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Too few female characters?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Trick, Oct 29, 2014.

  1. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    Trick? Who's Trick and what's he doing in our thread? :p

    Just kidding. Trick posted a while back he'd resolved the issue he asked about originally and since then the thread has taken off elsewhere.

    ---

    I do think it's an interesting topic though, and there's a few different discussions going on here. I can see where both Nihal and Mythopoet are coming from. Both about how women in fiction can come across as "deviations from the norm", and about how you shouldn't be telling others how to write. They're both good points.

    One thing that I come across now and then when discussing ideas that people have about things is that they say "it's like this cool thing, but except for that thing it has this other thing instead". It's easy to describe things and concepts as variations or modifications of other things. This doesn't apply to just writing, but to all kinds of things.
    Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

    What I think you need to keep in mind when you do it this way (it's like this, but...) is all of the free baggage you're getting. In the case of male/female, is it really fair, or even possible to go: "a man is like a woman, except..." or the other way around?
    Depending on how you do, you can probably pull it off, but for individuals and characters I'm not sure I'd recommend it.
     
  2. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    The stereotypes I was referring to, in the kids' shows, are pretty bad, not because they have women who want to shop and I don't like it (that's the one that was on here just now), but because they boil down the entire character to that minuscule and annoying trait. They keep it simple for the kids, and I think they go overboard. I think it sets a bad example. On the other hand, Lilly, from How I Met Your Mother, shopped a lot, and it was sometimes an amusing part of a much richer character.

    I don't care if some women shop a lot. I certainly don't count it as a biological difference. And I can't see it ever being featuring in a story of mine. But I didn't mean to discredit women who might shop or reasonable portrayals of those women who do.

    The remark about stereotyping - it's only one definition of the word, and I was only making the case for being more thoughtful of the differences. If I don't think about it, and go with those first instincts, then those first instincts are more likely to be stereotypes, based on other things I've seen and read, because I didn't think it through. I didn't mean to imply that level of philosophical rigor behind it, suggesting that everyone everywhere who portrays these kinds of people aren't thinking about it.

    At the same time, I'm going to stand by the assertion that many of the kids shows are just awful about portraying women fairly.
     
  3. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    But you're still not going to give any evidence for the claim.

    I don't necessarily disagree with you, but making such a broad claim without backing it up at all with anything concrete is not a good way to make an argument. Nor is making a statement about "you, in general" that you don't actually mean to apply to "you, in general".
     
  4. Nihal

    Nihal Vala

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    No, Mythopoet, I'm not dictating how one should write, it was one example of how those accidental male-less/female-less scenarios happen and how relying on those statistics can worsen the problem instead of helping to overcome it.

    No, I'm not saying that biological differences don't matter at all, I'm saying they're overestimated. Hugely overestimated by some people (no, it's not directed to anyone here, it's more along the lines of the character who only shops), at the point it's the only thing that matters. Didn't I mention the "overestimation" it in the last two posts?

    And as a sidenote I'm pointing out that attempting to fit whole groups of people in these averages—biology taking precedence over individualization—can be insulting to readers belonging to these groups. :)


    By the way, the only reason I spoke more freely is that Trick already solved his issue, and in an effective way by removing a redundant character.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2014
    Devor likes this.
  5. cupiscent

    cupiscent Sage

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    It's ma'am, but you're welcome. :)

    And isn't it interesting how our processes as writers differ? I am very much a story-first writer, so I play with the elements of characters to get the mix that will drive a more intricate, interesting and effective story. I would never think of considering a character separate from a story (though once the story is finished, s/he might now be established enough to wander off and have other adventures). Though that said, there will always be the elements that are intrinsic to the character within this story concept, but for me gender is never one of them. A relationship of power or an essential element of history might suggest strongly one gender or another, but those are the instances where my contrary brain starts generating interesting ways to go against the obvious choice.
     
  6. cupiscent

    cupiscent Sage

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    There's a whole other thread on these forums where no one can think of a female instance of a mentor that isn't Granny Weatherwax. How's that?
     
  7. Valentinator

    Valentinator Minstrel

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    I'm not claiming that old fashioned way is not biased. My point is that male characters are biased as well. One bias balances out another bias.
    Sorry, I don't understand the whole idea of gender being independent of behavior. It affects because hormones affect behavior. Males have 7-8 times more testosterone. I mean, if you injected yourself 8-fold dosage of testosterone, I guarantee, you'd see HUGE difference in behavior. Male and female brains also hardwired differently, as recent studies show, it affects behavior as well.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2014
  8. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    That would assume the biases are equal and opposite, and I don't believe that's the case.
     
  9. Nihal

    Nihal Vala

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    The males of the past are the heroes, the conquerors, the builders, the poets, the... (...). There is a variety to them. The women, when they appear are mostly confined to their subservient role. Really? You see no problem at all?


    And, oh dear. You tried to use me in your example, but according to you I don't exist and/or my head would explode from the extra dose of testosterone. That's because you're disregarding the individual. I really don't want to dive in personal examples, but based on these simplistic notions I should never feel as much anger I do, nor the mind-numbing rage I'm able to feel despite the low testosterone levels. I assure you this fury is very "masculine"–if you're inclined to assign genders to emotions and consider "female anger" shrieks, slaps and a huge drama scene.

    To add insult to the injury I have the appearance of a girly girl. I love dresses, I like laces, I like make-up... Such a conflicting creature (if you're gendering traits and behaviour). Dammit, you've been talking to a figment of your mind the whole time then.
     
