Fallen Idol: Marion Zimmer Bradley
(Warning: discussion of child abuse/molestation)
Yesterday, after writing the “What is My Feminism” post I went back and added a section about being a geeky feminist/feminist geek. Later upon some perusing of the Net, I came across some news that made geek feminism all the more important. One of my most beloved authors (deceased for 15 years) Marion Zimmer Bradley, had been accused by her daughter, Moira Greyland of child abuse and molestation. I wish I were more shocked by this, but I had already heard rumblings about her husband, Walter Breen being a convicted child molester, and that she (and possibly others) were involved in covering this up before it came to light. I hadn’t read anything about these situations however, so today and last night I perused thru the deposition that M.Z.B. gave about her husband. As I read it, my youthful idealized picture of a pioneering feminist writer, who encouraged female authors to break into the male-dominated field of science fiction and fantasy in the 1960’s-80’s fell by the wayside. A callous, cynical picture of a woman with no regard or respect for the rights and dignity of children and young teenagers emerged. She knew about the abuse that was going on, and did nothing to stop it. She had this distorted sense of “open-minded, non-judgmental” attitude towards the sexual autonomy of young people (under 18) to “choose” relationships with older adults. Umm, no. She even helped her husband edit a book he wrote about pederasty to justify all this! So it’s quite believable to me that a woman who aided, abetted and defended her husband in all this would do it herself.
One thing I am glad to hear of is that for the most part, the science fiction/fantasy fandom community has been supportive of Ms. Greyland and believing her accusations. She was overshadowed by the fame of her mother, and didn’t want to take away the joy she brought to her fans! What a terrible burden to bear, alone for so many years.
To me this is a giant lesson in the dangers of fame and celebrity and the power that comes with them that can be so easily abused.
It’s also an illustration of the feminist idea that “the personal is political”. Marion wasn’t a political activist, but as I said she did a lot to advance women writers in a time and genres when they were often excluded. But in her personal life, she was complicit and active participant in abusive behavior against her own children, and other people’s children.
Might I add, that while not Pagan herself (she was at the very least a very Goddess-loving Christian) she was very influential on the growth of the Pagan and Goddess/feminist spirituality movement with her book The Mists of Avalon- a re-telling of Arthurian legend from the perspective of Morgaine, a priestess of the Goddess. I know many Pagans, myself including that credit that book with at least partially leading them to their path. There is also a lot of overlap between Neo-Paganism and science fiction/fantasy fandom, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area that Bradley and her associates were a part of. Even for Pagans who aren’t into these fandoms, we all need to take a cold, hard look at the attitudes that long protected these abusers within the science fiction convention culture. We’re outsiders, we’re different, we don’t want “the normal people” to judge us. So we’ll keep it a secret. We’re liberal about sex, and that means not judging *any* kind of sexual behavior. Gee, does any of that sound familiar to you?
Note: I do not think it is a productive course of action to shame everyone into getting rid of/never re-reading/reading in the first place M.Z.B.’s books. Do those things if you must, or examine her books again with her actions in mind if you will, but the most important thing is that we support the victims, listen to them, protect them, and put policies and cultural attitudes in place that prevent this from happening. Moira and her brother Mark are both not heirs to the estate, so they are not able to profit off of their mother’s work. However, Moira is a musician and Mark is an artist so we can go support their own work and empower their own voices.
Deirdre Saoirse Moen: It’s Worse Than I Knew (public share of Moira’s e-mails about her mother’s abuse)
Jim C. Hines (SF author) Rape, Abuse & MZB
Jason Pitzl-Waters- The Wild Hunt blog- MZB, Abuse & Cautionary Tales
Dianne Sylvan- Vampires Saved My Soul…after MZB tried to kill it (not about abuse but it shows more of MZB’s true character)
Diana Paxson (author who collaborated on Avalon books) comments on the situation. She does not deny that MZB was involved in abuse, but says she did not witness any of it.
Entry filed under: Books, Ethics, Feminism/Gender. Tags: celebrity, child abuse, feminism, geek culture, geek feminism, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Mists of Avalon, Moira Greyland, pederasty, pedophilia, science fiction.