I almost forgot to mention that the mighty Cat Valente is responding to this whole mess in truly constructive fashion -- by, as it were, editorially hosting a celebration of Arab and Muslim SF/F writers and poets in the November issue of Apex. I'm happy to announce that my story of retinal-screen spam and semi-post-apocalyptic Muslim piety, "The Faithful Soldier, Prompted" will be a part of that issue.
Did you catch it? It's all in the adjectives. His was "mighty" and not "lovely." To you, insignificant. To me, illuminating.
squirrel_monkey pointed out on her blog some time ago that the epithet "lovely" is way overused in the blogosphere and almost exclusively used to describe women, especially female authors. "I had lunch with the lovely Cat Valente" "another book out by the lovely Cat Valente" "the lovely Cat Valente is reading at x tonight."
I see it all the time.
It's a generalized comment on looks, yes, and one that also neatly implies kind and charming, but hardly anyone describes male authors that way. "the lovely Nick Mamatas is reading at x tonight" "another book by the lovely John Scalzi" etc. It sounds weird. And yet it i so often used to describe female authors that it's become nearly invisible. It makes us sound soft and beautiful and gentle and yet at the same time it contains no actual information. If you want to say an author is talented, you say so, or beautiful, ditto. Lovely is just stuck on there--even "lovely and talented" because it makes reassuring noises about the femininity of the subject being discussed. (I've never cared for talented either, to be honest, as it feels like something that implies potential, not actual accomplishment. Kids are talented. They are in talent shows to show what they might be. The show isn't America's Got Accomplished Professionals, you know? Grown ups who work actively in their field are accomplished, or maybe something else. Same with ambitious--if you use the word ambitious in the review I always think that the book didn't measure up to its ambition, or you'd just say it was a masterpiece. Anyway.) "Lovely" sounds like a compliment but really, it's empty. If a writer was ugly people would probably still say "the lovely so and so" because it's so knee jerk when describing women in text. As squirrel_monkey says, we insist on all women being beautiful, even if they're not, even if they don't care about being beautiful. Ditto personality--I can be lovely, even if I'm sarcastic and cranky. It's just the word that goes with the fact that I am a girl and also a writer.
I doubt anyone actually means to do any of this. It's just weird an automatic and I do it myself sometimes. But ever since reading that post I see the word "lovely" everywhere, literally everywhere, tacked on to women's names like some kind of delicate mandatory tail. It is so ubiquitous that when I see a sentence structure that goes "the ______ My Name" and "lovely" doesn't fill in the blank, I do a doubletake. Because "mighty" isn't "lovely." It's a boy word, a word people use to decribe boy writers. "the mighty Tobias Buckell" doesn't sound weird.
But I have become so accustomed to being lovely (lovely---feminine---invisible) that my heart beats faster when some other adjective manages to slide in there. Maybe it's because I'm an editor now, which is a position of power, and not a Bronte
I call for a hiatus on calling female writers lovely in write-ups, blogs, and articles. We are writers. This kind of thing does not become us.