Before I go into what I’m certain is a hot topic, I do not condone inequality. In fact, I feel men and women are entirely equal, racism is a social construct meant only to subvert others, and I have a profound respect for everyone. I am a feminist.
So my partially-partially finished novel, Red Wing Black, went to a friend of mine. I wrote it from the point of view of an ignorantly misogynistic guy who knows nothing of himself, and up until the novel’s start had skated on his male white privilege. There are several examples of this throughout the book, along with several examples of ladies doing–ahem–their thing as well.
This friend of mine handed it back, half-read, and said, “No. No I can’t read any more of this. I can’t.”
“This ingrate,” she continued, “comes swooping in and saves the woman from a bunch of men trying to abduct her! I’m so sick of reading about things like this! God. She’s strong for, what, a third of the book? Then she breaks down and needs the man to take care of things? Really?”
Given she didn’t read all of it, and given I haven’t even finished the rough draft, I scratched my head.
This came as a bit of a surprise, given how most of this novel is my dedication to gender role reversals, a painful learning curve, and a main character who is on a personal mission to, simply, suffer. Suffer for as long as it takes to understand the crazy, screwed up American world he lives in.
Never mind this woman carries a pair of antique pistols that she uses to kill the abducting men. Never mind the MC only manages to kill a vicious dog before dragging her to safety. Never mind the same woman carries this puking boy out of a bar after his beer was drugged at the beginning of the book. Never mind said woman is in charge, the majority of the book. Never mind she loathes him for saving her, in an unspoken way, for the entire rest of the book. He even rides bitch on a motorcycle most of the book! Seriously.
Since this guy isn’t a fan of feminism (or even understands it much), and I’m clearly the same person I’m writing about, I’m writing exactly like all the other ignorant white men do when it comes to this very testy subject.
Maybe I am writing like all the other guys. But I’m trying.
Slut shaming, victim blaming, and violence against women is bad. Really bad. I have no idea what many women go through in their lives. I only know my limited knowledge. My abuse. The violence against me. I’m trying.
I’m not sexist just because I’m a man. I’ve lost a few friends over this recently, so I’m going to be very careful about how I write this (I guess they aren’t too good of friends, are they? Heh). Men need to talk about this, too. And not simply, “I support you,” conversations–which are awesome in their own right. But not everything.
I need to be able to communicate, “I wrote this novel because I had a dialogue this one day, with myself, over how it’d be if, ultimately, a middle-class American decided to go balls-out to learn about what he’s doing wrong.”
I know my friend is just one voice, and I can’t make everyone happy. I hear that loud and clear. I know this is a very real issue for a lot of people, including myself, so simply writing about it can be a trigger. But hers isn’t the first voice I’ve heard about this kind of, “You aren’t a woman, so you shouldn’t be allowed to write about it,” mentality. Hell, the whole reason the MC IS a guy being pulled through the ringer is because I don’t feel I could give a woman’s perspective justice. Plus it’s entertaining to watch an otherwise douchey guy get his comeuppins.
I think there’s a bit of a miscommunication going on. Yes, my MC ultimately ends up treating the woman like a complete equal, they share battle scars, and walk shoulder-to-shoulder. When a man is given advice his whole life to handle things a certain way–by everyone in his life, including the women, the sisters, the mothers and grandmothers and teachers and girlfriends–and he repeats that advice, however ignorant it might be, he shouldn’t be ostracized as a sexist man. The situation should be understood as the man saying something sexist, but not him being inherently sexist. Otherwise you’re throwing labels around willy-nilly, and whatever constructive surgery we started halts to a standstill. He should be allowed to evolve and grow and improve.
I know. White guys have been on top for a really long time. And we really should spend some time on the bottom. Suffering is good, when it’s a learning tool. I also have no problem being on bottom. So to speak.
Real life example: rocket scientist guy with the tacky shirt that his woman tattoo artist friend gave him, crying an apology to the world because he did something ignorant. In the right context, wearing that shirt was an incredibly sweet thing to do for his friend: you can tell she means a lot to him. You can tell the shirt actually means something wholesome to him. Yet, he’s lambasted and crucified on the media because he’s clearly–clearly–the kind of white man who takes advantage of women.
Interestingly enough, though, if that was a woman wearing something incredibly tacky, it’d be wholly commonplace to hear everyone lambasting her for what she wore. Usually women are doing the lambasting. I get it. I really, really do. Sometimes violence is the only answer. Sometimes, though, it isn’t. Unfortunately this gent wasn’t from the USA, and he seems to have come from a place with a little more equality–or maybe not. I don’t know.
Ultimately, every human needs help at some point in his or her life. Period. Woman, man. Makes no difference. The “subservient” woman character in my book is clearly the person in charge, throughout. She has the transportation. She carries the weapons. She gets shit done. Her shit is together. Even though she dresses like a “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader” (quote from my MC).
His shit isn’t together. /rant