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My Male Chauvinistic writing style

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by srebak, Feb 4, 2014.

  1. The Dark One

    The Dark One Maester

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    I sometimes think that this subject is painfully artificial (some will think I only see it that way because I'm male...and maybe they're right but I can't help that). The thing is, we are what we are, and while I'm all for reconstruction - up to the point of equality but not beyond - I'm also prey to my own bio-chemistry and fundamental drives. If there are breasts about, I will see them. I'll do my best not to stare, but I'm hard wired to notice things like that and won't pretend otherwise. Too much self-emasculation in this world for my liking.
     
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  2. Amanita

    Amanita Maester

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    Most important things have already been said. With plenty of women around you in your life, the challenge should be a manageable one and there have been many good suggestions so far.
    I think it's important to note that female characters in need of rescue aren't sexist in themselves. If your story is set in a society where women aren't expected to fight, they will require help if an armed man attacks them. The problem arises if the female characters only serve as objects or prices for the hero to be won. He receives gold and the princess for his efforts and there's no real difference between the two. I simply fail to understand why the idea that women are human beings with minds and emotions of their own would be a problem for anyone but I don't think that was what you were trying to express.

    Despite of being female, I've never been pregnant so far, therefore I don't know if I could describe this any more accurately than a male writer. In the time of the internet, there are plenty of different people sharing their experiences online which I think is helpful in such cases. Asking people in real life as well of course.
    I'm slightly worried about my portrayal of sexual awakening in a teenage boy, a subject less easy to get information on than pregnancy and I might skip this part completely or keep myself to hints.

    I'm always wary about generalisations along the lines of "all women are like this" and "all men are like that" because I have some typical feminine traits and others which are always named among "women are not like this" and even feel somewhat offended about claims such as the one that women are obsessed with feelings/romance while men write about everything else. (I don't care for pure romance stories at all.)
    I don't really see the point of constructing such general differences.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2014
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  3. Guy

    Guy Inkling

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    I thanked, but I felt like that wasn't enough.
    *raises glass in a toast*
     
  4. The sexualization of breasts is to a large degree a cultural thing. Evolutionarily, seeing breasts was normally not a big deal. To say "Aw, it's all just biology, I can't help it" ignores what biology actually constitutes.
     
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  5. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    Both of you are making good points, actually. The sexualizing of features is culture-specific, yes, but it also feeds into bio-chemistry and the natural sex-drive. Breasts in the West (of whatever size or shape are popular), wide hips and a round backside in parts of Africa, the back of the neck in Japan - all of these are cultural turn-ons, and turn-ons, after all, feed the sex drive. We stand up and notice. I can turn this around and talk about those things in men that we regard as turn-ons, as well, those features which draw the eye and the attention - a deep, resonant voice, broad shoulders, that V thing on either side of the hips marking the path to Happy Land (some of you will know what I'm talking about ;) ). These features are just as sexualized to signal the same things biologically and culturally as the above mentioned features in women - that here is a good potential mate.

    Now, we want to also add a social consciousness to this, because we left the cave a very long time ago, and we are more than just a collection of stimulus and impulses. We can as authors also play with cultural signals of attraction, and we can as authors make the choice as to how we wish to address the relationships between and among the sexes - and even if we want to keep ourselves limited to just two, or push the boundaries further. The whole point is that gender is not defined by our genitals, it is a cultural conception even more than it is biochemical, and that chemistry happens in the brain, and we as people are individuals.

    And, in my opinion, there is nothing inherently sexist about characters of any gender noticing and appreciating the attractive features of other characters. When we deny our characters' most primal drives is when we deprive them of their humanity.
     
  6. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    This is sort of related to the overall topic, if not to current discussion. Check these pictures out:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Some fashion pictures. Nothing too out of the ordinary, right?
    Now consider that it's the same person in all three pictures. Both of the people in the third picture are the same one edited in twice.
     
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  7. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    Those pics remind me of my little sister. XD She switches back and forth between a male and female appearance fairly often (wearing boys' clothes and binding down her breasts, wearing her hair up so it looks short), and even has a Facebook page for her male alter ego (she labeled it as her "brother"). I'm still not sure if that's just an unusual way of expressing herself, or if she actually identifies as genderfluid. She is biologically female, and as far as I know she has no intention of being otherwise.
     
  8. Hah, nicely done. I thought the first two might be the same before I read your explanation, but the last one... very well done.
     
  9. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    Then, on the other side of the coin, you have things like this:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 10, 2017
  10. The Dark One

    The Dark One Maester

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    Now, now Benjamin...you're only responding to half of my post. Naughty!

