Thursday, June 22, 2006

If a man speaks in the forest and there’s no woman around to hear him, is he still wrong?*

Warning. This post may contain sudden shifts, depending on which way my mood swings go and how long it takes me to write it.

It all started (for me) at Sarah Weinman’s blog. The news that elsewhere in the blogsphere, the ITW – which gives out it’s first awards to thriller writers next week – was being accused of sexism.

The reason? In their first year, only men have been nominated in each of the award categories.

The timing was interesting, because of a recent discussion on Val McDermid’s forum about whether men or women are better crime writers. Now, I reference this for two reasons: Val is – in my opinion – one of the best out there, male or female, and she also references that men traditionally will not read books by women.

I didn’t want to blog on this topic. I’ve done the “do men do it better” discussion before, and admitted that, when it comes to my bookshelves, it looks like they do.

To be honest, I think women are harder on other women. It’s a father-and-son, mother-and-daughter thing – we sometimes have an easier time just letting the other gender “be” but we expect things from those who’ve got the same biological equipment as ourselves. Don’t ask me why that is, but I see that in relationships all the time.

The reason I didn’t want to blog on this was because, initially, I didn’t want to discuss this at all. I wanted to stay out of it. Call me a wuss, but can anyone win this argument?


The nomination lists were decided by a jury. Each category has the names of judges posted on the website, and there are female judges in every category.

The thing is, this is the first year these awards are being given out. The First Year. To accuse the ITW of sexism is rash. Unless you were a fly on the judging room wall and know they willfully excluded women, why would you automatically jump on that pony and trot off?

Maybe – just maybe – the judges really voted for who they thought was best. And, shock of horrors, the men came out on top five times over.

Now, I don’t have the stats and documentation in front of me, but via the comments at Sarah’s blog, I understand there have been times in the past when all women have been nominated for other awards.

Is it naïve of me to say May the best PERSON win?

I ask you women honestly. Do you want a woman’s name to be on the nomination ballot just because the writer has a pair of ovaries? Or do you want to see a ballot that honestly represents what the judges deem to be the best books, in each category, regardless of race, religion, skin colour?

Two years from now, if we’re around the bend from the third ITW Awards, and for the third year running it’s all men, there might be some merit to the accusation.

But there also might be some merit to the idea that men just do it better, and that women need to quit whining about it and get to work to prove they’re as capable as the men!

Seriously, is anything really gained by whining?

I’m in a bit of a bad mood on the whole thing, for other reasons. It’s about how women present themselves. I’m not saying I’m perfect – hell no! But here, the Supreme Court has just ruled in a case that the woman is entitled to support because she can’t work to support herself because of the emotional trauma of having her husband cheat on her.

It’s being hailed as a benchmark ruling, a victory for women…

Fuck me, people! Isn’t the percentage of women who haven’t dealt with a cheating spouse since the dawn of time substantially lower than those who have? I mean, Kevin and I have had our ups and downs, sure, but he’s never cheated on me.

Which makes me a bit of an oddity, judging by a lot of people I know.

Look, I’m not saying there aren’t times it’s warranted. But to make blanket statements about this kind of stuff is scary. And I find it a bit troubling that someone would want to play the emotion card to discount the simple reality that everyone has to deal with shit in their lives and, end of the day, we all have to overcome it.

What next? Girls who don’t have to go to school because they’re traumatized over menstruating? Hell, maybe I should get a complete free pass on all personal responsibility and the government should take care of me because my mother’s bipolar and clearly, growing up with that was stressful. I mean, I am a case file with Children’s Aid, which means I was monitored by the government… Maybe they failed me. Hot damn, my ticket to cashing in.


It’s an aside, yes, but on the marriage and cheating front, do these judges stop to ask what the woman might have done to contribute to her husband’s infidelity? I’m serious. Sure, some men are just dogs and will hump anything that walks by. There are some women who’re that way too, believe it or not.

