1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

My Male Chauvinistic writing style

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

  1. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    2,581
    395
    83
    I actually do the same thing for both sexes.
     
  2. There actually are objective ways to measure it: categorizing the content of, and quantifying the intensity and number of, messages that appear in various forms of media, for example. Run experiments where a man and a woman go into an electronics store and ask the exact same question, and gauge whether the response is technical and precise or patronizing and simplified. There's loads of ways to do it, and there's loads of papers that have been written about it. As nice as it must feel to declare that "there's no way to objectively measure it," that just ain't so.

    I'm going to assume you're male, mainly because I have trouble thinking of any woman who would say what you did. How many times in the past year have you had some random person on the street mutter comments about your appearance, or how sexy you are, or about sexual things they'd like to do to you? How many times did someone say or imply to you that you don't know what you're doing just because you're male? Or that you should smile more, or that you'd be more attractive if you wore makeup? How many times have you gone into a store with a female companion and had the clerk ignore you and talk to her even when you address the clerk directly? I'm going to guess that none of these things happened to you in the last year, and I'd bet cash that every woman you know has had at least one of those things–or some other belittling, patronizing comment that is made only because of her gender–happen to her. Most likely multiple times.

    Just because things used to be worse doesn't mean there aren't still problems. The message you're sending is along these lines: "Sure, women only get paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same jobs as men, but you shouldn't complain, because it used to be 55 cents!"
     
    A. E. Lowan, J. S. Elliot and Gryphos like this.
  3. The Dark One

    The Dark One Maester

    708
    228
    43
    Jeez I go away for a couple of days and all hell breaks loose!

    Perhaps I explained myself a little clumsily. I don't disagree with any of Benjamin's points in the real world, but I wasn't really talking about the real world...I was talking about its impact on male writers.

    Some males (I believe) get so screwed up trying to be sensitive and reconstructed that they come across all preachy and turn their characters into boring ciphers. That's not the way to write characters and stories that will have an impact - regardless of your social engineering agenda.

    To give an example of what I mean (in a different context) - I wrote a comedy screenplay about greed. One of my friends (also a writer) made several suggestions for its improvement, but they were all about changing things to turn the story - very overtly - into a moral tale. The thing was, it was already a moral tale because the morality happens in the mind of the reader/watcher in response to the appalling actions of the characters.

    Another example - my first published book (Mr Cleansheets) was, among other things, an anti-racism crusade. Not once does any character say racism is bad and there are some evil racists in the book who say and do racist things. You can't have a novel about racism without there being such characters (bad things happen to them in the end which wouldn't have happened if they hadn't been racist).

    There is also my surrealist sci-fi comedy which is very much about 'the battle of the sexes'. It is a subtle book and only gets slowly to the point, but there is some casual misogyny/chauvinism in the early parts which may well put some readers off, but...you can't have a book about sexism without there being sexists. And they must be unselfconscious about their sexism or it gets too preachy and cipherous.

    That was my point, expressed poorly above when I used the word artificial. If you want to be a writer who has an impact, don't get all hung up about how people might perceive you as a person through your evil characters. Write fearlessly what has to be written and let the readers respond as they must.
     
  4. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    1,896
    1,046
    163
    We take this a step further. It's not just our antagonists who exhibit what might be perceived as negative attitudes and actions towards members of the opposite sex, or less "dominant" members of their own sex. For example, one of our male main characters is an 800 year-old faerie knight. He is not a gentleman, he is not chivalrous, and he is not very empathic. He is protective of those he cares about, and gentle towards them after his own fashion, but he is quick to exhibit violence to anyone who threatens them - regardless of their gender. Where he comes from women are as dangerous as men, so he makes no distinction.

    Our world is a very close, but alternative version of our modern one, and our characters live in a very violent subculture where many are immortals who are hundreds of years old and at their core products of their time. The rest live by rules that have gone unchanged for centuries, and those rules are not fair. There isn't a lot of room in this setting for high-minded virtues and trying to change the world - but that doesn't stop some characters from trying.
     
  5. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    5,407
    2,410
    313
    Guilty as charged.
    For me it's a balancing act, but I think that me being nervous and insecure about it made it a lot more difficult than it needed to be.

    Just recently I got some really positive feedback on a female character I'd written and it was a real confidence boost for me. Since then I've worried a lot less about it. I still think about how to portray my characters to make them come across as real and believable, but I no longer get (as) nervous worrying about getting them right.

    I guess what I needed was just a little encouragement - some confirmation I'm playing in the right ballpark.

