Dear Ones —
As we move ahead with the voting on the book jacket today (AND THANK YOU TO ALL WHO HAVE ALREADY VOTED!) I wanted to take a moment to share my further thoughts about the post below, regarding the question of the words "hero" vs. "heroine", and my casual usage of the word "guys" sometimes on this page, to refer to both women and men.
I was struck by how many people spoke up on this, and wanted to add my thoughts (with greatest respect to EVERYONE) if you'll all bear with me for a moment this Saturday morning!
Language is important. As I writer, I probably believe this even more than most people. Identity questions are important. Conversations about usage and vernacular and the subtle ways in which gender gets discussed in society are important and interesting and vital. I was glad these questions were brought up on this page — I'm always happy to talk about such things. (I went to college in the 90's, after all, when basically all we did was talk about such things!) Language is how we know the world and how we know ourselves, and so we have to pay attention to it.
But sometimes I feel like these sorts of gender identification questions inadvertently serve as a distraction to the really important questions about women's lives. I guess I put gender identification language debates in the same category as questions such as, "Should a woman change her name when she gets married?" or, "Should women get cosmetic surgery?" or "Is 50 Shades of Grey demeaning to women?"
Important and interesting topics, to be sure, but perhaps not so important as this fundamental question, which all too often does NOT get asked about women, namely: "How much power do you have in your life?"
And by "power" in women's lives, I mean such things as…
Are you safe from abuse inside your home, your workplace, your neighborhood?
Are you physically safe? Are you emotionally safe?
Are you earning a fair wage for your work?
Are you taking care of your health, your money, your spirit? Are you free from addictions?
Are you free to question your religion?
Do you have access to health care and child care? Do you have access to clean water and healthy food? Do you have access to good government? To good education? Do you know the names of your congresspeople? Do you have a political voice? Do you vote?
Who does the housework in your home? Who takes care of the children and the aged in your family? Who takes care of you? If you lost your partner, could you support yourself?
Who controls your time? Who controls your money? Who controls your body? Who controls your church? Who controls the society in which you live?
Do you have freedom of movement in your life? Do have a passport? Could you get one? Do you have a driver's license? If you cannot physically travel, can you travel with your mind? Do you have a library card? Do you have freedom of thought? Are you allowed to express yourself creatively? Do you live free from ridicule and scorn? Can you speak your heart in truth without fear or censure?
Are you respected? More importantly, do you respect yourself?
In other words, and I ask this question quite seriously, how much genuine power do you have? Because all these questions are about the real power in women's lives, and if you can answer all those questions positively and in the affirmative, then I honestly don't care what you want call yourself — or what you want me to call you! I don't care if you want to be known as a heroine, a hero, a guy, a dude, a lady, a girl, a human being, a woman, a goddess, or a womyn. Likewise, I don't care if you changed your name forty times with each of your marriages, or if you got a butt implant or ten boob jobs, or if you like to read trashy books about dirty sex, or if you want prance around all day in a bikini and tiara and ask people to call you "Fifi" .(I would prefer "Dr. Fifi", of course, but that is entirely a matter of personal taste.) If you've got your own bank account, go for it.
Because I just want you all to have power in your lives where it really counts. And I want us to not forget that these are the questions about women's lives that really matter. And I want us to not stop asking those important questions, ever.
As for Alma Whittaker — the protagonist of my new book — you may call her whatever you like to call her (hero, heroine, leading lady, principal, title)… After all, the story may be my creation, but Alma will ultimately live in your imaginations. She will belong to you, once the book comes into your hands. All I can say about my novel is that it tells the story of a woman coming into her own power during a century when such a thing was not easily done. I wrote Alma Whittaker because she genuinely inspires me, and all I want is for her to inspire you, as well.
Thus concludes my morning thoughts!
Thank you all for YOUR thoughts. As ever, I value them enormously…and onward we go!