But I have a lot of guy friends, and I’ve heard the complaints. She put out until we got married. Then she cut me off. That’s a common one. And I have to say that women who use sex for manipulative purposes deserve what they get back on it. For fuck’s sake people, everyone has needs! Marriage isn’t supposed to be society’s answer to emasculation! And don’t even start that I’m exaggerating on this one. I know one woman, who is a complete bitch, who pulls this shit routinely. Cut him off until he proposed. Then again, until he bought the house. Then again, until he agreed to have kids (which from before marriage he’d never wanted).

Am I the only person who wants to grab a woman like that and slap some sense into her? I’d feel the same way if it was a guy. Relationships are about give and take, and it’s about maturity, people. Not a lack of horizontal action until you get what you want.

Talk about selfish, and childish. Grow up!

So, I needed to have a little bit of a rant on this topic. I’m not saying that the results of the ITW Award nominations aren’t interesting. I’m not even saying they aren’t enough to make me raise an eyebrow.

But before I shove some rash judgment down the face of the world that says this is a WPO^ club, I need to see some facts. My instincts are to trust the judges honestly voted for the best books, and that in each category (different judges in each category, btw) the top five books just happened to be written by men.

Would we see the same arguments being made if the top five books had been written by women? I strongly doubt it.

Truthfully, when I saw Sarah’s summary on it, I didn’t feel the need to go read the post that had stirred things up. I’m not even necessarily encouraging you to do that, for a few reasons. One is that, in my opinion, the post is heavy on speculation and short on substantiated facts. The other is that the post’s author has not participated at all in the discussion in the comments section. Now, this is just a personal quirk of mine: If someone posts something highly controversial and then doesn’t interact with the people who raise points, either agreeing or disagreeing, it bugs me. Walk into a room, drop a bomb, and get out before it goes off. I don’t mean that as a personal comment on the author of the post, it’s a general feeling I have about some blogs, which is why I always try to find time to get back to my own posts and respond to comments, at least the day I put the post up. **And there could be a million reasons why the author didn’t participate – dentist’s appointments or whatever – although I did check again this morning.

However, if you’d like to read it, you will find the post HERE. And I’m not trying to sway you on it one way or the other – I believe in people checking out the facts for themselves. But I ended up reading the post when a friend of mine emailed about it, and I have articulated more of my thoughts over there. Feel free – as always – to come back at me on them here.

I don’t expect we’ll all agree on this. But I think that we have to be careful about jumping to conclusions.

And I feel bad that the ITW has had to deal with these accusations year 1. But would we really have preferred the judges stop short, look at the list and say, “Shit! All men! Okay, we have to go back and insert two women here and three women here… Okay, yep, now it’s an even split.”

I think not. Believe me – if I read stories for Spinetingler, I never say “Have to vote for this one because it’s by a guy and I’ve already got five women’s stories picked.”

No fucking way. I don’t even think about the gender. I cut a bit of editing slack if the author is ESL, and that’s it.

Oh, and it’s JT Ellison’s turn over at Killer Year. JT is a fantastic writer, as evidenced here.

Even if she is a woman.

(Ducks and runs…)

And a couple of my friends are nominated for these awards, so I'm particularly choked about the fact that these accusations might be seen as undermining their achievement, like they only got on the list because they're men.

They didn't. They got there because they're fantastic writers and deserve it.

• quote: Jerry Dennis
• ^ With Penis Only


Boy Kim said...

"Sure, some men are just dogs and will hump anything that walks by. There are some women who’re that way too, believe it or not."

I believe it. Even though it's blatantly obvious none of them lives near me.

Bill, the Wildcat said...

Wow... So many issues one can pick from in this entry. I'll stick with the original one. I did take a look at the original entry, because I felt I needed to in order to make a legitimate argument. She points out that some of the nominees did write great novels but that others left her wondering about the intelligence of the jurors. I think if you're going to say something like that, you gotta have the guts to say which books you're referring to; she doesn't. Some might say that would be bad form, but what she's doing now essentially paints every nominee in a bad light, and that's worse.