    I have no idea if I'll be able to repeat it with another character, but I know I did it once, so I should be able to do it again, right? ;)
     
  6. Guy

    Guy Inkling

    451
    197
    43
    My point was there's no way to objectively measure how much one suffers more than the other unless you define "suffering," and that's where it gets subjective. In fact, much of the results of a study would hinge on that definition. For example, is demeaning someone based on their religion or ethnicity not as bad as demeaning someone based on sex? How about political affiliation? Sexual orientation? Is there a point system or something? How do you quantify such things?
    Not one woman I know thinks her lot in life is "much worse" than those of men. You'd be surprised at the variety of opinions among them. Sort of like how there's a variety of opinions among guys...
    In my life I've encountered plenty of random and pointless hostility from complete strangers. Not sure why we're limiting ourselves to a year, but let's try this one on for size: within the last year, have you introduced yourself to someone and had that person respond by yelling, "Get a life, you Wiccan prick!" at you? I have.
    How often do you hear women talking about what idiots men are? About as often as you hear guys complaining about how irrational women are.
    Yep, I get that one a lot. And that I should be more sociable. Or that I should talk more. And when I do I'm told I talk too much. Sort of like how when a woman is told she should be more confident and is promptly labeled a bitch when she does so.
    Women are judged on looks. Men are judged on achievements, and I'm not exactly what you'd call a go-getter. I've been made fun of because I suck at sports, am about as handy around the house as a goldfish and can't tell one type of car from another. I never felt the need to go around being assertive. I don't give a hoot in hell about climbing to the top of the ladder or dying with the most toys or beating the Joneses. My great desire in life is to be left alone. I'm an introvert in a society that prizes the extroverted male. And when I hit thirty my hair fell out. According to the standards our society judges men by, these traits make me quite undesirable. So women are judged on stupid things. But so are men. Instead of trying to quantify the differences, my natural impulse is to try and empathize. No, I don't know what it's like to be the target of crude sexual propositions, but I do know what it's like to be the object of irrational hate, or what it's like to be the odd person out. And through that I see something I and the sexually harassed woman have in common - being the objects of contempt from our fellow humans, not the idea that her suffering on a scale of 1 - 10 was a 7 while mine was only a 5 so I need to sit down and shut up. I see a common bond, not a demographic division.
    Nor have I had a clerk ignore my wife and focus on me.
    Well, you'd lose that bet. You're making way too many assumptions here. You know nothing of my life, nor of the women I know. Maybe it's the women I'm around. I don't recall them ever expressing the thought that their lives were so much worse than men's. When problems or obstacles arose, they did what functioning adults, male or female, do - they dealt with them and moved on.

    And why is belittling or patronizing speech based only on gender counted? Is belittling, patronizing speech based on other reasons not as bad? If not, why not?
    I never said there weren't problems. I said things have gotten a lot better, those improvements shouldn't be ignored or trivialized, and that I think the idea that things for women are "much worse" than for men is a bit strong. To my mind that phrase would apply more to places that still have forced genital mutilation. Most women I know are pretty happy. They've got crap to deal with, much of it unfair, but that's true of everyone. The ones that aren't happy aren't unhappy because men have it soooooo much better than they do. They're unhappy for the whole host of reasons other people are unhappy. None of the women I've known have been stopped from doing something they wanted to do because they were women.

    Men who who treat women with contempt tend to treat other guys with contempt, too. They'll be contemptuous of anyone they perceive as weaker than they, male or female, because they're jackasses.
     
  7. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    1,896
    1,046
    163
    Ben and Guy,

    While I, and I'm sure many of us, approve of and applaud both of you for standing up and being passionate about your beliefs, I think we need to try to keep the discussion on writing, and sexism in writing, rather than opinions of real-world social realities. This is how these threads have gotten derailed and finally locked in the past, and it would be nice to see if we can avoid that happening, here.

    If you want to keep discussing, why don't you gentlemen take it into Private Messages?

    Thanks!
     
  8. Guy

    Guy Inkling

    451
    197
    43
    Fair enough.
     
  9. srebak

    srebak Troubadour

    139
    7
    18
    I just don't know what it is, you guys; you've all given me advice that might help me with my Male Chauvinistic issues in my writing style, yet my brain seems to reject the very idea of even trying them out. I can't figure it, it's like my mind wants to remain stuck in a Male chauvinistic state of mind, which is wrong on so many levels.

    I don't want to be one of those sexist, anti-feminist pigs who are disrespectful towards women and see them as nothing more than objects to be won. I was raised by a single working mother with an incredibly dominant older sister for for goodness sake! Part of me probably started this thread so that i could hear someone tell me that i wasn't sexist, but if my state of mind is still the same as it was when i first posted, then i am sexist and i hate that so much.

