Sunday, July 03, 2016

a male writer's perspective

Don’t ask me why, but I was reading a Guardian article today. About the Arthur C Clarke awards. I’d like to quote the following;

International debutantes – two of them women – make up half of list, joining established writers in race for UK’s foremost science fiction prize

Do you see that? Two of them women. Joining established writers. Established meaning “male”. Because to be “female” means you are not established as a writer.

I’m not normally inclined toward judging a person’s occupation by their gender, so I found it suddenly strange that most occupations actually are. For example, you get a “politician” who is considered by default to be male so the gender-balanced job title is “female politician”. You get a “policeman” and a “female policeman”. You get a “soldier” and a “female soldier”. A doctor” and a “female doctor”.

This works the other way, too, in that you can have jobs seen as female by default. So you get “nurse” and “male nurse”. “Prostitute” and “male prostitute”. Of course, most of the jobs requiring the “male” prefix generally seem to be in the sex industry which might also be saying something about our expectations as to who is the default gender for what.

For me, I felt a little surprised that we have so many “female writers” and so many “writers”, but we do not have any “male writers.” This supposes the default gender for a writer is “male”. Which, if you go to your nearest bookstore, seems a little absurd in this day and age. Possibly it’s the same for those other hand-picked occupations I listed, but I’m not currently working in those fields.

In any case. While reading that article on the Guardian, I wondered if the article upset the “female writers” being used in the article as some kind of target. It smacks of an accusation of tokenism just by the way they present it. Which it shouldn’t, because I know for a fact that the whole charade of having a decision should be done away with and Kameron Hurley should just be given the prize as, let’s face it, her books are the best thing to come out of Science Fiction in years.

Thus, by simply showing some stats and holding up their “female writers” to the crowd, the award promoters and the newspaper blogger (I couldn’t dare call these people, who get their stories from twitter and facebook, journalists these days any more than I would expect someone to call me an author), is belittling and completely dismisses the actual quality of the work which is being awarded even if this was not the intended result.

Instead of “This ratio carried through into the final six shortlisted titles, two of which are by new female authors,” said Hunter.“, it should have read; “There was no need for ratios because we chose the best fucking books we read this year.”

Followed by “And the award goes to Kameron Hurley.” But that’s a given. I’ve already prepared my congratulations tweet. (update: Kameron Hurley was ROBBED! ROBBED, I tell you...)

I’m also looking forward to any “She olny wun it cuz she a chix” arguments. Note the lack of spelling. Bigots can’t spell. That, too, is a given. (This attitude is already evident in the subsequent comments of that post with such awe-inspiring leaps of logic as “I didn’t find last year all-male shortlist sexist. This pandering on the other hand…“)

For myself, who will no doubt go on to win a generous helping of zero awards (hey, us hack writers look forward only to the sound of crickets and the odd titillating review on Amazon), I feel only respect for all the writers who were chosen. I respect their skills because, whether I like that person’s writing or not, they’re on their game. They work hard and bleed for their art. They struggled to get where they are. They endured criticism as much as encouragement and lived to tell the tale. And besides, writing is an art and thus you don’t have to personally enjoy something to respect its value to the genre.

Therefore, it is not fitting that one group of writers is defined by their gender while the other can happily go on about their business. That by not having to tack on a default gender to their occupation, they’re automatically deemed worthy to be included in any awards shortlist without sneering accusations of tokenism.

So.

Hello, my friends. I am Lucas Thorn and I’m a male writer.

- originally published 22/03/2015 on lucasthorn.com