Write like a man: keeping my voice and maintaining my identity as a woman without sounding like a giant vagina.

 

Someone recently asked me “You write like a man. If I didn’t see your name, I’d never know you were a woman.” The statement was meant and I took it as a complement, but it begged quite a few questions. Why is that a complement? If being a woman writer who works outside of ‘typical’ female dominated genres puts you at a disadvantage, why not choose a gender neutral pseudonym?  Will the fact that I’m a woman overshadow the story I’m trying to tell? Do I have a responsibility to challenge the common conception of female writers just because my voice is considered a little atypical? Does having a strong voice mean I have to eschew or embrace my womanhood? Do I really give a shit what people say?

 L. Anna Lenz is not my real name, its Lisa Fox; a name that is so ingrained into my identity that I have chosen to keep over my husbands, but an established author with the same name prompted me to create a pen name using my husband’s last name (the decision which will forever be known as ‘the great compromise’ in our household).  The rest came about because I thought it sounded pretty. The fact that it was overtly feminine was inconsequential to me at the time.  I don’t want to trick people. “Oh you thought I was a man! Well….BAM! I got a vagina. How do you like me now?”  I don’t hide my true voice behind a masculine curtain to gain legitimacy or acceptance. Although, part of me is a little less confident that this is the greatest idea if I ever intend to pay the bills with my writing, I write who I be.

Write like a man! That phrase appeals to me and stirs up emotions of masculinity, toughness, grit- angry, steel balls of power. There is a stigma about women writers; that they are, I don’t want to say emotional because some of the most iconic stories written by men are gut wrenchingly emotional, but there is a perspective difference that is commonly associated with the stereotype of the sensitive feminine that appears in the voices of women writers. Those voices can be soft, warm and inviting or cold, strong and defiant, but all can still be inherently feminine.  I still wonder if there is anything wrong with that as we strive for equal footing in society, but don’t want to lose parts of ourselves in the process. I would be lying if I said being a woman doesn’t affect the way I write. Being a woman has been such a defining factor of what has shaped me as a person, but it isn’t the sole thing that defines me.

Although as an artist and a writer, I enjoy poking at the foundations of the pillars of our society, I don’t want to go into this thinking my work has any social responsibility whatsoever. I don’t believe that any one work of art should carry the burden of needing to uphold or destroy societal constructs in order to be “effective” art. Attaching that much weight to my stories would be detrimental to the entirety of the piece and would overshadow all of the other themes I want to express.

I wonder my voice is perceived as being more masculine because I paint my words with violence. All of my characters are shaped through violence, whether it is directed at them or through the violent acts they commit themselves.  I don’t know why but I’d love to hear people’s opinions. It is a creative and destructive force that has always fascinated me. Having experienced violence both on the giving and receiving end, how it is perceived differently between the sexes intrigues me. It is acceptable (in the sense that the core concept doesn’t blow our minds) for a man to express power dynamics, sexuality and internal turmoil through violent acts and for women to absorb it. 

We might shed a tear, but we won’t bat an eye when a story is told about how a young man loses his innocence through a violent act that he has committed. A girl will rarely lose her innocence through a direct action of her own, usually it is by someone or something that happens to her. For a woman to express herself through violence it is often always perceived as an act of self-defense (or a direct, mostly emotional response to violent acts committed against her) a mental illness, or as a sign of being somehow unfeminine.

Girls can be angry. Women can rage, hate and spite just as well as any man. I was always felt more comfortable putting my fist through a plate glass window than writing my feelings down in a flowery journal, but I rarely did. Maybe it’s because girls are trained at a very young age to accept our place, to be comfortable being uncomfortable and not violently change our world to suit us.  It did help me become a better writer, but I wonder if that is why I want to strut my lady bits with pride.  Every bloody fist, every pretty dress, every time I powder my nose and every time I don’t want to cuddle after sex, all parts of me are feminine because I am a woman. I am proud of the dark, gritty, guttural epic I’ve written, and I like my pretty feminine pseudonym. If you don’t well, suck my giant invisible dick.

I'm Barreling Down the Road That Takes Me From Princess to Evil Queen

…Because every young and beautiful princess always was and always will be a young and beautiful princess, and every wicked ugly step-mother always was and always will be a wicked and ugly step-mother.

 This story begins at “…and they lived happily ever after,” because time is cyclical and it all comes back full circle. Fair skin fades in time and once out of the forest, the world is a much larger place. The dreams and the adventures we were promised just fade to dust as time goes by and the opportunities dry up.  Glass slippers were never designed to go the distance.

What’s worse than the story of the princess post ever after,  is the story of the rest of us.  Out of hundreds of girls at the ball what if your foot didn’t fit? Chances are it didn’t. It doesn’t matter if Prince Charming is a man, a record contract or Harvard . All the hype, all those lies they told us about how “special” we were really took us for a loop. Remember your face when you saw all of the other girls in their princess dress and tiaras? The sea of thousands of ravenous young women desperately clawing at their chance to escape from mediocrity and you couldn’t even get within yards of the prize before the frenzy was over.

Remember searching for that last bit of hope? Maybe He’ll notice you and he’ll whisk you away. “He hasn’t even seen me, and I’m different, I’m better than these girls. Right? Right?”

When he passes you, the Prince I mean, he looks right into your eyes for a moment and you two share that whole moment, but it passes.  It’s over and he continues on his way barely acknowledging your existence.  

Amazing how fast the fall was from glass slippers to Lucite stilettos. How love went from a force able to move mountains to a to a bitch scrubbing out of satin sheets. 

Every year now, you trip the little nit-wits running down the streets in their princess dresses and their tiaras, eyes hungry and full of life. If only now you got an invitation to the ball, you’d put all these little bitches to shame.

I understand. Never being one for poise, grace and elegance myself, I have landed here among the dreams my alcoholic, self serving, cunt of a fairy godmother neglected to bippity bop into my reality.  I could talk all day about life’s disappointments, but that’s not what this story is about…

It starts with Regrets

            I found a crows foot today. Under my right eye, and I’m watching it like a hawk, resisting the urge to dowse it in L’Oreal anti-aging serum or smearing Botulism,  E-Coli or whatever type of food poisoning burns off wrinkles.  I don’t want to get old. I fear it.

 As a young girl my options were a plenty, explorer, princess, warrior, astronaut... Barbie paved the way.  Rapidly approaching the dreaded thirty, my options are drying up. I can choose from mom, career woman,  or that chick still in the bar past her prime. After that stage, I get to pick from fairy godmother , evil witch or evil queen.  The difference between the latter being purely cosmetic.

 

 

            There is this incredible journey however, on my way from potentialprincess to evil queen.  One I am slowly learning to embrace.