(Pornokitsch, this one’s for you, Boyfriend <3)
Reader, I don’t know how to break this to you:
I’m a woman.
It’s okay. Take a minute.
There are a few authors who’ve made it a habit on the regular to blog and tweet PSAs about the mistreatment of what they see as a protected class: Authors.
They seem very concerned about their potential to be engaged with by strangers -strangers to whom they cannot possibly admit what they do for a living, even though we all already know.
We are a neurotic, selfish, thorny bunch but these defenders of the faith seem to feel, perhaps because they are fragile, possessing the social fortitude of a newborn animal, we all must be. We can’t drink from open-topped containers or touch door handles without a handkerchief. These are the same authors who bristle at over-familiar humor on social media, or crow over their debut with blogs on How to Get Published, as though they have the answer to solving the unsolvable roulette wheel of Luck & Fate. So, forgive my already-rigid suspicion of someone claiming to thrive, dominate in the publishing game who can’t survive a walk from one conference room to another without feeling the need to employ the Buddy System.
If you got anxiety about your profession, I feel bad for you son. I got 99 problems, but writing ain’t one.
Some men, however – fellow authors – do I have anxiety over them? So much yes.
Guys, it’s 2018. I know you cannot possibly still be doing this shiz on purpose. It’s just that you don’t know. It has to be. You’ve shown up late to class on the first day and everyone is french-braiding each other’s hair when you walk in, and you don’t braid and now have a lot of questions (obvs because braiding in class) and, understandably, you’re afraid to ask so you just start twisting hair willy-nilly, hoping it’ll all sort out.
Twist no longer, friend! Dry those sweaty palms on your trousers and let’s duke it out so this bullshit never, ever happens again. Because the day is going to come when showing up late and claiming ignorance won’t save you from the consequences.
I get it. It’s hard to approach an individual woman in some circumstances, and at fests and conventions we congregate in a bulwark of X chromosomes, a quantity any smart man should fear. Our groupings are both suggestive and fearful in shape: The Pussy-Hat rhombus, for instance, when we queue for something. The Ovarian Circle, reserved generally for hotel lobbies and non-seating venues. And we’re pretty happy in these groups, incredibly confident being where we are, doing what we’re doing, meeting who we’re meeting. I hate to break it to you, Dude Authors, but we’re not biting our nails about how to approach you. Some of us have even written a book or five, so you’re not blinding us with science (fiction).
We’re not intimidated or impressed by your fame – You are, and that’s what we’re kind of over, TBH.
Behold: A handy-dandy guide to the female author/fan world. I present it here for your consideration, or not. If you’re a guy who comes to book gatherings with the sole intention of using the women you meet to advance your writing career, this guide will still be helpful because ‘handbasket straight to hell’ has a rather clear icon in the map legend. It looks like a bag – a douche bag.
If you want to be branded for good and all as creeper with an Ick Factor over 9000, rock on:
One: ‘No One Has Ever Told Me I Have Beautiful Prose Before’
Not ever. Not six or seven times today, even.
Romance novels. A dozen roses. PMS jokes. Women love them some cliches so please, if you are even moderately famous and prickly about being approached, but looking to get some book-nookie when the day’s last panel is over, come at them with a line. Lines are the most cliche, and chicks eat. that. up. You’re a tiger, a barracuda, or some other animal used to sell cologne and sneakers. You take. Besides, your lines will only work on the weakest among the herd, so really she was asking for it.
No one has ever said that about my book!
No one has ever understood (thing I clearly don’t understand about human emotion) like YOU do. *slow blinky eyes*
What is your alcohol tolerance? Asking for a friend…
But be careful, Guys. Your reviews, blogs, and social pages are public and some of these women have been taught to read & write. They may discover your line is a line before you can alert the Church to their witchcraft.
Two: You’re the Con Bicycle IMO. Let’s Hook Up!
Will you still mock me tomorrow?
