Sunday 27 April 2014

Be good for good, not for gender

I confess the title isn't mine. I nicked it off my good friend Jan Edwards. But it just seemed to sum up how I feel about the current trend in anything to do with writing, genre fiction, the convention circuit: the circles I move in - or used to move in. I'm a bit more square these days, I think...

Gender Parity.

With capital letters.

Read any write-up of a genre convention and there'll be somebody banging on about it. How there were more men than women on this panel, more male guests than female guests and don't the organisers know that there are women writers too? Whole pages devoted to listing all the awesomely good ladies.

Anthologies are the same. Oh no - there are twenty stories and only two written by women! Surely that depends on the ratio of publishable stories that were actually submitted by women? Even committees are getting in the act. Must have an equal balance etc etc. It's bad enough in real life when the public sector talks about how many women there are in higher-management roles and are we under-represented because we took time out to have a family?

Now don't get me wrong. I'm all for women's rights and equality of opportunity. But the key is that word - opportunity. Take for example a hypothetical fiction anthology calling for submissions. It should be open to men, women, people who identify as either gender. After that it's surely down to the quality of the work submitted? Gender of author becomes irrelevant - in the same way that race, religion and any other identifying characteristic is irrelevant to the ability to write a good story. It's the same with panels at conventions and conferences; I want to listen to what somebody has to say because they have a valid and/or interesting contribution to make - not because they are a man or a woman and are there to make up numbers.

Frankly I find it all rather insulting. I don't want to be given preferential treatment because I'm female. I don't want to think people might be muttering she only got there because of her sex. I want to be on a panel or in an anthology or selected for anything in my life because somebody thinks I'm actually rather good at it. Because I am.

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