I’ve always hated the phrase ‘the battle of the sexes’. Not quite one of my pet hates, but close to it. By some quirk of fate I grew up with a total lack of acceptance for the normal stereotypes. I don’t recall my parents ever telling me there were things I couldn’t do based solely on my gender rather than my aptitude. Besides, I never had much of an interest in the more girly dolls, preferring the family Meccano set in its lovely wooden box. If only I still had it now. <sigh>
This week has brought home the gender divide in a number of ways, however. Some good and some bad.
First off, I was the guest speaker at a local Rotary Club in York — there are three to choose from, and the York Vikings is a male-only preserve. I have to confess that I wasn’t aware of this until after I’d agreed to do my talk, and I don’t think it would have made any difference even if I had known. The very fact they had invited me to speak to them said more, to me, than being invited to join their number. And if one or two of them attempted to unsettle me with pre-dinner banter, I’ve spent too many years being heckled as a motoring photographer not to take that kind of thing in my stride. In the end they were a charming audience who laughed in all the right places and asked intelligent questions afterwards. What more could I ask?
Contrast this with my experiences looking to buy a new motorcycle. I thought I’d found the right machine at a main dealership, but when I went to collect my purchase — cadging a lift there on the back of my brother-in-law’s Kawasaki — the salesman insisted on including him in the discussion as if I might not understand the longer words if left to handle the paperwork on my own. As it was, I discovered that the price was 20% higher than I’d been promised, and they had made a serious ‘error’ when it came to the bike’s history. With much regret, I told them to forget it. The bike is already back advertised for sale and no doubt they will tell any new prospective purchasers this is because I was a time waster.
But just being back in that kind of world made me feel like an outsider again. It reminded me very strongly of how my main protagonist, Charlie Fox, would feel every day she turns up for work as a bodyguard, where people tend to look past your shoulder for the person they were expecting. And it also reminded me why I started writing about Charlie in the first place — in part to express the inequality of those stale attitudes. Getting back onto a bike will be very good for both of us, methinks.
At the same time, it’s a shame that I have to describe both Charlie and the main protag of THE BLOOD WHISPERER, Kelly Jacks, as ‘strong females’. If they were male, the ‘strong’ part would be pleonastic. Of course readers would expect them to be strong. And yet if I’m writing about a heroine rather than a hero I still have to make that point. To me they’re just interesting characters put into high-stress situations, which they cope with according to their skills and experiences. If that means they have a certain underlying strength then that’s because I don’t want to see them fold and fail, just as I have no desire to do so myself.
They say you should write what you know.
I do it all the time.
Meanwhile, these words from Felony & Mayhem Press and I thank them heartily for their recommendation.
And finally, this week's Word of the Week is amphibology meaning a sentence or phrase that is grammatically ambiguous, such as "I'm sorry it took me so long to answer the door. I was just playing Tomb Raider in my underpants." (One I heard recently — honest!)