In Which Blackmoore And I Answer “Women Author” Questions

So, women authors are sometimes asked a series of particular questions that are often sexist at best or misogynist at worst, and so for fun, WHACK! Magazine’s Lela Gwenn took some of those questions and asked them of two dude authors instead.

Those two dude authors being me and Stephen Blackmoore.

The results of that experiment are here.

(For the next iteration of this, I’d love to see Seanan McGuire’s suggestion of asking these questions of male authors who are ignorant of this phenomenon. Or, at the very least, spring these type of questions on male authors who think they’re getting a normal interview about their books — you know, and then suddenly someone’s asking them about how pretty they feel or about pregnancy or children. Like a prank. But socially relevant!)

(Though for the record, people ask me a lot about my toddler, but one assumes that’s because I talk a lot about the teacupped tempest known as “B-Dub.”)

EDIT:

Okay, additional thing:

Let’s crowdsource the worst, most offensive and outright dopiest questions posed to women authors. What other questions do women authors get asked that men never do? Let’s hear some examples. Pop ‘em in the comments below.

83 comments

  • Might want to do an NSFW disclaimer there. Baylor College of Medicine (who provides my internet service here at work) apparently classify WHACK! as pornography.

    Yay, now they think I’m surfing porn at work lolsigh.

    • Well, this site is often noted as NSFW on work networks, and further, my posts are almost universally NSFW, AND to boot the top header notes that the site is NSFW.

      I think we’re all pretty warned.

      – c.

        • oh because clearly he made you come here not like it was your work’s responsibility to block anything it doesn’t want it’s employee’s looking at while working or anything CRAZY like that….

  • smithster, same thing happened to me. I thought, surely that’s miscategorized on this network, let me switch to our other network. Doh! Porn there, too. So I’m guilty on two counts.

    Please pretty please do this to an unsuspecting male author. And get a video. I’d pay to see that.

  • Oh…I SO wish I’d had Stephen’s response to feeling the pressure of having kids when Husband and I got married.

    Inappropriate question: “How does your husband like the ‘research’ for your erotica?”

  • Does your husband mind you writing, the time it takes away from family time?

    Answer: Not normally, because I generally tell him to sod off to the pub so I can get some words in. He *does* mind if I can’t make a guild run on whatever MMO we’re playing at the mo, because they need my DPS to take down the Big Bad Boss. I just laugh while they wipe, and carry on writing

    In other words, this is my job. No one asks if I mind him working….

  • Q: You write strong female characters. What makes strong female characters strong? Who are some of your favorite strong female characters? How do you write strong female characters? Why are strong female characters important?

    A: *headdesk*

    • PLEASE say that to the next person who asks you that question…and contrive to film it somehow so we can have their flabbergasted face on record forever :)

  • Also, not an interview question but someone did once snarkily suggest I must have ‘slept with an editor’ to get a book deal. Weeelll, I would have done, but I don’t think she swings that way.

  • “Why robots? Why not vampires?”

    variant: “Why aren’t you writing YA?”

    The implication being that because my first novel was published before I turned 30, I should have been writing about supernatural elements and not cannibal robots with carbon aerogel muscles and graphene coral skeletons. Because robots aren’t for girls, apparently.

    My other favourite is, “Oh, are you a writer too?” when I’m out with my partner. He’s working on his fifth book; I have two out and am working out the deals for more. I have a literary agent and a film manager. I write foresight scenarios for tech companies. I’ve composed and edited reports commissioned by the provincial government. Yes, I’m a writer too. I don’t expect everybody to know me or the trajectory of my career, but if I’m wearing a panelist badge at an expensive convention, I’m not there to tag along. I probably shouldn’t find it as grating as I do, but the tone of the question is often pretty condescending — like I’m a little girl wearing a “writer” costume for Halloween. I’d be okay answering, “What’s your programming look like this year?” or “What are you looking forward to?” or something more open-ended and interesting. That way I wouldn’t have to unroll my bona fides and we could have an actual human conversation about things we’re interested in or the experience we’re sharing.

    • I’m a caricature artist, and when I was working with a company in a six flags I got asked a lot when the “artist” would be free. What do you think I’m doing here? Playing secretary?

  • Repeating from Twitter: I get a lot of “How do your children inspire your work?” Because, you know, I’m a lady with babies so OF COURSE the childrens inspire me… right? Right?

  • Two questions from Philcon last year, both spoken by men and directed at female panelists:

    “I’ve noticed your male characters seem very flat. Do you have trouble writing men because society conditions you to be afraid of us?”

    “Why do you think women can’t write [hard] sci-fi? Because it’s not ‘real’ enough?”

    The second one almost got a proper spit take. The guy was totally serious, too – when asked to clarify a bit, he said it was because there are no famous female science fiction writers, but a lot of fantasy ones, so there must be something about sci-fi that women can’t process.

  • Okay, Chuck, you asked:

    1) so who is your protagonist’s love interest? what can you tell us about him?
    and (don’t kill me, you asked for OFFENSIVE questions)
    2) when it’s “that time of the month,” do you have trouble writing? is your writing more violent or anti-male?

