Saturday, May 21, 2016

Sit down and shh! by Renae Kaye

Sit down and shut up, you don’t know what you’re talking about

Last night an ad came on TV from the Australian Government.  It was an ad aimed at stamping out violence against women.  It gave some subtle scenarios we encounter as children that “set the scene” for us accepting violence against women in our adult life.

#1 – A girl (about 8 years old) is following a group of children out a door.  A boy slams the door before she can exit, making her fall.  The adult comes over and says, “Don’t worry.  It’s just because he likes you.”

#2 – A girl and boy (about 10 years old) are throwing a ball between them.  The adult turns around and says to the boy, “Don’t throw like a girl!”

My husband turned to me and said, “I don’t get it.  Why are they using children?”  I explained about how girls are reminded subtly daily to accept that “boys will be boys” and that boys are superior.  I explained how telling a boy that he throws like a girl is just reminding both sexes that to be a girl is shameful and inferior.

I’m embarrassed to admit my husband scoffed at this and turned away.  I had to make sure he understood the message, because we have a daughter.  We have a son.  Both need to learn that they cannot use this sort of behaviour as they grow.  I made sure my husband understood that we can never intimate to our children that they are allowed to use force or violence, or accept force or violence, as a way of saying, “I love you.”

I’m not sure I got through to him.

It also reminded me of how my husband’s upbringing was very male orientated.  He had no sisters, no female cousins.  It was very masculine and without thought about the troubles girls have as they’re growing up.  He doesn’t know what it’s like to not be taken seriously because of his gender, to be talked over because he’s female, to not be allowed to give an opinion because his female thoughts can’t be trusted, to have any upset be put down to hormonal problems, or to be discounted from anything logical because he has a vagina.

He doesn’t know what it’s like to have no authority, no respect, no power.  And in any situation where he did feel this way, he simply said, “F*ck this shit” and walked away to find a situation that was more agreeable.

Me?  I’ve been told to sit down and shut up because I don’t know what I’m talking about, basically my whole life.

For a start, I’m the youngest in a very large family.  My oldest sibling is 18 years older than me.  From the very beginning of my life I was made aware that I didn’t and could never know as much as my brothers and sisters.  They were all older and more experienced than me.

Sit down and shut up, Renae.  Your sisters and brothers know better.

Secondly, I’m a girl.  My parents are very old fashioned.  I’ve been reminded not to be loud, not to be boisterous, not to be tom-boyish my whole life.  Being quiet and still and feminine was how I was meant to be.  Leave the talking and the intellectual stuff to the boys.

I have been fighting that my whole life.  I’m one of these weird people who are both an introvert and extrovert.  I’m an introvert/extrovert.  We’re around.  There’s not too many of us.  Most people would peg me as an extrovert, because when I’m in public, I’m very loud and friendly.  I’m comfortable approaching strangers, starting a conversation, carrying a conversation, and speaking up.  Most of the time I see myself as an introvert, because I’d rather stay in my house and not speak to people.  The truth is, I’m both.  When I’m out, I can display those extroverted traits.  But I can only do it for so long, and then I need to retreat to my safe place and recharge those batteries.

So, when I’m out of the house, I’m not quiet.  I’m not someone who allows the boys to talk just because they’re boys.  I will join in.  I will give my opinion.  I will argue if they’re wrong.  I don’t need a man to speak for me.  But I’ve often been ignored.

Sit down and shut up, Renae.  There’s a boy talking.

I can’t change that I’m the youngest in my family.  My sisters and brothers will always be older.  Several years back, when my father had terminal cancer, it was demonstrated to me that they still see me as the one who knows nothing.  It was an emotional time for us all, I know.  But incidents showed me … well, let’s just say that I was excluded from the important events because my opinion and knowledge was discounted as worthless.  In their stress and grief, my family fell back on old ways, which was to ignore me.  As you may be able to tell, I’m still angry and hurt by it.

Even in school there were a number of ways I was told that I was “abnormal” and “not a girl” by my actions.  I excelled at science and maths, and would usually be one of only three or four girls in a class of thirty.  I would hear the boys say, “Don’t let Renae get top marks again.  We don’t want to be beaten by a girl.”  Or the Principal would say, “And Renae got the top marks, and she’s a girl!”

