Early in August, Jezebel published an eye-opening essay called "Homme De Plume: What I Learned Sending My Novel Out From A Male Name," by writer Catherine Nichols. The essay detailed Nichols' experience sending out her book with her own name, and then sending it out multiple places posing as a man, using a man's name. The essay has been seen as a great comment on the need for feminism in writing and publishing, and for very good reason. After creating a male pseudonym, George, and sending out her novel in his name, Nichols found that, and I quote:
George sent out 50 queries, and had his manuscript requested 17 times. He is eight and a half times better than me at writing the same book. Fully a third of the agents who saw his query wanted to see more, where my numbers never did shift from one in 25.
Nichols was illustrating research that shows employers show a discrimination bias against women and in favor of men during the job application process. It turns out that this idea played out at an alarming rate in Nichols' experiment.
Nichols' essay created a lot of buzz in writer's circles, and called attention not only to bias against women seeking employment (and yes, writing is employment!), but the intense amount of criticism and harassment that women writers face. Particularly for those of us who primarily publish online, there can be significant negative feedback that includes extreme verbal abuse like rape threats or death threats.
Feminism is an important social force for good, and women writers know very well how important it is to have gender equality, and to be treated with respect. Given the challenges women writers face in their important line of work, I asked several women who write what feminism means for them; their responses are heartfelt, insightful, and inspirational for us all.
"Feminism assumes meaning for me through my writing, because it's the one place where I can have a voice that nobody can shout down or take away. It may be ignored, maligned, or misunderstood, but I do get to have my say about things and in so doing set them free in the world. That's a gift."
"To me, feminism is the inclusion and acknowledgement of all perspectives, even (and sometimes especially) when they're different from ours. It is the constant, active effort to understand each other — to listen to (and amplify!) the voices of those who often go unheard. It is reading the work of women who have had different experiences, appreciating those differences and finding common ground in the overlap, and asking, "What do you need from me?" either actively or through the act of listening."
"To me, feminism means questioning everything I've been taught about gender and other axes of identity."
"Feminism is all about acknowledging the humanity, dignity and autonomy of women and girls, and undoing systems of oppression that suppress the voices of women, trans* people, and everyone else who is marginalized in our society. As a writer, I always hope to contribute to this pursuit by writing things that I hope will inspire and empower women, and also lift up and highlight the work of other creative women."
"Feminism is a default position for me. I have my mother to thank for that. She instilled in me both a sense of justice (equality is always just), and a sharp eye for the absurd. That is how we suss out inequality. Unequal pay is absurd. It's absurd that little girls are taught they just aren't built for math (and that “princess” is a more reasonable aspiration). It’s absurd that some of the smartest women I know are talked down to and talked over. Because it is so absurd, we must resist subtle inequalities and fight systemic ones.
"My mother was among the first wave. She pitched on an all boys’ team as a girl and raised me to believe my body is mine to control and my goals are mine to define and fulfill. And she pointed out all the ways the work of feminism was not done. (And that's absurd! Absurd! Absurd!) The work of feminism for our generation is inherited, a birthright and a duty."
"History is full of male explorers -- mainly because the world was only ready to accept male explorers for a long time. Feminism is crucial to me because without it, I couldn't do my job as a travel writer and photographer. In many parts of the world, there's still this undercurrent of awe or confusion that a strange female would go into a bar and talk to strangers, or that she would go dive with sharks or drive herself to desolate areas to climb mountains. The more people see what can be done by women, the more accepting they are of the women who are doing it. I love that."
"To me, feminism is the idea that all people (men, women, children, LGBTQIA, every race, etc.) should be afforded the same rights, opportunities, and above all, respect. I don't care what you are; all that should matter is WHO you are."
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