There’s one in every group

Quite honestly, though, there is one guy in every group of people who want to discuss feminism at more than a 101 level who just has to bring it back down to a 100 level.

That happened Thursday night.

As a volunteer for VIWF, I have the option to enter into a ticket lottery to win one comp ticket to an event I want to see. I managed to score a ticket for Women and Literature, which was my first choice.

I was super-stoked. This was definitely the one event I really wanted to see.

The event was a panel of four women authors and a woman moderator/interviewer/timekeeper who would ask questions. The authors were Kate Mosse from the United Kingdom, Gail Jones from Australia, Gillian Jerome from British Columbia, and Susan Swan from Ontario. Here is the summary of the event:

In response to the 1991 Booker Prize nominee list, which included not one female author, novelist Kate Mosse founded the Orange Prize to celebrate outstanding fiction by women throughout the world. Now, more than 20 years later, poet Gillian Jerome has founded Canadian Women in the Literary Arts in response to the critical reception of women’s creative writing. In this so-called post-feminist world, does the literary and critical environment reflect what’s really happening? Susan Swan, novelist and past chair of the Writers’ Union of Canada, has followed issues of gender equality in writing for decades. Australia’s Gail Jones, an award-winning author and professor of writing, brings an international perspective to this panel discussion.

When the “post-feminist world” was mentioned, I and several other audience members guffawed. Jokes were made about Gillian Jerome’s binder, because it was full of women.

The discussion was good, and pretty much completely unsurprising to me. Women authors get reviewed less often than male authors do. It’s assumed that boys and men cannot relate to books written by women, but can relate to books written by men. It’s assumed that boys and men must have a male protagonist in order to enjoy the story — and boys and men are socialized to believe this from an early age. Women don’t get shortlisted as often, or win as often, many prominent literary prizes. Women are more generous readers than men — they’re more likely to read books with male protagonists with whom they can’t fully relate than men are to read books with female protagonists — I mean, obviously, women have had to be more generous readers with regards to that, because it’s not as if their stories have been centered in literature for centuries.

And women and feminists say these things, say “This is what is going on, let’s talk about it,” and we get “Why are you so angry? Are you a lesbian? Do you hate men?” in response. Anytime more women authors become visible — anytime women become more visible in any field — it’s seen as a takeover. All male = neutral.

And this discussion was refreshing, because it seemed we were actually able to talk about these things, for once, without derail.

I was too happy, too soon.

There was time for only three questions at the end. I finally worked up the courage to raise my hand for the last question — I wanted to know what their perspective was on genderqueer authors who had lived as women and still were assumed to be women finding spaces within women’s literature, within the circles of women authors supporting each other, etc — but the question went to a dude down at the end of my row instead.

His question had nothing to do with the discussion. It had to do with feminism in general, and he prefaced it by saying “This is going to be a controversial question, and of course I believe in women’s equality.”

Pro-tip: if you have to preface your ‘controversial’ question with ‘of course I believe in _____’, it’s a pretty huge red flag that you actually don’t believe in ___. No matter how much you think you do.

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