I'd like to belong here. Do you think that I could?
(And yes, because I know it will be said, I know better than to go ego-surfing and link-chasing during the immediate aftermath of the ballot's release. This isn't my first rodeo. The trouble is, there's no way to make everyone else know this. I get emailed things, I get linked to things by people I trust, and while I try to be a sunshiny murder princess, I don't actually live inside a bubble of good feelings and kittens with machetes. I'm sure I could find way worse than what I encountered organically. I'm not going looking.)
Some people didn't like my nominated works; that's normal, that's okay, that's the way this is supposed to go. I assure you, the Hugo ballot is not 100% the ballot I would have designed, for me, to suit my idea of the best the genre has to offer. I think the only category that would escape my meddling completely unchanged is the Campbell, and that's just because I don't have any strong idea of who else was eligible this year. If you like 100% of this year's Hugo ballot, congratulations: you have won the genre lottery, and I do not envy you the stress of trying to decide how to vote. (And no, I'm not going to post my "in an ideal world" Hugo ballot. I have no interest in slighting the very worthy nominees who would not have been on there if some weird-ass rule had caused me to be solely responsible for selecting this year's candidates.) If you don't like what I write, that's totally cool. Vote for what you do like.
But the thing I encountered, in several places, that puzzled the living shit out of me? Was criticism of my excessive self-promotion.
Sunil helpfully went back over my blog for this past awards season, and found two posts: one summarizing my eligible works from 2012, and one saying "these are things which I have nothing to do with, but would love to see make the ballot." (Two of those things made the ballot, two of them did not.) I can't search my Twitter stream as easily, but I know I reminded people a couple of times that nominations were closing, usually by retweeting reminders made by other people. I never said "me me me nominate me me me." I did say that I really wanted to win a Hugo for fiction. I said it once. I said it with a clarifying note that I felt it was dishonest not to state my biases in that context. And that was it for my 2013 Hugo self-promotion.
I bring this up because I've seen more self-promotion—a lot more—from quite a few other authors, some of whom are on the ballot, most of whom are male. And that's fine! Self-promotion is not a sin! It's sort of our job. Word-of-mouth is awesome, and it sells books and builds fans, but that word-of-mouth begins with someone standing up and saying "I did something cool, please look at it." You should self-promote to exactly the level with which you, personally, are comfortable. If other people don't like it, they can stop following you into whatever venue you're promoting yourself in. I am not personally comfortable with excessive self-promotion, even as I find myself grateful when other people do it, because it keeps me up to date on their accomplishments. The human mind is a funny thing, and it doesn't have to make sense all the time.
But here's the thing: I have not seen charges of "excessive self-promotion" lain against any of my male counterparts. Not the ones in my weight class, not the ones above me, not the ones below me. Not the ones who self-promote ten times as much as I do. I have, however, seen the "excessive self-promotion" accusation lain against other women who make it onto award ballots. And that troubles me, because it demonstrates a gender bias that has been found in a great number of social settings and contexts.
Language Myth #6: Do Women Talk Too Much?
Click the link. Read it. And see why I get so upset when I don't self-promote much (and feel terrible about self-promoting at all, even though I recognize that it's a part of my job), yet get tarred for doing it "excessively." (And no, this is not a case of "protesting too much" or "where there's smoke, there's fire." This is a case of "I become distressed and depressed when accused of things I didn't do, especially when they're connected in any way to things which are innately difficult for me.)
These two quotes especially resonated with me:
"Teachers are often unaware of the gender distribution of talk in their classrooms. They usually consider that they give equal amounts of attention to girls and boys, and it is only when they make a tape recording that they realize that boys are dominating the interactions. Dale Spender, an Australian feminist who has been a strong advocate of female rights in this area, noted that teachers who tried to restore the balance by deliberately ‘favouring’ the girls were astounded to find that despite their efforts they continued to devote more time to the boys in their classrooms. Another study reported that a male science teacher who managed to create an atmosphere in which girls and boys contributed more equally to discussion felt that he was devoting 90 per cent of his attention to the girls. And so did his male pupils. They complained vociferously that the girls were getting too much talking time."
"The talkativeness of women has been gauged in comparison not with men but with silence. Women have not been judged on the grounds of whether they talk more than men, but of whether they talk more than silent women."
I am not a silent woman. But I am not louder than the men who are in my peer group. We're all talking at about the same volume, some a little louder, some a little softer. And it would be nice if my gender would stop being the one factor that determined the worth, and appropriateness, of everything I did.