Attacks on Feminism–My evolution

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Me, at Lucy Stone’s final resting place.

So a facebook friend, a lovely woman, posted something today by a twitter account by some person calling him/herself April Tru Body, or some such nonsense. “She” calls herself a nonconforming feminist and posted this long diatribe about a guy holding a door for her. The account was started in Sept 2016, around the time that it looked like Hillary Clinton would win the presidency. I scrolled through the feed and came to the conclusion that the account, far from promoting feminism, was created to make feminists look bad.

My mother, before Alzheimer’s stole her brain, was a feminist, although a quiet one. She had feminist books and I believe taught at least one feminist class at a college level. Her father was the commander of the 67th evacuation hospital in WWII and was credited in at least one report for awarding the first medal to a woman in the European theater. I’m sure that neither he nor my grandmother would ever have claimed to be feminists, although she had a college degree in teaching and they had three daughters, all of which they encouraged (re: ordered) to go to college. My father, a Southern republican would never have called himself a feminist either. He not only encouraged his two daughter (along with his son) to attend college, but forced us to think. The only time it occurred to me that women couldn’t be anything they wanted was when I left my house.

So why would these people, who on the scale of feminism–like all isms it’s not either/or, but goes from Barefoot and Pregnant to President, with a lot of stops in between–would have measured a good bit beyond the 50% mark, why would these people not claim to be feminists? Why would my mother not proudly proclaim it? Because I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when feminism was both on the rise–and under attack. Like feminism has always been.

This is what I knew about feminism back then and for years later–feminists hate men. Feminists hate men because they resent men and want to be men. Feminists hate women who don’t want to be men. Feminists hate women who are happy being mothers, feminists hate women who aren’t aggressive and ambitious. Feminists are mean.

Seriously, that’s what I learned, even though my mother was a feminist. She did not say this; she did not believe this. This is what I heard from society. Feminism is about female equality, but that is not what got through to me or a whole lot of women at that time.

I went to college. I graduated with honors with a degree in finance. I spent 5 years as an accountant. I was still not a feminist. I have always believed in equal pay for equal work. I sought out women as doctors because I liked them better. I cheered for and encouraged female friends for taking on typically male-dominated professions. I was not a feminist.

Not. A. Feminist.

I left work to stay home with my two sons and write romance novels. Definitely not a feminist. I loved (still do) cooking and baking. I washed diapers (cheaper, but mostly I didn’t want my kids’ diapers to fill landfills) and made baby food. I read romances and I wrote them. I was so not a feminist. When Hillary Clinton became first lady, I didn’t like her. She made fun of me staying home and baking cookies (she didn’t, but that’s what I was told). She was a feminist and I was not.

Not a feminist–even though my first book had a heroine who was an accountant (not much of a stretch, I know). Even though my first historical, The Wild Half started when I was young, featured a woman who could shoot a gun better than any man, could survive in the wilderness on her own, and wore jeans in the U.S. West, and the hero loved her for all of that. Even though I loved football and typically “male” science fiction movies and shows. Not a feminist, because I had two sons and a husband and I loved writing romantic heroes. I loved men. I loved males.

My first published book was about a woman escaping a tyrannical father who tried to marry her off to an equally tyrannical husband. Midway through the book she goes on a short rant about how society treats women. The hero of the book was raised mostly by his strong, smart grandmother. Two books later, that couple have a daughter who is a suffragette, in Running Wild.

Not a feminist????

I’d bought a book a few years earlier–The Bloomer Girls by Charles Neilson Gattey–that featured Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Amelia Bloomer and I read that the former wrote the latter a frustrated letter about how she thought boys should learn how to sew. Something like that, and I oh so much related. These women came to light as women. Like me. Stanton had sons like me. And the more I read, the more they became real women who didn’t hate men–they were happily married!–but wanted women to have the right to vote, to create laws that protected women, often from male abusers who they stayed married to because they could not support themselves.

This was where my character–Star Montgomery–came from. I wanted people to see that suffragettes were not man haters. That they were women, just like me.

