Some Thoughts on Sexual Harassment

As kidlit undergoes its sexual harassment reckoning, I’m seeing some people (mostly hetero men) confused about what’s going on. Frustrated they might be asked to change their behaviour. And uncertain why this whole thing is such a big deal in the first place.

While I’m not one of the victims in this instance, I’m no stranger to sexual harassment outside the industry.

And I have thoughts.

If you’ve never been sexually harassed, it’s possible you don’t understand how dehumanizing it feels. Especially in a professional setting. To be told through words or actions that the person you’re interacting with doesn’t see you as an equal, or even a person, but as a collection of body parts that they would like to do things to.

And forget calling them out on it.

By their nature, the harassing comments/actions make you feel insignificant and unworthy, robbing you of the power to question the person doing them – especially if there’s already a power differential in your relationship. Most women are conditioned to avoid conflict, and it’s even worse in a professional setting, when being branded a troublemaker or “difficult to work with” could effectively end your career.

Plus there’s the fact that most of the behaviour being called out isn’t illegal. You can’t press charges because someone told you you’re sexy, no matter how bad it made you feel. But as Shannon Hale said on Twitter last week:

And while this sentiment is reassuring to many, some people are finding it terrifying. This week a man tweeted that he’s “hesitating to give direct compliments to a woman as well as not hugging anymore in a business relationship…. ” for fear of being accused of sexual harassment and having his career ruined.

So…basically he’s stopped sexually harassing women now? Yay! (Or as I actually tweeted in response:

he’s complaining he has to treat women like he (presumably) treats men. Boo frickin’ hoo.)

Because this is what it all comes down to. Wanting to be treated as equals. Not put up on pedestals, or thought of as sex symbols, or regarded as somehow inferior, but seen as people first.

So, if you’re a (for instance) hetero man wondering if your behaviour could be considered sexual harassment, ask yourself, “Would I say or do this to a man?” If the answer’s no, then it’s probably sexual harassment. (Feel free to replace “hetero man” and “man” with the gender and orientation of your choice here.)

And while we’re all taking a look at our behaviour, maybe spare some time to consider other forms of harassment as well: treating someone differently because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability, is just as harassing and dehumanizing.

And we can do better.



Post Cancelled on Account of Teh Cute

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you already know we have a new addition to our family, an adorable 11-week-old Keeshond puppy named Neesa (yes, after the character from the 80’s Ewoks cartoon).

Taking care of a puppy is a lot like having a newborn, but with more time spent shivering in the backyard, waiting for her to do her business. Needless to say, I’m working with not enough sleep or time this week to compose a coherent post.

Making the Best of a Bad Situation

Last week, I gave up on my NaNo manuscript (a YA Contemporary). Despite trying a few iterations of the basic plot, and tweaking the main character more than once, I just couldn’t get the manuscript to work.

But, I’d put so many hours into planning and writing, and I didn’t want to waste them.

Not only that, but, while I had some problems with my MC (including not finding her interesting enough on her own, and really not being able to nail down her voice), I *did* like the rest of my cast of characters.

So I’ve decided to try something I never have before: I’m taking the characters from my NaNo book and giving them a new story premise, including upgrading a side character (with some adjustments) into my new MC.

And I didn’t just pull the idea out of thin air. It’s been percolating for almost a year in my head, just waiting for me to figure out a cast of characters and formulate a more precise plot outline.

And now I think I have it.

It’s a little bit nerve-wracking, though. When it comes to ideas, I’m a bit of a hoarder. Usually if a story isn’t working, I won’t even consider recycling the characters, because I might find a way to fix the story one day, and then I won’t be able to write it, because those characters won’t be available. (It’s kind of like the way I hold onto craft supplies, because I know as soon as I throw out that scrap of ribbon, I’ll have a project where I need a two-inch piece of red fabric it would have been perfect for.)

But this time it feels like the right choice.

For one thing, the old manuscript was just too broken. I can’t imagine finding a way to fix all of its problems. And for another, my new manuscript has already found its voice. I’m already so far inside my new MC’s head, I don’t think I could relegate him to back to side character status if I wanted to.

I’m only three chapters in, but so far, I’m loving this story.

Now to try and find the time to write it.

Reading and Writing

As I mentioned last week, I recently started listening to audiobooks. While they have their ups and downs, I can’t deny they’ve helped me “read” a lot more (I’m on my 8th book this month).

And already I’ve noticed the effect on my writing.

Listening to 3 very different YA Contemporaries in 3 days lit my brain on fire (in a good way). Maybe it’s because I was listening, rather than reading (I find I can analyze it better because I get less wrapped up in the story when I’m not seeing the words). Or maybe it was just the quantity.

Either way, it helped me confirm something I’d already suspected: my current YA, the one I wrote for NaNo, is not working.

It wasn’t exactly a surprise. I’ve been dreading working on it. Had to drag myself to sit down and revise. And been really confused about which (if any) revisions were actually improving the story.

The truth is, none of them were.

After reading so much so fast, it became obvious: my plot didn’t work, my voice was only okay, and my MC…well, she’s not meant to be a main character.

It was a disappointing realization, but also, kind of a relief. A relief from the frustration of pouring time and energy into something that, deep down, I knew wasn’t working.

Even better? All this “reading” has sparked an idea on what to do next.

But I’ll write more on that next week.

To keep myself accountable, I’m going to post my reading stats at the end of each of month. Here’s my current list (I’m mostly keeping track of the novels I read on my own, but I’ve also read a slew of picture books and some middle grade and chapter books with my kids).

January Totals:

  • YA Contemporary (4)
  • YA Fantasy (3)
  • YA Alternate History (1)

I’m trying to keep my selections recent (everything I’ve read so far has come out in 2017), and from a diverse range of authors – although audiobook options are a bit limited, so I’m doing my best with what’s available.

Feel free to post your own reading stats in the comments, if you want to join me in my reading frenzy.