#ThingsOnlyWomenWritersHear shows the subtle sexism faced by women in writing

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Men would never receive these comments.

 

Has John Green ever been asked how he balances writing and raising his kids? Or David Sedaris been labeled as a “confessional” writer? Or Stephen King questioned on his ability to write horror and science fiction?

Probably not.

That’s the premise behind #ThingsOnlyWomenWritersHear, the trending Twitter hashtag detailing the painfully subtle and abrasive questions or comments that women in writing and publishing are confronted with about their work, words that male writers somehow magically subvert.

With these comments, women are told that being a female writer is unusual, different, “other,” and is either a side job done while the children are asleep, or a job they’re incapable of doing entirely, just because they’re women.

English writer Joanne Harris, author of novel-turned-film CHOCOLAT, started the hashtag on Monday morning amid a different Twitter thread on dealing with rejection as a writer.

“All the writers I know who have given up have done so, not because they weren’t good enough, but because they couldn’t take rejection,” Harris wrote.

In response, another Twitter user suggested that it was the inability to get paid while trying to raise a family that kept someone from writing.

Harris and the other Twitter user agreed that it can be done—they’ve both been able to write while raising kids and working full-time—but the other user still felt writing was hard to justify if a writer’s rejection was getting in the way of getting paid. Which is something male writers with families aren’t asked to do—justify their writing despite not making money while supporting a family.

Like many male-dominated careers, men’s careers as writers aren’t attached to their identities as family men, whereas women’s careers, especially in jobs that are less lucrative to help “support a family,” are seen as secondary to family priorities. These jobs, being a writer, an artist, a filmmaker are “hobbies” for women—opportunities for some “extra cash” with a “passion project” and aren’t seen as genuine careers.

So with that, Harris launched #ThingsOnlyWomenWritersHear to show how women writers aren’t taken seriously, or are questioned for the subject matter they write about, or are mistaken for their own publicist instead of the writer themselves.

Some writers described how their occupation and work are always tied to their gender. They’re women, so they’re women writers, and they write for women, right?

Or how their gender makes them predisposed to subvert certain stereotypes about being a woman.

Others described how they’re always told their work will never make them actual money.

Or that, as women, their work is hugely unexpected or inappropriate.

Many women sounded off that having a feminine sounding name even puts them at a disadvantage for having their work read, and that they’ve even been told to change their pen name.

And a few even shared that being a living, breathing woman in the flesh seemed to distract people or confuse them about their writer occupation.

On Tuesday, the hashtag #WhatWOCWritersHear joined the conversation, with writer L.L. McKinney showing that female writers of color face similar but more intense bias about their work. Either their characters are too racial for the book, or too racial for the publishers, or too similar to another character of color from another book.

Some writers have even been deterred from writing characters of color—because only white characters are relatable, right?

Or writers have been told that they’ve written characters of their own race incorrectly. Or they’re the wrong kind of diverse.

Some writers have even been mistaken for other writers of their same race.

Women writers, particularly women of color, don’t get their just due in writing and publishing, especially considering the BS they encounter. However, it seems the only way to change the narrative and normalize female authors is for women to continue “breaking barriers” and share these stories—as long as it’s not the only thing they’re writing about, of course.

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