"When someone opens their own original restaurant, critics don't call it a 'vanity' restaurant. So I don't see why there is a stigma to making a book on your own"
My best friend's mother made that analogy (thanks Robyn! Thank your Mom for me too). Like me, she is also a self-published writer. She writes westerns, one of those genres that us women folk aren't supposed to touch (unless it's a cowboy romance).
This week, the SFWA took a lot of heat for the blatant sexism found in its bulletin. If you were unaware of the controversy, here are two good sites that have good summaries: Further Thoughts on SFWA and Round up of Some "Anonymous Protestors". (Also a good article about Misogyny in writing: 25 Things to Know About Sexism and Misogyny in Writing and Publishing)
What I find absolutely stunning is how many women in one of the groups I belong to jumped to the defense of these two men who blatantly and unashamedly objectified women writers and editors. Then I thought about my own experience at a recent convention and I realized that this was par for the course.
In May, I debuted as an author at a convention dedicated to feminist speculative fiction. For the most part, it went fine. There was a real sense of support and encouragement. Then on the final day, I was harassed by an older white male editor in full view of at least 6-8 supposed genre feminists (or at least supposed genre feminist allies). Nobody said a word. When I posted it on Facebook, the outpouring of support I received from fellow genre feminists (real ones) was overwhelming.
I had another life-changing experience (a good one) earlier in May when I met two personal heroines of mine: Jen & Sylvia Soska, identical twin horror filmmakers. Spending an afternoon just talking shop with two fellow genre feminists who actually liked other genre feminists was one of the best experiences that I've ever had. Through them, I met more interesting genre people. This experience and my later convention experience led to an epiphany: writing's classism problem is what part of why this blatant sexism is an ongoing problem, particularly in genre.
I'll explain (forgive any loopiness, I'm currently in the midst of preparing my 2nd novel for release and therefore a little low on sleep).
Most of my genre feminist friends are filmmakers or at least connected to the filmmaking community. They're also all indie artists. Indie genre feminist filmmakers have multiple avenues of support, not the least of which is Women in Horror Recognition Month. Founded by Zine writer, Hannah Neurotica (check out her work. It's badass), this organization is dedicated to highlighting the work of women in genre. Women filmmakers can make connections and find support through this organization and others like it (such as the Viscera organization). My editor at Planet Fury, Heidi Honeycutt (another genre heroine and total badass), also sits on the board of both of these organizations. Talking with women like Heidi, Hannah, the Soskas, and other filmmakers familiar to these organizations, I can't help but be in awe of how supportive these women are (both towards one another and towards new artists). There's no sense of competition, or at least not vicious competition. Rather, there's a sense of if one succeeds, it's a win for everyone.
Novelists have no such organizations. Why? Because there is a distinct sense of classism among writers that dictates how we're allowed to interact with other writers. The biggest divide between writers is the method of publishing: traditional vs. self. Traditional writers (and those that work in traditional publishing) are allowed to abuse, bully, talk down to, and basically shit all over self-published writers. We lowly self-published writers are expected to sit there and take it ("Oh, you have a thousand articles on why self-publishing is for losers and why it inevitably fails? Please, do show me. Because I'm too stupid to have done any research into this topic. Thank you for deeming me worthy to speak to."). Yes, those in traditional publishing never tire of telling those in self-publishing how risky our venture is. Or writing about how risky it is.
Traditionally published individuals have access to merits, awards, reviews, and accolades that self-published writers do not. It is because of this that most writers (not all, but I'd estimate a fair amount if not a majority) don't see self-published writers as actual writers. Rather we're just those stubborn lazy children that didn't have the smarts or dedication it took to find a traditional avenue of publication. Traditionally published books are still seen as the only valid kind of writing. Their mettle has been tested and highfaluting professionals have deemed them worthy to join the ranks of "real writers". One of the benefits is that you get a certain amount of privilege that allows you to judge what does and doesn't qualify as "real writing".
So when I see women sticking up for the privileged white male editors' right to objectify women, I'm not surprised. I'm not even allowed to have an opinion on the topic because how would I know anything about writing? It's not all that surprising that women who reap some benefits from the patriarchy continue to support it. Instead, these women think that focusing on getting the SFWA to recognize small presses is a bigger concern.
