The Elephant that Pooped in the Room
I don't know about you, but nothing ruins a book for me faster than sexism. Seriously. There can be an entire chapter missing, and it wouldn't irritate me as much as a paragraph about the daintiness of the fairer sex.
And the poop part of it is, some authors don't even realize they're doing it. Although, if they do, then they're assholes and don't deserve a slice of my hard-earned book budget. Don't be that human. Just don't.
Now I'm not perfect. And I've certainly had my fair share of sexist, ageist, racist slips in my writing. I'd like to say that most of them were in my youth, and could thereby be blamed on ignorance. But that wouldn't be telling the whole truth, now would it? There are standards that I accepted as a reader a long time ago, and didn't realize that I'd absorbed them into my own writing.
So let me rant about this elephant. And let's shovel the shit. Out of the room. Immediately.
I'm going to talk about the three forms of sexism toward women that bother me the most in books. Particularly Fantasy and SciFi.
One. Women suck at, well, moving. Anything physical is obviously out of their league. But there's a pitfall here: Let's say that a woman is told that she cannot do something--specifically because of her gender. That is sexism, but it is sexism in a character, not the author. It can be an educational tool, and doesn't always ruffle my feminist feathers. However, to generalize women in the prose itself, is a very different thing.
Let's say that Jane is told she can't go horseback riding through the Fantasy realm of Bla'da'bla because it's not lady-like. Jane has the option to listen, or to ignore the bagless nut and go anyway. That isn't necessarily sexism in the author (although, if you're a Fantasy author, then let's turn our creativity up a notch and have Bla'da'bla not be another sexist realm of boorish blurp).
Now, on the other hand, let's say that Jane isn't told she can't ride through Bla'da'bla, but rather does ride and rides poorly. In fact, all of the female riders are as useful as nipples on a breastplate, and must be rescued by masculine, sword-twirling, hulks of humanity. It is assumed that men are better because they are men, and it's never addressed because it's just the way the world works. Get out of here with that garbage.
Two. Let's say that Jane is very, very good at sword dueling. She is absolutely amazing. She is the best. Despite her womanhood, she is so good, she can compete with the men!
Blurp. What was that? Oh, the people she is automatically compared to are the men? "Jane was so good with the sword, she could compete with her male counterparts and sometimes wow the crowd." Ahem.
Let's back it up a notch. It's okay to have your fantasy world struggle with sexist bags of luckless turds. But to have it naturally assumed in your prose is sloppy writing. Women are not there as a counterpoint to the excellent masculine characters. As though simply existing in the world is an achievement unto itself. While this will often take the form of flattery in the book, it is pandering and boorish.
And there's no need to constantly repeat that Jane competes with men. You know what? I want to see Jane compete against Alice, because they're probably both excellent. And let's not mention the masculine duelists at all. Because this isn't bloody about them, is it?
Three. And heaven help you if I see one more "bust", "boob", or "bosom" description. Seriously. Stop it. Have you ever been reading a Fantasy book, and any time the masculine lead trips, he automatically falls into, has to grab onto, or crushes his face against a woman's chest? I could name names, but that's not what this blog is about. Suffice to say, I recently read a best-seller that did this so many times, it inspired me to rant and rage and write and write and write...well, this.
I can't overstate this. I LITERALLY DO NOT CARE what these women's breasts look like. If she has an exceptional chest and uses it to her advantage, then sure. Mention that. Once. I get it, she likes to distract people with her endowment. But if you mention it every time she says something, I'm going to get BORED with your writing.
The sad thing is, there are more than three kinds of sexism. A lot more. And of course, it isn't just directed at women. Men suffer in these books, too. But this blog post isn't about men. It's about me, my womanhood, and my rage.
A strong woman does not have to be a bitch. So often, proud, independent women are portrayed as vengeful assholes, full of spite and hurtful remarks. They are bossy, they are stale, and I hate reading about them.
When I was growing up, I didn't want to read a book with a female protagonist. I didn't like them. And as I got older, I didn't write female protagonists. I'm ashamed to say, it wasn't until recently that I realized why that was. When I was little, all of the female characters I read about were mean. Just, super mean. They picked on the men, bossed everyone around, and were unable to apologize.
Oh, and the like-able, kindly women in these books are the dullards (bosomy dullards, can't forget those chests). A woman can be strong and kind.
That's it for now. If you want to read women-driven SciFi, check out my book. If you want to rage with me, I'm krilliams on Twitter.