Up until recently, I’d been rather naïve on the subject of feminism. I admit this, expecting a slew of negative comments, but hopefully you’ll stick with me and get my thought processes. With the inclusion of my story Dead Shore in the Undead Legacy anthology, and my lead character in that story being a woman, I thought this was the right time to reflect upon personal experience, outlook and how that has shaped my attitude towards the women who appear in my stories.

I come from a pretty traditional family. Back when you only needed one parent to earn an income, that person was, by and large, my Dad. Mam, she reared us kids until we were all at school, then she returned to the world of work. It’s a pattern that many people will find outdated, but one that is doubtless very recognisable to kids born before, let’s say about 1988.

Within my own home, I enjoy the sparring and fun of the battle of the sexes. I like to remark upon things as though I am some male chauvinist from the 1950s, but the reality is, I cook, clean, change nappies and can do everything my partner can do, as well as she can do it. She likes to joke about how useless I am, and how long it takes me to get off my fat, lazy arse and get jobs done; I like to joke about how little she got done around the house while I was out grafting my bollocks off, letting her know how I wish I could lie on the couch all day, cuddling my sons. She loves that one particularly.

I noticed some connections on Twitter, whose profiles announce that they are feminists. I just connected with them because we appeared to tweet about superheroes and stuff like that. The feminist thing irritated me a little, because I quite simply didn’t get it.

And here’s why. I’ve been very fortunate. In every job I’ve ever worked, I have been answerable to women in power. These women had demonstrated the ability to manage, had applied for the roles, had been appointed, and their performance was sufficient that when I met them, they were in managerial roles within the organisation. These women had the respect of their peers and subordinates. Their salary matched that of their male counterparts. Some of them got promoted. There has been total equality in the organisations I have worked in – at the levels within my view, I hasten to add. It would come as no surprise to discover that the top paying roles were male, were I to investigate it further.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that in my lifetime there has been equality, and not supremacy. I don’t want to subjugate and disadvantage a gender, nor would I support any movement that would seek to subjugate and disadvantage me.

Going back to Twitter, it was that particular social networking platform that brought The Bechdel Test to my attention. For those not in the know, here’s a cut from Wikipedia:

What is now known as the Bechdel test was introduced in Alison Bechdel‘s comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. In a 1985 strip titled “The Rule”, an unnamed female character says that she only watches a movie if it satisfies the following requirements:

  1. It has to have at least two women in it,
  2. who talk to each other,
  3. about something besides a man.

Bechdel credited the idea for the test to a friend and karate training partner, Liz Wallace.

Discovering this test made me think back over all of the female characters I have created over the years and I have to say, I gulped. I’m uncertain that any scenes I have written would pass that test.

I have written strong characters into my stories, of that there is no doubt. One needs only look at the entrepreneurial, charitable Charlotte Burton, or the athletic, kick-ass vampire hunter Mary Brigham, from my Dr Blessing stories, for evidence. The problem is, the predicaments they find themselves in are largely due to the (sometimes idiotic, and catastrophic) actions of the men they encounter. It is these women who must pick up the pieces.

Mary Brigham has been one of the most fun characters I have ever written about and I am working on a much greater story where we see her develop from the idealistic young agent we meet in Dr Blessing’s Rapture, Or, The Beast And The Bell-Jar, into a leader and potential saviour of a city.

I made the decision to stay conscious of The Bechdel Test in my writing and began to develop a zombie story where the main protagonist is a young, female business owner, who has followed in her mother’s footsteps as a business owner. Unfortunately I had to put that story on hold as it was developing into a much larger story than was required. I took a more simple idea, and wrote Dead Shore.

Dead Shore sees a young mum, Karen, who is enjoying a seaside stroll with her toddler, when she encounters some teenage boys who are messing about with a washed-up dolphin corpse. A mysterious substance on the creature causes one of the boys to transform into a blood-thirsty maniac and Karen must fight for survival with her toddler Charlie and a teenage boy she doesn’t know.

I enjoyed writing the story with the focus on this very normal, very recognisable woman. Where writing about a cop or a soldier on leave would lead the story into overly familiar territory, the aspect of motherhood and protection of children lent a different dynamic to the story. Karen has to be tough, has to be strong to survive, but she is also being forced into a situation completely against her nature. I also had the added challenge of, while making sure she wasn’t a hysterical, screaming wreck, one of those annoying Mary-Sue characters, who faces no challenges and who just copes perfectly with everything.

Anyway, not quite feminist literature, but, I think, an exciting, very different story and one which may not quite pass The Bechdel Test, but one which shows I’m getting closer.

My books and stories mentioned in this blog can be found here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s