On Bitches

Saturday, April 13, 2013

on bitches

This week's kerfuffle in the writing world: a famous writer called a woman a bitch for being rude and talking too much about her opinion (here's Mur Lafferty's take), and how dare Seanan McGuire be nominated for five Hugos? And... le sigh.

Anyone who thinks the scifi/fantasy world isn't rampant with sexism hasn't been to a con panel dominated by dudes or perused a bookstore shelf. Or, unlike me, they haven't been told by a famous scifi novelist that they're the bottom of the food chain, the lowest level of the pyramid, and not, in fact, worth the sh*t on his shoe, simply because they expend valuable shelf space and publishing dollars describing love and sex instead of detailing the actual particle physics used in their fantasy world.

(Ask me privately who it was, and I'll totally tell you.)

And it makes me angry.

And not only for the usual reason, which is that women writing romance don't earn the same respect as men who write books with no sex in them--or even worse, only violent sex. That my local newspapers won't touch my story, even though I'm a hometown girl. That, for some reason, other books of 110,000 words are worth more than mine simply because they're about space cowboys or dying of cancer or crime solving attorneys, as if the words somehow count less because people forget that love and sex are, you know, what keep the entire species going. That these things are worth writing about, too.

But it also makes me angry at myself. Because it makes me want things I don't want to want. It's almost like getting rejected from a club and only craving acceptance more. I want to somehow transcend the "she's a bitch" and become one of the boys, get a special pass to dominate panels and drink bourbon and get invited to the big cons because I've won the respect of people who... as it turns out, I don't necessarily respect.

Don't get me wrong--the dude writers with whom I interact on Twitter are the good eggs, and I'm proud to know them. But they're the kind of guys who are just as outraged over the bitch-calling as I am. They're part of the solution, not the problem.

And the good news is that for once, the anger is beneficial. It makes me want to write harder.

It makes me want to be nominated for Hugos, too, and to be griped about as an uppity bitch on some old misogynist's rantypants blog. It makes me want to write a book so good the world has to take notice. It makes me want to craft a story so watertight that it steamrolls over everyone who reads it, no matter how small and shriveled their heart is.

The thing is, if you have to stop your day to rant about someone you consider inferior or undeserving, whether because they're of a different gender or publishing in a way you don't agree with, if you have to assert your position and put them down and call them names... they're winning. If you're secure in yourself and your writing, if you're above it all, you just shrug and think, "So it goes."

Which, if you're reading closely... I'm guilty of it. Right now. I'm so angry, I'm calling strangers names for looking down on me, even though they don't even know me.

And so the only answer is: WRITE HARDER.

Forget them.

Get above it.

Move past it.

Do what you do, your way, and let the haters hate. They'll hate you even more when you succeed.

But on a closing note, have you ever noticed how the word "bitch" can refer to a woman who is mean, rude, loud, annoying, stubborn, opinionated, assertive, aggressive, or simply won't concede a point... and yet there's no word for a man who behaves the same way? There are targeted nouns, like blowhard or bully or boor, but those are unisex terms that don't attach the insult specifically to a gender. But a bitch?

How dare she be a bitch?

What we really need is a term for a man who takes it upon himself to call women bitches for defying his expectations or what a woman should be or do.

Besides sore loser.