But I still didn’t want to call myself a feminist. Because feminists were man-haters, weren’t they? Still, from that point forward, as I read about men and young women claiming feminism, as I heard women speaking, as I listened to my sons’ female friends and girlfriends, I started to realize, yes. I might be a feminist. And maybe what people sold me about the movement was wrong.

Then came 2016.  I had a choice to vote for a woman president, the same Hillary Clinton who made me feel like I wasn’t supposed to like cookie baking. I had the choice, so I researched and when I looked deeply into this woman’s life,  I came to realize how much of what I believed  was colored by anti-feminism, sexism. For decades. The same anti-feminism that had convinced me, a woman who strongly believes in equality for women, that I was not a feminist, although that is basically the definition of feminism.

One day I looked at the bumper stickers on my car, for my two female representatives and the fight was over. It was on my car and in my writing.  I’m a feminist. I love men. I loved being a stay-at-home mom, and I love romance novels. I love Cinderella, and the idea of being saved by the prince. I also love my female reps, I loved voting for a woman for president, and I love reading stories about women “saving the day” like The Hunger Games and Divergent. You can be both, feel both, and be a feminist, because feminism is about equality between the sexes. Period.

But now, again, I’m starting to see the same push back from the late 70’s and 80’s that warped my thinking. The same “man hating” trope being applied to feminism that makes us think that all suffragettes were angry, man-like, unmarried women who probably hated children. NOT TRUE. This twitter account, the one I started this blog post talking about, is symbolic of that push back. I don’t believe a women is in charge of it, but even if she is, this is not what feminism is. If somebody holds a door for me, male or female, I thank them. And I hold doors for men and women too. It’s just a nice thing to do. Feminists–the ones I know–would never say something like  “So fed up of these Saudi women playing the victim card for sympathy points…” because they–we–understand that Saudi women live under an extremely anti-female government, in which women are not even allowed to drive. Play the victim card? They are victims! Feminists are more likely to rally around these women and the treatment they receive. If they come to this country and want to wear a hajib because of their beliefs, that’s fine. The point of feminism is equal rights, equal pay, equal expression, whether it’s in writing, talking, or practicing religion, and ultimately equal representation in our government. Equality. It’s that simple.

A group of women created a march that spread around the world and started a movement. Women did it, and there is going to be a whole lot of pushback because sexism is alive and well in the U.S. and the world. A lot of people–even feminists, men and women alike–have subconscious sexist beliefs and reactions. Me included, in case it didn’t come out fairly clearly already. It’s going to take a long, long time before that is gone. We all have to, over the next months and years, put a lot of thought into any anti-feminism speech, and subtle and not so subtle sexism, and the way we are being manipulated. Let’s not allow a third round of Feminists Hate Men catch on.

This Week in Women

I’m a little down as I write this, and not really feeling the blogging experience today. In short, I feel like women have been under attack by the U.S. government this week. I don’t want to feel this way. I don’t want to salivate over how terrible “the other side” is. I am sad and disheartened.

It began with E. Warren being basically censured on the senate floor for reading Corretta Scott King’s letter about Jeff Sessions. I watched the video in which Mitch McConnell stands up and demands she stop because she is impugning Senator Session’s character. To be clear, Warren was not impugning it–Dr. King’s widow was in a letter written about Sessions when he was up for a judgeship in Alabama. Now this was bad, because basically it means that was unable to discuss some racist behavior that should be considered when confirming the man as Attorney General. I mean, really? Isn’t his character and his attitude toward 13% of the population an important thing? But no, they stopped her from reading the letter and silenced her for the rest of the debate over Sessions’ confirmation.

Now with E Warren, silence is sort of elastic. She’s not going to be quiet for long. In fact, afterwards she read the letter in front of the senate doors, and then went on to talk shows to tell everybody what happened. Story over, right?

No. The next day the Senate decided to let several male senators read the letter. This, right here, is where a racist tilt to the silencing took on sexism as well. And it gets worse. Orin Hatch came out and said that she, Warren should have thought of Sessions’ wife. What? Huh? Isn’t that Sessions’ job? Isn’t what the letter says him and his wife’s problem? Why is it E. Warren’s? And why is she supposed to worry about Session’s wife, but nobody is concerned about how this all reflects on Warren’s husband? Oh wait–man. woman. Okay, I get it.