    Gryphos likes this.
  10. Valentinator

    Valentinator Minstrel

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    Well, I still believe the biases are equal. In my opinion, in literature there are completely unrealistic behavior standards for males, men are just less vocal about it (again, due to the standards set by society).

    I'll give you an archetypal example. A classic fairy-tale where the knight faces and defeats the dragon and saves the princess. Somehow princess is considered a bigger victim, objectified by males. I'm sorry, but it seems that nobody cares that the knight has to risk his life to save the princess. Other knights that were presumably slayed by dragon are not even mentioned, it's happy end anyway. It shows completely biased approach towards male behavior, idea that male lives are disposable and that the males have to give up everything in order to reach their goals. If you think that knights deaths and suffering are nothing compared to the poor princess doing nothing in the tower, I just have to respectfully disagree.
     
  11. Valentinator

    Valentinator Minstrel

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    Most men are also the biggest villains, murderers, alcoholics, the most pathetic characters. They also die much more often. You see no problem at all?

    Oh please. Nobody called you girly girl and assumed that your head would explode from testosterone. If you want to use the straw man argument, it's fine with me. I'm not swallowing the bait.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2014
  12. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    You've got a good point here. The real difference seems to be that many vocal women these days view male stereotypes as desirable and female stereotypes as undesirable.
     
  13. Nihal

    Nihal Vala

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    Did you even read what I wrote? Did I say you called me a girly girl? I reckon not.
     
  14. Valentinator

    Valentinator Minstrel

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    I think you know what I mean. The testosterone part is still valid.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2014
  15. ascanius

    ascanius Inkling

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    I am perturbed by these two statements. Dismissing empirical evidence as overestimated because you dislike the perceived implications is, quite frankly, wrong. The scientific method isn't used so we can have an estimated explanation, if the theory doesn't hold up to tests it is revised or thrown out. Then that research has to go through peer review where other scientists pick it apart. The whole point of science is to explain the natural world in the most unbiased and factually concrete way possible.

    Wait what? where did I say anything like that? Your making assumptions about what I said with absolutely no basis. My point was that sex differences have a biological basis I never made any statement saying that because male and females are biologically different that means women are dumb and belong in the home or are restricted to any role fictional or real world. I tried to show you chromosomal basis for the sex differences and that the presence of an Y chromosome changes a lot about a person. I was also trying to show you that your assumption that XXX, XXYY etc as being a gender expression is in fact incorrect (still male and female due to how the chromosomes work), hell I even admitted that the case you brought up about hermaphroditism was a good point even if your basis was wrong. Don't just dismiss something as wrong and make wild assumptions without taking the time to understand the argument first.

    First no one is saying anything of the sort. However if you've ever taken Cortisone, it's a steroidal hormone it affects behavior male or female, you cannot tell me that it didn't affect behavior. it sounds like you think that that we are saying that these biological differences create complex (stereotypical)behavior. Doesn't exactly work like that. Behavior is very complex and is shaped by a plethora of different things like current mood(hormone based but also controlled by past events), world view, current events, ambient, past events, past world view etc. That being said, it doesn't mean that said behavior isn't biologically based, the cortisone or testosterone examples, just not the way you think. Research into communication differences is another good example, different hard-wiring of the brain.

    just to clarify this is my opinion. Behavior is both nature(biology) and nurture(society, upbrining etc) saying it's one or the other is ignoring a lot.
     
  16. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    This. What some of us are saying is that biology is one of the things that will affect character. Thus it should be taken into consideration along with all the other factors.
     
  17. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    Yes, the knight takes the risks. He fights the dragon and risks his life. He gets to travel far to find the dragon and he's the one who suffers in the cold and rain to get to the dragon's lair. He's the one who hurts and who's in pain.

    The princess on the other hand just gets to sit there and be rescued, she probable even got to fly on dragonback to get to the dragon's lair.

    But who's the story about? Who in the story makes a difference?

    "[...] the knight faces and defeats the dragon and saves the princess."
    The knight is the hero of the story, he's the one we follow and who we root and cheer for. The princess, what does she do? She sits around being rescued. Does she have any impact on the story, other than as a motivation for the knight to go and kill the dragon?

    How much would the story change if the princess was a prince, or a magical gem, or a pile of gold? Not much - it would still be about the knight who goes to rescue the prince/gem/gold.
     
    cupiscent likes this.
  18. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    I disagree. It would be a completely different kind of story if the princess were a gem or a pile of gold and the hero would be a completely different kind of person for each one.

    The real problem here is that some women just don't want to be the princess. And that's fine. If some women don't like that kind of story they can look for stories that aren't like that or they can write their own stories however they want. But to try to suggest that the kind of story where the knight saves the princess is inherently wrong or bad because the princess is just a princess is ridiculous.
     
  19. Valentinator

    Valentinator Minstrel

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    I think you miss the part that most of the characters that we root against are also males. Dragon is the male. We root for male characters and we hate and despise male characters. IMO, that balances it out
     
  20. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I think you're coming from it at a different angle here.
    The basis of the story is still: The hero defeats the badness and claims their price.

    It doesn't matter to the basis of the story who the hero is, or what the badness is or what the price is, it's still about the hero's struggle against the badness and then they get a reward in the end.

    By changing up the hero, the badness, and the price you can get vastly different stories. Let's say it's about a dragon who's going to rescue her knight from an evil princess. That's a very different story from the knight rescuing the princess from the dragon, but basic idea is still the same.
     
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