My name is Clare, I am 48 years old, happily married, two kids, one bonkers Springer Spaniel, and I love to read. I love reading literary fiction, novels written by women, about women, and have always gravitated towards female authors.
What does this have to do with anything? Quite simply because sometimes, I would like to read a novel that has an older woman at the centre of it, who is someone I can read about and think – finally, a character who is not an amalgam of all the cliches of every seventies sitcom ever.
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about my reading and blogging, and especially how women of my age are represented in fiction.
Here are some depictions of women my age that really get on my nerves.
I am going through the menopause, and although I have hot flushes and occasionally forget things, it also means that I am incapable of functioning and that I am reliant on my 13 year old to show me how to use technology.
I dress how I want, if it’s what I feel comfortable in then I don’t really give a monkeys what anyone else thinks – but apparently my wardrobe should only consist of beige, elasticated waists and comfy shoes.
I am extremely capable of many things, am not meek or mild, but apparently I should be dependent on my husband to mow the lawn or fix the leaky tap while I do the ironing and get flustered about cooking a roast dinner.
Wife, Mum, Daughter, Sister are titles for these women, but they don’t define me. How I think and behave makes me who I am.
This morning I saw that @MsLisaMilton who is an executive publisher at @HQStories along with @gransnet are running a competition for all female writers over forty, where they are asking entrants to write a story which features a leading character over the age of forty. If you fancy having a go, you can find the link here to enter.
Lisa then tweeted a link to this Guardian article, which talks about the realistic depiction of women over forty in fiction. In it, Alison Flood talks about the research from HQ Stories and Gransnet which was compiled from a survey of women over forty (I completed it too). The Survey looks at how women feel they are portrayed, and what their reality is. Alison notes in her article how it is an important initiative and that there are already some older women characters out there.
There are of course such characters, but do you know what, we need to start talking about this topic so much more widely now.
As an over 40’s blogger – and bloody proud of it since you ask, I know there are lots of women who really want to see those characters in fiction that we can relate to.
Don’t assume that because we are over 40 we are dead from the waist down, don’t assume that we are always caught in a never ending cycle of housework and shouting at teenagers, resentfully sorting out the laundry while everyone else around us is having lots of sex and are happy in their marriages. Don’t assume we all have a family around us to help with the logistics of childcare, or that we are spending our evenings sorting out our tupperware cupboards while our partners snooze on the sofa.
Over 40 does not mean the end of our lives, in my experience it has been the start of a whole new one.
I want to see older women in my fiction who are made stronger by their experience, who revel in their knowledge of the world and are happy and balanced, who don’t have to be validated by the labels that everyone around them has created. I want to read about women who have the self-belief to do what they want simply because they can. I want to read about women like me, and every other woman over 40 I know.
I believe that Book Bloggers are a really important part of any discussion like this.
We love to talk about books, and I know I am always looking for novels I want to read that have a main character that makes me want to turn the pages. Along with publishers like HQ Stories, there are so many opportunities for this idea to become a reality. There is a huge resource sat only a keyboard away, a whole group of dedicated and enthusiastic Bloggers who would love to help shape the way that fiction is created and consumed, who will happily shout about these books and authors as widely as possible.
The discussion about how women over 40 are depicted in fiction has already started, I for one am going to seek out more novels that already do this, and try to redress this in my own small way. If you are reading this post, and you know of any novels I should be shouting about, tell me.
Together, publishers, readers and bloggers have an amazing opportunity, not only to change the way women are portrayed but to also talk about women over forty who are writing too. There is an incredible group of women on all sides just waiting for this opportunity, and when we work together we can really make a difference in the world of fiction.
My name is Clare, I am a 48 year old reader and blogger, and I’m from this point on, I’m absolutely #ForTheWomenFromTheWomen