You see, along with that introvert/extrovert personality I have, I also have a flip-flop temper (I get blistering angry, but will be over it in two minutes) and a tenacity that doesn’t let go.  I get hurt very easily, but will come back to try again and again.

It took me 35 years to give up on my brothers and sisters.  I kept coming back again and again to try to prove to them I was finally an adult.  It was only Dad’s funeral that showed me I was just hurting myself.  They will never see me as a person in my own right.  It’s the curse of being the youngest.

A couple of years ago I decided to become an author.  Shit.  What a way to ask for everyone’s opinion!  LOL.  Since then I’ve had a lot of feedback and thank everyone for it.  There are some lovely reviews that I’ve had which encourage and inspire me to write more.

But then I get the few that tell me to sit down and shut up.  I don’t know what I’m talking about.  They hurt.  Ask any author who’s been told “you got it wrong” and they will tell you it hurts.  And a lot of the time I can take it at face value – it’s a correction of something I may’ve got wrong.  But some reviews… well, they hurt.

Like the reader who told me my characters don’t speak like Australians, so they think that I’m not Australian and obviously faking it.  Or the person who told me it’s not like that in America, so I must be wrong (and then gave me one star). 

Sit down and shut up, Renae.  You have no idea what you’re talking about.

I’m still smarting from that review.  My author friends will tell me (A.) not to read reviews, (B.) take no notice of the bad reviews, and (C.) write what I like.   I know the theory.  But it’s hard to put into practice.

The weeks leading up to a new release and the weeks after it are usually a little scatty for me.  Nerves means I have trouble concentrating on a task and I usually jump from story to story in my writing.  My newest release hasn’t gone well.  Which makes it disappointing to me.  So the self-analysis meter is ticking furiously on overtime.  What did I do wrong?  Why didn’t people want to buy this book?  What could I have done differently?  It starts the doubts.  I want to write stuff that people like.  I want people to feel happy after reading one of my books.

The defeatist part of me says to, “Sit down and shut up, Renae.  You shouldn’t be writing.  You’re a fool to think you could write.”  But the other optimist part of me says, “Don’t worry about it.  The next book will be okay.  Don’t quit yet.”

But it has meant I’ve been second guessing my work.  The story I’m writing at the moment involves an older man.  Older than I’ve ever written before.   My much younger MC finds him attractive, even though he’s not in the first flush of youth.  My MC wants to describe my older MC, flaws and all.  Because he finds those parts attractive.  But my defeatist brain is warning me off.  Don’t write him like that.  Readers won’t like it.

You don’t know what you’re talking about.

I guess, with authoring, this is one of the truest AND untruest things someone can say.  Because who other than the author can know exactly what is going through a character’s mind?  So when my MC sees his older lover naked and is attracted to him, how can someone tell me I’m wrong?

How can you know what a young, gay man thinks?  You’re off your rocker, Renae.

True.  This is something I will never be.  So I can only imagine.

There is no answer.  But, just like telling me that I’m only a girl and I shouldn’t be loud didn’t work in shutting me up, telling my brain to stop creating stories isn’t going to make these stories stop coming.  It may stop me writing the stories down and distributing them, but if every author stopped writing when one person told them they were wrong, where would this world be?  Bereft of stories.  If we told our girls that they were inferior and they should always sit down and be quiet, where would this world be?  Bereft of half our collective intelligence.   If the younger generation are never trusted or believed to be able to obtain the knowledge of the ones who came before them, where would we be?  Going backwards in our learning.

So for every author who has been told they don’t know what they’re talking about, please don’t stop trying.  Your stories fire our imagination, soothe our troubles, inspire us to be more and make us laugh.

For every student that has been told they’ll never know it all, don’t stop trying to learn. 

For every person who was told they shouldn’t reach for their dreams, dream some more and then reach for the stars.

And for every girl who was told they were not as good as a boy because of their gender, f*ck that shit.


  1. Renae, I really love your writing. I've read several of your books now, and fully intend to catch up on the couple I haven't got to yet. I didn't connect with your last book, but that is honestly not a reflection on either of us or your story. We're not going to like everything all the time. But what doesn't gel with one person will gel with another and some stories will take a little longer to find their audience. I, for one, am still very much looking forward to reading what you come up with next :-)

    As for the rest of your post, I agree wholeheartedly with how endemic the idea of females being weaker, inferior and with less to contribute than males is in our society. It's time to make men listen to the truth of these issues and how it changes the person we should be because of it.