On Charlotte Shane

I wrote this a year ago. This article still gets hits so it deserves a refresh. I stopped following Ms. Shane not long after writing this and on a recent look at her Twitter stream, the issue I point out below which put me off is barely evident. Her feed is a concentrated dose of intellectual social justice — energetic, unrelenting, unabashed advocacy, leavened with occasional bits of self-revelation which humanize the energies which drive her. If you are looking for intersectional feminist shock therapy for an elitist upbringing, that’s a good place to start. Her books can be found at Tiger Bee Press .

From the magic of twitter (I have no memory how) I stumbled upon her writings. And I thought, cool, here is a hip lady who writes frankly about relationships, has a woman-aware slant but doesn’t come off as a misandrist. She seemed fairly balanced about how she considered her clients. She was proud of her emotional maturity and understanding of, even kind to, the male clients she had during her sex worker days. And she writes intelligently about issues between the (various) sexes. For example, she has pointed out in online articles, that from her perspective, men had things to work on, but she did not come across as having an axe to grind with mankind. When I saw on a Twitter post her books (N.B. and Prostitute Laundry) were at a local bookstore, I went and purchased both of them, that’s how impressed I was with her articles. I’ve posted a review of N.B. (Nightmare Brunette) at my Whisky and Words blog.

The public persona

After buying her books, I started following Shane on Twitter. The vehement and steady drip of misandry and derision towards men (particularly white men) coming from her twitter stream (@CharoShane) made evident that her published short form benefited from editorial polishing. Clearly, from the way she broadly dismisses (white) men, Shane, in her pursuit of social justice, puts off male readers — no one likes to be lumped into a group and judged. That’s just prejudice, and that level of partisanship is fine if you can afford to alienate half your potential followers. Given her popularity, she can.

Frankly, I find the ‘men are universally horrid’ meme annoying and pointless. Class warfare is class warfare no matter how you dress it up and IMO, it has no place in human relations. I don’t approach people as if they were part of a group. My philosophy is, life is hard enough, approach every person you interact with as an individual, and apply some understanding, even if they violate one of your social precepts. They might be an OK person just having a hard day. Furthermore, the older I get, the older the people I interact with, the better they’ve become. People are born without a manual and make a lot of mistakes, but some learn as they age. Some learn better than others, or just stop learning at some point. That’s humanity.

What can a writer learn from Charlotte Shane

Well, that’s the point, isn’t it? I started down this road to broaden my horizons, break out of the SFF genre and tech-heavy reading I usually do and get back to foundations. I don’t have an MFA, after all — I’m a tech guy. I’ve read some books I otherwise wouldn’t have, and I’ve got a lot more books on the book list now. I highly recommend Anaïs Nin and Erica Jong for a feminine worldview, and I’ll have other, more contemporary, women authors to report on before long. I’m hoping this reading can give me better insight into how women experience emotion, how they deal with the frustrations of life and the willfulness of others who don’t do what we think they should. For the record, I’ve learned some stuff from Charlotte Shane’s N.B. even though I think Shane is a woman who is on the third standard deviation of feminine personality who had a job far from the norm for most women. I also learned some stuff reading Marquis de Sade. Not all of it is usable in your average SFF novel, but a writer’s job is to experience, and convey. The extreme writers have a place.

The art vs. the artist

Shane is very intelligent, insightful, empathetic, and vehement in her observation of social justice. She writes like ten motherfuckers, if I may regress to Army lingo. (It’s apropos.) And she’s also egotistical, channeled, ambitious, conflicted, angry, often unpleasant to ‘my kind’ and yet vulnerable. Bottom line, she was worth a read. But there are a lot of books out there, including some other good ones by former sex workers. When you’ve gotten to Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom, it’s time to pick up Shane. She’s the only writer I’ve come across who could have intimidated de Sade.

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About H.W. MacNaughton

Technologist and communicator. Into technology, jazz, Formula One, sci-fi and any good writing about real stuff.
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