  • Don’t you think it’s nice that your hobby has turned into something?

    These novels of yours–have they ever been published? (Asked by a fellow panelist at a high school career day, who had heard my professional qualifications during the introduction, and who, as he asked the question, was staring at a copy of my latest hardcover.)

    Seems that you’re a looker. Did you get your book deal because the publisher knew they could put an author photo on the book jacket?

  • “You write a lot of pages a day. Do you still make time for your husband?”

    This has been softened and sharpened, depending on what type of jackass is doing the asking. The worst culminates in, “Do you still manage to keep him satisfied?” Because that’s everyone’s business.

  • For what it’s worth: The Dramatists’ Guild magazine printed a transcript of a panel discussion between a bunch of female playwrights, about their experiences as women writers. The first question was something like “How is your experience being a writer and having children?” and Sarah Ruhl piped up, “It’s so much easier when they’re babies, because they sleep all the time…” and I almost threw up, thinking, sure it’s easy when they’re babies that sleep all the time, and you have a nanny and a housekeeper and tons of commissions and praise. I threw the magazine in the trash immediately.

    I wish someone had said, “It’s great if you dab some ether on their crib sheets, that usually works pretty well until they’re 17 or so.”

    I wonder why I let my Dramatists’ Guild membership lapse? Hmm.

    • thank you Thank You THANK YOU!

      AND I see that female playwrights, like female Literary Novelists, are unspokenly (yes it’s a word. yes. yes it is) UNSPOKENLY relegated to a certain short list of topics: rape, abuse, motherhood, wifehood, relationships, terrible illness, aging, being or becoming a lesbian, rape oh wait got that one…did I miss one? I wrote a play (that was *produced* in two cities) about War Journalists. The most common comment was “A woman wrote this? Huh.”

      I have not joined the Dramatist’s Guild in part b/c I feel it serves to perpetuate this silent oppression.

  • August 15, 2013 at 12:36 PM // Reply

    The best one I’ve received was when we were attending a science panel at a convention. I spoke up about something on medical devices (my day job). Moderator ignored me and said something about unqualified responders. Then a male friend on the panel pointed out to him that I was more expert than anyone else on the panel. Apparently he hadn’t bothered to read the info on me just assumed because I like Dr Who shirts and I’m female that I was a fangirl and not a science person.

  • “So your character runs a brothel. What sort of research did you do, nudge nudge wink wink?” It wasn’t the question, which is not unreasonable, it was the way it was asked. But whether a bloke would get asked this under the same circumstances, I leave you to judge.

  • When I first started writing sword & sorcery novels some 20 years back, I was frequently asked how a woman could write fantasy battle scenes. Because as we all know, MALE fantasy writers can draw from their vast personal experience in melee battles with hordes of orcs.

    During my suburban soccer mom years, people invariably asked if I wrote children’s books. I wouldn’t have minded that, except that they invariably looked surprised to learn that I had something else going on beside the mom thing.

    • When my in-laws found out I was working on writing they both separately assumed I was writing children’s books. It was very surprising. I don’t even have kids. Or, like, a swear-word filter. How the hell could I write children’s books?!

  • Has being a mother changed what you write about?
    Do you hate men?
    What kind of woman writes about violence like this?
    And, to my husband: Aren’t you a little scared to sleep next to her at night?

  • I was at a conference when a guy interrupted a character description to ask if my female protagonist had sex a lot. This was after I got as far as saying that my protagonist was a young woman. He then proceeded to advise me that “If you make her have lots of sex, you could probably sell lots of books.” This was before I ever described my manuscript.

  • Know what’s awful and embarrassing? I didn’t recognize how biased these types of interviews are until I read this reversal piece. Nicely done! Even though now I am angry and sad….Guess I’ll go eat some chocolate and have a baby. Or maybe EAT a baby….

  • Love your answers. It’s worth pointing out, though, that if a woman author answered this way, it’s far less likely to be portrayed as an amusing social experiment, and far more likely to result in the interviewer or potential audience labeling her as hostile.

  • Q: You got divorced because you didn’t have a real job, right?

    A: Actually, I got divorced because my ex-husband liked to try out my research notes with multitudes of other women. One decided to get clingy and kept phoning the house, interrupting my process.

    Interview mysteriously ended right there. Never appeared, either, LOL.

  • Betsy’s question about strong female characters? NAILED IT.

    My contribution, though: Did you have someone help you with the research for your books?

    Technically, it may not be a “girl” question but I’ve never heard a guy asked it (and I have been, more than once). And, the answer I want to give but have not given:

    OF COURSE. I might break a nail if I picked up all those heavy books all by myself!

    Which is doubly amusing considering that my hands look like I work for a living. Which, ironically, I do.

  • Does it count if I just make a blanket statement that any question starting with “As a woman…..” is probably dopey? Interesting overlap in my blog reading, actually, as this week on Belle Jar Blog was a very articulate post entitled “What it’s Like to be a Woman and a Writer” (http://bellejarblog.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/what-its-like-to-be-a-writer-who-is-also-a-woman/). I read the post, and I cringe because it is what women go through, I’m sure (I haven’t yet; I’m “Undiscovered”).

    I also cringe, because I can only imagine the kind of answers I would give somebody, even in a “professional interview”, should I be asked them. I pity that future hypothetical interviewer. Kind of.

    • “If you write about the discrimination and inequality that women face, and don’t immediately follow up with a list of double standards imposed on men, you will be accused of misandry. If you discuss violence against women without adding in that yes, sometimes women can be violent towards men, you will be accused of misrepresenting the facts. If you don’t qualify every discussion about women’s issues with the fact that, yes, men have issues specific to them, then you don’t believe in equality.”

      Yes, just yes. This happens in pretty much every discussion about feminism or women’s rights nowadays that it’s just pathetic. It’s like those people can’t even go for a single minute without everything being about them and their lives. Thanks for sharing that article. It’s really great, if slightly depressing.

  • I’m not a published author, but I do write all the time. So, I guess it classes me as a female writer as such… anyway, I digress.

    When I’m asked by anyone what I write, I tell them sci-fi action thrillers first (because I’m working on it right now)… then I tell them vampire romance and they assume it’s the Twilight shit that’s been hitting the market over the last decade! Come on, people! ‘Dracula’ was out well before that stupid bitch wrote that series of sparkling idiots running around pretending to be vampires… and besides, my vampires would leave them for dust! Literally.

    I also write a bit of erotic romance, and I also get the same rotted questions about ‘getting toey’ because I’m single and might need ‘a little’… how skeevy can ya get??? I mean I write erotic fiction because it’s an idea I had and I wanted to see if it would work out as a story, not see if it turns me on!

    A lot of people don’t understand it when women write what they do; and when we are asked crap questions and we don’t answer them – or give smart-ass answers – they automatically assume we’re PMS or going through ‘the change’…. dammit we’re writers! If you’re gonna ask us stupid questions, you’re gonna get stupid answers. :)

    • Thirded (?). I love vampires, have loved them from the wee age of five and will always love them. I write about them and even if there is romance in my books, it is not freaking Twilight. They don’t sparkle and they sure as hell do drink blood and kill people. They don’t only say they are dangerous, they really are. If I met one of them in a dark alley, I’d run (not that that would help).

      Every time I say I write paranormal romance, and yes, with vampires, someone always asks “like Twilight?” and has this stupid smile on their faces that says “not real books then, huh?”. While I congratulate Mrs Meyer on her success and do not begrudge her this, I am not writing the same stuff.

      And then, when I finally grit out “no, not like $%&§ Twilight”, then they assume I PMS’ing or something. Those people tend to suffer a terrible fate in my books though.

      /rant end

  • Well, let’s see here. Questions about personal anything, questions about process that presume the writer is in some way incapable of performing the process, questions about… well, basically, anything non-professional. Or which presumes that the ability to use the imagination like a surgeon wielding a scalpel and not like tourist flailing a dull machete with rust holes in the blade is a rare and weird talent. As many a pathologist knows, “invisible” doesn’t mean “not there”. Many of the writer’s tools are invisible. Most of the awful questions presume that just because I’m a girl, my invisible tools are actually non-existent.

    Halfway through this list I was daydreaming about being on a panel, being asked a stupid question along the lines of “Do you practice your scenes with live people?”, inviting the person onstage, offering to practice on them, and then making them bleed until they admitted their stupidity. But that probably wouldn’t fly. Mostly because I can’t do magic and explode people, but my characters can.

    So:Q: “Your kid is so creative and imaginative! Have you ever written any of your kid’s stories?”
    A: You really think I’m so dumb I’d plagiarize from my own family members?! No. She writes her stories in notebooks, but they’re still HERS and not MINE.

  • This is such a brilliant idea, just like the gendered book cover experiment. I’m a woman who writes/draws comics, and I think some of my best questions beyond “Where’s your boyfriend, is this his stuff?” have ALL started with “As a woman in comics, do you find …” because I’m not a comic book writer, I’m a FEMALE comic book writer. ;)

  • I’m 22 and female. I study literature and writing and have currently published about a dozen short stories and won some prizes. People, guys, namely, mostly tell me that they like my stories because I write very much like a man. „I could’ve sworn a guy wrote this!“ Apparently that’s a compliment.

    Another question I get a lot: „As a girl (mostly I’m called a girl despite being 22), why do you write so much about violence?“ And: „Why do you write so much about men?“

    • As an editor, how many times do I have to replace “young girl” with “young woman” in some (usually male) writer’s text. Oi. ‘Cuz they’re writing about undergraduates, not six-year-olds.

  • Are you going to quit writing when you have a baby? (Note the “when” not “if.”)

    Also, and this is most often said amongst friends, not as a professional review question: It’s so nice that you have your husband to support you while you write!

    Ironically, this is something I’ve heard at least three times in the last year since my husband quit his job and I became the sole breadwinner for our family, supporting us with my writing.

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