I now write my experiences. The female experience. How when I take public transportation men don’t take no for an answer when asking me to ‘get freaky with them’ and have followed me, or punched the side of the train behind my head. How I can’t walk outside because that’s ‘male space’ and if a man talks to me and I don’t respond, it’s a violation of their domain and they get angry, scream, threaten. How so many of us have been violated in some way or another by men. (So, two things here. I have had two serious stalkers in my life, both ended up in jail for seriously hurting and in one case killing other people. When life as a female comes up in social groups I often say I haven’t met a woman who hasn’t had a stalker. And guess what? Everyone then comments on theirs from the past. I still haven’t met a woman who hasn’t had a stalker. The other thing is the percentage of women that are molested. Last time I followed the stalker question up with this one, every woman also raised their hand. It’s harrowing, but none of us weren’t in some way violated.)
It’s not easy to identify as female, and there’s a reason I’m saying ‘identify as’ rather than ‘am’. And it goes to the abuse. So much abuse. To be female is to not belong except as an object. It is to fight every day just to stand. To feel like you need to apologize for everything, every thought, that you have to step off the sidewalk to a curb when a man is walking down the middle if you don’t want to get run into. To not matter. This was drilled into me. My brother was a man and mattered, I did not. A common poem repeated in my house was, “A Woman a Dog and a Walnut Tree, the more you beat them the better they be.”
Of course I didn’t want to be female or a girl or anything like that, but I knew I wasn’t a boy and couldn’t be a man. I denied my gender and sexuality for a long time, and feel I’m still in the process of claiming it.
Writing female is hard because there is this history of female voices not being anything but chatter. Background noise. The braying of a mule or barking of a dog. And this, I think, is the most horrifying thing of all and is certainly a horror motif- to be screaming as you’re attacked but having no sound come out. No one to hear you despite being in a crowd.
And there aren’t spaces on the Table of Contents for you either. Because editors raised the same way as I, on male stories, say ‘I judge the story, not the writer’ but arne’t seeing the limitations in their view when they read. They aren’t see the limitations in their idea of a ‘good story.’
And this is why, as hard as it is, I write horror. I write female. I’m balancing out the use of male characters now, but I try to be cognizant of their use, the maleness, and why I am writing them in. It’s time to get the word out that female leads, female writers, that what they have to say in the canon matters. We do that by writing it. By not fitting in anymore, but standing up and out despite the new horrors that come from this simple act of defiance. I’m tired of being a man’s shadow. I am my own person, and my own writer. It may greatly limit my chances at publication, but when I do get a story published I no longer feel I’m part of the problem or ‘passing’ as a female who can write as well as a male. I’m a woman who can write well.
My name is Victorya Chase. I identify as female. And I am a writer.
(Tomorrow – Part IV – What can we do?)