sturgeonslawyer (sturgeonslawyer) wrote,
sturgeonslawyer
sturgeonslawyer

Khatru 3 & 4, ed. by Jeff Smith (2019-41)

 Okay, it's a fanzine. It's also as long as many books I've read, and denser than many, so I'm counting it.

In 1974, sf fan Jeff Smith approached a star-studded collection of women involved in written SF (Suzy McKee Charnas; Virginia Kidd; Ursula K. Le Guin; Vonda N. McIntyre; Raylyn Moore; Joanna Russ; Luisa White; Kate Wilhelm; and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro) to participate in a written symposium -  basically, an exchange of letters - on the subject of "Women in SF." He also invited two men, Samuel R. Delany and (ironically) James Tiptree, Jr., whom nobody at the time knew was really Alice Sheldon. He published the result, edited somewhat, as combined issues 3 & 4 of his fanzine _Khatru_ (named, presumably, for the YES song "Siberian Khatru").

The result was an eye-opener, and an instant legend in the SF world. Copies were precious until it was reprinted in 1993, with additional comments by several of the original participants, plus several additional women. Then in 2009, it was reprinted again (with no additional material) by the JamesTiptree Jr. Literary Award Council, presumably to keep Tiptree's substantive contributions before the SF public. That is the edition I have here; it is quite nicely printed, with a solid binding and good quality paper.

Yes: I've been avoiding discussing the contents. It's brutally hard to discuss, especially as a man in Trump's 2019 America, when some of the gains women have made over the past 50 years are being eroded by, yes, men. But it's also hard to discuss because it is such a scattershot of topics. 

If I learned one thing from this symposium- one thing I should have learned years ago - it is to SHUT UP AND LISTEN. (Freud complained that he did not know what "woman" wants; apparently it never occurred to ask "her.") It is not for the privileged to "give" the oppressed their rights as if they were some sort of gift, but to listen to what the oppressed want and need, and not to stop them from getting it; to help them where this will be useful, and stay out of the way otherwise.

Also: it is not the job of the oppressed to educate the privileged. That's just adding another log to the load already on their backs. 


I also learned a great deal about something I already knew: that oppression (patriarchy, racism, ageism, ableism, etc.) is less a question of what I think or feel than the system of which I am, willingly or not, a privileged part. "Giving up my privilege" not only won't help the oppressed (women, non-whites, people even older than me, the "handicapped", etc.): it isn't possible short of a radical change in the nature of the social fabric. What can I do to change that fabric? A good question, given that anything I do is done from and necessarily reinforces a position of privilege. Again: Listen. Help where useful (and that is _not_ for me to judge!). Stay out of the way.

Oh, I guess there is some value to "being supportive," but it don't scale the fish. (Again: listen. Ask if support is wanted.)

Finally: This symposium (despite the presence of Delany, Smith, and the ephemeral Tiptree), and feminism in general, belongs to women. I can (and really should) learn from it, but it is in no way mine. (This is not "giving women their space." It is declining to lay claim to it.)


It is available - I don't know how many copies - on Amazon. Get it. Read it. Educate yourself.
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