Nowadays you can be as obseqious as you like to feminists–and still get into microaggression trouble.

Such was the fate of  young adults-noir novelist Andrew Smith, whose just-released novel, The Alex Crow, tells thefantastical  tale of a teen-age Syrian refugee who gets adopted by a Dr. Frankenstein/Dr. Mengele-style deranged scientist who re-animates dead bodies in order to put them to work as U.S. spies.

Vice writer Hugh Ryan just loved The Alex Crow–because it pushes all the politically correct buttons, mainly about evil corporations and sex:

His male characters are allowed to explore sexuality in all of its positive and negative implications, a breadth of experience that goes beyond gay or straight and into something like Freud's idea of the polymorphously perverse.

That's good–we love explorations of "sexuality," don't we? BUT….

But female characters are Smith's real Achilles heel: he doesn't have many of them and they tend toward the stereotypical.

We can't have that–so Ryan interviewed Smith:

On the flip side, it sometimes seems like there isn't much of a way into your books for female readers. Where are all the women in your work?

I was raised in a family with four boys, and I absolutely did not know anything about girls at all. I have a daughter now; she's 17. When she was born, that was the first girl I ever had in my life. I consider myself completely ignorant to all things woman and female. I'm trying to be better though.


Self-proclaimed "feminist" YA fantasy-novelist Tessa Gratton flew into high denunciation mode.

Disregarding the obvious logical problems with such an answer – that I hope was meant facetiously – the broader context of, well everything, but especially literature and YA literature puts this answer so firmly in the category of outrageously sexist it’s hard for me to see how anybody could interpret it differently. 

The interpretation is that women are less than human, or at the very least, inherently different from men. That is one of the oldest sexist arguments in the entire world. 

Andrew Smith writes books with fantasy in them. By many accounts, including the 2015 Printz committee and the LA Times, he does this very, very well. He grapples with intense issues like war and sexuality, with backdrops including alternate realities, giant grasshoppers, and reanimated crows. The fact that he can do this – because he has a great imagination – suggests that women are more alien to him and to the context of white men in America than are giant bugs and pedophiles. 

Women are so different they defy his incredible imagination.His answer suggests that it’s impossible to write them well, or at all, without personal experience.

Now yes, maybe he was joking or being facetious, but that doesn’t negate the sexism in the words just like it wouldn’t excuse racism or ableism or homophobia.

The fact that he thought it was an ok answer regardless of humor proves the culture of overt sexism that pervades YA and broader literature. Andrew Smith is an acclaimed author. He is held up as a great writer, and represents us – our community. It is unacceptable that he be allowed to say this kind of thing without consequences. 

I’m not asking for boycotts or apologies, I’m asking that we keep talking about this, keep pointing it out, keep making it shameful and at least annoying to say things like this.

Um, now, tell me again what exactly Smith said that was so horribly wrong? Sounded to me like he was apologizing for not including enough women in his fiction–and indeed licking the boots of feminists like Gratton who apparently believe that every YA fantasy novel needs to include a female heroine for every male hero.

But you can't please a feminist–so don't even try.If I were Smith, in my next novel I'd make the wicked deranged scientist a woman.