There’s been an amusing discussion thread on social media going on this week in which women vent their frustration over how women are represented by male writers. Why is it so difficult for some authors to write the opposite gender? And why do men seem to struggle more than their female counterparts. Once suggestion is that women have grown up on a plethora of male-centred narratives through which they can experience a sense of other and develop insight and empathy for some of the male experience (I’m not including those marginalised groups that make up the diversity of the sexual spectrum who have also been excluded or misrepresented within the popular canon).
It began with this post, titled “Dear Men Writers” (originally published in Nov 2016), where the author invited people to add to a list of things that male authors get wrong about women. Simple mechanical facts like, high-heeled shoes don’t become flats if you snap the heels off. This sparked a “cascade” of comments where women bemoaned the often ridiculous ways in which they are represented in popular culture. Check out some of them here.
My favourite of these is the description of an “up-do”. Removing a single bobby-pin will not cause that matted nest of chemically fixed tangle to “cascade” seductively down your back.
I’ve talked about this before in a previous blog post: Writing Women. In this post I looked at writing ourselves from a male perspective and writing a description of a male character as though they were female to explore how shifting the gendered pronoun and point of view radically re-shapes our perception of particularly sexuality.
Have you ever had that experience of reading a book, or watching a movie where you recoil? The spell is broken because you can’t identify with the character, their motivations, their actions or the sheer logistics of what the author is putting them through?
So what do some male writers get so wrong? I’ve had a quick think and this is what I’ve come up with. I’d love to hear the things that get under your skin.
1: I don’t eat ice-cream when I’m sad. I drink tea.
2: I don’t talk about sex with my friends. I talk about politics, kids, the rubbish on T.V. I drink tea.
3: I’m not attracted to men who are mean to me. I’m attracted to men who make me tea.
4: I’m not romantic. I’ll take tea over roses any day.
5: I’m not a suppressed housewife who needs to get blitzed to unwind. As I said, I drink tea.
6: I rarely wear makeup. Side note: I don’t wake up with lip gloss pre-applied and if I go to bed with that shit on my face, it is EVERYWHERE by the morning. Facial melting pot of colour and texture.
7: I wear a loose-fitting dobok (uniform) to practice martial arts. Not leather. Not spandex. Not ever. Oh! and when I punch, my wrist is straight.
8: High heels suck. Full stop. (Except for wedges on special occasions.)
9: Lingerie is on a needs-must per dress/as required scenario. Bonds cotton all the way.
10: Shaving legs? Not Sexy.
11: Washing hair? See 10.
12: Cooking dinner? Never done it wearing my husband’s business shirt. See 10.
13: Shopping for groceries? Fruit just isn’t sexually symbolic. See 10.
14: Folding washing? See 10.
15 Chewing a pen? See 10.
16: Women don’t bite their lip when they are thinking, flirting, frightened, uncertain… whatever. See 10.
17: I also like to stand up straight. Arching my back all the time really hurts.
18: Women are capable of closing their lips too. That vacant, pouty stare you see everywhere in posters and on T.V. just isn’t a thing.
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