beth_bernobich: red mushroom (lilith)
Fantasy Cafe is holding their third annual Women in SFF Month, with posts from women authors and bloggers. Today's entry is my post about "The Invisible Woman".
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (goat)
The other day I read a brief review of Allegiance that summed up the character cast as "...nobly born protagonists (the males' names tend to start with the letter K and sound vaguely Slavic) plus a few others..."

And I thought ? )

It would be easy to say the reviewer (a woman, by the way) was careless or rushed, but I still have to wonder. How can you overlook *all* the women? Is this part of the SF/F culture, where any guy takes over the book, simply by existing in the pages? Do we, as readers, unconsciously place more importance on the men in the story?

make noise

Dec. 15th, 2012 10:57 am
beth_bernobich: alice (alice)
This past week, I got interviewed for a book targeted for young women and girls thinking about geeky careers. One of the questions was: How can we overcome sexism? My answer was that our biggest obstacles are silence and obscurity. Women's works get ignored all the time. Our work is seen as less valuable. Less important. Invisible. It might not be conscious, but it happens. A lot.

And over time, that invisibility feeds on itself, to the point where our work never existed in the common history of our genre. So what can we do? Talk about it. Talk about women's work. When someone asks for books suggestions, mention several of your favorite female authors. When you see those all-male Best Of lists, post a comment with names of outstanding women writers. If you're an anthology editor, remember to cast your net wider than the nearest ten male authors. If you're a reviewer, same thing. Write about the subject. Make noise.

It's hard. All too often, we slide into silence ourselves. There's the backlash. The derailing. The arguments that quotas aren't fair, PC isn't fair, what about romance, and why are you making such a fuss? How to Suppress Women's Writing is just as relevant now as it was in the eighties.

Sometimes it can feel like going to war against the ocean tide.

We need to change the mindset that says women, and women's work, doesn't matter.

It's a long slow slog, but it's important.
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (lilith)
Two days ago, I tweeted:

Yet another male writer interviewed about "why he writes strong female characters." Um, okay. But where are...the interviews of female writers who write strong female characters? Or strong male characters? Is it that no one cares...or is it that men really, really need those cookies? #womenareinvisible

To which @rachelswirsky replied, "Man bites dog" situation.

That's part of the explanation, sure. It's the same reason so many stories and movies fail the Bechdel Test: our culture is male-centric. Straight white male centric, to be specific.

Today, I came across an article that expands on the subject, which sums up the situation well:

Writing from a female point of view seems to be generally regarded as something more like writing from the perspective of a deer: you might get points for novelty, but it'd be impossible to get right, and who really wants to hear a deer narrate a story, anyway?


Good article, thoughtful comments (at least, as of posting this entry). Depressing, too, if you consider that fewer people will listen to her just because she's female. It's not conscious, but it's real. I see it happen in the workplace, on SFF panels, in LJ blogs, all over. Women are invisible (especially older women, but that's another rant.) We are making progress, sure, but we won't make real progress until books about women are seen as just as important as those about men, until the words of women are valued as much as those written by men.
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (lilith)
Wednesday and Thursday, I posted the results for applying the Bechdel Test to my short stories and novels.

The results weren't bad, but the point isn't really to go all rah-rah, look how great (or awful) I am. The real point is to double-check my own unconscious choices when creating plots and characters. Why should I do that? Well, to make better stories. If my default choice is male, then I'm failing to think hard enough about my characters. (Even more so if the default choice is white, straight, cis-gendered male.)

Just as important as gender choice is what roles those characters play in the story. Plenty of stories and novels include women, but then those women are treated as accessories to the men. Their lives, and their pupose in the story, revolves around the men. Why? Why can't the women have their own agendas? No reason, other than that default view again.

So my goal, going forward, is to question myself and my choices in my writing. About sex. About roles. About all the elements that make up a character.

What about you? Have you checked your stories and novels? What if we all posted our results? What if someone, lots of someones, paid attention?
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (lilith)
In yesterday's post, I checked my published short stories against the Bechdel Test. Today is for my novels. This time around, I'm counting all novels currently under contract, except for one novel that is contracted but not yet complete.




