Remember the Seinfeld episode where Jerry and George are working on their television show and leave out the Elaine character because they can’t figure out what she’d say? Many male authors seem to get in this very same slump.
Here are the most significant ways male writers fail when writing female characters.
The most ubiquitous fail is the obsession with women’s chests—female characters in books worldwide authored by males are constantly obsessed with their breasts. Every emotion and action takes place with their breasts in mind.
Real women don’t think of their breasts any more than any other body part.
Body Parts with Minds of Their Own
Not only are female characters obsessed with their breasts, but their breasts become characters of their own. They perk up in danger, droop when sad, and move around at whims based on what’s happening.
That’s not how breasts work.
Not Like Other Girls
Female protagonists are often “different” from other girls in ways that make them better. Male protagonists get to be regular Joes, but ordinary girls typically aren’t “good” enough, so the female protagonists must be “different.”
The message seeps with misogyny.
It’s All About Their Looks
Authors will grant male characters pages and pages of development related to their personality, backstory, and struggles but will focus solely on a female character’s looks as if that’s her defining attribute.
The Seinfeld episode highlighted a glaring flaw many male writers make: they overthink it. Gender is only one small part of a character, but many male writers focus too much on that, losing sight of the bigger picture.
Far too many women in fiction passively accept their fate while the men next to them battle for their lives. Although the fight, flight, or freeze response is genuine, men don’t have a monopoly on fighting, and women don’t automatically freeze.
Male writers love writing about women’s trauma, but it’s typically only one type. Although sexual assault is horrifying, women face many different types of trauma. Let women be motivated by losing a loved one, a hurt pet, or a past injury.
Women Moving Men Forward
One of the worst aspects of women in literature is that they rarely enjoy their own stories. Most women serve as a backdrop for men’s character development. He fights to avenge a woman, a common trope where the woman only serves as cannon fodder for men.
Strong Woman = Hostile
Strong, capable women run the gambit of personality types in real life. Women can be strong and warm, strong and friendly, or strong and mean. However, fictional women are typically shoehorned into the hostile box because, apparently, warmth is a weakness.
The Cool Girl
The movie Gone Girl turned the “cool girl” trope on its head. However, most male writers can’t seem to write any other character, thus promoting the “cool girl” as a toxic ideal.
The “cool girl” drinks beers, eats pizza, enjoys sports, and allows her boyfriend to walk all over her (but it’s somehow cute, and they love each other, so it’s okay!), all while looking fantastic.
Most male writers can’t fathom a female character who’s not obsessed with marriage. Men get world-saving quests and hero journeys, but women’s ultimate motivations are usually the pursuit of romance.
Women also must always want children. The Black Widow movies highlighted this by having the title character’s pivotal moment showcase that she can’t have children due to what was done to her.
While many women desire motherhood, not all women do, and it’s also not the ONLY thing most women strive for.
Women are Actually People
Many male authors fail because they don’t see women as people but as some mysterious other. If they started writing women like they write people (AKA – Men), they’d get better results and more in-depth characters. But for some reason, they can’t seem to do that, and we get stuck with one-dimensional female characters who consistently follow a specific trope.
The problem is so ubiquitous in media that it feeds the misogyny machine. Nobody sees accurate portrayals of women anywhere, so people assume the fictional representations must be correct.
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