I also have to wonder, would she have given it a second thought if all the nominees had been women? I do believe in treating men and women equal... that the sex of a person shouldn't make a bit of difference in terms of ability. Heck, I've blogged about it and more than once. What's frustrating is that all too often I hear women complaining about inequality, and once they start saying what they really want... it becomes clear they still want inequality but with women on top. In short, they want to "get even."

And yes, to jump on these guys in the first year? That does seem a bit rash. Give them a chance. If the organization's jury is being sexist, then let them prove it with a track record.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Aw Kim! And here I thought you liked being surrounded by sheep!

Bill, we think alike. I mean, I had a moment's hesitation even getting in on this, because I have nothing against the woman who posted it. But all shortlists are subjective to some extent, and people just need to deal with that. I don't think this helps anything, but rather hurts. Next year, if it's a female dominated list, will it be sincere or backlash? That bugs me.

Steve Allan said...

Ah, I love flame wars. They give me that warm feeling in my tummy.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

This is going to happen with every award ever given out regardless of gender, race, class, nationality...

Somebody's always going to cry foul. Sometimes they're right, sometimes they're wrong. I don't think there's any way to tell, yet. As Bill says above, they need a track record.

Now if men are being consistently chosen over the next five years then I think maybe they have an argument, but until then I think it's a bit premature to go on about it.

Mary R said...

Condensing what I said over at Sarah's:

The ITW's publicity materials, newsletters, and website have a very broad and inclusive definition of what books belong in the thriller genre, featuring books by male and female writers. Their awards nominations don't.

As Sandra has said, we don't have enough data to really know what happened or how the list was selected, so some of the complaining seems a bit shrill. However.... The ITW claims to represent writers from the across the entire thriller genre. If they want to continue doing so, they will have to figure out how to make sure their awards reflect that breadth.

Bill Cameron said...

In the end, a statistical sample of one can't be used to demonstrate a systemic problem. Let's look again in 2011 or 2026 and see what the trend is. Even if it is toward men, it seems that rampant sexism, as you suggest, Sandra, is only one possibility.

Seems like too often folks see something because that's what they're looking for, not because it's what's there.

Good post, Sandra!

Bill, the Wildcat said...

An interesting reply by the "Satanic Influence" himself, J.A. Konrath, was posted to the original entry. He offers some insight into the people who organized the awards.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Steve, happy to contribute to the entertainment!

Stephen, I completely agree - it's premature.

Mary, when I went back to the original post today and checked the comments, there was some information there from Joe Konrath that I think is very pertinent, from an inside perspective, about how few women submitted entries and how there was a discussion about including women on the shortlists just because, but that the judges decided to put who they honestly felt were the best forward and go from there. Check it out - it puts in the balance.

"Seems like too often folks see something because that's what they're looking for, not because it's what's there."

Bill, that sums it up brilliantly. I know that I've had trouble over "being Canadian". But I also know that others haven't. I still got a deal. But nobody ever said, "huh, you're a woman" and snubbed their nose at me. So maybe I don't look for this, and maybe it is there.

Or maybe people are overreacting, and that is what I think on this one.

Thanks all, and Mary I did see your posts at Sarah's. Healthy discussion, I think, is always in order. There are things to think about for sure, but I don't think we had enough from the original post to point fingers. I hope that the chair of ITW speaks out on it.

JT Ellison said...

You know, I'm one of those traitors to my gender who likes to have a man around to take care of me. I enjoy that he works and I stay home. I love the fact that he has the career, and I've beena housewife for several years. It doesn't threaten me, my womanhood, nothing. I like that doors are held open for me, and graciously thank the man who does so.
So when there's this flap about women not being treated equally, I blow it off. Most of the books allegedly put forth for nomination would never qualify in my mind as a thriller.
Edgars go to deep mysteries. Agathas go to cozies. God Forbid Thrillers go to thrillers.
You're doing a great job with this, Sandra. Keep it up!

