#Me Too.

*TW-Contains detailed re-tellings of sexual harassment I’ve personally experienced.*

There seems to be a growing sentiment of victim blaming, shaming, or “damn, she shouldn’t have worn that dress” going around in light of the Harvey Weinstein news. But this kind of rhetoric always pops up when victims of sexual harassment take action.

However, I want to make something perfectly clear–sexual harassment happens to women, men, and those of all or no genders alike, all the time, no matter their sexual orientation, status, weight, dress, upbringing, race, situation or any other factor that anyone uses to blame the victim.

Listen to us.  

It happens in high school, while over a friend’s house. A comforting hug turns into unwanted kissing and touching. Touching suddenly evolves into groping. Cornering turns into being forced upon a bed and the only thing that works because the words “stop” and “no” continue to be ignored, is the power of a forceful push of your legs and arms.   You worry when he screams out in pain for just a moment, wondering if you hurt him. You quickly get over that as your rage continues to build. You don’t use the words “attempted rape” though, because at seventeen, you know you won’t be believed. You know this will fracture your group of friends and high school is hard enough. You stay silent.

It happens as you are heading home from a long day of work. Your tank is on empty and you absolutely have to stop to get gas. You’re wary though, as you’ve been approached three times before while pumping fuel by three different men, at three different gas stations. They don’t stop asking for your number, encroaching on your personal space, or taking the excuse that you are already in a relationship, they continue the barrage until your tank is full and you give them a fake number. You watch your rear-view mirror, while mentally mapping the way to the nearest police station if needed.

It happens as you are walking in a small town while exercising. You’ve already been approached by someone who has stopped their car, run to catch you, touch you to get your attention, only to ask if you are “available.” This time on your jog,  you’ve left your headphones out of one ear to hear someone coming and to keep an ear out for further dangerous situations. The man approaching from the front looks harmless enough, but utters “Nice tits” as you move on by. You rip the other bud from your ear, turn around yelling, “What did you just say to me?” He breaks into a panicked run, and knowing you’ll never catch him, you stop, thankful that he fled instead of holding his ground.

It happens when you are with a group of friends leaving a dance at a convention. Drunk men start yelling inappropriate things. Things they wouldn’t say when they are sober. Or maybe they would. Whether it’s the adrenaline pumping through your system from the night out, or just that you are tired of this happening, or that it is not just happening to you, but now to your friends, you act.  Instead of sucking it down to the depths of your belly like you have before, you turn on your heel, rear-up, and start walking fast towards them yelling back, “DO WE HAVE A PROBLEM HERE?” You know that if you make yourself appear bigger and unafraid, they will either fight or flee. You are prepared for both. They back down, leave, and you catch up with your friends, seething not on your behalf, but theirs. You wonder later why it’s easier to stand up for your friends, but discount your feelings when it happens to you when alone.

It happens while walking from your hotel to a conference in D.C. The wind catches your skirt and blows it fetchingly against your legs. You had just taken a selfie because this was a good day. You liked how you looked. You felt beautiful. You posted the picture to Twitter to share with the world on your terms. As you hit send, a van slows down behind you and starts to keeps pace.  Suddenly, the moment of bliss is over and your eyes begin searching for an escape route. The window slides down and the unwanted catcalling begins.  You stop, cross the street behind the van which has no choice but to continue forward. Ducking into a building, you lean against a wall and let out all the anxiety that replaced that good day.

It happens at a conference that you’ve helped to organize. You’ve worked hard and lost weight, showing off your curves in a sexy and classy blue dress. Playing the good facilitator, you schmooze around the room, making sure everyone is having a good time when you are approached by a legend in the field. His cheeks are red with too much alcohol. He begins with elevator eyes as you address him. You ask him if he’s having a good conference. He shrugs and only replies, “Blue is an excellent color on you.” You know who he is, but he does not know you and yet this is how he introduces himself.

You ask in your capacity if there is anything else you can do to make his conference better and his eyes light up, responding with “You can give me a kiss.” It’s right there,in that moment that you know this interaction will continue to be uncomfortable. Questions begin to build about what you do for the organization, assumptions are made about how you’ve made it to your position, and how your husband that he’s sure you have (you don’t) feels about the relationships you “made” along the way. You are thankfully rescued by caring friends, as the cycle in your head begins anew. “Do I ruin this man, right here and right now, by slapping him in the face? Do I just walk away? Does this get back to the people who could fire me? If I lose my job, how will I keep a roof over my head and food on the table?” You realize that as a victim in this situation, you are already blaming yourself, because that is what you’ve been conditioned to do.

