I decided to do some research for Keep Austin Safe. Part of what I had planned was more or less asking questions to friends I knew just about their feelings and experiences. I’m well aware now that as a man I can’t accurately write a woman without knowing a bit more about their perspective. I mean, I wrote Holly for years—but she was based on a woman that I knew well enough that I could practically tell what she was thinking from a text. I didn’t need to work to hard to figure out her actions.
But the three women in Keep Austin Safe, Maddy, Wendy and Annemarie are more foreign to me. I made them up, but when I make up a new character it’s like meeting a new person. I have to spend time getting to know them.
In a bid to understand women better and get to know these ladies and just write a story that wouldn’t be as stereotypically written with tropes that played off the same ideals we see putting women down in other books they star in. I started off trying to do something without romance at it’s center. What I ended up doing was pouring over Feminist blogs, articles and at times news. I have actually written a post for a Feminist website, so I’m not a stranger to the kinds of things there.
But I never read about much of the day to day life and what started it all and gave me the idea to check these kinds of things was this article about a woman on a train. I was shocked by it because of the number of women I knew and on the article relating similar stories. the deeper I looked into the whole thing the more I realized it was very common. Blogs here and here illustrate the point pretty well—the second one is actually about a book called Hush Hush and it’s terribly creepy plot. It was a best seller, by the way.
Now I’m still going to write this thing and I’m going to doo my best to tell a good story with it, but the research has me feeling more guilty than inspired. Partly because the behavior is so ingrained in our culture that it has you second guessing every thought you have as a man (and probably a woman) and also guilty because even though I’ve never seriously done anything to make someone uncomfortable I have seen far worse done and been in places where it was common and acceptable and everyone just accepts it.
Doing my best to hold the thoughts about the narrative and what I’ve learned clear and utilize the things I now know in the story and in real life. But it’s a shock to read some of this stuff because you just don’t do it yourself. You learn it’s not decent to put your hands on random girls in buses or clubs or bars and you take care to avoid it. You never think about how often that happens or how often someone whistles at a woman or stares her down like meat.
In the end it just makes me feel disgusted with society, but I know society’s gotten better. And that’s the scariest thing.