    A good writer should be able to write characters that are their own people, not just generic love interests and damsels in distress. Disney made its share of movies and TV shows with no-nonsense female leads who could take care of themselves, yet my mind seems to be focusing on the movies/TV shows with male protagonists.

    I need to know: right here, right now, am i a sexist, anti-feminist pig?
     
  10. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    1,896
    1,046
    163
    SineNomine likes this.
  11. srebak

    srebak Troubadour

    139
    7
    18
    As i've said before, your suggestions seem valid, but for some reason, my mind and instincts just seem to be rejecting them. I can't figure it out

    I don't know why i can't flesh out the female characters like i try to do with the males, even though i know deep down that i should. I just can't help but focus on the boys. Though, in at least three cases, it's because i feel sorry for the boy.

    I don't know why i can't follow your advice and try out your exercises, there's just something inside me that won't even let me try.

    I guess when it comes down to it, I don't handle change or admitting when i'm wrong very well, that's just the way i am. I just don't want being Sexist to be apart of that statement, especially when it's because i'm doing something that felt okay at the time (the main female leading mainly being a love interest).
     
  12. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    2,581
    395
    83
    Today when writing an outline for a new story, I found myself in a similar situation as you. I was writing bios for the male and female leads, and I noticed that I had fleshed out my heroine's personality and back-story less than that of my male hero. I knew her occupation, relationship to the male hero (love interest of course), and certainly what she looked like (I've already drawn two portraits of her), but not much beyond that. In the end she came out looking like a supporting character for the male lead rather than a protagonist in her own right. :(
     
  13. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    1,945
    940
    113
    Well, let me stress again that I am saying this as a woman, and perhaps I'm the only one who sees it this way, but in my opinion, the approach to storytelling that requires a careful equalization between the sexes (or, as some would prefer, everything weighted toward the female, as in, it would be better to some people for there to be no significant male characters than for there to be no significant female characters) seems to me far more sexist than just letting authors get on with telling the stories that come to them. Certainly in as much as it is preoccupied with sex more than story.

    There is nothing wrong with telling stories that focus on male characters and have female characters as supporting. It is not sexist just to tell stories mostly featuring male characters. Sexism is found in how female characters are viewed within the story, not without.

    For instance, I've been rereading The Magic of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt. Lately at every Inn that the male MC stops at he looks at the female servers and evaluates them physically, becoming aroused by one and deeming another just a "skinny thing" and gives her no more mind. The former girl smiles at him at one point and he thinks she is offering him sex and hopes she will come to his room later. (She doesn't because thinking a smile equal sex is stupid.) Now, this may or may not be realistic behavior for a teenage male, but I don't care. It is a sexist way to view women and has gone a long way to making me hate the character. There really isn't any need to show him thinking such awful things. (I wonder if the publisher and the author assumed a male audience at the time.) However, the fact that the book is about a male character and has only a few supporting female characters doesn't, in its self, make it sexist. The character's actions have done that.

    That's my opinion anyway.
     
  14. Scribble

    Scribble Archmage

    983
    282
    63
    I would enjoy much more reading a character who is struggling with this idea of sexism than reading something that is an obviously politically-forced hacking of characters to fit current sensibilities. I have daughters, so I have a vested interest in feminism. At the same time, I am painfully aware that political correctness turns fiction into unreadable garbage like no other force I can think of.

    I'd enjoy reading an honest character - one who is sexist and is becoming aware of it, but who struggles with it, in a way that is part of the fiction - and maybe he doesn't fully "evolve" in the current sense. I'd much rather read that than yet another token ass-kicking female character bolted on in an attempt to make the story unoffensive to women. I find it more offensive, but very forgivable, if I perceive it as well-meaning. If it appears to be pandering, then it irritates me.

    Not one of us wants to be regarded as sexist. The male writer today has Woman with a capital W looking over the words he writes. So do women, but they have the advantage of being on "team W". I struggle with this also because I think about my daughters reading my work. That pressure is not conducive to creativity, but rather it can be paralyzing to your creativity. If the story is about a man and I try to force in a second main character who happens to be female just to please my sense of political correctness, I'll end up filling it with stuff that is not the story and it will suffer for it.

    I say write your stories, let them be what they are, let your characters be who they are, and then worry about the market and public perception. It may be the difference between writing fiction few people want to read and writing fiction no people want to read.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2014
  15. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Srebak, I face something similar in my work. I am a woman, and the characters in my stories tend to be mostly female, with male supporting. Its not that I have a problem writing male characters, just that female ones interest me more in the fantasy scope because I don't usually read about them. So if writing male characters is more to your liking/comfort, then stick with that. Perhaps the right female character for you to write about hasn't come along? ;) Think of it as a goal you'd like to reach in your writing, and it will come to you someday.
     
