I tend to read a lot of books by women writers. Part of this is because I am a woman writer so obviously, part of it is that women writers don’t get as much credit as male writers so I like to make sure I read as many books by women writers as I can, and part of it is that I genuinely enjoy a lot of work by women writers. And as I read more books by women writers and write more myself, I keep seeing a trend pop up.
A lot of women writers compare their book to a baby, or other people do it for them. For a long time this is something I didn’t question: these women worked very hard on their book, put a lot of time and care into creating it, and to have it published is kind of like having a baby I guess. But as I’ve gotten more serious into writing and thought about what I want for my stories as they come to be, I’ve come to the decision that my book will not be my baby.
Now first off let me say that even saying the words “my book” makes me feel undeserving because I don’t actually have one written yet, just some scraps that need to be stitched together to make it into one. But, the title of this blog post sounded better that way so it’s sticking, even if it doesn’t actually exist yet. And maybe saying things like “my book” will actually make it come to be, some sort of positivity thing you know? At least I’m laid off for the summer so I have four months to do that, right?
Back on track, my book will not be my baby. It’s something I’m working hard on, every story/book I write will be. And I’ll care about it obviously, and I can’t even imagine what a publication someday will be like, probably overblown with joy and happiness. But it’s something I’m working on, it’s not a baby.
This isn’t to rag on any women writers who do make the comparison of their books being like a baby, good on them if the simile/metaphor works for them. But I do think it’s troublesome that women’s works are often compared to as their babies, whether it’s a book or a business. When a woman creates something, it’s their baby. But that doesn’t happen when men create something.
Is it because women are assigned the role of mothers from a very young age? Given baby dolls to take care of as babies and toy kitchens and mops, having this domesticated role ingrained so that when we pursue something that isn’t motherly it is associated with being a mother?
Again, I have nothing against motherhood, but I do have something against having this expectation assigned to all women. It just seems like women are expected to be mothers in every aspect, caregivers and caretakers to all, even when they aren’t trying to be.
I’ve started to imagine what it would be like if male writers called their books their babies, or had critics do it for them and it always makes me laugh. Why? Because it would never happen. No one would tell a male writer that their book is their baby because it isn’t expected. It would be ridiculous to make this comparison to a male writer because it is expected that they worked hard on their book (or business, or whatever) to make it what it is.
Then why isn’t it ridiculous for women writers?
Do we only expect women to work hard and care about something if in comparison to children or motherhood? That men can just work on something but women have to nurture?
There’s something wrong with that, for all genders.
All I know is that even now I don’t see what I’m working on as a baby (or myself as pregnant. This metaphor is really weird when you think about it. How long are you pregnant for when writing a book? How is a book born? What’s conception like? Alright, now I’m rambling and thinking of stupid things.), it’s a project. It’s something I care about, something I’m putting time and effort into until it’s something I’m proud of and something that I will one day share with the world. It will be mine and it will be special, but babies are different than books.
(Picture of the smart baby reading a book found here.)