It happens after exiting the Broadway show with your family and you are walking down the street in NYC. Separated by the crowd, your older daughter and boyfriend walk a few steps ahead. You are holding your younger daughter’s hand through the thickening crowd.  A man selling “Make America Great Again” hats whistles as you walk by,  and you know in that moment, it’s not just going to end there, but you hope it will. You ignore it and continue walking as he actually leaves his post and wraps his hand around your waist, pulling you close, while pushing your younger daughter aside. You freeze because causing a scene on a busy street might be far more dangerous than you could anticipate.  Instead, you use your skills to talk him down, and get him to let go before resorting to other methods. Only once you’ve explained you’re unavailable, and that your daughter most certainly will not be coming too to his apartment for some fun, do you call ahead to the rest of your family. That scares him enough, he finally lets go and disappears back into the crowd. You have to explain what just happened, while keeping a brave face, telling your daughters never to let anyone touch them that haven’t been invited to do so.

 

It happens at another convention where an acquaintance holds a hug too long, or pulls you in by the waist and attempts a kiss. You brush it off in the moment, perhaps too stunned to stay something or already jogging through the mental math of how speaking up will mess things up. You want to like this person. You start making excuses for his behavior. For yours. He doesn’t do this to other people. He shouldn’t be doing to it to you. You convince yourself that if there is a next time, you will take him aside and let him know how you feel. You hope it will make a difference.

It happens standing at a bar on a cruise. You have ordered yourself a drink and are immediately hit on by someone who wants to share a magic trick. You remind yourself that this is the reason you don’t go to bars. You see the plethora of locks he wears around his name tag. He explains his hobby and offers a lesson in lock picking.  You mention you are a writer and how it would be a handy skill to know.

It starts innocently enough, with him showing his skill on a two-pin lock. You get it immediately. There is suddenly a glint in his eye when he then says, “Time to move on to a more challenging piece.” He produces another larger lock, with a complicated pin set and a pair of handcuffs, to see if you’ll bite.  He’s practiced this speech, worming his way in with calming words, “You don’t have to do this” and “Only if you are comfortable” and “I’ll show you how easy they are on me, first.” You wonder how many women have fallen for it, how many he’s gotten into bed this way.

He can unlock the cuffs in seconds, and then places them on you, only to switch out to the wrong tools on purpose. He starts to slide in jokes about visiting his cabin where he keeps the better locks as he brushes a hand over yours to show you that you’re obviously doing it wrong.  Your wrist is now raw from sliding the metal against the skin, determined as hell not to let him touch you again, to show him that you aren’t stupid and are capable at the same time. A friend passes by and stops to check on you, immediately aware of what is happening and offers assistance. But no, you’ve got it. Shaken by the interruption, he finally gives you the right pick and you are out in seconds. You walk away and tell a friend that you were uncomfortable but you handled it. She replies, “What about the women who can’t?”

This still haunts you.

Please believe us.

This isn’t just a movie industry problem. It’s not just a science fiction and fantasy community problem. It’s not just a gamer problem. This isn’t just a pretty, young girl problem.  It’s an everywhere problem.

It’s a balance of power problem.

The minute you feel you can do/say/touch/manipulate someone without their consent or buy-in, you are in the wrong.  The minute you use your status (or perceived status) and offer to advance a career through a “special relationship”, you are in the wrong. The minute you shut your ears to the words “no” and “stop”, you are in the wrong.

Alternatively, if someone wants to share a story, believe them. If they can’t name their harasser, don’t continue to ask why or who. If they need help and subsequently ask for it, give it to them. Do not assume that a “white knight” is needed, but open your eyes and call out behavior if there is no further risk or damage to the victim.

Lastly, do not use someone else’s pain for personal gain. The worst thing a victim can experience is to be re-victimized by their friends or peers when they speak up.  You may hear news stories where harassment was made up or someone lied to get revenge, but I can assure you, there are so many who for whatever good reason at the time say nothing. The weight of the decision not to speak only adds to the trauma, but until society stops using incredulous rhetoric, it will take instances like the one we’re currently seeing in the movie industry to give some of us the courage to speak.

The Horribly Late May Clarkesworld Magazine Post

 So what if it’s almost June! This is a totally strategic post in a brilliant attempt to get you to go visit the Clarkesworld Magazine site for the May issue. This post is in no way a direct result of being so incredibly busy and or wiped out that I couldn’t bring myself to blog. Nope, never. I did share the links on Facebook and Twitter though, so give me some credit!

