Female Writers and the Gender Pay Gap

An Interview with Megan and Olivia from Speak Like a Girl

What do you see as the biggest hindrance to bridging the gender pay gap?

In a society where women are less valued in almost every aspect of life — from popular culture to advertisement, from sex to overall worth — it is a symptom of patriarchal sickness that a gender pay gap would exist at all. The gap in gender pay is not the sole problem, but more-so evidence of a larger issue.

Women are undervalued in literature as well. We recently read an article we were so enraged by where a woman writer was having very little success on getting her novel published — even read — until she submitted it under a man’s name.

When white men are the people who determine who gets paid, it makes sense that white men are the people who get paid. There’s the quote that buzzes around about how women make 78 cents to the man’s dollar — but even that is misinformation. White women make 78 cents to the white man’s dollar, but women of color make much less — Hispanic or Latina women making only 53% to the white man’s dollar.

The root of the problem is to heal the wound that suggests that women are worth less than men. The issues that this deep misogyny causes will fade away when we start seeing women as equal beings.

What do you see are the strengths of female writers?

To touch back on the earlier article by Catherine Nichols about publishing under a homme de plume, or how George gets a publishing deal but Georgia doesn’t, it seems that a tremendous strength of female writers is to know that the odds are stacked against them — that people will devalue what they write strictly based on the fact of their sex — that the same story perceived to be written by a woman will be written off as flowery, sensitive, or trivial, and when that story is perceived to be written by a man it is groundbreaking, a classic. To show up to the page every day and tell your story in the face of all that bullshit and injustice is a bravery, a passion, a motherfuckeriness that will bleed and permeate into your craft. That is undeniable nerve.

We aren’t here to say that women are better writers because of their attention to detail or willingness to touch matters of the heart. That’s part of the same patriarchal machine. Women writers are strong because they are pushing against a force that wants them to be quiet, and they will not be quiet.

How to write more stories/poems with a heroine as the main character in the current culture context and allow her to be seen as likable?

Female Shepard in Mass Effect 3

To be a “likable female character” in this society is to be pretty and sweet and made of fluff. We aren’t interested in making female characters likable. We are interested, first, in making them human. So often women are written as caricatures — the virgin, the slut, the bimbo, the manic pixie dream girl, the funny fat friend.

We want women to be seen as people and written as people. Not every human is universally likable so making her likable is not our concern. Give her a personality and a pulse that is all her own, is.

What do you think about Hunger Games and Frozen in terms of feminism?

These pop culture references feel like a step in the right direction, for sure, but any activist will tell you that baby steps in the direction of progress are not enough. Katniss Everdeen is a badass who doesn’t shave her legs and can shoot an arrow better than any dude — yet a love triangle is still central to her story.

Same deal with Anna — yes, she goes on a brave mission to save her sister which showcases female strength and solidarity — but it all still ends in a kiss. We want women characters who have worth even if they don’t complete or get completed by a man. Heteronormative agendas make us yawn.

What writers and poets you would recommend for people interested in feminism?