Crossing Gender Lines

January 21, 2012 at 12:50 am (Fervor, writing) (, , , , , , )

I’ve seen a lot of talk recently about inequality in the publishing industry, how male writers get more coverage, percentage-wise, in top review publications and how this is an unfair representation of writers in general. I’ve also read backlash where men counter this with the argument “women don’t write serious fiction” – i.e. women writers mostly write “chick-lit”.

Honestly, I’m not sure if any of this is something I should be concerned about. As far as I am aware, I haven’t been discriminated against for being a woman. Then again, I don’t know if any of the rejections I have received have been in part because of my gender. I don’t go out of my way to hide who I am. I don’t use a pseudonym when submitting (with one genre exception, and I use a feminine pseudonym), and I don’t hide my gender by presenting only my first initial. Some women writers have chosen to do that – there are examples throughout history – but I’ve never been inclined that way.

Where I have encountered discrimination is actually when I have chosen to use a male PoV character in my stories, and I have done that on many occasion. In fact, at the moment I am writing an alternate history zombie horror story set in the Southern US with an African-American, male PoV. I’m sure I’ll face criticism for this choice, but I don’t write things the way other people dictate. I write what the story calls for.

I’ve actually had a man approach me and berate me for having a male PoV in Fervor (criticism based on the back of the book blurb – he had never read the book.) I’ve also seen complaints from other women suggesting that it is a woman writer’s responsibility to write all of their stories with a strong female PoV. Is it? Really?

What you’ll find in my stories are a wide range of characters with a broad variety of strengths and flaws. Some of my heroes are men and others women. My villains come in all shapes and sizes too. Many of my characters walk a very blurred line in the grey, and sometimes you can’t tell if they are meant to be hero or villain. I have female characters who are a little dim and helpless, and some who have been soldiers for most of their lives, hardened veterans. I have male characters who are pacifists and some who are serial killers. As I mentioned, I write what the story needs. What gives someone else the right to tell me who I should cast in the role of PoV?

To sum up, what I want to say is that I would hope nobody judges my work as a writer from the perspective of my gender, be it refusing to take my work seriously or demanding a certain type of PoV character. I like to consider myself a person, not defined by my gender at all. I hope others will grant me the same respect.

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2 Comments

  1. Michel R Vaillancourt said,

    Amen.
    Seriously, in this day and age, we should be judged for the quality of our work and the value of our ethics, not by the color of our skin nor the details of our anatomy.

  2. cherylmoore said,

    Hi Chantal, yep I’ve also received ‘guidance’ about one of my male characters being ‘weaker’ than the reader would like, but this character (Sam) is supposed to be that way. (As you know there are other ‘stronger’ male and female characters also) It’s hard to know if I’d get the same reaction if I were male in respect of this male character, but like you I agree that using a pseudonym is counter productive, personally anyway.

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