After that, Lindsey Graham, who has said some good stuff of late, said that the silencing of Warren was long overdue. This is an elected senator, chosen by the citizens of the State of Massachusetts to speak for them. He goes on to say that she’s obviously running for 2020, so there’s some context, but still–It’s about time? Is it about time that people tell Bernie Sanders to be quiet? Udall of N.M. who read the letter? Nope, we should shut up Warren, because she might want to run for president in 2020. God forbid we have a woman president.

The day after that, Kellyann Conway makes an off the cuff remark about how people should go out and buy Ivanka Trump’s clothing. She said it was a free commercial. Jason Chaffetz steps in and says it’s an ethical violation and he will investigate.

Now I don’t like Conway. I think she’s constantly lying for Trump. But if she had been a man, would Chaffetz go after her? No. I don’t believe he would have, ever. This would have just flown on by and a few progressives would’ve cried foul. But now, Chaffetz brings the hammer down and progressives are cheering and I’m sitting over here saying, WTF? Scapegoat! Female scapegoat! Look at the many ethical violations of the entire administration, and Caffetz is going after Conway?

Want to know what I think will happen? Conway will be replaced by a guy who says the same outrageous stuff, maybe even worse, but there will be no investigation on that guy. I mean, they aren’t investigating Russia’s and Trumps ties during the election, right? They aren’t investigating his ties to his business and possible conflicts of interest. Those things don’t matter, because Male.

Insert deep, tired, frustrated sigh here.

So that’s our Week in Women. I wrote a book about society 300 years in the future and it is the most terrible society I can imagine. It disturbs me. But even that society had women Prophets. I want to believe we’ll come to a time when I am not shaking my head saying, “Are you kidding me?” over sexist words and acts from out government, but I’m losing hope that I’ll ever see that day.

 

Release Day, Children of Liberty

So it’s release day for the second in the trilogy. And I am struggling. Really struggling. Like many people I am overwhelmed by the continuing transfer of power in the U.S. government and the chaos around it. I considered handling it like I have in the past, through journaling, but just the thought froze me up. Then I “heard” this line from the book:

I know I should meditate, but for the first time in my life, I don’t want to be alone with my own thoughts.

Neri is a character; she is not me. I’d be lying though, if I were to say she didn’t have a lot of me in her, and this rings true right now. When your thoughts are dark, you don’t want to be alone with them. You want to avoid them and you will do most anything to do that until they become so strong that you can’t fight them off anymore. And the thing is, if you just sit down and work it through, you realize that the “thoughts” that you believed were like 30 or 40 terrible things are only 4 or 5, but they keep cycling so it seems like more.

That said, I still do not want to do the journaling. I mean, what if I’m wrong?

Regardless, I do have to talk about this book. I love it. Truly, I love both in the trilogy, and I will love the third, too. I’ve written a few scenes already and have enjoyed them so much I’ve re-read them several times. Publishing the books is my way of sharing pieces of myself with the world. It’s beautiful when people respond positively.

So–deep breath!–here’s a short scene from early on in the book. If you’re here accidentally, and have never read the first book, The Liars, I suggest strongly you start there. I worked hard to put enough world-building information in the second so that if you start with Children of Liberty,  you won’t be totally lost. Still, it’s not just the world you’d be missing, it’s the development of the characters, and the most important character arc of all, Neri’s.

Excerpt:

When you’re starving, water is your best friend. It fills your stomach and dulls the hunger pangs.

I pull Mellow to a stop next to a wide mountain river and slide out of my saddle. A fog of dizziness closes in on me, and I grab the saddle horn to steady myself. After the fog passes, I retrieve my canteen and climb over mossy boulders. The water sparkles in the sunshine and I note the pretty sound of a rushing waterfall somewhere to my right. It would be idyllic . . . if I weren’t dying.

While filling the canteen, I note deep pools in the direction of the waterfall. Could there be fish in them? Yesterday I made a hook, rod and line with sticks and thin strips of cloth from my gown. I’m the daughter of a fisherman—a gulf shrimper—and I should be able to catch something.

