So, I seldom wax terribly feminist in writing. I’m sure more than a little of this is due to my Texas grandmother’s voice in my head reminding me to be pleasant, soft-spoken and not to ruffle feathers. Which I totally get is part of the problem. Still I tend to avoid conflict and sometimes I don’t voice my opinions for that reason. Of course, I have other, very good reasons for not voicing my position on some subjects, at least not publicly.
But this one has been bugging me for quite a while.
As you all may or may not know, I’m a member of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) and remain an enthusiastic supporter of the organization. RWA is the premier professional organization for romance writers, which means it’s composed primarily of women. There are no absolute numbers for this, as some men write under female pseudonyms, other writers consider themselves gender-flexible and, of course, there’s no gender-reporting requirement. Still, if looking around the room at the National Convention is any indicator, we’re probably talking over 95% female.
I frankly love that about RWA. There are very few arenas in my life where the community is so strongly female and – in the words of Cinderella from Into the Woods – it makes for a nice change. I think more people than I feel this way. Sure the male members joke about being outnumbered, but I figure, hey, welcome to the non-male experience. I embrace the overwhelming femaleness of RWA and feel that should be celebrated. Certainly that fact should be front and center in RWA’s branding.
So why isn’t it?
This is what has me riled up. (Hi Grandmother!) The cover of the April 2015 Romance Writers Report, our official magazine, looks like this:
The lead article is “Master of Your Career,” which… okay, fine. “Master” is grammatically correct and we’re all supposed to be good with the word being gender neutral. It might look silly to have “Mistress of Your Career,” because that word doesn’t denote mastery of anything at all. Which is a sad truth, right there. I probably wouldn’t even have given it (much of) a second thought, except for that image.
I mean, decidedly masculine shoes. Not even gender-neutral shoes, like sneakers or some such, that could be seen either way. Now, I know that probably Corn Creative, who does the magazine design, likely came up with this and didn’t give it a second thought. I think that graphic designer is female, too. It looks like she does work for many publications, including the Society for Neuroscience, which I can vouch from personal experience skews the gender proportion in almost the opposite direction. Maybe she didn’t think about it and just picked a strong image.
What I’m saying is, maybe we should think about it.
I’m saying this also coming off a call with Agent Connor where he (strongly) suggested that I reconsider some of the naming in this new fantasy series I’m working on, as it can be viewed as cultural appropriation. And yes, it irritated me that he said that and I might have replied that we all belong to the human race and that the Celts came up out of India and at which point do I have to stop retracing my cultural inheritance?
(I know, I know – send him a nice note for having to deal with me.)
I’m no less irritated about that now, but… in the clear light of day I’m seeing that he’s likely right. I needed to think about it and avoid causing that offense, if I can. Which I can because it’s really not necessary. And it’s an important courtesy.
These things ARE important. Ruffled feathers or no.