed balance to PodCastle by making sure male viewpoints are represented in the fiction you hear. 

Are we clear on that?  Good.  Now to put your foregone-conclusions-in-the-form-of-questions to bed.  The following are my opinions only -- I'm not speaking for Rachel or Ann here; this thread annoys me for my own completely individual reasons:


Why are so many of the so many of the stories about women?

Because good stories are about interesting people, and women are interesting at least as often as men are.  Is it your view that women should be interesting considerably less often? 


Are the editors aware of this trend?

That the stories feature interesting people?  Yes.


Is this trend acceptable?

Yes, very much so.  It's why PodCastle is so much more successful than all the other dedicated fantasy short fiction podcasts.  (Yeah, exactly.)


Is this a trend we can expect in future PC stories?

I sure hope so.


Will more variety be expected in the future? When, and what kind?

You mean, stories about boring people?  Dude, you already have morning radio.  Why do you want us to give you more?

Now can we please let this whining and griping die?  I'm not involved with PodCastle's story selection anymore, but I've loved almost all of the stories on PodCastle, and I'm genuinely happy with the job that Rachel and Ann are doing.  I asked Rachel to run this podcast and harangued her until she said yes because she doesn't have all the same opinions and viewpoints that I do.  Because it mattered more to me that she had opinions than what they were. 

If you don't like the vision, I'm sorry about that.  I disagree with you that the problems you perceive exist, but it's a subjective thing and I can't say you're just plain wrong.  But no matter how many people complain about it, I am not going to exert one ounce of pressure for Rachel to change a thing.  I think she's doing a great job.  As the owner and publisher, I would never allow popular opinion to force changes that the editors don't agree with.  If that ever succeeds, then and only then will I start to wonder if I picked the wrong editors.  So far there is no evidence that I have, and plenty of evidence that I picked the right ones.

Now to get this week's PodCastle out, as I'm still helping with the audio.  I hope you like it.  There's a man in it.

Sheesh.

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Sandikal

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Reply #9 on: July 01, 2008, 04:14:18 AM

Now I may be called sexist myself for saying this, but in my opinion, fantasy as a genre itself tends to lean towards a feminine bearing or style.  Of course I mean that in an overall general sense; and I don't see it as a bad thing either.

I tend to agree with Swamp here.  I was thinking the same thing as I was reading this thread.  It seems as if most current fantasy, especially the books with pseudo-medieval settings, are aimed at a more feminine audience.  I'm a woman and I've noticed a definite romantic slant to most popular fantasy.   It's not really my preference, so I lean more towards modern fantasy (I loved "Ant King".) and science fiction.



Bdoomed

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Reply #10 on: July 01, 2008, 04:35:04 AM
first of all... male vs female narration does not affect the "sexist" idea.  its the story, not narration.  that's what you seem to be focusing on, Rachel.  

i have no conclusions/opinions on this. so... im going to conclude here and form an opinion! :)

1. Come Lady Death: Old woman and girl reaper, about women but not necessarily feminist...
2. Stone Born (miniature): boy remeniscing, parents fighting, etc etc. no feminism
3. For Fear of Dragons: girl vs society, can be taken as either overcoming tradition and pointless fears, or taken as woman empowerment.
4. Run of the Fiery Horse: girl vs men, definately woman empowerment, etc etc.
5. Giant (miniature): man giant doesnt trust woman, buuut he is holding her captive.  male perspective, woman captivity/trying to overcome male oppression (if you take it that far)
6. Goosegirl: woman vs woman/society(ish)
7. The Ant King: male perspecive, man vs society/ant king/job/everything :P woman imprisonment but really not focused on, more a nonchalant imprisonment... shes kind of a strong character too
8. Pahwahke (miniature): father protects/hoards daughter, not letting her do as she pleases (i guess)
9. Hotel Astarte: great depression from a diff angle, male perspective/trials
10. Fear of Rain: woman doing what she feels is right.  i guess kinda feminist but it could have easily been a male in the same situation.
11. The Osteomancer's Son: male stuff :P
12. Hippocampus (miniature): umm... strong female, weaker character male... not really any way... i guess you could go for the strong female character.
13. Wisteria: female character, about moving on and staying strong.  feminist slant but not really...
14. Magic in a Certain Slant of Light: female perspective, why will husband leave?  female trying to please male character, etc etc.  not really feminist... but... i dunno.  Zeppelins or talking dogs?
15. Fourteen Experiments in Postal Delivery: strong female character, male char trying to please her... female empowerment-ish
16. Barren's Dance: male characters, no feminism
17+ haven't listened yet :P

