What Does Gender Have To Do With It?

Posted: February 20, 2015 by ajbrown in Uncategorized, Writing
Tags: , , ,

I don’t have a vagina.

Now that that’s out the way, let me explain. It’s true. I don’t have a vagina. And, you, the readers of the world and other writers of the world, don’t care. You don’t look at me and say, ‘hey, he writes dark fiction and horror and he has a penis, so we probably shouldn’t take his work all that seriously.’ You don’t do that, do you? Do you?

Of course you don’t. Why would you? It sounds absurd. Yes, absurd.

Let me break this down. It’s one thing to say, ‘hey, he writes dark fiction and horror so we probably shouldn’t take him all that seriously.’ I get that. Some people don’t think writing horror is difficult. I kindly point out that the two hardest things to do in entertainment of any type are to scare people and to make them laugh. It’s not easy. Go ahead, try. At any rate, horror may not be your cup of tea and if it isn’t, that’s fine and you would probably not think there is much literary value in the darker worlds horror writers create. I get it.

However, it’s something else all together to say, ‘he has a penis, so let’s not take him seriously.’ Really? What does my penis have to do with anything I write? Nothing. It doesn’t whisper to me the words to say. It doesn’t think for me.

A few hypothetical questions:

If I told you I was a horror writer, would you call me a whore? Would you say I’m a whorror writer? When you look at my bio image do you automatically say, ‘hey, he’s a hunk of a man, so clearly he can’t put two words together or even form a coherent sentence? (For the record, if you called me a hunk of a man, I would laugh, then I would cry, then I would laugh and cry at the same time—I know what I look like and I am what I am.) Would you think I wrote with my penis? If that were possible, I think I would sell How To Videos. But I just can’t make it hold a pen or type. It’s just not happening.

See how ridiculous that sounds? Nobody is going to asks these questions of a man. Nobody is going to look at a guy and think ‘he’s so hot he can’t write or that he uses his penis to write. It just doesn’t happen.

Now, let me ask you one more question. Are you ready for this? Here goes:

What if I was a woman and said I wrote horror?

Wow. Things got quiet in here.

I want you to think about this for a moment. If I were a woman, would you view me any differently? Would you view my writing any differently? Would you view my abilities to tell a good story any differently? Would you think that I am beneath you or subpar to you, especially if you are a man? Would you think I couldn’t write as well as any man out there?

The sad thing about this is, for some, maybe even many people that I realize, the answer would be ‘yes.’ And most of those people would be men.

And why is that? (Disclaimer: the thoughts to this answer are my views and opinions and are only accurate if they apply to someone who thinks this way. If it doesn’t apply to you, then you are awesome.) My honest opinion is that men (I’m generalizing here, folks) have a superiority complex and many of them feel that no woman is equal to, or greater than, the penis swinging gender. I don’t know where this heightened sense of self-importance and self-absorbance comes from, but its kind of meh…it’s kind of stupid. No, it’s not kind of stupid, it’s all the way stupid.

As a friend of mine put it so eloquently: this goes back to the cave man days where the man hit the woman over the head and dragged her back to the cave. ‘I am cave man, hear me roar.’

Have we not advanced any further in society than that? Do we still have the cave man mentality? Sadly, there are a few men out there that do.

Just because I have a penis doesn’t mean I am better than someone who has a vagina. In fact, that someone can do something totally amazing that I can’t: give birth to life. That is, as I’ve said before, bad-assery. Wait, there is more. Not only do they give birth to life, but they also love the life they created, even though that life destroyed their bodies. Okay, men, do that. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Go give birth to another person.

So, how did that work out?

It didn’t? Hmmm…

Okay, some of you are probably thinking this topic isn’t serious. But, it is. Very much so. February is Women in Horror month and I have seen more men bashing these writers than I think I ever have before. It’s ridiculous.

Recently, I read a blog post written by Stephanie M. Wytovich, a writer. The title? Take the Whore Out of Horror. You can find it HERE.

Miss Wytovich wrote of a conversation she had with an individual. The following is an excerpt from her blog post (used with permission):

Stranger: “Writer, huh. So what do you write?”

Me: “I write speculative fiction.”

Stranger: “What does that mean?”

Me: “Genre fiction. I’m a horror writer.”

Stranger: “A whore writer?” *immature giggles*

Me: “No, a horror writer? *death stare*

Stranger: “Same thing. So whore fiction, eh?

A whore writer? Really? That has never, ever happened to me. Is that because I’ve never come across someone so witty as to come up with that? Is it because I’m not pretty? No. It’s neither of those. I think it’s because I don’t have a vagina. I really do.

The term whore is degrading in and of itself. It is defined as a woman who engages in promiscuous sexual intercourse, usually for money. Do you really, honestly, think it is okay to call someone a whore? If so, then know a lot of men who may fall under that term.

For the record, if anyone were to ever call my wife, daughter, sister, mom, nieces, female friends, this, I will beat the piss out of them. And I’m sure many of you men out there would feel the same way if someone said that about one of your loved ones. Why, then, would we call a woman that if it offends us when someone calls our loved ones that?