DesLily said...

Well... if some women want to really get into finding out if they are judging "at all" on male/ female... they can always submit their books under a Male name... who knows? some on that list might have done that and are female..woohoo wouldn't that blow some wind up a dress or two? heh..

I think some jump on a bandwagon about Discrimination because.. like it or not.. it's been done before. That fact that it may not be being done "now" isn't even a factor to them.

btw.. concerning the marriage/ divorce issue.. when i divorced I signed the whole house over to my X... he was the one working for the money and he paid for it. I didn't feel it was right to take it from him. I won't go into how it was trying to survive with nothing more then a HS education and 26 yrs of being a housewife, so no work experience.. or even now.. but I don't regret it. I still feel he worked for it and paid for it. (does that make me NOT a bitch? huh? huh? huh? lol)

angie said...

This is one of those issues that inevitably pisses me off. I don't have a problem with questions being raised re. possible discrimination along gender lines. What drives me nuts is the lack of respect for opposing views and those who voice them.

I read yesterday's post at TLC and chose not to participate because it was obviously devolving into a chest-beating, hair-pulling, mud-slinging, bullshit-o-rama. Absolutely nothing is resolved or clarified in those circumstances. People just get angry & go off to fume in their respective corners.

Do I think it's weird there are no women nominated? Well, yeah. Do I think it's a blantant sexist agenda on the part of ITW? Not necessarily.

The reality is that discrimination on the basis of gender happens all the time. And yeah, there's been a tradition of women writers using their initials instead of their first names to distract from the fact that they are women. It's a perception thing. It's bullshit, but that doesn't mean it isn't real. Bitching & moaning about sexism doesn't change a thing, but not being willing to point out a perceived problem (even if it turns out you were completely wrong) is just as dumb.

My major complaint with yesterday's post was that the author could have done more research before posting. Glad Konrath was willing & able to shed some light on the process & thought behind the nomination process. Not so glad that the blogger didn't take the time to do this herself.

Re. your comments about women witholding sex - stupid man, get a real relationship. Re. women "contributing" to infidelity...whatever. I think it's a load of crap. Um...personal responsibility? If you're that unhappy, then leave. Sorry, but I have no sympathy for men (or women!) who tolerate relationships like this. We have choices. We have free will. If you don't like it, then fucking leave. Stop blaming him or her and take responsibility for your life. It's really not that hard to understand.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Must... resist... ranting...

*gasp* can't hold my breath that long. Judge not, lest ye be judged.

WORDS on the PAGE MATTER. Author photograph does NOT.

WRITERS do it better.


Sandra Ruttan said...

Whew! JT, I agree. I'm happy to stay home...

Angie, I completely agree about "stupid man". Completely. Doesn't excuse the woman, though.

"My major complaint with yesterday's post was that the author could have done more research before posting. Glad Konrath was willing & able to shed some light on the process & thought behind the nomination process. Not so glad that the blogger didn't take the time to do this herself."

That's exactly it. If the post had read, "Am I the only one looking at this, wondering why there aren't any women on the lists?" fine. To make accusations without checking out the facts is reckless and it does damage to our industry.

Serious damage, in my opinion.

Not to mention it makes the writer look irrational and like she's responding emotionally without basing her comments on facts. I said "look" - it's about perception.

There's been sexism, sure, but lets not say because one man in my village is racist, all men who live here are, or because such-and-such a group of people are sexist, all people are. That's discrimination as well.

SW, lol! Trying hard to stay out of the fray, huh?!

M. G. Tarquini said...

no comment here on the ITW thing, but re; the lady in the Supreme Court case?

If I had her address, I'd send her flowers and a bottle of wine. YOU GO, GIRL! Dumb shit can't keep his pecker in his pants, he earned the alimony.

Yeah, call me old fashioned. Call me a's a tough job, but, dammit! Somebody has to do it.

David Terrenoire said...


