Strike a Nerve

Writing Critiques: Striking a Sexist Nerve

I recently tried out a new writer’s group where I received excellent constructive feedback on the first chapter of my next novel, Alien Sensation, fifth book of the Other Worldly series. Unfortunately, I also struck a nerve with one male critic who wanted to replace my female protagonist’s discourse on the First Amendment of our Constitution with a verse from his Christian bible.

My writing struck a nerve, and his unmitigated gall got on my last nerve. It was as if I had walked right into any number of Rowan Layne’s confrontations or discussions in the pages of my last four Other Worldly novels, wherein a hapless human is blithely unaware and unconcerned with his own duplicity.

Women my age have been dealing far too long with men who want to rewrite who we are to fit their image of femininity and the universe, and to relieve themselves of discomfort over realities they have apparently never been able to face.

Funny how this guy didn’t like Rowan Layne standing up to a frothing-at-the mouth misogynist religious fanatic and pointing out how the US is a secular nation and has been since the ratification of the Bill of Rights.

“Do we really need this?” The critic commented in the margins, wanting me to remove an entire paragraph wherein a strong female pushes back against those who would attempt to silence her.

Yes, I need that paragraph, and apparently the critic does too. Because he wanted to replace Rowan’s reaction with a bible verse about “judge not lest you be judged.”

The hubris of the clueless is gobsmacking.

How ironic that this was the opening scene of a novel series that routinely touches on the sociopolitical and sociopathic issue of men trying to control women, aiming to police what they say and who they associate with.

How dare I write books with a mature, accomplished female protagonist who doesn’t cotton to sexist religious hypocrisy? How dare I comprise scenes wherein women discuss having sex, swear, and have the nerve to talk back to bullies?

How telling it was that this guy crossed out the words damn and outspoken. He even questioned why Rowan Layne has such a high alien DNA percentage, as if I was attributing a high IQ to—gasp!—a woman.

Here I am, drafting the fifth book in a series, and this (younger) dude in a writing group is trying to control the very premise of my story and decisions I made years ago about who the protagonist is, and what she stands for. It’d be comical if it weren’t so confounding.

How striking the arrogance of those who see themselves as arbiters of what everyone else should write. How uncanny the parallels to those who feel compelled to shove their concept of religion down everyone else’s gullet.

Luckily, I know my protagonist well enough to realize she would never quote a bible verse to a crazed zealot who self-servingly interprets the world. Yet, explaining to this male critic how Rowan would see this as a waste of time and energy fell on oblivious ears.

He missed the point of my novels just as myopically as he missed the import of my reply. It went right over his complacent head. Bless his heart.

All I can do is shake my head, and keep on writing. Ultimately, this man is not and never was my target audience. But he and those of his ilk are frequently a target of Rowan Layne’s ire.

At my age, I have come to realize mansplaining will never end. Especially when a guy who wants you to quote a bible verse tries to tell you how bad the atrocities of the Salem Witch Trials really were, without a hint of self-irony. As if I wasn’t capable of researching and comprehending that puritanical misogynist nightmare to draft a scene for my fifth novel.

If someone doesn’t have respect for another gender’s abilities, whether based on their so-called religious faith or easily threatened thin-skinned sensibilities, they likely won’t respect me as a writer who knows what she’s doing and is well-versed in her chosen topics.

Topics that will inevitably make some folks uncomfortable. So much so that they actually attempt to change what I write, and how I write it. But they’re inserting themselves as a referee far too late in this game of wills.

As a former Department of Defense lawyer, I once dealt with more than my share of know-it-all misogynists; religious tyrants ignoring separation of church and state in their fervor for god and country and gun exaltation; and males who held themselves and their abilities in higher regard than that of the female species. The kind of men who tell you to smile more, and that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. The kind of men who do far worse than that to derail careers of women.

So you want me to remove that paragraph from my novel wherein Rowan Layne’s passionate, erudite voice makes you squirm? To use a Marine Corps phrase, How’s it feel to want?

And because I had to repeat myself to this man as to why I would not replace Rowan’s words with his bible verse, I’ll just reiterate right here that no means no. As in hell no.

Though I may have struck a nerve, it is not the role of one engaged in a writing critique to strike out words and paragraphs they deem contrary to their personal beliefs.

I’m off to strike more keys on my laptop…and strike a few more sexist, sanctimonious nerves.


2 thoughts on “Writing Critiques: Striking a Sexist Nerve”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *