Next month, I’m going to be writing a 5 Myths blog post about what male writers get wrong about female characters. Then, in September, we’re switching it around to what female writers get wrong about male characters.
In order to properly write about either, I thought it would be great to get some fellow author/creative writer feedback. And so I published this on a Facebook writing group’s wall:
I'm writing a blog post for August about what men get wrong when writing about women. (Then the reverse in September.) Other than women's bodies and sexual habits, what discrepancies have you noticed?
Looking at that now, I fully acknowledge what a nitwit I was for putting it that way. I should have drastically reworded myself to make it abundantly clear I wasn’t looking for any male-bashing. Or feminist clichés. Or mansplaining.
As it was, I got too much of all three.
One woman responded with:
Interests!! MANY women like science fiction, hate Kardashians, couldn’t care less about crippling high heels, and like sports and racing. I grew up around classic cars and Indy racing; I’ll take that any day over Wedding Dress programs. I want to barf my brains out. I also despise the color pink, partly because it helps pigeonhole women into stereotypes. If it’s pink, I won’t buy it.
I had so many mental reactions to that, but I shelved them all to stay on topic, asking her what books portrayed women the way she was saying they did.
Not surprisingly, she couldn’t think of any. Neither can I outside of the romance genre, which is almost always written by women. Not men.
Therefore, her response was utterly unhelpful.
Truth be told, male writers don’t typically write their female characters – at least not their main ones – as hating science fiction, loving the Kardashians and staying at home in aprons doing nothing but cooking and cleaning for their men. If anything, the trend goes the other way, where fictional women come across as the very opposite of “girly.”
Men with curves. That’s how too many of them portray us.
So gals, seriously, get over it. Your definition of sexism just doesn’t overwhelmingly abound in the West right now. You’re fighting against projections and basing your view of reality on illusions that only end up hurting your feminist cause in the process.
Speaking of feminist causes... Men, if you’re pro-female and want to show it, telling women we’re not any different then you “except for how we pee” isn’t the way to go. In fact, I’d argue you’re an indoctrinated, destructive and demeaning lemming.
Plus, if you’re writing out female characters that way, you’re also lazy.
Actually, maybe you’re lazy regardless. But, once again, that’s a completely different topic I’m not going to bunny-trail off on.
Honestly, I’m normally not a big fan of the term “mansplaining” for two reasons:
It sounds anti-intellectual
It seems to be misused a lot. Just because a man disagrees with me doesn’t mean he’s sexist. Maybe he just has a different opinion.
Regardless, in the case of those two men who responded to my “what male writers get wrong about female characters” post, “mansplaining” fits well enough. Both took me to task for daring to claim I was any different from them based on gender, with one of them proudly proclaiming:
In my books my women carry tampons and pamprin and that’s only incidental. Other than [that] they think and act like anyone.
In that case, his female characters are overall unrealistic.
Hey, I’m a female who doesn’t wear makeup except for the occasional touch of lip gloss you see featured on these videos. Oh yeah, and when I got a horrible night’s sleep and need to be somewhere important, I will put some red-tinted concealer under my eyes to hide the bags.
Other than that, forget it. I’m too cheap and lazy to worry about such things.
I also almost never wear high heels anymore because my flats are too comfy; consider pink to be my least favorite color out there; and prefer action-adventure stories to the smoochy-smoochy stuff overall.
Plus, I fiercely guard my individuality.
Yet that individuality is partially made up of being female just as much as the women who enjoy wearing high heels, adore the color pink and love to curl up with a good romance.
Being female is part of who I am. It defines much of the way I’m inclined to think, act, speak and feel just as much as the fact that I’m short, American, from New Jersey, half-Italian, half-Scottish, a second child… and the list goes on of factors that make me Jeannette DiLouie.
I love being female just as much as I hope any other female out there loves being female – and just as much as I hope any male out there loves being male.
Come to think of it, perhaps that’s what male writers get wrong about female characters: not only that we’re different from them, but also that we should be.