During the past year there has been a lot of talk about how female freelance writers are discriminated against. It is said that clients are more likely to argue with us about rates than our male counterparts, that clients expect us to work much cheaper, they treat us differently and it's harder for us to get gigs.
As someone equipped with a vagina and a delicate and feminine constitution, I’d like to say hogwash---so I will. I’m not saying that individual instances of gender discrimination don’t happen—of course they do. And I bet some writers are occasionally discriminated against because of their race, religion or nationality too. But that doesn’t mean its an industry-wide epidemic, although that is how it’s sometimes discussed.
If you want to get your panties (or boxers) all in a wad about the discrimination you face daily, then maybe we should talk about ALL the discrimination that we face and---let's be honest here---we might be guilty of ourselves. Here are some personal and professional distinctions that are often causes of discrimination against freelance writers but that are not spoken of as often or as vehemently as this supposedly wide-spread gender discrimination is.
Education level: Do U halve college degree? If not U 2 stoopid to right for a living. Or are you? I know many successful and talented freelance writers who don’t have college degrees and I’m proud to add myself to their ranks. A degree is a fine accomplishment and can create a more intelligent and intellectually enriched person, but it is not a golden ticket to awesome writerville. If you have a college degree, you may still suck. You might be less experienced, less intuitive and vastly more sucky than someone who doesn’t have a degree. Likewise, no matter your gender, you might be more sucky than your competition.
Writing work: Magazine writers are more legit than web writers. Web writers who write for big, national companies are more professional than those who don’t. Article writers are closer to "real writers" than blog writers. Any writer is more successful than a content mill writer. Please, tell me you haven't heard some of these before and then show me what rock you've been building your home under. Having poor business sense, a different dream, different talents or different goals for your personal career does not mean you are not as much a "real writer" as someone who seems to want loftier things. Loftier isn't always better, it's just different and usually has a ladder. If you write and you get paid then you are a writer. Does that mean others want to emulate your career or that you are definitely making all the best choices? No, of course not. But you are a writer. It is skill, voice and talent that make a better writer, not business savvy. And it is business savvy that make a successful business person, not writing skill.
Rates: I charge less than you so I’m a poor schlub. You charge less than me so I’m obviously a better writer than you. I negotiate over the phone with clients for fun and you stutter through client conversations staring at the phone like a scared rabbit, so you suck. Give me a break. Those who charge more than you are not necessarily better—maybe they just have bigger balls, or maybe they are better, or maybe they suck. Those who charge less than you aren’t the scourge of the earth, maybe they just have a normal sized ego, or maybe they suck, or maybe they are scared. Who the hell cares? Get over yourself and stop trying to decide how awesome you are based on how awesome others aren't.
Popularity and name recognition: Yes, yes, I know—popular freelance writing bloggers wouldn’t be popular if their advice wasn’t worth its weight in gold. They are also better than you with your tiny little do-nothing blog.
"Guest post on a blog with only 20 hits a day? Ha—never. Allow a lowly blogger with few comments to interview me? You wish. I am a popular blogger. I am known on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace and social networking sites you and your lowly blog have never heard of. I will not bend to you. I will not condescend to speak to you like a human at conferences, I will not answer your emails, I will not acknowledge that you might know more than I do about a certain topic. I spit in your general direction. Why? Because I was picked on in high school and now's my chance to get some revenge. I'm at the senior table beyotch, now step off."
Every single person in the freelance writing world probably has something of value to share. Some of them get lucky and have a popular blog. Some of them are grimly determined to be successful and they create business plans for blog popularity. Some have really awesome voices that help them stand out organically. That doesn't mean they are better than anyone else though, just more "known." It also doesn't mean they are right.
Now it's your turn to share. Where have you seen some discrimination? Are you guilty of it too? It's okay, we all are to some extent---and as long as we're all willing to admit it (even if we don't know how to fix it) at least we're doing something.