Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Still not quiet enough, after all these years

A familiar anonymous voice came up in the comments after my recent blog post about my thirty-year-old issue with an all-male Baker Street Irregulars:

"Ironically, by 1989 Tom Stix was planning to admit women into the BSI -- he did not want to offend Julian Wolff, so he waited until after Wolff's death in 1990, to admit women in 1991. No firebranding was needed. On the contrary, it's arguable that the many Irregulars who lobbied Stix quietly, behind the scenes, to admit women into the BSI, were more effective...."

This voice has piped up whenever I've written about the subject, making sure I understand that no credit for the change falls my way, even though I don't ever remember claiming any. If this voice wants to credit those polite, quiet behind-the-scenes voices who encouraged Tom Stix to allow women into the Baker Street Irregulars, and patiently waited for Julian Wolfe to die, fair enough. No public outcry from yours truly needed at all for that eventual outcome. Tom Stix wasn't a bad guy, he'd have probably gotten there in any case. So my anonymous critic is right -- in 1991, women would have finally be allowed into the holy halls of the BSI with or without me making a fuss. But this anonymous writer misses one big part of that issue, and why it's now a permanent part of my story.

Those polite, silent Irregulars, so concerned with not upsetting the social order, were unknown to me, to female Sherlockians, to anyone who might react to the current state of American Sherlockiana's feature society in 1989. All we knew was that the membership policy sucked and nobody seemed to give a damn. That is all we saw. And somehow we were expected to expect change from a group that publicly made the statement that "men only" was a part of their identity? And that the appropriate path was to somehow intuit that we should privately approach the head of that group and go "Please, sir, might you tell me if I might hope for a long-overdue correction to this silliness?" when the group's head in the 1960s had famously ripped up a note from female Sherlockians trying to gain entrance to the festivities.

And really, when did quietly asking the powers-that-be ever work in effecting social change?

During Sherlockiana's most recent issue involving the treatment of female Sherlockians, Jacquelynn Morris did a very good thing on social media. She came out with a statement, with her name attached, "that serious work is going on behind the scenes at the moment. Public information will be available once a viable plan is in place. You are heard. You matter. You are loved."

In 1989, did I hear anything close to that in reaction to my displeasure at being in a male-only group? Did I hear any private assurances from these quiet, polite heroes? Nope. Just the "How DARE you!" sort of backlash and a bit of mockery from an asshole or two who have always thought themselves above the rest of us. But we're not in 1989 any more, are we?

Those who are more concerned for their own status than actual change are always content to sit back and let time and the rest of society do the work for them, rather than attach their name to an issue. There were indeed some fine folks who worked toward a gender-inclusive Baker Street Irregulars, and along the way I've heard some of their stories. They don't seem nearly so aggrieved at my own actions, nor worry about where the credit goes for that final change, which was entirely due to Tom Stix (the BSI being a dictatorship after all).

After thirty years, it's kind of funny to hear the same argument from the same direction. Whatever my part or non-part was in history, I'm still glad to be on the record as being on the right side of it, even if my manners didn't live up to the standards of somebody who chooses to remain a nameless critic in a public space. The good thing I would have preferred to see happen long before I became a Sherlockian finally happened, and that is all that really matters.

But the next time I decide to protest something, I'll be sure to stick my pinky up.

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