    AEL has already responded eloquently enough on the substantive issue, so I won't waste everyone's time with that, but on the debating issue - I did not say 'Aw it's all just biology, I can't help it.' I spoke also about the effort within individuals to reconstruct themselves despite their biology and suggested that some people go overboard and screw themselves up by denying their biology in pursuit of some artificial gender neutral reality. That was my point, so I'll thank you not to paraphrase me into some sort of brutish Hemingway.

    By the way, one of my books is a surrealist/sci-fi comedy which among other things explores gender neutral reality (or GNR as it is referred to in the story).
     
  11. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    Okay, so to make an example involving breasts may not have been the best idea I ever had. ;)

    Anyway, my idea wasn't to make guys feel bad about checking out women. My idea was to illustrate with a practical example how the world treats men and women differently and how we as writer can use that knowledge (if we're aware of it) to better portray members of the opposite sex.
    It may not work for everyone, but I think it worked out okay for me last time I tried.
     
  12. I didn't figure I needed to address the other half, since it was basically a plea for "geez, I'm tired of hearing about this," rather than acknowledging that there IS a major problem in gender relations and that maybe the people who are up in arms about it have a point. To wit:

    You can't help being male, but you sure as heck can help having the attitude that this is an "artificial" topic. Try listening to some women who have expressed their experiences with being belittled, insulted, and harassed just because they're women and see if you then feel the same way.

    Yes, men have it so difficult, what with making more money than women, being in far more positions of power, not having the makeup-industrial complex contantly barraging us with messages telling us we're ugly, not having to worry that if we get sexually assaulted that people will blame us instead of the attacker, etc. What we really need to be concerned with is that too many people might be "self-emasculating," which is something that is Not Actually A Problem.
     
  13. Guy

    Guy Inkling

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    Pretty much everyone has, at some time, been belittled, insulted and harassed just because ________________. Race, religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation. Women are hardly alone in that.
    Like, say, Orpah Winfrey.
    Instead, it's a bunch of other industries telling us we're not in good enough shape, lost our competitive edge, or don't have good enough erections. I strongly recommend a book called The Adonis Complex. It's a very good account of some pressures men face but no one knows about because, as men, we're not supposed to whine about it. We're supposed to suck it up.
    As opposed to the robbery victim who's told he should've locked his doors. Or the assault victim who's told he should be able to take care of himself. Or the guy who does successfully defend himself and is prosecuted because the media howled for blood or the prosecutor is up for re-election and wants to look tough on crime. Or the guy who notices the back of a female co-worker's pants are torn and, to spare her the embarrassment of walking around the office like that, he warns her about it. She reports him for sexual harassment and he's immediately suspended without pay pending investigation - guilty until proven innocent. Women are hardly alone in being victims of injustice and unfairness.
    This might not be an actual problem to you but is for others, just as gender relations might be a major issue for you but not others.
     
  14. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

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    While we're on the subject of guilt about how we as writers handle representational issues, I have noticed a trend in my own writing that I feel reflects badly on me. In my case the problem is not gendered but racial.

    Whenever I write a story about international or inter-cultural conflict, more often than not the villains are ethnically Middle Eastern or Mediterranean. The Greeks, Romans, and Biblical Israelites seem to be my favorite punching bags, though sometimes I go after Arabs or Persians. On an intellectual level I don't condone any form of racism, but this trend makes me wonder whether I suffer from some latent prejudice against the Greco-Roman and Jewish cultures. In the case of the former, it may stem from how historians would idealize the Greeks and Romans as the founders of Western civilization who were culturally superior to everyone else in the classical world. As for the anti-Jewish sentiments, I blame bad experiences with Judeo-Christian religious fundamentalists and pro-Israel Zionists.
     
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  15. Where did I say women were alone in it? But it's prima facie absurd to claim that men get the same quantity or intensity of such treatment as women.

    Yes, one example of a powerful woman disproves the assertion that more men are in positions of power. If you'd like, I could list how many of the Fortune 500 have female CEOs. (For the record, as of a year ago it was 22. 22 out of 500, or 4.4%.) It's much better in Congress, but still only about 20% of the Senate and 19% of the House is female. I don't expect or demand gender parity in all walks of life, but in political representation, it ought to be a damn sight better than one fifth.

    I don't mean to say that men don't receive those kinds of messages, but we certainly don't receive them with the intensity and frequency that women do.

