A Handy Guide to Passive-Aggressive Sexism, or, How To Avoid Misidentifying Partners As Secretaries
This is so prevalent, and SO pernicious.
It’s no secret I suck at email. I spend an hour answering them each day. Today, I answered emails sent to me the last week of September. I could spend time answering more, but I’ve allotted an hour each day. I also suck at returning phone calls, and I get around to answering Facebook messages about once a month.
To understand why, you must first understand my daily routine. I get up at 6:30 in the morning. I exercise, eat, and shower. I pick up my 5-year old at 7:30. I take him to school at 8:45. I work (meaning write, email, Blog, update website, marketing, interviews, go to the post office, and all the other things a full-time writer must do) from 9:00 until 2:45. My 5-yr old gets out of school at 3. I have him until 6. I then write, clean house, eat dinner, etc. until 11 at night, at which point I go to sleep and start the entire cycle over again. Not a lot of time for typing words on paper, and if I don’t type words on paper, I don’t get paid — and since I’ve grown accustomed to things like electricity and food, this is important. In addition to all of that, I must also be conscious of making time for relationships with my girlfriend, my older son, and my friends.
And thus, email gets an hour a day.
Most people know the easiest way to reach me is via Twitter. It runs in the background all day long. An editor, publisher, friend, fan, etc. can blast me a quick question and get a quick response there.
But some editors and publishers have decided that the better method is ask my girlfriend to take a message.
I’ve been dating Mary SanGiovanni for the better part of three years. Mary is an accomplished horror novelist in her own right — someone who came through the ranks the same time as I did, and has fought the same battles I’ve fought. Indeed, as a woman working in not only publishing, but publishing’s mutant ghetto of horror fiction, I dare say Mary has had to fight many more battles than I have — and I’ve fought a lot.
Mary’s author bio lists many things. One thing it doesn’t list is ‘Brian Keene’s Secretary’. And yet, over the last three years, there have been many professional editors, agents, etc. who have assumed she must indeed be so. For example:
"I sent Brian an email but he hasn’t responded. Can you take a message?"
"Can you ask Brian to call me when he gets a chance? No, I haven’t actually tried calling him. I figured it would be easier if you had him call me."
"I have something to mail to Brian. I’m going to send it to you. Make sure he gets it."
"I’d like to invite Brian to submit to my anthology. Can you have him contact me?" (This last one is especially offensive since it overlooks the fact that Mary is also a writer, and the editor’s only interest in her is in having her boyfriend submit something, rather than her).
I won’t name and shame the culprits — this time — but I will point out that this never happened when Mary and I were just friends (and we were friends for over a decade before we started dating). Nor does it happen to my other friends (that I know of). Which leads me to conclude that these individuals, whether knowingly or unknowingly, are doing it simply because of her gender and the fact that she’s engaged in a romantic relationship with me.
That’s sexism. It may be blatant. It may be passive-aggressive. It may even be unknowing. But it’s still sexism. It’s also disrespectful and fucked up as a football bat. It angers her, and it angers me. She’s a daughter, mother, aunt, friend, and writer in her own regard, and should be valued for those things, rather than the fact that she can hand me a sticky note asking me to return your fucking call.
End of rant.
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A Few Caveats In Anticipation of Points That Will Surely Be Raised:
1. Why doesn’t she say something herself? Well, first of all, she’s not confrontational. Secondly, she shouldn’t have to. The onus isn’t on her to take the defensive against subversive sexism. The onus is on the nitwits who engage in subversive sexism to STOP FUCKING ENGAGING IN IT.
2. Why put this in public? Why not handle it quietly, behind the scenes? Well, we’ve tried that. We’ve both tried that. Her, nicely but firmly, and me, not as nice but just as firm. But that hasn’t solved the problem. And now we’re here. If it continues, we’ll go to Phase Three. But, as long-time readers will attest, you REALLY don’t want things to escalate to Phase Three…
3. What kind of feminist are you if you’re simply white-knighting her? Well, she likes it when I play white knight. She thinks it’s cute. And that makes her laugh. And I like making her laugh. That’s the kind of feminist I am.
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It occurs to me that an entire generation of new readers have come along since I last Blogged regularly. Hello to them. My name is Brian Keene and I am not like the others. I am not a Liberal or a Conservative. I am not a Christian or an Atheist. A Muslim or a Jew. A Democrat or a Republican. What I am is a middle-aged pulp writer who rejects labels, prefers thinking outside the box, and thinks 80% of the world’s problems could be solved if people would just leave their tribalism at the door and sit down and talk.
The other 20% of the world’s problems can be solved with rocket launchers.
This is Hail Saten. Your mileage may vary…