Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Travel Nuggets

I spent the day far above Mother Earth today, flying the friendly skies with United. I usually hate flying, but today was smooth sailing (meaning, I didn't have to spend the night in the airport due to cancelled flights. It's always a bonus when I get to skip that part of my trip. Although the last time I slept over at O'Hare International, I did get to see Danny Glover. It made me feel better to realize he was stranded as well. Even the rich and famous can't force magic when it comes to air travel!)

Anyhoodles, at one point in the flight, the pilot got on his speaker and said, "If everyone will look out the left side of the plane, you're probably wondering what that bright light is." It was night, so the bright light stood out. I'm thinking maybe it's some natural wonder. Or a forest fire. Or a bunch of fairies doing a mating dance.

Um, sorry. Try again.

It was Dow Pharmecutical doing its annual 3-day burnoff of industrial waste.

Is that a reassuring thought or what? Breathe deep, ladies and gentlemen, and you might be able to star in your real life version of the X-Men.

For the record, if starring in my own X-Men meant that Hugh Jackman as Wolverine would be showing me the ropes of mutant life, I'd be SO down with inhaling that industrial waste three day burnoff.

While I was contemplating exactly how distrubing the 3 day burnoff was, I took a gander around me. I was sitting in first class, courtest of my well-traveled dh's free upgrades. There were twenty-four seats in first class. Guess how many women?


Me, up there by virtue of my dh's free upgrades.
A business woman up there on her own firepower.
And a family with a teenage daughter.

Of the twenty-four seats in first class, guess how many went to people of color?


The business woman who was up there on her own firepower.
A family of three.

The seats of money and power had gone to the white men. Again. As usual.

When I was working the day job, whenever I was in leadership meetings, I would always look around the room and count heads. Usually, the ratio was about 20 men to 2 women. One person of color (usually Asian or African American). That's what it looks like at the top of the corporate food chain, gals. I could have stayed there and fought for my place in those meetings, been that female representative climbing the food chain. I could have done that, but I bailed. I hated that life, I hated the politics and I loved writing. Should women stay in the workplace so they can even out the imbalance for women coming behind them? Or is it okay to be selfish and say my life isn't worth this grief? There's no right answer, but sitting in first class today surrounded by men, a part of me wanted to march back into corporate america and do some damage.

The same issue comes up in the writing world. Tess Gerritsen has recently been talking on her blog about readers reading across differences: men reading books by women, whites reading books by Asians or African Americans. She talked about how she worked hard to transcend a label as a Chinese author and as a female author, and basically said that the only way to be a best-seller is to transcend those labels. Moreso with the race issue, but as a mainstream suspense writer, she had to get male readers and white readers. She even said that before her first book came out, she lobbied her editor and agent hard not to have her photo put in the book so her books wouldn't be labeled by her race. As it turned out, her picture went in and she has become a superstar, but it certainly makes you think.

Did you know that the reason JK Rowlings goes by JK Rowlings is because her editors were concerned that no boys would buy her book if they knew a female wrote it? Of course, now everyone knows who she is, but in order to break out, sometimes you have to hide who you are and what makes you special. It may be the truth, but there's something so fundamentally wrong about it.

Is the world more open today than it used to be? In some ways, yes, but in so many ways, we are all still fighting the same battles and the same prejudices. But you know what? In romance, being female is an advantage. Male romance authors often have to take gender-neutral names to succeed. Romance is a field where the top of the food chain, where first class, where the corner offices are primarily occupied by women.

Most fields that are primarily female-dominated fields have lower pay, but not the romance genre. Romance is the place to be if you want to be an author who makes a living at her job. Romance is female power. Romance is the big bucks, yet it's a niche made and driven and created by women. Women readers, women authors, women editors. In genre fiction, the female dominated industry is the top.

Romance rocks. May the rest of the world catch up to us. Please.


At 7:22 AM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Great post, Steph. Glad you're trip was safe.


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