According to John Scalzi and a few others on my Twitter feed, there is an actual, honest-to-god panel lined up at the World Fantasy Convention this year regarding women in fantasy:
“The Next Generation: Broads with Swords”
What. I mean–what.
I really hope this isn’t true. That it’s some kind of a joke.
(**EDIT TO ADD:
This has been confirmed. Per the link to Cheryl Morgan’s blog below, Kameron Hurley confirmed this was what she was sent describing the panel:
The Next Generation: Broads with Swords. Once upon a time the heroic fantasy genre was—with a few notable exceptions such as C.L. Moore and Leigh Brackett—the sole domain of male writers like Robert E. Howard, John Jakes and Michael Moorcock. Those days are long gone, and it seems that more & more women writers are having their heroines suit up in chain-mail and wield a broadsword. Who are these new writers embracing a once male-dominated field & how are their books any different from their literary predecessors?
Rest of post resumes as originally posted.)
Assuming for a moment that it is true, I want to analyze this.
Just for a moment, let’s skim over the use of “broad” and address this “next generation” business. How is this even a thing? Women have been writing fantasy involving women wielding swords for ages. If we want to talk about the last/recent/older generation (though some are still writing this kind of fantasy today), how about Anne McCaffrey? Ursula Le Guin? Mercedes Lackey? Robin Hobb? More recently, how about Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, which was arguably one of the first in the genre to make a modern woman as capable and kickass as the men. There is nothing new about women with swords. Just look at Kit from the DragonLance series. Or go back to the days of Shera and Barbarella. Unless this is a reference to all of the urban fantasy covers with women wielding swords–in which case, why not make it a discussion about modern fantasy using medival weapons?
Aside from that, why does there have to be a panel about “women in…” anything? Why are we still being considered “other,” ostrasized, looked at as unicorns or dragons or some other rare breed of mythical creature that somehow magically appears on the horizon whenever someone squints just right at the moon while turning three times widdershins around the fairy ring in the nearest glen? I have yet to see a “men in…” panel. So, someone explain this to me. Make me understand why these conventions can’t just schedule panels about a topic and ensure equal representation of successful men and women writers on said topic. Why is that so hard? Why is that so rare? What purpose does it serve to make a panel that sets women apart?
To give women their own panel is to say that there is something different about them. True equality would be equal representation of both the sexes on ALL panels, not just one or two token panels specifically for those of us with lady parts.
Now, as for the use of the term “broad” to describe women, I need to take a deep breath.
Hold it. Hoooooold it.
Okay. I did. It didn’t help.
What in the everloving fuck is going on here, people? Is there going to be a “Chicks in Chainmail Bikinis” one next? How about “Bitches Too Big for Their Britches: Tits or GTFO”? For fuck’s sake.
I’m done. I’m full of so much I can’t. I’ve gone beyond the point of can.
While perhaps it shouldn’t be, it is astounding to me that this nod to the “weaker” gender, the off, the interlopers and outsiders, would so blatantly use such a derogatory term in the process.
“broad (n) 2. often offensive: woman”
“broad (n) 2. a promiscuous woman”
“Theories as to its origin include simply referencing a woman’s broad hips, or perhaps from the American English ‘abroadwife’, which was a term for a slave woman, or just a woman who was separated from her husband….This slang term became common around 1912 and by 1914 ‘broad’ was being used, among other things, to refer to a prostitute…”
(A side note: The rest of the article from Today I Found Out is very informative, and I recommend giving it a read in full if you’re interested in finding out more about the derivation.)
How fascinating to know how little ladies are thought of by the people behind this panel. How fascinating to know that in this modern era there are still those who think so little of the fairer sex.
It was my hope to someday go to World Fantasy Con, maybe even as early as 2014. Seeing the kind of panels they endorse, forget it. Unless and until things change, unless their management does something to address it, this isn’t a convention I’ll attend.
**EDIT TO ADD:
Links of interest: