I don’t have to worry about my opinions.
I am a middle-aged (is 35 middle-aged? I still feel young…) white man. I have every privilege in the United States afforded to me. I have benefitted from hundreds of years of institutionalized white patriarchy. I wouldn’t change who I am – I like me – but instead I wish the world were a much different place than it is.
I was stupid once. (Who knows, maybe I still am.) When I was in high school and we had to observe Black History Month in February, I was one of the ones in the classroom who argued for a White History Month. It took a while for it to get through my thick skull that we do have a White History Month. It’s called January, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, and December. As a history instructor, it’s easy to see. What do I teach? How the white man conquered barbarians and emerged as the leader in the world today. Because the names are difficult to pronounce, let alone remember, we tend to skip over Eastern Civilizations or African History.
It’s only now that I have the so-called “minorities” in my family, living in my house that I see the injustice each deals with.
If the history books would have you believe anything, it would be that men procreated with men until the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote in 1920. We barely get mention of any woman throughout history, and oftentimes it is because of their relationships with men. Cleopatra was surely admired for being a queen in Egypt, right? In my World History textbook, she is noted more for her affairs with both Julius Caesar and Marc Antony.
And for blacks (African-Americans, Africans, or other ethnicities that share the same skin tone), the crimes against them have been too numerous to even count, yet we expect the generational hatred to just dissipate with each passing year. I’m not even talking about slavery in the United States (which is a whole other burden for the entire nation). Instead, look at the European “colonization” of Africa. They called their lands in Africa “colonies” yet there were already people there. In my view, a colony is where we land on the Moon or Mars and create a colony from scratch. Colonies shouldn’t exist where there is a native population already. And not only did they colonize (the British, the French, the Belgian, etc…), but they actively stripped the lands there of natural resources. Even today as those European powers have retreated to their own continent, the control over the money and wealth in those countries is still in the hands of old white dudes. When a country like Uganda or Nigeria has never been able to govern their own land and resources, how do we expect them to do it right and without warlords sweeping in?
Suffice it to say that white men have ruled the “civilized” world for centuries upon centuries. We are often entitled and expect life to hand us pre-made lemonade. The lemons get picked by other ethnicities and the women can squeeze them. We’ll kick back and enjoy a nice cold glass, thank you very much.
Except…that’s all changing. And my fellow white dudes are having a hard time with this. Me? I say bring it on.
I read on The Passive Voice earlier today about a reader who quit using the site Goodreads (the full story can be found here). She had seen some disturbing trends and had recently gotten some threats regarding some three-star reviews she’d left for a book. She couches her departure from the site in an attempt to pare down on her social media usage, but the cause is birthed from a place of fear.
And this isn’t by any means the first instance of women feeling unsafe on the Internet. Gamergate is a huge recent example where women are disrupting a typical male industry and get public (and private) harassment for just existing there.
I also have a number of female writer friends. More than a few of them have pen names and have refused to share their real name with me. I haven’t pressed – I don’t need to know – but the fact they have had to resort to using a fake name to sell their own words is troubling. They didn’t create their alternate identity to fool anyone or to sell more books (although I’m sure they would welcome additional sales), but they did it in response to issues they have had in the past. Harassment, threats, stalking, private messages meant to disgust and intimidate – all tools used to keep women in their place and out of the male-dominated industries.
I feel…gutted by this. I contemplated using a pen name when I began publishing, but there was NEVER a thought of doing it because I didn’t want stalkers. I never once had to worry about rape threats because of my gender or identity. My only thought was that my last name was different enough to relegate me to the bottom of a reader’s list. Unlike some of my female writer friends, my mind was on economics, instead of my own welfare and safety.
This has been brought into focus for me not only by those friends of mine, but also by my daughter. I’ve used her name before, but I’m going to attempt to limit that going forward. I’ll call her Tonks (after her who she said was one of her favorite HP character). Tonks is highly creative. She has a knack for art – mainly drawing ponies, dragons, and Minecraft figures right now, but hey you gotta start somewhere. She also writes. For a fifth grader, Tonks’ writing is well above many of the high school students I see every day. She can put a sentence together like few writers I know and she could easily release some of her stories on Kindle today and make some money. (I know I’m biased, but in some respects, she’s already a better writer than I am.)
But I fear for her. Tonks has no online presence (unless you count Pottermore, or watching Stampy Minecraft videos on YouTube). When she does, will guys constantly be hitting on her, expecting something in return? Will threats be a constant part of her life? Will she view her rights in comparison to the rights of men?
I would never have called myself a feminist, until I realized that by advocating women’s rights, I’m advocating for my wife and my daughter. I’m advocating for a world where she can live without fear of a man telling her she can’t do something just because she was born with ovaries. I am no better than anyone else just because I was born with different body parts. I hate that she will one day experience some of these things for herself.
I am hopeful. I see my friends. I see in the narrow genre of science fiction where women are garnering huge praise. I see Ann Christy – recently a retired Navy Commander – churning out hit after hit and finding her voice in a sea of men. I see Jen Wells, whose novel Fluency blew me away and is helping to set the stage for women’s voices in the area of first contact science fiction. I see Patrice Fitzgerald who uses a cozy mystery sense of humor and applies it to science fiction, bringing women over to the dark side. I see Susan Kaye Quinn, breaking barriers in many areas of science fiction. I see Carol Davis, a great writer who pens stories in a multitude of areas. And of course, I couldn’t make this list without mentioning Ellen Campbell, my editor, who informs the voices of a number of writers, men and women alike.
I can go on and on. The writing field is still dominated by men, but each and every day women are breaking through.
These are hopes I have. The women I have chosen to surround myself with online have made that hope a real thing. They are fighting against the establishment and show through their work and actions that women can have a voice in this male-dominated world. I hope they realize how much they mean to me and how much they will mean to the next generation of writers, no matter their gender.
I usually don’t have to worry about my opinions.
I hope there will be a day when my daughter doesn’t have to worry about hers.