Being a writer is a bit of a bitch (but luckily I am a bit of a bitch). By our nature, we have to be sensitive souls because we need to be able to empathise with people in all walks of life in order to create deep and meaningful characters. And yet, we also need to have skin as thick as Kate Middleton’s make-up because when we’ve laboured over creating those deep and meaningful characters any old sod can go forth and judge the characters and what we have destined them to do. In others words, getting one star reviews on Amazon is a bit shit.*
Obviously, we all have different tastes and what one person might think to be a work of unbridled genius, another might not get at all, which is fair enough. But when someone gives you a one star review because your book contains swear words, sex scenes and violence, it is rather annoying.
This happened to me recently. My book, The Vanity Game, is about a premiership footballer and so there is quite a lot of swearing, nasty sex and drugs in it. What else would you expect? Even ‘never been booked’, crisp-advertising Gary Lineker is a love rat, never mind what people like John Terry get up to. Anyway, I digress…
One particular point the review raised was how, as a female author, I could
bring myself to create such a misogynistic, obnoxious character who commits crimes against women including murder and rape. That’s a legitimate question and one I would like to address.
I do actually consider myself a feminist. I got a first in my module on the subject at university, I shall have you know. It angers me that feminism has become a dirty word, and gender inequality is still such a massive issue today. If you disagree consider that today, I mean specifically this day 14th February 2013, there is a movement happening called One Billion Rising. It aims to raise awareness of violence against women, but what’s dominating the news? Oscar Pistorius (possibly) murdering his girlfriend. Earlier in the week some poor woman killed herself after being aggressively questioned by the defence in a sex abuse case. Every week there’s a story about rape, or a man murdering a women. And it angers me how the advertising, entertainment and fashion industries tell us that if we are not pretty, thin or young enough we are not worthwhile human beings. Feminists try to take action against these things, but the tide of apathy and even hostility to their cause is so strong that it’s hard for the feminist voice to be heard.
Some women, however, seem to willinging parcipate in, and hold up, the
‘system’. A key group are certain footballers wives, otherwise known as WAGS. These women don’t mind that they will be defined as so-and-so’s wife, in fact, they seem to relish this, and they seemingly willingly have the boob jobs and hair and fake tans and the hair extensions. Maybe they are just products of the misogynistic system, but what I think is interesting is how men relate to such women, and does the behavior of such women lead men to have lower opinions of women?
Like, for example, on the Guardian’s Secret Footballer, the mystery footballer once described how he’d heard a case of a woman coming home to find her footballer in bed with another women, but walking out of the bedroom, going downstairs and putting his dinner on, so fearful was she of (presumably) losing the financial benefits of dating or marrying a footballer. Well, this surely makes the cheating footballer assume that he can continue to be unfaithful and it will have no repercussions… eventually I would assume, living in such a world where he can do whatever he wants, his moral compass will became so skewed that concepts like fidelity will mean nothing.
The monster that is modern football fascinates and repulses me at the same time, and that is why I was drawn to writing about a very bad, immoral player. I wasn’t expecting people to sympathise with the character, Beaumont, but to empathise with him, to understand what it’s like to live in that strange world of celebrity where actions have no consequences, and inevitably, in a society like ours where sex is used to sell everything, some of those actions will involve doing anything you want to get sexual gratification.
I don’t think women writers should shy away from depicting male acts of violence against women, it is important that we continue to establish a dialogue about male against female violence because, I believe, we need to understand why this happens in order to prevent it.
The swear words I can’t justify, I just fucking love them.
*Though the Hollywood screenwriter has it tougher than the common garden fiction writer as William C Martell often demonstrates on his brilliant Sex in A Submarine blog