The Argument of Gender, Eternally.

The Argument of Gender, Eternally. Guest post by Mark Taylor

You can’t take a step on the Internet without falling over people arguing over how few strong female characters there are in literature. Or how characters are always gender defined men. And let’s be honest, most of the time the commenters have a point.

There are a huge number of male protagonist stories out there.

The people arguing with them are not writers though. It’s people who think they have ownership of something. People that think they own a genre, a franchise, or a character. And they’re wrong. But they like to vocalize. And no one comes off looking good. And for me, as the writer, I see the art coming off the worst.  

From the writer’s prospective, for me, it all began with what we are told on day one. It’s writing 101.

Write what you know.

Like most writers, I have no formal training in writing aside from my schooling some *cough* years ago. And English Literature really didn’t go down the gender rabbit hole. It was all Shakespeare this, and Dickens that. So no help. No. I learned my writing skill from reading, and from the Internet. And being a boy in the 70’s and 80’s I was given traditional boy material to read. Stuff about vampires (male), time travellers (male), space adventurers (male), monster hunters (male), footballers (male), etc, etc...etc.

Then the Internet told me to write what you know.

I wrote about men doing things. And like most writers, I wasn’t writing about men because women weren’t. I wasn’t writing about men because women couldn’t. It was because I didn’t know how to write women doing those things.

Because everything was telling me I didn’t know how to. I thought I didn’t know how to. 

So I didn’t.

Now I’ve been writing long enough to have learned. I now write characters. They are neither male nor female in my eyes, and they go where the story demands. They have to face the challenges that are set for them. I only define gender, because I must.

So we writers have the ability to correct the mistakes of the past. And it doesn’t stop at m/f gender equality. There is of course sexuality, gender alignment, race...and the list goes on (and sadly) on. Perhaps to the extent that we have all felt it. Writers change. We grow. As a collective we are on the cusp of understanding, and making the change, and committing to the equality that we want...that is needed.

But then why is little changing—or at least changing quickly—to remedy the problem?

It’s because of the bigoted that I spoke of at the beginning. 

Taking it down to a base stereo type: The woman wants to see strong female characters in science fiction; the author wants to write strong female characters in science fiction; some science fiction readers want to retain their idea of science fiction and states that the woman is wrong. 

To which the obvious answer is then to ignore the reader who doesn’t want change. I am the writer, I write what I want. 

Except I’m scared to. 

There is a famous franchise science fiction/fantasy book available to purchase which has nearly two thousand reviews. It is a book (I haven’t read) which has received negative reviews (over 50% of the Amazon reviews are a 2 or 1 star) about nonsensical garbage from people (many, or most at a glance, of who are not listed as verified purchasers) who speak of problems with sexuality, race, gender. 

In other words, not the writing, not the material, not the author, but:

It’s my and I don’t want you to change it.

And small authors can’t afford to have hundreds of one star reviews. Because of bigoted entitlement.

The only way to fix it is to bite the bullet and change it. At the core level. The author can change it, and nobody else. And yes, some of us are going to get the negative reviews. But the more of us who take the choice to change, the more change we will make.  

We’ve identified the problem. We can change the problem. Now is the time.

Mark Taylor's debut novel crash landed on planet earth in 2013. Its dark brooding style benchmarked his writing and has led to further releases of novel and short story collection alike. 

While most of Mark's work is macabre, occasion has it that he will write about kittens and daisies. Just not very often. 

Some say he is a product of his environment, others, a product of his own imagination.  


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