We must stop pointing to the exceptions—these bright shining stars who transcend circumstance. We must look to how we can best support the least among us, not spend all our time blindly revering and trying to mimic the greatest without demanding systemic change.
It’s hard not to feel humorless, as a woman and a feminist, to recognize misogyny in so many forms, some great and some small, and know you’re not imagining things. It’s hard to be told to lighten up because if you lighten up any more, you’re going to float the fuck away.
Stop making excuses. Stop saying women run publishing. Stop justifying the lack of parity in prominent publications that have the resources to address gender inequality. Stop parroting the weak notion that you’re simply publishing the best writing, regardless. There is ample evidence of the excellence of women writers. Publish more women writers. If women aren’t submitting to your publication or press, ask yourself why, deal with the answers even if those answers make you uncomfortable, and then reach out to women writers.
We all have history. You can think you’re over your history. You can think the past is the past. And then something happens, often innocuous, that shows you how far you are from over it. The past is always with you. Some people want to be protected from this truth.
When women are unlikable, it becomes a point of obsession in critical conversations by professional and amateur critics alike. Why are these women daring to flaunt convention? Why aren’t they making themselves likable (and therefore acceptable) to polite society?
I want characters to do the things I am afraid to do for fear of making myself more unlikable than I may already be. I want characters to be the most honest of all things—human. That the question of likability even exists in literary conversations is odd. It implies that we are engaging in a courtship. When characters are unlikable, they don’t meet our mutable, varying standards. Certainly we can find kinship in fiction, but literary merit shouldn’t be dictated by whether we want to be friends or lovers with those about whom we read.