service: tell my jerkbrain that i can do this thing

Dear all who were raised whilst being told they weren’t as good as white men, here is an article that tells you nothing new.

The Confidence Gap

A review of personnel records found that women working at HP applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100 percent of the qualifications listed for the job. Men were happy to apply when they thought they could meet 60 percent of the job requirements. At HP, and in study after study, the data confirm what we instinctively know. Underqualified and underprepared men don’t think twice about leaning in. Overqualified and overprepared, too many women still hold back. Women feel confident only when they are perfect. Or practically perfect.

Australian ladies are in no way exempt from this terrible phenomenon, and although I’m struggling to find evidence, I suspect they are further constrained by the frustrating Tall Poppy Syndrome.

Photo: smiling quokka (Fin Popper/Creative Commons)
a quokka – secretly a killer (like all australians)

And non-ladies will also find this relevant; basically any member of any minority group who was told they weren’t as good as a conforming white man. Please ignore the USA tech industry biases in this article and apply its truths to your life as you see relevant. Note that what is considered self-confidence varies across cultures, traditions and upbringing, and can be exacerbated: when this article comments that assertive women are often considered bitches, it fails to note that black women (and men) in North America are considered uppity; that Asian women in Australia are considered dragons; that Aboriginal people are ignored as if they are not even there.

In light of this not new and completely unsurprising information about the role of misogyny in our established societal systems and jerkbrains, No Award and Penguin Productions are compelled to offer a new service: the I Can Burn It Down service.

Services provided in this program:

  • You ask: No Award, can I do this thing and crush this city to the ground? No Award replies: Indeed, you can do this thing, and lists you why so you can shut up your lying jerkbrain.
  • Positive reinforcement is aided by motivational sharks, an evil cat, and adorable penguins who will assess your abilities (all excellent) and experience (so great) and confirm for you that you can do this thing.
  • Reassessment of negative feedback from jerkface other parties, and confirmation that you can indeed burn it down.

This service was designed with Australians in mind, and please note that it is opt-in for all self identifying ladies, gender non-specifics, those who were forced to be ladies against their actual identity, and any others who were raised whilst being told they weren’t as good as gender-conforming white men and currently feel a need for this service.

The management recognises that sometimes it will not be available to provide this service, as all service operators are currently located in Melbourne, Australia. To that end, we also provide a handy toolbox below.

Techniques for those momentarily lacking the confidence to burn it down:

  • Armour yourself for battle. Stephanie likes to do this wearing wings and bright pink clothes, but this is not suitable for all world-destroying tasks.
  • Confirm it for yourself: Can I do 50% of this thing; if I were marked on my performance for this thing, would I earn a passing grade? If the answer is yes, then do the thing.
  • Is your jerk brain telling you no? Literally do the thing anyway.
  • Say this out loud: I contain multitudes. They will swarm out and subdue my enemies if I do not get my way.
  • Don’t take responsibility for things outside of your control. You are not a godling, despite your multitudes.
  • When someone tells you you can’t do the thing, put your feet firmly on the ground, cross your arms, and assert your dominance through an eyebrow raise.
  • Do not give ground.
  • On public transport, always establish your dominance, especially against those who consume more spaces than allotted. If you push back against their lavaballing, they will give way in surprise. Take advantage of this, and the endorphins of success it provides, to push harder. Hold onto this feeling when you disembark the tram.
  • Accept negative feedback, but only after running it through a trusted third party. You cannot have any of the best friends associated with No Award, but they are very good at their jobs and we recommend someone with similar skills.
  • ALWAYS ask someone society says is better than you to move their bag from the train seat. (Please don’t put your bag on the seat, anyone else, because I don’t want to have to consume you with my multitudes)
  • If you have something to say, say it.
  • Remember that your failures belong to society. Blame it accordingly.
  • Do not say sorry (except if you run over a cat. Then, maybe. MAYBE).
  • Always check the emails you write and remove excess apologies. Do not feel regret.
  • Do not run over a cat.
Creative Wombat - Common Wombat (Vombatus Ursinus) /
wombat – definitely a killer

Leave a comment below to receive useful feedback from the No Award service. Others of the
No Award community are encouraged to aid this No Award service by also offering useful feedback. White cis men are allowed in the comments but will be gazed upon with non-yielding eyes.


this thing we are doing (a manifesto)

Hey so I wanted to talk about why I am so excited about this blog!

When I was 14, I picked up Sabriel, by Garth Nix. Sabriel lived on one side of the Wall but always knew she belonged to both sides and was singled out for it in both places. Despite living in a fantasy world, with her dark hair and her dark eyes and written, as she was, by an Australian author, I knew deep in my heart that she was a mixed-race Australian girl, just like me.

