(Look at me blogging! I’m blogging! *Throws confetti*)
Today I read a fabulous social experiment done at Cambridge University. You can see that project here. It’s also come to my attention that a grammar school picked it up and did it too — young girls. The next generation. Already feeling that the world is different for them because of their gender.
One of the photos in the Cambridge set made me think tremendously. It made me think about something I almost always do in conversation.
I always refer to the author of the Harry Potter books as Jo or Joanne Rowling. I don’t use her initials.
Her name is Joanne. I doubt her friends call her J.K.
If you didn’t look at that article I linked, the picture in question said, “I need feminism because they told her Harry Potter wouldn’t sell if she published it as Joanne Rowling.”***
There are many, many examples of women who write under pseudonyms or initials, and they do it for a variety of reasons. Some just want to. Others do it to remain gender neutral in male-dominated fields.
Hell, I thought L.J. Smith was male for years. She’s not — her name is Lisa Jane Smith.
TRIGGER WARNING FOR THE DURATION OF THIS POST. BEEDOHBEEDOHBEEDOHBEEDOH.
I’m weary this week. Last night when I thought about sitting down today to blog, it was going to be all about that weariness. Just yesterday, I discovered that there was a campaign going around to get a Kickstarter defunded. The project in question was to make a book from some dudebro’s Reddit-written “dating advice,” which, from the excerpts I read, reads a lot like, “Keep touching women until they scream no at you, then try again later.”
And when I first saw it yesterday, I didn’t even RT it. I am bone weary, folks. I’m tired of talking about rape. I’m tired of seeing shit like this every day, every week. I yelled at a catcaller yesterday on my way to work, who whistled at me like we whistle at our dog to get her to come to us. Then, “Hey there, sweetie, how you doin’?” I turned, scowled, and yelled, “LATE FOR WORK.” I didn’t punctuate it with “asshole” because I didn’t feel like starting off my work shift by getting called a bitch. I’m tired of not being able to walk the ten minutes across that damn carpark without having people holler at me.
I’m tired of feeling like I have to justify these conversations with my husband, because he’s really sick of hearing about it too. The problem is that these stories just keep on coming. Lindy West gets a deluge of rape threats and poisonous vitriol for suggesting it’s not all blood and peaches being a woman in the comedy world. Anita Sarkeesian remarks that there are no female-led games announced at E3? Gets pummeled with more rape and death threats and generally assholery. And let’s not forget the SFWA explosion(s). Or the teen girls committing suicide after getting raped and then ridiculed for it. Or the fact that when some girls at an all-girls school in the UK started their feminist society at school and added their pictures to the Why I Need Feminism campaign, they got viciously ridiculed, threatened, demeaned, and trolled by their male peers. (I’m not linking to all that stuff. You can Google it if you want to, but if you’re here, chances are you already know.)
Because when men speak out about sexism, they’re greeted with hugs and pats on the back from allies, thoughtful “hmms” from those not quite sure, and maybe a rude email or two from those who disagree.
When women do it, someone hits the red button on the floodgate and out spews epithets, threats, poison, bile, nastiness so acrid it makes my nostrils twitch even from where I sit safely behind my computer screen.
You know what all of that really means?
Sexism absolutely exists. It is still a thing. And I’m so exhausted.
If you’d asked me to write about this yesterday I would have cranked up my middle finger. I’m not even kidding. Yesterday I wanted nothing more than to avoid the whole damn shit and kaboodle. I quietly reported the Kickstarter and called the content of the project abhorrent (oddly enough, Kickstarter used that very word in the public statement they released when they said they weren’t going to defund it). I had a conversation on Facebook with a friend about why I just couldn’t engage.
My point is, that no matter how exhausted I am, this stuff just keeps pouring in. If I ignore it on Twitter, it shows up in my Gmail inbox. Or on the front page. Or I hear someone at work tell me that she had to fight her way out of a taxi when two guys forced their ways in after her and the driver sat there and did nothing even when she yelled that she didn’t know the guys. Or I’ll greet a table and have someone say, “At least we got the pretty one!” Or I’ll make a new friend and when this subject comes up, she’ll say quietly, “I was really drunk one night. I woke up in his bed. I didn’t know how I got there. And I didn’t have a word for it for a long time.” These stories keep happening, new ones every day all around the world as far as the eye can see until they pile up fill up breach the walls and just keep on coming and overflow out from me into the air or onto this blog or bubble over my lips in a conversation with my also-weary husband.
And I wonder, how many stories will it take to mobilize the silent masses?
The ones who sit by and are horrified by this behavior but don’t say or do anything about it?
The ones who keep telling us we’re being too sensitive as if we haven’t endured this and far worse for eons?
The ones who listen to their friends tell sexist or racist jokes or watch their friends catcall or see someone groping a drunk person at a party and do nothing but watch in uncomfortable silence?
The ones who insist that things are getting better but do nothing to push it forward themselves?
And I’m tired of the feeling that maybe posting this blog isn’t the best idea in the world because it scares me to think that me being a feminist could be perceived as a negative in my career when all I want is to tell great stories whether it’s in novels or video games or around a campfire or on Twitter. I’m tired of anticipating the same responses that Lindy and Anita got when I think of my fledgling site, Searching for SuperWomen and already having a response plan in place.
So what changed today? What got me to open my mouth again?
Well, the project in the UK sparked it.
That’s something positive, something constructive. And best of all, it’s something inclusive. It’s something that people built. Lots of people. All kinds of people. Brown people, black people, white people, beige people. People with head scarves and people with hair blowing in the breeze. People with vaginas and people with penises and people who don’t care at all if they’ve got an innie or an outie down there. People who worship one god or many gods or no god at all.
That’s what it’s going to take.
If you want to live in a post-feminist world, it’s going to take all kinds of people.
***And in case you were wondering, Joanne Rowling is not, in fact, the highest earning author of all time (unless you take into account her per-book average). That honor belongs to James Patterson, followed by Stephen King, followed by Janet Evanovich. I’ve had people use Jo Rowling’s name as “proof” that there’s no gender disparity in authordom.