Them’s Fightin’ Words

July 31st, 2004 · 1 Comment
by Booksquare

Spending a week surrounded by women tends to make our inner feminist a bit more sensitive (just as we are reclaiming the synopsis from its “dreaded” appellation, we are reclaiming the word feminist from its militant connotation). We are in a hotel filled by women who are pursuing dreams and goals — and achieving success on many levels (not just writers, as we note below). Yet for every doctor, lawyer, astrophysicist, MFA, educated, professional…okay, we’ll stop now…woman we see in the elevator, we also see a world that hasn’t grown up as we’d dreamed.

The reason the Romance Writers of America National Conference is held in July is because that’s the optimal time for mothers to be away from home. We can’t imagine another organization trying to determine the optimal time for fathers to be away from home. We like to think fathers have kids too, but somehow the care and feeding of them does not seem to be a concern.

On a related note, we’ve been perplexed by the fact that J.K. Rowling had to assure the world that the next Harry Potter book would not be affected by her pregnancy. It is a question that is equally legitimate for a man, yet we can’t imagine a reporter asking such a thing of, oh, Michael Chabon or Dave Eggers. Pregnancy, to the best of our knowledge — and our experience is largely limited to felines, so please correct us if we’re wrong — does not affect the use of the major limbs, including the fingers (which are frequently employed in the creation of books and other written materials). Times have changed, but clearly not as much as we’d like to think.

Even if Rowling were confined to bed rest, she could still write. She can even revise from bed; it is amazing what you can do from a propped-up-by-pillows position. The timing of the next Potter book (we are assuming there will be a point when Potter books become like Neal Stephenson books, so large they must necessarily be cut up into doorstop-sized chunks — this, by the way, is different from the next installment in the Potter series. Think a bit, and you will follow our logic.) is largely a factor of how fast she can write. There may be a few pregnancy-related bumps (morning sickness, doctor’s appointments, giving birth), but, by and large, these are not the sort of delays that will significantly impact her writing output.

Speaking of women and success…

The hotel we’re in, curiously, scheduled the RWA conference at the same time as the Mary Kay conference. It’s pretty easy to tell the difference between the two groups (the writers don’t wear pantyhose — and, probably our makeup isn’t quite as perfect). The question is: what was the hotel thinking? We would not want to be a male guest in this joint. And though we fully support our gender, this many females in one place is enough to make Pete Townsend go deaf (that is if he wasn’t already).

We were vaguely familiar with with the Mary Kay world prior to this week. That is to say, we knew about the makeup and pink Cadillacs. We clearly should be better educated. Mary Kay women own large quantities of formal wear and are generally immaculately groomed (as we type this, we are considering combing our hair and maybe wearing makeup — something we only do to impress other females. Go figure.).

Mary Kay seems a bit like a cult. There is a…sameness to the women (again, there are men, but we’re trying to make it easy on our undercaffeinated brain). Suits are worn based on levels — the color you wear identifies you as surely as your name. Jewelry, placed strategically on the clothing and body, also marks each MKS in the organization’s hierarchy. They are adorned with badges and ribbons. There is, and we are very intrigued by this, an Inner Circle. We know we would never fit in, but something in us craves joining the Inner Circle. We simply must know what happens there.

The reason for the tangible signs of success, the jewelry, the cars, the stuff, is because Mary Kay knew giving women cash bonuses wouldn’t work. Money would be mostly spent on the family. This may be a genetic surival thing, we don’t know. It’s hard to spend a diamond ring at McDonald’s (not that we’ve tried, of course). And plaques and trophies are all very nice, but so hard to haul to conferences. Even harder to carry around with you all day. A discreet pin is more portable.


The hotels contracted for the RWA conference always say they’re ready, but they’re not. They never are. how can they be? It’s 2,000 women (yes, there are male writers, including James Patterson). No public place has sufficient restrooms for this many women. It is inevitable that the men’s facilities are closed to their intended gender.

All sorts of hotel resources are strained: the towel supply, the pillow supply (our hotel experienced a severe foam pillow shortage — too many people are allergic to feather), staff in the bar. We could rant for hours on that final item…one server working the entire bar area is not sufficient. Writers drink. It’s a law.

File Under: Square Pegs

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