Lest you think I’m a “man-hating feminist,” let me assure you I am not. In fact, I like to think that in my day-to-day life mine is a pretty equal world—all things considered. But when I hear things that make me think that women aren’t equal (for whatever reason), I pay attention. And we’ve all seen the tweets about gender inequality in the publishing industry: the rumors (and more) that men are more published than women; that more men’s books are reviewed than women’s books; even that there are better roles for women than men in movies.
It’s something I acknowledge—it’s there—but to be honest, I never really give it much thought on a daily basis. I certainly never let it preoccupy my time. And it would never, ever discourage me from writing. And so I’ve never considered blogging about it… until three things happened, three things that brought it into focus, that made me want to find out more.
Those three things.
- My latest WIP. One of my beta readers was an Army veteran who was incredibly helpful in my research about the Vietnam War. When I gave him my manuscript to read, he said, “This is the first book I’ve ever read that was written by a woman.” The first book he’d ever read that was written by a woman. (He’s over 70, and he’s a big reader.) That was troubling enough. But what he said next really gave me pause: “I’m afraid I won’t be able to relate.” Because it was written by a woman.
- A casual comment by a friend. We were talking about one of my main characters—a man—and she asked me, “How would you even know how to write from a man’s point of view?” That surprised me. She surprised me. How would I know? Are male writers asked the same thing? Do you think Jeffrey Eugenides’s friends ask him how he knows how to write from an intersex POV? How would he even know how to do that? I never answered my friend, by the way. Not because I was offended. But I just didn’t know how.
- Something I read about Gone Girl—the movie. No, this post won’t become about Gone Girl. In fact, I’ll just come out and say it: I wasn’t a huge fan of the book or the movie, but that’s not the point. The point is that the article about Gone Girl (on Forbes.com) made me like it a whole lot more. That Gone Girl has an abundance of strong female characters—characters with real substance—and the story passes the Bechdel Test, which is (surprisingly) unusual in today’s movie industry. (That said, I do find other aspects of the novel/movie problematic for feminism and our world in general.)
What’s the Bechdel Test?
I’ll admit I’d never heard of the Bechdel Test until I read the article. So I looked it up. It’s not without its critics, by the way, but according to Wikipedia, a movie passes the Bechdel Test if it “features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. The requirement that the two women must be named is sometimes added.”
There’s a test. Hmmm. My first thought was to wonder if there was a similar test for male characters (more about that later). My second thought was how ridiculous. [Read more…]