My Students point out Casual Sexism

The book shall remain nameless – the copyright on it is after all 2004, and I have to hope that the author has long moved on…

“Is your hero shot at? … Does your heroine get a makeover?”

Really? A makeover? Not that there’s anything wrong with a makeover – but is it equal to the danger and suspense of being shot at? Of course not, and it’s obvious to anyone who thinks even for a second past our programming of expected behaviours. That such casual assumptions are obliquely encouraged in literature cages both men and women.

Of course, we could adjust the text…

“Is your heroine shot at? … Does your hero get a makeover?”

And why not? Heroes should get makeovers more often. And women should have other motivations than cosmetics. But this is just one more transgression. One more assumption. Damaging in part because of its inevitability, it’s invisibility.

The author has done multiple workshops, and been through editors and proofers, and still the words were printed in black and white like a slap in the face. Or, more pointedly, an invisible knife in the back.

So there was only one way the writing students wanted to deal with this outrage. Blot it from the copybooks, and let the ink stand as a reminder to stay on guard and not passively accept the unwritten written rules of behaviour that society has created to make the world a less tolerant place.

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