Guest Spot Re-post
Author Shae Connor hosted me on her blog here, and I’m reposting to gather up Book Club Question fodder! (Note: the cupcake image is an Alice and Wonderland reference – the tempting cake that changes you, referring to our cultural ideas that we swallow without really knowing what they will do to us. It’s not a bite-me statement or a sexual reference so just get your mind out of the gutter, sassypants.)
A Dark Place to Start
In book 1 of my West Coast Boys series, Jeremy was the cheating ex, and Logan was a giant competitive, shallow asshole with a surprising capacity for sexual assault. The King of Snowflakes boys were sweet in so many ways, and these two looked pretty rough next to them. But neither Logan nor Jeremy were content to take the blame and play the villain. It was like they were standing just a little behind me, patiently telling me little bits of their stories. Whenever I got curious enough to ask the right question, they would answer. Questions like, Why would you act like that? What are you running from? What does that feel like?
Of course they both had plenty to hide, and when it all unrolled, it turned out to partly be a story about boys who are suffering from misogyny. When I was younger and a passionate feminist, I thought that men benefited from patriarchy. It certainly looks that way. Men earn more, own more, hold the vast majority of the high status positions of the world.
Then I had a son. Yup, motherhood is an education in all kinds of ways.
A Lesson in Boys
It was such a shock to me to see how boys suffer from the gender role bullshit in so many ways. They get told that any part of them that’s tender, or loving, or vulnerable is weak, shameful and female. I grew up hearing names like sissy, and wuss (‘a feeble or effeminate person’) but I never thought of this as misogyny. Then when I witnessed it as a mother, and realized that calling the softness of a man “feminine” and then humiliating him for being “less than” a man, is plain old hatred-of-women.
It’s pretty simple. Bigotry towards any member of a group, negatively impacts everyone in that group. That was a strong thread in the back-story of both Logan and Jeremy. Jer was brought up in a small town where being gay was really dangerous. To me, discrimination against gay men is clearly rooted in the hatred of women. He learned to give bigots the finger and embrace his sexual nature, but he also got hurt. He closed his heart off and never let anyone get too close to him.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
—Martin Luther King Jr.
Logan was raised by a family that looks pretty progressive from the outside, but on the inside, there’s patriarchy, misogyny, and a fierce lesson in fitting in at all costs. Logan wasn’t just afraid of being gay, he was afraid of the parts of himself that other people would label “feminine.” It’s one thing to battle against the world, and it’s another to battle against the poison you’ve absorbed and made your own. For Logan, internalized homophobia is also internalized misogyny, and hating yourself is not inert. It bubbles. Holding that in for years as it grows becomes a pressurized life for him. At the end of “King of Snowflakes,” he’s a bomb, ready to explode.
When King of Rain starts, we get to see how Logan’s rage marks the end of his life as he knows it, and how Jeremy feels stopped in his tracks by what’s happened to him too. The story is an exploration of how these two young men challenge each other to grow a little, to break free a little, and to risk getting vulnerable enough to love a lot. Luckily, their broken cracks line up in some unexpected ways and witnessing them trying to handle each other became heart squeezing for me. It was terrifying and wonderful, all at once. I hope you enjoy their crazy ride as much as I have.
Question for Commenters
What do you think about the idea of misogyny and homophobia going hand in hand? Have you witnessed the men and boys in your life suffering from this prejudice?