Okay, so I was reading this blog. And the writer said something like, one day she was in class and the prof gave an example, some kind of analogy meant to explain whatever it was he was teaching, and the example began something like, "It's like, you say to your girlfriend..."
And her first reaction was, "Wait, I don't have a girlfriend and never will." And her next was something like "This guy's only speaking to straight men or lesbians. Why not use something that will mean something to the whole class? Or, you know, use something not so gender-specific?" And then, her insight--
The prof probably thought he was talking to the whole class. It's just, in his mental map of the class, there's nobody but straight males. Cause, you know, that's the default, that's what everyone is unless otherwise specified, right? Right? And after all, "the masculine embraces the feminine" and we're all used to male-oriented terms being used for everybody, it's not like anyone's being ignored or excluded!
So, yeah. There's this thing I see in slush. And I shit you not, it is an automatic ticket straight to the "reject me" pile when I run across it.* I'm not sure what will happen the day it appears in a sub that's really mind-blowingly good, but I strongly suspect that such a day will not come, for various reasons. It has not, yet.**
So, this is the thing: A female character is introduced, and is immediately described in terms of the shape of her legs, or the milky whiteness of her thighs, or her perfect breasts, with a dash of flowing blonde hair, you know, just for kicks.
Stops. Me. Cold.
That male-gazey thing, it not only doesn't do anything for me, it locks me out of the story. "This story is not for you. It is for men looking at women."
It's not as egregious as the "Women are evil harpies!" stories that pepper every slushpile, that make me go "Huh? But the subber has to know a woman is editing this publication. Why would they think 'you, as a woman, are an evil harpy!' would go over well here?" No, not anywhere near that bad.
But they do the same thing. Those subs assume the reader is a straight male. Whether they're a straight male who likes women (or at any rate barbie dolls they can pose and give lines to) or doesn't. And they don't think twice about sending those stories to female editors, because after all, The Masculine Embraces The Feminine and male is universal and default so what's your problem, huh?
So. Now I don't just immediately reject, I also know exactly what I find intolerable, and why.
*I don't care if anyone thinks it's unfair or intolerant or whatever. I'm the editor, and I get to pick the stories, and I'm not spending my very own money on stories that insult me or piss me off. I'm only spending my money on stories I love, and I definitely don't love that. At all. No point arguing.
**By and large it won't happen if the women in the story are being treated as, you know, human beings. If you're not doing that, there are probably also a number of other problems with your work. This is my theory so far.
***And anyone asking themselves, "Then how am I supposed to describe this female character, huh?" I say to you, try considering that women are not just a conglomeration of Sexy Parts, and might in fact be described without reference to how Sexy their Parts are. Kind of like, you can describe a man without talking about his tight butt or the size of his penis. You can describe women the same way. No, really!
edited to add
****AND ANOTHER THING! For extra credit, see if you can find the racefail! Hint--not all women are white and/or blonde. Not all beautiful or attractive or sexy women are white or blonde. And yet, every single example in my slush is white, with extra emphasis on the whiteness of skin, and ninety percent of them are blonde.
*****Some days my hand is just itching to pick up my board with a nail in it.