And now for something completely different.
Am I really who I say I am? None of you have ever met me. Am I a creation of my own making, a project of my inner Pygmalion? Is the face that smiles back at you me, or am I actually an eighty year old Polish woman wearing a babushka smelling invitingly of stuffed cabbage and pierogi? Admit it, you can’t really be sure.
Or can you? There is one thing for certain, my friends, I write like a girl. The color of my cocktail seeps through the pages, pooling into a pretty, pink puddle. It’s delicious, I must admit. I am not able to feel like a man, and I have never wanted to be one. There is only one exception – a cameo as a big, burly hockey player, smashing opponents into the boards and scoring the winning goal. But I digress.
A heroine of mine, the writer George Sand, was a true gender bender. Born Aurore Dupin, George Sand refused to be constrained by the traditional roles of the women of her day, roles defined by family and marital duty. Her decision to write under a pseudonym, and to dress as a man was scandalous, to say the least. She never pretended to actually be a man, but used her cross-dressing as a tactic to confuse the status quo, and gain entry to clubs reserved for men. Moreover, she endeavored through her characters to cast light on the capabilities of women, their critical role in French society. She also managed to pay her own bills.
Why should you care?
Recently on the LinkedIn thread I became aware of a story regarding Rutger Hauer, Roy Batty of the cult classic Blade Runner. A fellow writer had submitted the short story to a contest sponsored by Hauer, and had been offered a place in the anthology. The catch? The writer would have to give up all rights to the story. In the end the writer decided, for those reasons, not to allow the story to be included, thus pissing off Roy Batty. A bold and dangerous move.
I had to read this story. I have seen Blade Runner many times, and if Hauer wanted it, then it must be good. So I contacted the author, addressing him as a he. JZ graciously sent me the story, and another as well.
‘Poor Lord Ritchie’ is exactly the kind of mind game some of the dark writers of this site would delight in reading. I had to read it twice, and some things still escaped my understanding. Certainly, this story was written by a man. ‘The Fall’, an extra short story that JZ sent, was completely different. This had to have been written by a woman. I found myself in a conundrum. Was this writer a man or a woman? The last time I had questioned the sex of a novelist was after reading ‘She’s Come Undone’ by Wally Lamb, and ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ by Arthur Golden. In both cases the authors, men, wrote with the psyche and emotional introspection of women.
I went back to the LinkedIn thread, looking for the answer. Had he not said something to reveal his sexual identity? All I could find was the avatar of JZ Murdoch, a smiling, golden Buddha in repose, calmly observing my confusion. There was no proof anywhere to confirm my initial assumption.
As I write this I have asked JZ not to tell me the answer. I am both amazed and impressed that two short stories can be written from such different sexual identities, certainly the mark of a strong writer.
Did JZ conceal his or her sex on purpose? Is the smiling Buddha a brilliant ploy to remain gender neutral and to let the strength of the work shine through? Perhaps. My hope is that the author is finally ready to release what Roy Batty wanted. Thank you for letting me read it.
The big reveal is below.
* * * * *
L. A. Lewandowski is a Contributing Author for Indies Unlimited and author of the novel, Born To Die – The Montauk Murders. For more information, please see the IU Bio Page and her blog:cultureandcuisineclub.com.[subscribe2]
18 thoughts on “Gender Bender”
Thank you very kindly Ms.(?) Lewandowski for the nice comments in your article. In the mean time, before the stories you reference are made available, your readers may like to evaluate what you have said in another story of mine called, "Simon's Beautiful Thought", that recently came out on Amazon and Smashwords. Through those sites you will eventually be able to find my "Poor Lord Ritchie" story, as well as "The Fall", in my upcoming "Anthology of Evil". We are currently putting the final touches on it for release very soon.
I would like to mention that although I may have initiated a bit of a mutiny on Rutger's site some years ago over the incident you described, we did end things very amicably. It was one of those, "we agree to disagree" kinds of situations. I have the highest respect for him.
I have two new books that will be coming out fairly quickly. The first is a collection of short stories. The second is rather interesting I think, with several short stories included within the structure of the novel.
Again, I'm honored to have been mentioned in your article, thank you. And to settle the matter of gender, if you promise not to tell anyone, I am male. I am sure of it, and my children are quite sure of it.
All the best to you and your readers.
I should always trust my first instinct. Thanks for your comment!
Interesting article, I came across someone who intentionally uses a male name, while being female. You can see a quick story on the why of that here: http://www.copyblogger.com/james-chartrand-underp…
For her, it was about getting better paying freelance gigs, can you believe that?!
