No, not THAT ‘F’ word.
The ‘F’ word that I’m talking about is one that appears in my Facebook and Twitter feeds every single day. It’s a word that polarizes, one that invokes revulsion and sometimes disturbingly violent behavior. It’s a word that makes people uncomfortable. It’s a powerful word. It’s a scary word.
That word is “feminism.”
In a guest post for my blog tour that went live yesterday, I was reading over the article I’d written back in September or so, and stopped when I realized I’d stated that, leading up to the writing of Shadows on Snow, I’d been reading a lot of feminist articles. The truth is, I do that regularly, but admitting so much in public seemed like a guaranteed way to turn off potential readers, which immediately made me ask: Why would I think so?
Answer: For the simple fact that this singular word has such an extreme effect on people.
The book itself isn’t intentionally trying to preach about issues. It’s a story about people, and I don’t think it should matter whether the narrator of the story is male or female. In fact, that was what I found most interesting in writing Shadows on Snow. It didn’t matter that the main character was male or female. You can tell the story of Snow White no matter what gender Snow White happens to be.
That was whole reason I decided to flip fairy tales. I wanted to know if that story would be any different if I did. And while, yes, it was a bit, the key elements of it remain the same: true love, overcoming great evil, saving someone who can’t save themselves. This, for me, embodies the ultimate definition of what it means to be a feminist:
People are the same, regardless of gender, and should be treated as such.
Everyone, man, woman, or undecided, has their own opinions on what the definition of the ‘F’ word is. Some think it’s about hating cis-men. Some think it’s an excuse to be self-righteous. Some use it as ammunition in their arguments about what’s wrong with society. Some use it as a bullseye to hurl threats of physical/sexual violence. Some people say you can’t wear lipstick or get your nails done and still be a feminist because you’re “conforming to gender roles.” Really?
In college, I took a women’s studies class because it was required. Sitting there as a thirty-year-old woman in a class mostly comprised of 18-23 year-olds, it was incredibly disturbing to me that some of these young women, when asked, only thought of angry hippies burning bras in a bonfire when they heard the word. I looked around me, confused and stunned that these California girls, who’d mostly grown up not all that far from Berkeley and San Francisco, still equated that mental picture with the term. And that a man could be a feminist? Well, you might as well have told them men actually ARE from Mars.
If that makes you sad, you’d be joining me in despair. Call me crazy, but I don’t think that’s what the founders of the womens’ rights movement had in mind for their public image when they first set out on the road towards suffrage. True, sometimes it takes loud, scary acts of revolution to make change happen, but mostly it’s a slow, steady crawl. Things like a husband and wife deciding together that he’ll be the one to stay home with the kids because it makes the most financial sense. Things like Captain Marvel getting her own solo movie. Things like a brother seeing his sister experience street harassment for the first time and realizing how deeply, deeply flawed society is. Things like women being able to choose whether they want to be a mother, keep working, or do both.
Things like gender-flipping a centuries old story and realizing that, at its core, it’s really not all that different when the roles are reversed.
That’s feminism. That’s equality.
So maybe Shadows on Snow IS a feminist story. Maybe it’s not. Maybe you should read it for yourself and make that decision. If it makes you think, if it broadens your understanding of humanity even a little, then it served a greater purpose than that of a simple fantasy story. That makes me happy. I’ve had reviewers from both genders tell me how much they enjoyed it, which makes me even happier.
Because, in the end, it’s not about girls or boys, men or women, or male or female.
It’s about people.