This wonderful post on gender by Sashi Kaufman got me thinking. So far I haven't gotten the "why are you writing books with male protagonists when you're not a guy?" questions, but I'm expecting them to start coming in any day.Like Sashi, I was brought up to believe that it isn't who or how you love that matters, but THAT you love.
And gender hasn't been something that's been an issue for me in choosing friends. I never really thought about it like that. So I always find that question a bit off-putting. Am I not meant to understand men/boys? Am I meant to think of the "other" gender as something mysterious and unexplainable?
In addition to being a female who is writing male characters, I'm also an only child. But the relationship that has so far gotten the most attention in THESE GENTLE WOUNDS isn’t the one between Gordie and his first girlfriend, even though I have years of personal experience with romantic relationships to draw on, it’s the one between Gordie and his older brother, Kevin – a relationship I’ve obviously never had.
So here's the thing, as Gordie would say....I always joke and say that I have a 16-year old boy living in my head. But the truth is that I despise those gender things that put people into little boxes and tell them that "girls should..." and "boys should...."
I happen to be the mother to a daughter who loves everything pink and glittery. She can roughhouse on the playground, but wants to look like a princess while doing it. And I'm cool with that. But that doesn't mean my blood boils any less when I go to a website to look at toys and it asks me to sort by "girl toys" or "boy toys." My pretty-as-a-princess daughter also likes building helicopters with her dad (alas, I have no spacial relations and avoid building anything!) and jumping off her bed onto her too-far-away beanbag and that's just fine.
Every week, it seems there is some post about how “the New York Times bestseller’s list is filled with (shudder) MEN. This must be discrimination.”
To which my private response is “bullshit” and my public response is REALLY? I mean, does anyone think there’s some conspiracy to make people (including the vast number of readers who are female) buy books written by male writers?
A quick scan of my own bookshelves shows a pretty even split between male and female writers, mostly because I was a huge speculative fiction fan in my younger days and I have an entire bookcase devoted mainly to books by Harlan Ellison, Clive Barker, Roger Zelazny, and Michael Moorcock. Sorry. Most of speculative fiction at the time was being written by men. Does that mean I shouldn’t read or appreciate them? I just don’t get it.
The early reviews of THESE GENTLE WOUNDS that have come in saying that Gordie’s is one of the “the best boy points of view” the reader has read or that they’re “moved to tears” by the relationship by Gordie and Kevin, mean the world to me. They would mean SIGNIFICANTLY less if those phrases were followed with “by a female writer.” I don’t want anyone to give a %*$( about my gender. It is, hopefully, irrelevant to my books if I’m doing the job my publisher is paying me to do, and that’s telling an interesting and believable story.
It is highly likely that I’ll never write a book from a female point of view, but then again, who knows. That’s my personal quirk from having grown up mostly raised by a father I’m very close to, surrounded by predominantly male friends. But the bottom line is, or rather I think SHOULD BE: who cares and why?
In the course of the past year alone some of my favorite books were written by women with male protagonists: Carrie Mesrobian's SEX & VIOLENCE and J. H. Trumble's JUST BETWEEN US are just the first that come to mind and that doesn't even include the books from duel Male/Female points of view like Maggie Steifvater's Raven Boys, or Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park, or Brigid Kemmerer's Elementals series.
WHY does it even matter? Why should it matter? I hope that Sashi doesn't mind that I pull a quote of her post here. "The gender dichotomy is a boring one to me. If people are different then tell me why they’re different on a human level, or a cultural one or a level of age or life experience. In both fiction and life I’d like to see gender become a less important designator for character and personality traits."
To which I say, EXACTLY and AMEN!