Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of discussion about the way women are silenced. It occurs to me that there is a writing space where women’s voices are heard. Not by men, however, and that’s part of the point of this post. To talk about that.
Over the last year or so, I’ve been following what’s been happening with Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) where, when women have objected to content and discussion that is openly denigrating to women, the very vocal response from certain men has been, more or less, “You have no sense of humor. You’re ugly, probably a lesbian, you talk too much, and what about my right to stare at your boobs and dismiss everything you write? Also, what was she wearing when she attended that con where she was assaulted?”
That’s a conversational misdirection women see all the time in lots and lots of spheres. We say, Dude, uncool, what you said or did, and the conversation is diverted to all the ways in which that can’t possibly be true, please shut up, ladies.
Within Romance, we rarely get that, because the voices in Romance– writers, readers, reviewers– are overwhelmingly female. It’s a space where we sometimes find we need to be more careful of male voices. It’s a delicious irony. But I notice, as more men enter this space, there are occasions when some of those men enter the conversation completely tone deaf.
Men Enter the Romance Space Confident Their Words Are Better
We have all watched men enter the Romance space confident that their words are better because they are spoken in a male voice. And we have watched some of them go head to head with women and come away stunned. We see their brains shut off when that woman making more money and selling more books happens to be attractive. It’s wonderful, amazing, fantastic to watch these men babble on and then realize that they have been out-everythinged by a woman they could not see or hear because she’s female and attractive. I will say that at least one man had the grace to admit that.
Some of these men mansplain, they are unable to hear what the women with more knowledge and expertise have to say. They make demonstrably incorrect statements and have difficulty tolerating correction. To them, it’s a personal affront instead of another person saying, but consider this or, even, you are wrong, and there is the data that proves you are wrong. Once someone is defending themselves because a woman disagreed, dialogue ceases with that person.
Women Know Who the Experts Are Here, And it’s Not The Men
What’s interesting, though, is that here in Romance all the women know exactly who the experts here are– and it’s not the men. There is not, to my knowledge, one single male Romance author killing it in Romance the way women are. There is not one single male Romance author with anything like the technical knowledge of the women who are proven experts. In this space, those mansplaining men are, often, ignored. Because here, in our space, they just don’t have the chops and we know it.
Every single one of the men routinely trotted out as the poster-child of success was preceded by a woman and is, in every case, outmatched, currently, by a woman.
Where is the Innovation in eBook Publishing Coming From?
Consider this: Where is all the innovation in eBook publishing coming from? Where’s the real and effective data analysis? If you read the mainstream media, you’d think it was all men all the time. And it’s not. The innovations in publishing are coming from Romance. I was going to say that Romance authors are quietly going about learning exactly what works and doesn’t work and experimenting and sharing and meeting up — yes, there are “unconferences” in our space. The first one was back in February and it was quite a success. There are more being organized right now. There was not one single man involved in the conception, design and execution of the unconference concept. It was first mentioned in November 2013 I think, and the first unconference happened in February 2014.
At the first unconference, women got together and shared what we knew, what we were doing, how we were doing it and why. We talked about how those things worked. Entirely female voices. Think about that. All the conversation that is silenced when men are present — (Men think women are dominating a conversation when women speak just 30% of time) happened here.
It’s not Quiet Here
Outside the Romance space, what we are doing does seem quiet. Because the men aren’t listening. And when they do happen to hear, they hear through a set of filters that are designed, whether they know it or not, to dismiss and silence the female voice. They go on to write articles that don’t even come close to representing what’s happening here because that same filter is in place. Their first and overriding belief is that women are not authentic experts.
In truth, it’s not quiet at all. Here in the Romance space, we are a noisy lot, talking about what we’ve done, how it worked or didn’t work. This space is, by and large, safe from the male voices and actions that silence, threaten, and harm us everywhere else. At the unconference, we quickly devised a method that gave a speaker the floor. She was not to be interrupted or spoken over while she had the floor. And she wasn’t.
As long as this set of conditions persists, women authors will continue our successes and innovations. It’s an amazing, living, example of what can happen when women are free of words and actions that silence us.
Imagine what might happen if more men learned to listen?
Should you be Worried?
Personally, I think men should be worried about that female silence, because look what happens when we’re not silenced: A woman becomes the largest independent publisher in the United States. (Bella Andre, in case you were wondering.)
If you didn’t know that, you would be wise to ask yourself why.