Before you put on those rose-coloured glasses…

by rsbakker

Aphorism of the Day: Stupid is as Smart says it is.

So Disciple of the Dog is due to be released soon. I’m almost certain that all those convinced of my sexism will be gratified. It hasn’t escaped my notice that everyone who has commented on this blog seems to be male. I’m sure some will take this as evidence of my sexism as well. Given that I literally believe that males are – in the majority of modern contexts – the ‘weaker’ sex, I remain mystified. Given that I’ve caught myself preferring do deal with women in various professional capacities – such as doctors and lawyers and what not – I’ve come to suspect that I actually have a bias against members of my own sex. No laughing matter that. I just don’t find men as cooperative or reliable.

So what gives?

I have a dirty, working class sense of humour, which has caused me problems in the past. I like swapping crude jokes when I drink. And me and my friends still go to the nudie bar on very special occasions. If this working class culture is hopelessly sexist, then, yes, I do bear its odour. You will use your charge of sexism as a way to conceal what could be a species of class bigotry.

Sex, as one of the primary engines hidden in the ‘darkness that comes before’ conscious thought, remains a primary theme in my work. My male characters are sexually attracted to women – often excessively so. I don’t believe I do anyone any favours by idealizing my characters. Ive been told by a couple of feminists that male sexual attractions is essentially transgressive, and as such, sexist. So I’m a victim of my realism, here.

I don’t believe in quota characterization. Actually, given that we find ourselves in the midst of the Great Gender Reversal, I find the notion, well, preposterous. We’re already debating ways to ‘save our boys.’ In a couple of decades, we’ll be discussing ways to ‘save our men.’

As a result I’m an equal opportunity discriminator: everybody is fucked up in my books. If you happen to be more sensitive to problematic representations of women, then these are bound to stand out for you, and you will argue that the women in my books are especially fucked up. And that thus, I am sexist.

I can appreciate the possibility that I take a ‘masculine sensibility’ to my writing – I actually try to explore this in Disciple of the Dog. From a commercial standpoint, this is apparently disastrous – according to at least one of my editors. Men are apparently forgetting how to read en masse, so I need to adopt more of a female sensibility… Huh?

I’ve been told by a few people now that I have the bad habit of ‘blaming the reader’ when they criticize my work. Since I feel as though I actually take quite a few of those criticisms to heart (I really don’t see many other authors biting bullets out there) and use them to inform and hopefully strengthen what I write subsequently, I can’t help but feel the impression arises from my various attempts to defend myself from this charge.

People have no clue where their intuitions come from, but because they live in a culture that urges them to embrace, rather than examine, every intestinal twinge, they raise towers of invective on what is the mushiest of foundations. We unconsciously game ambiguity to confirm our claims all the bloody time. So if any of the above – masculine sensibility, frank sexuality, weak female characters, working class vulgarity – generate a suspicion of sexism, your subsequent reading will confirm that suspicion, sure as shit. In fact, you might even come to think that everything I write is so obviously sexist, that all my protestations to the contrary will strike you as either disingenuous or the symptom of moral agnosia. You will literally think that you see me more clearly than I see myself.

But how else can I respond, other than to say, ‘Look, you’re totally misreading me’? You – that is, the evil accusing-innocents-of-sexism you – are just plain wrong. Meanwhile, the unconscious gaming of ambiguities is simply a fact of reading. This is why the principle of charity, simply giving the benefit of the doubt, applies as much to reading texts as it does to others. We misinterpret each other all the time, while remaining utterly convinced of our moral and semantic rectitude. I have no doubt that for some, reading Disciple of the Dog will be one of those times.

Just after I finished my coursework for my PhD, a professor of mine told me that I had received an A for her course – news that I found especially exciting since it meant I would be (so I was told) the first student to receive a perfect 4.0 in the program’s history (I used to care about that shit then). After the break, when I went to collect my paper at her office, I was stunned to see the A rubbed out and replaced with an A-. When I asked her why, she said that over the holidays she had come to the realization that I was a sexist – I shit you not! I was bowled over, to say the least. “Why?” I asked, thinking she had heard me telling some off-colour story – or something. So she says that all of her colleagues – male colleagues – had been positively raving about the papers I turned in to them, while the paper I turned into her, though quite good, simply was not rave material. That was when she realized that it had to be because she was a woman: I simply didn’t respect her enough to turn in a rave quality paper.

I know this sounds crazy, but it is absolutely true. As was the response I gave to her: out of all my instructors, only she had refused to give me an extension, and as a result, out of all my instructors, only she received a paper that was written in a rush. She refused to believe me – actually went to so far as to deny I had made that request, even when I gave her the specifics of where and when I made it. I could tell she remembered, but at that point, she needed me to be a sexist.

And this illustrates the danger of all accusations of bigotry, let alone sexism: given circumstances of sufficient enough complexity, discrimination can be read into almost anything at anytime. And once those words come out, it’s so very hard to bottle them back up again.