It’s somewhat embarrassing for me to admit this but I might as well, since it’s something of a matter of public record: for a long time, when I wrote, I did not really write about women.
They were present, certainly–they showed up in my various fics and I always tried to treat them well when they did, but they weren’t particularly central. A lot of this, I think, was just due to what I was writing, which was generally slashfic. I’m sort of peripherally aware of the fact that there’s been a lot written in other places about how female characters are treated in M/M fanfiction, though I haven’t read much of it myself, but regardless of detailed complaints, it’s definitely true that M/M stuff is a genre that lends itself to women being subtly pushed to the side. The stories aren’t about them, after all; they’re about the two male characters and whatever relationship they do or don’t end up having. And that’s fine. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that. But it did mean that, just in practical terms, I didn’t write about women for many years.
Then I started writing original fiction, and something interesting happened: the women appeared. Not here and there, either; they’re all over the place. The first story I ever sold, Crystalline, was a science fictiony piece of lesbian erotica, a kind of erotica that I had barely even dabbled in up to that point. The first anthology sale I ever made was a F/F/M menage, featuring two female characters strong enough to basically push the man into the background. I didn’t intend this. It just kind of… happened.
This was fairly fascinating to me at the time, mostly because I couldn’t quite figure out where it had been all these years. I was still writing M/M and stories with strong male characters. It was just that a hitherto undiscovered side of my creative psyche had begun to assert itself, and with a vengeance.
I’m still not sure exactly where it came from, but I think the fact that it appeared as I began a serious foray into original fiction probably has a lot to do with it. On the previous occasions when I had (somewhat guiltily) thought about the lack of strong women in central positions in my writing, I had decided that it might be related to an inability to relate to the women in a lot of forms of canon, and God knows my old fanfiction isn’t the only place that’s lacking female characters that resonate. But I think it’s less to do with the quality of the characters themselves, and more to do with the fact that they come from me.
They’re mine. They’re a part of whatever further part of me is a woman, and embraces that feminine identity.
I don’t talk about this much, because it can be a confusing and a touchy subject, but I personally don’t buy the idea of a gender binary, and for a long time now I’ve felt that my self-image didn’t fit comfortably on either far end of the spectrum. I would say that my self-image is more male than female, but the truth is that I don’t feel as though I fall squarely in line with either.
I have always responded strongly to male characters in stories. As a small child I would make believe that I was them (Robin Hood was one of my favorites). Certain fictional men have always been able to command my attention and my admiration–I don’t want them so much as I want to be them.
So I look outside myself for the man I want to be. What I think I’ve discovered is that I prefer to look inside myself for the woman I admire, and when I put her in my stories I can love her in a way that, for whatever reason, I couldn’t love those other fictional women.
I have no idea how much of this is actually accurate and I’m not going to end this on some kind of “And that’s how I learned to love myself” thing because that’s frankly bullshit and not even what this is really about. But I do think that writing has helped me to love women in fiction, and to love them more fully and deeply. And I don’t see how that’s anything but good.