Stephen King said: “If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing…) someone will try to make you feel lousy about it.” With women, if you write or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, a lot of people will try to make you feel lousy about yourself.
I know a few women who had to stop writing because of this: because it exacerbated their depression or anxiety, because they could no longer get out of bed in the morning, because they had crying jags every day, because they were contemplating or attempting suicide, because constantly stressing about how they looked and acted was paralysing them, because they were throwing up every day. I know women paying for assistants, which puts a real financial burden on them, purely in order to make sure hate mail doesn’t reach them and destroy their peace. It’s absurd to pretend that getting letters detailing what a worthless person you are doesn’t exacerbate anxiety and depression. And it’s absurd to pretend this doesn’t come from an environment of internalised, sublimated, or simple overt misogyny. I have seen male authors, people who work in publishing, and readers make fun of women who talk about such feelings (yes, including suicide attempts). These women feel they had to give up creating what they love, in order to make their lives livable. I know many more who are persisting, but whose health and happiness and creative energy is being severely compromised. Neither I nor anyone else will ever know how many female creators will never share what they’ve made with the world, because they have been scared off.
I have heard often that it’s wrong for lady creators to talk about sexism or how sexism negatively affects their lives, and that we’re making it up. I don’t know why this always shocks me so much: this is very familiar stuff at its core. “Those crazy wimmins, complaining about their lady treatment when they actually get treated SO well” is something ladies get a lot from anti-women’s-rights conservatives. I guess that’s why it’s surprising to hear it from other quarters, sometimes from other women, but at least it makes things very clear: people actually concerned about sexism do not go around saying that women should shut their dumb faces about it.
–Sarah Rees Brennan on the female author tax.
If I could quote Brennan’s entire post I would. I’ve quoted this part because, ironically, it’s what made me get into publishing in the first place. I went through a period where I was getting a bunch of hatemail from various sources over things I’d created in my pre-pro life. If you’ve never been the target of this sort of thing, let me tell you; it fucks you up. Big time. I had it relatively “mildly”, for a given value of “mildly”, and yet it caused me so much stress that, in a period of about a week, I nearly lost my job, nearly lost my marriage, and did lose about five kilos.1 In a week.
It was not a good week.
The week ended when I thought, fuckit. If I’m going to get shat on, I might as well get shat on for something I’m being paid to do, and this is why I’m now a professionally published author.
Go figure, I guess.
- Again, if you’ve never experienced this: you can’t eat. You either can’t eat, or you can eat, but nothing stays down. Your stomach just roils all the time, hyped up in fight-or-flight. Remember, this was caused by, in essence, people being mean to me on the internet, which is why it’s taken me years to talk about it. You aren’t supposed to talk about it. It’s supposed to be “just the internet”. What were these people going to actually do, anyway? We’re not talking death threats here. Just constant gossiping and anonhate. And hadn’t I deserved it? Hadn’t I started it by Being Female And Having An Opinion On The Internet? How dare I. [↩]