I don't see anything wrong with the ITW nominations.


Sandra Ruttan said...

David, neither do I!

Mindy, it's the extreme that she'll never be able to take care of herself that bugs me, not the alimony. But I've emailed you anyway...

Andrea at Lochthyme said...

Oh goodness. I think it's a bit early to be shouting bias. This is their first year after all. As for some of the female submissions...I never considered Sue Grafton a thriller writer but maybe that's just me.

I'm all for equality for woman, being a woman myself but sometimes I think people just cry wolf even when there isn't a wolf. Like Sandra said it should be best person for the job, best book written, end of story.

As for ITW maybe the men wrote the best books...sorry ladies but it could happen. As far as I can tell and yes I do read thrillers more men write thrillers than women. Course I'm not sure what their definition of a thriller is, if Sue Grafton is a thriller writer than I guess I have to really widen my definition.

But my belief is they picked the best books in "their opinion". But because it's all men it's considered biased.

I feel sorry for any women nominated next year because they will always wonder is it because they wrote a great book or is it because they are a woman. Do they have to make a best thriller by a male author and best thriller by a female author? Just so it can be "fair"? Or stack the nominees to make it fair even if the best books were written by men?

Is there bias against women out their? Sure is. Is the ITW biased? I don't think so. Let's give them some time. If no women are ever nominated then maybe you can be concerned but the first year? Come on people give them a break.

As for that supreme court ruling...what the heck is up with that? She can't work to support herself because her husband cheated on her??? Excuse me??? Does that go both ways? If the wife cheats the husband gets support? What's next?

Sandra Ruttan said...

AH! I was emailing DesLily earlier and somehow I think I missed responding to her post! I can't imagine making the decision you made, DesLily, or how hard it must have been.

You are, quite simply, an incredible person.

Andrea, were we separated at birth? I think we share a brain...

Amra Pajalic said...

Just read the article about the ruling. I agree with the context, which is she was young, didn't have any education and therefore couldn't leave the marriage. Also the ruling is focussing on the child support she was owed because after the divorce she was getting peanuts.

I sympathise with women of her generation who were taught that being a homemaker and mother were the most important things and therefore they didn't have any skills to support themselves but instead had to stay in a unhappy marriage.

My grandmother and mother have both gone through that. Both were subjected to domestic abuse but had to put up. With my grandmother it was the time she was born in and no jobs for women in Bosnia, and my Mum was a migrant with no viable skills or alternatives.

I don't have any empathy for young women of my generation who try to pull this same shit. Previous generations fought for our right to work, to be self sufficent and independent, so women who don't take advantage of these opportunites and purposely cripple themselves by depending on a man's support, are beneath contempt.

Re the sex in marriage-I agree that both people have to take responsibility for how much sex etc, and that if you're not sexually satisfied you might be attracted to people outside the marriage. But still each person has to take responsibility and articulate their needs and desires. If they are not met, then leave. Nothing excuses infidelity. We are humans with the ability to think through our actions, not animals acting on instinct.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Probably should have scrolled down and read this one first. Now I see, said the blind man!

Sandra Ruttan said...

Amra, thanks for that thoughtful, detailed comment. I firmly believe in child support, have no problem with alimony. I guess it's very hard to take a headline that infers women are weak and fall to bits after some trauma.

Although believe me, plenty of women have faced this. And what happens if their husband died? They had to deal. But the cheating was so traumatic... well, I'm still not sold, completely, but I respect your point about a different generation. My grandparents divorced, so I've seen that from the inside, and he was an abusive SOB. It took real guts to divorce back in those days.

As for infidelity... I don't know that anything excuses it. But I could understand someone, cut off for a long time, getting into a position where they strayed. Kevin used to say I would never do that, and he's almost certainly right, but I still told him it was a mistake to think that way. People are human. You don't know what can lead to that kind of choice. I guess I've realized that it's easier to cross those lines than I used to think, maybe from having friends go through it and starting to see the gray, I don't know.