When my content editor had finished her passes through my last novel, Tempering the Rose, she said, “You’re quite brave choosing a central protagonist who’s experienced such terrible abuse.” I didn’t know why she would say that.
Now I do.
I want to preface this blog post by saying I am married to a wonderful man who respects me and treats me as an equal, and I have two kind and intelligent sons, whom I love with all my heart. This is not meant to man bash. Both women and men have obstacles to face in this world, but today I am choosing to focus on the struggles faced by women because they are women.
I also felt I had to defend my stance on child abuse because of an ill-thought-out review posted today by someone who has not read the whole book. As an author, I believe readers are entitled to their opinion, even if that opinion is that they hate my writing. I’m okay with that, but sometimes reviewers can cross the line from opinion to outright misinformation, which in this case is an attack on me personally and on my reputation.
A reader has my book on a Goodreads shelf titled: dark-erotic, wtf, arc. She also makes the comment: “I’ve read my fair share of “dark” reads, but I am not fan of sex with young children.” This implies my book is an erotic fiction that contains child pornography, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m disgusted that this woman would suggest I would do this. This is an epic fantasy novel in the same vein as Lord of the Rings or George R.R. Martin’s works. This is NOT a romantic, erotic fiction, and nowhere is this listed as such. In fact, my book shows how damaging child abuse is to the victims. Child abuse is something I abhor, and my heart breaks for anyone who has been abused—whether it has happened as a child or adult.
We live in a world where we view women through the distorted glass of the existing patriarchal ideology—in other words, we all look at women the way men look at women. And I acknowledge that not all men in first-world countries are trapped in twentieth century ideals (many men treat women with respect and love), but many still believe in sexist ideals, and even worse, so do many women. We have been conditioned from the time we are born to see things a certain way, and it takes an open mind and the ability to think critically to question our beliefs. Unfortunately, there are still many without the ability to do this. Which brings me to Tempering the Rose and how my main character has been perceived.
I purposely created a character who had been sexually, physically, and emotionally abused as a child. I wanted to shine the light on it. I wanted people to talk about it. I wanted those who hadn’t had to suffer the terror of it to empathize with those who had, and I wanted those who had been through it to know that others believe is not okay and that there are people out there who care about what happened to them and who know they did nothing to deserve it.
If it’s not a writer’s job to have or initiate these conversations, I don’t know whose it is. Abuse of children and women continues because of silence. Speaking out about this abuse is the only way to begin the healing process for victims, protect future generations from suffering the same fate, and confirming to ALL of society that this is not okay.
Addy (the main character) was not only abused as a child, she is also a woman. She is a strong person. She is a survivor. She sees what men have done to her and to other women and children. Every day men treat her as if she’s stupid and unable to make decisions for herself because she’s a woman. Addy stands up for herself in these situations and is effectively pushing back against the patriarchy. Some readers find this offensive and have called her immature and whiny. Funnily enough, most of these readers are women, and that makes me sad. They still don’t get it. Addy is not whining—she’s being assertive and standing up for herself. Maybe these readers don’t think she should call these men out when they belittle her. She should just keep her mouth shut and appreciate that these men know better, that they’re just trying to help her see what she can’t see. Thank you, Patriarchy.
Some readers think she’s immature because she doesn’t trust men, even the men who have helped her. They don’t see that if you’ve been abused, you can’t trust anyone more than you can trust yourself. That kind of trust takes a long time to develop. When you’ve been beaten by a stick multiple times, you learn to hate and fear that stick; you don’t second guess those feelings and wonder if maybe that stick could also do other, nicer, useful things like be a toy for a dog or burnt to make a warm fire. Why do women hate her for this? Do they think because a man says something, it must be true? Are they questioning Addy’s judgment because she is a woman? Do they lack emotional maturity and think she should ‘just get over it’ as has been said to many a (male and female) rape survivor?
I know not everyone will get the same thing from a book, and every reader comes to a book with their own experiences that define meaning for them. I don’t expect everyone to love my book, and in fact, I know I’m not the best writer ever, that I can always improve. What does disappoint me is that women still resent other women for demanding equality, for daring to think they are just as good as a man. I also find it extremely disheartening to know that a reader would go out of their way to misrepresent my book to others. Instead of aiding the fight against child abuse, they are perpetuating it by trying to silence my written words.
I know my book will not single-handedly change the world, but if it helps one person see they are worth it, or shows someone a different way to think about who they are and how they can help make society better for everyone, I’ve done my job.
*Just an update. The reviewer has removed the misleading statement from her Goodreads review, but has refused to change the Amazon heading, and resents that she has been asked to alter her review in any way, as now it’s ‘not an honest review’.