Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Connie Should Have Decked The Jerk!

Sometimes, a lady just needs to tap into her inner Mohammed Ali.

When I was seventeen, a couple-years-younger-than-I little git grabbed my right breast and smiled. I promptly whacked him so hard the blow knocked him off his bike. He turned red and was speechless for a good ten minutes, while I glared at him and dared him to try it again. He slunk away home. And he never grabbed my boob again.

I learned a lesson in the gender wars: Immediate reprisal can be hugely effective.

Do not ever try to grab me in body parts only my doctor and husband have legal access to. I will hurt you. And, sometimes, I carry a knife.

Apparently, the WorldCon showcased one of those times where being nice and patient and gentle comes across as enabling obnoxious twerps who should know better due to advanced age, broad education, and documented pro-feminist activities.

Here's the chatter and the lowdown:

Ian McDonald* writes:

Entertaining to see Harlan Ellison grab Connie Willi's boob (or so it looked to me from the depths of the fifth row.) Not expecting to win anything so I could sit back and enjoy.

(*McDonald later apologized for the flip attitude.)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden, who was not at all entertained, had this to say, and it wasn't flip:
Harlan Ellison groping Connie Willis on stage at the Hugos wasn't funny and it wasn't okay. I understand (from third parties; I haven't spoken to her about it) that Connie Willis's position is that Ellison has done worse and she can handle him, but I really didn't want to watch it and neither, I think, did a lot of other people in the audience. Up to then the comedic schtick aspects of the Hugo presentation had been genuinely funny. After that, I think, many of us just wanted it all to stop.

Rachel Manija Brown blogs on her own encounter with Ellison at the Willis-Grope Con:
"Hey, kid," he said. "You're not old enough to have written anything. I have things stuck in my teeth that are older than you!"

"Does your dentist know about that?" I asked, having at that point taken a slug of my thank-God-it's-legal addictive substance of choice.

"My shirt is older than you," he continued, and poked me in the belly button.

"Hey!" I grabbed him by the shoulder and shook him. He looked rather startled.

"Gotta get to my panel," I said, and fled with my coffee.

Leah Bobet , who is calling for action, answers some possible objections to a Fatwa, including this one:
But Leah, Harlan Ellison is just one man!

Yup. And the guy who, when I was twenty, told me at a convention that I could have a beer when my top came off was just one man. And the individual who groped divalea at Comicon was just one, too. And the guy who was making creepy leers at katallen in Boston two years back was just one too.

Y'know, eventually this shit adds up to a lot. Eventually it adds up to a systemic issue.

Secritcrush pretty much shares my wish that there had been a sudden, unequivocal, violent reprisal:
I wish she'd decked him but I completely understand why she did not. In life women are taught to be appeasers in situations like this from a very young age. If a boy is picking on you, you are often told that means he likes you, that you can't let him know it bothers you. (and often with a subtle implication that it is your fault and/or he can't control himself, so it is all up to you.)

Later in life, if someone grabs your ass (or other body parts) and you react aggressively, you get labeled a bitch or frigid or someone who can't "take a joke" - again, it's your fault, not theirs. So toe the line if you want to belong!

Apparently, Ellison harassed the microphone as well, according to Paul Melko in the comment section here :
I remember looking on in horror when he did it. I focused on Connie's face and I think it registered real shock; I wanted to think it was part of their act, because if it wasn't, it was just plain wrong. Ellison did fellate the microphone earlier.

Here's a photo of that illustrious moment of tender intimacy between Ellison and the mic.

Laurie D.T. Mann was onstage, behind Willis and Ellison, and she reports her perspective on the groping event:
After the Hugo Ceremony, various people came up to me and asked "Did Harlan grope you?"

I shrugged it off. "I'm a fat woman; I don't think Harlan gropes fat women." But I had no idea why people were asking me that.

What I didn't know until the next day was that Harlan groped Connie when they were standing together by the podium. Not only that, it was captured by the cameras, so everyone in the arena saw it. Connie, class act that she was, didn't miss a beat, continued with the ceremony like an adult. Connie kept the focus of the ceremony on honoring the winners, and not drawing more attention to Harlan's behavior.

While that last sentence stops me a second or two to ponder, I ultimately shake my head. No. She should have said something, no matter how short and to the point, and THEN gone on to honor the winners with the air a bit cleaner. Yes, something should have been said. It's kind of scary to hear that bit about the fat and Ellison not groping fat gals. What is implied? That he gropes regularly? And they know he gropes? He just doesn't grope...fatties?

Well, huh.

Edward Champion had this to say:
But when a woman goes up on stage and cannot be respected as a writer, particularly a writer who’s as great as Connie Willis, when she must be groped and demeaned as a sex object in front of an audience, then the time has come to re-evaluate the merits of the organization that hosts the awards ceremony, as well as the has-been “legends” who go up to claim and present awards.

I think the organization should censure Ellison. I also think there was a failure of censure on the spot. Attendees should have stood up as soon as it happened--especially women--and loudly demanded an immediate apology to Willis and to all the people present who had to witness his tacky, demeaning schtick.

I've often thought while reading Willis' work, "Wow, I wish I could write this well." Willis is a role model of sorts.

But she really needed to whack him with that microphone right in the kisser. Or at minimum, verbally smack him a good one. Then she would have been my hero, too.

Even the consummate cheek-turner Himself saw fit to whip a few moneylenders in a rage of righteous indignation. Sometimes, turning the other cheek and keeping quiet just enables creeps and maintains the lousy status quo.

