Silvia Moreno-Garcia | Cheap Tarts
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Cheap Tarts

This week, a group of people started talking about stuff on a public board and one of them, Sean P. Fodera, decided to criticize Mary Robinette Kowal saying:

“It just occurred to me that MRK seems to be deeply involved in this whole anti-sexism matter. I remember seeing her posing with Hines and Scalzi on one of their very scary cover parodies, and I know she chimed in with a snipe at the petition signers on the Radish thread. I find it very funny and ironic that she would jump on this bandwagon. For a long time, her website featured an array of photos of her in a diaphanous white outfit, posing on a beach. No metal bikinis or such, but they were not innocuous writer headshots either. One of them, with her recumbent on the sand with legs exposed, made her somewhat attractive. I also recall she’s fond of wearing tight-fitting gowns and plunging necklines when she attends cons and award ceremonies. I’ll have to add “phony” to “incompetent” and “arrogant” in the mental tags I’ve assigned her.”

He then goes on to compare his antipathy towards  Mary to his phobia of dogs and to threaten legal action on people who share his public posts. Here is a picture of Mary in one of her “tight-fitting gowns” with “plunging necklines.” mary-robinette-kowal Here she is in another. IMG_4081

If Mary decided to wear a Lady Gaga meat suit to a con I don’t think that it would be much of my business. However my point is: While people talk about the freedom to have a cheesecake Red Sonja and how this is an important cause to fight for, we are busy judging what a writer wears and her personal appearance. A woman is constantly under scrutiny even in situations where you would think she would be safe of such scrutiny (at a convention and awards ceremonies, for example).

But women must put up with this stuff all the time. Dress nice, but not too nice or some dude will think you are some sort of tart and criticize you for your necklines. Be social, but not too social because then you are some kind of attention whore. Smile. Play nice. Don’t complain. I’ve been called fat, ugly, a lesbian for writing pretty mild blog posts such as this one. And not only by random trolls. Sean P. Fodera, as he likes to remind everyone in his posts, works in the publishing industry.

You can imagine the constant state of paranoia a woman can live in when casual comments on message boards treat her as insignificant, stupid, and the like. This is the kind of shit we deal with on a regular basis. And then you wonder why we worry about sexism and stuff like that? It burns. It really does.

Today I went looking for a dress for an event I’m going to attend and I seriously paused to consider whether men would criticize me for the exposed arms. Whether I might be judged a cheap tart. Seriously.

I shook my head and got myself out of it. But I’m not paranoid to pause to consider that question. Because the judgment and the scary comments I might get? Those are very real.

Update: Mary provided a link to the “diaphanous white outfit, posing on a beach” photos with her “recumbent on the sand with legs exposed.” Yes people. This counts as objectionable.