these are just my interpretations from what i remember, sometimes what i remember after a quick listen to a part of a story.
from this we have...
12/16 feminist if you stretch their meanings
10/16 feminist if you stretch their meanings less
6 or 7/16 feminist if you go for obvious meanings from stories

the idea isnt rediculous that this is a generally female podcast (do not count narrations, that doesnt change anything...) however it is not DEFINATIVELY a feminist podcast.  Many of the stories concern female characters and their strength, but most of them can be taken either way, depending on what you are looking for.  However, if you dont like it, dont listen.  no one is forcing you to.  and shwankie has said that she's stopped listening.  all the more power to you.  the point of this podcast is to entertain and introduce people to the fantasy market.

soo, my final conclusion?  There is a small element of feminism etc etc, but it is not the frontrunner of every story, and thus we cannot say that PodCastle is sexist.  This said, we cannot also say that PodCastle is not sexist.  There is a small element.  If you try (and its not really trying, its not hard to try to see this) you can see a great deal of feminist stories.  As for me, it is keeping me interested.  Not as much as Escape Pod, but interested enough.  So i'll keep listening.

(though i still dont like the background on the stories in the introduction... :))

And please, dont get into that stupid argument, "would you notice if it were all male?"  Its a societal stagnation, its not going to change for a long time.  Get over it, wait it out.  All you are doing there is changing the subject.  The point is that a female trend was noticed, not that a male trend if it existed would not have been noticed.  Its gotta be some kind of logical fallacy (i dont claim to know them)

:) keep it nice, folks

(this was written before Steve's comment, haven't read it yet :))

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


Heradel

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Reply #11 on: July 01, 2008, 04:49:36 AM
I'm staying out of the thread for purposes of moderation, but I'd just like to say that feminism isn't a bad thing, and strong female characters are or should be the norm in modern fiction. Along with weak and strong males, and weak females. Strong and weak humans, really. Also badgers and dragons.

I Twitter. I also occasionally blog on the Escape Pod blog, which if you're here you shouldn't have much trouble finding.


stePH

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Reply #12 on: July 01, 2008, 04:53:10 AM
I don't understand the point of this thread at all.  But I'm a man; what do I know?  :P

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CatRambo

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Reply #13 on: July 01, 2008, 04:58:02 AM
At one point, I used to teach an Intro to Women's Studies class for Towson State University. The class was initially 33 students; by the end of the three years I taught it, that number crept up to 38. When I started, I had 5 or 6 men per section. By the last year, when it was clear that word had gotten around that my class was reasonably male-friendly, this was closer to 9-12 per class.

Nonetheless, whenever I asked ANY of the men in the class how many other men there were in it, he would indicate that he was one of 2 or 3 tops. This phenomenon was in play for -every- male I asked, and I attribute it to a feeling of being besieged that led each of them to underestimate the number of men in the class. In the same way, my housemate in Baltimore, who came from an all-white location, insisted that the city was 95% (at least) of color despite direct evidence to the contrary.

I think that the same phenomenon comes into play with Pod Castle sometimes -- that coming close to gender equity ends up being perceived by those unaccustomed to it as an overabundant multitude of damned, scribbling women. Certainly I see 40-50 percent women being mentioned elsewhere as a shining example of gender parity.



Barry Deutsch

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Reply #14 on: July 01, 2008, 05:08:16 AM
Virtually every premise of the original post is factually wrong -- just as the premises of the similar complaint from Thaurismunths were factually wrong. How often is Thaurismunths planning to come back here to beat this dead horse?