Perhaps the most blue-streaked and in-your-face response--and call to action-- comes from a very, very, very angry Lea Hernandez-Divalea, to whom I apologize for editing her comment for the sake of my readers who are easily offended by the F-word, though said cussing doesn't bother me:

I do not have Connie Willis' decorum. (I'm hoping, ultimately, Connie Willis doesn't have Connie Willis' decorum.) Harlan Ellison groping Willis in ANY venue is WRONG. Doing it in front of an audience is just, as far as I'm concerned, ripping away a mask SF and comics have been holding up with both hands (with the help of the "just joking" defenders). Each new incident doesn't make me more tired, it makes me more angry. It energizes me (and others, woo hoo!) to fight. The days of exhausted resignation are over.

I don't have to be nice to impress people, keep jobs, or make others comfortable. I'm f#@$ing tired of you chimps. This is your Very Special Promise:

I will f*!@ it up with police reports of sexual assault. With public posts to LiveJournal. By telling my friends where they can find the police report online. By talking to other women and men about how you behave.

Consider this your last strained, uncomfortable smile. Your last glance at the dinner plate. Your last "just kidding."

Not a bad plan, I say.


Lis Riba gets the award for best blog post title on this heated topic: "Demon With A Crass Hand" (Ellison fans, such as I, will swiftly get the reference to a lauded episode of The Outer Limits, scripted by the groper. And when I say "fan," I mean fan of the creative work, not of the obnoxious twit. And I've yet to talk to a person in my acquaintance who has had personal contact with Ellison who didn't find the man over-the-top egotistical, arrogant, and rude.)

Lis links to blog post comments that relate Willis' reactions after the incident.
In this comments section of Laurie Mann's post, "Dieppe" reports thusly (editing of cussing mine):
At the closing ceremony Connie said something like "If someone wants to start a petition for Harlan Ellison to keep his f#^king hands off of me, I'd be willing to sign it!" Or something like that.

"Wild_patience" commented here :
I didn't attend the Hugos, but I attended Connie's interview by Charlie Brown the next day, and she started it by referring to "f*cking Harlan Ellison" and "why do I always have to bell the cat"? She evidently kept her cool on stage, but she was upset by it.


Heather said...

Wow. Yuck.

Elliot said...


I've always heard Ellison was an arrogant jerk... didn't know about this kind of thing, though. Willis should've inflicted some kinda slapdown, for sure. Though it's hard to think fast in that kind of awkward social situation.

Steven said...

Dear Mirtika,

Every experience I've had around or near the man has been as described here--I honestly don't know why he gets invited to go anywhere or do anything. So long as such behavior is rewarded by consistent support from the fan base it will not cease.

And I agree one-hundred percent--an often talented, gifted writer who could do with a complete personality makeover.



Tamora Pierce said...

I'm not a weepy girl. I'm just not. Shock usually leaves me silent; rage usually leaves me white-faced, cold and . . . silent. Until my store of invective catches up to me.

But reading about this . . . I think Harlan Ellison is a brilliant writer. I just fucking brilliant. But I have three friends whose lives he hurt badly in the 80s, and I've avoided him assiduously, because I'd rather respect his work at a distance. And I'd heard he'd gotten better on the female front.

I admire the hell out of Connie Willis. I think she's one of sf's great writers; I think she's achieved prodigies; I think she's earned every iota of respect that any male writer in the field gets, and I know she's treated lightly by them because, well, she's a girl. This woman is brilliant, not only in craft, but in ideas. She is funny; she is generous with her time and ideas; yes, she's a role model.

To read of her being treated like this, by Ellison, and to know the show went on, to know she smiled and said the Good Girl thing at the time . . . I just want to cry.

How long are women in the arts going to be asked to put up with this? Ellison would never have fondled Greg Bear's testicles. He would never have so much as sucked on Terry Pratchett's finger. But it's okay to grope the tits of one of the finest writers in the industry who's also female.

When does a man's life invalidate his art? I try not to let that happen. I try to let the creation speak for itself. But I can't anymore, because I have to ask where the contempt lies hid.

And fuck apologies. I'm tired of people asking for apologies for things like this, like they make a difference. They don't. Not doing the stupid behavior in the first place, other people never doing it again and condemning it, that's what matters.

Geoff said...

looking for a contact button, but don't see one... Anyway, my comment is on form, not content. I'm not sure what you intended, but the view I have of your blog is almost undreadable, a red background with dark blue scribbles across it.

SunlessNick said...

Tamora Pierce asks when a man's life invalidates his art. I don't know the answer to that, but the question itself makes me think about the common attitude of letting legendary people get away with more.

And we do, right or wrong, all of us.

But if legendary perpetrators get breaks, what about legendary victims? If "Let it go, it's Harlan Ellison" is valid, then "You don't fucking do that to Connie Willis" must be equally so.

And that was my instinctive reaction: You don't fucking do that to Connie Willis. Rationally of course, I know it would be as unnacceptable to do it to anyone else - but ultimately, whether or not I think to apply it her or to everyone, it applies to her either way.

Thus: You don't fucking do that to Connie Willis.

Mirtika said...

Geoff, thanks for the feedback. I don't know why the format doesn't come up right for you. The browser?

Sunless, part of my reaction was that, too: Hey, That's CONNIE WILLIS!! I so admire her, that I guess I do take it personally. But what made me over the top angry was the other stories that filtered out--rudeness to Ginny Heinlein, rudeness to X, to Y, to Z, so that the total picture is of someone who thinks normal rules of civility don't apply to him (although, pity the fool who doesn't respect HIM, right. Hypocrite). I figure if you don't give courtesy, you shouldn't expect it back. But Connie..well...I figure she's letting silence be a golden spotlight.