Recent news in the mystery community has sparked a conversation about male authors using female pseudonyms for books specifically targeting women readers.
While pseudonyms have been around for years – I’ll be using one myself on my next series – using them to lure a specific gender of reader is a textbook case of false advertising. Worse, though, is the message it sends…
Women aren’t even good enough to write for other women.
I came into the workforce ill-prepared for sexism. From the moment I was born, my workaholic father assumed I’d have a career equal to that of my two brothers. He’d brag about how smart my mother was and scold her if she, an Italian immigrant who didn’t go to college, doubted her own intelligence.
When I transitioned from acting to writing, I landed a job as an assistant to the executive director of a national organization serving playwrights. I was in his office taking notes one day when I began feeling faint. My boss noticed and asked what was wrong. I was a guileless twentysomething, so I told him the truth: I had cramps. My boss looked me in the eye and said, “As long as women menstruate, they will never be equal.” Those were his exact words. They are burned into my brain.
I’m a relative newcomer to the mystery field, having debuted in 2015. I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with the male authors I’ve met, who’ve embraced and celebrated me. That’s why this egregious dismissal of my gender’s abilities on the part of some publishers – and complicit authors – stings so badly.
How disheartening it is to realize that decades later, my boss’s take on gender parity still holds true. It doesn’t matter if it’s menstruation or menopause.
In the eyes of too many, we are not equal.
BIO: Ellen Byron won the 2018 Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel. She has also won two Left Coast Crime Lefty Awards for Best Humorous Mystery. She is proud to write light, female-centric mysteries.