Thursday, April 26, 2007

Feminism and Writing

I read this first thing this morning and have been letting it percolate, trying to come up with coherent thoughts. Actually, I had coherent thoughts immediately upon reading it. I spent the day trying to string them together into a coherent response. It seems I'm not up to the task. So here are the thoughts:

    I'm very grateful that, when I decided to take reading seriously (more than just as fluffy break from all that Serious Stuff I had to read for school), I started with Anne McCaffery and Melanie Rawn.

    I'm very grateful that, when I decided to take writing seriously, I was taking a non-fiction writing course taught by a woman who directed me to a writer's organization and encouraged me.

    I'm very grateful that my first interactions with professionally published authors involved Holly Lisle, S.L. Viehl, and Carol Berg.

    I'm very grateful that my first experience with a professional editor was with Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

    I'm very grateful that my first experience with an agent was with Kristen Nelson.

    I'm very grateful that it wasn't until I was four years into my journey of taking writing seriously that I first comprehended negative gender issues in my genre when Harlan Ellison groped Connie Willis at the Hugos.

    I'm very grateful that I was raised in a family and an environment that I more often felt I was treated differently because I was smart, not because I was female and that it never occurred to me that my gender alone might cause issues.

    I'm very grateful that it wasn't until I was a sophomore in college that I began to understand the more insidious ways our society perceives and enforces gender differences; it means I'm less likely to unconsciously enable the perceptions and enforcements, and that becoming aware of it when I did I felt more empowered to Do Something.

    That being said, I probably wasn't nearly as removed from sexism as the above indicates seeing as how I am an Air Force brat (and the military ain't exactly known as a feminist beacon) and, out of a class of 24 biochemistry majors, I was one of five women. Mostly, I never quite processed myself as Other (not Other because I'm a girl; I processed myself as Other because I was a military brat, or because I spent nine years in a foreign country) or allowed society's labeling of me as such to stick or get in my way. The times it reared its head, I would more often than not personalize the encounter to make it more about my personality vs the personality causing the problem and found a way around it.

    No matter how I managed to get through life without really letting gender issues bug me, it's not helping me deal with how I'm categorized now that I'm a mother who works from home part-time. My professional life is hidden compared to when I worked full-time out of the home. No one asks me "So what do you do?" anymore when I meet new people. They ask about Andrew. They ask about domestic things. They may ask if I still work or perhaps they'll ask what I do in my free time or what my hobbies are. I wasn't quite prepared for this subtle shift in how I'm perceived. (Nor was I prepared to deal with interacting with other mothers only in context of being mothers; one of the most uncomfortable conversations I had was at the mall's play area with a mother who had sat down next to me and whose child was interacting with Drew in some way; I could feel her hunger for adult conversation, and her absolute frustration that, when presented with the opportunity, she could only talk about her child; I could feel that hunger and frustration because it mirrored my own.)

    I get fanfiction in that it's a response to art. It's the context of that response where I falter. For me, I get a response from art and I almost immediately remove it from the context that generated the response and put it in my own creative context. I may have to think on this further.

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