Yesterday morning, DragonCon took to Twitter to announce the tentative schedule for the 2014 American SciFi/Fantasy Media track:
…only to be slammed with criticism moments later:
While it’s true that DragonCon’s initial scheduling is fluid and prone to last-minute shake-ups, publishing a gender panel composed solely of two men seems particularly bone-headed in the context of Plz Diversify Your Panel and the public struggle of other conventions with the same subject, and the track Twitter account didn’t make things much better with its reply:
…which devolved from there:
(Facepalming a million angels.)
Here, we have yet another example of social media taking initial stimuli and going off the rails with it, because there hasn’t been enough of that this week.
Initially, I wrote this interaction off as yet another instance where a corporate body who should know better gets into a dust up with a reasonably irritated fan, but then the plot thickens when a representative of CPAC, the organization behind the panel, steps in to lend his perspective:
Mr. Brown goes on to explain that the panel in question is being taken out of context; that it’s one of four and the only one that is all-male, and that there were a minimum of proposals to choose from. Okay, that might be the case, but as Ms. Finke points out, the old “we asked but no one sent anything in!” isn’t exactly a water-tight excuse.
The conversation continues along this same vein, with Ms. Finke making excellent points about the need to actively attempt change in the status quo, when: BAM!
You can follow the whole conversation here. Whatever side you find yourself on, it’s interesting reading, and an important conversation. It’s possible that both CPAC and the DragonCon American SciFi/Fantasy Media track organizers simply didn’t realize the issues inherent in an all-male panel on gender, but the pertinent question would then be: why not? Why, when conventions have been actively seeking out diverse participants (Ms. Finke notes that other tracks in DragonCon’s lineup are making that effort to marvelous success) would this proposal be the one chosen? Is a female chair for the panel enough to mitigate the two male perspectives on it?
In the end, I’m left with a vague, uneasy sense of disapproval, and certainty that the DC AMSFM twitter-wrangler reacted poorly and unprofessionally. Here’s hoping the schedule is fluid enough to make some drastic changes before Labor Day weekend rolls around. Like Ms. Finke says, representation matters.