I carefully hop from rock to rock, searching the pools. Twice I look back to check on Mellow. She seems restless and I briefly consider tying her up. I’m weak from hunger, though, and I need to conserve energy. Besides she hasn’t run from me yet. . . .

I round a small bend and find a bear cub.

He’s across the river from me, an adorable brown ball of fur. He must be in trouble, because his nose is in the air and he’s braying. I couldn’t hear him until now due to the rushing water. Poor little thing. Is he caught in the rocks? Maybe he’s lost. As my food-deprived brain tries to reason it out, I head toward him. Surely his mother—

His mother.

A full-sized bear.

The hairs on my neck stand up as I turn in slow motion to look upstream.

She’s about twenty feet away. Between me and Mellow. Between me and my rifle. And she’s enormous. She opens her mouth to growl, baring big, sharp teeth.

My heart jumps and starts, and I raise my hand to reason with her. “I’m not going to hurt him,” I soothe, holding her eyes with mine as I back off the rock. “He’s beautiful,” I continue. “You should be proud of him.”

I’m not watching what I’m doing. Suddenly my feet plunge into water. They slip on moss and I let out a little yell as I fight for purchase.

And hear a splash. I raise my head. She’s coming for me. Hundreds of pounds of muscle, and teeth and claws.

Run!

Heart pounding, I jerk around. I scramble over two boulders, scraping my knees and then lunge for the bank. I climb a small hill, turn, and lurch for the trees.

She won’t follow. Her baby’s crying. . . .

Something crashes behind me.

Run!

She’s chasing me. I want to scream, but I can’t. I’m breathing too hard. I picture those teeth ripping into my stomach, yanking out my intestines. I’ve seen what starving dogs can do, have heard the victim’s agony.

It growls.

I stumble, twisting my ankle. Screeching pain shoots up my leg. I rise and start running again. It’s difficult to put any weight on my ankle, and it slows me down.

Where do I go? Where’s safe? A tree. No, bears can climb. A hollow log? Maybe a cave?

She’ll reach her big foot inside and rip my arm off.

Tears of fright run down my face. The earth shakes from the bear’s pounding feet. As its hot breath brushes the back of my neck, I cringe, preparing for the agony of its teeth sinking into my flesh.

Harder. Push harder.

That heat isn’t from the bear. It’s the sun burning through thinning trees.

I can make it. I can.

She growls again. Her roar echoes in my ears, going on forever and ever. This time I do scream.

My chest is on fire; my vision is blurring. I’m going to faint.

I don’t want to die . . . I don’t want to die . . . I don’t want to die. . . .

The ground is sloping downward. Up ahead there’s a big swath of blue sky and sunshine—an opening in the woods. I’m through the trees before I see the precipice. A hill, a steep hill. I have to stop.

My brain is too slow to halt my feet.

They slip and I lurch forward. My body hits the ground, then starts sliding headfirst down the hill. When I put my hands out to stop, they slam into rocks. My head hits a scrub pine and explodes in pain. Another scream.

My body slides to a stop at the bottom of the hill. Everything’s going grey. Maybe I’ll pass out and I won’t feel the pain when the bear tears off my legs.

No such luck. I clearly hear the bear roaring at the top of the hill.

One last, desperate, attempt. Planting my hands, I try to push myself up. My arms shake, unable to support my weight. This is it, then. This is death. Death without redemption, without forgiveness.

And then there are two feet next to me. I lift my head to look into the eyes of a young woman dressed in laborer’s jeans. She raises a rifle into the air. She fires twice—no three times—before I finally, thankfully, lose consciousness.

Final Edits, Things I’ve Learned

It occurs to me that I really should put in categories and tags on these things. More people might see them. Which is what I want, of course, but not really, because then I’d have to edit, and re edit and try to make every last word perfect, and it would take me a week for everything I wrote. Maybe some day I’ll write easier, but I’m not holding my breath.

At any rate, for writers, or people curious about writers, I’ve learned one new very useful thing for proofing–text to speech. First, I’ll point out I did use a proofer, and I liked her, but she missed some things. Maybe all proofers do, I don’t know, but I’ve decided that I’m not ready yet to find out.

