Updated: Oct 8, 2019
Podcast Episode Link: Click here.
Podcast Episode Transcript: Hi, genuine writers! This is Innovative Editing’s Jeannette DiLouie welcoming you to episode #37 of The Genuine Writer Podcast. We keep things short, sweet and to the point here so that you can learn what you need to learn and get back to writing already.
Today’s episode – which is all about the perception of female characters in creative writing – is sponsored by The Genuine Writer’s Retreat. Our third annual getaway is coming up sooner than you think. Not soon as in Halloween-soon or even Thanksgiving or Christmas-soon. It’s not until next year, in fact. April 2-5, 2020 to be exact. But that’s really not that far away. After all, it’s already October 7. Where did 2019 go? For that matter, where did the 2010s go?
I was just at an ‘80s and ‘90s-themed arcade hall on Saturday night playing old-school Mario Brothers and looking at Game Boys and Teddy Ruxpin. Talk about nostalgia! That’s stuff’s long gone, of course. And your opportunity to sign up for The Genuine Writer’s Retreat will be in the rearview mirror too before you know it.
It’s a four-day, three-night experience in historic, picturesque Annapolis, Maryland, that is more delicious and inspiring – and maybe even a little bit haunted – than I can describe. So really, do yourself a favor, give yourself a break, and get yourself encouraged to write by signing up at www.TheGenuineWriter.com today.
Okay. So. Female characters in creative writing. If you didn’t shut off this show as soon as you heard what it’s about, you might be a glutton for punishment. Seriously. Then again, you might be utterly self-righteous. Or you’ve been living under a rock and don’t understand how utterly heated this topic can get.
One way or the other, it came up in conversation yesterday while I was having a very friendly, non-writing related conversation with somebody that took a writing-related turn somehow. Anyway, it made me think of a series of blog posts and a subsequent video I did a few years ago on what male writers get wrong about female characters and what female writers get wrong about male characters.
In order to properly write about either, I thought it would be great idea to get some fellow author/creative writer feedback, and so I posted on a Facebook writing group that I belong to that I was writing a blog post about what men get wrong when writing about women and then the reverse. Other than women’s bodies and sexual habits, what discrepancies had they noticed?
That’s practically verbatim what I wrote and, after the fact, I realized how utterly dumb I was for phrasing it that way. I should have added a humongous disclaimer in neon flashing lights that explained how I wasn’t looking for any male-bashing. Or feminist clichés. Or mansplaining. Because, oh my word, I got all three. It was ridiculous.
For instance, one woman responded with, “Interests!! Many women actually enjoy science fiction, hate the Kardashians, don’t want to wear crippling high heels, and are more than happy to watch sports and racing. I grew up around classic cars and Indy racing; I’ll take that any day over wedding dress shows. I want to throw up at the very thought of having to sit through that kind of thing. Plus, I despise the color pink, partly because it helps turn women into absolute stereotypes. If it’s pink, I won’t buy it.”
Okie dokie, cute stuff. So sorry I just triggered you. Do you need help finding a safe space?
I don’t mean to be rude, and yeah, watching the Kardashians is pretty lame. But some women like wedding dress shows. So what? Some women like the color pink. So what? Some women even – gasp! enjoy staying home, raising the kiddos, cooking and cleaning. So what? And what in the world does any of that have to do with books anyway?
Honestly, I had so many mental reactions to her response that it took me a little while to shelve all of my reactions and respond politely, asking her if she could give me specific books that portrayed women in the way she was describing.
She couldn’t. Not a single one. Nor could any of the other women who had similar reactions. Which wasn’t that big of a surprise. Because guess what? I can’t think of any that do either. Not outside of the romance or chicklit genres anyway – which are almost universally written by women. Not men with their apparent pink oppression of all things female.
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.”
In so many ways, they’re rather like men with curves. They can fight like men, work like men, compartmentalize like men, have casual sex like men, and the list goes on. There’s nothing special or even necessary about our existence in those stories.
So gals, seriously, get over it. Your definition of literary 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.
And guys? If you’re pro-female and want to show it, telling women we’re not any different then you – as another respondent (this one male) put it, that the only variation is “how we pee” – is unrealistic, indoctrinated, destructive and demeaning. Men and women are different, and I don’t care how un-PC this is going to sound, but if you’re writing your female characters out in the exact same way that you’re writing your male characters out, then you’re lazy. At best.
I speak as a woman who doesn’t wear makeup except for the occasional bout of lip gloss and a dab of concealer under my eyes when my insomnia gets too bad. Other than that, I’m too cheap and lazy to worry about such things. I almost never wear high heels because my flats are too comfy, pink is probably my least favorite color, and I prefer action-adventure stories to the smoochy-smoochy stuff overall.
Yet I still most definitely am not male. Nor do I want to be seen as such any more than my high-heel-wearing, pink-adoring, romance-reading fellow females do. We still have a different set of powers than men. We still have a different set of weaknesses than men. And we still have different cravings and stimulations.
Are there exceptions and variations to those rules? Sometimes and to some degree, yes. But we’re never going to be “one of the guys” regardless. So male and female writers alike, stop trying to make us that way – in fiction or otherwise.
That’s it for this week. Thanks as always for tuning into The Genuine Writer Podcast. It was great having you here, and I’ll catch you again next time!