I don’t remember when I started to care about women. (And I’m not going to say women’s issues because it’s not a self-contained status sort of thing. We’re half the population—-nothing special interest about that.)
In grad school I complained about a professor who told the class his favorite bar was called “The Silent Woman” and out front it had a picture of a woman with her head chopped off. I was told he had tenure and to go away.
In college I complained about a physics professor who said, “You ladies with your pressure cookers will understand this…” I was given extra points on my grade and told to go away.
In 10th grade a male classmate who sat next to me in the computer class told me repeatedly how he was going to find out where I lived, force his way in, and show me how he was “a real man.” I complained to the office. They told me to avoid him and try not to provoke him. (Even by sexist standards, I failed to understand this. I was a flat-chested, make-up-less bookworm. Short of not existing, I didn’t see how I wasn’t going to provoke him.)
In 7th grade I was sent to the office for slapping a boy. He had me pinned to a wall and was about to punch me. He wasn’t sent to the office. I didn’t get into trouble because, as the guidance counselor said, everyone knew I was “really a nice girl.”
In 5th grade I had a button on my person that read, “A woman’s place is every place.” I’d found the button in a bowling alley parking lot. I think it had already been run over. But I pinned it to my purse.
In 3rd grade I complained to teachers about a boy because, “He shouldn’t be talking to girls that way.” He had looked up my skirt and asked me to kiss him. I kicked him really hard. I was told to play nice. He got in no trouble at all.
And those are only the moments I’m going to share.
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of about violence against women around the world and in school shootings. And today I read a piece riffing on the famous quote, “Well-behaved women seldom make history”.
And another piece about having The Right Reader.
It’s funny how everyone agrees with the saying, “You can’t please everyone,” until they’re the one not pleased.
Recently a male facebook friend made disparaging comments about the Duchess of Cornwall–Camilla Parker Bowles. His main complaint wasn’t that Charles had cheated on his wife. Sure that was bad. But the bigger sin was to cheat on his wife with someone ugly, and he hoped the if William ever cheated on Kate, it would be with someone pretty.
I am insecure about my looks, and I had to ask my friend if he really thought that women judge unattractive were underserving of loving relationships. Really? Honestly, while I think Charles is a cad, I reluctantly admire his ability to devote himself to a woman whose looks are constantly insulted in the media. Here is a man who ignored his pretty, young wife for an older, dowdy woman. How cliche breaking is that?
In most places a woman is only as valuable as she is pretty. And virtuous.
I think one reason I had trouble killing a character in a short story recently was because that character was a teenage girl. Before her death, she had not been virtuous… Gosh, now I’m rethinking the ending again. Don’t we have enough violence against women and girls? Then again, because it happens, shouldn’t we write about it?
So, I realize that my “right reader” would be someone who cares about women too.
Do you ever consider how your characters reflect the culture or an issue that matters to you? And I don’t mean being didactic about it. Just, do you consider such things?