An early post this week, as tomorrow is my author signing at the Tanglewood Barnes and Noble. I’ll be there and setting up by 6pm so if you have a book to bring for signing or are looking to buy a paper copy, please stop by!
Now, on to the subject at hand. I’ve been reading The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley and I have to say that this book has literally rocked my socks.
You may have picked up by now that I am a self-proclaimed feminist. This is not always considered a good descriptor of a human being, but I find that people who don’t want to be your friend if you call yourself a feminist are not usually nice people. I say this because of personal experience. As a writer, I primarily try to tell balanced stories with varied female (and male) characters. I don’t always succeed. I grow a lot from project to project. I’m still learning, and that’s okay.
I have the honor of being a relatively privileged woman. I am white, able-bodied, thin, and adjectives most commonly used to describe me are “smart” and “pretty”. This is not ego talking, or not ego for the sake of hearing itself. I find all sorts of people beautiful and admirable who do not, classically, fit these descriptors. This is an observation of social norms. I have privilege. It doesn’t mean that I don’t feel like screaming every time I turn on the news and read about the most recent rape acquittal or talk to a friend who has just experienced some terrible abuse from a partner or get cat-called by some strange man and am reminded that I am, in fact, still a second-class citizen in many ways. That at the first blush, I am a woman.
Hurley said something that crushed me pretty early on in this book, so I’m going to quote it here.
[Joanna] Russ expressed the white-hot rage I felt at realizing the game was rigged against me from the start, and that no matter how equal I believed I was, the world was going to treat me like a woman, whether I liked it or not. Her book The Female Man is so ragingly, teeth-gnashingly nuts that I couldn’t get through it the first couple of times I tried. the title also gave voice to something I felt all the time – that I was a human, a man – not in the sense that I felt disassociated from my female body, but in the sense that I, too, had bought that women were somehow “other” and I wasn’t “other” so I must be a man, a real human too, right?
I had to put the book down when I read that, because I was that girl and it hurt to see someone else put those words on paper. I had thought that I was an anomaly. When my father read me the Lord of the Rings I was Frodo. Frodo, after all, was the hero. I was the hero. The biology didn’t factor in. I only really became aware of the way that my gender and sex had shaped my life once I became an adult and had names for some of the things that had happened to me as an adolescent – and continue to happen, because unfortunately adulthood doesn’t give you a free pass from sexual harassment.
Grappling with that sense of betrayal, with that sudden awareness, is a lot of what prompted the major plot points of Mother of Creation. Coming into adulthood and feeling purely betrayed by the promises of my youth, by the idea that I could be anything I wanted to be, was a harrowing experience. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I was insulated from that experience, relative to others. I am, as I mentioned, relatively privileged. My privilege includes a family that loves me and supports me in all sorts of craziness – including haring off to Japan and leaving a perfectly good, if dull and terrible, job to be a homeless traveler for a month. I always knew, if things got too bad, that I could go home. A lot of people don’t have that. Liana, the princess of the Creation Saga, does not have that. She has no home to go back to, and must face whatever the road throws at her.
But she, too, is fighting to be seen as a real human, despite the barriers of her sex and the situation of her birth. So many of us are.
Reading The Geek Feminist Revolution was like reading a love letter to all of us geek girls who wanted, so badly, to feel like we were human. It’s an at times violent and troubling love letter, but that violence is never turned towards us. Its turned against all of those who would suppress our stories, our muchness. Hurley’s keen analytical mind dissects our stories, the ones we have consumed and the ones that have consumed us. She lays our souls bare. The goal of every writer is to accomplish as much.