On this International Women’s Day, it occurred to me (in a moment of shock and chagrin) that 2016 was the first year – THE FIRST YEAR – I answered “children’s book author” every time someone asked what I did for a living.
I’ve been a published author for 10 years. I have six books in stores, one out in May, and four more out next year. But in previous years when asked about my job, I would say “Oh, I work from home.” Or “I’m a writer.” I felt like I needed excuses for “just” writing books for kids. EIGHT BOOK CONTRACTS from 2014 to now, and I didn’t feel adequate.
Some of that was definitely on me. I could have been more confident, for sure. But there were also the times when I’d say I wrote books for kids, and the response was “do you plan on ever writing a real book?” or “no, but what’s your real job?” There is a weird undercurrent for women writers that our jobs are actually our hobbies, that writing isn’t a real job and instead it’s a fun past time we sometimes get paid for.
“But, Kari,” you say. “The kidlit community is dominated by women. How can you say women are undervalued?”
Well, let’s look at things like conferences and school visits. Women are often asked to speak for free. If we balk at that, we will hear that “budgets are tight.” Fair enough. Budgets ARE tight. I totally get that. But then, then, we learn that men (often with fewer books published and less experience) are being paid more. Not just more, but MORE. When asked why this happens, the reasoning is often, simply, the men are paid more because they ask for more. They value themselves because they are seen as valued.
It starts to make sense, then, why women authors — why *I* — would value my work, my accomplishments, my self, as lesser than. If I am not seen as valued, I will not value myself. It’s an ugly cycle, isn’t it?
I feel like much of this comes from Society (which, ugh, I know, but bear with me). Expectations for women are so high. Back in my always-feeling-unworthy days, I felt constant judgement coming from every angle: I worked too hard, but I didn’t earn enough money. I let my kids spend too much time on screens, but god forbid I let them play outside unsupervised. My clothes weren’t right, but worrying about clothes isn’t very feminist. So many messages, and instead of any of them saying “Wow! Look at everything you’re accomplishing,” they say “You’re not doing enough, and you’re not doing it right.” It’s easy to see how a woman can feel undervalued… she is undervalued.
The thing is, though… when I was writing? I had the confidence of an average white man. When I was invited to speak or teach about writing, and I was paid what I like to call The Man Rate? I could blow away a whole auditorium. Even with rejections and revisions and setbacks and frustrations, I never doubted myself as a writer. So why, WHY, did it take me so long to admit that Yes, I am good at what I do? Why was it so difficult to finally say Yes, I am proud of my work and I deserve to be fairly compensated for it?
For me, it’s been a confluence of events. But I can tell you, at the top of that list is turning 40 and just not giving a damn anymore about confronting people when they act like tools.
So on this International Women’s Day, this International You Are Worth It, You Are A Beast Day, I want to reach out to all my women author sisters.
You have value.
You have talent.
You do not deserve less because you are a woman.
You should not ask for less because it’s expected of you.
May we all have not just the confidence of a mediocre white man, but may we crush it with the confidence of a 40-year-old woman who is sick 👏 of 👏this 👏 shit.
We are working hard and fighting hard and writing hard everyday. We don’t just deserve parity. We deserve respect. And most of all, we deserve to respect ourselves.