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News Round Up: June 16th

16th Jun 2013

news round up may 15th

If only articles about how to be a mother and write actually told you how to be a mother and write.

Zadie Smith and Jane Smiley both hit back this week at an Atlantic article by Lauren Sandler which stated that really, the only way to be a mother and a successful writer in unison is to limit yourself to one child.

It was wonderfully refreshing to see such a rare thing: an article criticising the parenting choices of others in totally different situations to the writer, but the internet didn’t seem to appreciate this. Hey ho.

Smith, a mother of two, pointed out that no-one had ever feared that Dickens’ huge brood of ten would affect his novels. “Are four children a problem for Micheal Chabon?’ she asked, going on to say that “the key to women’s freedom is the issue of time, which is the same problem whether you are a writer, factory worker or nurse. We need decent public daycare services, partners who do their share, affordable childcare and/or a supportive community of friends and family.”

Smiley, meanwhile, commented: “The key is not having one child, it is living in a place where there is excellent daycare and a social world that allows fathers to have the time and the motivation to fully share in raising kids.”

Funny how no-one in the debate pointed out that we allow fathers the time and the motivation to spend time with their kids, but expect it of mothers.

I would like to propose that we forget this rubbish about compromise and switch roles for a few centuries.

We’ll lock ourselves in studies, bashing out furious prose and glorious poetry; the men can busy themselves with the washing machine and spaghetti hoop stains. It’ll be a lot more fun for us, and we may just be able to stop future Jeffrey Archers and Dan Browns from inflicting themselves on anyone, ever.

The Spare Rib that wasn’t Spare Rib isn’t Spare Rib any more because the real Spare Rib… um, didn’t like it, because… erm…

Charlotte Raven’s planned relaunch of the probably-still-relevant sixties mag Spare Rib was derailed this week as it emerged founders Rosie Boycott and Marsha Rowe had threatened Raven with legal action if the magazine was launched under the Spare Rib name, which Raven claimed Rowe had moved to trademark on the  3rd June.

Raven put out a statement via Nationbuilder apologising for the delay and explaining things from her side.

“The biggest area of conflict has been over our vision for Spare Rib to be more than just a magazine, but also a grass-roots movement,” she wrote, clarifying not very much. She also revealed that Rowe and Boycott had refused to meet with her without lawyers present.

Boycott got a word in in Friday’s Guardian. Things became a little clearer: the founders had concerns that Raven’s paid membership model meant it could not be called a “grassroots organisation”, that the setting up of a public company through which to contact members as Raven’s voice threatened the autonomy of the proposed movement, and lastly, but most understandably, that Spare Rib had never been a brand to them, and they didn’t want to see it become one, or one which would “flounder at first base”

This is all quite understandable, but a little tiresome. If Raven, as Boycott claimed, didn’t contact the original founders of the magazine upon deciding to relaunch it, why try to relaunch it as Spare Rib at all?

Perhaps if feminism would really embrace grassroots campaigns and ideas, rather than rehashing the very of-their-time successes of the past, then we could start to get somewhere.

And now, some really nasty name-calling which makes it all the clearer why we should all stop arguing and stick together to get rid of horrible arseholes.

If you’re on Twitter, you’ll have probably seen this: Feminist Frequency’s log of what happened when they complained about the XBox press conference featuring zero female protagonists.

“As soon as women are as capable as men, then maybe”
“What did you expect? Cooking and cleaning games at a console launch?”
“Biggest bitch of all time”

There are far, far nastier ones which we won’t repeat. We bookworms wouldn’t usually include news from the games industry here, but this was far too nasty a snapshot of the misogyny we all face to ignore. Thankfully we can stay brilliantly on topic though, because the publishing industry has revealed itself to be capable of horrifying sexism too.

A row has been brewing for the past fortnight about the recent edition of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s (SFWA) magazine, Bulletin. This featured a chainmail bikini-clad woman on the front, and equally as progressive values inside, with content claiming Barbie as a great role model because “she maintained her quiet dignity the way a woman should,”  unlike the “tramps and whores” which are Bratz dolls.

Columnists Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg at least recognised powerful women when they spoke of “lady editors” being a “knock-out” and “beauty pageant-beautiful”.  They defended themselves against accusations of sexism, and compared those complaining to Chairman Mao and Stalin.

That was a fairly tame reaction though: those women who publicly complained about the magazine received a stream of vicious hate mail. Author Ann Aguirre posted in her blog about sexism in science fiction generally, and received, amongst other bits of badly spelt shit, “Its bitches like you that are ruining SF. Why cant you leave it to men who know what their doing?”

So yeah, that’s what we’re all up against. Puts squabbling about membership models and trademarks into perspective a bit, doesn’t it?

Rebecca Winson