Science fiction and fantasy was always my safe place, as a kid; a place where my idiosyncrasies were nothing more than that, where my brown skin and my black hair weren’t out of place. I read, almost exclusively in English, and I could always find some kid with dark hair, some girl with olive skin. I knew exactly what our future held: a whole lot of mixed kids, amorphous brown kids of varying hues, just like me, and also space ships.

Instead, the science fiction future I have found myself in is a sea of scientifically improbable white faces, and I have sadly and with deep regret left most English-language fantasy behind to its its fae and its beautiful red heads and its dragons shaped all wrong. I found myself drifting away despite my wishes: disillusioned by yet another Anglo-Celtic barely veiled Arthurian dragony thing with some barbarous coloured people and a whole lot of white people (GoT, I’m looking at you); surrounded by  humans on colonising, conquesting adventures through time and space. I started reading Chinese SF instead, but as a first generation adventurer into the world while that’s an option for me that’s not an option for all brown kids in an English-language world.

In 2011 I was on a panel at Continuum called The Dark Side of Steampunk. During it I ranted and I waved my hands and I’m pretty sure I nearly ended up in fisticuffs with other panelists over the things about which they were wrong (everything, but especially race and ethnicity) and afterwards someone I had never met, someone not white, had come up to me and, shaking, told me how happy they were that I had said every word.

Earlier that year The Wind-Up Girl was the Swancon bookclub book; at the panel discussing it, the bad bits were brushed aside so time could be spent on the good bits, and I sat there, choking on my loathing.

I have felt uncomfortable in Australian fandom for a long time. I go to cons, but I feel ill at ease, and as the years have gone by I have become more and more angry that I have to negotiate these spaces, these discussions where I am invisible, where to be of colour is to be the other, where male voices are the default, where I have educate rather than debate.

So in 2013 I chaired a Continuum. It is one of the biggest things I have ever done. I invited two non-white Guests of Honour (though in the end, only one was able to come), and everybody who came on board the committee was told in explicit words exactly what I wanted to achieve. I understand that it’s a slow process, an ongoing process. This year I was so proud of the programme we put together, its focus on putting all sorts of views forward and expanding horizons and challenging assumptions and even doing the 101 work, which I don’t mind doing. The panel simply titled “Social Justice 101” overflowed out the door and certainly was too full, but it worked and it challenged the people in my SFF community and for that I am grateful. This blog is a direct outlet of that, a direct result of that panel and the success of this con.

I kept my plans secret, for a while, aside from telling my committee. But in the programme I said it outright. My welcome was:

Our theme this year is Contraindicators. Speculative fiction and pop culture often challenges assumptions and dominant story lines, but so often it is complicit in all sorts of unpleasant things. This year Contraindicators seeks to actively challenge that, to create new and surprise endings, incorporate different themes, and to poke at assumptions and stereotypes. Contraindicators is about intersections and things that start off one way and don’t finish the way you think they will. It’s about cryptids. It’s about challenging the dominant paradigm. It’s about creating a space where people feel comfortable to talk about the things that make them feel uncomfortable in fandom, about working together to change our space into Our Shared Space.

In my opening speech I was even more explicit, talking about my experiences of racism and disillusionment within fandom, and within stories. I am sick of being quiet and polite about this! I want everyone to have to think about this, to have to challenge their own assumptions and be shaken from their privilege.

Not many of us panelists were people of colour, this year; but as the programme continues in this vein (which I hope it will; certainly it has the blessing of the next chair), and we continue to work towards a space where people can feel comfortable and as people see a community where their own faces are welcome, and reflected, I hope that this will change, and I won’t have to abandon this community and this SFF world that I do, in fact, quite enjoy.

This blog is not the only space in which I’m working towards my goals, but it’s the one that’s currently foremost in my mind, and I’m super excited to be sharing this space with Liz, one of my favourite people in fandom and real life.

As Liz mentioned, an important part of this space is that it’s primarily a not-USAmerican space; we are two Australian ladies of varied backgrounds, and this space reflects that, because my science fiction future also doesn’t involve USAmerica saving the world.

ALSO this blog is not just about me being Azn. It’s also about other things. But.

Fifteen years later that same copy of Sabriel still sits on my shelf, currently wedged between Cindy Pon’s Silver Phoenix and Margaret Mahy’s The Changeover. I haven’t read it in a while, but everything I ever hoped for, and everything it ever gave me, still holds true, and I will always love it for that.