So text-to-speech. For The Liars, I used my kindle and I didn’t use it on the whole book. I went through each line, and read it out loud myself, pointing my finger on every word, like I did for my romances. It was long and arduous. For whatever reason, I’m having a much more difficult time with Children of Liberty. Apparently on my new mac–my p.c. kept doing updates and stealing time from me so I changed computers mid-book–you highlight an area and then press at the same time option and escape. You can change the voice and how quickly it reads in settings, which is the little gear along the bottom of the screen. Then dictation and speech. It doesn’t catch all grammar errors, anymore than will any of the many different editing packages I’ve used. It does however, find little things like when you’ve changed a phrase and you’ve left a word behind. Things like that.

The other thing is a calendar. I actually do this for all books, but it’s been particularly  important for the series. I used it in historical romance, because I liked to put in current events for the time period I was writing in. That’s not a thing in dystopian because I’ve created a whole new world. I’ve learned however, because everybody’s tied to serum among other things that it’s important. I also like to know the passage of time, down to the day, like I did for my romances. Readers don’t care about it, at least down to the day, but it’s a thing with me. At any rate, I had a calendar for The Liars, which takes place in 2 month’s time. Children of Liberty is four months, but obviously references go back to the first book, so now I have a 6 month calendar. For the final book, tentatively Sacrifice, I’m going to fill in the calendar ahead of time, and update it every week.

All right, back to work! (see, I promised not every post would be political).

To Speak or Not to Speak: a Writer’s Struggle

Not sure how to do reblog things very well. Actually, I don’t think this is a blog so much as an opinion piece, but it makes sense to me. Writers everywhere are struggling with how to handle the new presidential administration in the U.S. The link I’m going to post explains one writer’s struggle.

On a side note, I want to say that most of the writers I know have fairly liberal perspectives. I think that’s something writers tend to have in common with actors. I suppose you can make an argument that it’s about free speech, but I want to point out that  that is not the only reason. Writers, also like actors, have to get into the heads of our characters. Depending upon how many point of view characters a writer has in a book, how many books she writes, and how many of those characters differ, this could mean looking at situations from many different perspectives. When someone says, “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”, well that’s what we do pretty much every day. And you can’t write it well without exploring motivations. In other words, a writer understands easier, I believe, how, say, a Syrian refugee feels. Not, obviously as she would were she actually that refugee, but easier than say, an engineer, because sliding into that life is what we do every day.

Also, yes, I used the pronoun she. For my entire life I have been told that when talking about random people, the proper pronoun is he. Well, I’m sick of that. If is one of the underlying, so subtle as to be almost subconscious, sexist parts of society. Well, not today. In the future, yeah, I’ll use he again, but not for awhile.

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/arts/books-and-media/why-i-cancelled-my-us-book-events-after-donald-trumps-order/article33846256/?ref=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.theglobeandmail.com&service=mobile

 

 

A new year

I didn’t write too much on this blog last year. I was writing and kind of obsessed with following the U.S. election. I don’t think it’ll be too much of a surprise to anybody whose read The Liars that I did not endorse, support, vote for or want anything to do with Donald Trump. He is everything that I find abhorrent. I suppose he might have a policy or two that I would agree with, but if this is true it’s lost in the rhetoric of hate and I can’t get past that.

I’m not generally a public person. It’s not my nature. Like many writers, I would rather not talk about politics at all. It’s definitely not a good way to attract readers. But I do follow the news, try to keep up to date and I have some strong opinions. I prefer to keep them to myself or a small group of friends. But I can’t do that anymore. I’ve twisted and turned it so many different ways, and it comes down to this–if I stand by and say nothing, then I am complicit. Sometimes that’s bearable for the comfort of not alienating friends, family or readers. But not this time. This time is different. This administration has thrown out the rule book and is creating a whole new set of rules, all of which I am, so far, absolutely opposed to.

So I’m going to try to keep up this blog more this year, and I will try for levity occasionally, for information on writing and information on world building, and the world I’ve created. But I am also going to have to express my opinion on this administration, on the lies and things they do. I’d rather lose readers than lose my own self respect.

Oh, and for anybody reading this who’s interested, I marched on 1/21/17. And there was no violence. That’s the first lie I won’t allow to stand. There was no violence.