   Ars Memoriae, 2009 (novella chapbook)
X  Passion Play, 2010
   Fox and Phoenix, 2011
X  Queen's Hunt, 2012
X  Allegiance, forthcoming 2013
X  The Edge of the Empire, forthcoming 2014


Score: 6 books, 4 pass. A much better score than with my short stories. The two that don't pass have a single male POV, but as I pointed out yesterday, it's still possible to have a male POV present when two women have a conversation, and to have the conversation not center around a man.

The scores for Allegiance and Edge of the Empire are based on complete drafts, which still need to go through edits. However, there are enough conversations between women, talking about politics, magic, war, cooking, taxes, magic, etc., that I feel comfortable counting them.

The Time Roads, forthcoming 2015, is based on two published short stories, the novella Ars Memoriae, and a fourth as-yet-unwritten novella. The three existing stories fail the test. The fourth novella will be told from the queen's point of view, so the complete book will probably pass, but it doesn't seem fair to count it one way or another at this point.
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (lilith)
The Bechdel Test, from the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, was originally used for movies, and has these three simple rules:

1. The movie has to have at least two women in it,
2. Who talk to each other,
3. About something other than a man. (Not limited to romantic relationships, for example two sisters talking about their father doesn't pass)

(An optional variation says the two women must be named characters.)

Now, passing the Bechdel Test isn't a guarantee of quality, nor is the opposite true. However, it shows some interesting (read: depressing) results when applied to movies and fiction in general. I've heard some authors claim how *hard* it is to pass the Bechdel Test. My first reaction is that it can't be that hard, but I thought I'd check my own published work to see how it fares. Below are the results for my short fiction. ('X' means the story passed.)

X  "River of Souls," 2010
X  "Jump to Zion," 2010
   "The Golden Octopus," 2008
X  "Shopping Spree," 2008
X  "Air and Angels," 2008
   "Pig, Crane, Fox", 2008
   "Marsdog," Coyote Wild, 2007
   "A Handful of Pearls," 2007
X  "A Feasts of Cousins," 2010
   "On the Morning of the Day Before," 2006
X  "Remembrance," 2006
   "A Flight of Numbers Fantastique Strange," 2006
X  "The Colors of Tomorrow," 2005
X  "Watercolors in the Rain," 2005
X  "Chrysalide," 2003
X  "Poison," 2003
   "D'une étoile éloignée," 2002
X  "Of Moondust and Starlight," 2002
X  "Chameleon," 2001
   "Medusa at Morning," 2001
   "Forever," 2000
   "Version 2.0," 1999


Of 22 stories, 12 pass. More than half, but not so great. In some cases, the stories are limited because the single POV character is male (Pig, Crane, Fox; Marsdog; A Handful of Pearls), but "Air and Angels" does pass even so, because the male protag witnesses a brief conversation between two sisters about their science experiment. "River of Souls" is from a male's POV, but in his previous life, he was female, and she has conversations with women. "Jump to Zion" passes only if you don't invoke the "named" part, so I'm not sure if I should count it or not.

The point is, however, that I could do more. Especially when I look at the stories again, I see that several could have passed without much trouble. Again, it's not so much that *every* story must pass, but that stories will be richer and deeper if they do.

Tomorrow I'll post results for my novels (those under contract, even if they aren't yet published).
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (facepalm)
The author of this post means well**. I guess. He gets a few—a very few—things right. But wow, oh wow, does he get so much more wrong. I have this strong urge to whack him with a giant cluestick, but I'm not sure it would do any good.

Luckily, he's not the only one writing about this topic.

A useful, illuminating article on the same topic is [livejournal.com profile] rose_lemberg's splendid article about Feminist Characters in SFF. And after you've read that, read Alex Dally MacFarlane's article on Female Friendships in SFF Fiction.

** ETA: After reading this earlier post on his blog, I no longer think he means well. (Warning: the post is full of stupidity and triggers.)

ETA2: Apparently he did not write that bullet list himself. He "borrowed" it from another writer's column.
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (Default)
I was going to post about the latest attempt by BushCo to erode (erase?) a woman's right to choose, but [livejournal.com profile] tammy212 did it faster and better. Check out her post for the details and links to articles and petitions.
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (facepalm)
Fascinating article about *why* female characters in films are so often treated as props. Read the comments, too.
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (Default)
(Via Electrolite's comment section.)

From Mathew Gross's blog, this article by Mel Gilles draws a interesting parallel between the recent election and domestic abuse.

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