To My Silent Sisters (happy belated women’s day to the ones who save us)

“You are a woman, this will be different for you.” I have heard these words so often the past several months that they have taken on a life of their own. These words that were spoken to me over and over again were meant as a salve: you are not broken, you are grieving, and your process doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. It was meant as a reminder: this path that you walk has been traveled by others, but only those who have traversed these hallowed grounds will understand what this pain can do to you. You, my love, are a woman, this will be different for you, but you will be stronger for it- my arms are open and you are welcome.

There is something powerful in the sisterhood that will surround you during your darkest days. There is something sacred in the way these women carry their scars and lead you down this path so delicately. There is something strengthening in the way we recongize one another, pay tribute to the joint experiences and embrace the pain. There are things in this world that only these women will understand, struggles that they have shared in, burdens they will help you carry.

These women will not lie to you and pretend that life will be okay. We know better than that. When I was hurting they taught me to embrace the pain, to recognize that it would forever remain a part of me, but to take comfort in knowing that it would eventually loosen it’s strangling hold and let me breathe again. These women taught me that strength is not an innate force that we are born with, it is something that we build when our back is to the wall because there is no other option.

The life of a woman is not always an easy one. Far too many of us know what it is like when you are not taken seriously, when you are judged for every action you do or do not take. We know what it feels like when your body is not viewed as your own, when your choices are stripped from you by those who will never have to live with your struggles. We know what it is like to carry life, and some of us are burdened with the pain of intimately knowing what it is to hold death. We have learned to fight the status quo that we were so often forced to follow, to create a world for our daughters that was better than our own. We have joined our hands and stood in solidarity when it truly mattered. We helped one another up when the world knocked us down.

The past few months have been difficult for me, that is no secret. And yet I have learned so much about what it means to be a woman through those who reached out and stood beside me. In my loneliest moment I still knew that I had an army of my silent sisters with me. I will forever be indebted to them, and I know that the only way to repay this is to be there for the next woman I see lost on this path.

You see, women are far too often taught to hide our pain and our frustrations. We want to be strong and resilient and we don’t realize that within our weakness is our greatest strength. We bury our struggles until we see someone else in need, and only then do we speak our truths- we use our pain to ease the hurt we see in someone else’s eyes.

In October I learned what it meant to carry a life inside of me. And in January I discovered how the loss of that life can crush your soul into dust. I had been far enough along that everyone knew. It was both a blessing and a curse when people had to be told. But an amazing thing happened in my darkest moment- the women in my life surrounded me, whether they knew me or even liked me, they stood by me and helped me pick up the few miniscule pieces I still had of my life. They protected me, and fought against anyone who tried to act as though my grief should follow a specific pattern. When I was happy they let me embrace it, when I was angry they let me scream and fight the world, and when I fell to pieces they stood sentinel to make sure none of my broken shards blew away in the wind. Many of them shared their stories- women I have known my whole life, women who were still surviving and thriving- they told me that they had walked the same path. They didn’t give me false hope, they gave me the truth. And it was everything I needed to hear. When one in four women experiences a pregnancy loss, you begin to discover that you have an entire army surrounding you.

That is what the strength of a woman truly is- it isn’t always in your face, it isn’t necessarily obvious or showy. It is in the way that she can be ripped apart by the world and still pick everything up and begin to rebuild even though everything in her body wants to stop. It is in the way that she uses her pain to ease the burden of others. It is in the way that she shows up, in the way she subtly reminds you that you are not alone. It is in the way she stands for you when you can’t find your feet, and the way she cheers for you even though you might not be on the same team. Her strength is in her heart, in the way she bravely faces a world that has let her down so many times.

There are so many facets to being a woman, and every year on this Earth I discover a new one. To my sisters, my mothers, my daughters out there- I see you, I recognise you, and with every breathe I take I honor you. Thank you for saving one another time and again. I will spend the rest of my life repaying this debt, living in the way you all taught me. We are strong, we are fierce, we can survive and thrive through anything. Happy International Women’s Day, my loves, I know I am a day late and a dollar short, but I also know that you will understand why.

The Ladies of Literature (the gender gap and other surprising revelations)

Raise your margaritas my lovely ladies, in honor of International Women’s Day. Today was beautiful; the last time I saw this much female love and empowerment was in the bathroom at my favorite dive bar. Admit it my female friends- we will never be as kind and supportive as we are when we meet in the restroom after a couple of drinks. If we could bottle that mentality and carry it over to our sober selves, the world would be a much happier place. Given our current political climate, today was ushered in with an unusual amount of fanfare and excitement. As a woman who proudly carries the title of feminist, I have found so much hope in the outpouring of love that I saw today. 

