Hey You Girl

I was walking through the neighborhood the other day and I overheard a boy call out to a girl, each all of 6, “hey you, girl.” The girl in question stopped what she was doing and quickly attended to the boys’s query du jour. Oddly enough, it occurred to me that the level of dialogue between the sexes doesn’t improve much with age. Normally I’d ask “Men, how are we talking to women?” though this time my question is “Women, why do you answer?”

We’ve allowed some parts of our culture to drag us all down, especially in a celebration of the deprecation of women. It’s easy to blame hip hop, it’s everyone’s favorite boogie man. It’s a loud, brash, often obnoxious target, and if only all of society’s ills could be vanquished if the worst parts of it were to cease. However, too often, however, it’s every bit the mirror we don’t want to stare into. Maybe it’s time to move beyond hip hop to the elements of our culture that inspire and fuel it.

We’ve become numb to much of the racism, homophobia, and sexism in our language and call it entertainment. Our entertainment may degrade, demean, and debase, but as long as it’s to a good beat, we don’t say much.

We are sold images. Now we’re sold and packaged as images for mass consumption fueled by (low) expectations of us. Our men little more than drug-dealing thugs and our women treated as if they all dance on a pole or are all out to get into men’s wallets.

My point is that women are at least complicit in the objectification. Ladies, all I’m asking is that you consider a few questions: How much should you tolerate? What do you support? What does accepting poor behavior and conversation say about you (or how you see yourselves)?

Maybe it speaks to a lack of respect for ourselves. All of us, damaging ourselves starting with the way we speak to one another. Women, it’s hard to say “respect me for my mind” when you have your minds out on display and flopping all over the place accessed by anyone who shows even the slightest attention. Demand respect, get respect, attract what you put out. Respect starts early and needs to be taught, reinforced, and most importantly, needs to be modeled.

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Sexism and Genre Conventions?

Well, in a little over a month, the World Horror Convention convenes. This year, the Stokers Banquet is a part of the festivities, so it’s like two conventions in one. Yet some folks are dreading it, if not outright skipping it, namely a lot of female peers of mine. Actually, it reminds me of an on-going discussion Chesya Burke and I have about whether or not it’s easier to be female or black in the genre. When she asks whether I’d rather be a white female or a black male in the genre, I paraphrase Chris Rock: I’m going to ride this male thing out. So this might be an occasion of male privilege leading to male guilt.

Part of this goes back to what it means to be a professional. It’s a shame that we would even have to say “keep your hands to yourselves” as a part of professional conduct. I get that there’s a bit of the old con mentality that plays into some of this: that “what happens at a con stays at a con,” like the rest of their lives don’t matter, or at least exist outside of what is supposed to be a convention of professionals.

It’s bad enough that they still have to contend with schools of thought that believe women can’t write horror, or that vampire erotica is all they can write. Tired of the constant condescension, as if they aren’t expected to be able to speak in whole sentences. Of course strides have been made, but in a lot of ways, there is the lingering perception of the genre still being a boys club. Of that being how deals are often brokered and anthologies put together.

Their sex becomes a two-edged sword. On the one side, if they find publishing success, they become dogged by rumors of how they got their deal. On the other side, some may use their looks to sell their fiction. If you think you have to use your body, your sexiness to sell your work, maybe you can’t claim hurt when you aren’t thought of for your writing first; but all of us use what we have to our marketing advantage.

Convention fatigue sets in when women become tired of being constantly propositioned. I’ve heard disgusting tales of women being pinned in corners, elevator rides that have gone horribly wrong, and convention stalking. Is it so much a leap that women want to be seen as writers, not potential lays. The saddest part is how some of the worst behavior comes from the ones they had never guessed it would come from: their friends, their confidantes, their supposed peers.

Women, especially women horror writers, don’t need me defending them. Maybe I’m making a big deal out of a marginal problem. Though I’ve been told that were a woman to have written something like this, it would have fallen on deaf ears. We’ll see what kind of discussion this generates.

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If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.