If you’re not reading Hugo Award-winning author N. K. Jemisin, you should be. The brilliant science fiction author recently posted a Twitter thread that went viral that explains why bigots are bad at things. And she should know — she was one of the targets of the misogynist, homophobic and racist Sad Puppies campaign against “political” science fiction authors.
As it turns out, the thread was prompted by an earlier statement she’d made about the Sad and Rabid Puppy authors “being shitty writers.” She playfully described her comments as “considered controversial in Certain Circles. These are Circles, note, that call my success ‘affirmative action.’ Because I can’t possibly have earned it, per them.”
N. K. Jemisin clarified her comments — not that they needed clarification in the first place — with a 27-tweet thread. The entire thing is well-worth reading but, in a nutshell, she points out that “The purpose of bigotry is to exalt the mediocre.”
She continued, “Bigotry says to them, ‘OK, Bob, you don’t own a mansion, you’re actually struggling bc Sam rigged the system in his favor… but hey, at least you’re not one of THOSE people.’ ::points randomly:: And Bob feels better and stops thinking about Sam. … The problem with bigotry is that it causes privileged groups to build their entire identity around privilege. And for privileged losers, it’s all they’ve got. So they go overboard with it. (e.g. Toxic masculinity) Contempt for others replaces striving for the self.”
Of course, being a “privileged loser” isn’t a final stage. Jemisin points out “They can work harder and become ‘winners,’ or build their identity around something more controllable. Build themselves around who they are, not what they are. But they seem to think this is too hard.”
Unfortunately, this bigotry impedes their skills. Or as N. K. Jemison put it, “Being able to write varied experiences is a skill. … But the ability to learn this skill is contingent on your ability to empathize with all kinds of people. Bigotry, remember, teaches you contempt, not empathy. … I have actually tried to read the Noisier Bigots’ work, on occasion. … But the warning signs are usually on the first page. Cliched dialogue, weak sentences, openings that make me yawn instead of gasp. … You don’t have to read the whole thing. But sometimes I’ve forced myself to read more. I don’t need to tell you which authors; this isn’t about anyone specific. Because consistently, when I’ve done this, the writing gets worse past the first page.”
Or, in other words, the reason why bigots are bad at things is that they never bothered to understand other points of view — and then blame others for their own shortcomings rather than improve.
N. K. Jemisin has had a lot of experience with bigotry in her field. The past few years, the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies have been trying to game the Hugo Awards. The GamerGate-affiliated group is responsible for Chuck Tingle being Hugo-nominated twice.
This backfired, as Tingle used his nomination as a platform to fight against the Puppies and GamerGaters; he even set it up where if he won, Zoe Quinn, the target of the original GamerGate attacks, would accept his award on his behalf. Tingle also bought the domain TheRabidPuppies.com which features a topless photo of Channing Tatum and a note condemning the Puppies in Tingle’s distinctive style.
Chuck Tingle’s also a fan of N. K. Jemisin and used the site to urge Hugo voters to vote for her work instead.
Do you agree with N. K. Jemisin and her explanation of why bigots are bad at things?
Featured image by Jordi Cotrina