Written by: Mikki Kendall, Debbie Notkin, and Victor Raymond, with input from Jeanne Gomoll, Cat Hanna, Liz Henry, Lou Hoffman, Jackie Lee, Kafryn Lieder, Karen Meisner, and Lisa Petriello
This statement of Wiscon’s mission and principles reflects our goals and ideals, and is intended to help guide our actions, even while recognizing that we will inevitably make mistakes and not always live up to those ideals. It is worth noting that this version of the statement was written towards the end of 2010, a year in which the WisCon committee has faced many challenges to both our principles and our process.
WisCon has been a feminist science fiction convention since its founding in 1977. The focus of the convention has been the intersection between feminism and science fiction. This focus distinguishes WisCon from many other science fiction conventions, and has been a major reason why WisCon has grown, developed, and flourished for so long, while some other conventions have had trouble staying vibrant.
Our focus includes science fiction, fantasy, and speculative literature of all sorts. Science fiction itself has been critiqued as a colonialist and imperialist genre, and in many ways this is true. But many of those influenced by it are dedicated to changing the genre to more accurately reflect the field’s vital role in our society: envisioning positive futures for all people. WisCon’s focus on science fiction has played an important role in the exploration of feminist futures: futures where people of all colors, and backgrounds flourish, where women’s rights and women’s contributions are valued, where gender is not limited to one of two options, where no one is erased out of convenience, hidden discrimination, or outright bigotry.
Feminism, at its root, is the belief that all people are equal, and the rejection of sexist beliefs and restrictive gender roles. We, as feminists, have come to realize that all forms of oppression are interrelated. Our practice of feminism is based on a belief in the social, political, and economic equality of all. Feminism is part of a larger constellation of movements seeking social, political, and economic equality for all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, class, sex, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, creed, ability, status, or belief.
Feminism is vital to WisCon’s identity. Feminism itself has grown and changed over the decades, and WisCon has worked to reflect those changes. Since its inception, WisCon has worked to create a space for feminism and its consideration within the science fiction community.
At base, we recognize that a commitment to feminism means a commitment to social justice of all sorts — we might not be able to focus equally on every issue, but still we cannot pick and choose which people deserve justice and which issues we are more comfortable with. We are called to be true to our principles, even (and especially) when they are unpopular.
WisCon’s commitment to feminism is also reflected in our processes. Meetings, decision-making processes, program development, and guest of honor choice all reflect a commitment to feminist ideals of equality, respect for everyone’s right to be heard, and the obligation to hold each other accountable for what we say. WisCon’s commitment to feminist process means that we reject hierarchies of oppression, recognizing that “the need…to nurture each other is not pathological but redemptive.” (paraphrased from Audre Lorde’s essay, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” which can be found in her collection Sister/Outsider.)
For 35 years, WisCon has aimed high. By our long existence and commitment to our goals, we have changed the face of science fiction and we will continue to do so. When we make mistakes, we keep working to improve. WisCon’s commitment to feminist science fiction and feminist process is a commitment to ensuring that our future is not just for white, well-off, able-bodied, neurotypical, straight men, but rather includes everyone.