Anyhow, Thaurismunths has been refuted by other posters, so I'll respond to someone else.

soo, my final conclusion?  There is a small element of feminism etc etc, but it is not the frontrunner of every story, and thus we cannot say that PodCastle is sexist.  This said, we cannot also say that PodCastle is not sexist.  There is a small element.  If you try (and its not really trying, its not hard to try to see this) you can see a great deal of feminist stories.

With all due respect, what does the "element of feminism in it" have to do with it? Even if there were quite a lot of feminism, that wouldn't be grounds for saying that Podcastle is sexist.

Quote
And please, dont get into that stupid argument, "would you notice if it were all male?"  Its a societal stagnation, its not going to change for a long time.  Get over it, wait it out.  All you are doing there is changing the subject.  The point is that a female trend was noticed, not that a male trend if it existed would not have been noticed.  Its gotta be some kind of logical fallacy (i dont claim to know them)

:) keep it nice, folks

You'd have more credibility asking that other folks "keep it nice" if you didn't dismiss their arguments as "stupid."

It's not "stupid" to ask if there's a double-standard at play in these complaints, nor is it a logical fallacy. In a society in which men are considered the default or norm, even equality can subjectively appear to people as biased against men. (CatRambo's anecdote is a great example of this!) It's reasonable and logical to point out that this sort of illusion may be at the root of Thaurismunth's objections.

Finally, regarding "get over it, wait it out," that's the advice that people on the sucky end of societies stick are always given by people who are more advantaged. It is always bad advice, and I hope no feminist follows it.



Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #15 on: July 01, 2008, 05:13:39 AM
Bdoomed, thanks for your post and your analysis. I'm just going to answer a couple of the points you bring up:

1) You seem to be arguing that feminist = sexist when you say that PodCastle cannot be declared not sexist because some of the stories have what you interpret as feminist themes. (I've spoken other places about how I interpret "Giant," for instance, which I see as closer to an MRA [men's rights activism] plot line than a feminist one.)

I don't see that as true at all. Feminism is not about the valuing of women over men, but about the valuing of women as equal to men. If there were stories in this mix that were themed on the subject of needing to kill all men because they're violent pigs, that would be sexist. A story about a woman escaping foot-binding with the help of her father and a boy who loves her is certainly not sexist -- whatever else it may be.

2) Also, just FTR, I don't think it's sustainable to argue that it's a logical fallacy to say that runs of male narrators are not noticed, while runs of female narrators are. It's a description of the dynamic of the situation, and places the situation in context. PodCastle, because it is run by women and features about half women characters, is being held to a different standard than Escape Pod, which is run by men and sometimes features long runs of male characters. That's women and men being held to different standards, where the ones for women are more stringent, and designed to privilege the male (whose voices are expected to dominate) over the female. That's effectively the definition of sexism, or one of them.

In other words, pointing out that people get upset when there are equal numbers of stories about men and women, but not when women have barely no voice at all, is pointing out sexism. It's saying that not only is there no sexism in PodCastle itself, but that the very framing of the question of whether there is relies on sexism to be posed.
« Last Edit: July 01, 2008, 05:15:17 AM by Rachel Swirsky »



Windup

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Reply #16 on: July 01, 2008, 05:43:52 AM
I'm not clear what the point of asking, "Is PodCastle sexist?" actually is. If the answer turns out to be "yes," then what? We demand quotas? We stage a mass un-subscribe until we get new editors?  We petition Steve to start "StudCastle" -- a male-oriented fantasy podcast -- by way of affirmative action?  Or what?  Like I said, I'm really, really unclear about what you're trying to "settle publically."

Let's suppose for a moment that Rachel and Anne have made a conscious decision to favor a stories that take a particular point of view and theme, and that the stories they've chosen reflect that theme. So what?  That's just editors doing their jobs.  

IMNSHO, the best and most interesting publications on any platform -- print, broadcast, podcast, whatever -- have a strong "flavor" and a recognizable editorial stance.  They aren't democracies, and they sure as hell aren't "representative" -- they're the distinct and recognizable voice of a benevolent dictator.  Think American Mercury under H. L. Mencken, Astounding Science Fiction under John W. Campbell or more recently, Harper's under Lewis Lapham.