Answer a question: What does gender have to do with it? Seriously? What does gender have to do with how good someone writes or how good someone does his or her job? What does gender have to do with any type of artistic creativity? What does being female or male have to do with anything in this business of writing/publishing?

Nothing.

Let me repeat:

N-O-T-H-I-N-G.

I want to try and stick to the horror writing subject here, so I want to quote something else Miss Wytovich said in her blog about female horror writers:

We are WOMEN working in HORROR and we are PROFESSIONALS.

Why did she say this in bold and capitalizing three key words? Because of the paragraph before that:

This issue, beyond every issue that there is in publishing, and in horror, is what I have the biggest problem with. I’ve talked about stigmas and clichés a lot this month, but the notion that women in horror are nothing more than what their bodies portray them to be, is ridiculous. And it’s immature. And it’s offensive.

She’s right. But she left off a few things. It’s not only immature and offensive, it’s narrow-minded and outdated. It’s cave mannish. It’s a few other things, but I’m trying to keep from being snarky and rude.

I want to say this to anyone who thinks that women are lesser than men in the horror world, you clearly haven’t had the pleasure of reading the likes of Mercedes Murdock Yardley, Fran Friel, Belinda Frisch, Chantal Noordeloos, Anne Michaud, A.C. Wise, Lisa Morton, Tracie McBride, Mary Shelley and (my favorite) Shirley Jackson. These are all very good writers who happen to be women. Does that make them any less than writers who just happen to be men? Nope. Not at all.

Here’s the problem: this is a prejudice. It’s a mindset. In order to change a prejudice toward anything, you first have to change the mindset. We are all people, regardless of gender, color, creed or sexual preferences. At the end of the day, we are all people. What makes anyone better than anyone else? Nothing. I think it was the band Depeche Mode who asked what makes a man hate another man. I want to ask, what makes a man better than a woman?

Nothing. There’s that word again.

Just because you were born with a penis doesn’t make you better than someone born with a vagina.

As a person, I want to be treated with respect. I want to make a living and support my family. I want to enjoy any successes I earn and learn from the failures I have along the way. As a writer, I want readers and I want people to buy my books and I want to be treated equally among my peers. So, why shouldn’t our female horror writers be treated the same? Why shouldn’t they want the same? Why shouldn’t we, the male population, respect them the same way we respect other men? The answers, in order are they should, they should and we should.

I said it’s a prejudice and a mindset. It is. If someone looks down on someone because of their gender or race or whatever, then it is a prejudice, and prejudice is learned. Some will argue with me, and that’s fine, but I stand by this: prejudice is learned (and in many cases, taught). If someone hurt you and they are not the same color as you, then you may develop an idea that all people of that color would do the same thing. You learned something from an experience and then it was attached to all people of that color, as if every single person of that color would do the same thing. That’s not a good way to think. Or maybe someone taught you it’s okay to treat women poorly. Or maybe you just do it because you can. It doesn’t matter where the behavior comes from, it’s just not acceptable.

I am fortunate enough that I was taught to treat women with respect. I am fortunate that I was taught that every person should be treated with a bare minimum of respect, no matter who they are and that you should never, ever go below that minimum level. I am fortunate that I can sit back and take criticism from women and take advice from women and even seek that advice out from women. Why? Because I’m no better than they are, and in most cases, women are far better than I am.

Women have played significant roles in helping me with all three of my books. Tracie McBride edited Along the Splintered Path. Paula Ray helped me with the title and the bio. My wife helped me select the stories for Southern Bones and proofed them when the edits were finished. She also proofed Cory’s Way. Bailey Hunter did the cover lay out. Sue Babcock helped edit it and Paula Ray pointed out a few important things that, if they hadn’t been caught, could have had negative implications on what readers thought. I wouldn’t change any of the work they did on my books and I enjoyed working with each of them. Note the key word there: with. They didn’t work for me, we worked with each other, giving an equal amount of effort on the projects, the way it should be.

I guess I’m old school. I still hold doors for women. I still carry heavy items for them. I still let them get in an elevator before me and I offer to help them if I see they need help (and sometimes when they don’t). I still stand up in a crowded room and offer them my seat. I still hold women in high regard. When did we lose the ability to be gentlemen and don’t say it began with woman’s lib–that’s a cop out.

I want to take one more tidbit from Miss Wytovich’s blog. It’s very important, and it’s every single thing that the writing profession should be:

Let’s all just realize that the label of female horror writer shouldn’t even exist.

We’re all writers.

We’re all professionals.

It’s as simple and true as that.

Miss Wytovich hit it on the head. You never hear someone say ‘he’s a male horror writer.’ Then why should you hear ‘she’s a female horror writer’? Gender doesn’t matter. The ability to tell a great story does. I don’t care if you are male or female, if you can write a story that I like, that engages me and that I connect with, then I will read your work.

We’re all writers.

We’re all professionals.

It really is as simple and true as that.

Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

(I would like to thank Stephanie M. Wytovich for allowing me to use portions of her blog post for this particular post. Also, please check out her blog, Join Me In the Madhouse.)

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