Monday, May 5, 2014

On Gender, socially and in fiction

I don't like women.

There, I said it.

Or perhaps more correctly, I should say "I tend not to like other women". Or "I don't enjoy women's company as much" (this has on occasion gotten awkward and frustrating at work; my library is female dominated).

My online writing friends are, almost without exception, female. My in person friends are, almost without exception, male. My bestest friend is Kelly, but in general, I've always preferred male company.

(though Elka is female)

My favored characters have also been male. In the movie 300, I didn't care about the queen's storyline at all, and felt it distracted from the "more important" one. In the TV show The Walking Dead, even "strong female characters" routinely make nonsensical and idiotic decisions for no good reason I can tell. In fact, most of the characters do, and I haven't watched it at all this season. Never before has a show made me yell at the TV.

The fact that Learn to Howl and its following novels are centered around a female POV character and a largely female cast is very strange for me. My short stories have in the past been mostly male characters. Of my other recent novels, The Last Song is male POV (3rd person) and my April project I'm finishing out Esto Quod Es is female POV (3rd person).

So am I a traitor to my gender here? I might be making the opposite point. My writing, over time, has been more of an even split between male and female characters. I decide what "gender roles" mean in my story's context, and which ones are going to be "defied", and if I'm in fact making a point when I do so (yeah, I frequently am. Challenging assumptions can be instructive).

When reading, I don't care if a writer is a man, or a woman, or white, or from Asia, or whatever. I care about good characters and good story. My lists of favorite books are peppered with female authors and characters (Rebecca, The Haunting of Hill House, The Hero and the Crown, and Fortune's Pawn are some which immediately come to mind that have both). I'm not a person who thinks "gender equality" means "one must be pulled down in order to put the other up". Yes, lots of books are published by white males. I enjoy many of those books (Fight Club, American Gods, The Magicians, and Catch-22 are some which come to mind). They're good books, they shouldn't be ignored because they were put forth by the patriarchy or some shit.

I'm not even going to talk about sex versus gender, because I'm ignorant and would get it wrong. I identify female, I have female DNA and body parts, and so that's the perspective from which I am speaking.

Other people who have other perspectives? Well, it's not my business what's in your pants vs. what you prefer to present to the world. Be yourself. Be happy.

I also don't think anybody has a DUTY to speak out. I've seen some kerfuffle about BookCon, and how its panel for children's writers was all white men (that may have since changed?) But as part of the kerfuffle, somebody was castigating John Green for not speaking out. Uh. Why would he? Should he? I don't know. It's his choice. John Green is a white dude who writes (I feel) good books. But why did they call out John Green and not James Patterson, the whitest of white guys who dominates publishing? Why not Lemony Snickett, whose maleness of femaleness I never even considered because who cares?

This is a thorny problem, and I don't have the solution. But writers should be together, not pushing each other apart and pulling hair and tearing clothes. The readers do that to us enough, n'est-ce pas?

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