    Mythopoet and Scribble like this.
  16. SineNomine

    SineNomine Minstrel

    80
    27
    18
    Great article, and gets to the heart of why I find some of the things discussed here a bit frustrating.

    I will say that we authors as a whole are very, very good at convincing ourselves of what they want to believe. We're an introspective lot, and a group that loves internal arguments. We get lots of practice. We can find any excuse imaginable to justify what we already want to be true, and very little can shake us from it. It's especially dangerous with the -isms since we demonize them so strongly that it makes it difficult to accept that we have even a tacit, passive role in a system of discrimination, much less an active one.

    I apologize if this is really aggressive but...what do you really want here, TC? You said that you can't imagine actually using any offered advice to try and improve how you write female characters, so do you not want to write them better? Do you just want reassurance that you aren't a sexist? Do you want to be confirmed as a sexist so you can shrug your shoulders and not have to think about it any more because that's just who you are? Thinking critically about the issue is already a huge first step few people take so...well, you've sort of taken a bite of the fruit of tree of the knowledge of good and evil if you will, and there is no more going back. You have to know what you want for others to be able to help you get it.

    Edit - Restating a good quote from the linked article:

    Ambient discrimination makes us discriminatory. We all do it; we’re all that way because that’s what we get all around us. What makes us not a sexist, or a racist, or a homophobe, or whatever, is what we choose to do when we recognize our discriminatory behaviors or attitudes (or have them pointed out by others). If you work to minimize them going forward, in yourself and in your larger world, then you’re probably not a sexist/racist/homophobe/whatever. If you sort of shrug, and go, yeah, well, that’s life, then, yes. You’re totally a sexist/racist/homophobe/whatever. You don’t have to wait to claim that title, or have it justifiably applied to you.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2014
  17. Guy

    Guy Inkling

    451
    197
    43
    My first guess would be the writer was trying to accurately portray a male adolescent mind, in which case the writer succeeded. The male adolescent mind typically spends a great deal of time of evaluating potential mates and engaging in very wishful thinking.
     
  18. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    1,945
    940
    113
    Very likely. Not having ever been a teenage male, I didn't want to assume. However, I would still maintain that it's not something I should have to read about. To a woman reading those passages, it feels insulting to my entire sex. Which is why I wonder if at the time of publication there was an assumption that the books would have only a male audience. (The old publisher assumption that women only read romance and only teenage males read sci fi and fantasy, perhaps?) Males might sympathize with Lerris for such thoughts, I have trouble imagining a female who would. I think this is a good example of the kind of thing writers should avoid if they are trying to write for a wider audience that includes both sexes.
     
  19. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    11,171
    3,498
    413
    My feeling is that while there may be statistical differences between men and women as a whole, characters are not stats. I know men who are feminine and women who are masculine. I focus on character, and having them be true to themselves, and not what traditional thoughts of gender might indicate.
     
    J. S. Elliot and A. E. Lowan like this.
  20. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

    9,872
    2,884
    413
    @Mythpoet, before reading Guy's post, I was thinking something similar. I may be wrong, not having read the book myself, but it seems the author is very accurately portraying the main character's teenage-male mind, and the sexism is on the character's part. What made me think that is, as you said, the character thought a smile meant sex and it really didn't. That the character never ends up with this waitress doesn't make him less clueless, I'm guessing.

    Of course, if this makes you hate the character or the story--and if you dislike the author for his choice to tell it that way, there's nothing wrong with your reaction. I think as authors, we take risks that our characters or stories will alienate readers.

    In fact, I think you sharing that reaction really hits the finer point behind the OP's concern. It may not be a question of "Are my female characters strong enough?" but more like "Am I portraying gender differences in a way that will alienate readers?"

    My personal struggle is that I'm not GRRM. His world is a very sexist world where women are treated differently and mistreated differently than men, and the reader gets very graphic descriptions of... lots of things. So if I have a scene that, say, features female nudity I get all uptight and ask myself if it comes off as gratuitous and all these other questions I never asked when a male character was naked. Then I read GRRM and say, "Well, I didn't even come close to THAT." But seeing how I'm not famous, I don't want to come close to crossing lines.

    I don't really have an answer to the above, as it's an ongoing struggle. So I just try to tell my story in a way that's interesting to me, then ask myself if I'd let my daughters read it (when they're older). If the answer is no, I need to cut/edit.
     
    J. S. Elliot likes this.
Loading...

Share This Page