Here's the thing.
I read this article this morning, post-very-little-sleep and pre-finishing-my-morning-coffee, and found myself mid-writer/feminist uproar. Please know I am not angered by the article itself. In fact, I think it takes an appropriate stance on the alleged trend that women writers are writing darker material in an attempt to get away from being dismissed as writing "chick lit"/"fluff" and to prove that they are "serious" writers, which is what actually got me worked up. Now, considering my sleep and coffee situation, I probably should be concentrating on merely staying awake, but...
(Read more: http://www.psychologies.co.uk/news/lets-have-more-grim-lit/)
Argh. Okay. My reply shall come in two parts:
Part 1: Writer
Part 2: Woman/Feminist
First, I have to reply to this as a writer because, in the end, I think this suggestion is harmful to all writers. I believe writing is all about reaching outward, twisting, blending, bending, and experimenting with readers' expectations and our own capabilities. Limiting that, saying we have to choose a box and cram all our stories into that one box to make some kind of statement strikes me as going against everything a writer is, or should be.
Someone told me recently that I should narrow my focus. I should decide whether I want to write for TV/movies, comics or novels, and so on. Also, I should pick a genre.
The way I see it, many of us have multiple stories in us, and they won't always fit neatly into the same genre or even the same medium. Cramming isn't fun. I've taken public transit long enough to know that. And why should we have to take the same crammed bus? I love learning ways to improve my writing, challenging myself to write in new ways. I don't want to ride that same crammed bus forever. How boring would that be?
Of course, there are writers who naturally write a certain genre/medium, and I'm not criticizing that at all. As long as they are writing the stories they want/need to write, that's fantastic. For the record, that's a niche, not a box. All I'm saying is if Stephen King suddenly wanted to write a romantic comedy, I sure hope no one tells him he shouldn't try his hand at it.
It's bad enough when someone else tries to box us in. We don't need to do it to ourselves, too.
As a woman, I find the suggestion that female writers need to prove themselves by writing a certain genre or style simply ludicrous. Male and female writers should prove themselves as writers by the quality of their writing, by the strength of their stories, the contours of their characters. Of course, male and female writers may veer towards certain genres more than others, but we shouldn't be corralled into them. And we certainly shouldn't corral ourselves into them.
I understand the temptation to say "Whaddya mean I can't write horror?" and to write it just to prove 'em wrong. But what is this "serious writer" business? If you write a good story, whatever the genre, if you capture someone's heart and imagination, that is what makes you a serious writer. Not the genre. Not your gender.
I think writing darker stuff because you're a woman is just as wrong as writing "chick lit" just because you're a woman.
I consider myself a feminist because I believe there's not much a man can do that a woman can't also do, and vice versa. I look forward to the day when a woman can win an award without it being stressed that she's female, and when recognizing that women can harm others (men, women, and children) doesn't count as a strike against the feminist agenda.
We're capable not only of opening doors and walking through them, but also of letting them slam into other people trying to walk through, too. It's really not equality until we can accept both sides of that. But, by all means, let's not slam the door on ourselves!
So... as a writer and as a woman, I implore you...
Let us not be judged, or judge ourselves, by gender alone. We are individuals, not part of some Borg collective (Heh. Part 3: Geek?).
Be who you want to be, and write what you want to write. Let all your stories bask in your imagination and emerge without being unnecessarily stunted. Experiment with style, genre, and medium, because one enriches another, and because writing is fluid and we must swim along with it, even if it is upstream.
We are writers and our kites are the kind that come without strings.
And swim. And switch buses once in a while.
And, you know, mix metaphors with relish. Just not literally.