I can believe that, Jim.
I'll check out the link, thanks!
Good post and interesting issue. Speaking of, I didn't say you could use my picture! 😉
Which one? George Sand? I bet you have a hat like that.
Wonderful. As an author who refuses to follow gender biases, I applaud!
Thanks, Valerie. I've always wanted to write a piece like this. 🙂
L.A.this was a great post and most thought provoking! It just goes to show you cannot assume a writers gender based on their name or alias as is apparent in your post.
You may be the only one here who knows that the sweet Polish woman is actually me. 🙂
Really good article…I never even ask about gender. We all contain aspects of both at times. I have two children as well. Mother/Father Other? And it's my birthday, so newly born…I think I'll stay!
Yesterday I wrote this and have just re-titled it. First title was FARGO.
Heart, come back
to me tonight–
You can find me,
still alive beneath
in this blinding
from the sky:
Give me back my sight.
2.26.12 and revised 2.28.12
What a lovely gift. The poem is beautiful, and a great way for me to center myself to begin my editing, a less than fav requirement of this gig. Have a great day.
Great post. I can almost get away with writing as a man just because I use the shorter version of my first name, Jacque in most everything I do, except to make sure that people know me as a romance writer I use Jacqueline. Still to this day, some people think Jacque is a man's name and I find myself more and more saying Jacqueline versus Jacque just so they know I am not a man. Perhaps I should try leaving it as just Jacque and see if I can get away with writing under a man's name like James Chartran is doing and see what happens. I have some other genres I'd like to write, so perhaps Jacque or my initials of JR would better used for them.
Interesting topic, one I have sometimes thought about as well. My Masters level courses were mostly in Women's Studies where the issues of gender discrimination were huge. That was some time ago and much more discussion has come to light, bringing slow changes in attitude. The primary protagonist in my first book is a man. When I wrote it I wondered what readers would think of him, if he came across as real. I also wonder if the response to him and to my book would be different if I were perceived as a man. But I am too proud to use a pen name.
I thought perhaps you might find this interesting.
From Maryland Writers and Authors Group (MDWAG) this morning on Facebook.
Can a Man Write Effectively as a Woman?
by John DeDakis:
"I write in the first person as a woman. Two talented female writers will put me to the test during a panel discussion Monday, March 5, at the American Women Writers National Museum in Washington, D.C. (Follow the link to the News Release.) Hope to see you there!"
My gay friend John just told me on the phone that he read this entire post. I've known him for over 30 years, initially being my ex girlfriend's best friend. So I thought I'd add this. I liked L.A.'s article a lot. But, my friend just said that my initial post above was "girly". Oookay.
I thought that was pretty funny. I was kind of nervous when I posted my response to the article and it seemed to have come out oddly (for me). Sorry about that. But his comment made me want to clarify myself as an individual. My hangup, sure. But I thought it would be useful in context and I think it clarifies the actual scope of this article regarding who I am as a writer and an individual.
If you knew me, I'm kind of a rough, intellectual type, happy in jeans or suit; a poet warrior, if you will and I don't say that lightly. I've been into martial arts, sky diving, scuba diving, racing cars, surfing, search and rescue, flying, guns, all starting before graduating high school.
Later during and after the military, motorcycles, more guns, art, cinema, girls (3.5 marriages and others)… and literature, which saved my life. I've had my moments of what a friend of mine calls our times of "smokin' drinkin' and deabauchin".
So I found the comment that I can write as indicated, a great compliment. It took effort to be able to separate myself, to compartmentalize so, and try not to think like me; but rather a very different character, especially a woman.
I've been alternately offended and impressed by various male writer's writing the part of a woman. Or the other way around. I too find I can pick out the gender of a writer when I don't know, though I'm better with film directors, as I also write screenplays. When I find it done well, I give great credit to the artist. I have to say, I never expected to be part of that group though and it feels a bit dangerous ever trying to be.
I liked Memoirs of a Geisha a lot. I have always had great respect for George Sand. As a child, I was "grounded" constantly and so read all the time ("Go to your room!" "Okay, I'll go read and go to other adventures, or other planets"). I never felt all that "grounded" really and no perhaps TV, but music was allowed (Thank God). I was only allowed to go to the library for a long time.
I hope you don't mind my posting this here. But thank you for the space to do so.
Tell your friend John that he will like the subject of my next post, I think. And he can feel free to comment.
Have a great day, and thanks for the above link. That is certainly serendipity.
I will. Thanks. 🙂
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