Moira Greyland, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s daughter, recently disclosed that her mother abused her as a child. Bradley is a beloved fantasy writer, known for her feminist retelling of the King Arthur myth The Mists of Avalon. Greyland stated in an email :
The first time she molested me, I was three. The last time, I was twelve, and able to walk away.
I put Walter in jail for molesting one boy. I had tried to intervene when I was 13 by telling Mother and Lisa, and they just moved him into his own apartment.
I had been living partially on couches since I was ten years old because of the out of control drugs, orgies, and constant flow of people in and out of our family “home.”
None of this should be news. Walter was a serial rapist with many, many, many victims (I named 22 to the cops) but Marion was far, far worse. She was cruel and violent, as well as completely out of her mind sexually. I am not her only victim, nor were her only victims girls.
I wish I had better news.
I was familiar with Bradley’s work, although I never read it. I generally stay away from feminist fiction. I was not aware, however, of the long history Bradley had with sexual abuse. I did not know that her ex-husband Walter Breen was a convicted serial child rapist and a member of NAMBLA. I did not know that Bradley remained married to him despite knowing about his membership to the group. I did not know that in a 1998 deposition Bradley defended her husband’s abuse of several boys:
A significant theme of Zimmer Bradley’s answers in her 1998 deposition is the idea that very young teenagers ought to be able to make their own sexual decisions, including about whether to have sex with adults who proposition them. She rejects the idea that any element of coercion is possible in these interactions, particularly when a teenager is physically larger than an adult.
The allegations have rocked Bradley’s fans. Several fantasy and science fiction writers stated they would donate the royalties to their work to support organizations. I am confused as to why they would be so surprised given how apparently well-known Breen’s abuse was in the community. One would think that if Bradley separated from Breen yet remained friendly with him and published his work that she might not be bothered by his actions.
The feminist community has been largely silent about the allegations. I suspect that is mostly because the allegations are just now hitting mainstream news. We will see whether feminists will rally behind Bradley or regard her as a child rapist.
My guess is the former. That has already happened to an extent. People obviously do not want to come across appearing to support child rape. Yet they also find great political value in Bradley’s stories. So they quasi-defend her. They support her work, but not the abuse, even though it appears she worked her opinions about sex with children into her stories.
This presents a problem for feminists. Feminists are supposedly incapable of committing abuse because of their wondrous ideology, yet here is a prominent and beloved feminist author who supported a convicted child rapist, excused child rape, and raped her daughter and potentially other children. It smashes the notion that feminism magically makes women saints.
Bradley’s rationalization of child rape is also revealing. It is the same logic many feminists use when excusing women’s violence against men and boys. We have seen it from the likes of Amanda Marcotte, Jill Filipovic, Germaine Greer, Hugo Schwyzer, Jamie Utt, and Michael Flood. This is nothing new. It is unexceptional to find feminists rationalizing female abuser’s actions.
We will have to see how this turns out. Her fans are still dealing with it, and it appears the community at large is reeling from it as well. They have been forced to confront the reality of child abuse: sometimes the people we admire do horrible things.