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The Calling of the Goddess: Queer Feminist Magic and My Writing Practice

Amber Dawn

The question, “Is it still necessary to critically observe gender today, when women artists, writers and all-around achievers are recognized?” can be and is being asked. I hear the inconsistently defined term “post-feminism” used more frequently in both academic and social circles, trumpeting the position that feminism has already succeeded in its goal in the arts and literary worlds and equality of exposure has been achieved. Hip Hip…!

Even women speculative fiction writers have gained remarkable ground in what has been a “boys club” genre traditionally marketed towards adolescent male readers, with best-selling authors Cassandra Clark (Mortal Instruments), Joanne K. Rowling (Harry Potter) and Stephenie Meyer (Twilight) dominating paperback sales and putting speculative fiction in the hands of millions of readers.

Here I am tempted to wander into potentially weighty theoretical debates—gender egalitarianism, gynocriticism, and the likes. But these lines of inquiry, while valuable, are not what bring my fingers to the keyboard. I, myself, am a grown-up kin to the scrappy vulnerable street youth protagonist of Sub Rosa, and survival has always been more critical to me than…well…critique or discourse. So, there is another list of women’s names I keep close (and bugger if I sound sentimental, I keep them close to my heart). Kristen French, Tammy Homolka, Patricia Johnson, Shelby Tom, Ashley Machiskinic. These women have been murdered or gone missing. I’ve listed only those I knew well enough to remember whether it was the right corner or left corner of their mouths that rose slightly higher when they smiled or what particular cusswords they used to quarrel. These are the women’s names that still make me cry when I hear them read out loud at Trans Days of Remembrance or the February 14th Missing Women’s Memorial March (in Vancouver). Indeed, the list of missing and murdered women is hundreds of names long in Canada, my home for 30 odd years.

This is the crux of my feminism—to look not only at what has been gained, but what has been lost and what we stand to loose if we aren’t careful. The insurmountable radical work yet to be done determines where I give my charitable donations and clock my volunteer hours and it is why I write. In fact, if I wasn’t able to identify gender-based injustices and barriers, I doubt I’d have much inspiration at all. While this sounds like a dismal motivation, it is presumably why many of us queer authors write; to explore and eek out untold stories, to speak the tough and tender words that are so rarely articulated in day-to-day discourse, to create that dedicated place we have permission to emote.

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  1. This essay totally rules- I’m writing down every name I don’t recognize. Thanks!

  2. Red

    Wonderful piece! We’ll worth the page turning! =)

  3. tessa

    yeah…. what the people said love the way you think.. thanks for sharing

  4. Ariel

    Amber — Sub Rosa was one of the best and most captivating novels I have ever read. Thank you for teaching me about speculative fiction. I am excited to read more of it.

  5. Qwin

    I really enjoyed this article, and Sub Rosa has been at the top of my to-read list for months, I just haven’t managed to find it yet, but I will!

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