Now onto the pertinent stuff — Look at that cover. Just look at it. It’s a perfect mix of both mesmerizing and appalling. There are so many interpretations one can derive from this stark work of art. On the darker side, is that an alien race holding the last of our species in jars, the way science teachers displaydead frogs in formaldehyde  for teaching purposes? Could it be a benevolent culture (menacing space suit aside) hoping to regrow humanity with some genetic modifications? Or could it be us behind that re-breather colonizing a planet in the depths of space, growing the population like seedlings in soil?

Granted the title of the piece is “The Biomarket” which is pretty sinister in it’s own right. I instantly imagine a bounty hunter, tracking down pregnant human colonists in the first trimester, only to kill them and extract fetuses. Our race commands a high price on the extraterrestrial black market. We’re so easily manipulated in the early stages of life both chemically and biologically.

Okay. Shudder. (That might just be a story in the making.)

So where was I? Oh yeah, the May Issue. I got to narrate for one of my favorite authors — Tobias Buckell. I was also reintroduced to a brilliant writer by the name of Tony Pi. While I knew the name from the Campbell Award ballot from last year, I was eager to read something new.  I continue to be quite honored to get to read for some of the best in the SF/F field. Did I mention how much I love my job?

In other news — “Spar” by Kij Johnson won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story this past weekend down in Fl. Not only was the event super cool, but judging from  Tweets and pictures, the launch of the space shuttle was both awe-inspiring and humbling. I really wish I could have gone. So, a big hearty congratulations to Kij and Clarkesworld!

If you want to read her winning story — here are both the print and audio…for free, cause we’re awesome like that.

Here is the TOC for the May Issue of CW. Enjoy.

Fiction

A Jar of Goodwill
by Tobias S. Buckell
 
A Sweet Calling
by Tony Pi

Non-Fiction
Revealing How the Elements Cohere: A Conversation with Elizabeth Bear
by Jeremy L. C. Jones
 
The Border between Writing and Life: A Conversation with Marly Youmans
by Jeremy L. C. Jones
 
Stranger Than Science Fiction: Into the Alternate Dimension of Mainstream Literature
by Ryan Britt

Audio

Audio Fiction: A Jar of Goodwill
by Tobias S. Buckell, read by Kate Baker
 
Audio Fiction: A Sweet Calling
by Tony Pi, read by Kate BakerArt
 “The Biomarket”
by Rodrigo Ramos

Another Apology That Isn’t.

Wow, the internet has shown us a lot of apologies that aren’t this weekend.  I have definitely put more stock in the saying that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness (not really/or  in convoluted ways) after the damage has been done.  What happened to using your brains before you attempted anything like this in a public forum?

Here is EA’s !apology for the ” we encourage you to molest a booth babe, but not really” err, I mean, “Sin to Win (it’s all in good fun)” stunt they pulled at Comic Con this weekend.

http://kotaku.com/5322781/ea-apologizes-for-sin-to-win-booth-babe-promo

“Costumed reps are a tradition at Comic-Con. In the spirit of both the Circle of Lust and Comic-Con, we are encouraging attendees to Tweet photos of themselves with any of the costumed reps at Comic-Con here, find us on Facebook or via e-mail. “Commit acts of lust” is simply a tongue-in-cheek way to say take pictures with costumed reps.”

So, the faux tattoo on some nice size DD boobs depicting outlines of incredibly sexy naked female asses wholly represented the “costumed reps” at Comic Con? Trying to asexualize the booth babes so your legal team doesn’t have to fight out sexual harassment complaints  really doesn’t cut it.

I did happen to go to the Facebook page mentioned in the promotion and it does look like the majority of the people did behave themselves while taking pictures. EA is lucky.

It still doesn’t excuse the stupid.

Thaumatrope for Valentine’s Day

So yes, I realize that Valentine’s Day was yesterday. What can I say? I am a procrastinator especially when it comes a holiday I can’t necessarily celebrate in the exact way I imagine. Perhaps one day I will be able to immerse myself in the romance of it all again.

In light of the dark mood I’m in — I invite you to read my second published Thaumatrope story. If I had to title it, the first thing that comes to mind is that Etta “I hate Beyonce” James song, “At Last”. It’s the first one in a compilation of Valentine treats.

Enjoy and to those out there who do have someone special in their lives, I do hope you had a most wonderful day.

Anger, Gmail & Clueless People

Dear Gmail,

Look, I understand that you had a relatively large e-mail outage yesterday, and you have my sympathies as you piece together the broken consumer confidence of angry technophiles who once viewed you as a deity. However, I have a simple request to make…

…again.

