Women, relax! Your status as ‘not a man’ is secure!

Since the beginning of time, women have not been men. It’s a fundamental point of our species, really, in the same way that men aren’t women. However, unlike the fact that men aren’t women, the idea that women aren’t men is something that a lot of people are still very keen on focussing on.

Take Wikipedia, for example. They’ve recently started mass‐migrating the names of American women novelists out of the category ‘American Novelists’. It’s all right though ‐ apparently ‐ because they’ve now got their own category ‐ ‘American Women Novelists’.

This annoyed quite a few women, who, for some unimaginable reason, didn’t want to be defined by the fact that they were not a man. I consider myself to be a pretty well adjusted ‘Not a Tomato’, and so I cannot imagine why these not‐men might consider it offensive to have to constantly be described and categorised in relation to what they are not. Hell, we’re all ‘Not Koalas’ here. Can’t we just get along?

Of course, what the above paragraph meant to say was, yes, this is absolutely ridiculous. Wikipedia has responded to the furore that has been created amongst these ‘novelists who aren’t toasters’. It seems as though it has recently created the page ‘American Men Novelists’ and begun migrating some of pages across (note: I’m assuming that this is a newly created category, as all the articles on the gender segregation topic reference the fact that there is no ‘American Men Novelists’ category). The other thing Wikipedia has done is to reconsider the idea, and is currently discussing the idea of putting all the pages in the ‘American Women Novelists’ category back into the main category.

Whether or not Wikipedia’s decision sticks is really beside the point. What it highlights is a general attitude that certain occupations are roles for men, and that a women doing any of these is therefore somehow an anomaly. So if a man writes a book, fair enough, that’s what men do. If a woman writes a book, it’s worthy of note that she’s a woman (sorry; not a man) because…erm…well…because women aren’t natural, or something.

We might as well just go the whole hog and introduce a rule that says every time a woman tells a man that they have written a novel, or are going to write a novel, he must pat them on the head and say ‘Aww, good for you’.

I had intended to write a more in-depth post on why ‘Category: humans/Sub‐Category: Men/ Sub‐Category: Humans Who Aren’t Men ’ shouldn’t be treated like anomalies, but quite frankly it’s baffling that it should even need to be spelled out.


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6 thoughts on “Women, relax! Your status as ‘not a man’ is secure!

  1. If those offended are the same non-men who like to make a big deal out of “women’s firsts” and such, then they have, in my view, slightly diminished their right to complain. You can’t have it both ways, ladies — do you want it to be treated as special that a specific subset of human accomplished this thing, or not?
    Not saying this Wikipedia thing isn’t ridiculous. Just saying that there’s plenty of ridiculousness to go around.

    1. It’s certainly something everyone should sit down and discuss at some point; you can’t be singled out as special and then complain when people single you out.

      I read an article in a women’s magazine once (don’t ask) that was talking about feminism and ways in which men treating women on dates were actually sexist, but the final point was ‘But it’s OK for him to pay though, that’s just polite.’ As you say, you can’t have it both ways.

      Hmmm, think I might have to do a follow up post to this one, as now I want to look at the ways being gender neutral can be a good thing for novelists… 😀

  2. You know how you have this great reply, and then it gets lost? Yeah, that. Sometimes that makes me say, “oh well” and skip the comment, but I feel like this issue is important, so I will do my best to replicate.

    “You can’t have it both ways” doesn’t necessarily apply here, I don’t think.

    In standard professions, a gender (or race/ethnic/sexual orientation) distinction shouldn’t be necessary. When the separation is inserted arbitrarily, we are giving a clear message that this also means not equal or more often “not as good” and when the separated group does a great job it is considered quite an accomplishment (to do “as well as” a man/white/straight). To me, it is obvious that Wikipedia erred (or whomever is to credit in a crowd-sourced site), but I think it is because they missed a distinction.

    We (in the U.S.) have awards and prizes for women and for those of various ethnic backgrounds. Why? Because we have a history of denying them in favor of white males. (Or just males, or just whites, you might grasp my point.) So separate awards were created in an effort to expand our recognition of ALL the talent we have in this country. A few years ago, I have a friend who complained that she didn’t understand why whites couldn’t have their own award show like Latinos (such as the American Latino Media Awards – ALMA). I told her, “we do – they’re called the Oscars and the Grammys”. One day we might feel these separate award ceremonies are ridiculous.

    I can sympathize with the possible motivation behind the Wikipedia page – trying to highlight a group’s contributions (although, I have no idea whatsoever about the motivations – to be honest, I only know what you have written here and a random tweet from elsewhere), I’d just rather we move towards a gender/race homogeneous categorization such as using genre instead. As in anything, our product should define our professional successes, not our physical identification.

    1. “One day we might feel these separate award ceremonies are ridiculous.” — I’m there. Where’s the fun in winning an award where all the [insert group here] got weeded out first? That’s not saying you’re just as good, it’s counterproductive condescension. I would also not consider ALMA and its ilk equal to the Oscars/Grammys, in that the former was created w/ deliberate exclusivity in mind, whereas the latter, while there may be a level of bias, does allow for non-white winners as well.

      If a group is feeling marginalized, further separation isn’t going to remedy that. They would do better to push for inclusion, not go off and start their own category.

  3. Having it one way but not another doesn’t really apply here. While I don’t know Wikipedia’s motivations in this action (and they could have been perfectly innocent; perhaps they were creating two categories, and simply started with women novelists first?), it highlights the problem.

    I do agree that where you have awards targeted at specific groups, it does tend to do more to marginalize than not to. Half the problem is that this kind of marginalisation is meant to be empowering for unrepresented groups, yet if the ‘standard value’ groups acted in the same way, it would seem to be a hideous act of the kind of repression that sparks the need for such marginalisation to begin with. Can you imagine the horror and disgust that would follow a ‘Straight Pride’ demonstration? It seems that you can only be proud of an aspect of yourself if your in the minority. Which is why winning a women only competition will always surely feel like a hollow victory in some respects because, as Danielle says, half the competition has been weeded out?

    I think sometimes the subject matter of a story will make it so that the gender of the author does become important, but 99 per cent of the time, it’s irrelevant. Then again, why should women not be proud to be women, and men proud to be men? The whole thing is such a mess. The world needs to have a meeting, and work out where the lines are.

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