Personal Essay: "The Wendybird " by Stina Leicht
When we set out to destroy science fiction with this Kickstarter, we didn't want it to be your ordinary, run-of-the-mill campaign. We wanted it to be full of smashing, crashing women's voices, telling what it really means to be a woman reading and writing science fiction. One of the ways we hope to do that is by sharing a series of personal essays by women about their experiences as a woman in science fiction. Today's essay is by Stina Leicht.
"The Wendybird "
When I was a little girl my mother read PETER PAN aloud to me. As often happens, life got in the way. She stopped before she got to the end. Thus, for me the story ended when the Lost Boys shoot Wendy for hoping to set foot on Neverland. That was my first real experience of Fantasy. Neverland was a place that killed girls. Still, I wanted to be a Knight of the Round Table. Dolls were okay, and so were tiaras, but I wanted to wear a pretty silk dress and slay my own dragons—better, I wanted to be good at it. And then I found SF though Madeline L’Engle. L’Engle said women could have adventures in SF. If females were only nominally present, at least no one would kill me for showing up. I thought SF was for smart, open-minded, forward-thinking people.
However, I soon discovered that SF wasn’t all that different from Neverland.
The funny thing is that everyone assumes the most difficult part of being a woman in a white straight man’s world is the struggle to be accepted. Sure, someone flipped over the “No Girls Allowed” sign on the clubhouse, but the sign still exists. The external world still informs you in one way or another that you don’t count, and you never will. That’s bad enough, but then there’s the more powerful aspect—the internal voice.
Like it or not, people are partly a product of their environment. I was raised in a misogynistic culture. I have to double-think everything I write because if I’m not careful I’ll act in a way that runs against my own (and other women’s) best interest. It sucks that I’m more comfortable writing in a male character’s point of view than a female’s. It sucks that I can’t write for young kids or even write a sex scene without feeling like I’m selling out to a system that insists these are my only creative outlets. It sucks that when a man successfully writes from a female point of view he’s showered with praise, but if a woman successfully writes from a male point of view it’s shrugged off as just one of a million expected aspects of good writing. It sucks that every single time I tell someone I’m an author I have to explain that no, I don’t write children’s books nor do I write erotica. It sucks that I’ve never seen a male author asked those questions. It sucks that men’s voices are given more importance than women’s—so much so that whenever I see a piece mocking GIRLS on HBO I’m left wondering if the show really is that banal or if it’s just another moment where women’s problems are belittled? I question everything. I have to. Being self-aware is survival, and when I hear men whine about being asked to do the same I just want to say, “Welcome to my world.”
Stina Leicht is a two time Campbell Award nominee for Best New Writer (2012 and 2013.) Her debut novel OF BLOOD AND HONEY, a historical Fantasy set in 1970s Northern Ireland, was short-listed for the Crawford Award. The sequel, AND BLUE SKIES FROM PAIN, is available now. Her shorter fiction is also featured in Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s surreal anthology LAST DRINK BIRD HEAD, and in the anthology RAYGUNS OVER TEXAS.