Um, hello? Could I maybe suggest we recognize self-published writers the right to have a voice and to just exist? This kind of sexism hurts me too, but it also kind of sucks to be disregarded and dismissed. Brushed aside like an annoyance, silenced, and not considered a peer. Could self-published writers perhaps have a place at the table, maybe share an opinion or two, without being shouted down and scolded? Could our opinions also be seen as valid? Could we maybe also be recognized as fellow writers and peers?
I'm not suggesting that all traditionally published writers are like this, not at all (I know some traditionally published writers and they are lovely individuals). However, I do think that a lot of them are blind to the amount of privilege they have. All the complaints I'm hearing about SFWA come from traditionally published writers, most of whom could belong to SFWA if they so chose. You know who I'm not hearing from? Indie writers, especially women, who probably experience more than their fair share of discrimination (be it sexism or classism).
Most self-published writers work their asses off. I have to work as hard as any traditionally published writer (I'd wager twice as hard as most). I love my job and I'm dedicated to the art of writing. I've been reading practically since I could walk and even though I make mistakes, I learn from them. I know about writing, I've done my research. To suggest otherwise is not only demeaning, it's insulting. Just because someone only writes novels, doesn't mean they're incapable of writing short stories. It might just be that's not the expression they're most comfortable with. I have never seen a filmmaker chastise another filmmaker because they didn't start out making shorts. Writers on the other hand? This is sadly common place (and if you're one of the writers that thinks less of others because they didn't start the way you think they should have: not only are you a tool, you're an asshole).
I have always tried to support other indie artists, especially women. If I experience any kind of success, I will dedicate my life to making sure other indie women novelists have a shot and a support system. I want to lift others up, not trample over them in an attempt at success. If the only way to achieve success is by bringing others down, then I want no part of it.
I will be a guest at the next convention I'm attending. I have submitted a panel on genre feminism and one topic that I'm going to try and bring up is how to bring it to writing and publishing (we desperately need something like Women in Horror Recognition Month, because this tearing each other down bullshit has got to stop). Right now, there is little to no genre feminism in publishing. There may be those that lean towards it, but anytime you discriminate against another human being (for any reason), then you aren't really supporting feminism. You cannot be classist and a feminist.
So writers, if you truly believe that self-published writers are not actual writers, that is not feminism. If you can stand by while another woman is harassed simply because you're traditionally published and she's self-published, that is not feminism. Throwing self-published writers to the patriarchy because you're worried about your own reputation, that is not feminism. Not recognizing other artists because they're not elite and/or rich (by your standards), that is not feminism. Siding with the big guy over the little guy, that's not feminism. Feminism is about equality, meaning everyone has a voice. Not just a privileged few.
I mentioned a few artists in this blog post and chances are, over the coming months, I will mention a few more. I have told the genre feminists that I know I will gladly lend my voice to their upcoming projects. Because even though it's small, I would like to help them in any way that I can.
The Soskas (a.k.a. the Twisted Twins) have a movie out called American Mary. I wish I would have gotten to blogging sooner as it recently had a limited release (sorry ladies!). However, the DVD is available on June 18th. It is a movie that I highly recommend seeing. It's at times funny, tragic, scary, and dramatic. Most of all, it empowers its female leads, which is something rarely seen in movies. These women take control of their bodies and lives in a way that is truly remarkable. Katherine Isabelle, Paula Lindberg, and Tristan Risk all give outstanding performances. The movie is beautifully shot and not a frame is out of place. The story is strong and keep the audience involved until the very last scene.
The Soskas have dedicated their lives to making incredible art. They have also made things easier for other genre women by busting through numerous glass ceilings (which makes them heroines in my book) and being extremely gracious to their fans as well as fellow artists. They have earned every bit of success they experience and I'm proud to know them.
So do yourself a favor: get a copy of "American Mary". You won't regret it.
Also, my next novel, "Through Storm and Night" comes out at the end of July. I do hope my wonderful readers/followers will check it out. I've worked extremely hard to make it even better than the first book (which probably could have used one more hardcore edit). Live and learn. However, I'm really, really looking forward to readers reactions to rebels. I'm so happy with how they came out and I think a lot of readers will just fall in love with them.
Well, I must run. An indie writers work is never done!