One highlight of RWA Nationals is the RITA award ceremony. It’s pretty dazzling, with an MC, coordinated soundtrack, and large screens which display cover art and author photos between acceptance speeches. It’s the closest I’ll get to the Academy-Award experience in my life, and the two I’ve been to now gave me goosebumps. The audience is glammed-up, the winners jubuliant and grateful. One can’t help but leave inspired and warmed. (And few pounds heavier from the decadent chocolate dessert.)
But I don’t think the tears had dried on the podium this year before certain tweets began to fly. I’ll be blunt in that they bothered me, so while this isn’t the post I referred to last month when I swore to zip my lips, you might be tempted to think so. Just do me a favor and if you feel yourself beginning to foam, read to the end of the post first. ;)
I’m not going to quote the specific tweets for several reasons:
- I’m not out to vilify anyone but wish to begin a discussion.
- Even if I wanted to point fingers at specific individuals, that would be difficult. The tweets were echoed by many others, and from the rustling and murmurs during certain parts of the evening, I suspect the audience was sympathetic. In other words, as with many things, I’m probably the person out of step with the times.
These were the essential talking points:
- During award ceremonies, one should not apologize to their partner for the unwashed dishes or unprepared meals that were a consequence of writing deadlines.
- Men would never do such a thing.
- By doing so, you indicate you’re not serious about writing.
Now, I think I detect undernotes of shame in that content — the idea that work attributed in the past to women is “less than” and therefore not fit for public discussion — but to be fair, tone can be hard to grasp on the Internet, particularly in a medium of 140 characters. Also, I know some tweeters by their professional reputation, and I doubt very much that’s what they meant to say. So let’s set that aside to look at the accuracy of these points, and then their broader implications:
1. The Male Model of Success Around (Writing) Work is Best
Do we agree with this? Do men even agree with this? My take: while women have very real challenges in the workplace, so do men — especially those who wish to be a good spouse/parent/human as priority, yet still be perceived as hard-working, competent and hungry. If women encounter a glass ceiling in the corporate world, I say that men encounter a linoleum floor. (Or ceramic tile, depending upon their socio-economic status.)
Rather than get into a “which sex has it worst?” argument, can we agree that rigid gender roles serve nobody, whether in the workplace or at home?
Also, these are RITA and Golden Heart winners; when we look to models of success within the romance world, surely they are the wayshowers?
2. That Men Wouldn’t Behave in This Manner
I don’t find the following scenarios improbable. Do you?
- A NASCAR driver in front of the microphones: “…and a big thumbs up to the wife, who had to change her own tires when I was winning in Fontana last month. Love you, hon.”
- At the Edgars, a male writer brandishing his thriller which features a gutsy female detective: “And to my partner, who had to handle a home invasion and robbery — alone — while I was in Europe promoting this novel.”
As I see it, the romance award recipients aren’t grovelling but acknowledging irony. Even at the podium they’re thinking of story. They’re thinking as writers.
3. Lastly, that care of family can and should be divested from care of the writing career
RITA award winners make their money by writing with conviction about two becoming one, oftentimes in hearth-and-home settings. I’d suggest that by honoring whatever makes their relationship strong — and surely they are the best judges of what that takes — they honor their calling. Taking care of their relationship is taking care of business. If you don’t believe me, talk to an author who’s attempting to write a romance while getting divorced.
This is part of their integrity. Don’t mess with their integrity.
In the final analysis, though, I’m not certain there were any big socio-political ramifications to the tweets. I think people were just bored by evening’s end and blowing off steam; with that, I share a certain sympathy…which is why I’m getting a headstart on my RITA speech. You won’t be catching me unprepared. (Though I promise to keep the multi-media presentation to less than two minutes.)
But a few questions: It seems to me that the requirements of author-as-public-figure grow every day. Are industry awards an example of this, even if untelevised? Do you feel the ceremonies should cater to audience, award recipient, or both? If you are lucky enough to ever be on stage, who will you thank? Lastly, want to audition for my chorus line?