I once again received an e-mail that was clearly meant for someone else. Although I’ve politely responded to this other Kate Baker by means of informing her family, her personal lawyers and members of some odd college foundation that I am indeed, not the Kate they are looking for, she seems to keep giving out the address in question.

Just a minute ago, I was personally invited to a tequila dinner.

“Born of European parentage, Pepe was raised by the tradition that a word and an asshole meant a promise would be kept. Pepe has been in the asshole business for over 30 years, and as an asshole expert, his name on the bottle represents his personal commitment that this product contains all of the characteristics an excellent asshole should possess.”**

**Just because I’m really incensed over the way this has been mishandled, I’ve replaced random words in the above paragraph with the word ‘asshole’. I’m sure Pepe is a fine asshole, err I mean tequila maker.

Now, I have two options here as I see them. Consistently beg you to do something that blocks any mail coming from her address, from reaching me, or post every single email meant for this other impostor up on my blog and randomly replace words with expletives, all the while blaming her stupidity and your lethargy to accomplish anything of note.

I can handle spam. I really can. It goes into a nice spam filter which then gets deleted. Nice feature, it really is. However, the way you route her email address, (if that even is her e-mail address and she isn’t some stupid idiot who read it wrong upon initial creation and then proceeded to send it along to Pepe and everyone else on the planet), anything anyone sends to that address mentioned above, comes sailing over to me to rest in my inbox.

Houston, we have a problem here. I can’t even send her an e-mail asking her to stop using the address or to find another or come to any sort of compromise because anytime I send it, it bounces right back to my inbox.

So really, please, help me with this. Not only do I feel like I’m living a double life, but apparently my other self loves tequila dinners, shops on Scholastic.com (Oh yes, I have her password now) and uses Delta as her preferred airline of choice.

Can you see where this has become a bit of an issue?

Most sincerely,

Kate Baker (The real one, with the period)

Okay, that came out wrong. (The real one with the punctuation in the middle.)

—–

Seriously, I have no idea what to do here. 😛

Oh God. Please Send Help.

The only drawback to buying this small house back in December is that about a mile and a half away from my lovely 4 bedroom abode rests a small cemetery. I don’t consider myself a very superstitious person, yet every time my little CR-V drives by the rusted, black iron fence, chills crawl against my skin. As a kid, I was told that you had to hold your breath when you passed by the tombstones, so that the ghosts buried beneath the earth couldn’t steal it away.

It was the police sirens that woke me this morning at 3 a.m. Thinking it was another vehicular accident on a nearby intersection, I closed my eyes and tried to drift back to sleep. I relaxed and cozied back up to my pillow with heavy and tired eyes.

That’s when I heard it.

Three sounds hit my ears in rapid succession; a low and eerie moaning, a scream from what sounded like a female and the first of many gun shots.

I’ve been awake ever since.

Please tell me that this is a dream.

Tell me that I’m lost in some subconscious imagery taken directly from too many hours of playing scary video games.

It’s now 6 a.m.

Although muffled through the thick concrete walls of the basement, I have heard intermittent screams throughout the last three hours, usually followed by the popping sound of a discharging weapon. Guys, for the first time in my life, I am deathly afraid. I don’t know how long we will be stranded here. I’ve had to make numerous trips upstairs to gather food and other supplies, and from what I can tell from each hurried pass by a window, we are surrounded.

I will do my best to update this blog as the slow moments pass, but I can’t guess as to how much time we’ll be stuck here, or how long the electricity will last. I’ve moved my father and girls downstairs and barricaded the doors with every piece of available furniture, but the only thing that worries me is the entrance to the garage. Given the weak point of the sliding glass upstairs near the deck and this particular vulnerability beneath, I hope I’ve chosen correctly. I’ve backed the Honda against the door, but I don’t know how well it will hold if overwhelmed.

I don’t know how many of them are out there.

I never thought it would end like this. I thought it would be some sort of biological or nuclear strike. Perhaps another terrorist attack that spiraled our country into a final death spiral.  These  are the kind of stories you hear in church that are supposed to guilt you into throwing a few extra dollars in the collection basket.

The dead aren’t supposed to rise from the grave.

If you can send help, please do. I don’t want to die here. I will protect my family until my last breath, but I don’t know if we’ll be able to do this alone. From the sounds of it, the neighbors have already been attacked. From the moaning that is growing louder with each moment, I am certain we are next. I was able to snap this picture of what we’re facing here, but as I listen, it sounds like this isn’t an isolated incident.

Help us, please.