Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Meet the Woman Writing #MeToo Literature; the Next Author in Our Exclusive Podcast Fiction Series Is Former Political Speechwriter Tamsin Grey. She Tells Katie Law How an Online Feminist Movement Inspired Her Genre-Defining Short Story

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Meet the Woman Writing #MeToo Literature; the Next Author in Our Exclusive Podcast Fiction Series Is Former Political Speechwriter Tamsin Grey. She Tells Katie Law How an Online Feminist Movement Inspired Her Genre-Defining Short Story

Article excerpt

Byline: Katie Law

ANEW genre of literature has been the talk of the London Book Fair this week. Feminist manuscripts based on the #MeToo Movement, along with nearfuture dystopias a la The Handmaid's Tale, are being snapped up for the highest sums. This comes after writer Kristen Roupenian won a book deal rumoured to be over PS748,000, when a short story she wrote for The New Yorker went viral in December.

Cat Person was a fictional account of an uncomfortable sexual encounter that struck a chord with millennial women across the world. Roupenian's collection of short stories is due out early next year.

According to one commissioning editor, it's "exhilarating" to see feminist fiction moving into the commercial sphere. Tapping directly into this trend is Tamsin Grey, with her short story My Beautiful Millennial, about a 21-year-old woman who travels the length of the Metropolitan line to break off her relationship with an older, predatory man.

"I was interested in the idea of a young person adrift in the world, being approached by a man who seems really interested in her and who she believes wants to help her, but she then realises is only after sex," says London-born Grey, whose first novel is published next week, while she continues her day job as a civil servant at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. "The man is predatory but he's sad and lonely too, so it's also about feeling so sorry for someone that you feel pressured into having a relationship you wouldn't actually choose."

Like a growing number of women, Grey credits the movement with causing her to reevaluate past incidents in her life. In February Monica Lewinsky announced in a Vanity Fair essay that in the light of #MeToo, she now considers her affair with Bill Clinton in the mid-1990s as not just an abuse of power but possibly not even consensual.

"I think all the way through my teens and twenties there were these incidents, not necessarily full-blown relationships, when I'd go along with some kind of romantic connection that I wasn't comfortable with," says Grey.

She has worked in different government departments on and off since 2002, and recalls one job 10 years ago where her boss picked her out as his favourite, overtly promoting and praising her, which "went straight to my head".

In the end, though, it did her no favours. Not only did she have to extricate herself but she also had to face the fact that her colleagues had come to despise her. Sexism is endemic in Westminster, she agrees, in as much as "it's endemic everywhere" but says that "huge steps are being taken to ensure it gets stamped out from the government as a workplace".

Initiatives include women's networks and the Bring Yourself to Work campaign, which publishes employees' stories about their difficulties with their ethnicity or sexuality on the intranet, to encourage others.

"The more that can be done to raise awareness of situations where an employee is being psychologically manipulated maybe not by someone being overtly cruel, it could be being flattered or sympathy being sought the easier it becomes to have a canniness and take step back," says Grey.

After graduating in English and French from Sussex University, Grey worked as a journalist before being employed by Defra as a freelance web writer. She loved being on the "inside of government" but after two years took a career break because of "caring responsibilities and my house falling down". …

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