When I read Josh’s post, I was incensed, and started out to add a comment. Women make up half the population. We are neither a minority, nor a lower, of-no-account form of life. We deserve not to be abused. In any case, there is no reason, no excuse, no possible place in the world for pointless abuse.
But the comment grew and grew, and eventually threatened to become as long as a post, so I thought, why not make it one? So that’s exactly what I’m doing. Brace yourselves; this could turn into a rant.
Those Twitter quotes (I’m sorry, but I can’t call them tweets. Birds tweet; people have developed verbal skills. Though sometimes...) served to remind me, if I needed any reminder, why I don’t just not do Twitter, I avoid it as if it carried the most contagious virus in the universe. Which perhaps it does: a virus of the mind and spirit rather than the body, whose main symptom is an overwhelming need to share whatever garbage comes into people’s minds without any thought for whether anyone wants to know, or the effect it might have. My feeling is, for godsake who cares how some nobody with half a brain reacts to someone else’s innocuous comment?
But once that reaction is out there, it’s out there, and someone can get hurt. I’m all in favour of power to the people, but with power comes responsibility, and that’s what’s missing from the current trend to pass a public opinion, however uninformed, about anything and everything.
(Memo to the nobody with half a brain who’s probably twittering ‘Hey, who are you calling a nobody with half a brain?’ at this very moment: yes, I probably do mean you. Look in the mirror.)
OK, that’s one head of steam blown off. Now let’s look at the real issue.
I’m a child of the sixties. I was a little young to burn my bra; I’m not even sure I needed one at the time. But I lived through the feminist revolution that happened at that time, read Germaine Greer, championed the women of Greenham Common, never did understand why a woman earned less for doing exactly the same job as a man. (The USA got its Equal Pay Act in 1963; the UK had to wait until 1970. It kind of worked, but half a century later there are still many battles to be won.)
In my own life the imbalance between the genders manifested itself as my high school year prepared for higher education. (Secondary education was largely single sex at the time.) A girl in my group wanted to study medicine. She was accepted at one med school, but only if she achieved straight As in her exams. Several boys in the equivalent school also applied – and were accepted with C grades!
Do not offer me excuses. There are none. She got the straight As, and to the best of my knowledge went on to become an excellent doctor. I don’t know what became of the boys – but would you want to be treated by someone who started out as a C-grade student?
Fast-forward through that half-century, and medicine is now a profession in which women are valued; these days well over half the med students in the UK are women.
Link to crime fiction coming up. How do the police compare with medicine?
I read maybe half a dozen books a month, sometimes more; a significant percentage of them are police procedurals, and some kind of investigation forms the plot of most of the others. So far this year, eleven books out of fifteen have had female investigating officers or accidental sleuths.
If I believed this offered an accurate portrayal of the police force... well, I probably wouldn’t feel the need to write this post.
Josh actively seeks novels with strong female protagonists. So do a great many agents and publishers. When I was publishing I did the same; five out of eight series protagonists were women, and the others all had kickass female sidekicks or opponents. And they weren’t all created by women by any means. Why is this? Bottom line: marketing. Women buy books. Women like to read about other women doing it for themselves.
But if seven years in the business taught me one thing about the book trade, it was this: writers, publishers and booksellers are people who think. And in my thoughts, not far behind ‘who can I persuade to buy this book?’, was always, ‘why can’t the real world be like this?’
This is one area of life where the real world would do well to imitate art.