Timing is Everything

I hope I can keep this post fairly short, since I am desperately behind on the second Play Action novel (and yes, it’s Rachel and Warren’s story, for those who’ve been asking).

But here’s the thing: there’s been a lot of talk in writer world about sexism and misogyny in writer world. The latest “blow-up” is the result of some articles in The Bulletin, which is the SFWA’s1 monthly magazine for members. This led to lengthy conversations on Twitter about everything from the “quiet dignity” (or lack thereof) of Barbie to the stunning fact that one of the candidates for SFWA’s presidency has openly advocated disenfranchising women. (You can read up on the whole debacle at E Catherine Tobler’s blog.)

Anyroad, the whole discussion made me think a lot about the plot of Skin in the Game. The heroine, Angie Peterson, is a high school math teacher and the assistant coach for the football team. Right before the story opens, the head coach has suffered a heart attack. During his convalescence, the role of head coach falls to Angie, and she’s thrilled about this, because it’s her ambition to ultimately take over that job on a permanent basis. The team’s other assistant coach, however, doesn’t feel the same way and he actively harasses her and tries to undermine her. Donnelly’s a guy in his mid-forties who apparently missed the news about feminism when he was growing up, and he resents Angie’s authority over him in a field he thinks should be reserved for men.

Now, I give that background because I have to admit, when I wrote the story, I wondered whether or not I was importing too much of my personal experience from the late 80s/early 90s into a story set in the 21st century. I never went through anything quite as overt as Angie does, in part because I never worked in such a heavily male-dominated field as she does, but I certainly saw plenty of examples of men who were threatened by and reacted against women who had “too much” power in the workplace. That’s lessened considerably as I’ve gotten older, though; or at least, I thought it had. And that fact made me question whether readers would believe in a character who’s as blindly sexist and misogynistic as Donnelly.

And all I can say after the week’s news–which also included angst over the fact that women have become the primary breadwinner in about 40% of households with children– is…guess not!

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1SFWA is the science fiction and fantasy writers’ organization. They sponsor the Nebula and (I think) Hugo awards. They are a big deal in writing communities and are often held up as a model for writers’ organizations. Um, not so much, I’m thinking now.