In this flavorwire article titled Let’s Stop Telling Women They Can’t Love Misogynist Art, Ms. Sarah Seltzer makes one statement that really strikes me as a writer and as a woman and a feminist. I could relate to the entire article, but this line stuck in my head. She was speaking of a song here, but it applies to all art really:
“[…] the misogyny it expresses feels real and dynamic to me, and it excites me even as it offends me.”
As an art appreciator, I’ll readily admit that the more trigger warnings a book or a movie has, the more I want to experience it. The more potentially offensive and complicated a piece of art is, the more intense the intellectual experience is for me. Being offended is easy, but understanding the offense — its social and psychological dynamic — and why it offends me, why it makes me feel angry or uncomfortable, is difficult. Most people would rather not deal with the difficult. Our own personal ideology feels challenged when we are exposed to the difficult, and so the anger we express at offensive content and ideas often comes from a place of fear. That fear in many cases is very very real, especially when it comes to violent content. However, ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. Not in the fictional world. Not in the real world. Some of us choose to limit our exposure to such content for various reasons, and there is nothing wrong with that. Some of us choose to glut on it in what might be a feeble attempt to understand it and put our own feelings about it into a context that has some perspective relevant to our own lives, and there is nothing wrong with that either.
Vicariously experiencing the potentially offensive thing in question does not mean we agree with or condone the potentially offensive thing in question.
Look, I write from the scum-bucket misogynistic point of view quite a bit. In viewing and subsequently writing such vile and despicable characters, I acknowledge their existence in the world, and in a way, writing about them allows me to express my own fear, anger, and disgust vicariously through them. Stressful? Yes. Cathartic? Most definitely. I choose to write that type of character for the same reasons that I enjoy them on television, in film, or in the fiction I adore. Does it make me less of a woman to read and appreciate Lolita or to write about a rapist as I did in The Kissing Room? Does it make me less of a feminist to acknowledge instead of ignoring the misogyny or any other potentially offensive topic? No. It does not, and I write just as many vile female characters as male. I write about monsters, and in my opinion, men don’t always have the majority in that market sector.
So yes. Let’s.
Let’s stop telling women that they can’t enjoy and appreciate misogynistic art — any art for that matter. Or high heels. Or lipstick. Or submissiveness. Or flannel. Or BDSM. Or whatever. Women have the right to be whatever kind of woman they want to be. Whatever kind of feminist they want to be, or not. Whatever kind of Person. I’m a
woman writer. I don’t write like a gay man. Yes, I was once told that by a male reader, and I find that very offensive. Some of my fiction is soft and poetic. Some of my fiction is horrifying and aggressive. My being a woman has no bearing on how I write. Or what I choose to write about. Or what I read. Or what I watch on TV. Or what art I like or don’t like. My being a woman is just my gender. It has very little to do with who I am as a person. So don’t box me in or tell me how to be GIRL. It’s the only thing I’ve actually figured out how to do, and I do it my own way.