Welcome to Feminist Outrage Corner! Not that I need a new thing to rant about, and not that I have much to add to this post from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. The title says (almost) everything: "Male Authors, Thrillers, and Ambiguous Pen Names." Go read that article first, because they cover most of my feelings there. And in the comments. And the linked articles.
I mentioned I recently got into thrillers. I hadn't put this together, but women-written, women-centric thrillers are part of the reason for this. First, because even when they're tropey, they tend to be less sexistly tropey. Second, they tend to be very much about the experience of the characters as human beings. I'm pretty unabashed about this right now; it's not that I don't read books by men, it's that I am skeptical of picking up books by men. They have to clear an extra hurdle to make my reading list, for reasons like this, thriller or no.
Anyway, I read Final Girls recently and didn't like it. I felt like the main character's thoughts and her feelings and her actions were all out of alignment. And I guess you could attribute that to her recovery and the ugly stuff that's dredged up over the course of the book, but it just felt off to me.
So now, when I find out that Riley Sager is a pen name for a dude, I have two feelings. The first one is, yeah, that explains it. This is what a dude thinks a girl is like. She says she feels one way but then acts another. She doesn't even know what she wants. Chicks, you know? With their cupcake businesses.
Second feeling: yes, when women get a little wedge of the thriller market, you know what that corner needs? More guys. And if they won't let you in, sneak in the back. And to anyone who compares this to JK Rowling publishing under her initials, I can only say that there is a huge difference between trying to beat a system that's stacked against you and trying to win more in a system that's stacked for you. There's a huge difference between sitting in the wrong part of the bus if you're white and if you're black. There's a huge difference between wanting to go to an all boys school and an all girls school. Someday there might not be, but right now there is. One is making a little room for yourselves in a space that tries to shut you down; the other is taking a space you already dominate and keeping Them from getting in.
I'm not upset that he wrote from a woman's point of view. I think that's great. If he'd used his own name, I'll admit I'd have been more skeptical before picking the book up, but if it had been good, I would have given him full credit. I don't mind the anecdote in the article where a guy tried on a bra to make sure he was describing the process of getting dressed properly (though the first time you put on a bra is insanely awkward; you have to do it every day for months to get it smooth). That's research; people take trips and look at buildings and eat new foods to describe them properly in books.
It's that they're lying. These aren't pen names for privacy. They're pen names to trick me. And sometimes they work, which, okay. I liked Before I Go to Sleep and didn't realize it was a guy, and that doesn't change my opinion. But I do feel a little lied to. And the more I think about that as being deliberate--as figuring out what I want and then conspiring to give me something else, hoping it will be good enough--the more I'm just mad.
Anyway, thanks, Smart Bitches, for the rant. No, really. I feel like my vision is getting clearer and clearer, and even when that's painful, it's definitely a good thing.