The best publishers give them room to develop their vision and find an audience, or die (financially) trying. <<appreciative nod to Steve>>

Almost by definition, not everybody is going to like what they see or hear.  Strong flavors are going to turn some people off.  But if you don't like pickled herring, don't try to convince me that there's something morally wrong with the people who made it by calling them "sexist."

Myself, I think it's way too soon to figure out what Rachel and Anne's "voice" is going to be -- not enough data points.  They may not know yet, themselves.  But I'll be very happy to be around and watch it develop.

"My whole job is in the space between 'should be' and 'is.' It's a big space."


shwankie

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Reply #17 on: July 01, 2008, 10:41:47 AM
And, having just counted, seven of the thirteen main stories are written by men.  About half.


Stories with feminist agendas?  Possibly Fiery Horse.  Fear of Dragons if you insist on taking it that way--I don't, myself.  And as it happens, Steve bought Fear of Dragons.  Two out of fifteen stories, and that's being generous.

Just having conflict between a female main character and a male antagonist isn't enough to make something "feminist."  You've got to have conflict if you want a story, and it's a fifty-fifty chance that the conflict will be with someone of the opposite gender.


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And yes, I managed to come to this conclusion all on my own without the help of 'Munths.

I don't mean to flame here, and of course your taste is your taste, if you don't like Podcastle's choices then of course there's no point in continuing to listen.  But I find it odd that you insist on the militant feminism of the editor and then assume your opinion would be dismissed on the grounds that you must have gotten it from Tharismunths.  Those don't go together.


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PC has felt like an agenda podcast almost from the get-go, though I am a huge fan of Beagle and loved Lady Death. PC's felt overly heavy-handed in the high lit areas, condescending to the backbone of fantasy lit which I happen to like, and feminist.

From the get-go?  But the get-go was Come Lady Death.  The next story was For Fear of Dragons, and was bought by Steve.  If you got a feminist vibe from Fear of Dragons, you might want to reconsider your assumptions about why that story was selected.

It was also, from the get-go, very openly, going to spend the first couple months touring different sorts of fantasy, so there wasn't going to be a lot of "the backbone" of fantasy lit from the get-go, and that was stated clearly at the start.

The genders of POV characters is evenly divided in the selections so far.  The gender of authors is evenly divided in the selections so far.  And that is, if you want to know, a total accident.

As I said, I could see the argument that Fear of Dragons and Fiery Horse could be considered feminist.  I happen not to agree about Fear of Dragons, but I'll be generous.  Two out of thirteen, and one of them bought by that famous feminist, Steve Eley.

What you're seeing here is an actual fifty-fifty split, but that's incredibly unusual.  If eighty percent of the authors and main characters had been male, most people would, without counting, assume it was divided evenly.  I'm not just saying that--it's been demonstrated, repeatedly.  In actual experiments.

So people look at the fifty-fifty split and think it's unbalanced, when it's not.  And you know, of course you know, that Rachel is a feminist.  So the perception is that not only is it unbalanced, but it's unbalanced because of an agenda.

Count the stories.  Look at the actual events and characters.  Consider that Steve bought some of these stories before Rachel was even involved with the podcast.

If you don't like the stories Rachel is choosing (and some of which Steve chose), that's fine and dandy.  De gustibus.  But it's objectively wrong--provably inaccurate--that Podcastle has featured a "vast majority" of stories by or about women.





1. I never said I believed it was Rachel, Hautedessert, or Steve who was feminist, sexist, etc.. I did not say whether I thought it was the editors or other members of the forum who may not take me as seriously because I am a partner to the original poster (which is the large part of what I was considering when I wrote that, and wished to be up front about my relationship to the thread starter). So, it is not me who is jumping to conclusions here.

