There was a minor kerfluffle on Twitter, blogs (like here on The Mary Sue), and elsewhere yesterday because a children’s shirt of The Guardians of the Galaxy included every major character but the female, Gamora. The explanation given by the company, “It’s a boy’s shirt.” As usual when something gets me all worked up, I have so many initial responses that they sort of bottle-neck up and I have trouble getting the words out.
But let me try.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no! (*sung operatically as Queen might do*)
It’s a boy’s shirt. Really?
Now, I know that I’m here to talk about writing. Or maybe my new release—actually two of them in a series featuring a kick-ass female who can, literally, stop men in their tracks. Or stop women. Her power isn’t particular. AND HERE’S MY THING—there are people who will never pick up these books because it’s got a female protagonist. I’ve had a friend of mine ask when I’ll write something other than a first person female POV so that he can relate. There are legions of boys (who grow into men) who won’t read anything written by a woman or in which there’s female protagonist. I know of people who wouldn’t read Kim Stanley Robinson for ages because the “Kim” threw them off, only finding it acceptable once they realized he was a man. The reasoning I heard: women can’t write hard science fiction. (I kid you not.)
I think of all the people who would have missed out on great novels like THE HUNGER GAMES for these “reasons”…until they’d heard it was violent and cool and peer pressure forced them to give it a try. And while I’m on this, there are people who will rant that adults shouldn’t read young adult fiction, but something more erudite and, presumably, more impressing to your friends.
To all of those people, I say GET OVER IT.
I have a problem with all kinds of cultural snobbery…and that’s what it is. Why do we have to have “women’s fiction”? Why are thrillers considered “men’s books,” especially when so many women read them. True story: when I started in the business, I had male editors reluctantly do lunch with me, only to tell me that they were sure our tastes didn’t align because they acquired men’s fiction. When I reeled off names of people I read: Eric Van Lustbader, Ken Follett, John le Carré, John Sandford, Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler, etc., they were surprised. I’d like to say that it was a hop, skip and a jump from there to being taken seriously, but I’d be lying.
It’s a boy’s shirt? Have we come no further than the Little Rascals’ He-Man,Woman Haters club, no girls allowed? Are girls uncool? Not allowed to be superheroes? Urban fantasy would suggest otherwise, and you know what, urban fantasy hasn’t gotten the respect that it should in many of the trade journals (you know who you are), which feature reviews like, “Good, if you like that sort of thing.” They write off the genre even as it’s grudgingly acknowledged.
I’m tired of it. Here’s what I think: there should be no “women’s fiction” or “men’s fiction”. Things shouldn’t be divided into LBGT fiction or multicultural fiction. There should just be fiction. We shouldn’t segregate our fiction like in the past we segregated schools and buses. There is no such thing as separate but equal. There never was.
Lucienne Diver is a literary agent with The Knight Agency with over twenty-one years experience, as well as the author of the Vamped young adult series and the Latter-Day Olympians series of urban fantasies, which includes BAD BLOOD, CRAZY IN THE BLOOD, RISE OF THE BLOOD (now in digital, coming in print Sept. 2) and BATTLE FOR THE BLOOD (digital September 16, print in 2015).
In addition, she’s written short stories and essays that have appeared in the Strip-Mauled and Fangs for the Mammaries anthologies edited by Esther Friesner (Baen Books), in Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories (HarperTeen) and in Kicking It edited by Faith Hunter and Kalayna Price (Roc Books).