Carmen Klassen

When you see the phrase ‘gender bias’, do you feel you angry? Annoyed? Discouraged?

Here’s where I’m at: I see gender bias as a great detractor from progress, opportunity, and happiness. Not just for girls and women.

For everyone.

We were made to bring our gifts and talents to the table and share them. When over half the population faces obstacles in getting their gifts to the table, or—even worse—has been convinced they have nothing to offer, everyone misses out. Everyone across genders.

And over the past year or so I’ve become much more aware of my own gender biases and how they get in the way of the progress and opportunities of the people around me. See, I still have two kids at home. These kids see the world differently than I do. Regardless of the fact that I’ve raised them with some of my own biases and misinterpretations about who they are and who everyone else is.

I thought I was pretty open-minded, until I was shown otherwise. Kids have a way of doing that! It’s not just about opening up their future and realizing there really is a whole world out there for them if they want. It’s not just about being fine with them wearing whatever color they want—in their clothes, in their hair, on their faces, and on their nails.

It’s about mentally taking down every boundary about what they ‘should’ think, look like, want, love, and do, so that they can be absolutely and totally free to be whomever they were created to be. I’m certainly not there (boundary free), but do you know what?

Neither are they.

They’re navigating a world where there’s still a lot of rules that are pretty stupid. And they’re navigating the rules they’ve accepted for themselves, even when those rules hold them back.

To me, that’s gender bias.

Are you starting to see why it’s so bad for us? Because it stops people from finding out what they’re really good at and it stops them from doing the things they are best designed to do.

There’s a whole lot of judgment out there when it comes to gender. I think that behind that judgment is fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear that if we get rid of boundaries there will be a horrible free-for-all where everyone will end up hurting themselves and each other. Fear that if we don’t keep our own boundaries up around us that we’ll fall apart and become nothing but meaningless bits of ourselves.

If we’re going to ditch the bias/judgment, we need to ditch the fear behind that judgment. Let’s replace the fear with curiosity. What interesting and unique things are your children capable of? What’s something you’re really good at that you’ve always hidden because you were told it’s too masculine/feminine? What could life be like if we were open, welcoming, and interested in humanity?

There’s a lot of research showing that gender is much more than ‘boy’ and ‘girl’. I’ll share some links at the bottom of this blog for you to read. The thing is, we’re wayyyyyyy more complex and interesting than XX=female and XY=male. And I find that super exciting! Because that research supports the fact that we are all interesting, different, and capable of tons of ideas, feelings, hopes, dreams, talents, questions… (you get the picture, right?).

Ditching gender bias and accepting that we can just BE will open up a whole new world of creativity, breakthroughs, and human connections. Yep, that’s a very grand statement and a grand goal. But if we just relax our shoulders, and open our eyes with more curiosity about what we are and what those around us are, we can start to move to that grand place.

How does this relate to women’s fiction?

Ah, I’m so glad you were thinking about that! It all goes back to a very depreciating statement an author made at a conference… There was a question to a panel from a new author about what genre her books fit into, and how to market them. The panelist (a woman) said something to the effect of, “Well, you wouldn’t want to be stuck in women’s fiction!” and the panelist gave a grimace and a shudder.

Wait. What?

I talked to some other women’s fiction authors after the session. We were all kinda horrified. And I felt defensive about my genre. Andddddd…. that’s the problem. When we take a category—any category—and write it off (no pun intended), we push a bias that we have no right to push. And then other people push back in defense of their position. And then we have a conflict that is a complete waste of time and destroys creativity.

Bias—against humans who behave a certain way, or against a genre of books, or against anything—brings out the worst in us.

I love stories about relationships, and women thriving through challenges and becoming who they were meant to be. Women’s fiction. I love writing it and I love reading it! I love other genres, too!

Let’s ditch the bias so we can live in a better, happier, more interesting, more productive, kinder, more helpful, more beautiful world. (And if you happen to think that women’s fiction is just a teeny bit better than any other genre, I’ll smile and it’ll be our little secret.)

Happy reading and living!