Random Musing: Gender Fairness (or, Where Troy Pulls Out All of His Beard Hair)

So I’m here, at what could possibly be called the halfway point of THE NYAMA EATERS, my first novel.

TNE is a genremash of YA, urban lit, fantasy, sci-fi, and all the subgenres therein. As you can probably guess, women play a large part in the story. And there’s my problem. Well..not my problem, but what’s bothering me.

I want to…no, have do right by the girls/women that’ll read my work. In writing a work that, all things considered, serves as protest against classical fantasy paradigms, I’ve realized that i cant write anything that seeks to do right by blackness without doing right by womanhood.

Some claim that there’s a magical alchemy, some formula that helps men write convincing female characters, but I’m not privy to it. I do a lot of covert watching; co-workers, my students, strangers…and I have solid observations. Translating these observations into believable characters is my issueproblem…I don’t exactly know what to call this.

I guess that I’m just worried, really. That’s all. I’m coming from a place where I *really* want to do well, but matters of authenticity are what bother me.

I’ve recently had a short story published, and in that story, I write from the POV of a young woman who finds herself facimg some particularly harsh truths. I wrote the story as a woman because that’s how the story came to me, but the whole time I was thinking, is she convincing? is that something that a woman would actually do?

Falling into the sexism tiger trap that ASOIAF falls into isn’t acceptable, in my case. Nor is any use of standard “female” fantasy plot. I know that young women of color (especially young black women) will face a lot more discriminatory and damaging images from popular media. It’s not a matter of comparing realities. Instead, I’m attempting to address the realities of my audience, and especially that of the group that I hope gets the most exposure to my story.

 

It’s as much about fair represenation as it is my reputation as a writer. Quite a few of my posts, most notably this one, are dedicated to how difficult it is to be a consumer of genre/nerd media as a woman or a person of color. Even though my work is for teens, I want to do right by the adults that they will become.

I know I might be making a mountain out of a mountain, here, but I feel like it’s extremely important to go as hard on sexist constructions in fantasy as it is to go in on matters of race and inequality.

Forgive me if all of you have already come to that conclusion. I move a little bit slower than the rest of you.

So hopefully, Bina and Maleka and Sunda and all the rest of the girls/women in my novel will speak to you in a meaningful and convincing manner, not just as characters, but as people…the way that they speak to me. I hope that I serve as a competent steward of their stories.

After all, I’m tyring my best to get it right.

 

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3 thoughts on “Random Musing: Gender Fairness (or, Where Troy Pulls Out All of His Beard Hair)

  1. good words. it’s a struggle, when you’re “aware” of the realities of privilege. i’ve even questioned how blacks in the west attempting to create fantasy “appropriate” and “re-imagine” Africa to our needs. but…that’s all part of the process. good luck!

    • Thanks for your words and positivity. I’m going through a sort of privillege revolution, myself, and its manifestation is most apparent in my fiction. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I just want to do the right thing.

  2. As a young POC like you, I think you hit the nail right on the head. The fact that you are actually aware of the lack of fair representation means that you will do what is necessary to make sure your characters are well developed. I think you will do fine, and I look forward to seeing the finished novel!

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