2. Ignoring the backbone of sci-fi comes directly from one of Rachel's posts about whether or not we can expect to see "sword and sorcery" type stories here. She said no (and yes, I can go back and find this, but it won't be today), and since she's the lead editor, that made an impact on how I felt about the podcast. I don't believe that those types of fantasy stories are by definition bad or unworthy, and I've read a good many that have strong female leads and/or or secondaries; so, I was a bit put off by that comment.

3. I don't really care who buys or writes the stories, for me it was never about Rachel & Hautedessert. Whether stories were randomly selected from a hat by a monkey, written by an AI, or selected by the UN never really concerned me much. It was that the majority had a political or social agenda, with a definite bent on feminist viewpoints. Yes, there were exceptions to this, and you can make statistics say anything you like (if you exclude miniatures, the percentages change. If you include miniatures, but go on sheer airtime for female vs. male lead characters, again percentages change--this can go on ad infinitum). From the get-go, to me, included everything from the initial commentary to the intros. I am not going to go back and listen to them all so I can give a blow-by-blow, but after #1 and 2, I was already concerned but figured it was too soon to really draw any conclusions. By episode 6 or so (I am not sitting here looking at a list of the stories, so it may have been 5 or 7, which again isn't the point), I was hearing a definite agenda. Whether you have one or not isn't so much the point, as I am a listener and things are open to interpretation. It's how it came across to me, and I grew weary of it. I do listen to political podcasts, gender equality podcasts, and other 'casts with a variety of agendas. It was a personal preference that, while I enjoy the occasional political or social commentary based story on any of the EA podcasts, those stories aren't what I want to hear a majority of the time on any of the EA podcasts. I am sure some people feel differently, and that is their preference.

4. Perhaps "feminist" is the wrong word, but it's currently the best one I can think of to describe this. It wasn't about male vs. female for me, it was that the majority of stories seemed to have some female oriented social message. You can disagree, but it's how this listener heard what was coming across. I am not saying that this is bad if it's accurate, it's just not what I wanted in a fantasy podcast.

5. It's not my podcast. The owners and editors of PC are welcome, of course, to do what they like. They could run stories that were completely female-centric or racist or just plain bad, and again that would be their right. I've never felt as though the editors were interested in varying opinions about the types of stories, intros, music, or much else about the podcast, which has also left me feeling cold towards it and was the source of my remark about not believing anything I say will have much of an impact. Again, it's not my podcast; so, while it may leave me feeling cold, that's fine. I can choose not to listen, which I've done.

I read a large percentage of female-based literature, including fantasy. In fact, the majority of what I read is female-centric. There are a lot of fantastic female writers and story leads. I also read a good bit of male-based and gender neutral literature. It's not whether the stories are about women, or if the percentages are exact that got to me. As Steve said, good stories are good stories. It was my overall feeling about the podcast vs. why I listen to it. It was my personal feeling that, whoever chose the stories, some weak stories were being run because they were written or about female leads with a social issue moral/bent, and that wasn't my interest in this particular podcast. I listened for good stories regardless of the percentages.





sirana

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Reply #18 on: July 01, 2008, 11:02:40 AM
Well said, Windup. Pretty much what i thought, although put much more eloquently than I would have said it.
« Last Edit: July 01, 2008, 11:06:16 AM by sirana »



shwankie

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Reply #19 on: July 01, 2008, 12:29:11 PM
As a side note to Barry:

From the "Fantasy Women" thread:
"Rachel is known for going well out of her way on the topics of gender equality and women's rights. Her personal views should not color my enjoyment of a piece nor my view of the podcast.

If the editors don't run good fiction ... then we can all vote with our dollars and our downloads. Until then I think we should let Podcastle take its own course and keep our speculations relevant to the stories at hand." --Thaurismunths. I went back and looked this up specifically because I remember having this conversation with him regarding giving the podcast a longer run before jumping to any conclusions, etc. I was surprised to hear he'd been beating a dead horse he was telling others to leave alone.

Other posters have brought this concern up before, but as evidenced above, 'Munths hasn't been willing to beat the horse at all, instead in fact suggesting we let it graze for a while before coming to any real conclusions about it's gaits.