Trigger warning: I will be blunt in this post. I love all of my followers a lot, and I don’t want to offend any of you. I will be talking about rape culture and sexism and my own personal beliefs on them. I will be linking to other sites that talk about these things. If you might be triggered by any of this, please step away now. I will still love you even if you don’t read this post. More so, in fact, because you chose to protect yourself.
This all started for me yesterday. My cousin, who works in the video game industry, posted a link on Facebook that started a discussion among a bunch of us. For the record, my cousin is a good guy, and he was just really sickened by the response to what happened. He was trying to incite change. He figured, if it could start anywhere, why couldn’t it start with him. I applaud him for that.
Then we had our discussion for Lies of Locke Lamora for the book club I am a part of. Someone brought up the women-in-refrigerator trope, which I will admit, I was totally not familiar with until yesterday. Looking back over books I have read, I can identify the trope in some. Am I ready to peg it on Lies of Locke Lamora? No. I am not.
And it all got me thinking.
Then this morning, I logged onto my tumblr account, and I saw BookRiot’s Critical Linking for the day. That led me to Chuck Wendig’s blog, terribleminds, and his post about sexism. I didn’t just read it, I devoured it, and then I started looking around for other information. I looked at every link Chuck Wendig posted, and I did some searching on the issues he mentioned (specifically the SFWA debacle, which I will go into later) and I knew I had to post something, because I just couldn’t keep all these thoughts to myself. Not after everything was just lining up like this.
So. Sexism. It exists. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. I am fully aware that men can be victims of sexism as well, but misogyny is rampant these days. Do I know why? No. I don’t get paid enough to know why. Maybe I am naive, and thought it was better than it was, but I definitely feel like we are backsliding these days.
I remember watching a made for TV movie about J.K. Rowling. It is called Magic Beyond Words, and it talks about her life before and leading up to the publication of the first Harry Potter book. Two things really struck me about this. One was that she had escaped an abusive marriage, and was denied assistance in the UK for her and her daughter, because the father was still alive, and she didn’t wish to seek assistance from him. The other was that when she finally took the first Harry Potter book to an agent, she was told she had to change the name on it from Joanne Rowling to something else, because they felt boys would not read something by a female author.
Why is this happening? Why is a single mother not applauded for getting out of a bad situation? Why are single mothers looked down on, and then single fathers are praised? Think I am lying? I wish I was.
And then there is the whole female author thing. Women readers are more likely to pick up a book because it interests them. We are, generally speaking, not concerned with the author being male or female, the main character being male or female, we just want the book to interest us. For some reason, this doesn’t extend to men. Not all men, mind you. I am not here to say all men are bad. For example, my husband reads the Dragonlance books. He reads them because he likes the story. He reads them regardless of if they are written by a female author or if they feature female characters. He is an example of the exception to this “rule” that men don’t read books by or about women. But generally speaking, it is a real epidemic.
If you want to test this, I suggest you do what Chuck Wendig did, and look at your bookshelves. Do you read a majority of one or the other? Or are you pretty balanced?
Want to see something interesting on the subject of authors? Maureen Johnson talked about gender-flipping covers. Check this out, there are some really interesting examples.
This, I have ideas with how to change. It starts young. We have this gender divide that boys have to like boy things and girls have to like girl things. Why? Why don’t we let boys read fairy tales and princess stories? We are more likely to let a girl play with army men than we are to let a boy play with dolls. Why? We as a society see it as harmful. It is, but not in the way we think it is. We need to get our little boys reading books about the girl who saves the world as well as the boy who saves the world. We spend so much time educating girls that anything a boy can do, a girl can do too, yet we neglect to teach the boys the same thing.
Tied into this is the video game issue. Men have somehow gotten it into their minds that women are inferior. The hand holding a gun in a first person shooter? It is always male. We have had women in the military for YEARS… so why is there not even an option to have a female hand? Men have reported they only play female characters (specifically in MMOs) to look at a hot body while gaming. As someone who doesn’t game aside from MMOs, I can’t cite any that I specifically like, but there are TONS of interesting female characters out there. Somewhere along the line, though, men were taught it was wrong to root for women because they were women.
I think this ties nicely into the women-in-refrigerators trope. This trope is when women are either a) more likely to be raped or brutalized than men in a work of fiction (I am going to extend it to all media here) or b) a woman is present for the SOLE purpose of being raped or brutalized in a work of fiction. Women have been the victim in fiction for so long. I mean, we have been the victim period, but I am now talking about something we have control over. Women are not plot devices. Women are not there for you to make them into a victim and have a nice swoon-worthy male come in and rescue them. This is part of the reason that men think women are inferior. It is because they have been made out to be inferior.
Rape in itself is something that is overused against women in literature. I am not saying don’t write it, but it is generally written as one of the worst and most degrading things that can happen to a female character. For the record, I am not saying it isn’t a horrible thing. It is. It is a horrible thing to happen in the real world. But that is all the more reason it is not a weapon to be used against your female characters. It contributes to rape culture. I am going to take a page from Chuck Wendig (again) and say if you are tired of hearing of rape culture… then I am just going to leave this right here.
Probably no man has ever troubled to imagine how strange his life would appear to himself if it were unrelentingly assessed in terms of his maleness; if everything he wore, said, or did had to be justified by reference to female approval; if he were compelled to regard himself, day in day out, not as a member of society, but merely (salva reverentia) as a virile member of society.
If he gave an interview to a reporter, or performed any unusual exploit, he would find it recorded in such terms as these: “Professor Bract, although a distinguished botanist, is not in any way an unmanly man. He has, in fact, a wife and seven children. Tall and burly, the hands with which he handles his delicate specimens are as gnarled and powerful as those of a Canadian lumberjack, and when I swilled beer with him in his laboratory, he bawled his conclusions at me in a strong, gruff voice that implemented the promise of his swaggering moustache.”
The above two quotes are taken from Dorothy L. Sayers’ 1847 essay – “The Human-Not-Quite-Human”
And they bring us to the SFWA debacle. Jim C. Hines has a wonderful compendium of the goings-on. As per his specific request, I will make sure to state that it is not a comprehensive list. He is not posting only opinions he agrees with. And he addresses some other issues here.
The basics, as I understand them, are that some sexist/misogynist stories and comments were made by people in the official publication of the SFWA. When they were called on their BS, they cried censorship.
It’s fascinating how many people think free speech means women have to listen to their abuse.
As an aspiring author who is looking to get into the Fantasy genre, this whole thing makes me so uncomfortable. But I am with Seanan McGuire (who once again proves that she is as close to flawless as it gets) in saying that once I get there, I won’t back down because I feel underrepresented or see something wrong.
SFWA president John Scalzi has apologized for the kerfuffle. Apologies are good, but the incident should never have happened in the first place. I don’t place blame on Scalzi though. The people who wrote the articles are at fault. They are the ones perpetuating this idea that women are lesser. Other.
So. There you have it. I don’t really know what my point of posting this was other than to rant a little and get it all out. I differ from some feminists in that I don’t believe every single book or video game has to have a strong female character in it. Does that make me part of the problem? I don’t think so. I just want to see women treated fairly, equally, and most importantly, with respect.
So, if you are a reader… branch out! If you are an author… make the change! And if you see these things happening, do something to stop them. Or we will all suffer.