Guys, you’ve correctly identified my nervous laugh, measured up the few extra pounds that have given me anxiety since high school, and noted my people-pleaser tendencies. Of course you have, you predator, you! Jackpot! And like a true winner, you’re going to exploit these features because confident girls take the sort of work you haven’t committed to since 40-man raids went away*. For the low, low price of pretending you don’t think my enjoyment of erotica and werewolves is dumb as hell, and sending me a few throwaway texts for a couple of days afterward, you see the potential to score a bj and possibly a five-star review. And really, what value do I have if I don’t exclusively like things you think have value? Yes, of course I will hide inside the Housekeeping cart! What would your friends say if they saw you with the girl who was dumb enough to think you liked her and anime?
Three: I Am Cripplingly Insecure. Do Not Engage.
Unless, ladies, it’s to shore me up with complete disregard for your own interests and personality. If you didn’t love my book enough to marry it, don’t waste my time. I’m a thirty-ish man made of eggshell, so why you’d open your sandwich-making mouth to wing a single criticism at me is a cruelty I cannot fathom.
Sure, you loved 80% of what I wrote but for ffs if you’re going to ask about my reliance on the male gaze or the gaping plot hole I ignored in the last 10% then take your shrieking harpy-ism somewhere else. I’m not sitting here alone in the hotel lounge because I want to have a meaningful dialog or answer questions. I’m here to get between as many women’s pages as possible (Okay, even one will do) and nothing kills a con-boner like a woman with her own ideas and opinions. I get it up for sycophants. If you don’t stroke my ego, I’ll be damned if you’re stroking anything else. Those cookies stay in the jar, B.
Four: Where All the Write Woman At?!
Seriously. Women authors go underpaid compared to us guys. Their books are underrepresented, under-read, and that’s just wrong.
Haha! Omg. Didn’t I sound serious? I totally sounded like I meant that. Championing Women’s Issues is a panty-dropper. Publicly I applaud my female counterparts. I take pictures with them and post about their launch days, and hashtag literal uteruses onto my tweets. I am so a feminist. Fem-man-imist? Whatever. Go, girls!
On some level I really am baffled, in moments when I face forced introspection – when the elevator gets stuck between floors or the girl I hooked up with last night is outside my hotel room door interfering with my enjoyment of the Continental breakfast- baffled by how hard women authors have it, how female bloggers struggle to get traction and have their opinions taken seriously. There are moments when it almost occurs to me, when my conscience comes dangerously close to flaring up, that perhaps it has something to do with them being utterly skeezed-out by behavior such as mine.
Is it possible that demanding equality for while preying on fellow authors, or fans, makes me a hypocrite? I mean, I’m a big enough deal to deserve a superlative with a lot of syllables, but… one so harsh?
Could it be that treating the women in my field as less, disposable, and mocking them behind their backs makes them go to other genres? Other places I am not? Causes them to lose confidence and struggle to write at all?
If all this Susan B Anthony crap has got your head mixed up, here’s what not to, under any circumstances oh my god, ever ever do:
Introduce yourself to a woman with no intention of banging her. Similarly, you can speak the words ‘Nice to meet you,” to a woman you would never sleep with, but why should you?
Thank a woman for her admiration of your work without tacking on a line. Just saying thank-you without busting out your fishing pole? Laaaame.
Admire a woman’s work. Read her book. Like, the whole thing. Can you even hold a woman-book like you do a man-book? Doesn’t the print go from right to left or something? I hear that sitting on one is how you get syphilis probably.
Not use your penis like a vulnerable-girl divining rod at every. single. event. What’s in that for me? you ask. A fair question. Vulnerable women becoming more vulnerable by being taken advantage of physically or emotionally? Sounds like some snowflake propaganda.
So now you know, Guys. No more awkwardness. No more misunderstanding. We lady-authors, bloggers, reviewers, agents, publishers, and fans don’t show up at events to be emotionally dry-humped. Or physically, for that matter. We show up for camaraderie, fellowship with our peers, or a brief, wonderful moment to say hello to a favorite or even second-favorite author (anywhere in the top ten seems like an honor). We show up to have a good time without worrying if someone is being disingenuous, if they’re really treating us with the respect we deserve. That we have earned.
We’re not drawn into huddles because we’re starstruck, though we are hesitant to approach some of you. We’re hoping for safety in numbers because some of you have made us wary of being alone.
And trust me, one cliche about women that holds true is that we talk. We talk about what happens to us. We talk about who.
*I miss 40-man raids. Change my mind.