June 11, 2013

On women, writing, and *^*%&* sexism

Once, I was told by a respected Mississippi judge with a seat on a relatively high court that, were I to pursue a legal career by attending law school, I'd be a welcome addition to the "Harvard student body."

The way he looked me up and down, eyes lingering places I'd rather his eyes have not lingered, there was no mistaking his intent.

Throughout my career in the tech world, I've been told to tone down my bubbly personality, as it kept people from taking me seriously. Because I'm a bubbly kind of girl. I've had inappropriate jokes lobbed my way with abandon. I've worked in environments that felt more like men's locker rooms than an actual, professional workplace.

(I should also add here...I've also made some of the best male-friends of my life, while working in this same tech industry. Men I'm proud to call friend...and, in one case, husband...there are two sides to every coin. But still...I digress.)

This year, it made national news when Marissa Mayer accepted the position as Yahoo's new CEO, and then revealed she was pregnant. Her every move, throughout her pregnancy and her (sooooo short) "working" maternity leave, was then analyzed. How would her actions affect women around the country, and around the world? If she was so tough, and resistant to taking a break to be with her child, should all women reflect that mentality. Had a man accepted that job, with a wife who was pregnant, NONE of that speculation would ever have existed.

Issues like these can be frustrating. Infuriating. I thought "women's lib" happened back in the 60s, but  there are sill glass ceilings so low you can touch them, and male-female double-standards everywhere you turn.

This week, a few influential writers in the SciFi/Fantasy have stepped out to talk about sexism in the writing industry. Anne Aguirre, Delilah Dawson, and Chuck Wendig have all weighed in with some pretty dismaying stories. Stories of women being treated with blatant disrespect and, worse, dismissiveness, at Cons. Stories of books being ignored for their female perspectives, for their inclusion of love and sex. The fantasy worlds created get belittled amidst the taboo label of "romance."

It's dismaying, to say the least, to learn that these stories are more norm than exception. When I first started writing horror and scifi, I thought Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, and Ursula Le Guin had already broken down these walls.

Perhaps not.

What I'm glad to see, though, is this discussion is being carried out by writers I love and respect. I admire them for putting themselves out there, for without discussion, nothing can change.

As for me, I've not yet experienced any of this. But then, I'm a microscopic amoeba in a really big writer-pond. I've never even been to a Con. 

I have no doubt I'll run into some of these attitudes at some point. I am, after all, a reasonable-looking girl trying to make it in a male-dominated industry.

But let me tell you - I'm going to keep writing. I'm going to keep working in the genres I love, and I'm going to do my best to help fashion a world in which we girls are as respected as the men.  Because....just because they got here first, doesn't mean there's not a space for us as well.

So cheers to y'all, Anne, Delilah and Chuck. Thank you for speaking out, and I'm with you 100%. Even microscopic amoebas have a voice in the Land of the Internet. We are, after all, living in the future.

This is me, saying cheers.

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