Since I first started saying words on the Internet, over 20 years ago (so weird), one of the things I’ve heard over and over again is some version of women write about relationships, but men write about ideas. It made me angry then, and it still makes me angry now, even if I get that it’s kind of absurd. But, as I’ve written more and more about pop-culture, what I really find myself wondering the most often is, what the hell’s the difference?
Because stories are about the relationships people have: to each other, to power, to technology; to the state, to money, to hope, to loss; to their children, their parents, to a spouse; to neighbors, to jobs; to loneliness; and, of course, to the stories themselves.
Since the evening I met one of my more recent friends, I’ve been sort of vaguely promising to write her a blog entry about something we both know and talk about a lot: that both being a fan and being someone who writes about pop-culture can be complete a minefields for girls, whether they are 16 or 46.
As women, she and I often have a lot to prove. Namely, that our lives aren’t some big-word version of drooling over Tiger Beat; that we’re not starfuckers; and that our affection for our fannish interests is complex and mature, as if there is some terrible sin in being a twelve-year-old about some things at some times.
The boys we know in the many arms of this business don’t tend to face those particular conundrums and are not expected to self-monitor in the same way, and so there’s a game we play, early and often, called “What would people think of so-and-so if he were a girl?”
As a rule, we don’t answer those questions once we pose them. It’s too unpleasant. And besides, we both already know.
But, yet, we also know that Stephen King once told us that the best friends we’ll ever have are the ones we had when were were twelve. He’s not wrong, I don’t think; there was an absolute shimmering perfection to the relationship I had with my best friend at that age. So isn’t there some good in being a certain sort of giddy?
Isn’t it sort of absurd that in writing about pop-culture, which is something structured through the lens of commercialized teen desire even when it is not marketed to or as about teens, that one of the biggest insults and risks to the women who write about these sorts of topics with any ambition is that of being dismissed as a girl-child of that particular age?
Sadly, even as I am writing about this topic here, I am not sure I truly know how to do so comprehensively. It feels too nervous-making, too forbidden. As if there is some terrible fate in confessing that yes, I am a woman who writes about relationships, because that is what pop-culture is: stories, their construction, and how we desire entrance into them, whether it’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, the train to Hogwarts, a fight to the death amongst children, or a daydream about what it’s like to be a a celebrity or, at least, be seen by one.
They’re all common enough thoughts, but to say them aloud forces acknowledgements that are largely uncomfortable all the way around. When we write about pop-culture we expose desire, wear at privacy, and betray loneliness, in ourselves and others. It’s like when Wendy Kroy in The Last Seduction says “a woman loses 50 percent of her authority when people find out who she’s sleeping with.”
When you’re a woman who writes about pop-culture, about what turns your emotional, intellectual and aesthetic crank, you’re revealing a lot about who you are, what you like, and what you don’t, necessarily, have. The assumptions, because there are always assumptions (as vicious, vicious Wendy Kroy makes clear) tend to flow from there.
Being a woman in the world of entertainment and pop-culture media — or just in the world of fans who have loud opinions and big readerships — can all too easily mean that anything you say positions you as a complainer or a whore, too affectionate and too greedy. It is always different for girls here. When we love things, it is suspect; in the construction of stories the female magician is a witch (or a bitch), while the male one is Chosen; he may pay a price for those rewards, and a steep one, but at least there is an exchange. I mean, you have read Dune, haven’t you? Or Harry Potter?
But at the end of the day, whether it’s too personally revelatory, too suspect, too much about relationship and desire, or too bound up with how people interpret my body, my face and my motives, these are the stories I want to be telling: about how we love fiction, about how we love things we choose to see as truth, and about how we love them both in public and in private — not just through desire, sexuality and fondness, but also through pattern recognition, remembrance, curiosity and, the greatest gift of all storytellers, lies.