March is National Women’s History Month, and many bookstores are celebrating with discounts and special events. I’ve never paid much attention to the gender of the authors that I read; my tastes are all over the board, I voraciously read anything and everything. I always just assumed that I read predominantly female works, or at least a fairly equal amount for both sexes. But I decided to try a little experiment, one I hope you will consider attempting yourself: can you think of the last five or ten books that you have read? Do you have them in your mind? Good. Now, out of that list- how many of those authors were females?

Does the answer surprise you? Because it shocked the hell out of me. Out of the last five books I’ve read, every single one of them was written by a man. Out of the last ten, four were written by a woman. So I decided to delve a little bit deeper, I was curious- surely I read more female authors than that. I keep track of all of my books on Goodreads, I am a chronic list-creator; it makes me happy inside (don’t judge too harshly). So I looked through the list of every book I have read so far in 2017. And do you know what I found? Only 25% were written by women (several, in fact, were written by the same woman). How is that possible? Is there really that much of a disparity in the literary world, or have I just been following an insular pattern when selecting my books?

There is a used bookseller in Cleveland, Ohio that noticed this disparity. Harriett Logan, owner of Loganberry Books, noticed that there was a vast difference in genders of the authors she carried in her store. She estimated that out of the roughly 10,000 pieces of fiction in her shop, nearly two-thirds were written by men. To illustrate this point, she decided that art could speak louder than her words alone. Together with several employees and volunteers, they went through the fiction section and flipped around every single book written by a male author. The visual is astounding.


The point that they were trying to make was that the gender gap in publication can still be a very real issue that aspiring female authors may have to face. Are you suspicious of this claim? Truthfully, I was too, so I decided to run my own little investigation. My conclusions surprised me, to say the least.

In 2015 author Catherine Nichols decided to try her hand at an interesting experiment. She sent out identental queries to dozens of agents under both her own name as well as a male pen-name. The length of time it took to garner a response was much shorter for her male counterpart; after sending the first six queries under his name, she received her first response within minutes, to be followed by four more- three of which included requests for a manuscript (many more were to follow as she continued her experiment). On the other side of the equation, after fifty queries were sent out under her own female name, she only received two requests for a manuscript. At the conclusion of this little test she found that George (her fictional male alter-ego) was 8.5 times more likely that she was to get a manuscript request from an agent. Let that sink in for a moment. As she so elequently put it, he was “eight and a half times better than me at writing the same book.”  

This isn’t as isolated an incident as I had originally thought. As it turns out, there are many authors who choose to publish under a male pen name, or in the alternative, have their work published under an ambiguous name. Take J.K Rowling, for example; her publisher was afraid that a woman’s name on the cover would hurt book sales- and thus, her initials became famous. She isn’t the only one either; Emily, Charlotte and Anne Bronte, Mary Ann Evans (aka George Eliot), Ann Rule, Louisa May Alcott, Nelle Harper Lee, and Nora Roberts, have all worked under male pseudonyms. 

Some studies suggest that one of the problems that women face when it comes to finding a good foothold in the literary world comes down to publicity. An Australian study conducted over a lengthy period of time (from 1985 to 2013) found that female authors were less likely to make it into book reviews and similar publications that would help boost book sales. Over this particular time period, two-thirds of the books written were by female authors, and yet two-thirds of the books featured in publishing reviews were written by men. These numbers haven’t changed much in the past 30 years and have shown be consistent with global trends. Male authors also have a higher probability of winning awards for their work as well as being included on school syllabus reading lists.

Now, these observances aren’t in any way meant to demean the work of our male counterparts; we all share the same passions, and as such, we share the same joy and excitement to see the successes of others who share in this crazy way of life. That being said, as a female author who carries the dream of being published someday, I find these statistics to be disheartening, to say the least. It is a reminder that, though we have come so far and etched a place for ourselves in this complicated society, there are still fields where we will have to openly face gender bias, whether intential or not. It is a stunning reminder that I will have to decide if my work will be best sent off into the word under a name that is not my own. It scares me, to be honest, that I may have to fight that much harder than my male counterparts to achieve the same dream that we both carry. Breaking into publishing is challenging enough without feeling like the deck may be stacked against you.

And yet, we live in a world of constant change. Modern technology has transformed everything about our daily lives, and the publishing industry was not exempt from these trends. The current shifting taking place in the publishing world; the opening up of the market through the use of self-publishing is categorically changing the game. If you couple that with the fact that women are traditionally the largest consumers of literature; you realize the power that we have to change these traditional trends. We can choose to market our work under our own name, we can choose to publish our work directly to the masses and use social media to publicize it. We can keep on submitting out work, continue to fight for those cherished dreams. Through adversity our work will flourish, it is during the struggles that we discover our true message and our voice. Ladies, let them hear your stories, don’t let them look away or shuffle you to the bottom of the pile. My name is Kaitlynn, I am a female author, and I am damn proud to be one, even if that means my road will be a little bit bumpier.