Just to remind y’all, it’s 2019. We shouldn’t really be debating the legitimacy of offering a prize for crime fiction that praises books for avoiding the portrayal of the death, mutilation and general violence against women.
Recently the Guardian highlighted the growing upset amongst crime writers who are unhappy about comments that fictional portrayals of rape can hinder trials. Whilst this is a sad fact, it also should be noted that anything to stop the decriminalisation of rape in law courts should be embraced wholeheartedly.
I understand the other side of the argument: that men continue to commit these crimes, so writers should continue to write about them. And I actually agree. Write about them all you want.
However, the crime fiction and thriller genres have, for decades, been heavily focused on portraying women as victims, with many lazily plotted books centred exclusively on the gruesome depiction of the violence committed by a man against a woman or women.
By turning women in a commodity which authors can then use as plot devices, the crime fiction genre has highlighted the deep-seated misogyny that underpins not only the foundations of the genre, but also society itself. There’s nothing wrong with including violence against women, but make them at least two-dimensional characters, not just objects to be killed and hurt.
Also, writers should consider having even more women in more dynamic roles, not just as detectives but also as suspects, witnesses and people with their own agency.
For those who are true mavericks, the idea of creating a book with no violence against women at all should be considered. It’s a great idea and I applaud the prize that is aiming to showcase those books that do not portray women merely as objects and murder victims.
Consider, for one fucking second, the people who have very little say in this but who are the most important: the women who are real-life victims of male violence. They deserve to be able to find books that don’t trigger them but are thrilling, exciting and adventurous. They deserve to be more than just plot points.
Books can be triggering and cause readers trauma, and as such I think its great that a prize is trying to showcase the books that are reducing the amount of violence against women they portray. Whilst I understand that it is a real part of life (I’m a woman, I get catcalled about four times a month and groped at least once every six weeks, it’s a sad reality), there’s something to be said for calling out crime fiction and thrillers as the genres that showcase it the most and highlighting those writers who have written books that do not use women simply as plot points.
So in all, what I’m trying to say is that crime fiction writers who want to continue writing about violence against women should go the fuck ahead. But don’t dismiss so easily a prize that is aimed at those who, deliberately or not, have no women being raped, murdered, stalked or mutilated. It’s that easy.