Do everything I tell ya, don't ask stupid questions ... and don't wander off.
"Do everything I tell ya,
don't ask stupid questions ...
and don't wander off."

At a very low price, I got a valuable writer's lesson today. To wit: Think about your potential audience and how they will interpret your words.

You see, I cross-posted my reaction to the latest Doctor Who episode to a Livejournal community, where a goodly-percentage of the folks responding too my opening line, "The girlfriend fell asleep" as all manner of sexist and/or at-least-gender-clueless commentary suggesting that Doctor Who is a boys' thing, as if I didn't know or didn't care, that women like it too.

As a Doctor Who fan community, which had by and large reacted to The Eleventh Hour pretty positively, I had expected people to take issue with my critique of the writing. That I would, instead, have been taken to task for besmirching the geekiness of female fans or worse, of denying their very existence, never once occurred to me.

So far as the writer was concerned, I was talking about my particular girlfriend's individual reaction to a television show about which I am a little abnormally enamoured. That anyone would take what I thought was just a cute hook (though one based in reality — she really did fall asleep) as a general commentary on women and science fiction, or anything remotely like that, never even occurred to me.

But that's mostly what happened.

And I'm reminded of a piece of writerly advice I've come across quite a few times, I think first from Judith Merril: Your favourite line — the one you really love? Take it out! It's almost certainly self-indulgent twaddle!

I don't think I actually apologized to anyone for my words, but I sure as hell spent more time than I wanted to explaining what I meant instead of arguing about what I thought of the episode.

Obviously, only the blandest and most pedestrian of writers will never be misinterpreted, but when a whole raft of people miss your point, you're probably doing something wrong.

Spread the word!

Just read the original post.

Just read the original post. What the heck? Who would think that was sexist? You got some overly sensitive readers, me thinks.

Sure, I'm all for striking self-indulgent writing from any and all works but this doesn't qualify. Sometimes you just hold your ground, shrug at some readers' reactions, and respond using the all-purpose, all-encompassing, "I'm sorry you feel that way."

It's very easy to get snarly

It's very easy to get snarly because the (default and usually male or non-sf fan female) response to a girl being "geeky and weird" enough to like Dr. Who (or sf, or gaming etc.) is generally to act as if a Unicorn has suddenly appeared.

Which causes a certain fangs-bared response to any "indulgent and dismissive" comment (especially if the person making the apparently indulgent comment happens to be male.)

Not so much sexist, as tired, I think

Thanks, but I stand by my recantation (if that makes any sense). Female SF fans tend to deal with a lot of casual sexism which tends to deny their very existence, and I can easily see how, to people who didn't know me (if was my first post in that community would think I was just another 'knob who disbelieves in female nerds.

If you know me (and I have my suspicions that you do), you also know I stand my ground when I think it's worth defending; that time, in that place, it wasn't.