    All valid concerns, and yet a drop in the bucket compared to what women have to deal with. If you file a robbery report, the police don't typically blame you for getting robbed and refuse to file the report. Women are routinely blamed for getting raped and in many cases authority figures refuse to even listen to their reports.

    The assertion was never that everything's great for men and terrible for women; the assertion is that things are much worse for women than they are for men, and when I see someone say that this is an "artificial subject" it upsets me.
     
  16. buyjupiter

    buyjupiter Maester

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    I think people in general might get some benefit in watching "Oppressed Majority" by Eleonore Pourriat. It's a stunning visualization of the reality of what women go through, but genderswapped. It's a short film, and if I could find a link that doesn't automatically show a still from the video that is NSFW, I would post it here. (It is triggerish for assault and everyone should feel uncomfortable watching it.)

    This video might also serve as a warning about what not to do to your women (or queer men or transgender) characters unless you are also willing to go in depth into how that behavior affects them and how it alters what choices are available to them. Likewise, if you want to explore how constant sexualization affects men, go for it, but the same thing applies: go in depth on how it affects them. Otherwise it'll most likely come across as titillation.
     
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  17. Guy

    Guy Inkling

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    I know of no objective way of measuring it, so it pretty much comes down to a matter of opinion.
    The point being, there was a time, not so very long ago, when there were no women of Oprah Winfrey's stature, when there were no female CEOs or members of Congress. And numbers alone don't tell the story - how many women actually tried to get those jobs? One reason for gender disparities in careers is because disproportionate numbers of one gender or the other gravitate towards that occupation.
    Again, there's no way to objectively measure that, so it comes down to opinion. It's my opinion that, in the developed world, one sex doesn't face any significantly greater social pressure than the other.
    Women are more likely to be the victims of sexual assault, but men are more likely to be the victims of homicide. Which is worse?
    What's the difference between "much worse" and "terrible?" Are their legal rights men have that women don't? Things have improved a great deal, and in a relatively short span of time. Within a single lifespan we've gone from women being barred from voting to women holding political office and being contenders for the presidency. In some countries they have achieved that position. I use Oprah Winfrey as an example because, a few decades ago, it was unthinkable for a woman (and a black one, at that) to achieve such status. Some people get upset at sex discrimination being considered an artificial topic while others get upset when, after all the progress that's been made, some people make it sound like no progress has been made.
     
  18. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

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    I always felt the reason rape was considered such a heinous crime had something to do with its gendered domineering connotations. In our culture at least, we associate rape with men dominating women. Of course homicide can be used as a tool of domination too, but it doesn't carry the same patriarchal baggage as rape. If anything, we stereotype homicide as a predominantly male-on-male crime rather than something men do to women.

    That said, I never liked the old chivalric traditions which demanded gentler treatment for women. Not only do men like myself find them irritating, but they actually have their roots in the perception that women can't do anything for themselves. The irony of chivalry is that it's sexist towards both sexes.
     
  19. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I've been brought up in a way that means that if I'm in the position to hold a door open for someone I will do it - regardless of who they are. I've also been brought up in a way that makes me see my guests to the door when they leave.
    I have a friend who gets annoyed when I hold the door open for her because she thinks I do it just because she's a woman. She also thinks I see her out so that I can be sure she's really left.

    These things aren't easy. They will never be.
    However, by being aware that misunderstandings like these occur and that people see the world in ways different to our own, we can populate our stories with more diverse and believable characters.

    Edit: This is a general statement - it's not directed at just Jabrosky.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2014
  20. rhd

    rhd Troubadour

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    I've criticized a lot of early Disney films but The Journey Of Natty Gann goes against every sexist role for a female character that they've created, so I'm kinda okay. I saw it as a kid and fricking LOVED it. I hate that they call her tomboyish, oh well may be the term is dated, dressing like a boy must have just been more convenient, plus the her love interest is a boy not much older than her. It's mainly beautiful father-daughter relationship and coming of age story. If you haven't seen it, you simply must. It's was made in 1985.

    Anyway, in spite of being feminist, or at least thinking I'm mighty feminist, it took a while to for me to get rid of the standard sexist/tropey plots/characterizations I might have unconsciously created in my book because of the stuff I've swallowed along the way, and I'm glad I didn't put any of it out there before I made those changes. If it's important to you, make a conscious effort to filter it out but give it time and don't be too hard on yourself. Also a feminist plot isn't necessarily so black and white. I realized my MC gets rescued a lot, but the main thing is that she doesn't sit around waiting for it, takes matters into her hands and she's also no one's prize.
     
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