Yeah, yeah, people have been telling me with disapproving glee that one of my heroes and favorite people, the great Harlan Ellison, did a Naughty and Nasty Trick to one of my other author-heroes, Connie Willis, during the WorldCon Hugo awards presentation last weekend. *sigh* No, I’m not surprised. No, I’m not scandalized. She handled it with aplomb and grace, and she says she isn’t upset. I’m sure she *was* a bit upset or at least taken aback, but she’s classy and she doesn’t want to make a big deal.
Lots of people DO want to make a big deal. Well, yes, I’m a feminist (and I know what we went through to make the world into what it is today, after seeing my mother’s generation and how it was OK for their husbands to SPANK them for “spending too much money” or whatever–see “I Love Lucy” episodes–and after hearing at my first job many comments of “Well, little lady,” and “A gal like you should be lookin’ for a husband before it’s too late” and so forth from the Old Boys Network), but I still think . . . that people are doing EXACTLY what HE wanted!
Think a moment. Harlan Ellison is used to being the outrageous one who “made a scene.” He knows that he’s the model for the Appin Dungannon character in Sharyn McCrumb’s adorable (though hated by many fen, and, yes, I can see why but I still find it funny) _Bimbos of the Death Sun_. He’s from the Old School Days and is probably consciously trading on his That Dirty Old Man status. And so I believe that he stood there thinking, “I haven’t made a scene yet!” This was an impulse that he gave in to (if he DID it–I wasn’t there, didn’t see a photo, etc.) on the spur of the moment to cause a ruckus! Everyone played right into his, er, hands (*groan* excuse the pun). He is probably laughing his butt off right now because everyone’s blogging about it! (Including me!)
Though I imagine that his wife Susan is having to pinch the bridge of her nose and shake her head a lot. She’s got to be somewhat aware of his tradition of being outrageous, so . . . she can handle it. Bless her heart, though. Doesn’t mean I don’t roll my eyes sometimes myself.
But the POINT is . . . he WANTS you to get all up in arms and make a big deal. I can hear him going “hee hee hee” into his cuffs right now, in my mind’s ear. The whole idea was to get you all gasping and into a state of righteous indignation. And then to hear the suck-ups saying things to defend him. And to wince when a few of us say, “What do you expect from a guy of that generation? Give an older man a break–he and his guys think that’s funny, and they really DON’T realize they’re being dismissive or what-have-you, but see it as Monty Python-esque. My uncle was like that.” Which is kind of what I’m inclined to say. But then I feel feminist guilt at blowing it completely off . . . ah, to hell with guilt–my guilt-meter stays pegged all the time anyway. So I’m just going to say, let Ms. Willis handle the situation. If she had wanted some kind of apology or scene . . . we’d have heard about it by now. So let’s just laugh it all off and shake our heads.
I’ll say this, though . . . when this kind of stuff used to happen to me now and then (when I was young and less yucky), I would always scold the guy and laugh it off with the “you wish” kind of thing. “Look but don’t touch,” “I’m perfectly adjusted, so don’t fool around with the knobs,” hand-slapping and scolding stuff, but I always felt really funny after a moment or two. I knew I was being seen as an object. The guy typically was doing it to embarrass me, one-up me, or whatever, not just to get a rise out of the crowd, so the situation was somewhat different. Still, I felt objectified and it made me uncomfortable. I don’t walk up to people and start touching them without invitation, even patting their arms or playing with their hair or whatever, all of which seems to be something that a lot of extroverts think nothing of. Or they consider it a legit part of extended flirting. I have been called standoffish sometimes. It can be a little creepy.
So yes, it’s great that nowadays women don’t have to put up with patronizing kinds of touching and so forth. However, I think HE did this deliberately just to see the screeching and hollering and politically correct scolding . . . which would be just like that contrarian . . . and he probably didn’t give it a deep amount of thought. It was just an impulsive grabby thing. Not the most admirable thing in the world, but hey, a minor mistake. It doesn’t lower my esteem for him. It’s just like when Jerry Lewis apparently made some remark about “broads who are uppity” or whatever . . . he was trying to get their goats and get people talking. These guys are almost as old as my dad would be had he lived, so let’s just give the elders a break. Wisdom has to take a break now and then and yield to . . . whatever, I suppose.
I figure it was just the usual “for the record books” outrageous thing to give people something to yammer about. Publicity stunts, anyone? There is no such thing as bad publicity, friends. So it doesn’t bug me. There are more important things to worry about . . . such as how alarmingly not-healthy some of my favorite people are looking in those photos. And whether my instinctive shooting off of my mouth will torpedo all chances of my getting into print once again. And whether I’ll be able to get up on my tiptoes tonight in dance class (ha).
Your mileage, naturally, may differ.