Monday, April 23, 2018

If Girls Ruled the World

If, as the recent craze of tween t-shirts and note books would have us believe, the “future is female” – then what does this mean for the other 49.2% of the population? Actually, what does this really mean for any of us? Because if we’re proudly splashing these slogans on our daughter’s chests (and posters and school supplies and mugs and tote bags and throw cushions…), then we’re obviously assuming that a future that belongs to females is, of course, a fabulous notion. A notion worth scrawling on every bit of marketable merchandise. Right?

Right. Definitely. It has to be. Except… well, are we really sure why it’s such a fabulous notion? Certainly, no one could argue that after centuries of the future belonging mostly to men, we women have at least earned a shot at it (or more accurately, our ancestors have earned us a shot at it). But getting a turn at something doesn’t necessarily guarantee you’ll be effective. In this case, and particularly because of the mass of people involved, in order to be effective shouldn’t we be sure that everyone is on the same page at least – with a clear idea of the end goal?

This is where things get a little hazy for me. I thought I knew what the goal was – before those t-shirts and tote bags came onto the scene. And before I stumbled onto a story concept for my first novel – a dystopian YA romance that turned out to be far more political in theme than I’d anticipated. Before, I was pretty confident that I was raising my daughter – and my two sons - to prepare for a tough but equal-opportunity future where balance and mutual-respect would be the order of the day. But now, as the voices and slogans grow louder and bolder, I’m realizing we might all have a different idea of what that end-game really looks like: ranging from retribution to equality, community to power, and a whole slew of objectives in between.

So, if the future is female, and females are clearly divided – then aren’t things about to get messier, instead of more ordered and balanced?

And look - as a mother of three, I’ve learned that messy can lead to some of the truly most incredible ideas, the most outlandish creations, the most ambitious enterprises... But messy can also turn mean really quickly. And divisive. It’s how a lot of battles are started: people agreeing on a problem but disagreeing on how it needs to be resolved or who should be in charge of resolving it. Actually… hasn’t this been one of our biggest frustrations with the way men have been running our society for so long? And wouldn’t it be utterly embarrassing (depressing? Dangerous? Predictable?) if we fell into the exact same ideology, right out of the gate?

This is the question behind the concept for my first novel. Although, as I said, I never set out with any sort of feminist agenda. I just wanted to use a gender-reversal concept as a jumping board for what I felt would make a unique, engaging story. I love a good enemies-to-lovers romance, and this concept lent itself so perfectly to that: a girl on the cusp of great power and a pinup boy leading a secret life as part of a rebel group trying to overthrow their matriarchal society. It was complex and fraught and swoon-worthy for sure – if I could pull it off.

And in order to pull it off, I felt I needed to do at least a little more reading on the history of feminism, and its various branches and ideologies, so that I might be most effective at flipping the notion a full one-hundred- and-eighty degrees. So I read. A lot. And discovered how diverse this concept of “feminism” really is. Then I went a step further and scoured books from an even wider perspective: books like “The Myth of Male Power”, “The Boy Crisis” and “Men on Strike” - and my mind expanded further still. So many voices that held equally valid perspectives in a single, yet complex and emotionally-charged conversation. And (squee!!!) so much fodder for a book I had already decided would be a fusion of The Handmaids Tale and Magic Mike. I was totally set.

But, before anything else (before being a writer or a wife or anything else even) – I am a mother first and foremost, and so I couldn’t help filtering all of this information through my maternal lens – figuring out how it all relates to my plight to raise a confident, driven but empathetic daughter. And confident, driven but empathetic sons.

Here are the two main questions that emerged from all those hours of reading and researching and analyzing:
1)    Have I raised my sons to understand why their female classmates are wearing t-shirts proclaiming that the future belongs to them? Have they been given the context to grasp how slogans, that to them come across as bitter and exclusive and hurtful, are actually seeped in years of sweat and frustration and oppression? 

2)    Have I raised my daughter to understand that these slogans are, as I said, the result of her ancestors’ long battle for equal rights – not actually statements of fact? Does she understand that the future does not actually belong to any one gender? At least, it shouldn’t – if she truly believes in the concept of equality.

And even though these are just questions I came up with for myself, as a mother, I wonder now if maybe answering “yes” to both of these questions might not be a half-decent goal for other mothers too? It’s a clear, attainable goal - and maybe one we could all agree on. And, even more importantly, it’s just. A combination that might actually set us up for a future where respect and open-mindedness is not only expected - but valued. By our daughters. And our sons.

Sophie McAloon grew up in small mining towns across Quebec, where thankfully, picking after-school activities meant choosing between playing pretend in the woods, on the mountain behind the mining pits, or in someone’s back yard. Imagination reigned supreme…and a love of story-telling began.

Sophie moved to New Brunswick to attend University and fell so in love with the friendly Maritime lifestyle that she still lives there today with her amazing husband, three awesome kids, and Waldo the dog.

To find out more about Sophie or to see what projects she’s working on next, visit her at or ie_mcaloon/.

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